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Tantric Teaching: The Three Veils of Impurity

Dissolving the Three Veils is arguably the simplest and most impactful teaching to advance your inner spiritual practice.

4 min read

Here is a simple and immediately effective meditation to overcome the three veils that keep you bound to the outer world.


Perhaps the least known yet most powerful and direct system of enlightenment is Tantric Yoga. This beautiful school or branch of enlightenment began around the 800's and disappeared in the 1300's when the Muslims invaded northern India and systematically tried to destroy all non-Muslim books.

About 90% of Tantric enlightenment writings of this period are lost forever, but fortunately several Tantric manuscripts survived intact, and these are being lovingly translated into English by several modern Sanskrit scholars. And when you read these manuscripts written a thousand years ago - they are clear and powerful, and they open your mind to the most profound ideas of light and consciousness.


Without a doubt, the most influential teacher of the Tantric enlightenment tradition is the great Abhinavagupta who lived in Kashmir from about 950AD to 1016AD at the height of Kashmiri enlightenment. This system of enlightenment is referred to today as Tantric Yoga, or Kashmir Non-Dual Shaiva Tantra (NDST) - non-dual referring to the fact that we are an expression of supreme consciousness - not separate from it as in Patanjali type yoga and most other major world religions.

Tantric philosophy celebrates our life, our mind, our senses, and every one of our experiences. It says that you, me, all of us are a manifestation - a full version of Siva, Brahman**, the Supreme Soul - and NDST encourages you to stop seeking - stop the words, and relax into the recognition that you are an expression of supreme consciousness. You already hold the key. You already are Brahman, author of the five acts, looking out at and experiencing your own creation.

The Three Veils of Duality

Why is it so hard to see our true identity, asks Abhinavagupta? Because we have a blind spot - we just can't see our true nature. In the language of NDST this blind spot is referred to as three malas ("veils") that block you from recognizing your innate nature as unbounded consciousness. And until you clear these veils, you will forever be in samsara, the endless cycle of rebirth. But if you can clear the three veils in this lifetime, all abundance and bliss will be yours - in this lifetime.

So Abhinvagupta came up with a clever trick for his students. Rather than using force of reason to overcome each mala, he had his students embrace each mala. By embracing the mala, the student sees for himself how absurd it is, and thus overcomes each one in succession.

Abhinavagupta's method was to convert the obstacle into a pathway to recognition.

Here is a simple three-step meditation based on the teachings of highest Tantric Yoga. This meditation is quick and easy and allows you to experience each veil as it dissolves and reveals your full, innate nature.

The first veil is separation. We perceive (and believe) ourselves to be separate from everything else in creation, and because of this separation we feel insecurity, fear, lack and sometimes sadness. We look out on the world as if what we need and want is "out there."

Meditation Part 1: When you are in deep meditation - say to yourself "I am separate - just an isolated piece" and see how that feels. Then lift the veil by simply saying "I am not separate. In fact, I am everything, I am Brahman." Sit with the feeling (belief) that you are whole and complete.

In this state, there is no lack - only abundance.

Imagine a small group of deer grazing in a meadow. Are any of the deer separate? Or are they all part of the scene?

Picture yourself from above and you'll realize of course that you are part of the scene - you have manufactured a mental construct that says you are separate.

You may feel a shift or a relaxation when you realize that you are not in one location, but in fact, you (Brahman) are part of all things at all times. You are part of everything.

The second veil is differentiation. Because you see yourself as separate, you believe and perceive that you are different than everything else, and that you are special in nature. This causes you to be "self-cherishing" as if your wants and status are most important. In Buddhism, self-cherishing is at the root of all suffering because it leads you to separate, compare and judge which gives rise to desire, fear of lack, irritation, jealousy and sometimes anger when your wants are blocked, or your status and power are diminished.

In fact, your nature is the same nature as everything else in the universe. There is no need to compare because, in your innermost essential being - you are no different than anything else in this universe. You, me, them, it - is all pure consciousness expressing in infinitely varied form.

Meditation Part 2: When you are in deep meditation - say to yourself "I am different - I am most important" and see how that feels. Then lift the veil by simply saying "I am the same in nature as everyone and everything. In fact, there is only one. I am Brahman." Sit with the feeling (belief) that you are whole and complete.

Dissolving the veil of self-cherishing allows a shift to happiness and abundance.

The third veil is limited action, also called the veil of ego. This veil keeps you attached to the actions you take, the results you achieve, and the rewards you expect for your actions. You spend your energy controlling / influencing / convincing / bullying others to your desired outcome. This attachment to the fruits of your actions misdirects your energy, and prevents you from acting selflessly and without attachment.

In NDST teachings, there is no "I" that is acting or doing. Everything flows from supreme consciousness - and you are simply the conduit for that powerful flow that is always flowing through you.

When you hold on to the belief that it is "me" acting, your possibilities are greatly limited. But when you act selflessly, for the pure benefit of others - the full power of Brahman or source flows through you. You are no longer tied to the personal results of your actions.

Meditation Part 3: When you are in deep meditation - say to yourself "I am the doer - everything I do is for my own benefit" and see how that feels. Then lift the veil by simply saying "I am a conduit for the infinite consciousness power that flows through me. Everything I do or say is moved by my desire to uplift the world and the people I love. I am Brahman." Sit with the feeling (belief) that you are allowing the full power of your innate being to flow through you for the benefit of others.

This is the Tantric teaching of the Three Veils of Impurity, and including this three step meditation in your spiritual practice each day will lift your awareness, soften your thoughts, words and actions, and elevate your ability to make the world a better place for those you love and all mankind.

** Those who study Tantric Yoga would use the term Siva for unbounded consciousness. Scientists would use the term Unified Field of Consciousness or Infinite Potential. For consistency with other articles, I use the term Brahman.