Beyond Ritual is Love and Fearlessness in Tantra

"One lamp can dissipate the accumulated darkness of a thousand ages!" Tilopa, the great master of Indian and Tibetan Tantra

      One of the most fundamental characteristics of Indo-Tibetan Tantra is that it looks at 'religion' as feelings of love, prayerfulness, reverence, and fearlessness. Real religion is never ritual of mental activity. But unfortunately, we have all grown up being conditioned by the ritualistic parts of religion. That is not the wisdom part of religion. Tantra and esoteric Buddhism are concerned with the wisdom part, and that is how they are completely different from institutionalized religion. It is about having the flame of wisdom and mystical courage burn deep within you. This teaching echoes the wisdom of the Dorje Chang Buddha and the various Tantric Mahasiddhas through the ages. It empowers one at the deepest core to confront and overcome life's challenges. These teachings echo in the Mikkyo practices of Japan and the Milgyo of Korea.

The ritualistic understanding of 'religion' is good insofar as there are certain practices which can evoke deep subconscious impulses. But in themselves rituals were not the point! The problem in mainstream religion is that the ritual part has become the path, the way: the outward show of it. And this is really very mechanical: it is simply a following of old patterns. Tantra is all about breaking old patterns between you and what you have known to be of grown up to believe (or been conditioned by).
Buddhist Tantric Rituals

      The ritualistic understanding of 'religion' is good insofar as there are certain practices which can evoke deep subconscious impulses. But in themselves rituals were not the point! The problem in mainstream religion is that the ritual part has become the path, the way: the outward show of it. And this is really very mechanical: it is simply a following of old patterns. Tantra is all about breaking old patterns between you and what you have known to be of grown up to believe (or been conditioned by).

It's Not about Rituals!

      Become disconnected with reliance on ritual, say the Buddhas. Then you come to the path of wisdom. Now, in his own life, Gautam Buddha used to endeavour to trigger a process within individuals which allowed them to bring to the fore their own intelligence, their own creativity. He never prescribed the mechanical activity of ritual to take precedence over intuitive wisdom. But we can see today in various parts of Buddhism that somehow the ritualistic part started assuming more and more importance. And hence the genuineness and sincerity of the Buddha's message started becoming lost. It is no about the message in literal words which he gave us: it is all about using that to be a catalyst within your own self, to find your own truth. Hence, the over-reliance on rules and rituals is actually false. It's a very childish attitude to look at wisdom in this manner. It is a very immature and puerile way to look at the realization of truth. Real truth happens in the clarity of yourself. Real truth happens within the deeply complex parts of your biophysical and spiritual mechanism: do not limit it by mental limitations, ritualistic limitations, and all the limitations which outward rules make you feel. It is eventually the heart which has to reveal wisdom and fearless living. And revelation of wisdom requires you to function more and more as an independent intelligence, which is part of the cosmic truth itself. It does not need the institutionalised constraints. In fact, those are the very bars of the cage which disallow the individual from realizing the tremendously beautiful and tremendously powerful bliss and dawn of wisdom which happens within the synthesis of one's own being. If at all, manage to be more conscious. If at all, manage to lead a life which is free of fear.

      It is imperative that we must be able to go past old attitudes towards religion. Else, we are caught in the fear psychosis which religion is constantly engendering within us. The most anxiety-causing and fear-causing psychosis is brought about by a repetition of rituals. So you feel somewhere that if you are not conforming, then you are doing something wrong. In that way, religious practice has sought to imprison people within ritual. And the moment they are not following it, religions blame people. They say, You're a sinner, and so forth. Through that very feeling, a subconscious fear takes root in you. You are never able to attain absolute cosmic boldness, which allows you to look at things with a totality and clarity of your vision. Tantra and esoteric Buddhism are completely different: they are all about going past the jaded attitude of organized religion.

      The problem begins in our subconscious mind. All our fears are there. The subconscious is a great repository of our fears, and to tackle the subconscious we have to go into removing all that which has been inhibiting our spiritual evolution. And the biggest inhibition to spiritual evolution is this idea of bringing too much mental activity, as well as physical repetition of rituals and rules, into the very space which we call divine, holy, or sacred. So, in fact, we are reducing the sacred to the mundane, and if you reduce the sacred to the mundane, then what is the point? It is absolutely irreligious, it is actually un-spiritual. Tantra and esoteric Buddhism take you back to those pure spaces of inner being, that inner forest of wisdom, within which you feel completely alive. Within which all the peaks and Summits of spiritual realization exist. You just have to know that these summits are there. Then you can feel the freshness they bring and you can be nourished through that inward strength.

Find the Guru Within!

      Hence, the real lesson of Tantra and secret Buddhism is really to destroy this whole sense of believing in outer gurus, saints, and so on, whose rules we feel bound to follow. That is just another egoistic exercise. Tantra says: throw away all the scriptures, throw away reliance on the Guru-instead find the Guru within you. Within you there's an infinite, eternal being, without end. Realizing this is the secret to true courage. It is the secret of freeing yourself from dogma. It is the secret of freeing yourself from ideology. Ideology is the most binding factor on the brain. It kind of imprisons us. Tantra and esoteric Buddhism are not about ideology. Ideology can be precious from the mystical standpoint: it does not allow you to get rid of concepts which you have grown up with or been indoctrinated by.

      Tantra and esoteric Buddhists are always about getting rid of old concepts, so that the birth of the new can take place within your inner sources of light, your inner sources of wisdom. It is absolutely imperative that you find a perspective which is one of utter freedom, where you can completely cut out this reliance on ritual. Yes, a ritual can have great beauty. But the problem happens when you really think that the pattern itself is the destination. You see, it's like a maze: you can keep being fascinated by a maze garden (hedge maze) and walking around it, but that also means you can get lost in it! You are not reaching the destination, you're not getting out of it. But you have to get out of it. lt is a means of crossing to the other end, but it is never the end itself. Hence, do not give it more meaning than it's meant to have.

      Religions are filled with people who are great experts in rituals. You find them in every religion: the greatest 'experts', who are looked at as being perfect in the rituals of their religion. But that is not the point! Those people are actually not self-realized people: while they might have expertise in the ritualistic part, do they actually have expertise in the insight part? It is always the insight part which is of importance. It is always the part of awakening within yourself which is of importance. All else is a barrier. It is all about a question of your inner energy. Ritual can take you a certain way on the path, because it gives you something to relate to and to practise. In that way it is functional. But it does not really allow you to rule yourself. In fact, it rules over you! And the moment ritual starts ruling you, it becomes your master. Then it is wrong. Before it starts ruling you and you're enjoying doing it with an aesthetic sensibility or in a mood of inner peace/ surrender/devotion, ritual is not a bad thing. The problem starts once it begins ruling over us. Then the pernicious grip of religion really starts hiding our own inner music and divine vibe. It forms a real crust upon your being and does not allow you to break out of that crust. So, never mistake symbolism for the real thing. Rituals are symbolic: they are not the point in itself. Yes, there is no need to deny the totality of ritual. There is no need to deny the totality of mental activity related to spirituality. It is good because it helps you understand things in a specific religio-cultural perspective, and sometimes the deeper connotations of what the religion stands for and its spiritual roots. But the mystic part of Tantra and esoteric Buddhism is always about the thirst for truth, and that cannot be brought on by any religion' as such; it can only be brought on by a great longing for the divine. It can only be brought on by going beyond the superficial, and going deeper and deeper into truth. Then you can really relax and come into a non-conflict with yourself. Then your energy can overflow instead of being dissipated in ritual.

      So much energy in the world today is dissipated in meaningless things; and this is not just about religion. In every sphere of human life, too much attention is paid to institutionalised jargon and ritual. Ritualistic patterns are part of human society, whether it's in politics, in education, in our work culture, or in our relationships. But a lot of it is dissipating our energy and taking us away from the wisdom and insight part that we should be more concerned with. Just because things were done one way in the past, we feel it bounden upon us to do it in the same way. Yes, it is good to remember the past and what happened in the past, but somewhere along the line we should not forget the true meaning of the path of mysticism itself. Rituals were all devices to create meditative energy within you, but meditation itself goes beyond the ritual. It goes beyond the technique.

Fearless Living

      Fearless living is all about not believing in labels. Do not believe in or over-rely on labels or jargon. Yes, jargon and words are needed to explain deeply complex concepts, but the problem is getting lost in the forest of words. If you get lost in the forests of words, how can the mind relax? And without the mind being relaxed you can never reach the meditative state of energy. So, really, it is about cooperating with a higher truth: it is about cooperating with the instinctive parts of yourself which are already aligned to the mystic thirst, the mystic search, and the spiritual vision. Do not confuse and obfuscate the clarity of your energy, the light of your being, through becoming narrow in your outlook on religion. The way of becoming narrow is when, instead of pulsating with insight, you start investing your energies more in the formal part of religion.

      Forget the formalities of religion, remember the essence. That is the key to understanding Tantra and occult Buddhism. The formalities are just things which should be on the outside. You know, it is very interesting that Jesus of Nazareth said, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. That implies that though it is good for us to give what we owe materially or socially (and also perhaps to our heritage, to our culture, to our religious toots, honouring social codes or traditions by following them to some extent), if we devote our whole life to ideology or mental activity rather than the real higher purpose, we miss the point. The point is always the search for truth or the search for God, the search for the Ultimate. That should not be lost. By focusing on ritual or symbolism the mind does not become silent.

      The whole crux of spirituality is for the mind to become silent and still. For the mind to reach such a calmness of being that it is able to intuit instinctively that which is our ultimate reality, by coming into tune with the universal and cosmic flow of things in a fearless state. The ultimate questions about who we are, what our place in the cosmos is, and so on: these are the real mystic questions. Mystic questions are not about how a particular thing should be done or not done at the ritualistic or 'rules' level. The level of spirituality and mysticism which Tantra and esoteric Buddhism talk about is that which takes you from mental imprisonment to mental freedom. From fear to fearlessness! Because when you discover that, you come closest to the realization of your infinite potential.

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