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Thursday, 7 February 2013

Tantric Trainings

This is not the “have no fun” section of this Tantra. I would think of it more as a combination of mission statement and training wheels. We need virtue, we need it to be decent, honest, and gentle people if we are to get anywhere either in life or as Dhamma practitioners.
Virtue  provides a road map for us as Dharma farers. In pursuing Virtue we are able to locate ourselves in regards to exactly where we are in the practice. If we are becoming kinder, gentler, easier going and less stressed it is most likely because we are supporting our practice with Virtue. In pursuing Virtue we live lives with a significantly reduced potential for regret that we have done things that are simply ill advised, if not criminal in nature. Rather than being a job or a hassle Virtue protects us as practitioners.
Remember one of our meditations is remembering our Virtue. Remember that the keeping of Virtue can and should be a cause for joy. No one should pretend that Virtue is easy, the Buddha never did. Keeping Virtue is hard and there are plenty of times where we want to give in to our cravings or impulses....and your own hindsight will tell you that a good percentage of those occasions and events are the ones you ended up regretting later. So when you keep Virtue, remember to season it with some joy.
The Trainings come in two almost distinct compartments. There are the Five Tantric Trainings which we use in our daily lives and then there are the Eight Tantric Trainings which we can use for periods of intensive meditation and worship. The Five Tantric Trainings are the basis to our ethics and morality in this Tantra. No observance of the Five Tantric Tantra.
First Tantric Training
Pānāti-pāta veramani sikkā padam samādiyami.
I take the training to not kill living beings.
Do not take life. Respect the wish to live and to be happy that is present in all beings. This does not mean that we must become vegetarians or vegans. It means that we don’t need to use fly spray in our houses or step on spiders simply because we don’t like them. It means that we give life our respect and to treat every living being we come into contact with with Metta. We treat every being that we meet in life exactly as we want to be treated. There is the truism that if you treat life with gentleness that it will for the vast majority of the time treat you the same way. We minimise as much as possible the negative impact we have on the lives of others.

We don’t engage in killing or cruelty for that matter. There is no keeping of animals in bad conditions or doing what a brother of mine did as a child. We lived in rural Queensland and there was a rooster in a cage and every day on the way to school we would walk past this brother had plucked the back end of the rooster before it was moved. The rooster couldn’t escape and my brother simply inflicted pain because he could.

There is a very simple reason why this Tantra does not insist that vegetarianism is essential to observing this Training: there is a strong tendency for  fanaticism to develop in vegetarianism. Veganism in particular seems to attract the evangelists and fanatics. Fanaticism in any shape or form has no place in either this Tantra or Buddhism. Fantaticism is Wrong View, you are becoming incredibly attached to something. Given the vehemence of the evangelism that some Vegans engage in, there has to be a deep attachment to the idea that they are right and anyone not engaging in Veganism is wrong.
The Vegan movement as present in social media is, with thoughtful examination, evangelising something that has a clearly unhealthy aspect to it. Often their facts for sources of protein are dodgy or outright wrong. So are their claims about animal products. To be vegetarian should be a choice, it should never be a matter of doctrine. If you want to give being vegetarian a try, then please do, there are any number of very good books and websites that will help you with it. Consult your family medical practitioner.

Meat is a fuel for the body. The consumption of meat has its place in our diet. It should in no way become a fetish. What I personally practice is a discerning consumption of meat. I am careful in the meats I consume and the frequency with which I consume them. As I have said before, I eat almost exclusively game meats. In my case that is kangaroo. Contrary to what is often claimed by our Vegan and food fetish friends, the kangaroo in Australia is only sourced from the wild. The animal is killed with a head not a lot of crumbed kangaroo brain on the menu (think about it). The animals aren’t farmed and thus pumped full of chemicals. Nor are they stressed due to being near other animals about to die. They are in the spotlight long enough for the shooter to take aim and then their lights go out...literally.

When I do eat chicken or pork or goat, I buy them from Farmers Markets and thus I buy my meat from the people who raise the animals and can tell me about the species of goat or pig or chicken. I prefer to be both an informed and discriminating consumer. There is a growing movement to preserve rare breeds of meat animals. There is a truism that no species ever farmed by man has ever gone extinct. A meal of meat from the rare breed the Wessex Saddleback pig needed no condiments, the meat was delicious and delicious food doesn’t need to be seasoned to death. The more people consume rare breeds, the more they will be bred. So preserve a rare breed today.

I also engage in the same discrimination with my vegetables. There are other reasons for my preference for game and rare breeds in my meat and for rare varieties of common fruits and vegetables, perhaps the first is: they taste better. Often the food miles are lower and not unimportanly I’m not giving my money to some multi-national like Woolworths, I’m giving it to a farmer...directly.

Some of us have metabolisms that make vegetarian diets unworkable. Diet is part of health. A balanced diet is part of being a balanced person. If you are happy and healthy being exclusively vegetarian, then please continue. Please don’t take up a crusade to convert the world from its delusions.


Second Tantric Training
Adinnā – dānā veramani sikkā padam samādiyāmi.
I take the training not to take what isn’t mine.

Do not steal, fudge the books, milk the till, have a little something on the side or whatever else you want to call it. It is as simple as that.

Though this Training is somewhat more encompassing than simply pinching things that don’t belong to you. In being honest and ethical we encourage trust and trust is the core of this Training and life. We can steal trust by engaging in untrustworthy activities like cheating on our spouses or those we have joined in exclusive sexual agreements with. We can steal trust by being sleazy because no one will trust us near their sexual partners. We can steal trust by lying when there is absolutely no need to. Once trust is gone in any relationship whether it’s between parents and children, an employer and employee, friends, fuck buddies, husband and wife, you can bet your firm toned arse that the relationship is either on the rocks or as good as dead.

Without trust nothing works. Our entire civilisation is underpinned by trust. That money in your pocket is an act of trust. There is no way that the 30 grams of plastic with Amex or Visa printed on it is worth anything like what we trust we can buy using it. We trust the banks and we trust that somewhere there is something of value to back up the trusted value of the currency in our pockets. The Gold Standard and currency made up of precious metals was abandoned. We need trust to do pretty well anything.

The moment you abandon trust as what you are about your life is deeply in the shit. No one will accept what you say, no one will employ you, and you will end up deeply lonely. It is for this reason that very, very few of us ever announce that we are untrustworthy pieces of shit and that people would have to be brain dead to trust anything we say or do. We all like to be trusted.

Third Tantric Training
Kamesu micchara veramani sikkā padam samādiyāmi.
I take the training to behave responsibly in sexual matters.
This is where this Tantra clearly separates itself from Theravada Buddhist culture. In the Pali this Training says “Do not engage in sexual misconduct” and leaves it at that. The sutta’s refine things a bit more, they explicitly tell us not to engage in sexual relations with people under their parents care and the wives of other men. Until very recent times the intellectually impaired were cared for by their families and given that you are almost certainly not someone with an intellectual impairment it means that it is not o.k. to coerce someone with an intellectual impairment into a relationship or activity that they lack the ability to make an informed decision in regards to.

To be candid, I’m more than a little at a loss as to when the boring came into this Training. It certainly doesn’t fit into any translation of  Kamesu miccachara that I’ve ever come across and when asked, a lot of the Sangha will quite happily admit that the “wiggle room” that I see in this Training is there. Nowhere in this Training is there an indication that sex and sexual expression has to be only monogamous and heterosexual. In fact the one place that Buddhism doesn’t go is into your bedroom, well Tantra does, but we’re here to have fun, be utterly  awesome & frighten the terminally boring. Theravada stays away from the boudoir. So being Gay, Lesbian, Bi or just plain confused along with wanking, dogging, anal, oral, threesums, orgies, BDSM,and being a Furry (which is a fetish where people dress up as furry animals and fuck each other)  and Cross Dressing,  aren’t going to get you a one way trip to Hell.

I will offer another definition. Sexual Misconduct is what happens when you either break agreements between yourself and someone else, cause someone who is in a sexual agreement whether you are already in one or not, to break their agreement or to engage in what society regards as sexual predation....i.e. paedophilia or other sex crimes. So sex with the intellectually impaired is not on. Nor is cheating with someone already married or when you are already matter how unhappily.

Polyamory, swinging, one night stands, open marriages, friends with benefits, voyeurism, fuck buddies, agreements where one partner can have a particular need or fetish met and where both people involved are over the age of consent and fully informed and happy with what is happening are not Sexual Misconduct. What they are is sexual agreements between consenting adults.

Given just how easy it is to find sex in our culture there is absolutely no need for you to not observe this Training. Tantra makes this Training rather easy to keep. The only things frowned on in this Training is cheating and criminal behaviour.

This Training also forms part of the larger Eight Tantric Trainings. Traditionally when the Five Trainings become part of the Eight Trainings it is changed from sexual misconduct to celibacy. There really isn’t any need for this. You can pursue the Eight Trainings and be sexually active. I won’t come around to your place with a baseball bat and beat the shit out of you if you want to engage in an orgy whilst pursuing the Eight Trainings.


Fourth Tantric Training
Musāvādā veramani sikkā padam samādiyāmi.
I take the training to control what comes out of my mouth.
Harsh speech. Also known as “being a backstabbing bitch – arsehole- turd- cunt.” I mean if you like being the topic in gossip, then knock yourself out and shoot your mouth off. On the other hand if you don’t much like being the favourite subject of the office bitch then the simple way of not being it is don’t engage in gossip yourself. There will always be bitches & dickheads whose main source of joy in life is backstabbing, but as a Tantric you would be wise not to engage in it yourself.

I am the father of an almost three year old. My mouth has undergone a major cleaning up in the last three years. The other night we were having dinner and my boy started chanting “Fucker” and because of my Aspergers I’m the one who has most likely dropped that word near him....go straight to the shit list, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.

Something else that we must consider is the effect of our words on others. It is my experience that if you want to be treated like you are brain dead, then by all means liberally season your sentences with obscenities. It is true that I do use profanities in this book, there is one reason that it makes it more accessible to you if what you are reading is “in the vernacular”. In no way am I pretending that this Tantra is an academic work. The other is the Aspergers.

Beauty and its cultivation should extend to our speech. Speak beautifully, make your voice an act of love. We all know wankers and harpies who have voices about as beautiful as a car alarm. As Tantrics it is our duty not to join them. Beautiful speech is speech that isn’t littered with obscenities and bad grammar. It is speech that conveys our thoughts and intentions in a natural and skilfull way.

Speak intelligently and thoughtfully and to your own level. One of the saddest things I have ever seen, and no doubt this sad tale is related elsewhere in this Tantra, is of a guy I knew who decided that the best way to impress someone was to appear intellectual...and the last thing this guy is is intellectual. So he’s trying to impress an absolutely gorgeous Singaporean medical student and is liberally quoting from Mark Twain. There’s about a month of intellectual daylight between them. Her eyes quite literally glazed over. Last I heard he was still single. He failed and continues to fail because he is trying to be something that he isn’t. His speech is in contradiction to what he is. He desperately wants to appear as “wind swept & interesting” as Billy Connolly puts it. Instead he comes across instead as a pretentious wanker. Had he engaged the woman as the gardener he is then he may well have gotten what he wanted. There is no tertiary degree to back up what he was trying to project an image of himself as.

Often it is our passion that will engage someone. Knowing your subject is half the fight.  If we have a serious intellect and the  qualifications to go with it then this is  immense help. As someone who has gotten his Tertiary education relatively late in life, I have noticed a clear difference in my ability to engage people and to speak beautifully. I know my subject. I am able to offer informed and considered opinions. Increasingly I do so without obscenities.

Fifth Tantric Training
Surā meraya majja pamā datthānā veramani sikkā padam samādiyāmi.
I take the training to avoid negative intoxication.
“Leave the booze alone son, leave the booze at home son, don’t take your booze to town son”. So it’s an awful paraphrasing of a bad song. Still this Training is very much about controlling our use of intoxicants. There is no need to completely abstain from intoxicants, which is what traditional Theravada culture practices, there is a need to control our use of them.

A question that needs to be addressed is: What exactly is an intoxicant?
Traditionally in Theravada it is very unambiguous....alcohol, cannabis and opioids are intoxicants. And this very much fits in with what the training requires. The key word in the training is majja it means maddens. We are to avoid that which maddens us, that which makes us mad...mentally unstable. Even in English there is the idea that some things are simply bad for you...look at the word properly : intoxicant. In the middle of the word is toxic.

Intoxicants are things that make us feel good.
Intoxicants are not equal, some are bad for you and others will kill you very quickly if you overdose on them. Others are a mix of bad and good. And finally some intoxicants are simply good for you.

 And this makes the training very personal. I have known people who simply could not handle their alcohol, two beers and they were just absolute idiots, completely intoxicated and out of control. Alcohol maddens them. Conversely I have known people who can spend all evening drinking and remain perfectly wonderful. I enjoy a nice glass of wine or a beer on occasion, never lose control, so for me alcohol isn’t a problem. I have been intoxicated on coffee, so utterly wound and hyped up on caffeine that I’ve hallucinated. Islam treats coffee as an intoxicant. Christianity doesn’t. In Hinduism there is the use by renunciants of Bhang, and Bhang is simply hashish (cannabis resin). Try using Bhang in the West and you face jail time if you are caught. The judicial system in the West treats Bhang as an intoxicant, Hinduism doesn’t.

Though to be entirely clinical, the moment you begin to leave substances such as caffeine, nicoteine and alcohol and even these in moderate amounts, you are beginning to venture into biologically bad places. All the narcotics are bad for you and the negative mental and physical effects of long term use of cannabis and opioids do outweigh the short term positives as perceived by the user. Though you will rarely, if ever hear this from a user.

Then there is the presence of the media in our lives. In recent years electronic media in the form of the Internet and online games have been the subject of much discussion, angst and hand wringing due to their involvement in the lives of young American males who have commited atrocities. The argument was that these young men had become so desensitised by the violence in the media they were addictively accessing that there was no connection in them of the difference between being a first person shooter in an online game and using an AR -15 on a class of six years olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut. They had become maddened by the media they were addicted to.
In the past the same argument has been made when it comes to splatter movies. My argument is that clearly for 99.999....% of us these things aren’t maddening, yet, unfortunately for these young males they were.

So to follow the logic, intoxicants aren’t just the usual culprits of booze and drugs. Intoxicants can be electronic media. I used the example of violent games in the paragraph above. Let me explore another idea. If you are using anything to avoid a problem, something that dulls the pain and makes you feel good, whether it is a soap opera, comfort eating, online chess or going for a run, it is an intoxicant. It makes you feel good. No matter what the eventual outcome is.

So far we’ve explored negative intoxicants. Let’s get more positive. There are positive intoxicants. a point, is a positive intoxicant. We have all heard about the people who became addicted to endorphins to the point where they exercised themselves to death. Let’s face it, they are a mercifully small percentage of us. We often lack the motivation, if not the time to exercise as much as we should, let alone to the point where it becomes bad for us.

That post yoga glow is a positive intoxicant. So is the one when you rejoice in just how good you are feeling and looking when the effort you are putting into being healthy shows results. That marshmallow type feeling after genuinely great sex is a positive intoxicant.

Positive intoxicants are those intoxicants which have a positive effect on our lives. The ones we can use in our Caganussati. It is rare for them to result in cancer or psychosis. It is common for them to result in toned, happy, content people.

The point of this training is to abstain as best you can from negative intoxicants and to engage in the positive intoxicants.