17 August 2009

Ranks, gradings and titles in Tantra

Titles abound in Tantra. Some titles indicate a claim to lineage, others indicate an attainment, or level of understanding.

In the East, there are traditional understandings and (arguably valid) criteria which can be applied.

In the West, there are attempts to form associations, professional bodies to determine and gather support for ethical and political positions.

Some lineages still have a liveliness to them. They still have the rasa, the juice. Others dried out years ago, but still reveal and store mummified valuables. Some represent a revitalisation of an old tradition.

I am not suggesting that there is any problem with this. The word Tantra now describes teachings from a huge range of intent, method, understanding, capability and style. Current teachings have their roots in a wide range of geographical areas and historic eras.

The simple fact, at present is that there is no consensus as to what defines an Adept, a Yogi, an Arahat, a Daka, a Guru, a Saint, a Rishee and so on. Especially since terms and definitions get mix-and-matched with no regard to the source languages.

So … there is nothing I can really do to clarify what titles and gradings are commonly used, and what you can expect of those using these titles. It is part of a seeker's journey to develop and use their own discernment as to who's who, and particularly, who the right teacher for now is.

What I can do is describe, more or less, how I use these terms. What they mean in this particular small school.


Gender inclusive term meaning a student and/or a practitioner of tantra in its broadest sense.

Friend of the school

By this we most usually mean someone we trust, who has particular expertise in some area of tantra or related work. We refer students to them when their particular expertise seems indicated. Other friends of the school include donors, supporters and, well, friends.


A woman working with us with the intention to become a Dakini.


Literally: Sky Dancer. A woman practicing the vocation, the calling, of Tantra. In this school, it is a title. A Dakini is a teacher in her own right, not needing to borrow authority from anywhere. Her energy has the same catalysing effect as that of a guru.

When we call someone outside of our school a Dakini, it is in recognition of their capability and understanding. Some of these wonderful women have learned from us for a part of their path, others we know from their teaching, or through mutual students.

A Wild Dakini is a woman who has all the power and understanding, but not (yet) the awareness of her calling.


The Dakini's male counterpart. A Daka is a man of unusual self awareness that works with women. Dakas in this school work specifically and exactly to the direction of Dakinis. This is sexist, and perhaps one day there will be exceptions … but, for now that is how it is.

Dakas are initiated, trained and given the title by Dakinis.


A Tantric Master who chooses to teach. Someone who's own spiritual and sexual work is complete.

Mine was done in 2002. Since then, my sexuality has had no quality of need, addiction or personal desire. It has been a part of my teaching, my communication with my students, used for that purpose just as is my voice and every other aspect of my life.

For the work I do, specifically the teaching and guidance of Dakinis, the completion of my own sexual dramas is essential to my own psychological survival. Also, if I was not complete in my own sexuality … if I had needs … if I was therefore subject to sexual manipulation … it would be hilarious, but I wouldn't be laughing. These are, after all, the most powerful of women!

It is also my responsibility to be careful when and to whom I teach what are known as the secret teachings. Some of these, misapplied, can be a bit ugly.

A guru's foremost, often defining characteristic is his energy field. The mysterious property that can reach and support a seeker, even at a distance.

This property is analogous to a catalyst in chemistry. Flammable gasses at room temperature, too cool to burn, will burst into flame when they encounter (the catalyst) platinum. One can look very closely and examine the platinum very carefully to see what it has done. Mysteriously, the platinum seems unchanged, and can do it's trick repeatedly without changing.

What I and the Dakinis seem to catalyse is the flowering of a seeker's awareness. The natural reaction waiting to happen, or happening gradually, within our students is accelerated.


One day, I will stop apologising for the English language and my part in it's absorbtion and redefinition of words from other languages and traditions. I won't (and English won't) stop doing it though.

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