Tantra is about cultivating the beautiful, it is about cultivating balance in our lives. In practising Tantra we become and surround ourselves with the beautiful. We cultivate beautiful bodies, hearts, minds and surroundings. That is the essence of this book.
The Tantra within this book is, as Tantra always has been, unapologetically syncretistic. Specifically there are Theravadin Buddhist elements, for although Theravada in the West is stiflingly conservative, there are meditations and teachings in it that are very deep, powerful and beautiful and it is these that I use.
The Five and Eight Trainings of Theravada Buddhism are, I feel useful in a Tantric context. Periods of celibacy do have a place in Tantra. If you want to experience the full force of sexual energy then engage in celibacy. About a week in and you will be well and truly aware that there is a lot of heat and energy in the vicinity of your crotch. And when the time for celibacy ends the discharge of energy will lead to some awesome moments. I think that unless you are asexual, that withdrawing from all sexual activity for years at a stretch is not particularly healthy. The exception to this I will concede is in the pursuit of a very specific goal. Enlightenment qualifies as just such a goal. Even then the monastic’s end up with all sorts of health issues that in all likelihood are derived in part from pent up sexual energy.
There are Hindu elements in my practice in the form of yoga, and worship of Ganesh. There is also a significant modern Western element, particularly when it comes to illustrating the teachings. The Tantra in this book is also unapologetically positive and gentle, my practice for the last 25 years has been based on what are called the Divine Abidings, these are Metta (Loving-kindness), Karuna (Compassion), Mudita (Sympathetic Joy) and Upekkha (Equanimity) and if something has worked for this long, I’m not about to change.
If anything, I more than likely leaning towards an ascetic interpretation of Tantra in that hedonism doesn’t really work for me. The overindulgence in food and alcohol messes with my metabolism and at any rate, runs counter to the Core Teaching of cultivating the beautiful.
There is no clergy here, there is no one separating you from The Divine or insisting that their interpretation of it is the only valid interpretation. The only valid interpretation is the one that has meaning for you.
I like my rules (I have high functioning Aspergers Syndrome) so the No Rules approach of NeoTantra doesn’t work for me, and I believe anyone else. The reason why religions have rules is to provide a framework so that the practitioner doesn’t get lost in their own preferences, and orgiastic behaviour in the form of excessive consumption of alcohol, meat and drugs doesn’t appeal to me. Consumption of high quality alcohol in moderation is something I do like. Getting intoxicated to the point where I’m no longer in control or able to function sexually on the other hand is simply not me.
Group sex is something I do enjoy. Certainly there is room for Swinging and Polyamory in Tantra. Because Tantra is sexual in nature, and it is the role of sex in worship that defines Tantra as a path there is no guilt in regards to sexual expression, so long as it doesn’t fall into what is accepted by all as being criminal in nature.
Sex is such a powerful and fundamental energy that I think that to refuse to use it in our spiritual lives seems simply stupid.
You will find that what is presented in this book is coherent and mutually supportive. There is nothing left out on a limb. Meditation is supported by exercise and diet, exercise and diet are supported by the Five Trainings, the Five Trainings are supported by the Core Teachings, which in turn support the meditation. There is an interconnectedness similar to a spiders web, everything here supports and is connected to everything else.
Perhaps what sets this book apart is the use of the Sufi Rumi and his teachings as part of the Core Teachings. Rumi, in my opinion at least, was a Metta adept. If I was ever to embrace a Guru, Rumi would be him. Rumi is all about Love and at times it is hard to distinguish whether he is talking about a Love of The Divine or a person. Because Rumi was Muslim, The Divine for him is masculine, however there are enough verses where Rumi addresses or talks about the Beloved, for The Divine to possess an androgynous nature. Rumi may have self identified as Muslim, however his true religion was Love, and this is why I use him in my practice. It is also the first time to my knowledge that Theravadin scriptures and teachings will be used in a Tantric context.
My background in practice is, Theravadin Buddhist. I was deeply involved in almost every aspect of Theravada and spent a fair bit of time in and around hermitages and monasteries for a quarter of a century before essentially running out of room within which to practice. To quote S. Dhammika “Theravada is hostile to all forms of beauty” and as I grew older and my first marriage began to die, I developed a deep interest in beauty. Because of Theravada’s lack of interest in beauty, it is relatively easy to spot both practitioners of Theravada and Tantra in a Buddhist crowd....the Theravadins often dress and look like shit, Tantrics are often stylishly dressed and possessed of gorgeous physiques. Theravadins are often quite threadbare and dour in expression, Tantrics will often glow. This is, in its own way, a shame, for there is a lot of room in Theravada for beauty.
I am a Metta (Loving-kindness) meditator and it is through a desire to deepen my Metta that I came to Tantra. Metta is a powerful meditation and the way that I was wanting to incorporate it into my life simply isn’t supported in Theravada. I wanted to use Metta in pursuing weight loss, diet, parenting and sex, and it is the last activity in particular that Theravada at first balks at, and then gives an emphatic no to. It isn’t particularly comfortable with the use of the first three, but it is the use of sex in our meditation that Theravada emphatically denies. Tantra offered me the path to deepen my Metta practice and use sex as a tool to do so. A way without judgement and without obvious hypocrisy. Too many opinions were being offered by those with too little knowledge of what they were talking about. Once I realised this, the path I had to walk was obvious.
In regards to parenting, it is obvious that celibates have little or no relevant knowledge when it comes to raising a child and in the last year or so of my involvement with Theravada I had met my wife and parenting became very much something I wanted to do. I have found that being a parent has deepened my practice and changed me in ways I could hardly even imagined, let alone having done. The idea of listening to those with limited, if any actual experience of something as profoundly life changing as becoming a parent just seemed absurd. Once again, the monks and nuns who are serious about their practice will actually not offer opinions on parenting and if they see that parenting is actually deepening your practice will be openly happy for you.
And having been very much part of the Theravadin monastic scene, these people are the absolute last people who you should ever consider turning to for relationship advice. And a good monk or nun will tell you this. There are enough sexual hang-ups, and outright dysfunctions in the Theravadin Sangha in the West to keep an Agony Aunt or Psychiatrist gainfully employed to the Big Crunch at the end of the Universe and beyond. Theravada is very much in the head to the point where the body is actively denied, there are no teachings on how a healthy body can empower your Metta practice, let alone use sex to deepen your Metta. In fact one teacher in particular, does so little exercise he has developed Type 2 diabetes. The Golden Age of Western Theravadin Asceticism is stillborn. It isn’t happening and instead the Sangha often lives in more comfort than you do and eats better.
I don’t naturally “do” quiet. I do look at the world from a very different perspective and the very last thing I am is conventional and when I’m happy, I’m loudly, openly happy and when I’m sad.... The Theravada group I belonged to throughout my first marriage simply couldn’t deal with such an unconventional, non-conservative personality. Theravada also likes to be monochromatic, especially in the personalities it wants to attract in the West. The ideal Theravadin is someone who is quiet, dresses and thinks conservatively and is in my opinion a new idea free zone. Theravada responds incredibly badly to experimentation, perhaps because the average age of a person in the West attending a Theravadin group that is not ethnically dominated is in their late 30’s or older. Also the Theravadin Sangha is the better part of 2600 years old, most of us grow more conservative as we age, and the Theravadin Sangha, I fear, is no exception.
Where the Theravadin Sangha is incredibly and valuable is in the very specific area of meditation. In some ways they are the meditative equivalent of free climbers and the very few who literally put everything on the line in their quest for Enlightenment are deeply valuable. There are a few who will talk about their struggles with sexuality and lust, Amma Thanasanti is one. If you are interested in taking your meditation into the bliss states, then these people are the ones to go to.
My ultimate act of trashing Theravadin conservatism was leaving my wife of 20 years for a woman who was respectively 31 years younger than her and 19 years old at the time, my wife wasn’t even half my age, let alone my ex-wife’s. I must hold the distinction of being the only person to have been actively excommunicated from a mainstream Buddhist tradition.
The Buddhist Society of Victoria must have breathed a hearty sigh of relief when I finally took the hint and left. The loud, noisy one and his emotions and weirdness was finally gone...and they could return to their rightful silence and solitude. In the years since I left the Buddhist Society of Victoria it has been repeatedly put to me that I had the misfortune to be involved with a bad crowd. Certainly Theravada in its Asian homelands, with the exception of Sri Lanka, is remarkably open and tolerant. Theravada in Australia, however is prone to intolerance, cliques and more than a little Guru worship. Theravada and the Forest Tradition in particular in the West can be incredibly and irritatingly arrogant and misogynistic. To be different is to invite exclusion. One day when I have the time I would like to research the involvement of people with Aspergers in Theravada.
I departed Theravada and embraced a whole new Dharma, one far more suited to my personality. Tantra gives me to room to be as loud and passionate as I want. The very last thing Tantra has ever been is conservative, and as a result it suits me perfectly.