12 Responses to Tantric Ritual: the Goddess gap?

  1. Ian Robinson says:

    WOW Sundari! Thanks for this terrific insight (introduction) to the Tantra. Great reading… but what is the name of the novel you refer to? (And is it available?)

    • sundari says:

      Thank you Ian. It is a strange and fascinating topic, is it not? It took me years to get to the bottom of it. Phew! The name of the novel is the House of the Beloved and am still looking for a friendly and intelligent publisher for it :).

  2. Linda McLeod says:

    I think you ask a very pertinent question, the ritual as described does appear to condone a lack of empowerment for the feminine. I wonder at the separation of heart emotion that appears to be required, as it occurs naturally when there is a soul connection manifested through a bodily communion. If the objective is to experience true devotion to the divine feminine and an encompassing union of the whole (Shiva & Shakti), then surely the emotional (heart) connection which is the spark that fires life itself must be honoured.

    • sundari says:

      Thank you Linda for your intelligent comment. It is an interesting take on the connection of the emotions and mind. Indeed, during the ritual emotional detachment is prescribed – not an easy thing in these circumstances – it is necessary to focus on the spiritual and thus transcendent. But perhaps in this way, the detachment is also directed at the well- being of a woman who provided him with that transcendent experience? I think that if a woman willingly participates in the ritual – then they both benefit from the experience – and it can be a magnificent tool. But in medieval India and any time before modern times – it seems apparent and unfair that women would have to deal with consequences of that ritual. So what was originally worship – the ability to create Life in women – became a burden for women involved in the ritual while men could ‘spiritually’ detached from consequences. So, again, I believe that the ritual can’t claim to worship the Feminine Divine when it is still controlled by male hierarchy of priest but it can be a wonderful tool when women invited do so willingly and have the means of avoiding biological consequences. Linda, I am so grateful for your always insightful and intelligent comments. Sending love, Joanna

  3. Chandralekha says:

    As in everything, I believe it’s personal. A ritualized sex act is perfect fodder for taking advantage of another, while the idea of sexuality as a vehicle to access the Divine is true.

    Women have been taken advantage of for most of history. Even now, there is intense misogyny, certainly in the US! It’s deeply entrenched in our cells, it seems. Even women hate themselves.

    Tantra is a tool, like a knife. You can use a knife to make delicious food, or to build your home and a fire, OR you could kill. The problem is not in the tool, it’s in the user and the motivation.

    The trouble is that the more powerful the tool, the easier it is to abuse or to fool yourself that you are are cool. And sexuality is a very powerful energy. The creative force. Handle with care!

    Or use it to access the Divine in the most true, holistic, and powerful way possible.

    Each person must trust their own discrimination and constantly practice self-inquiry to see if their travels are deluded or wise. Feelings will reveal all, as they communicate in the present. This is the realm where truly truth and kindness balance, love and intellect balance…

    • sundari says:

      Chandralekha – so good to hear from you! I could not agree more with you on both points.
      Indeed, the charm, wisdom and controversy about Tantra has to do with its unorthodox approach which includes sexuality. I think it is one of two my favourite ‘philosophies’ and I am endlessly fascinated by it. But like everything powerful it does have a double edge and I think the key to it was already given in the description of the preparation for the ritual – the cleansing of intention through mantras to the Goddess. Or self-inquiry as you pointed out which basically asks you to examine why you are doing this. Sexuality and spirituality – put both together (I love this connection in Tantra) can also be powerful tools for delusion. However, I think that the ritual by itself is a wonderful tool for the expansion of consciousness if both (or all) participants have a clear intention and are involved willingly in this exploration. So I think that the problem lies that in medieval India it was controlled by male hierarchy and I just hope that women were not left ‘hanging’ after the ritual and paid the price for their biology, so to speak. Thank you for your wonderful comment. Sending love, Joanna

  4. Chandralekha says:

    One more comment is that “scripture” is written in the past and has to reflect that time. A lot can be progessive and ahead of its time, but it is usually not without baggage. Same with ritual.
    Scripture cannot have the level of consciousness as the embodied scripture – the enlivened scripture – which is the living Guru.

    • sundari says:

      Chandralekha – you, touched, again, upon a very important topic: the times when the scripture, indeed any scripture was written. The scripture carries the Divine Wisdom in it, I have no doubt, but the times and culture at the time, affects all sacred scriptures. I often ask myself the same question when I study the origins of Christian scripture. For example, what did Jesus really say and what is an addition by the people of the times and their limited understanding of what was said. The same applies to Tantra, I believe, there is great and profound Wisdom on which there was also imposed the misogyny of the times. But, even this is not certain, as perhaps women were involved willingly – although I can’t help to wonder especially when women of lower casts were brought to participate in a ritual? So happy you have joined this conversation Chandralekha – I love your comments and understanding. Sending love, Joanna

  5. Lilette says:

    Thank you for this very insightful blog Joanna. I can see how some “gurus” in positions of power would take advantage of women with this ritual under the pretense that it is sacred. This ritual seems to disempower women. I understand the intention is pure but in our current society and mindset it’s hard to imagine this ritual being performed with the purest and sacred intentions. A good point about the women who have to live with the consequences of possible pregnancies. Do the men absolve themselves of any responsibilities and perform this ritual only for their pleasure?

    • sundari says:

      Lilette, it is wonderful to have you in this conversation and Thank you! Yes, this was on my mind quite a while and I have been processing it internally and turning it in my head, heart and soul – but the original questions remained. Yes, I completely honour the ritual and yes it can be a wonderful tool. But Tantra in its pure form – not in the solely physical form as often taken by the West – has been called a ‘dangerous path’ and only those with pure intent could walk it without a delusion. And I agree that it can be a very questionable practice when it is in the hands of men in power elevated by their status as Brahmins or gurus – because who can really check an internal intent? It is also very prone to delusion that ends in using women sexually for the purpose of worshiping of the Goddess. Ironic really. I tend to believe that for this to work as originally intended, it needs to be done not only with mutual consent but also with two people at the same level of ‘power’. Two equal practitioners so there is no question of any coercion. And both need to be highly attained – so they know what is at stake. Thank you for your wonderful comment.

  6. Jason says:

    When I went to India the men there went to the temple to worship the goddess symbolically, then went home and made love to their wives. I found that most interesting. Of course the fundamentalists as in all places take it lieterally and sleep with temple prostitutes, most distasteful. The eminent Jungian Robert A. Johnson writes: man has two treasures, his inner goddes, the anima and his wife, the projected anima. Beautiful!

    • sundari says:

      Thank you for your comment Jason. Yes, this is a bizarre phenomenon – the temple prostitutes. It seems like a hypocritical anachronism – to worship the inner goddess but demean women ‘ritualistically’. I understand the premise of the ritual as radical but I agree with you that unless both parties agree to participate in it with clear intent and without coercion – it appears to be a sad and ironic anachronism.

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