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Tantra Vidya: the neurobiology of awakening.

Srinivasan, 2015

According to the tantric masters, the human nervous system is a treasure trove of blissfulness &

clarity. They even go as far as to say that enlightenment can only be found in the body and that for

awakening to be complete it has to be brought to the level of the body, ‘cellular enlightenment’.

Awakening isn’t purely a subjective experience that occurs merely at the level of awareness, just as each state of mind & emotion has an impact on the body, the higher states of awareness cultivated through spiritual discipline brings about a total rewiring of the nervous & endocrine system. Without this rewiring one would not be able to sustain these higher levels of consciousness. In some traditions which are more awareness oriented, this transformation of the body happens over time as the higher states are sustained over long periods of meditation. But in the tantric lineages, this integration begins to occur right from the start of the journey making the process more efficient and coherent. This is one of the primary functions of shakti, the awakened energy of the practice.

The very word 'tantra' literally means 'to weave into'; the path is one of reweaving the threads of allaspect of who we are into the fabric we call the human person and eventually reweaving this

harmonious being with the fabric of life itself. This process of reweaving or integration starts first

with the balancing of our nervous system.

To understand this one needs to take a look at 2 maps of the human body, one from ancient tantric

teachings and the other from contemporary neuroscience. The Solar (pingala) & lunar (ida) energy

channels match with the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, both in location and

characteristics. The sympathetic system is connected with the fight or flight response leading to

arousal of the whole body, whereas the parasympathetic is connected to the restorative response

leading to a calming of the body. When these systems are in balance one functions as a healthy

human being, but in cases of high stress such as what we find ourselves in these days, there is in

most cases an over activation of the sympathetic system.

Systems of tantric meditations such as Classical Laya or Kundalini yoga (not to be confused with a

popular brand of yoga by the same name) work directly to not only balance and but also to activate

the subtle body and in effect the nervous system. An important component of this is the activation

of the Vagus nerve, which can be connected to the awakening of the central channel (sushumna


These practices are not some esoteric indian fantasies that one needs to believe in, rather they are practical tools to re engineer one’s physiology to support a more holistic and positive psychology. If we look at the mental state of the world at large, it is clear that depression is at a rise, according the world health organization (WHO) over 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is estimated that 1 million commit suicide due to depression each year. Alienation has become the epidemic of the modern world. The solution is not more anti-depression drugs as the medical world would have us believe, but a deeper look at our own body and mind.

Tantric traditions of India have long known that within our nervous system resides nature’s

ultimate bliss factory. Current neuroscience is now confirming what masters have always known,

that the art of transforming stress into bliss is not meant just for a chosen few, but is available to all of us. What remains is learning and mastering the methods that help tap and harness the clean

energy and pure chemistry of blissful openness to inspire and realize our potential.

Riding the energy of the subtle breath along the ancient tantric maps of the subtle nervous system we learn to tap our neural network of bliss, kindle the inner fire of euphoric states, and innate wisdom. This is the principal path of the Tantric lineage to which I belong, this is the invitation of the masters, and it is this invitation that i wish to share with all of you.

For a long time these practices have been held in secret, passed on from master to the student as a direct transmission of wisdom and energy. But now, a portion of this knowledge is being opened to the world at large and it has been a great privilege for me to be part of this transmission.

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