The Black Swan

The reason Tantra is the art of making trouble is because it is in fact an investment in the creativity of understanding what is possible, not what is sure or certain, not what is simply the case.

Let me offer the contrast here.  The vast majority of Tantra is problem based. We’re gonna solve the problem.

Rajanaka Tantra which is this school of Goddess Tantra that I worked in is paradox based. And we look back. Even those that try to explain the world problematically – life’s the problem but yoga’s the solution. If you can learn to engage deeply you’ll solve the problematic human life – Even they have to say isn’t life itself an extraordinary wondrous gift, at the same time they’re saying but look it’s a mess. So is that not a paradox.  It’s this simple, the very same thing that created you will devour you. The very same life that nourishes you will kill you… aggressively. 

Right? Because of all the things that you know death runs in your family. It’s one of the things y’all got.

So, to the Shakta mind the claim that what you want to have is quiet literally the original experience of Shiva, that is the original state of being. Beriffed of difference, the one expresses itself as many. but that transcendental goal which then expresses itself as all the possibilities of the universe. And notice my colleagues are really framing what I would call the main stream view dominated by a host of philosophers we call the Kashmir Shaivites. 

And that view is that Tantra really has two concerns, the transcendental and the imminent. you are here to find as it were the transcendental reality and as well boga – to love life. To enjoy the world. And that in a certain way reframes the Tantra in contrast to earlier traditions  which told you that boga was always going to be nothing but the problem and that you needed a transcendental solution to a world of boga. Why? Because everything that manifests as a desire is corrupted by change.  

Eat breakfast, hungry by lunch. 

So Samsara defined itself through desire in the pre-tanta traditions. How? By telling you that if you didn’t get what you want you would be unhappy and if you got what you want you would be unhappy.

So that win or lose desire is the problematic.

The Tantra came along and said, but the universe is nothing but an expression of desire. It’s power somehow expressing the desire. The desire simply to be. The being itself, the expansion of the universe, is the universes desire. It doesn’t have to have motive, doesn’t’ have to have a purpose, it just has a want.

Now, the Shakta’s of my ilk come along and tell you that a transcendental goal, that exempts you, that’s the teflon yoga – you’re in the world but all the bad stuff doesn’t happen to you because you have the transcendental state. so you see the world. Let me give you a different model.Kashmir Shaivism and other tantras want you to climb the mountain peak.  Until you get to the mountain peak you’re seeing the world like this. Once you get shiva drishti, the vision of shiva, the peak experience, the tantra says, you can come back down the mountain. Patanjali, early vedanta, other traditions just said, when you get to the mountain top – why would you come back? Effectively there’s nothing to come back to because you got it, you’ve literally peaked.  Kutastha. Literally you are established on the peak. The Kashmir Shaivites came along and said until you get to the peak you don’t get the real view. You don’t get the panorama. You don’t get the true vision. But once you have the true vision, when you come back through the valleys you still see the peak, you see world through the lens, through shiva drishti. so you see the boga world through the lens of the transcendental.

But this is an assertion. Why? Because, when you come back to the world you are looking to see the same thing everywhere. There’s only one solution. You got it. You have the solution that in some sense informs your experience of the world. 

Let me give you a simple example. So here’s enlightenment. You want to climb the peak to find the swan. The swan is the migrating self. the hamsa. And what you want is the hamsa to always be pure. To always be one thing. That my hamsa is your hamsa. My self is your self. That my essence beneath all the changes and differences and appearances, beneath Namarupa – names and forms – my essence is your essence. That my swan is your swan. That means that if we all have the same swans then all swans are white. Because we’re all the same. Their distinctive feature is that they are all the same. So you get to the mountain top and you go all swans are white. And you come back and the only thing you can find are….. white swans. Right? 

The Tantra, which is the art of making trouble, says that no matter how many white swans you find, your job in life is to look for the black swan. That is to look for the possibility that wasn’t just the one you asserted is true for everything. That is always true. Your job is to find the seam in the fabric of being. 

You might find that all swans are white. But your job is to entertain the possibility that your assertion, your claim, needs to be more than a piling up of examples. Or, the glib affirmation that because that’s what you saw there is no other possibility. Or that the oneness –  all swans are white – my soul is your soul – really solves the problem.  Why does it not solve the problem? Because you don’t live in a world in which there is an answer with certainty. You live in a world in which certainty always gives way to probability.  You live in a world in which every time you go that’s it, I’m sure,  it’s done. You have to say to yourself “really?”. 

The reason this is a Shakta view that your job is the curiosity of subversion is because it’s the dynamic view. Certainty is atrophy. If my soul is your soul and all souls are the same. Done. Finished. Still. You’re literally saying nothing more nothing else, only one. That’s not only certainty that’s literally non-movement. Because there’s no possibility there’s no change. There’s no dynamism

To admit dynamism, to admit change, you have to admit movement. To admit movement you have to say so far maybe all swans are white. Maybe my essence is your essence. But what if there’s more? What if there’s yet more to find?

The more there is to find, by the curiosity, by the strategy of trouble making – looking for the black swan when you think all the swans are white. That idea that there might be more is called Śrī.

Śrī, the auspicious. It is the radical affirmation that the possibility creates more. The auspicious. Śrī is not goodness. Ex that out of your yoga vocabulary.

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