Eric Baret’s Bhakti Teaching


Even though Eric Baret states, in the spirit of the nondual direct path, that there is no teaching and that there are neither students nor teachers, each “teacher” nonetheless is like a facet of the diamond through which the Divine Light passes. If I may still use the word, then I’d say that each teaching takes a particular stance. It’s very beautiful to see just how many facets of the diamond shine forth!

I’d like, with the above in mind, to briefly lay out what I take to be Eric Baret’s Bhakti teaching as it unfolds in Let the Moon Be Free: Conversations on Kashmiri Tantra (2018).

1. Epistemic Skepticism: Baret’s Negative Way

As I read him, Baret first offers us a thoroughgoing critique of the “I am the knower” identity. For him, knowledge is of the mind, and the mind cannot grant one ‘access’ to the One Truth.

Since knowledge is, for Baret, only of the mind, his point, again and again, is to cast in doubt our false pretensions to knowledge. Sometimes his arguments appeal to social conditioning or, even more generally, to social constructionism; at other times to cultural relativism. I don’t take his arguments (since he’s not really interested in making arguments) at face value. Rather, he’s pointing right at an ego-self that is bound up with being the knower. What’s more, he is urging us, via epistemic skepticism, to embrace total acceptance.

This teaching feels, at least to me, both Christian mystical and ancient skeptical. The tangible result is that one (a) can feel the limits of (objective) knowledge as well while (b) experiencing a splaying open in humility.

The feeling, if it could speak, would say, “I know nothing.”

2. Tantric Orientation: Emphasizing the Felt Sense

I take his epistemic skepticism to be a propaedeutic (Baret, by the way, wouldn’t curry favor on this style of writing as he’s intently anti-philosophical) to Kashmiri yoga. That is, if one drops all the “I know” pretense, then one can drop “one level down” into the felt sense of hurt.

What is going on inside the body? What are these sensations? In Let the Moon Be Free, Baret seems to put forward three basic emotions: anger (or aggression), fear, and total sadness. My sense is that fear is deeper than anger and that sadness is the deepest and thus truest pointer of all. Sadness, at bottom, is the longing for Unity.

Without concepts, without trying to understand, without the habit of trying to explain, can I turn toward the felt sense of what’s right here? Can I be completely available to the great and swift upsurge of rage? To the flutter of terror? To the heaviness of sadness? And can I do so without technique, without intention, without end-gaining, without desire? If so, what might be revealed right here?

3. Bhakti Stance: It’s All About Love

The deeper one goes into the felt sense, the more it melts into Love. This is “the path” (or the pathless path) that Baret is pointing out.

When the mind is absent, the contractions in the body can be felt. And when these are fully felt, then they must, as is their inherent tendency, merge with the All. But merging with the All is indeed Divine Love. Which is what we are.

In Sum

You see that the epistemic skepticism drives a stake in the belief and feeling that there exists an ego; that the Tantric yoga shows that being available to what’s immediately, directly here is the Way; and that total surrender to what the felt sense reveals is none other than Divine Grace.