Personal identity in tantric practice, UK, 1992

Article by James Low
Published in Sharpham Miscellany: essays in spirituality and ecology. Edited by John Snelling, The Sharpham Trust, 1992. ISBN 0951829807
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I am writing about how it personally feels to be engaged in tantric practice through time and then look at a western model of change that has been useful to me in making sense of my experience.
I started Tibetan buddhist tantric meditation in 1973. Previously I had meditated for some two years according to a hindu system. I was living in India at the time and meditation seemed very natural—part of acceptable, normal behaviour. I had in fact been in India several times and always with a sense of searching for something. I found great relief in the mess and chaos. It gave me freedom to relax and gradually shed the protestant work-ethic imbibed during my Scottish childhood. There seemed to be space for my own confusion and unformed longing.

Rather than adapting myself to the dharma or the dharma to myself, I want to understand myself in both absolute and relative dimensions. I had earlier taken the buddhist view of ‘no-self’ to indicate the abandoning of a relative identity for an identity with a deity. After much struggle, I find these grand aspirations unhelpful. In response to the poet, John Clare’s, plea “I am! yet what I am who cares, or knows?”—now at least I know where to start looking for the answer, and it is not to be found in the words of others.

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