October 31st 2020

I’m presently at Uttaraloka with Vasubandhu and Keturaja; Janaka arrives in a few days for a month and some time later Vajranatha will also join us for a month or so. Because of some cancellations and Covid-19 restrictions this Autumn’s retreat has been a bit ragged – rather less ‘contained’ than others – but the weather is perfect and we are settling into a life away from the preoccupations of ‘the world’. We’ve done quite a bit of work around the place as well as following a full program of four to five hours meditation a day. Vasubandhu has given some TLC to the various fruit trees and planted some new ones, as well as creating a cactus garden in front of the house. Keturaja has planted a line of what will become tall thin cedar trees – I only hope that I live long enough to see them in their full majesty. I’ve tiled the floors of a couple of rooms in the casita and upgraded the electrical system to accommodate a new water pump. We’ve even got enough power for a small microwave oven! But that might be going a step too far.

I continue to be courting Vajrayogini and have been reading Judith Simmer-Brown’s ‘The Dakini’s Warm Breath’ – she skilfully gets beyond feminist interpretations of the Dakini as either a symbol of patriarchal exploitation, or as a basis for a gynocentric spiritualism, and comes to the traditional Tibetan interpretation of her being beyond gender (and, of course, everything else). The primary connection I feel with Vajrayogini is through her seed syllable set in a version of the dharmodaya – which I have also carved in wood from our almond trees. However, I am also realising what an important role she has played in my spiritual life, actually since my early teens. I have started writing a sort of inner biography.

Almost fifty years ago I had a rather dramatic summer retreat, an element of which was that I felt that I had breasts. I told Bhante that I could feel them but not see them – he assured me that many men felt they had a feminine side – sometimes even as much as 10%. I blurted out that I was 50% feminine – he seemed a little shocked, but a year or so later when he gave me my name he explained that it represented both my masculine and feminine sides and went on to say a little more about it. He’d obviously taken my observation seriously. Over the last few years I have discovered that when I am concentrated in meditation I experience a subtle body – a sensuous, but not material, body that is associated with visionary experiences in meditation. It seems clear now that the feminine body I felt all those years ago was an aspect of my subtle body and that my subtle body (perhaps it is this that is meant by a soul) has feminine qualities without actually having gender. This subtle body is not quite of space and time, but it has a presence, and given it’s feminine feel, I believe that it is the place to meet with Vajrayogini. Unfortunately it is not something that can be called up by my will – I need to wait patiently while putting everything else aside.

Akashavira recently send me a link to a discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences on ‘Reality is Not As it Seems’. One of the contributors, Donald Hoffman, made a convincing case for the experience of space, time and materiality being a highly successful construction, a way of interpreting ‘Reality’ that had emerged from the evolutionary process. I can understand that even though common sense tells me that this cup is solid material, atomic physics tells me that even though this is a reasonable model for every day use it does not take into account of certain observable facts that require a new model of primary particles; but then even this is not sufficient to take into account other observables which require a quantum field model. Our models, the ways we image the world to be, are always limited. If, as seems likely, space and time are also incomplete models that restrict our experience of Reality, what other kind of model could be imagined. Vajrayogini steps into this world from outside time and space. Can one dare to be embraced by her?

Vajrayogini, subtle body dynamics, and sexual yoga, not to mention deity yoga and even the foundation yogas are all part of the system of Vajrayana Tantric Buddhism for which it is emphasised that the essential first step is to have a qualified guru from whom to receive the initiations. My meditation experience is very rich in these symbols and feelings and yet I am clearly not on a Vajrayana Tantric path. Where does all this fit together? How do I make sense of these experiences? They have been going on for decades and so often I have discovered in the Vajrayana traditions exact congruences of my experience. If I believed in literal rebirth I could perhaps assume that I’d been a Vajrayana practitioner in a previous life but I think this unlikely. So it remains a mystery. (Incidentally a woman from Southern California who I had upset, once consulted a Sedona medium who revealed that I was the reincarnation of a Tibetan black magician. She even contacted Bhante to warn him of the dangers of allowing me to teach meditation. I actually quite relished the idea, but again, I thought it unlikely.)