The ways of Himalyan Shamans

The essence of all the mountains is Stillness. However when I sat in their presence, every Himalayan mountain radiated different texture and tone of Stillness. Mt. Kailash (Tibet) has majestic Stillness, very forceful and heart opening. Mt.Nilgiri and Daulagiri (Nepal) had an aura of peace and calmness, full of blue light. Mt. Annapurna (Nepal) has very delicate feel to it, like a wish-fulfilling Goddess.

Mt. Machapuchare (Nepal), pushed my awareness into an abyss, it was deep. Zanskar (Ladakh), were mysterious always hidden behind the clouds or fog. Mt. Dhauladhar (Himachal, India) has humbleness of a monk and sitting in its presence one feels safe and protected. Shivalik Range (Gangotri and Kedarnath, India) has a feeling of ‘watchful eye’, always gazing at you with a question. And then Mt. Khangchendzonga is like a beautiful jewel in a lotus.

“Why does every mountain radiate different tone of Stillness?”, I asked Tashi Tsering. Tashi is a practicing Dhami (Himalayan Shaman ) and I met him in eastern Himalayas. “Everything is about ‘perception’ (Skt. Pratyakshta)”, he said. I have been traveling in Himalayas for six months to gain deeper understanding of Shamanic healing. I met many Himalayan Shamans (Dhami, Jhankhri and Tantriks), traditional healers (Amji), sadhus, lamas, yogis, and teachers in the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal and India. I witnessed many healing ceremonies and rituals, tantrik choirs, lama dances, yogis walking barefoot for miles on frozen snow with hardly any clothing, aghori sadhus smoking ganja and laughing like crazy. They all had one thing in common, they perceived the world very differently then we do.

As per Himalayan Shamans, the tangible reality is an ‘energy in motion’. It is not made of objects and things that are in motion but it ‘is’ the motion. A continuous movement of energy that we experience it in two different ways. One is the world of thoughts, feelings and sensations. And other is the world made up of things, family, body, car, etc. The second world we experience is constructed (or created?) from the first one (thoughts, feelings and sensations). We identify recurring and habitual experiences as spouse, car, toast, road, etc. We don’t remember that they are really our perceptions (or projections?) and we take them for granted as if they are ‘persistence and static entities’.

Entangled in our own projections we further develop a sense of separate ‘identity’ (or personality), and we cling on it believing it to be real. However, the Shamans float in sensations, thoughts and feelings, without creating or projecting any separate identities or clinging on to any things, only witnessing the movement. They ‘see’ everything as one interconnected web of energy and they laugh at our fragmented perception of ‘things’, ‘me’ and ‘other’.

“Ordinarily, you are under a spell: two, not one.

But when a you look into your lover’s eyes,

you fall into another enchantment: one, not two”

– An Arrow to the Heart.

Himalayan Shamans call the invisible thought processes as energy-winds’ and these create our separate sense of self and ordinary perception of the world. The energy-winds only exist in our mind. These winds create all feelings, thoughts and sensations when our awareness interacts with tangible world. All our hopes, fears, passions, all moods and states of pain and happiness, etc, arise due to these winds. Sometimes, ‘I’ get sad, sometime happy, angry and sometime ecstatic. ‘I’ then identifies with these states (I am in pain etc..). In reality these states are generated within us by winds interacting with our awareness and then we lock our awareness in them.

So, we can generate any mental state we want, then why we can’t be in a state of happiness all the time? “When we cling on to the energy-winds that threaten our ‘sense of separate identity’ (e.g. fear) then they become ‘demons’ and these demons make us miserable and sick”, said Tashi.

When we relate to any thing or being we create an energy connection. Generally speaking the connection with non-sentient being is one way, i.e., we receive energy from it. However, a relation with an sentient being is of two way energy connection. Relation with our significant partner is a sacred connection as we share so much energy (love, passions, attention, time, feelings, thoughts, money, etc). However, that connection should not make other people a lesser human than our significant partner. When we cling on to ‘hopes’ as to what that connection can bring to us, then our ‘clinging’ creates ‘demigods’ as it enhances (makes us cling to ‘feeling good’) our sense of separate self. Later when we start changing our ways of life and behavior because of constant fear that we may loose this connection (and our identity or habitual life), we are dealing with a demon. Demons threaten our identity or sense of separate self. These demons and demigods are thought-processes (or energy-winds) and they become obstacles in generating happiness within us.

“Take a demon to be a demon and it will harm you;

Know a demon is in your mind and you’ll be free of it” – Milarepa

All demons and demigods show up as a ‘disturbed emotion’. “I am not happy”, “I am stressed”, “I feel empty”, “I am lonely”, “I am afraid of world”, “I can’t sleep”, “I am always irritated and angry”, “I hate…”, “I have a constant headache…”, “I can’t see things clearly”, “my head does not feel right”, “my heart is not in right place”, “I am always depressed”, “my back always hurts although I never had any physical injury…”, “why this always happens to me…”, the list can go on and on.

“Every sickness has associated demons or demigods, and they show up as one or many disturbed emotions”, says Tashi, “and you have to be able to ‘see’ them and understand their needs, then only you can heal a sick person”. That is the core of Shamanic healing. The demons and demigods are lesions created by our habitual mind and persona and healing means dissolving them into luminous emptiness or blissful stillness.

And Shamans don’t go somewhere (other world or ‘out there’) to ‘see’ things clearly or bring information. All they do is shift their awareness from ordinary reality and rest in ‘deep and boundless’. All rituals (drumming, chanting, dancing, meditation, etc…) are aids for shifting the awareness and be still.

“… you have to rest in inaction and things will transform themselves. Smash your form and body, spit out hearing and eyesight, forget you are a thing among other things, and you may join in great unity with the deep and boundless” – Chuang Tzu

People think that Shamans have to die or experience death in order to heal other. Death they experience is not physical but energetic i.e. the personality-consciousness dies. In reality, death of ‘personality consciousness’ is more violent and painful than physical death. If we look around then we can see that we actually give most of our energy to keep our persona alive than the body, we even will torture our bodies to keep the persona alive. If you don’t believe me then pick-up any fashion magazine or life-style magazine. Cosmetic industry is booming everywhere in the world, why? We all have concepts (constructed reality) of how our ‘significant other’ should be and when our concept does not match with reality then we often change our real partner instead of the ‘constructed reality’ in our mind. There is nothing wrong with having identity, be inspired by hope or cautioned by fear or enjoy the material world. However, when we cling on to these then they turn our life upside down.

Tantriks refer to the constructed reality in our mind as mandala of Heart and an unwholesome mandala of Heart is the root of suffering. My tantrik teacher used to say, “a Tantrika is not so much involved in the formulation of doctrine or school of thought, or theories to analyze the reality, rather, their intention is to realize the experience of freedom (skt. svantantrta), unbounded-awareness (skt. paravidhya), and ultimate (skt. anuttara) unwavering (skt. achala) blissful-stillness (skt. shantah) in the mandala of heart.”

Himalayan shamans use mandalas as a centering tool that maps the journey of transformation. Beings in the mandala vary according to type of mandala. Calm and motionless beings in the peaceful mandalas work with transformation of ignorance. Blissful beings in joyful mandalas transform passion, and fierce and fast-moving being in the wrathful mandalas transforms our anger and aggression.

“When I began drawing mandalas, however, I saw everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point – namely the midpoint. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center… There is no linear evolution; there is only circumambulation of the mandala.” – C.G.JUNG (Memories, Dreams and Reflection)

I witnessed many tantrik choirs (to shift awareness and experience ‘deep and boundless’), Nyasa ceremonies (to retrieve lost parts of awareness and to release toxic connections ), some type of Chod rituals (to dissolve demons and demigods into luminous emptiness), and bodywork (to release obstructed winds in channels) to help with healing. All of these start with four basic questions: 1) Who is here? 2) What troubles them? 3)What do they need and 4) How can we help? The goal of every Shamanic healing is to unlock the health and wellness by creating a sacred environment where a person can experience inner-love and stillness to dissolve the ‘disturbed emotions’ and their habitual perception of reality.

“whether you meditate on emptiness or anything else, it is mistaken meditation unless it becomes an effective remedy against disturbing emotions and habitual perception of reality. Something that does not counteract the disturbing emotions and mundane or habitual perception of reality is a cause for falling into samsaric existence” – Guru Padamasambhava

At sometime or other we all have experienced the sacred bliss of luminous Stillness. Suddenly there is an opening between two thoughts, a still point and the beauty of a beam of sunlight breaking through overhanging trees catches our heart and turns it over with boundless joy and gratitude. The familiar scene is transformed by an unusual quality of light and music. Veil that was unnoticed is suddenly lifted a bit, there stands partially revealed – a naked mystery. Our whole being is infused with a radiant smile. We sense the Oneness in all. Something inside starts to sing. For Pristine Awareness has touched us and illuminated us from within and we are filled with kindness. These are the times when a sight of a flower or the sound of raindrop tells us more of reality than all the words in Wikipedia or internet. “You must open your heart and experience it there as you experience the sweetness of a lump of sugar in your mouth – direct perception!, says Tashi.

Some worship a golden goddess With four arms, a book and a rosary –
Expecting perhaps, to be free from pain.

Some worship a collection of sacred tomes Full of subtle concepts and subtler logic –
Confident perhaps, in the power of reason.

Some worship bliss, clarity, emptiness or other altered state –
Convinced, perhaps, that there is something to gain.

Apparently no one told them
How to bow.

– An Arrow to the Heart

sarve bhavantu sukhina – May all be Happy and Blissful

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