Today I want to share my perspective on the topic of initiation. This is much misunderstood and can even evoke an unfavorable reaction when first encountered. It is a tradition that can appear exclusionary or elitist to some. Whereas, the truth is that it is a necessary and beautiful aspect of the teaching of authentic living practice.
The teaching of “the practice of the practice” is completely initiatory in character. It has always been so in the various tantric lineage streams and it is as true today. While the various texts, the “tantras” of Kashmir Shaivism, as well as in classical yoga, give the philosophy, the perspective of understanding, the “theory of the practice”. The actual practice is taught only in person, directly from an authorized teacher to the student. This process is called “initiation” or dikṣha in Sanskrit.
Why is this so? Why all of the appearance of some form of secrecy or exclusivity? Why is it not taught in the books, or on YouTube for that matter? The best analogy I can use to explain this is that it is a transplantation of a living practice from one person to another. Just as a living sprouting seed must be carefully transplanted from one garden to another in order to be received in a living and protected condition that will grow and thrive. In other words it is transferred from life to life. That is why meditation instruction in the tantric traditions is always direct from person to person in dikṣha. It is this that assures that the practice will be active and effective when thus received. It may also be seen as the direct “pouring” of the knowledge of the practice from one container (the teacher) to another container (the student) in a pure, undiluted and protected manner.
To become an authorized initiating teacher of tantric meditation is a profound undertaking. It can require five or more years of dedicated study and practice before the initiation of a teacher as a teacher. I can say from my own experience that it is as challenging a commitment, both in depth and breadth of study and practice, as is going through medical school and internship. It takes as much time and dedication as becoming a physician.
Dikṣha, the personal and direct teaching and receiving of “the practice of the practice” of meditation, is the “sine qua non”: “That, without which, nothing.” It is the essence of learning a living and profound effective daily practice, which will then utterly transform, enhance and uplift the practitioner’s life.
The Sanskrit word diksha (dikṣa) comes from the combining of two root words: dik, which means “to give”, and kṣha “to take away”. What is given in initiatory teaching is the knowledge of the practice. What is taken away is any misunderstanding that might interfere with it being used properly and effectively. The practice itself is simple and natural. The instruction is given with care and precision.
The practice is entirely inward for the personal benefit of each practitioner. So this inward directionality is protected and kept pure by the tradition of initiatory teaching.
And that is exactly the reason why the texts do not give detailed or direct instruction in exactly how to go about meditating. The container is there. The perspective is there. The sequence of experiences and methods of transformation are carefully detailed in the texts. But the practice itself is reserved for initiatory teaching. And this is as true of the Yoga Sutras as it is for the Kashmir Shaiva tantric texts, such as the Shiva Sutras, The Vijñana Bhairava Tantra, and the Tantrāloka, to name a few extraordinary sources.
This is also the reason that I do not provide any details of “the practice of the practice” in this blog. I am happy to share my own experiences from meditation, the “fruits” of the practice, as well as the philosophical and textual underpinnings. To me these are realms of extraordinary knowledge and sources of continual fascination. To learn the practice itself though, again I refer interested readers to the bluethroatyoga.com website to locate an authorized teacher of Neelakantha meditation.
Tomorrow I will share how I came to meet my own meditation teacher, Dr. Paul Muller-Ortega, and learned this practice from him.