There are basically two broad currents in the religious histories of India, Tibet and the Far East. One is the orthodox, doctrinal and literary tradition of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. The other stream is known as Tantra.
Tantrism consists of a vast religious literature that uses the basic metaphysical tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism, but whose origin is independent of any one system. It consists mainly of practices and techniques as opposed to philosophical speculation that had been used by yogis, ascetics, and spiritual aspirants in the East from the earliest times. The subject matter of the Tantras consists of yoga, rituals, medicinal practices, magic, and most important of all, mantra yoga.
The Tantras date from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries. They deal with ritualistic worship, magical and sacramental formulas, mystical letters and diagrams. On the higher level of Tantra, the pure form, the aim is union with God, and specifically with the Divine Mother. On the lower level, it is used for the success in love or business, avoidance of disease, revenge upon enemies and the indulgence of lust.
Tantra is found in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Its purpose is to return the seeker to his true identity, which is oneness with Ultimate Reality. Among the famous adepts of Tantra are the Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna and the Tibetan Buddha Padma Sambhava. According to Tantra, the divine cosmic energy, Shakti, is present in human beings as well as in the cosmos. She is called Kundalini and is found coiled like a serpent in the lowest chakra of the subtle body of man. Through spiritual exercises that include mantra, prayer, meditation, Tantric yogis arouse the Kundalini.
Tantra prescribes several paths for the awakening of the Kundalini. One of these is called the Left-Handed Path and promotes ritual sexual practices. The aspirant is advised to engage in five activities that will prove his ability to conquer desire: the consuming of cereals, fish, meat, wine and the practice of sexual union.
Tantrists who follow this path say there are three types of people: animal, heroic and divine. The man of “animal” disposition earns his merit or demerit in life through his worldly activities. He does not even practice tantra. He is still in the grip of his passions. The aspirant of “heroic” disposition is described as one who has the inner strength to dissolve his karmic ties by literally “playing with fire.” He is advised to physically engage in these five practices. The third type of seeker is the one of “divine” disposition who has no desires left to sublimate. He does not need to engage in the five practices.
The ascended masters say that this is a false teaching. El Morya says that under no circumstance does a spiritual seeker need physical sexual union in order to make spiritual progress. In fact, many of the yogis who use Left-Handed Tantra are not working for spiritual progress at all. Their goal is personal power.
The Right-Handed Tantric teaching does not include engaging physically in the five practices. It teaches that the aspirant should raise the light of the Mother (the Kundalini) through restraining all inordinate desire. This includes sexual continence.
Some scholars believe that Left-Handed Tantra is based on a misinterpretation of the symbolic language used in ancient texts. W. Y. Evans-Wentz quotes Arthur Avalon explaining the symbolic meaning of the five “sacramental elements.” He writes: “‘Wine’ is said to be ‘that intoxicating knowledge acquired by yoga of the Parabrahman.’... Meat ... is not any fleshly thing, but the act whereby the ... [devotee] consigns all his acts to [God].... Fish is that [pure] knowledge by which ... the worshiper sympathizes with the pleasure and pain of all beings. [Cereal] is the act of relinquishing all association with evil which results in bondage; and [sexual union] is the union of the Shakti Kundalini with Shiva in the body of the worshiper.” Evans-Wentz concludes: “The use of all these elements is sacramental and their abuse is sacrilege.”
The use of sexual imagery to illustrate doctrine
Both Hindu and Tibetan tantric texts use sexual language to illustrate their doctrines. Tibetans call the female principle wisdom. Will is seen as the male principle. For the highest realization, there must be complete union between the two. Lama Govinda explains that sexual symbolism was “a kind of secret language, in which very often the highest was clothed in the form of the lowest, the most sacred in the form of the most ordinary.... It was not only a language for initiates, but a kind of shock-therapy which had become necessary on account of the over-intellectualization of the religious and philosophical life of those times.... The siddhas [perfected ones, such as Padma Sambhava] were revolutionaries against the self-complacency of a sheltered monastic existence that had lost contact with the realities of life.”
Lama Govinda explains that when Tibetan art and literature portrays Buddhas and their consorts in sexual union, it is not portraying them as human beings but “as embodying the experiences and visions of meditation.” Govinda says that the polarity of male and female principles in Tantra “is raised upon a plane which is as far away from the sphere of mere sexuality as is the mathematical juxtaposition of positive and negative signs.”
Lama Govinda cites a passage of Buddhist scripture which says that Padma Sambhava destroyed a king and his subjects and “took all their women to himself in order to purify them and to make them mothers of religious-minded children.” This does not mean that he had sexual intercourse with the women. Lama Govinda explains that the text was describing Padma Sambhava’s inner struggle with the forces of evil and that “the ‘recognition’ of the female principles in the process of inner integration consisted in the unification of the two sides of his nature, namely, the male principle of activity and the female principle of wisdom. In other words, instead of seeking union with a woman [or man] outside of ourselves, we have to seek it ultimately within ourselves by the union of our male and female natures in the process of meditation.”
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, September 13, 1980.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, June 10, 1974.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, July 2, 1992.
- W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Introduction to The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 32, 33.
- Lama Anagarika Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism (Boston: WeiserBooks, 1969), pp. 99–100.
- Ibid., p. 100.
- Ibid., p. 102.