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Living Presence is the Only Practice

sat tarka
Episode No. 163

Shambhavi unpacks passages from Abhinavagupta’s Tantraloka about sat tarka and the essence of direct realization practice. A podcast from Satsang with Shambhavi

Podcast First Words

I’m on this kick lately to remind everybody what the real essence of this tradition is so that we don’t get too attached. So that we don’t get too serious about all of the practices that we do. Too serious about our “path.” We’re very serious about “my spiritual practice.”

Reminding ourselves of the essence of the tradition means reminding ourselves that we have to somehow figure out how to be internally relating to livingness directly. That’s what we should be doing at all times. And if we do our practice without doing that—well, that’s fine. Hopefully, eventually it’ll grind away our density so that we can do that.

But there’s this very subtle internal work that cannot be described that we need to be doing all the time—when we practice, when we’re out and about. That internal work is relating ourselves directly to living presence. That’s the essence of the practice.

Everything else we do is about that. Or somehow getting into the position where we can do that. It isn’t about the mantras. It’s not about the ritual. Those things are just tools.

So I’m going to read something from Abhinavagupta’s main work, the Tantra Loka. He’s talking here about sat tarka. This is what he calls a kind of intuition, direct knowing, or direct perception. Direct cognition might be a good translation of it. He says this direct knowing or direct cognition is the essence of everything. Sat tarka means the perception of existence, the perception of reality, or the perception of that. It means cognition.

So Abhinavagupta says that those who have the knowledge, meaning those who have the capacity to directly see and perceive things, slice the root of duality with the acts of intuitive reason. This direct perception slices through everything.