Tantra – Embracing the Art of Brinkmanship

“Tantra is a consciousness state that makes us capable, fearlessly, of examining boundaries up close and watching how boundaries actually cause the condensation of potentials that become pivotal and create a release of massive creativity”

Thom Knoles

Mention tantra and most people think of sexual practices designed to prolong the sexual experience or to add a ‘spiritual’ element to it. While the principle of tantra can certainly be applied to sex, it’s actually a concept that has much broader and more interesting applications. 

Strictly speaking, when properly applied, even the art of procrastination, as distinct from the habit of avoidance, can be said to be a form of tantra.

As Thom explains in this episode, tantra is a form of brinkmanship, the ability to hover at the border of two different states, either conceptually or physically. As you’ll hear, it’s an art that Vedic Meditators become quite accomplished at…

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Episode Highlights


Tantra Has Evaded All Attempts at Consistent Definition



Understanding Tantra is Pivotal to the Development of a Vedic Meditator



Creativity at Work Requires the Pressure of Present-Moment Awareness



Tantric Awareness No Longer Fears Boundaries



Boundaries Are Places of Rich and Condensed Knowledge



Helium as a Gas to a Superfluid



Superfluid Helium is a Quantum Mechanical Phenomenon



Tantra Is a Consciousness State


Jai Guru Deva


Tantra – Embracing the Art of Brinkmanship

Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

[00:55] Tantra Has Evaded All Attempts at Consistent Definition

I’d like to spend a few minutes on the subject of tantra. Tantra, T-A-N-T-R-A, and help to develop an understanding of what it means.

Tantra and tantric are words bandied about in the West, especially in the “spiritual” and “yoga” milieu. The mere mention of the word tantra likely will bring a raised eyebrow and knowing smirk for westerners, many of whom have become convinced that “tantra” merely is code for esoteric techniques for enhancing sexual prowess. Sex-obsessed westerners aside, even one quick search of the word tantra reveals that ostensibly scholarly commentators are constrained by one conclusion. Whatever it is, has evaded all attempts at consistent definition and explanation.

So for example, some say tantra is “magic”. Some others say it is “a suite of mystical arcane techniques.” Others say it simply is a name for certain texts, or that tantra is defined by people doing certain strange yagyas. These are Vedic performances that involve making offerings and, at its most superficial level of description, propitiating the gods.

In fact, though tantra could inform any of these phenomena, it actually is not any of them. Tantra is a spontaneous behavior that manifests as enlightened consciousness grows.

Ritambhara pragyan also known as ritam, is that state in meditation during which thinking and the depth of unboundedness in meditation coexist. In ritam, one no longer has exclusively to transcend thought completely in order to experience unboundedness, which earlier, unboundedness could be experienced solely in the transcendent, say thought-free state.

[03:37] Understanding Tantra is Pivotal to the Development of a Vedic Meditator

After ritam is experienced even a few times, the formerly distinct boundary between The Absolute and the relative has become indistinct, at least during meditation.

As ritam stabilizes more and more within our meditation state, our eyes-open experience will demonstrate a tendency to explore all boundaries at close proximity, in aid of undoing the power of those boundaries to exclude. This tendency of making eyes-open consciousness, all inclusive, unaffected by boundaries is consciousness becoming tantric.

Without an understanding of what drives this tantric tendency, one likely will resist it, and thus slow one’s personal evolution. Understanding tantra brings one an immeasurable advantage toward becoming a master of it, to fulfill the whole purpose of creation. It is pivotal to the development of a Vedic meditator to dive into and develop deep understanding of and experience with the truth of tantra as taught by our tradition.

One of the ways in which this will show up is in meditators noticing that they don’t really get panicky when a deadline is coming. I mean, perhaps everyone has a little bit of concern at the approach of deadline. But graded over a period of time, meditators begin to demonstrate that the boundaries of a deadline coming are not as fear inducing or feel as life threatening as once upon a time they may have.

[05:44] Creativity at Work Requires the Pressure of Present-Moment Awareness

A meditator begins to learn how the process of having a deadline approach is in fact the process of allowing the building of a propensity of creative potentials, to allow the mind to gather effectively all of its potentials in a way that is in the ripeness of the moment. Rather than attempting to build those potentials when the situation is not yet ripe.

You know, you see a deadline coming and the level of demand on you, which asks you to have clear perception to take in all of the resources that are available in the moment, and then to gather those resources in such a way that you can put them into a meaningful sequence and then to release that sequence into action. This is what we refer to as creativity at work.

This really requires the pressure of present-moment awareness. Someone who has tantric awareness is someone who can feel the approach of a deadline, a due date, and relaxedly watch how the environment around oneself has certain harvestable resources, which are present only in that moment. That moment that is in the lead up to the execution of action to meet the deadline effectively.

And then allowing that to mature and then being able, right on the brink of the due date or the deadline, to deliver in a way that is effective, in a way that is graceful, in a way that is masterful. So, masterful delivery of the goods, whether the goods are physical goods or thoughts, or an expression or an artistic phenomenon.

[08:13] Tantric Awareness No Longer Fears Boundaries

Meditators become better and better at approaching the brink and being not affected badly by these brinks, but by being able to use them to stimulate their creativity to its maximum point of stimulation and to optimize that process and then gracefully to deliver masterfully at the exact moment that the need is there.

This is only one example of awareness being tantric. Tantric awareness is that awareness that no longer fears boundaries, coming right up to the edge of a thing, and then being able to examine that edge. To be able to examine it and understand it, understand its criticality, understand its pivotal nature, and then to learn how to poise oneself on that edge.

Because all boundaries are very, very valuable places. You know, whenever we see a boundary of any kind, there’s something extremely valuable about that boundary land. Think of the boundary land where all of our mighty oceans meet the land masses.

I’m looking right now at a map of the Earth and what I see is, probably two thirds of it being blue water. The other third is land mass and we see definition of continents by virtue of where ocean meets land mass. One of people’s favorite places to be is at a place where the ocean meets the land, where the sea meets the beach. And these boundary lands are places that are considered, you know, destinations.

[10:17] Boundaries Are Places of Rich and Condensed Knowledge

If you look at all of the destinations possible to go to in some kind of travel brochure, surely nine tenths of them will be places where bodies of water meet the land. The lake meeting the shore, the river passing through land, the ocean meeting coastline. These are places that people consider very desirable for a variety of reasons, but it’s underscoring, in a sense, my point that boundary lands are the places of rich and condensed knowledge, and from which you can learn an enormous amount.

Any kind of boundary land, a boundary land between a particular time and another time. We like to define social events in groups of decades or 10 year periods. And so there are popular television shows that are documentaries of the fifties, of the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, the noughts, the double zeros, the tens and the teens, and now we’re in the twenties.

We give these decades names and we characterize them and we look at the way in which change occurs and the way that fashions express themselves, the way people dress, fashions of language, fashions of speech, fashions of humor, fashions of drama, fashions of music by these 10 year periods.

Therefore it’s very fascinating to have a look at transition points, points where phase transitions occur. A phase transition is always a fascinating epoch of time. But in the physics world, it’s also a fascinating point to study from the point of view of, when the physics of the world behave one way and then switch to another behavior.

[12:34] Helium as a Gas to a Superfluid

Let’s for a moment, examine the way that helium operates. You know helium, you’ve all seen it because it was inside of your party balloons. Balloons that float around that are lighter contain helium and helium under most temperatures that you’ll ever experience is a gas which you can put in a balloon and is lighter than air.

And if you manage to breathe it, which is highly un-recommended by the way, because it’s not good for your brain, it will make your voice suddenly go very high. That’s sometimes a party trick, not recommended from my perspective.

So there’s helium, what happens if you take helium and cool it down and cool it down and cool it down, into the negative hundreds of temperature through refrigeration techniques that are possible to achieve in certain cooling laboratories?

When helium reaches a few degrees, one or two degrees above what we call absolute zero, then helium ceases to be a gas. It suddenly turns into a fluid, and this fluid is referred to, in that supercooled state as a “superfluid.” Superfluid helium takes on quantum mechanical properties. That means, it tries to spread itself out over whatever area it can horizontally into a film that is one atom thick.

[14:12] Superfluid Helium is a Quantum Mechanical Phenomenon

If you try to contain superfluid helium in a screw-top container, the atoms of the superfluid helium will climb the sides of the container, against gravity, and begin to wind their way through the threads of the screw top, and begin escaping from the container.

In even a relatively thick container, tightly contained superfluid helium will begin working its way atom by atom through the atomic structure of the walls of the container, and will begin to sweat out through the outside part of the container.

What’s the superfluid helium trying to do? It’s trying to spread itself out into a layer one atom thick, evidently.

Superfluid helium has zero viscosity. Viscous is the word that we use for resistance to stirring. So if you put a spoon into some thick honey and try to stir it, it resists the stirring. If you put the same spoon into a glass of water and stir it, the viscosity is less. It’s less viscous.

If you take a spoon, the same spoon and put it into a glass of methylated spirit, then it stirs even more quickly and more easily, with even less resistance. If you put that same spoon into a glass filled with nothing but air, then it looks as though there’s no friction at all, but you could show that in fact, physically there is some measurable friction.

But if you take a spoon and put it into superfluid helium and stir it, the resistance to the stirring is 100% zero. It’s absolute zero viscosity. So this is a phase transition that has occurred at a certain temperature. At a certain level of negative hundreds of degrees of temperature, helium is still a gas. Go 1,000,000th of one degree past its phase transition point and helium is no longer a gas it suddenly becomes a superfluid, a quantum mechanical phenomenon.

[16:37] Tantra Is a Consciousness State

 I’m citing this because I want to cite how boundaries, phase transition, tipping points, points of where a critical mass is arrived at, these are all the fascinating areas of life, of observation, of the world.

Tantra is a state of consciousness. It’s not magic, it’s not a bunch of ceremonies. It’s not people who live their life in strange ways. It’s definitely not just a bunch of sexual practices that came out of India. That’s an urban myth that’s been created in the west. It certainly can apply itself to sexuality, because who wouldn’t like to hover on the cusp of the orgasmic state for as long as possible? Or to even stay in that state for as long as possible?

So somewhere along the line, somebody from India said, “That is tantra.” Well, it certainly is tantric to be able to examine a boundary point in anything, anywhere, including sexuality. But tantra is not Indian or Sanskrit for the word sex or arcane sexual practices.

Tantra is a consciousness state that makes us capable, fearlessly, of examining boundaries up close and watching how boundaries actually cause the condensation of potentials that become pivotal and create a release of massive creativity.

This is why we have an interest in the subject of tantra. Jai Guru Deva.

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