Tantric “Sluts” or Living Goddesses: Why it Matters

Greetings from Arunachala!
As many of you must know by now, the inspiration for my novel — Whip of the Wild God: A Novel of Tantra in Ancient India – partly drew from my growing awareness that what I was studying of Tantra — in its pure form — as a means of exploding consciousness, from finite to infinite, with techniques open to both celibates as well as to couples – had degenerated into a circus that does a terrible disservice to the initial purity and power of this ancient philosophy of liberation. And the beat goes on — I still meet people who flinch at the very mention of Tantra/Tantriks/Tantrikas — so here is a blog post you might like to read…and comment upon.

body divine yoga

With recent media revelations about ritual sex, nude yoga and “yogasms” – sex has become a hot topic in the yoga world. Well, in honour of Women’s History Month, I’m joining the fray. Because let’s face it, nothing is more juicy or salacious than the forgotten high priestesses of sex, the “debauched” yoginis of Tantra.

While much conventional scholarship has designated these women as low-caste “sluts” exploited for ritual purposes, religious scholar Miranda Shaw has unearthed a very different history. Her book Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism claims these women were no mere ‘consorts’ but powerful gurus once held “in awe, reverence and obeisance”.

Her book is a biographic treasure trove of Tantric women teachers spanning the Pala Period of India (8th -13th centuries). According to Shaw, their writings and teachings were pivotal to the “central feature of one of most brilliant flowerings of Indian civilization”. So why are their…

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10 thoughts on “Tantric “Sluts” or Living Goddesses: Why it Matters

  1. Mira,

    I learn Tantric chanting and ritual from a Tantrik from Orissa. He is first a dancer and worhsipper of Mother but is non-dual in his teaching.

    He emphasises that emotion is a means of awakening through love of Mother and the world is not to be shunned but enjoyed in moderation, including sex.

    He said the physical rituals involving sex are not be rejected, though he prefers the rituals that do not involve physical sex as he says it all allegorical.

    Blessings and love,

    James

  2. Rich comment, James — i think I am at the stage that your Tantrik friend describes — while whatever path we may choose is valid for who we are at certain point/ in our lives, i also see the grave pitfalls of attempting a Tantric relationship with another unless you are reasonably sure that you and your partner are on the same wavelength and share the same higher values…otherwise, oftentimes, disaster!

  3. This is a fascinating take on the modern permutations of Yoga. Like everything else that gets subjected to re-interpretation through the ages, yoga, to be blunt, is getting bastardized by modern ‘takes’ on the ancient science. If you want the real deal, real Master Sivaananda’s library of books. Yes… the language may be dated but the teaching is pure and quite direct. All of these interpretations of Tantric Yoga, this “Yoga” and that “Yoga” are lame attempts to ‘update’ the ancient science and philosophy based on the ancient Vedas and Upanishads. If modern “seekers” cannot grok what is being disseminated, that is their problem, but to re-interpret the ancient scriptures, and teachers is a bogus attempt to ‘legitimize’ Yoga for modern times. Even that “hot yogi” Bikram is off the mark to me. Who says you have to be “hot” to do Yoga? In conclusion, it is true that the Buddha himself embarked on the path to Enlightenment by starving and denying himself only to discover that he had to moderate his approach to attain Nirvana. So, yes, there are limits to the tapas one must endure in order to progress on the spiritual path. Taking a “30 or 60- Day Challenge” to show your prowess may be just a way to pump up the ego.

  4. Excellent insights as usual, Dave — and so good to hear from you again…hope all is going well. It is getting very hot here — talking of Bikram and his money-making methods – hahaha — yes, there will always be “spiritual entrepreneurs” jumping on the ancient gravy train to make a quick or slow buck…lots of it happening here too — and people as usual falling for it — because they don’t take the trouble to conduct their own searing investigations. Me and my big mouth gets me into a lot of trouble – praying for it to be stilled so I can focus only on my own path. Intellect alone is far from enough on this inner path…..we need the grace to be humble, and to keep learning, until we don’t need to learn any more – because we are fused with the One. Much love, Mira

    • Thank you, too, Mira, for your openness, and keen insight. Your blogs stimulate what’s left of my spiritual life. Then again, perhaps we all have to adjust our course; relax; just express; and immerse ourselves in life for awhile in order to ‘be real.’ I hope you are doing well, my spiritual sister!

    • Amen to that, Sister! Thank you for all you do to give me pause. It really does remind me of our Source, and helps to keep the flame alive. I still have an inherent trust in the Divine, and feel God’s blessings in my life. God is indeed good!

  5. Dear Mira,
    I read all this with a smile on my lips, because whenever a discussions about Tantra occur, sex is always the first and last thought as we’re talking about the Kama Sutra. That’s why I try to explain the meaning of the word Tantra – thread, a thread that has no beginning or end, the thread that leads us through the practice on the path to enlightenment. Our first Tantric step is taking Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and few Westerners in the “pacing” come up to the level of pure Tantric practices, and, if necessary, Karma Mudra.
    Lot of love,
    Gordana

  6. Yes, Gordana, it is unfortunate but true that most of the relative world equates tantra with sex – and are shocked when you tell them that spiritual masters like the Dalai Lama and so many other great gurus are/were celibate tantrics. For me i always use the definition of Tantra that means the explosion of consciousness — from relative (mini-me) to Absolute (the Self). Just the other day some guy who had read my book asked me if i would teach him Tantra — and you can imagine what he was really asking for!~ I told him I write about enlightenment, and that if he really wanted to learn about Tantra, there was plenty of material and others teachers who would be most willing to take his money and everything else — but not I. That’s the way it goes….sigh….

  7. TANTRA , in my knowledge ,its the” WILL” to experience ,life or soul or world or a thing which is not from this world but u can experience it right here

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