Tantra and the Worship of the Goddess

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Tantra and the Worship of the Goddess

Last week I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by a Sanskrit scholar and translator of Tantric works, which include the most scandalous parts of the Tantroloka (The light on Tantras). The scholar’s next book will be on Tantric and Christian interpretations of chakras. On the patio of a cafe in the Docklands (to the delight of businessmen on their lunch-breaks), we spoke about sexual Tantric experiences and their spiritual premises.

I do not claim to be a Tantric specialist. I am just a scholar by trade, and a writer and seeker by passion, and have studied the Tantra with those who certainly can call themselves ‘specialists’ — at least in the scholarly world.

At the same time, I must admit that it is not an easy thing to define a ‘specialist’ in Tantra because it is not easy to define Tantra itself. For those interested in a general and very simplified outline of Tantra, I refer to my earlier blog of last year, ‘Two Secret Traditions …’ http://www.joannakujawa.com/two-secret-traditions-gnosis-and-tantra/

To briefly summarise, one of the most important premises of Tantric philosophy is that there is nothing that is not sacred. This is a very radical premise in itself, as most, if not all, organised religions not only focus on the distinction between what is pure and what is impure (or sinful), and treat them as pair of opposites, but also make a living of making us feel like sinners!

Tantra is different. Tantra says that everything, the entire Universe/Creation is sacred, is holy, that everything we do is sacred, even, or perhaps especially, those things we have been conditioned to believe to be ‘impure’ or ‘sinful’, such as sexuality and sexual acts.

BUT this is with one very important provision — that we do them with a particular mindset or an intention on expanding our consciousness, which is nothing but experiencing oneness with the Divine Consciousness. Thus even in the sexual act, the focus is on the inner experience of the unfolding of the Shakti (as the kundalini energy moves through the subtle centres of our bodies).

Tantra is also called a ‘dangerous’ path because it was never intended to be followed by everyone. It was intended for the ‘most advanced disciples’— those who have a deeper understanding and, ideally, a previous experience of the connection with the divine element of the Universe or the Divine Consciousness, most likely through meditation.

Tantra is based around an awareness of the potential consequences of the claim that morality is just a social convention. Now that is radical! Morality, Tantra says, has nothing to do with divinity or purity, but rather keeps societal forces in check. It also gives people, who have no time or inclination to ponder the Divine Consciousness and the working of the Universe, some guidelines on what is ‘decent’ behaviour.

Thus, people should behave decently and morally because this is simply how society works, and not because it is ‘holy’.

Now, how is Tantra connected to the worship of the Goddess?

The most radical expression of Tantra is known as the Kula Ritual. The Kula Ritual is described in the 29th chapter of the Tantraloka by a 10th century Indian philosopher and Yogi called Abhinavagupta.

The Kula Ritual, externally, is a wild proposition. It is a gathering of the most trusted disciples of a guru to ‘meet’ yoginis (women) and perform a sexual act for the purpose of achieving a higher state of consciousness. From the point of view of the uninitiated, this might sound like some sort of ‘holy orgy’, but this is what makes Tantra so compelling, as nothing is what it seems.

The sexual act can happen only after certain rituals and mantras have been observed to help the participants remember the point of the ritual, which is aimed at nothing less than union with the divine through sexual practices.

The partners are, ideally, strangers, or are capable of emotional detachment, since the result is the experience of expanded Consciousness or Union with the Universe/Creation or  the Feminine Principle of Creation  the Shakti— whatever suits your vocabulary better. It is about a relationship with Goddess/the Divine, and not about a relationship with a partner.

The rituals include the worship of the women (yoginis) as Goddesses so as to awaken their Inner Goddess, called Shakti. Shakti is the power that makes the Universe go around. Her male counterpart, Shiva, is the Divine Consciousness, while she is the active power in the Universe.

The difference between, let’s say, an orgasm and the Tantric sexual act is that in the Tantric act we experience far more than sexual pleasure. The sexual pleasure is only a trigger for a much greater inner experience, while the woman’s body is a conduit for the energy of Shakti to enter the participants and explode their consciousness, momentarily taking them to an experience of the Divine Consciousness or Goddess.

Let me share my experience here. During my Tantric experience, I felt the kundalini energy (also a name for Shakti) moving through my body and exploding in my heart.

It stopped there for a moment before It decided to move upward.

It exploded again in my forehead and then made a conscious decision to make a turn (without my volition) to explode again at the top of my head.

This process rendered myself and my partner in a state of awe, and we both plunged into a Bliss quite different from any feeling after orgasm. Spontaneously, we entered a meditative state which lasted for about 30 minutes.

We both had a clear understanding that something bigger than ourselves had moved through my body and spilled over into my partner, almost as a side effect. This was a feeling of Grace (which is a Western name for Goddess or Sophia) and of complete union with Creation/the Universe, a feeling of oneness NOT with each other but with the Divine.

I also had a clear understanding that this power that moved through me was both divine and intelligent, and had made choices on which I had had no influence.

I have no formula for repeating this experience; I do not believe that such a formula exists.  Somehow, I became a conduit for Shakti, the same way the Tantrics experience Her. But I did fulfil some criteria for the ritual, if there are such things.

For example, I had just returned from a group studying Abhinavagupta’s chapter on the Kula Ritual and was an ardent student of Tantric philosophy. I was not emotionally attached to the man either (who was nothing more than a passing figure in my life and whom I briefly dated), and thus fulfilled the required detachment criterium. The rest was pure Grace.

This does not mean that certain practices passed on by qualified Tantric teachers would not have helped. On the contrary. But for me, and I believe Abhinavagupta and the originators of this rebellious, powerful tradition and, perhaps, the only world-view that makes sense to me, Tantra has always been about getting in touch with the inner power within us, called the Goddess, Shakti or Kundalini.

This power, Tantra says, is normally dormant, and for us to fulfil our true divine potential within our earthly bodies, it needs to be awakened, with sexual practices one way of doing this. The other way can be Shaktipat awakening by a teacher of Tantric traditions.

According to a truly Tantric view, something that traditional religions consider ‘unholy’ (sexuality not for the purpose of procreation) is turned into a tool for experiencing the sacredness of all Creation, and more, for experiencing the Divine Creative Principle itself, which in Tantra is understood in feminine terms as the Goddess Shakti.

If you are interested, in my next piece for Goddess News I wold like to  speak more on the Kula Ritual as the worship of the Goddess and possible abuse of the ritual. As always, I would love to hear from you.

Goddess News is not only about expressing my views but is also about having a dialogue and moving together towards a deeper understanding and spiritual evolution.

Sending Love,

Goddess News

Spiritual Blog

Dr Joanna Kujawa

 

©Joanna Kujawa
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22 Responses to Tantra and the Worship of the Goddess

  1. Linda McLeod says:

    I have always believed the connection of the sexual act is not only granted for the purpose of procreation but also as a powerful tool to awaken divine energy within us. I grew up in a religious home where sex was considered something at best slightly shameful and at worst the sure route to hell. As a young girl to be constantly reminded your body was a vessel only for children or sin was quite spiritually debilitating but as an awakening goddess i am embracing this magnificent instrument as a blessed gift! ❤
    Thank you Joanna for fueling my appetite to become more enlightened & aware of this aspect of my journey.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you Linda for your wonderful, open-minded and insightful comment. Indeed, I believe it often is an experience in which we grew up. That is why I find Tantra so fascinating as it dares to look at our humanness in a different light. It also divinises us at our most human moments. Sexuality is a great, powerful Energy, divine in its core and can, and has been, used for the purpose of spiritual evolution. It is its inherent power that I believe scared traditional and institutionalised religions, or worse, connotating it as ‘sinful’. Once, again, thank you for your wonderful comment. I love dialoguing with you on Goddess News 🙂 xx

  2. Julie Deitz says:

    I really enjoyed this Sundari. Tantra resonates with the way I like to see the world, not just in terms of the sexual experience, but in its view of the sacredness of all Creation. Thank you!

    • sundari says:

      Thank you Julie. This means a lot. Yes for me the main attraction of Tantra is its focus on sacredness of all Creation. I love this philosophy and it reminds me of Pantheism is Western traditions to which I was attracted as a student of philosophy – where, incidentally, all is also sacred. The focus on sexuality in Tantra is very Western, in a way and I believe, often overstated (probably because we were all brought up with such shameful feelings about our sexuality) so it is a nice sigh of relieve. But seeing the Divine in cooking a meal or doing gardening or talking to friends – is as much Tantra as being involved in a sexual act. So you are right. It is primarily about the view of the world as sacred.
      Thank you for your comment. Love,Goddess News xxx

  3. KS says:

    Thanks Joanna for this piece clearing the fog around tantra. What a shame the sacredness of this practice is almost non-existent in our modern day understanding and practice of sexuality. Thanks for this much needed education. I hope as more and more people sincerely engage with their inner conciousness, there is hope for the secret tradition of tantra to become more mainstream and sexuality can be restored for its glory rather than how it has been bastardised by moral perverts through human history.

    • sundari says:

      Kathy, It is wonderful to have such intelligent and supportive readers. I agree. There is so much misunderstanding around both Tantra and sexuality. I will write more about the ritual and the misuse of it by patriarchal approach to it. We are all so confused – and institutionalised religious organisations as well as our upbringing and even more the media are largely responsible for it. A great power can be channelled towards good or bad and I hope that both conscious women and men are going to treat it with awe and respect. It could be Bliss. It could be the Divine Union or it can be what it is in the media at the moment. It is our choice. Much love.Godedess News 🙂

  4. G. says:

    I have experienced this amazing meeting with wisdom. As a Jungian I have also experienced in dream sex with the sacred anima. Taken metaphorically as the heiros gamos one can reach these unearthly realms. Yes it is often abused when they take young girls and use them as temple prostitutes, but of course this is a perversion. I’m beginning to think these realms don’t need to be reached with someone who is practically a stranger. They can be reached through mutual and sole masturbation and also with a long time love. I’m not one to judge, but spirituality I think is such a personal thing. I’ve masturbated and had goddesses come to me and make love to me from other realms and was left in great ecstatic bliss for ages. Anyway thank you so much for your writings!

    • sundari says:

      Thank you for sharing your experiences G. It is good to open a forum for this kind of discussion so people can share their experiences and it is worthwhile to open a door to the discussion of spirituality and sexuality. I have recently watched videos by a famous hypnotherapist Steve G. Jones where he comments on the topic of sexuality, dreams and other realms. It was very interesting. And I know a swami friend who told me that he had Tantric experiences through a form of masturbation as well. Indeed, our connection with Shakti/Sophia, Goddess or Spiritual Energy is a very personal thing ad in many ways mysterious. I am inclined to believe that in a long term, loving relationship of two spiritually aware people it could also be possible. As for the possible abuse, I will discuss some issues in the next blog and, I agree, that kind of thing (the abuse), is distinctly different from the intention of Tantra.

      • G. says:

        Thank you so much. Being a Jungian analyst I needed to say what I did. This is an immense forum. I don’t feel as open as I could be one to one because it’s still the internet, but nonetheless it’s the next best thing! Blessings!

        • sundari says:

          Thank you! Your sharing is much appreciated 🙂

          • G. says:

            I suppose I’ll write here. As an analyst I Am very confused about some of your writings. The Animus is the archetype of reason and spirit in women. Why so much about you and the anima? You hardly mention the animus.

          • sundari says:

            Yes, at this stage I am focusing on the divine feminine in both women and men – as this is what I am guided to do in the moment. In the future, if so guided, I might write on animus, but for now I want to explore the divine feminine:).

          • G. says:

            I think the mistake here is perhaps you’re not completely familiar with Jung. I found a writing that expounds on this. I find it most illuminating. “The anima in Jungian theory is the unconscious image of ‘woman’ in the mind of men. Jung, however, does admit, albeit briefly and with very little elaboration, that women also have an anima, or an anima-like archetype. This he calls the Kore, and when it manifests in men it is the anima; when it is observed in women it is the “supraordinate personality” (Jung, 1951, p.183) Jung is using the word ‘man’ here in its inclusive sense, that is to mean ‘humanity’ or ‘human kind’, so obviously, the “supraordinate personality” is also woman as she really is, the whole personality, not just the ego, and it manifests as the Kore, or an anima-like archetype, which takes the same forms as the anima in mythology and religion. So the soul of a woman is the Kore, or anima, not the animus, the counterpart of the male anima. No wonder women’s creativity and religious expression have exploded into a plethora of female images.”

          • sundari says:

            Hi G. I am familiar with Jung’s writing on animus and anima and how they changed and developed over the time as I studied them and love their insights. This is a nice passage so thank you. However, although I use some of Jungian concepts I apply them differently. I focus on the divine feminine ad Its expression in the world and in both genders as a means of creating balance in awareness – which may or may not be orthodox from the Jungian point of view. Indeed, Jung himself disliked all forms of orthodoxy and continuously developed his writings. He preferred exploration rather than theory (one of the many things that separated him from Freud). And this is what I am doing here – exploring the divine feminine in all the guises that I find interesting and share them with others – that is why I called the blog – Goddess News. Thank you for your comment.

          • G. says:

            Actually I’m not an absolute follower of Jung. I suppose our paths just differ. I’m looking for totality and balance between the feminine and male archetypes. As you said Jung taught to question, so I think I’m working out things by questioning your drives and why you’re so involved with the goddess. We are so different yet the same. One thing I do know is that no human woman is a goddess, that is a great failing of most of men. Neither am I or any man a god, but the soul is eternal. Oh our egos…I admire your bravery, for what I truly think I could only say one on one with great care not to hurt the other person.

          • sundari says:

            The answer is simple. I am exploring the goddess in spirituality because organised religions either tried to supress her or misrepresented her – so I am exploring her to give her a voice which is not mitigated by powers at hand. That is the intention and sharing it through the Goddess News blog is a part of the fun. So is having varied opinions and comments. Thank you for your contribution and looking forward to your contribution to future blogs :).

  5. G. says:

    Fantastic!

  6. Jason says:

    What an amazing blog! I love all your blogs! So illuminating!!!! Press on!

  7. Jason says:

    When we open ourselves so bravely to others, we risk being judged, but the soul can handle it!

  8. Rmplstlskn says:

    Thank you for the education and helping me understand what I recently experienced on a introductory level… The Divine created us to be divine, and sexuality is a key element of our being. It opens connections that others use natural substances to enter and experience, yet sexuality is already within us to experience this connection purely. I am glad the Universe guided me here, or open the synchronicity. I am feeling the love. Thanks!

    • sundari says:

      Thank you for your comment 😊. I am glad that we connected on the path. Tantra, for me, is a holistic and embracing teaching as it excludes nothing. Once again, I appreciate your presence here. Sending love, Joanna

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