Friday 15 February 2013

Teaching Tantra

          If I were to suggest to you that tantra has little to do with intimacy and even less to do with sex you would probably think I was crazy; looking at most books and workshops around. Agehananda Bharati the great Indian scholar of tantra estimated that seven percent of tantric texts were to do with sex and sixty percent were to do with mantras. In the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra a 1,700 year old text of 112 methods of meditation only 3 are to do with sex. Mantras and yantras are intrinsic to tantra. But "What of the Kama Sutra!" you may cry. It has nothing to do with tantra; it is a bedroom manual for rich Indian men to try and teach them something about women and sex. Mostly it is OK (but bear in mind we have an edited version) but tantra is a spiritual practice and you won't find anything much about spirituality or consciousness in the Kama Sutra.

            So what is tantra about? It is about not intimacy with a person but about the identity or resonance between you and the whole universe and about subtle ways of  "seducing the powers of nature" as one modern Indian tantric text has as its subtitle. The intimacy in tantra is intimacy with the whole. Some of the practices of tantra; the more popular ones, can help with intimacy with a partner or help to heal personal issues; but these are a side-effect and can be a diversion. If you strengthen the small ego, the self then you can create more barriers. You are strengthening the spiritual ego; what Chogyam Trungpa called spiritual materialism. This is certainly true if you think that the essence of tantra is challenging restrictions and behaving outrageously. If you can dance naked on the table; you may be drunk or crazy, but you are not necessarily tantric! This was a way in tantra of challenging the Vedantic orthodoxy several hundred years ago but nowadays anything goes anyway. If you realise your essence as the divine you may be enlightened but you may also be caught in a grandiose and narcissistic delusion; "I am a Goddess so everything I say is right!"

          Cynically, you could say modern tantra is sexual because sex sells anything including enlightenment; however sex and desire can provide a motivation for practice and can help the skillful development of relationship. Ecstatic states give a taste of enlightenment. There are many traps in all this.  For example; there is absolutely no connection that I can see between tantra and polyamory or polyfuckery. Both of which are OK lifestyle choices but very little to do with tantra and again easily subject to much delusion. Relationships just becoming another acquisitive commodity, If there is any sexual lifestyle implied by tantra itself it is probably celibacy and there is only one tantra book I have ever come across that uses the word celibacy with any prominence (it is the excellent Eros, Consciousness and Kundalini by a therapist Stuart Sovatsky for the record).

     The real difficulty in teaching tantra is very easy to state. It is much easier to teach about energy than it is about consciousness. Energy is sexy (literally!). It's usually fun and fits with our need for more and more intense experiences. Breath, sound and movement the three keys in tantra are all about increasing energy flow. Consciousnesses by contrast is boring!!! It is still, steady, spacious but empty.  However, traditional tantra is clear in Abhinavagupta's first Shiva Sutra; Chaitanyamatma. ‘Everything is Chiti, everything is Consciousness’. How to teach about consciousness and awareness the platform on which Shakti creates the whole universe? How to get people to value the floor and  pole which allow the pole dancer to perform? To do this requires loosening our addiction to phenomena and experiences. There are many more methods than the traditional one of sitting on your meditation cushion observing the mind or the breath; though they are still excellent. Osho has given us some methods that combine movement with observation and stillness. Ramana Maharshi has given us Self Enquiry; continually looking for the questioner not for the answer to the question. Of course Ramana was not very sexy - he never got away from his mother; she came after him; and Osho is more cuddly than sexy.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Imbolc - Life re-awakens within

 Today is the first day of Spring; it is Imbolc  derived from the Celtic words for “in the belly,” or “the quickening.” in recognition of the fact that the subtle energies and the life forces of this side Earth are becoming more alive and vibrant. Snowdrops are out. It is half way between the winter solstice and feminine the  spring equinox.

Imbolc is associated in the Celtic tradition with Brigid, the virginal first form of The Triple Goddess -
Encountering this energy form is exciting and inspirational. She is called The Bride because Imbolc sees the first ‘marriage’ of the two energy polarities - the returning male energy and the ever-present female energy combining to create a vibrant and creative impulse which brings forth life.

So celebrate life every day; but particularly today. Celebrate the life of the body, and Shakti as the creative force of life itself which again is beginning to stir in the earth and in the body.  Do it symbolically and find your inner feminine or find a woman and celebrate her.