Many Tantrics have a deep love for Jesus Christ. When we look into the messages from the Tantric and Christian traditions, we find a lot of similarity. More than that, the tools of Tantra help to explain what happens in the depths of Christian mysticism and understand the universality of the mystical experience. Mystical experiences are described differently by various cultures and traditions, but the process follows the same fundamental steps.
There are many ways to climb the spiritual mountain. For example, the path of concentration involves focussing on a spiritual ideal long enough and intensely enough to awaken consciousness and achieve detachment. Eventually the ego dissolves, leading to liberation. Saints such as Gandhi and Mother Teresa followed a path of self-giving and through it achieved very high states.
Here, we will explore the path of devotion (bhakti yoga). Devotees love their spiritual ideal to such a degree that they ‘snap out’ of the limitations of the mind and the ego. They enter the mystical domain and from that the supreme, godly domain. From the outside, the path may seem spontaneous and unstructured, but understood from the inside, the mechanisms are clear and almost mathematical.
The Game of Magnets
The essential mechanism on the path of devotion is one of attraction. It can be likened to two magnets. One pulls us up to our spiritual ideal, to love for God. The other magnet pulls us down to worldly things: our comfortable bed, love life, social media, food, power and money. The relative strengths of the two magnets leads to a certain point of balance in our being.
The way to increase the degree of devotion is implicit in the Christian scriptures and biographies of the saints. It is described precisely by Tantra in the teachings relating to Shiva Pashupati. The process is to love your spiritual ideal and to pray for more love and less attachment to worldly things, thus increasing the upward pull and reducing the downward.
The prayer must be sincere and meaningful. According to Tantric teachings, your prayers need to be similar to that that you pray to: full of love, compassion, sincerity and selflessness. They will be answered based on your real intention, so if you pray for humility, but wish to be rich, you will attract riches and not humility.
If you wish to love your spiritual ideal more, and in your prayers you are able to go a little bit closer to this, you will attract grace. This will lead to more love and devotion, leading to more grace and more love. By understanding this one principle, you can take a tiny amount of devotion and see it become great love. Once the pull of the upward magnet becomes stronger than the pull of the lower magnet, we reach a tipping point where our attraction to our spiritual ideal is greater than that towards our own selfish desires.
What would that look like? What would a life be like when more than half of the time we are thinking about our beloved, our spiritual ideal, with love and with tears?
Love in the Lives of Saints
We see the mechanism of attraction at work in the lives of the great mystics.
St Francis was the son of a wealthy family of fabric-makers in 12th Century Assisi. He aspired to become a great knight, but his military dreams were shattered when he was captured and imprisoned. On his release he was called to a different life and began to seek God in prayer. His devotion grew. He prayed with increasing fervour and lived a life caring for the poor and for lepers. He started to give away his father’s wealth. In a famous scene, when his father disowned him, Francis renounced his inheritance and family and stripped naked in the middle of the city, giving his clothes back to his Father. This set him free to live the rest of his life as an enlightened beggar. He would walk the streets in tears, declaring that he was not ashamed to cry for the wounds of Christ.
As a child in the 16th Century, St Teresa of Avila and her brother were inspired by reading about the saints. They ran away from home, seeking martyrdom. They asked the people that they met to kill them in the name of Christ. Later in her teenage years Teresa’s devotion and love for God returned and grew. Her life was remarkable and paradoxical. Despite wishing to dedicate it to solitude and prayer, she found herself covering vast distances establishing convents across Spain. Her writings reveal the depths of her inner life, her desire for God and the boundless grace that she humbly received.
The early life of these saints was extraordinary, but their devotion at the beginning could not have got them to enlightenment. It is the process of self-giving, ever-growing prayer that got them there. Their focus was mainly on loving more, rather than rejecting the worldly. When love becomes this immense, all the concerns of life fall away.
Based on a lecture by Uriel Yariv, 25th April 2020.