Igor Kufayev

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Igor Kufayev
Igor Kufayev Wikipedia.jpg
Igor Kufayev (2017)
Born (1966-01-05) January 5, 1966 (age 53)
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Occupationartist, spiritual teacher

Igor Anvar Kufayev /ˈkfəjɛv/ (Russian: И́горь Анва́р Kу́фаев, IPA: [ˈiɡərʲ ɐnˈvar ˈkufəɪf]; born January 5, 1966), is a Russian British artist, yogi and spiritual teacher. Also known as 'Vamadeva' (Sanskrit), which means "preserving aspect of Shiva in his peaceful, graceful and poetic form".

Early years[edit]

Igor Kufayev was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. In his childhood he had many spiritual experiences associated with awakening of Kundalini. Classically trained in art from an early age he attended a private studio of a martial artist and painter Shamil Rakhimov, a place of underground meetings between liberal thinkers, poets and painters. The violent death of his mentor lead to young Igor's decision to become an artist. Kufayev received his formal education at the Art College in Tashkent, and after two years of compulsory military service, resumed his studies at the Theater and Art Institute, at the department of Mural painting. In 1988 he was accepted as a student of a second year to the Academy of Arts (now Imperial Academy of Arts) in St Petersburg, Russia. Independently of his official program, he studied and painted directly from the masterpieces of western art, in the Hermitage Museum.

Artistic career[edit]

Igor Kufayev, Kneeling figure, 1993, oil on canvas, 127x127 cm, London, Collection of Sir Elton John
Igor Kufayev, Purusha, 1995, tondo, oil on canvas, diameter 80 cm, London, Private Collection

In 1990 Kufayev left Russia and moved to Warsaw, Poland. This was a formative time. An encounter with the art critic Andrzej Matynia lead to Kufayev's first solo exhibition, Eternal Compromise[1] at the Monetti Gallery, Warsaw. Igor was invited to take part in The Meeting of Sacred Images, at the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw, with his triptych Compromise,[2] alongside such Icons as the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and Mexican Our Lady of Guadalupe as well as modern masters as Christian Boltanski.[citation needed]

He moved to London in August 1991, the same year his six year old daughter from his first marriage died in a road accident. He remained in a prolonged period of grief unable to paint until he was able to come to terms with the personal tragedy and embarked on the series of dramatic paintings. The turning point came in 1994, on the wake of the one-man exhibition, entitled Burnt Earth[3] and dedicated to the memory of his daughter Laura, he put his name on the map of London's art scene as one of the most promising young painters. In less than a decade Kufayev managed to establish himself as a successful artist, and opened his own studio in London where he held private views of his work annually. The Zauber tondo was created in response to the commission Igor Kufayev received from Elton John AIDS Foundation, which was to accompany the performance of Mozart's opera Die Zauberflote at Christie's head-quarters at St James's in London, in the autumn of 1995. A few months later, in January 1996 he was granted British Citizenship.

Kufayev personifies the ancient elements of the Masonic mysteries that lie at the heart of Die Zauberflote: Earth and Water as women, Air and Fire as men, and in their sensual conjunctions, hints at the humorous and erotic sub-texts with which Mozart brings comedy to an opera of high seriousness.

— Brian Sewell, Catalogue to accompany exhibition with the performance of Die Zauberflote organized by Elton John AIDS Foundation at Christie's, St James's, London, 1995

The following series of four tondos under the same title, Zauber[4] was an achievement which took two years to complete (1995–1997).

Kufayev traveled widely visiting major art-fairs around Europe, as well as painting in France and Italy. Despite his unquestionable success he was deeply disillusioned about the state of art and all its prevalent trends.

Kufayev is one of a rare breed of artists who believe in going back to go forward... Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 1966, he studied at the Tashkent School of Art, where his early love of drawing was honed and refined for four years. He had, in fact, been drawing professionally since the age of 12, and recognized as something of a prodigy... His zeal to perfect drawing technique led him to move to St Petersburg and The Academy of Fine Art and, independently of his studies, he began making numerous copies of the great Western masterpieces hanging in The Hermitage... The whole of his show, Burnt Earth, is redolent of archeological finds – the secrets masquerading as treasures only a few feet under the surface. Blood and earth are unified in Kufayev's vision, emphasising our origins and our certain end.[5]

— Robin Dutt, writer and art journalist, The Independent

How many know of Igor Kufayev, another driven painter, scrupulous draughtsman, intellect and imagination wrestling with seemingly equal force[6]

Inner transformation[edit]

An early interest towards spirituality lead to his practice of Yoga with initiation in 1996 to Transcendental Meditation, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He immerses himself in the study of diverse spiritual traditions with special emphasis on Indian philosophy, Sufi and Zen. At the age of thirty six Igor had undergone a radical transformation of consciousness[7][8] which subsequently blossomed into spontaneous unfoldment of Grace.

He abandoned his art career and for the next five years he continued long hours of meditation, integrating expanded state of awareness throughout his daily activities. During that time he discovered the teachings of Swami Muktananda which led him to the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. Its 'transcendental physicalism' appealed to his down to earth, creative sensibility, unique to that tradition's doctrine of Spanda (Sanskrit: "throb, vibration") which had been verified by direct experience, in perceiving the World as a Throb of Pure Consciousness in the Heart of his own.

In October 2006, in an interview with Seva Novgorodsev for the BBC Russian Service, Kufayev talked about his years as an artist and the decision to leave painting.[9]

Philosophy and Teaching[edit]

Igor Kufayev leading the retreat at Gut Saunstorf, Germany, August 2017

Since 2002 Kufayev has been sharing his insights into the nature of Being. Despite many requests, he declined to place himself in the role of a teacher until he made the conscious decision to give his full time to teaching in February 2008. Since 2012 he has offered online webinars and in-person gatherings and retreats worldwide.[10][11] Many of his video-podcasts and recorded gatherings are freely available on his YouTube channel.

Although his initial spiritual training occurred in the Transcendental Meditation program, Igor now teaches mainly using the methodologies of Tantric Kashmir Shaivism[12], stating that the doctrines of Kashmir Shaivism most closely match his direct experience of spiritual transformation and the nature of reality. However, Igor has studied widely, and draws from many other traditions such as Sufi and Zen. He remains elusive to categorization, maintaining that:

Abiding in a state of spontaneous absorption transcends the boundaries of any given truth based on an intellectual grasp of ultimate reality...

Igor often refers to his teaching as “The Path of the Heart,” and explains that it is a non-intellectual and direct cognition of the essence of one’s reality — one which transcends any tradition, because by definition it cannot be contained by a set of doctrines. Here, knowledge is not mental or intellectual, nor spoken of in terms of acquisition; it is simple direct knowingness itself — beyond concepts and precepts, understanding, and language.[13][14] Igor explains this:

So when I said I don’t belong to any tradition, I want to make one little adjustment to that. I do belong to a tradition and that is the tradition which could be called simply, “the heart.” And don’t try to decipher it again through any “isms” or spiritual traditions, because the experience of the heart transcends all traditions. And the time has come when we have to transcend those traditions that calcify to themselves...[15]

Central to Igor's teaching methodology is the transmission of spiritual energy, which occurs primarily during in-person events. He has commented that "the real work happens at the immersions — the real work happens in these specifically created containers."[16] Participants at his immersions commonly experience spontaneous, involuntary kriyas, in the form of asanas, pranayama, glossolalia, and vocal harmonizing.[17] One of the unusual but constant features of Igor's live events is spontaneous vocalization and overtoning by the participants.[18]

Igor states that these phenomena are both a result of release of stress, as well as the "Song of the Goddess" — literally a manifestation of Shakti through a group of people in meditative trance.[19]

Participants at Igor's retreats have reported experiencing profound states of expansion, higher states of consciousness, permanent relief from depression.[20][21]

Igor emphasizes the psycho-physiological aspects of the awakening process, stressing the importance of the physical transformation of the nervous system. He states that the physiology acts as a support for individual consciousness to mature into what is often termed as "enlightenment". He also stresses the necessity of sitting meditation in spiritual practice, stating that while other methodologies may give peak experiences, it is only in sitting meditation that integration takes place, which is required for a permanent shift in consciousness.

In 2014, Igor consecrated the Flowing Wakefulness Fellowship, with a stated mission to serve "as a platform for revealing and realizing possibilities for a Consciousness-based culture, aimed at the recognition, development and actualization of the fullest potential present in human birth."[22]

In September 2013 Igor Kufayev was interviewed for the 'Conscious TV' (London based Channel), where he shared his views on the subtleties of awakening process based on biographical events of his life,[23] and addressed the unifying complexity of self-realization and integration of higher states of awareness as seen from the biological perspective of human consciousness.[24]

Private life[edit]

Igor now lives with his partner and their two small children in Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. In 2006 he moved back to Uzbekistan and lived in his birth city of Tashkent for almost four years. Between April 2011 and December 2012 he and his family were traveling in Central America with the base in Costa Rica, followed by spending nine months, until September 2013, in Mallorca Kufayev has a grown-up daughter from a previous relationship who lives in Warsaw, Poland.


  1. ^ Eternal Compromise – title of the show igorkufayev.com Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Compromise triptych igorkufayev.com Archived 2012-02-09 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Burnt Earth – title of the show igorkufayev.com Archived 2012-04-26 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Zauber Series
  5. ^ ART / Burnt offerings: Robin Dutt, The Independent, July 1, 1994, London
  6. ^ Brian Sewell. '"Your Choice for the Turner Prize", Evening Standard, 25 May 2001, London.
  7. ^ Сева Новгородцев, Севаоборот – Igor Kufayev, interview for BBC Russian Service, 21.10.2006
  8. ^ ;– Conscious TV Interview - Igor Kufayev - The Impact Of Awakening (1st interview)
  9. ^ Сева Новгородцев, Севаоборот – Igor Kufayev, interview for BBC Russian Service, 21.10.2006
  10. ^ "Igor Kufayev Darshans".
  11. ^ "Igor Kufayev Events".
  12. ^ Discussion on Kashmir Shaivism with Sally Kempton, Igor Kufayev, & Menas Kafatos - BatGap
  13. ^ "Yoga Aktuell". No. 102. January 2017. p. 70.
  14. ^ "Spontaneous Yoga ~ Touched by Grace".
  15. ^ "Igor Kufayev Gnosis".
  16. ^ "What Happens at Your Retreats That's Not Available Online...?". Event occurs at 40s.
  17. ^ SONG OF THE DEVI ~ Involuntary Vocalizations.
  18. ^ Spontaneous Choir of The Holy Spirit.
  19. ^ Freiburg Darshan: Dynamic Aspects of Meditation.
  20. ^ Entering the Heart – The Work of Igor Kufayev (Documentary).
  21. ^ Expansion & Deepening – Immersion with Igor Kufayev.
  22. ^ "Flowing Wakefulness Fellowship".
  23. ^ ;– Conscious TV Interview - Igor Kufayev - The Impact Of Awakening (1st interview)
  24. ^ ;– Conscious TV Interview - Igor Kufayev - Flowing Wakefulness (2nd interview)

External links[edit]