The Heat of the Matter

As stated in the opening blog of this series Spiritual-Heat, or Tapas, is generated when utilized for spiritual rejuvenation; tapas is always a self-imposed and voluntary type of asceticism, rather than a natural occurring one. These voluntary practices may entail seclusion, silence, and fasting. It is considered to be a personalized form of austerity or asceticism. By engaging in tapas, individuals purify themselves and transition from impurity to purity, ultimately reaching a celestial state. Therefore, tapas encompasses both the practices performed and the outcome of asceticism, such as the heat generated during the practice. Through the practice of asceticism, or tapas, the ascetic experiences spiritual fervor. In Unborn Mind Zen it is a formidable surge of luminosity that solely the devout pursuer dares to embark upon, for it is through such divine benevolence that they relish in the delightful ecstasy discovered within its boundless core of perpetual solicitude. When practitioners engage in meditation and invoke the Tathagata deities, their inner mind and spirit become infused with the potency of bodhi, thereby enabling them to access the Element of Truth (Dharmadhatu). The resulting inner-heat has the potential to transmute one’s being into a crystalline Vajra-Body, which is commonly referred to as the Blue Flame of the Bodhichild within our tradition. This phenomenon takes place within the sacred womb of the Tathagata-garbha. The wise ancients have presented a highly fitting analogy of the aforementioned interconnection: the mother hen is capable of hatching her eggs owing to her constant and attentive inward listening to the chick’s growth. Despite the outward appearance of merely warming the outer-shell, her concentrated focus also engenders an inner-heat, thereby facilitating the circulation of Qi that incubates the embryos.

Through various ascetic constraints the initiate heats himself and in so doing facilitates his passage to sacred and visionary realms. The ascetic scenario is in fact a “period of incubation” from which the shaman is reborn through a magical and generative heat. Of related interest are the Himalayan ascetics of Tibet. Like the shaman’s journey, their initiatory passage to a more sacred state is characterized by ascetic endeavor and transforming heat (i.e., gtum-mö). In Christian mysticism, too, the journey to transcendence is often characterized by heat. It is indeed an inner heat of ecstasy that warms the path to divine union. (Kaelber, Walter O. Tapta Marga Asceticism and Initiation In Vedic India, pg. 5)

Similarly the Bodhichild possesses the ability to generate sacred heat, characterized by a quality of primordial innocence and childlike joy, free from the biases and attachments of a discriminatory mind. Its dignity and profound sense of purpose as a Light Bringer (Bodhisattva) awaken the Realm of Noble Wisdom within one’s innermost being. By cultivating the qualities of this Bodhi-embryo through sambodhi (the power of the Enlightened Mind) , one initiates the process of Recollecting the Way home to the Unborn Mind, guided by a Spirit of undivided self-awareness. This phenomenon bears resemblance to the practice of Spiritual Breathing. The embryonic state is, indeed, the most prominent requirement for the process of spiritual rejuvenation; its bodhiseed is the act of consecration of this Child of Light within the Womb of Suchness.

In Vedic terms, whosoever is an “embryo in the womb of immortality,” is delivered from death and becomes immortal, so the sannyasin who has realized Brahman (= Atman) attains immortality beyond transmigration and dies no more. Womb and gestation symbolism is prevalent at the Upanayana. To restate briefly: Atharva Veda 11, 5, 3 observes, “When the teacher receives [upa-ni] the brahmacarin as a disciple, he places him as a foetus inside (of his body). He carries him for three nights in his belly.” Satapatha Brahmana 11, 5, 4, 12 indicates that “by laying his right hand on (the pupil), the teacher becomes pregnant (with him).” The same text also observes that “he who enters on a term of studentship becomes an embryo. “As Lommel and other scholars have suggested, the three nights are a homologue of the gestation year which the embryo undergoes prior to its rebirth. One who has experienced the Upanayana is a dvi-ja, or twice-born. (ibid, pg 127)

In Unborn Mind Tathagata-garbha Zen, the teacher implants the Bodhiseed within the Mind of a worthy adept along adjacent lines. This teacher is known as the Abbagotaragarbha, who is the guiding, mystic-spiritual father (abba) responsible for implanting the auspicious bodhiseed (gotra). Simultaneously, the spiritual, nurturing, mystical mother of liberation (tara) gestates the inner-dharma seed (bodhichild) and begins to recollect its own Primordial Stature within the buddhaic womb of suchness.

The Katha Upanisad contrasts the evil of samsara with attaining the true goal from which one is “born no more” [najayate]. At Katha Upanisad 5, 1 the true Self is again described as “unborn,” as is the heavenly Person, the Purusa, or Atman at Mundaka Upanisad 2, 1, 2. Svetasvatara Upanisad 1, 1 declares that by knowing God “there is cessation of birth.” Svetasvatara Upanisad 3, 21 speaks of the essential Self or Atman which is “exempt from birth,” and Maitri Upanisad also characterizes the Atman or true Self as “unborn”. (ibid, pg. 136)

During meditation, it is customary to lower one’s gaze to the dantian-point of the Garbha-child, thereby relinquishing control of the Body-Consciousness. This marks the commencement of Spirit-Breathing, or inner-listening to the heart-beat (spiritual heat) of the Child of Light. This process involves replacing mundane-breathing with the inner-circulation of Qi-energies emanating from the heart of the Bodhi-child. If this transition is made without conscious awareness, the sound of respiration fades away, and one listens instead for the silent-flow of a softer, subtler breath that empowers True-Breathing, which penetrates to the ultimate truths of Spiritual-Awareness. This results in the Garbha-child taking over the breathing process. As time passes, even the subtleness of this movement of the Primordial Spirit begins to subside as True-Breathing penetrates the unimaginable depths of the Unborn Mind. When the unnoticeable-movement of this subtle Qi-flow, directed from within the womb of the Garbha-child, is initiated, all flows as Such in the heart of the Imageless-Spirit.

In essence, the primary signification is “to emit heat” or “to be hot,” denoted by the term “tapas.” Correspondingly, the noun “tapas” is fundamentally interpreted as “heat” or “warmth.” At the literal or elemental level, this heat is closely linked with fire and the sun, both of which possess and radiate tapas. In this context, tapas is imbued with a creative implication. For the Ascetic-Mind, the primary reasons for the Recollective Resolve’s shortcomings are indolence and inattentiveness. However, a solution exists in the form of redirecting the regulation of respiration. It is imperative that the Bodhi-mind assumes responsibility for directing the breath. As the Garbha-child begins to stir, proper breathing patterns emerge, leading to the unification of Qi and the Unborn Mind.

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