24 August 2010

Is Tantra against relationship?

This was received from a student who's wife has not approved of him working with us. He outlines her complaint.

S.. has voiced some concerns about the school which I share to a large extent.

From conversations that S..had with Wendy, it seems like many men who take advantage of the schools offerings services do so behind the backs of their partners. It is difficult to imagine how a sustainable and holistic transformation in people’s lives can be accomplished when this involves people being less than completely honest with those who are closest to them. There is much that is questionable and worthy of review about the institution of marriage, but the fact remains that those women who married the men you are working with have dedicated their lives to them, trust them and raise children with them. This, in each case, is a major responsibility and it seems the school does not do what it takes to make sure that its work does not jeopardize this responsibility. This is all the more important because the school touches people’s lives at such a profound level.

When someone approaches me for a session I do not refuse him or her on the basis that there is some distortion in the sexuality or in relationship. Part of my work as a Dakini is to bring awareness to how the energies are flowing in the person and then to resolve the unconscious aspects so allowing the essential quality to be revealed. If a man comes to me with many constraints and lies to himself and his partner then we will begin to look at the lies and to notice how they are running his life.

The repressed qualities are ultimately a cause of some hurt and misunderstandings about the Truth.

I do not believe that a man not telling his wife he is working with me is wrong as such … it may be he is experiencing the freedom of how his life force flows and his Divine right to move energy where it guides him. When a person is attuned to one's own Being there is trust that whatever wants to flow in the moment can be surrendered to.

Guiding a person to exterior and then interior honesty is an important step on the path. In the pursuit of this it is not unusual for me to suggest communicating what is unfolding for them to their partner. Sometimes I make further sessions conditional around this issue. Wherever possible I will support couples in their lives together. Tantra recognises three major paths and I will work with you whatever your relationship structure.

The quality of devotion that women have to their husbands and children is exquisite and there is understandably an urge to protect it. The fear that comes with thoughts of its loss must be explored and resolved. I guess there is a belief that if a man learns something about himself with other women then the security of the home is threatened. It need not be so. At some point you must realise that using all your energy to keep a man faithful proves exhausting, painful and unproductive. In Tantra we encourage women to use their energy for their own awareness and to assist men to their potential not their constraints.

I am not in objection to what this couple is going through because I see their awareness is growing stronger and they are moving towards deeper intimacy.


13 August 2010

Gifts from times past


Tantra is about the catalysis and acceleration of awareness. Tantra is not bound to any particular deity system, philosophy, cultural background or teaching modality.

Tantra is religion at it's liveliest. It has the passionate love of truth that most of the established religions started with. It has standards, views on what constitutes a worthwhile teaching, and ongoing, responsive quality control.

Sometimes, a teaching grows from previous teachings. Sometimes, a patriarchal lineage happens, a disciple or two of each generation completing their path in comfortable timing.

More usually, the appearance, the illusion of a patriarchal lineage and the development/revelation of teachings appropriate to the times has been managed from behind the scenes by Dakinis.

Often, Tantra had to present itself in a form that was alluring or scary to the surrounding culture. Sometimes it had to disappear. Sometimes, it had to infiltrate the prevailing organised religions.

Some branches did not develop, either pruned through losing the support and acknowledgment of Dakinis or just failing to produce capable teachers for a few generations.

Sometimes this was ugly, disciples becoming focused on a particular characteristic of (or attributed to) their historic guru and emulating that characteristic in stupid and excessive ways as only men can. Examples include (in increasing order of severity) ritual mutilation of the penis, obsessions with ejaculation and sexual repression.

Sometimes it was beautiful, the disciples preserving yoga exercises, dances, rituals, books, attitudes and methods for later generations and fresher lineages to borrow from.

The treasures of ancient tantra have been reaching the West for a long time. Gems like the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra and the poems of Rumi . These and the other gifts of history have contributed much to the development of Western Tantra.  Recently, Daniel Odier's Tantric Quest, translating the understanding of Kashmir and Judith Simmer Brown's Dakini's Warm Breath urge a more complete, more mature understanding.

Tantra is always a fresh awareness, an arising of new understanding. Tantra is always at the beginning (a teacher and a few students) stage of development as a religion. One of the oldest and wisest sayings in Tantra is "Stay at the beginning." This applies at least as much in tantric practice and teaching as it does in making love.

The Celibate, the Householder and the Tantrika

Tantric teachings are layered onion style because existence is layered, onion style.

Tantra recognises no distinction between worldly and spiritual endeavor. One's whole life is the path, no part excepted. No need to renounce sex, power or money. Existence can provide the necessary lessons, trials, hardships and challenges in the worldly context at least as effectively as in a monastic setting.

Truth is one. The ways of approaching it are many.

In Tantra, three main archetypes,  directions of approach, are known: The paths of Celibate, Householder and Tantrika. Which one is appropriate to you at any point in time, is probably the one you are doing. This distinction of directions is more about where a student is coming from than where he is going. None of them is inherently superior. All lead to the same truth.

The Celibate

In Christendom, celibacy is more or less synonymous with chastity. Chastity basically means no sex.

Celibacy, in the tantric context means unmarried. Just that. Nothing about regularity or irregularity of sexual activity implied. Celibates are unmarried.

The celibate has particular emphasis on her beloved being existence itself. A celibate does not make demands on a lover's availability, and is not open to demands on her availability.

Refusing the paradigm of marriage and relationship, refusing to own or be owned, the celibate becomes richly aware of the expectations and beliefs inherited from parents and culture.

Living through times of lovers and times of no lovers with no attitude of ownership forces one to face one's fears, limiting beliefs and habits without the luxury of having someone else to blame.

Relating to every lover as a gift from the beloved, from existence itself, challenges one to experience them deeply. It challenges one to engage to one's full depths and capacity. There is no sense in holding back, reserving intimacy, when the beloved is there. Adept celibates enjoy the kind of intimacy that can result from 5 years of marriage… on a first date.

The greatest danger to a celibate is using their celibacy as a way to avoid intimacy, depth and emotions. Keeping encounters with lovers shallow in a counter-productive attempt to avoid pain.

The Householder

The householder's focus is relationship. Whatever the particular relationship form, it has rules, guidelines and a concept of ownership.

The householder explores the truth of attachment, need and ownership through the context of relationship.

The form of a householder's relationship can be conventionally monogamous, poly, open, swinging, gay, hetero or any other variant. However it looks, though, those involved in the relationship agree to rules and guidelines.

The rules of relationship, whatever they are, can teach external, then internal honesty. Submitting to the constraints of relationship with sincerity can ready one for the far greater submission to existence itself.

Householders also often raise children, which is one of the most intensive ways to learn the truths of love.

Relationship is a kind of training wheels for love. Learning to love one person can be far harder than loving an abstract notion like Humanity, or … Relationship. When love worthy of the name happens, the koan of the relationship is answered.

The path of the householder benefits from experimentation/renegotiation between forms of relationship and sexual skills/energy development. The greatest danger is preferring comfort to totality.

The Tantrika

The tantrika's path is the direct exploration of the lessons of tantra, overlapping learning from teachers with learning by teaching.

Tantrikas seldom agree to monogamy, and when they do, their intention is either to complete the relationship dramas they inherited from their own parenting or to help the partner with that work. Sometimes both.

Wherever they are, and whatever they are doing, they are always in school. Always deliberately learning.

Tantrikas experiment in their own lives, trying out ideas like ownership and freedom, living at various times in communality, alone and with partner(s). Their loyalty is always to what they can learn, not to the context in which they find the lesson.

One of a tantrika's particular challenges is discerning between their own current highest understanding, that which they just glimpse  –  and things they know well, and can usefully teach. Another is teaching that which is easy, comfortable or profitable for too long, thus losing their own momentum.

Much of the acceleration of a tantrika's path comes from her willingness to help others. The emphasis of the tantrika is to love existence in meaningful and practical ways. The heat and pressure of this path is the experience of teaching that which one needs to learn – learning by helping.

Commonalities and differences

Most tantric paths fit one of these descriptions, at least for major stretches of their journey. Existence, however has no rigid distinctions. Some tantrikas really look like householders. Some celibates look a lot like tantrikas, some householders seem more celibate than the celibates.

In all cases, the inevitable restrictions and restraints of the path(s) chosen are used as a heat, a pressure, an acceleration and refinement of awareness.

None of them is inherently superior or faster than the others. None of them penetrates to greater truths or produces greater gurus than any other.

There is no choice to make. It is a calling kind of thing. Call it the predestined part of your existence. The choice you have is, as always, to dance with it and welcome it, or endure it in fighting and frustration.

I am perhaps a bit known for harping on about the harshness of the path, so this time, I will try to end things sweetly.

Each path has it's own particular delight. Celibates celebrate freedom. Householders celebrate connection. Tantrikas celebrate celebration, then start planning a workshop on celebration.