There are words that seem to circulate around our spiritual community for periods of time that accrue a certain amount of perceived value, while at the same time most people who use those words have little understanding of what they mean. This can present many problems when the definitions of these words become fluid, allowing anyone to, essentially, change the meaning to suit the needs of their ego. When the ego (the part of the mind that maintains the illusion of separation) controls the meaning of words used in spiritual practice, blocks can be created that will stop the expansion of consciousness. Such blocks can be considered contagious, so when someone spreads around false definitions of words that are commonly used, more people become affected by the ego block without even realizing it. There are some cases in which this is done maliciously, but most often it happens out of simple ignorance. In spiritual disciplines like Tantra, understanding the true meaning of words is very important, and it’s worth taking the time to gain this knowledge.
A good example is the word “awakening,” which has become a very common word around our community in recent years. The basic meaning of awakening, as it seems to be used these days, is an experience where our consciousness suddenly shifts, perhaps resulting in a change in perspective about our life’s purpose, relationships with others, understanding our place in the universe, etc. This is often a profound event in someone’s life in which they are able to overcome many self-limiting beliefs that create suffering. When our consciousness expands, it can often feel like our previous life was a dream from which we have finally woken up. If awakening allows us to feel greater compassion for others, leading towards liberation from limited consciousness, then it is certainly a desirable experience. The problems arise when the ego begins to focus on this word “awakened” as a label, beginning to make a subtle distinction between those who are awakened versus those who are still asleep, allowing a value judgement to creep in that whispers “awakened people are better, superior, to ordinary, sleeping people.” This is a trap which creates a separation that strengthens the ego and blocks consciousness expansion. Awakening starts to become a commodity, something that can be sold, especially to those of us who are passing through a phase of despair, the “Dark Night of the Soul” as it were. When awakening is an experience that is guaranteed in a hard sell pitch, you should be extremely cautious!
Awakening, from a Tantric perspective, relates to a structure in the subtle body called a “granthi,” literally meaning “knot,” but more effectively thought of as a gateway. The central energy channel that runs up the spine, the Sushumna, has three granthis which start out closed, blocking the movement of energy through the chakras. The first granthi (Brahma) sits in between the first and second chakras, the Muladhara and Svadhishthana, and prevents consciousness from expanding beyond the perception of material reality. When this granthi is opened, through the completion of whatever karma holds it shut, we can, quite suddenly, become aware of a vastly expanded reality. Between the fourth and fifth chakras, the Anahata and Vishuddha, is the second granthi (Vishnu) which opens to the cosmic consciousness that enlightened teachers exist in. The last granthi (Rudra) sits above the sixth chakra, the Ajna, which opens the door to final liberation and infinite consciousness. The opening of these granthis, which allow the Kundalini (evolutionary energy) to rise progressively higher, is one of the keys to Tantric practice.
The awakening happening in our community represents the unlocking of the Brahma granthi, which particularly allows us to experience energy moving through the heart chakra, a profound event for anyone in the initial stages. But this awakening is just the start of the process. Once we are awakened, then the actual work must begin. As soon as we start to think that awakening means we have arrived at the goal, then we have fallen off the path. Tantra is a path that rejects labels, seeing existence as a continuum of experience where we are all fellow travelers.