It has been a while since I’ve written anything here. I escaped the Nordic winter to Koh Phangan, Thailand, to do intensive yoga at Shri Kali Ashram. Three months of practice, swimming and sunshine on tropical island – sounds like a paradise, doesn’t it?
Well, the time there was indeed great. Nothing to worry about, no hurry and no stress. What I did not expect, however, was that returning to so-called normal life could be so hard. And why?
Even though I did not feel tremendous shifts or have deep experiences during the yoga practice at Shri Kali, I think the time there worked deeply on all of us long term practitioners. Subtle but profound.
Yet there was another occasion that had an even greater impact on me.
I have mentioned Christopher Hareesh Wallis here on this blog before, and I have greatly enjoyed his teachings and translations of tantras, both in books and online. When I heard he was going to give a workshop on Koh Phangan while I was there, I didn’t hesitate a second and signed up for it.
It was a three day workshop called Awakened Relationships. In this workshop, first Hareesh presented some of his own ideas about relating, inspired by his long-term scholarly study of non-dualistic Shaiva Tantra. We also touched on NVC, Non-Violent Communication, which of course does not stem from the tantras.
For me, the most powerful teaching in this workshop was “The Six Realms”. During the last day of the workshop, Hareesh opened up something he calls tantric psychology, and this teaching, according to him, was presented as an oral transmission from one of his teachers. It’s also part of the Buddhist tradition and there’s a book available on the teaching. However, I think the book doesn’t open up the topic as clearly as Hareesh’s lecture.
In the Six Realms teaching we learned to identify our fixation or attachment to one or several of the “realms”, thus dropping our false ideas and becoming more our True Self. Hareesh called this Real Human Presence, our natural state. We can be either a bit attached to any one of the realms and see the world through this identification, or we can be deeply fixated on a realm, which can appear as a profound mental imbalance in our lives.
So what are the realms?
Here they go from the gross to the more subtle: Hell Realm, Hungry Ghost Realm, Animal Realm, Titan Realm, God Realm and Human Mind Realm.
Of course these names won’t tell you much, and I don’t feel entitled to propagate the teaching here, as I’m only discovering the enormous power it holds. But a brief explanation of each can help you to understand the concept a bit better.
The Hell Realm is about being a victim, the “Why Me?” mentality. A Hungry Ghost is someone who’s searching for the solution outside of him or herself. It’s the driving force of the self-help industry. The Animal Realm denotes a need for safety and comfort. Here it’s easy to numb oneself with drugs or TV, for example. The Titan Realm is all about competition, hierarchy and proving oneself by accomplishments. The God Realm is someone who’s deluded by their need to be special and above everyone else. Finally, the Human Mind Realm is fixed on trying to understand and control things mentally.
Hareesh pictured this as a six-petalled circle, where the realms are the petals, and the Real Human Presence in the center. We are always somewhere on this “chart”. The further away from the center we are, the more identified and obsessed we are by that particular realm.
Even during the workshop, and especially in the days immediately after, I started to see how I’m operating in many of these Realms. I began to find how many things I have held as important in my life that are somehow based on impure motives. This realization caused me to sink and shrink… Who am I, really? And what am I here to do, really? What’s the worth of things I have been doing during the last 20 years of my life on a so-called spiritual path?
So here I am now, thinking of what to do and where to go… And if I decide a direction, what is my decision based on? What makes me think I should pursue that path? Do I want financial security (Animal Realm)? Do I want to be special and evolved being in the eyes of others (God Realm)? Do I feel I’m missing something, so that I should learn new skills and acquire peak experiences in order to feel more complete (Hungry Ghost)? Do I strive for accomplishments and recognition (Titan Realm)?
A bit confusing, to say the least.
Luckily Hareesh provided some pointers on how to work with each of these realms once they are recognized. Recognizing the realms is to become free of them. According to Hareesh, this is a “liberation teaching”, a complete teaching, meaning that it’s all you need to know.
And yes, we all fixate on some or many of the realms. So there’s work to do for everyone.
The Six Realms teaching by Hareesh is not available online, but you can check out his international schedule right here.
All the best,