The Grace-Revealing face of Shiva
Every immersion is unique. What makes it unique is that the teaching comes from a place of authentic exposition, that it flows in response to what the moment requires. Our teacher is known for having specific themes at his immersions and there were many programs where particular themes were delivered. Yet many do not realize that the darshans always form spontaneously. This time, the discourses led us into the deeper exploration of and understanding about the nature of non-dual Tantric teaching and the different modalities within Consciousness. The energy behind the spoken word began to resonate in our hearts and fan the flame of intuitive knowing.
The underlying thread of the discourses went under the theme of the ‘Five Faces of Shiva.’ The theme, first unpacked by Igor in Sedona back in October 2015, under the title of ‘Fivefold Nature of Oneness,’ addresses the basic tenet of Non-dual Tantric doctrine, which states that Shiva is the sole essence of all that exists – pure Consciousness, One without a second, the Alpha and the Omega. The ultimate aspiration is to directly cognize that ‘Jiva is Shiva’ – that the individual soul is one with the Absolute. Shiva expresses the full potential of the Self through His five-fold nature: the power to create, the power to sustain, the power to dissolve, the power to conceal and the power to reveal [his own essence]. From the perspective of Kashmir Shaiva Tantra, the state we call ‘ignorance’ is nothing other than Shiva’s divine power of concealment at play – veiling the Self so that the magic of creation can be experienced! Opening to this ground-shattering statement, the recognition began to dawn that every single state we experience is Shiva in disguise; that even that what is gripping us is not of our own making. What a revelation. “Knowledge is bondage,” Igor quoted the Shiva Sutras, “until it liberates us.”
It also became apparent why the mere intellectual grasping of the truth will not take us anywhere. Something else needs to happen. Shiva’s grace-bestowing power needs to reveal itself and transform our hearts.
It was deeply revealing when the topic of thought-constructs in relation to this work was expounded on by Igor. We were guided to the recognition that thought-constructs (vikalpa in Sanskrit) cement the notion of individual identity by binding us to the identification with our body and mind. When Igor pointed out that these thought-constructs are “all we know about ourselves,” we realized why it can be so unsettling to enter thought-free states – we lose the notion of who we consider ourselves to be! Our teacher points out that spiritual discourse gradually cultures our thinking process and replaces impure thoughts with those that support our process; that exposure to scriptural knowledge fosters our discrimination and the skills of “nipping in the bud,” what no longer serves the evolution of our souls. It was very helpful to hear again that ongoing vigilance is needed to progress on the path. Trying for one or two days will not do it. It takes practice, and practice implies repeated effort, the forging of new habits, and truly training the mind. Igor reminded us that up until there is vikalpa, our work continues. It became quite clear that the time-tested tradition of studying with a qualified teacher when following the Tantric path is there for a good reason.
Paraphrasing Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the words of his own teacher, Igor brought the reminder that the purpose of meditation is not to reach the goal, but to bring the goal down to the level of daily life, so as to bring the divine where it rightfully belongs. By giving ourselves to our practice, the dynamic sphere of life is infused with peace and stillness, and the Absolute is animated by the qualities of the dynamic sphere of life. One is being poured into the other. It was very silent in the room when our teacher said that being in communion with the Divine is all we can do; that we become the offering for the Goddess, which brings us back to the recognition of what is there at all times.
Igor often reminds us that direct experience and proper understanding are equally important. The discourses establish this platform of proper understanding by rooting us in the radical, yet down-to-earth philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, allowing for the deeper comprehension of our experiences along the way. We received pearls of wisdom in this immersion and subtle, yet practical guidance regarding our sadhana that immediately made a big difference in the level of absorption we were able to access. We also began to understand the true purpose of Self-realization from a more integral perspective, as well as the place of individuality in relation to Totality. Our teacher pointed out that fears regarding this work are usually found on the improper understanding of the true nature of spiritual transformation. The effects of this discourse were tangible; concerns of those new to this work had the chance to be replaced with deeper trust and the willingness to do the real work we came here to do.
We close our eyes and follow the instructions of our teacher to bring awareness to our breath, sensing every minute detail of the natural movements of air: the brushing of breath against the nostrils, its inward-movement towards the heart, the swelling of the chest. We simply sit and let go. Our attention becomes subtler and aligns with the rhythm of breath flowing in and out, pouring into the other. Our teacher’s voice guides us to enter the gaps between each breath, where Consciousness turns into matter. We sense motion and stillness merging into each other, opening a vibrant field. Then a flash of brilliance, beckoning us to let go deeper. Energies rise within the inner pathways. Swirling sensations surge through the body while our Teacher begins to move through the room, wafting his woolen shaktipat shawl. We are being taken into the ecstatic body of the Goddess – into an ocean of vibration. From here, meditation unfolds spontaneously. Our perception of the external world fades as we become absorbed in Her play – fathoming the depth of Silence.
…When one is experiencing a certain emotion, one’s job – there and then – would be to resist any temptation of projecting that experience onto any object that our mind is ready to provide there as an associative… well, anything – him, her, so-and-so, situations, set-up. But simply going into the core of that experience, literally sinking into it – willingly – so as to savor the flavor of that experience in its full measure. Because you cannot just go under it when you failed to savor that experience. An attempt to go under will be equated to or equal with bypassing that experience – and that is impossible. That access would not be granted, so it would be a superficial attempt. Therefore, first, you sink into that experience fully and you savor it, rather than trying to remove yourself from that experience because it feels in that moment less desirable, less pleasant or something. And once you have that taste – a lot could be said to that as well – then you have the capacity to go under the experience itself. That would be equated with squeezing that experience for what it can offer. And in that squeezing of that experience, you enjoy the rasa, the juice…
– Igor Kufayev
For this week-long immersion, we gathered at Gut Saunstorf – a modern monastery in Northern Germany close to the Baltic Sea – where we had held a previous program two years ago. Situated at the edge of a small village and open to nature, the venue has proven to be a very conducive place for this transformative work. The local spiritual community joined us for the opening darshan with Igor and supported the smooth unfolding of our program during the week. We look forward to deepening our relationship with the place and its people, as we’ve just decided to hold our next German immersion here in August 2020.
Jai Guru Dev
<to view the full pictures, click on the single images>
Photos: taken at the week-long Immersion with Igor Kufayev at Gut Saunstorf, Northern Germany, June 2 – 9, 2019. Courtesy of Flowing Wakefulness Fellowship.
Sharings of participants
…The highlight of this immersion was the heart-based meditation, which was profound and amazing for me. I learned that the kriyas are not the most important aspect, but simply being present to what is – from moment to moment. This completely changed the quality of my meditation…
… Life after the immersion is sweet and tender… I feel subtle waves and reverberations which I can’t describe in words. When I close my eyes, I have the sensation that I’m filled up like a helium balloon and the only thing that keeps me on the ground is the weight of my body! It’s a beautiful feeling, like a gentle echo from the immersion which keeps resounding on and on…
… I have come here as quite a serious, reserved, and disciplined person – maybe stoic. Now I feel much more like Tom Hanks in the film ‘BIG’; I have (re)discovered something innocent, something playful, something unencumbered, uninhibited. I have been ‘playing in the grass’ and ‘walking on the ceramic tiles without stepping onto the cracks…’
… I have deep respect for Igor, and there is love and humility in my heart for all that he represents. His presence is all that is needed for my heart to open immediately – the space that he opens is what makes me feel most connected. Sometimes it is just one particular sentence that he speaks in a darshan which resonates deeply and stays with me long after…
… I wanted to give you this little message to say a deep thank you! Words cannot express what I experienced in this very first immersion but I take the very sweet scent and profound feelings into me on my homebound journey…