Sunday, June 28, 2009

Short form and Long form

One of the teachings that really ingrained itself in my psyche from my Tibetan training, is how to determine the essentials of a practice, and choose between elaborate, unelaborate, and extremely simple forms of practice based upon needs at the time. For instance, the main Kilaya sadhana that I do takes about 30-40 minutes. I could however do a much shorter sadhana that takes 10-15, and even a bare practice taht could be done is 5-10. On the longer side, there are Kilaya sadhanas that could take me all day long, and one that takes three days to perform.

When I was first learning this practice I quickly memorized all the seed syllable utterances, mantras, and visualizations. I asked Lobsang Samten if the sadhana could be done with just these, and he replied of course, in fact I should make sure that I could do it that way, so that if I ever got thrown in prison I could still keep my commitment. Later teachers taught me how in older days the Siddhas did not even use Sadhanas, but only the memorized visualizations and mantras. The lengthy practices came about largely as a result of the blending of Tantric practice with monasticism that happened in Northern India in the 6th century and was continued in earnest in Tibet. As Glenn Mullen once said: "Sometimes you just have to keep the monks busy, especially the young ones. Lot's of them come from bandit families and such, and if they don't have 100,000 prostrations and hours of recitation to do, they will start knifing each other in the yard."

Some people think that the longer a practice takes, the higher it is. Not so. They each have their place. This goes not only for Buddhist sadhanas of course, but all ritual magic.

Take something like the daily practice recommended by Kraig in Modern Magick (not because I think its great just because most of you have read it and worked it to some degree or other). When learning it, you should take your time and linger over each element. Take time to build those visualizations, take time to let the middle pillar energy circulate, etc. In time though it should move quicker. Some, usually those that are not sensative to energy, mistake this for sloppy ritual. It can be but it's usually not. Once the ritual gets ingrained in the physical, aethyric, and causal bodies it will flow automatically. Thought moves faster than energy, energy moves faster than body. By doing it quickly you can actually generate more power because you are tightening the lag between levels, letting the body catch up with the mind.

Eventually, you learn what is truly essential about the ritual and can than cut the physical script because the various parts are inherent in other parts. I have occasionally asked students that have done the LBRP for many years, to try to do it in one breath. Inhale a deep vase breath, and call the Quabalistic cross mentally on the inbreath. Vibrate the word AMEN with the exhale and let the pentagrams and angels unfurl spontaneously outward. Let that one holy word stand in for all the others. You can do the BRH with the word IAO or ARARITA. You can do the Middle Pillar with EHEIYEH and let the light flow through all the spheres.

This approach is also inherent in the Grimoire traditions. Most of the Grammers stress the long evocations as sort of formal meet and greets. After contacting a spirit, you make arrangements to meet on less formal terms. Eventually you need only to trace the sigil and call the name, or perhaps not even that.

Of course it is nice to do the long form of things as well. I do a very short form of offering to various spirits every day, but I try to do a full Riwo Sang Cho, and maybe even a Naga and Shidak Sang on Sunday or Monday. The long form is not better necessarily, just more enjoyable and an excuse to linger with the spirits. It also re-enforces the patterns for the short form. Long form tends to be better for group practice because everyone is on the same page. It is also an excuse to examine indivisual parts of the ritual as a ritual unto themselves. It is at this level that you learn how each individual part of a ritual can be used alone or in co-operation with other elements like a Martial Artist who learns to use the individual moves of a Kata in an actual fight.

I once did a 6 hour long version of Regardies Opening and Closing by Watchtower. I spent about an hour on each watchtower, pore breathing the element, and calling the various powers of that tower from the three benner names down to the indivual angels. At the end I spent an hour in meditation when all the powers were swirled together and the veil opened. I could literally see how those four powers are the basis for all manifestation.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to examine your practice and develop different forms for it. Think about how you would accomplish it if you were in prison and had to do it in secret because your captors would not allow overt ritual magick. What about a slightly more visible version that still requires no tools and only a few minutes. Devise ways to accomplish the practice within 15 minutes if you were running late for something important but did not want to break your commitment. Think next about how to take advantage of extra time, how could you drag your practice out over an entire day as an act of dedication. Howabout a weekend retreat version?

This is all part of really mastering a practice.


Patrick said...

Well said!

Jow said...

I honestly never thought of making a practice longer, or a leangthy operation as something that could be benificial by virtue of leangth. Shortening and stream lineing I have no trouble with, but the adding bits..

Still.. a v. good exercise.

chuck 2.0 said...

interesting analysis. Mine is at if you have an interest, including audio files of the G-d Names.