from the book Tantric Quest
Devi seized my hand and, with lightening speed, flattened it against the coals. I let out a cry and instantly withdrew it. There wasn't a single mark on it or any sensation of burning. The coals, nevertheless, had been crushed under my palm. Devi looked at me with a sort of serene and mysterious half-smile that gave her face a full, radiant expression.
"Now you have touched the tattva of fire."
I remained silent, looking at my hand as if I expected to see blisters appear. Small stones landed in the pot. I drank some tea, then thought about this feeling of holding back, of resistance, that I had had during meditation. I spoke to her about it.
"Our strongest resistance is the resistance to ecstasy because we sense that to succumb to it we must abandon all certainty, abandon what we have put so many years into constructing. We must abandon our philosophy of life. Our beliefs, our ideas, even the concept of the void, even the concept of the absolute or of Shiva stand in the way of ecstasy. It is relatively easy to abandon fashionable ideas. It is much more difficult to give up philosophical and religious concepts. One proudly proclaims oneself an atheist, believer, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, tantrika. The divine can't be grasped in this manner. What's the difference between an atheist and a believer? Nothing. They are two sides of the same coin. It isn't a matter of believing or not believing. It's a matter of communicating with the nature of one's mind. It's like diving into a lake. Too often, we want to lose ourselves conceptually in the teachings as they unfold to us, and without realizing it we build a coat of armor against the divine. The most subtle teachings must be abandoned along the way. The tantrika's courage is in letting go of teachings once they've been absorbed. Even the Tantras aren't worth any more than a skin abandoned on the stones by a molting snake. When one is constantly changing, there comes a day when the consciousness rests on nothing. Then awakening occurs. Only total abandonment of the mental can open us to the divine."
"Is awakening subject to transformation?''
"All nature is subject to transformation. An awakening that isn't in accord with the deep nature of things gradually becomes diluted. One morning, you open your eyes but you're no longer awake."
"A Ch'an master speaks of the slow polishing of the awakening."
"That's it. It's not enough to find a raw nugget. It's necessary to let life run over it until the gold dazzles the entire universe."
Devi ate slowly. Each of her movements was in harmony; each mouthful seemed to bring her profound joy. This way of absorbing herself in things extended to her every activity. I had the impression that nothing was done mechanically. With her, everything was an occasion for communicating deeply, for remaining always anchored in reality. Thus, everything she did became a teaching for me. Through my association with her, I noticed those "holes" that punctuate our daily lives when we completely lose consciousness of the moment and of the divine harmony as well. It worked like real magic in Devi's least gesture, action, expression. It was as if the flow of time suddenly found itself slowed down by a dance partner from reality. Devi took up where she'd left off in her teaching.
"The so-called subtle tattvas are
"The first is the heart of the smell. By breathing in your oatmeal gruel, you smell the odor of the oats, but the heart of the odor is not the odor. Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe in the world at hand, the world of fire, ashes, clothes, the hut, the forest, the water, the sky, the universe. Only then does your consciousness penetrate to the heart of smell. The heart of smell is real. Only your superficial contact with the heart of smell is not real.
"Next comes the tattva of taste. Take a bit of oatmeal. Savor it. Penetrate to the heart of taste. Taste the reality of this heart, which contains all the tastes of the earth. That's what must be penetrated. It's in this sense that the Tantras say one attains 'the unique savor.'
"The tattva of form, the heart of form, is found in the formless, which is the matrix of all the forms in the world. Like the oat flakes, which have lost their own form in the cooking, know the heart of form by following this dissolution, which takes place throughout the universe.
"You can gain access to the tattva of touch by touching my hand. What do you feel?"
"Your skin, your flesh, your bone . . ."
"You feel the heart of touch. Your skin and mine brush against each other. It is as if all your skin has touched mine. A shiver runs through your whole body, and you enter into the heart of touch. Through me, the universe slips under your hand. Is it possible for two skins to touch each other completely? For each millimeter of your skin to touch each millimeter of mine?"
"Then what is love?"
I remained silent, without response, and profoundly moved.
"Is it possible for each millimeter of your consciousness to touch each millimeter of the divine?"
"Yes . . "
"Do you hear me?"
"Then it is the tattva of the heart of speech. To cross through it, you listen to the entire universe. It's in this sense that all that's heard in the universe is the mantra, AUM. All mantras are contained in the mantra AUM. Close your eyes. Listen to the mantra.... Only when you've heard it without a pause for three days and three nights will you be able to say it. To chant a mantra before having heard it is to arrive at death before being born."