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Trika Tantra

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

A Living Tantra reader asked me why I don’t talk more about the “complexities of the Trika system” and about “Trika sadhana.”First, many of you will want to know: What is “Trika?”

Trika is an older name for Kashmir Shaivism. And although it’s just one word, it fully describes Reality from the perspective of Kashmir Shaivism.

Trika has the word “tri” embedded in it. So Trika has something to do with “three.” In fact, we could say that it means “the three-fold Reality.”

There are many different lists of threesomes associated with Trika. It would take a loooooong post to explain all of them. So let’s cut to the essence.

Abhinavagupta, the Tantrik Master and philosopher, defined Trika as the unity of Shiva and Shakti.

Shiva. Shakti. And their unity. This is the supreme Trika.

In defining Trika this way, Abhinavagupta brilliantly summed up the entirety of the life process: That which is ever a unity is also that which experiences uniting.

Shiva and Shakti are a unity. They are not two, yet they create the the experiencing of difference. And thus they create the experiencing of uniting.

This experiencing of the uniting, or reunion of Shiva and Shakti, and the simultaneous experiencing of the eternal unity of Shiva and Shakti, are the path and the fruit of Tantrik sadhana. From the base of unity we enjoy difference, and we enjoy reunion. We discover that we are the Trika, or three-fold Reality.

Now, it is a very interesting thing to ask why I don’t talk about the intricacies of the Trika system. I think I talk about them in every post.

Why? Because in the Trika View, there is no substantial difference between speaking of everyday conduct and speaking in “high” philosophical terms.

On one level, Trika is a practice, and it is a View to be embodied through practice. Insofar as I have embodied the teachings, when I talk about desire and emotions, or about remembering, or about Guru, or about eating, working, and sleeping, I am talking about Trika.

The fact remains, however, that there is a wonderful body of philosophical texts that present Trika teachings. Some people love reading these, and some can’t be bothered. It is always a blessing if you are able to absorb the teachings from your teachers, from the practice of sadhana and the practice of everyday life as sadhana, and from the texts of the tradition. However, the first two are more important than the last.

Most of us are trained to believe that learning means understanding concepts and collecting facts. But here we are talking about wisdom to be embodied through everyday practices. It is not effective, from my perspective, to talk too much in a philosophical way and use too many new words and concepts divorced from everyday life. This risks reinforcing our samskaric tendency to mistake collecting knowledge for embodying wisdom.

As for discussing Trika sadhana, again, when I talk about everyday conduct, I am talking about Trika sadhana. As for specific yoga, kriya, meditation, ritual or other practices, the majority of these must be given in person. Tantra honors the uniqueness of every individual’s situation. Practices that are beneficial or harmless to one may injure another.

Many different people in different conditions read Living Tantra. For the time being, I have chosen a rather conservative, and perhaps a more traditional route in not discussing most practices, other than in face-to-face situations. This is not because such practices are secret or terribly esoteric. It is simply because I do not want harm to result from people undertaking practices that are not right for them.

Then, there is the situation of transmission. To be most effective, practices are given by a person who has realized the fruit of the practices and can transmit a “taste” of this to the student. In most cases, transmission cannot be received through reading about a practice. You just gotta be there.

OM Shanti,

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