Thursday, November 26, 2009
Gender in Tantra
Females make for good Tantrics and are naturally suited for the path. This is particularly a true view for Shaktas, as woman are seen as the embodied form of Shakti. The Tantra marga deals with the embodying and interacting qualities of manifest existence, so females can use their strengths and natural tendencies for spiritual "gain". Many spiritual paths endeavor to quell the feminine energies in favor of the more "solid", cool, and dispassionate approach. While these qualities may need to be present to some extent in a sadhak of either gender, the strict conformity to these principles is often a disempowering agenda which works against the sadhak. The fluidity, heat, and passion of the feminine energy is seen from the Tantric perspective as great power and the potential means of liberation. With any energetic "form", one seeks to express the enlightened aspect of the energy, rather then being content with the energy stuck in a bound and attached pattern. The female sadhak who invites the presence of the Goddess and "allows" the natural energy to conform to that presence can become an accomplished Tantric in short order.
One of the problems with some of the presentation of the Goddess tradition in the west, is that the Devi seems to be used to empower "concepts" of femininity (rather then the true power inherent). This means that there is an empowerment of identity. We do not begrudge self improvement, confidence building, and self empowerment from females, but one is missing a whole level of power and liberation if the "interaction" remains on these limited terms. I hardly ever use one type of writing approach that is seen elsewhere, whereby one says/describes what a Deity "means" or what that energy is expressing. For one, this type of discussion tends to "un-real" that particular presence and make it into a logically explained (and human centric) archetype. Moreover, to conceptualize some energy tends to limit the expression or what one is "willing" to accept. All this is to say, that the female should allow the Goddess to empower the Goddess (in/AS the female sadhak), rather then seeking some individuated (Gender conceptualized/limiting) empowerment. One who proceeds letting experience inform the conception does not limit themselves.
Tantra allows for the energies of both males and females to be used and expressed. There is some confusion regarding "masculine energy" because the word is largely an oxymoron. Energy is Shakti (the feminine principle), so it is really only the energy "filter" that differentiates. It seems that females sometimes are turned away from the Tantric path because they may see it expressed by a male and assume that it is involves a lot of "masculine energy" (bravado, rough, aggressive etc.). What is often not realized, is that the same principles that "allow" these qualities to be utilized by male sadhaks would be the principles that "allow" for the feminine qualities to be utilized. Therefore, male presentation/expression is in no way a "model" for how the path will be or be expressed for a female sadhak. Indeed, any form of expressing is not a model for any potential sadhak regardless of gender.
Within India, very few females will identify as a Tantric. There is some stigma attached to the path for males and this is intensified for females. Many females that I've met who are intimately involved in Tantra will not identify with the word. Many will use the guise of a Bhakta, while others will present as a bhor (female who get "possessed" by the Goddess). Within the west countries there is also some concern from females because of certain aspects of the path. Woman are not concerned with any stigma, but are concerned that they would be required to be involved in rituals/situations that they would find uncomfortable. It should be made absolutely clear that female sadhaks are NEVER required (pressured etc.) to engage in any way that they do not want. Also, it should be noted that a female is fully capable of being a Tantric sadhak without being a Bhairavi/Shakti (engaged with a male Tantric). Being a female tantric and being a Bhairavi are different things. Female Tantrics who engage with males do so as choice and are not required to do so (either by other or the dictates of the path). It is not a requirement that males or females do rituals with the other sex, and many sadhaks proceed without those type of rituals. Until one can properly internalize the mudra of union within, any ritual action of union will lack the intent and power anyway.
Men and Women both have the qualities of Shiva and Shakti within, and it is only the predominance of the aspect which differs. The sadhak should reach an inner accord (union) with the principles. The "art" of Tantra is to create the proper union of these resonant aspects. Much like an guitar, the union is the "string" in proper note, the subtle "adjustment" of "too loose" and "too tight" is the creation of the embodied expression of this mudra. There are several mudras contained within the union. One can "BE" Shakti united with Shiva, Shiva united with Shakti, or the union as ONE whole. One shouldn't be limited by physical gender as it applies to these "postures". Shakti is the perspective of Energy, while Shiva represents the undifferentiated Awareness. The meditative view of liberated Shakti states "I am ALL" and the liberated view of Shiva states "I am untouched and none of it". Realizing these views (tacitly) at the same time is a thing of profound beauty.
Relationship between a man and woman on the path can be a great support. The partner serves as a source of power and inspiration, and a great mutual "gift" is given/received. The "strengths" of each partner are empowered, while the "weaknesses"/afflictions are tempered (or a "weakness" is empowered). A couple sitting together in the Tantric work is a powerful and radically profound kriya. Relationship should always serve the people in relation or else it leads to bitterness. A woman should give energy and power to a man, and a man should give awareness and clarity to the woman. These are the mutual gifts of the relation (in spirit). In popular culture (maybe based on facts of our times), relationship is portrayed as the opposite of this. The man gets disempowered by the woman and becomes timid and weak (looses confidence). While the woman becomes dissatisfied, frantic and aimless (i.e. doesn't gain the peace or "solidness" of awareness). In both cases the partner is portrayed as bitter (which is the truth of such interaction). In a good relation, the aforementioned (end previous paragraph) liberated perspectives can be shared and assimilated in the enlightened relationship. The sadhaks can help each other grow, and while the relation helps realize a "completeness", it becomes a "completeness" that is recognized in ONE. (This means that there is not a dependency of this type of realization, as the perspective becomes whole in each partner.)
In true relation, the partner see's the divine quality in the other. The female see's Shiva in the male, and the male she's Shakti in the female. For Tantrics, this becomes an actuality (via sadhana and will) and the life is it's divine expression. Just to have somebody "view" you in divine (i.e. True) terms can have a great impact on how one perceives oneself. If you doubt this, then please observe how you feel after being with people who don't have a good view of you (or a unwavering view that is not in accord with you) vs. being with those who have a good opinion (or enlightened "opinion"). If one is manifesting a principle and "another" awareness profoundly acknowledges that principle, then the "view" solidifies quickly. Sadhaks may take the divine view to embodied conclusions and perform the puja of the Devata on/to the partner.
Tantric Gurus enjoy working with females because they are easier to move and more supple. While females can be moved, the challenge is getting them solid/grounded in "where" they are moved. If they don't come solid, then they become "space cadets" and the divine energy lack direction/control. Males have a giant wall which is named "PRIDE", which the teacher has to navigate around. The challenge often for males is for them to "open" and release the grip dictated by self importance. Each gender can be generalized to have a major challenge, and for men it is pride and for women it is pettiness. (Of course, men can be petty and women prideful). These challenges when liberated become the strength of each, as the challenges are presented from the perspective of Shiva and Shakti. The Shakti is engaged with manifestation (IS manifestation), so females tend to be more engaged. When there is ignorance present, then this can lead to pettiness. The view of Shiva is untouched by manifestation (detached), but when there is ignorance present, the view can lead to arrogance and self importance. When the view of Shakti is liberated (i.e. the afflicted ignorant view is seen through), the the view IS the manifest quality (rather then closely engaging with it) and the expression can be nothing but Oneness, unconditional love and compassion. When the view of Shiva is liberated, the view becomes "Divine Pride" which in truly untouched and see's everything in this great Awareness.
Overall, the Tantric path is optimistic when regarding any attachment or energy pattern. This is because it is all regarded just as energy (or potentially liberated energy). We (in our ignorance and attachment) place the "story" on the energy. The path doesn't ask people to become "other" then what they are (in "real" terms), and the liberated energy (no matter how it's defined) becomes the fuel on the path. In many paths, one is often told to do works which aim to temper the predominant "traits", so one works in the direction opposite their energy patterns. This is a safe route and produces rounded people. In the Vira Tantric approach, one tends to go directly into the main traits and energy patterns and transmutes them.
Contained within the male in the prominent white bindu, and within the female is the red bindu. May these seeds mix, unite, and rise in great bliss and freedom. You are Shiva and Shakti. You are beyond male or female. You are a male or female. Isn't it wonderful!