Tantra Yoga: What’s Sex Got To Do With It? – Part 2: Hatha Yoga, Sex Rituals and Tantra’s Shadow

(Continued from Hatha and Tantra Yoga)

 

I love the descriptions of Tantra by the widely respected yogic scholar Georg Feuerstein who penned one of my favorite books, “Yoga: The Technology of Ecstasy”. For those of you who have seen me perform my song “Yoga In the Nightclub” in my current show “Natamba” (and if you have not yet, please come out!) you know that I use elements of the following quote from Dr. Feuerstein in my extended version of the house music track:

 

“What Tantric masters aspired to was to create a transubstantiated body, which they called adamantine (vajra) or divine (daiva) – a body not made of flesh but of immortal substance, of Light. Instead of regarding the body as a meat tube doomed to fall prey to sickness and death, they viewed it as a dwelling-place of the Divine and as the caldron for accomplishing spiritual perfection. For them, enlightenment was a whole body event.”

 

As such, the body is more akin to place of alchemy, a caldron to transform the base metals of crude desires into the gold of spiritual perfection. Tantra was not an endorsement of bestiality and debauchery, but a highly ritualized practice that keenly witnessed the nature of desire and a fiercely confronted it at its root in order to use its powerful charge to fuel the fires of inner transformation. Tantra was not about freely doing what one spontaneously desired, but about developing razor-sharp insight in order to understand the impulses that arose through the body and learning acute discernment as to what those impulses fed. Enlightenment for Tantric practitioners is not an intellectual thing, nor something that is beyond form, but a full body experience.

 

The Yoga Bija celebrates the power that the physical body can provide a spiritual aspirant:

 

“The fire of Yoga gradually bakes the body composed of the seven constituents [such as bone, marrow, blood, etc…]. Even the deities cannot acquire the exceedingly powerful yogic body. The [yogin’s] body is like the ether, even purer than the ether.”

 

The obvious shadow to a practice that embraces the physical as a means to enlightenment, and why Tantra is considered the razor’s edge of the razor’s edge, and by far not for most spiritual practitioners, is that aspirants can easily fall prey to the subtlety of greed, the tricks of desire and the illusions of wanting. Just as modern bodybuilders can become overly attached to their physical form, so too can those who use their body as a vehicle for spiritual transformation start to think that their body and themselves are the divine. We see this often in Hatha Yoga, where the goal of the practice seems not to be the release of attachments to desire, but the cultivation of the best yoga butt in Lululemon pants.

 

It is also easy, I guess, for newspaper reporters to let their imaginations get carried away with the idea of sexuality being integrated into spiritual practice, while forgetting to dig a little deeper to find that in fact only a small sect of Tantric practitioners actually used the physical practice of sexuality in their spiritual pursuits. On the issue of sexual practice, Tantrism split into the Left Hand Path, a group that practiced ritual sex, and the Right Hand Path, a group that understood sexuality more symbolically than physically enacted.

 

The development of Hatha Yoga as part of Tantrism was developed to help support the body’s potential so it could meet the challenges of, and change in concurrence with, spiritual transformation. Spiritual bliss is seen not as a purely mental state, but something that involves the whole body/being. The Hatha Yogi therefore cultivates a body of light that is both metaphorically and actually baked in the heat of transformation, and ultimately freed of all notions of separation and desire.

 

As a warning to this shadow of attachments to the body and desire, and an admonition that body-practice alone is not the goal of yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, considered the most popular manual for this path, clearly states: “All means of Hatha [Yoga] are for [reaching] perfection in Raja-Yoga. A person rooted in Raja-Yoga [truly] conquers death.” (IV.102)

 

Even the purified body of the Hatha Yogis is subject to the laws of nature and will eventually pass. If one is a true yogi, one must be rooted in Raja Yoga, that is, yoga that brings aspirants to the goal of full realization, seeing Hatha Yoga as a part of such, but not an end goal in itself.

 

(Continued tomorrow with The Catch: Tantra’s Sex Appeal and the Need for a Guru)

 

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WHY YOGA IN THE NIGHTCLUB

I am often asked what inspired me to bring yogic expression into the club scene. I answer easily. Yoga In the Nightclub is a natural expression of who I am as a musical artist and dedicated yogini. Yoga is not a physical practice but a way of life. It is about learning to be present in all one does, to see the divine here, now, in this moment. As such, yoga is everywhere. It is about feeling connected to something much greater than our limited ego or will. It is about being in service to life, feeling interconnected to that very life force. Yoga In The Nightclub is a celebration of life and a reminder that we can find awakened presence everywhere.

Yoga in the West is mostly known as a series of bendy physical exercises. Yet there is much more to it than fitness. Yoga’s systematic breath and body exercises, designed to clear the subtle channels in our energy system, prepare us for meditation, through which we may experience a life inspired by our interconnected, multidimensional true nature. Our body, that once was seen as “mine”, is no longer our identity, but a gift on loan from the divine. We care for it, but we are not attached to it. The practice of yoga offers us the opportunity to experience the transmutation of matter into pure light, embody the multidimensional and rest in the eternal.

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

Hatha yoga, the physical practice of yoga, is just one of many aspects of yoga, which range from selfless service to astrology and prayer. The Sanskrit word “yoga” most simply translates to “union”, implying that the practice of any yoga will bring together our perceived sense of separateness. As a whole, yoga is an ancient science of life. It is a practical method of shedding excess and bringing us back from the self-delusion of separation from the divine so that we may realize our inherent interconnection to and ultimate oneness with it.

As we begin to understand that yoga is everywhere, we come to see how we are all connected in vast ways far beyond the limitations of our personal will and ego. What I do affects you, and vice versa. We are one earth family. At the heart of it all, we share the same heartbeat. Breathe to be. We are one.

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AWAKENED LIVING

When we are open, life blossoms, just as a flower opens to welcome the morning sun.  We see that the sun, though it is millions of light years away, has a tender yet powerful relationship with the flower, as do the rain and the clouds. From this perspective we see that we are part of the whole. Life is a symphonic masterpiece with which, when we are open, we are completely resonant.

As we come to understand our oneness, we can revel in it with wonder and joy. We can consider in awe how immense it all is. We can let go of the idea that an illusory, isolated sense of self could possibly be in control, and open to an exquisite unfolding of life in absolute perfection. Our actions become not about “me” but about the whole. Each moment is integrated within the whole. No one decision is separate.

When we begin to see that each decision we make affects not just ourselves but everyone and everything on the planet, we act with more compassion. When we have more compassion, we realize the impact of our actions and we naturally want less and practice more kindness. As stewards of the Earth, we each are called to learn to live in harmony with ourselves, each other and our planet. We all breathe the same air and live on the same living organism, our planet. Varied in race and creed, we are all one family, children of the same mother, the planet Earth.

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THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GRACE

In each moment, there is infinite grace. By becoming more conscious as we practice yoga on the mat, at work, at play or in the nightclub, we let go of the unnecessary and develop greater internal spaciousness which blooms throughout our lives. In this space new life and possibilities arise.

As we rest our awareness on the simple purity and grace of the breath, we realize - we are alive! We let go of wanting things from the future and the past and open to what is here and now. We feel as vast as the sky and rooted in the richness of this moment.

When we “breathe to be”, we understand our interconnection. We see that we are not the doers but a part of the whole, the same energy that is in the flowers and in the stars. We know that our essence is divine - from which we have come, to which we return.

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Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gone, gone beyond. Oh what awakening!
Gone, gone beyond. Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
I am the light, liquid gold light
I am in delight! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

I am the light (gate gate), liquid gold light (paragate)
I am in delight (gate gate) transforming the night (paragate)

Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Oh what awakening! (paragate) (I am)
Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight
I am light, dancing through the night
I am light, in delight
I am light, dancing through the night

I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (gate gate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (paragate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light

I am light!

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