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Q. How does one live a spiritual life?
Q. How should one choose a spiritual path?
Q. How does one become free or awakened?
Q: If one is already complete, then what is the purpose of sadhana (spiritual disciplines)?
Q: How can one generate compassion?
Q: What is the way of meditation?
Q. What is Tantra?
Q. How does Tantra differ from other deep spiritual paths?
Q. What is a Kaula or Kaula Tantra?
Q: How would you differentiate “traditional Vamamarga” from the common conceptions surrounding the word “vamamarga?”
Q: What is the meaning of Kapalika and what are Kapalika’s?
Q: What is the role of Mantra in the Vidya?
Q: Do sadhaks of this tradition practice Kundalini Tantra?
Q: I’m confused about how to move forward in my life…any advice?
Q. Does one’s life situations improve from spiritual disciplines?
Q. Is it true that when a person is ready, then the Guru will come?
Q. How can one know if someone is a Guru or is their Guru?
Q: What are the qualifications for taking being a student and taking initiation?
Q: What is initiation?
Q: What is the role or how is the Devata perceived in Tantra?
Q: Which Deities does one work within this tradition?
Q. Can you describe the meaning and iconography of the different Deities?
Q. What is the Kaula Chakra?
Q. Do the sadhaks within the Chakra get together for sadhana?
Q: What can I do before taking initiation?
Q: Do you recommend any books to read?
Q: Why do sadhaks in this tradition wear red or black cloth?
Q: What are the sacred places associated with this Chakra?


Q. How does one live a spiritual life?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Ones life is already spiritual, so there is no need to divide oneself or compartmentalize activity. It is only a matter of understanding the innate quality and relaxing into it.

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Q. How should one choose a spiritual path?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: One’s spiritual path should always serve their sincerity, and sincerity is grounded in the organic and fundamental questions of life/death and understanding ones deepest essence. Otherwise, spirituality or a spiritual path will just be a new identity or identification. We are born out of seeming nothingness thrown into a particular/peculiar world, and will die in a relatively short period. So, what is all this? What is one really? What is the nature of existence and beyond? Grounded in sincerity, a spiritual path can take one to the ultimate, but otherwise it is just another form of identity. One should move with a guide that resonates with their heart, and allow the path to invigorate their sincerity and challenge its depths.

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Q. How does one become free or awakened?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: One’s true nature is already free, so it is only a matter of realizing this. Just see how utterly transparent the aspects of bondage are, and then reality will shine through. One need not add anything to it, as it is complete and whole as it is regardless if it is recognized or not.


Q. If one is already complete, then what is the purpose of sadhana (spiritual disciplines)?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: True sadhana is not about becoming, but rather sitting in/As the inherent perfection. It is also about coming into complete resonance so that highest wisdom can express itself for the benefit of all.


Q. How can one generate compassion?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: If one sits and lets go of self-concern and thus fear, one will see that they inherently have an inexhaustible spring of love and compassion. One will see that they in fact are That. It is so simple, so it is not a complicated process, but rather falling into the simplicity of the heart. To let the light of compassion shine is such an impactful gesture. It is a gentle breeze though an aching soul and sends a ripple though all existence.


Q. What is the way of meditation?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: The great sage Ramana Maharshi said, "Do not meditate...BE. Do no think that you are...BE. Do not think about being..YOU ARE" One’s natural state is meditation, so let the awareness rest in itself. Different forms which are called meditation would be more accurately described as concentration. However, concentration may open into meditation. One may put the attention on a Guru, a beloved Deity, or their own breath, and finding resonance, fall into a natural accord. At the highest levels, meditation and concentration co-exist, and is the union of Shiva and Shakti. Sometimes people have too much tension and restlessness to relax into Being, and in this case, one shouldn’t force matters. Mediation (or concentration) should be a pleasure and joy, so it may be better to just take a walk or go sit in nature a bit, and gradually let the restlessness and tension ease.


Q.What is Tantra?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: The word “Tantra” is often translated as “to weave” or as “continuous” or “unbroken” and the sadhak “weaves” the primordial awareness with the various manifest energetic qualities that make up embodied expression. This creates a continuum where there is no longer a split between the ultimate aspect of “who one is” and the “relative” qualities of “how one is/moves/interacts/functions, etc.” In the Kaula vernacular, this means the union of Shiva (ultimate awareness) and Shakti (raw energies) within the sadhak’s essential Being. The Shaktis come in all varieties and have many qualities, but the sadhak brings these energies (or makes them succumb) to the “enlightened” rupa (realized form) that is expressed by the Devi (goddess). When this “process” is thoroughly internalized (as it relates to one’s Being…not in an inner/outer dichotomy), then all aspects of Shakti are either absorbed by the Devi or “serve” that Devi (as “members” of the pitha). The Devi represents the dynamic aspect (as realized energy), while the sadhak becomes firmly identified as Shiva-Bhairava who is the controller of Devi, and as the sadhak’s awareness. When the sadhak becomes “identified” as Bhairava he brings the Shakti (as Devi) to union. This is the quintessence of the Tantric Vidya.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the role of Guru and the line within the defined framework of “weaving” and/or the aspect of this work being defined as “continuous”. The Tantric Vidya is a current and the Guru represents the power source (as well as the continuous transmission of this source) throughout the line of Kaulas. Moreover, the Guru is the “weaver” who plants the fructified seeds (bijas) within the sadhak’s subtle body, and brings the sadhak into the family (Kula). Without a good seed, one cannot expect a good harvest.


Q. How does Tantra differ from other deep spiritual paths?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Most other deep spiritual paths (that have realization of the True Nature as its aim) are usually marked by the quality of surrender. So one surrenders the various attachments, etc., and hopefully realizes the essential quality as undifferentiated Awareness. Maybe the realization is deep enough that it “remains” or probably still has some identifications and attachments that “intrude” upon what has been seen. But how one relates to the energies of manifestation and of the embodied qualities is usually “hands off.” Even someone who has penetrated through this kind of realization usually relates to the energies in a passive way. Maybe the Awareness is such that certain energetic qualities conform and maybe not. Usually this means that there is still a subtle split within this person, so while the semantics of non-duality may be present, the true meaning/realization of Advaita may be missing. Tantrics deal directly with the energy and manifest qualities, and place the “stamp” of realization upon the embodied aspects. So while others surrender into the “enlightened” reality, the Tantric “takes it up”. I am speaking about points of subtlety and find that marking differences between Tantra and things that lack subtlety is not instructive and a waste of time.


Q. What is a Kaula or Kaula Tantra?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Kaula or Kaulika means “family member” and it means that one has been adopted/initiated into the family of master Tantrics. Mahadeva is a bit of a loner and is Akaula (without family), while Maa brings forth the line and maintains the family (Kula). So when the Shiva aspect (within the sadhak) gets a family (kula) from Maa and Guru, he then becomes a Kaula. Kaulamarga is the Tantric path and it is a very ancient Vidya that predates many other dharmas. What is sometimes called Vamamarga is usually just a descriptor for some of the practices of the Kaulamarga. Vama can be defined as “left” (marga usually translates as path), and the left is identified with Shakti. Saying “Vama Shakta” is a bit of a redundancy, but one must use descriptors that are consistent with people’s understandings.

Shakti is represented in the left half of the body and when a male and female are doing a sadhana together the female sits on the left side. Also, some sadhaks use the left hand during certain ritual offerings, most notably in the puja involving Karan (liquor).


Q: How would you differentiate “traditional Vamamarga” from the common conceptions surrounding the word “vamamarga?”

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Most of what is considered vamamarga (that I’ve seen discussed) is just some “dark/ominous” fetishism. I’m disinclined to talk much about the “dungeons and dragons” crowd, but there are misconceptions surrounding traditional Vamamarga. What I have often seen expressed is that the practices in Vama Tantra and Aghora sadhana are mainly about “breaking taboos and transgressing norms.” This notion is really overemphasized and has become the “mainstream” description of why certain sadhanas are performed. These notions are mainly a non-initiate/observer point of view, in so far as observers do not understand the subtle inner dynamics of certain sadhanas so they attribute a mundane and rather materialistic view to these practices. Therefore, many just assume that some works are about “breaking taboos” etc., which from the sadhak’s perspective would seem like a small trifle within the context of the great work that is happening. The true sadhak doesn’t care one way or the other about social barriers or taboos. There is a tradition of irreverence and being playful with others within the tradition that has fed into some of these assumptions, but this is more because of the effect of the work than any specific injunction given to the sadhak. Any “wild” qualities an Aghori has would be due to the energies that are being worked with and is a spontaneous expression of integrity with the Ishta. It is not a contrivance toward certain ends. Without the proper understanding of the inner alchemical process and the fructified work of the Tantric Vidya, any “exercise” of mimicry of form or behaviour would lack the profound resonance with the true Kaula path.


Q: What is the meaning of Kapalika and what are Kapalika’s?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Kapalika means “skull bearer” and is a name of Shiva Bhairava. In the legend, Bhairava, having cut off one of the heads of Brahma is forced to roam about with the Kapala (skull) stuck to his hand. This penance lasted for twelve years when through the grace of the Devi, the skull was released and the curse lifted. There existed a sect of Kaula Tantrics whose cult went by the name Kapalika, and whose initiates took on the identification with Bhairava and carried the Kapal Patra (skull cup/bowl). Some accounts suggest that the main reason for this was that by taking on the penance for one of the greatest “sins,” these sadhaks became freed from all karmic entanglements. This may be true to some extent but with all matters of the Tantric Vidya, there are many layers of meaning.

The Kapala is used within the Kaula dharma regardless of any curses or penances, and represents the Maha Patra (Great cup), which is used for various Tantric offerings. The Deities, Yoginis, and other “members” of the pitha that the sadhak establishes within are shown to drink from the Kapal Patra, so on this level the sadhak is establishing integrity with those energies. Moreover, the skull itself houses the higher energy centers and is the inner subtle “dwelling” place for the wrathful energies of many of the Ishta devatas. Also, amrita (nectar) comes down from the skull and satiates the various energies (liberating them), and the Tantric offerings from the Kapala are often presented as Amrita, and taken as such. The white bindu dwells in the upper skull and when the red bindu is made to rise and mix with the white, this combines with the Amrita and is then called the Kaula Amrita. This process can be a purely “yogic” sadhana, or it can follow the means of the Kaula Tantra, which is an esoteric Vidya. For the pure rationalists (materialists), the fluid offering within the skull can also be linked to the hormonal aspects associated with the upper centers. What can also be understood rationally is that the kapala (and drinking there from) serves as a constant reminder of the impermanence of form and identity, and the act of evoking mortality can be a ruthless blade of transcendental wisdom. The Tantric process is nothing but a death and a rebirth, and the one that can die and be reborn at the same time is a Kaula.

The Ultimate meaning of Kapalika is when one is able to take other’s sufferings upon one’s own head. Then one is a Kapalik in the highest sense of the word and like Bhairava incarnate.


Q: What is the role of Mantra in the Vidya?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Without Guru and mantra, there is no Tantra. So the mantra is fundamental to the Tantric work. The main mantra of the sadhak is called a mula mantra, and these are bija mantras. A bija mantra is a "seed" mantra or "seed" sound which is the vibrational resonance of the Deity. As such, the bija has no literal translation because the sound IS the "meaning". Bija mantras should come from tradition so that one is given "good" seeds. These seeds are natured through the sadhana and grow into the Deity (as sadhak). If one destoys the seeds of ignorance within and nurtures the seeds of Realized expression, then this is Tantric alchemy. If one doesn't destroy the seeds of ignorance before/while nurturing the seeds of Victory, then they may become a demon (ie become a megalomaniac). Bija mantras should not be chanted outside of tradition, nor flippantly presented publicly. Before Diksha, one can chant pranam mantras and/or "clear the field" via meditative inquiry.


Q: Do sadhaks of this tradition practice Kundalini Tantra?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: There is no such thing as "Kundalini Tantra" or "Kundalini Yoga" outside of people cleverly marketing to peoples fascinations. There is Tantra and there is Yoga, and these two paths are different. The phenomenon of Kundalini may become apparent in each tradition, but is likely a useless concept outside of the actual work of both/either. People like the concept of kundalini because it is viewed as some "outside" force (even though it's in your ass) whereby one can win some cosmic lottery. One likely cannot manipulate the Kundalini force directly which is why the traditional paths of Tantra and Yoga usual don't give much direct focus to it. The concepts of Kundalini are also irritating because just about anyone can start talking about it and seem like they are relating something profound.

In the Tatric Vidya, one assumes the mudra of the highest principle and resonates "there". The various subtle/psycho-physio energies then come into conformity/alignment (or don't..because AS the highest principle it hardly matters). It is at this point that a kudalini experience may happen and if it happens; be useful (as more than just some experience). On the Yogic path, one deals more directly with the subtle/psycho-physio energies and seeks to bring them into accord with the highest principles. When I say Yoga, I mean actual Yoga and not the spandex wearing toe touching variety that is all the rage.(So Yoga means sadhanas of asana, pranayama, bhandas, mudras, kriya etc) So the Yogic path is more of a "bottom-top" approach, while Tantra is more a "top-down" approach. Of course, there are elements of Yoga in Tantra and vice versa, but it seems that people tend to not understand that these are different paths. In the Tibetan Tantric tradition (Vajrayana), they have a classification for the work when the "yogic" processes (subtle/pycho-physio energies) are in line with the "tantric" processes (embodying Ishta as "Self"). They call it "completion stage" of the work. We are not as vigilant with defining and categorizing things on the Kaula path, but this classification is certainly applicable.

There are whole Tantras that do not mention the concept of Kundalini at all, and there is much evidence that it is a relatively recent concept (its unreasonable popularity is certainly very recent). Either way, without the actual work of Tantra or Yoga, any talk about Kundalini is largely indulgent. Even if one hits the cosmic lottery, one needs a "bank account" to store all that "cash".


Q. I’m confused about how to move forward in my life… any advice?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: One needs to get really honest about what they want and what is important to them. Once there is clarity, then one’s priorities reflect this. It is such a great opportunity in a life to consider deep issues and even greater to seek to live in the greatest resonance of one’s deepest wisdom. Such a short time we have in a life, don’t waste opportunity or time. It is such a beautiful life to live from your heart, to ever test its depths. In each moment there is so much potential. What does one have to loose?


Q. Does one’s life situations improve from spiritual disciplines?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Maybe and maybe not, but certainly how one relates to those situations is different. Mature sadhaks see difficult situations as challenge and are grateful for them because they are opportunities to shine and deeper discover themselves. It provides the blessing of confidence. Seeing ones nature as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth, Consciousness, Bliss) is a ground of contentment which colors perception. It is better to be content and happy in a current situation, then be miserable in a new/”better” one. There is really no end to it. Once one “gets” the job, “get” the partner, or whatever it may be that is desired, then there is just a new desire or utter disappointment in realizing that no object provides happiness. However, if one moves in the bliss of desire herself (as Shakti) and in wisdom, then all the objective forms of life and living are mudras of the great reality.


Q. Is it true that when a person is ready, then the Guru will come?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Yes. However, one may be required to leave their living room or get off the couch. This is to say that action is often required. One can frequently encounter people who express sincerity and deep interest, but never take any action. Sometimes bold action (and even overcoming challenges within that framework) is imperative to take a step. Whole lifetimes go by with people floating in “interest”, because they never take the step either within themselves or in terms of acting on opportunity.


Q. How can one know if someone is a Guru or is their Guru?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: It is often difficult to tell if a person is a Guru because one would need a certain level of awareness to “see”. To use common indicators or stereotypes of what a Guru should look or sound like is not reliable. In fact, one may be more skeptical if a person is always projecting what would be considered a “spiritual” or guru image. This may just indicate that one is image conscious, self conscious, or overly self reflective, which are all qualities that don’t jibe with realization and its free expression. It has been often said that one should look to where they feel peace when judging/deciding on working with a Guru. In a certain way, this is a good indicator, but a (true) Guru may also be seen as a threat or an irritant (to self/ego etc.). The guru need not be pleasant,the guru’s purpose is to awaken and not put back into a stupor with pleasantness. There may be a claustrophobic feeling or an overwhelmed feeling which gives a “flee” response or slight fear. So, one needs to differentiate which reactions come from non-resonance and which come from the fear of resonance (and its potentials). Ultimately, one should work with who they feel in their heart.


Q. What are the qualifications for taking being a student and taking initiation?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: All that is required is sincerity and openness. One should come from heart and from resonance rather then a mentality of accumulation or the attitude “what will I get”. To come with the humility of openness, one is met in this, and it is the ground for a true heart relationship. This type of relationship is truly unique and allows for infinite flowering and potentials. For those wishing to pursue more intensive sadhanas, there are minimum qualifications and commitments to proceed.


Q. What is initiation?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: The initiation is a transmition and a planting of seed. It is an “introduction” and meeting of ones own nature, and is a Shaktipat. While there is a formal initial encounter that is initiatory, every moment and encounter provides an opportunity for a greater initiation.


Q. What is the role or how is the Devata perceived in Tantra?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: The devata is taken as ones own enlightened form/manifestation. One does the sadhana AS the deity, and resonates in accord. The pitha is the sacred space, and this is both one’s inner environment, and as one gains integrity it becomes the living space (in the “external” environment). In tantric language, one transforms samsara into Mukta (or samsara into nirvana), and lives in a non-distinguishing unity. The Ishta and pitha (or mandala that becomes ones life) is the vehicle of this wisdom and its great pure form.


Q. Which Deities does one work within this tradition?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: One is usually introduced to the Vidya in this path, via the work of Kali/Mahakaal and that Pitha (sacred space). Kamakhya is an important Devi whose vidya is specially honored with us. We work with other Vidyas as well, however, the view is that one should be stable and ultimately achieve a level of accord in one vidya before adding various other elements. Often, there is a tendency to get distracted in different aspects, where one is better served to dive deeply in one consistent direction.


Q. Can you describe the meaning and iconography of the different Deities?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: For a sadhak, these energies are a living reality manifesting in accord with their own life breath. Because of this, to relegate these highest expressions of ones own true nature to a few descriptors or pithy statements feels completely banal. Also, in doing so, there is either the tendency to make these expressions into archetypes (human/ego centric) or into independent (from ones own true essence) entities, and both views are flawed. Moreover, one wouldn’t feel correct in describing a friend or having themselves described in a few sentences or with a couple agreed upon indicators/symbols. It is because one knows the depth, subtlety, and uniqueness of a living relation. This is even more so in the great intimacy with the beloved, and it is a unique intimacy that in non-dual appreciation becomes even more unique an expression. There is so much potential in this, that one should not even limit it with expectation, but rather meet it nakedly. If one wants to learn what a Deity “means”, then why not just open the heart and sincerely request to be shown. This is much more meaningful an approach, and if done wholly, one will surely get a “reply”.


Q. What is the Kaula Chakra?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: In the greatest terms, the Kaula Chakra is the circle of Tantric Deities with the sadhaks its living expression. In common terms, it is the group and family of sadhaks within a tradition or wisdom stream. The Chakra (like a sanga) is a source of strength and inspiration for a sadhak whereby the collective current of discipline and sincerity lifts all.


Q. Do the sadhaks within the Chakra get together for sadhana?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: There are several opportunities through out the year to get together, as well as various programs. We have also started a yearly tradition of offering the opportunity to do sadhana together in India at various sacred sites. There is also an on-line community for the sadhaks within the Chakra. Overall, there is an engaging atmosphere, as well as opportunity to engage.


Q. What can I do before taking initiation?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: Often people ask this wanting some sadhana or mantra to do. However, the best action before initiation is to cultivate ones sincerity and openness, as this will provide the means of best taking advantage of opportunity. One should contemplate their death and impermanence, as this really makes for sincere sadhak because one appreciates not only the fleeting nature of personality (which opens one) but also the limited time one has so understands the urgency of the heart call. One can also just sit and practice opening the heart. In this, one will open to their compassionate nature and understand the proper view which is fundamental to entering the vidya. Finally, one should invoke Ganapati into their being and sit in that graceful presence, as this will remove any obstacles to the path and in encountering it fully.


Q. Do you recommend any books to read?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: There are several Tantric texts that have been translated such as “Kularnava” and “Mahanivana”. Mainly, this are practice texts which require initiation via the oral tradition, but reading can give some understanding of the structure and greatness of the path. There is also Abhinavagupta’s “Tantraloka” which is a good resource, as well as the “Mantra Mahodadhih” that can give an understanding of process in a traditional sadhana. There are some books from the Vajrayana tradition that could be useful whereby several aspects of view and structure would apply to the Kaula dharma. There are many books from the Advaita and other non-dual schools which could provide food for contemplation. For the Tantrics and the Shakta school, the “Devi Mahatmyam” (also called “Durga Saptashati” or “Chandi Path”) provides the “story” of the Devi’s victory over the Demon forces. Ultimately, this is the story of the inner journey of the sadhak working with the Devi, and is also the underpinning of many esoteric roots. While reading can be an important part of initial understanding, resonance, and inspiration, it is no substitute for the vital engagement with the living tradition. And while concepts may serve as seeds, the true path is one of heart.


Q. Why do sadhaks in this tradition wear red or black cloth?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: We are from the Shakta current, and it is traditional to wear the red cloth as this is the color associated with Shakti. The red represents vigor, vitality, energy, passion, and it is these elements that the skillful tantric uses within their sadhana. Often, when one gains a level of mastery and has gone through Aghora sadhana, then they wear the black cloth. Black contains all the colors (shaktis) and is also beyond it, so one can enter the flows of shakti (manifestation, passion etc.) but still remain pure and untouched. One person related an answer given by an Aghori about why he wore black, and the fellow replied, “it is because I keep all the light within me”. This is a beautiful answer, as like a super massive black hole in space, all the light is contained within it because the force of gravity (read: love, wisdom etc.) is so strong. The wearing of black within this tradition has nothing to do with “black magic” or any ill intentions. We live for the awakening of all.


Q. What are the sacred places associated with this Chakra?

Shiva Kaal Ugranand: As Tantrics and Shaktas, all the sites known as “shakti pithas” are held as sacred. In the legend of the shakti pithas, various parts of the Goddess’s body fell to earth creating a sacred space. Foremost of these is the pitha of Kamakhya where the generative organ (Yoni) of the Devi dwells, and it is held as the highest within this tradition and as the primal source of all the Shakti, incorporates all of the pithas and forms. The divine places of Shiva are also important to this stream, and indeed once one truly encounters a wisdom element, then the whole pantheon opens up and reveals. The cremation grounds holds a special place (as pitha) for the Chakra, and is important in Tantric sadhana. This importance while inclusive of base insights like impermanence; is a much deeper phenomenon that strikes at the esoteric core of the vidya. While representing the “cross roads”, this pitha is not only fundamental to the devatas which we represent/embody, but also is a microcosm of the tantric process whereby one dies (as individual) and is reborn (as Ishta) simultaneously. It is a shakti pitha (space of energy) in the truest sense, and there are levels of depth in this space.