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Roots and Definitions
IN PAKISTAN, ON the Indus River in the ancient city of Mohenjo Daro, stands a monument bearing a golden seal, reliably dated as being 6,000 years old. It depicts a person sitting in a Yoga posture performing a Tantric ritual. This is the oldest evidence known of Tantric Yoga, the Royal Path of sexual Yoga, sometimes called the eighth path. The religion of Tantra antedates both Hinduism and Buddhism. The great religion of Tantra was suppressed because it was very female oriented, but Tantra persisted in verbal tradition and in some ancient texts.
Present-day Tantrists can use translations of some very ancient texts, the foremost being the Bhagavad Gita. Many Tantric practices stem directly from verses in the Gita. Other Tantra sources are the sayings (or sutras) of Patanjali, which date from some 2,300 years ago. Thus in studying Tantra you are embarking on a path that has signposts–but also a path whose very existence is anathema to the patriarchal establishment and to present-day orthodox religions. Tantrists are despised, maligned, and put down by the new traditionalists, lest their followers depart to follow the path of Tantra.
Tantra is an extension of Ha-tha practice–an extension that uses sex and power (prana) raised from the human body. Tantrists get themselves into deep trouble with modern conventional religious philosophies, in that what a conventional religionist may label blasphemous or immoral behavior, the Tantrist considers moral and non-blasphemous. The Tantrist believes that to disregard any element of human potential is to blaspheme the handiwork of the Deity.
To the Tantrist, the understanding of natural sensory pleasures comes only after experiencing the pleasure. You eat well of delectable food, then have totally tasteless food, then fast; in this way you gain discipline through voluntarily giving up pleasure, and enjoy the pleasure more by contrasting it with the time of withdrawal.
Tantrists scorn the ascetic, for they say the ascetic, never having experienced pleasure, is giving up nothing. Because sensory feelings are transient, you must alternate between experiencing sensory pleasure and withdrawing from it. Withdrawal can last for extended lengths of time when the Tantrist goes on the full cleansing fast; but normally the cycles run with the moon, ranging from sensory satiation to deprivation of the appetites within each lunar month.
Tantrists also disagree with those who take the path of pain. They agree with the theory that pain and pleasure are indeed opposites which must be reconciled; but they point out that the whole aim of the work of people who endure unnecessary pain is to suppress feelings or entrance themselves so they feel no pain. Suppressing natural feelings rather than tuning them to a high level of awareness is the very reverse of the Royal Path.
Your guru takes the attitude that what is natural and pleasurable is right and normal; what is unnatural is taboo. In defining the word "natural" we immediately come to the first of many difficult decisions. The simplest way of defining "natural" is 1) it's acceptable in your own cultural matrix; and 2) when you join a Tantric group, it's acceptable to all members of the group without exception. If there is any question as to whether something is natural, it may be tried but not made part of the group rituals until all members agree about it. As you proceed along the path, you will learn to distinguish that which for your group is natural and right from that which is unnatural.
Many texts wrongly accuse Tantra students of committing unnatural acts; however, the very essence of true Tantra is that anything that should be done must be pleasurable and natural. Only the most sadistic or vicious man could possibly enjoy raping a virgin–yet we are told that this was the high point of ancient Tantra ritual. An exactly similar claim was made in the West by defamers of Wicca. Sexual pleasure is achieved with a skilled partner, not with a virgin of either gender. Since exquisite pleasure is the aim, there is absolutely no point in a Tantrist having sex with an inexperienced partner.
Similarly, Tantrists were accused of eating the most loathsome things and drinking until their senses were totally anesthetized. Neither of these practices can result in exquisite pleasure. Tantra has its prescribed eating habits which involve the eating of delectable foods properly prepared and the drinking of moderate amounts of fine wine. The palate must never be numbed by overindulgence, and Tantric exercises cannot be fully enjoyed when one is satiated with food or wine.
THE THREE PATHS
As you proceed with your study of Tantra, you will learn that its path is threefold:
1. The mental path, in which all things prescribed, including the exercises, are done only in the imagination. The traditional Tantrist scoffs at this path, believing it was invented as sop for those who could not do the exercises.
2. The right-hand path, followed by many, stipulates the exercises be done only by marriage partners working together. Again the orthodox Tantrist scorns this path on two counts: a) As everyone recognizes, the ability to do a sexual act with your spouse does not guarantee that it results in the maximum pleasure, for having sex with a "different" partner can result in more pleasure, especially if that different partner is skilled; and b) the Tantrist has no belief in the spiritual authority of a civil marriage, holding instead that marriage is an unhealthful state forced on the general population. This civil state has no parallel in nature. The Tantrist does not in any way despise romantic love or romantic relationships; and many Tantrists form long-lasting attachments with a specific partner. But an orthodox Tantrist does not contractualize such an attachment, for it is a spiritual matter, not a civil one. A Tantrist would also point out that spiritual growth does not necessarily occur at the same rate in two partners, whether or not they are legally tied to each other, and it is a blasphemy to tie an advanced spirit to a less-developed one. A woman whose spirit is advanced must have the freedom to advance further by associating with a male of her own level.
3. The Royal Path–The genuine Tantrist is of the High or Royal Path. This has occasionally been called the left-hand path purely for derogatory reasons. A 20th-century Tantrist said, "We are happy to have it called the Left-Hand Path–for is not the left hand controlled by the right half of the brain? That is, the side of the brain in which all artistic enterprises dwell?" The High Path requires sexual contacts between consenting adults, within their own carefully selected and trained group.
If a married couple wishes to form their own royal group or to enter a Tantric house, they must first obtain a legal divorce and live with the divorce for at least a year and a day. Only thus can the necessary freedom from the very human emotion of jealousy be achieved.
All the warnings, all the negative stereotypes attached to Tantra, cannot efface from the ancient Sanskrit writings the fact that Nirvana is achieved more quickly through Tantra than through any other path. The scripture promises that Nirvana can be achieved in as little as six lunar months. We believe that a realistic schedule is a year–and then only if the last six months are spent in serene surroundings. It should be emphasized that once you have learned the High Path you can use from it that which you will. You can do as little of it or as much of it as you like. Do only what feels natural. If a given exercise does not feel natural to you today, you may come to it at some time in the future. If you find part of the path painful and difficult to achieve, come back to the guru; for it may be that you have strayed from the Way. The true Way is one of pleasure and happiness. There is no place for tears or sadness in Tantra.
If you find that by pursuing the path you cause great unhappiness or pain to another human being, leave the path temporarily until you can follow it without harming or causing pain to anyone. This may mean severing a relationship–but you mustn't hold back for someone you've outgrown. That constitutes self-harm, and that's no better than other-harm.
Throughout this book we will mention certain taboos that occur in Tantra practice. Taboos serve more as signposts that will help you pursue your path with pleasure, rather than being rigid prohibitions. You will find that when you break a taboo there will be no earth-shattering cataclysmic upheaval in your life and you won't become suddenly less spiritually aware. What will happen is that a little pain or distress will come in. This will point up the breaking of a taboo.
Let us look at one such taboo, an age taboo. It is normal that those involved in Tantra practice shall be within 15 years of one another's age. This taboo normally prohibits parent-child relationships, but it does not taboo brother-sister relationships. The brother and sister would be consenting adults and would take care to prevent conception.
Another restriction is that it is normally taboo for male hands to insert the lingam into the yoni. Insertion is to be done by female hands. This taboo precludes rape in any Tantra house.
During certain phases of the month certain activities are taboo–or as a Tantrist would say, "We accentuate certain positive activities rather than forbid others."
In today's climate of sexually transmitted diseases that can kill, there is one basic taboo. It is a prime and inviolable rule of the group that outside sexual contacts are forbidden and are cause for immediate, non-negotiable dismissal from the group.
In every group the taboos should be written down and understood by all members. This society is not barbaric or unthinking or uncaring. The traditional rules of the social civilized matrix from which the house members come form the basis for the rules of the house itself. The only rules that are bent are those pertaining to a government's control of the religious practices of its citizens and the rights of free, consenting adults to do as they wish in the privacy of their home.
Blatant contravention of laws designed for public welfare and order is not the Tantric way. Most especially Tantrists have no need of illegal drugs, because the path brings its own natural highs.
DEFINING THE INDEFINABLE
There has been a general move among Western writers to define in concrete mechanistic terms many ideas and concepts of Tantra–and indeed Yoga–that are really indefinable. The whole Yoga movement was done a massive disservice when inexperienced translators made various spiritual centers or chakras synonymous with specific places in the body. The spiritual body is not part of the mundane body. It coexists with it, but the chakra is in the spiritual body, not in the mundane body. The spiritual body does not have genitalia or an anus, and to define a spiritual center as coexisting with the genitalia is utter rubbish. The third eye is not the pineal gland; it is part of the spiritual body, the "I."
To understand this concept from the Tantrist's point of view, let us start by trying the impossible: to define God.
THE TANTRIST'S ULTIMATE DEITY
To a Tantrist, the Ultimate Deity cannot be defined. This non-definition has received a great deal of definition by Western writers! Whole texts have been written on the yin-yang. Some of the definitions resemble the Buddhist's Great Void or the Hindu Rama, who is the "summation of everything." Others define it as That, which contrasts with This, the plane in which we live. We cannot define the indefinable. Any definition we suggest limits the powers of an Ultimate Deity; nonetheless, philosophers will continue trying to satisfy the human longing for definition.
The Ultimate Deity is beyond mind. It has neither logic nor illogical behavior. It exists, beyond the mind and beyond thought.
Throughout this book we will refer to the Ultimate Deity as IT. Please remember, though, that such a definition is flawed; for in saying IT we think of Something which exists alone. IT both exists and does not exist. IT is infinite and finite. IT is everywhere but nowhere.
"I," "Me," and "IT"
In Tantric thought, as in many other philosophies, the personality is composed of three parts. Tantra holds that a tiny part of IT inhabits each body, being the body's spiritual component. This little piece of IT is the "I." The "I" is the real part of the person, the part that reincarnates to inhabit many shells or bodies. "I" controls two important subsidiaries: the body and the mind. In your own life you recognize this distinction, for you say "my arm," or "my leg," or "my mind." It is a basic tenet of Yoga that the mind must be as well controlled as the body. If you are angry, you may think of striking someone or smashing something. "I" controls "Me" the body, and prevents it from doing this inappropriate action.
The ancient writings offer a clear metaphor, comparing each individual to a driver and a chariot. You own your body. You run it around ... "and the reins are Wisdom."
THE COMBINATION OF OPPOSITES
It is not possible to revere an IT, nor can you blame IT. IT is altogether beyond emotions such as vanity and anger, nor does IT care very much about you the individual and your little ego. Humans need some representation of IT, however, that we can praise, blame, pray to, and do all the other things that we need to do in reaching toward the Ultimate Deity. God-ess images are simply an interface we create in our own image with our own energies to meet our own needs.
The gods of the Hindu and Buddhist pantheons are very complex, yet easily understood if each aspect is studied singly. In this book we will deal with them as mundane conceptual God-esses. It is not a matter of knowing their names and attributes; instead it is the gaining of a comprehension of the level and thought of each God-ess in turn.
The two great gods of Tantra are Shakti (the mother goddess) and Shiva (the virile male god). These two deities are shown with many arms and many attributes. It is recognized that the female is both the giver of life and its taker-away. She can be aspected like a lover or she can be aspected like a mother, a matron, or a wise crone. In a similar way the male can be the destroyer or the creator. He can be the angry avenger or the wise old man. In Tantra he is generally the more passive, obtaining life and illumination from the female. From now on we will use the name Shakti for the Great Mother archetypal goddess and Shiva for the Great Father god
THE MACROCOSM AND THE MICROCOSM
From time immemorial it has been held as a tenet of mystical thought that in this microcosm of ours we represent the macrocosm and the multiverse. The structure of a galaxy resembles the structure of an atom. We are cared for by our mother and father. Hence it is easy to believe in a Great Mother and Father somewhere benevolently caring for the multiverse, and beyond them an Ultimate Deity of which we cannot conceive.
We call them IT, Shakti, and Shiva. Nothing further is possible; for IT is a summation of all that is. In thinking of a poor human living his or her life on the earth plane, it is conceived that within each human the I is a piece of IT. But since each human is either male or female, only when male and female are actually joined in sexual union is there completion. For when the two are joined, we have everything that is. The combination of opposites makes the whole. If the opposites cannot be understood, and through combination wholeness cannot be experienced, then life is meaningless.
We have in the microcosm IT, Shakti, and Shiva. We have "I," the male, and the female, making a perfect miniature of the Whole. This is the meaning of the yin and the yang. When the male and the female are joined together, God-ess is forever present. Bliss can be achieved in a single human being only when the need for balancing maleness and femaleness is removed. To the Tantrist, this need is removed only when the two are joined, or at death.
The total spiritual universe is viewed as IT, plus Shakti, Shiva and life. These three levels are reflected in the microcosm of our own selves when sexual union occurs. IT as spirit is ever present. Our bodies represent the plane of Shakti and Shiva, and the earth we rest on is the life. Thus is the macrocosm reflected in the microcosm. This state cannot be achieved while sexual lust is present; it must be controlled and put aside. This can happen only when male and female genitalia are in contact for extended periods, preferably with the lingam in the yoni. To fulfill ritual requirements perfectly, the male must maintain the erect lingam, and the female must be aroused. Because of the fragility of the erection without desire, the male is not ridiculed if the erection cannot be maintained. In fact only he and his partner will know that they did not attain the full yin-yang coalescence. Partial coalescence is attained if the partners press the lingam against the yoni while they maintain a deeply penetrating kiss.
Excerpted from TANTRIC YOGA by GAVIN FROST, YVONNE FROST. Copyright © 1989 Gavin and Yvonne Frost. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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About the Authors
A Note on Language
An Introduction to Modern Tantra
How to Use This Book
Part One: Basic Precepts
1. Roots and Definitions
2. Raising the Force
3. Expanding Your Awareness
Part Two: Preparation
4. Meditating on the Lotus
5. Purification and Control
6. Cycles of Sex, Food, and Work
Part Three: Activating and Illuminating the Chakras
7. The Chakras
8. Ascending Kundalini: Activating the Chakras
9. Descending the Chakras: Illumination
10. Understanding Your Spiral Dance
Appendix 1: The Tantric Kin and House
Appendix 2: Tantra Supplement for Gay Students