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Note: For the complete lessons,
with additions, see the AYP
Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living Books.
– Romancing the Stone
Date: September 18, 2009
New Members: It is recommended you read from the beginning of this tantra yoga archive, as
previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "What is tantra yoga?"
Q: I have heard that some of the famous gurus were "tantric"
in their relationship with their chosen ideal, even when their ideal was
represented by an inanimate object like a statue. For example, Ramakrishna
was known to go into frenzies of devotion before the statue of the goddess
Kali, with overtones of erotic passion. How can an inanimate physical object
create such passionate fervor?
A: It is not the physical object itself that creates the passionate fervor,
but the devotion pouring out from the devotee. While the
devotee may appear to be "romancing the stone," it is actually a divine
romance occurring within. This is bhakti of a high intensity, and by
it alone the process of human spiritual transformation can be propelled
The sexual component may be there, depending on the nature of the
relationship of the devotee with his or her ishta (chosen ideal). If it is a
relationship that involves gender polarity, as in the case of Ramakrishna,
the sexual component may be directly stimulated from within, and highly
tantric. This is different from an external sexual relationship, though the
end result will be the same as with any tantric method that goes for
preservation and cultivation of sexual essences (brahmacharya).
The same dynamic can be found operating in the most ecstatic of Christian
nuns throughout history, who regarded themselves
literally to be "brides of Christ."
The sexual component can also be present if there is no particular gender
polarity in the relationship with one’s chosen idea, as may be the case in
the relationship with a father or mother divine figure, a guru (living or
not), or other non-sexual devotional relationship. Because of the spiritual
connectedness throughout the human nervous system, stimulation in the higher
neurobiology can lead to sexual symptoms (erotic arousal) from time to time.
It can be stimulated by non-gender related bhakti, or
other spiritual practices. It is well known that non-sexual practices
like deep meditation and spinal breathing pranayama can result in occasional
sexual arousal. This is the stimulation temporarily
going the other way, from spiritually ecstatic to sexually erotic,
whereas in tantric sex, it goes from erotic to ecstatic. It is all part of
the overall purification and opening occurring in the neurobiology.
This is why accounts can be found in the writings of famous
ascetic saints and sages mentioning sexual
arousal, and sometimes sexual fantasies that may have been quite unwelcome
at the time. Nevertheless, these were stepping stones on the way to
enlightenment, just as the more overt tantric sexual practices are.
The use of physical objects, or idols, is common for stimulating bhakti in
both the East and the West, with or without the sexual component being invoked.
There is no doubt that statues, pictures, and whole landscapes (or
seascapes) can stimulate powerful devotion. Even
the great advaitan, Ramana Maharshi, had his idol: the sacred Arunachala
There is the matter of "holy places," which are the result of devotional
activity by great sages and large numbers of people engaging in pilgrimages
over time. In this case, an inanimate object, place, or
region may provide an energetic lift to anyone who comes near. These
days, with so many spiritual practitioners becoming active around the world,
the entire earth is gradually becoming a holy place. Whenever and wherever
we engage in practices, we are contributing to this global transformation.
There is also the question of idolatry, which has been defined as "the
worship of idols that are not God." What is not God, anyway? As with the
effect an inanimate object may have within a devotee, idolatry is determined
by what is happening inside the person. Is it attachment to the object for a
selfish reason? Or is it devotion and surrender to a chosen ideal? It has
little to do with the object itself. If the love is flowing, if surrender is
happening, then this is not idolatry, even if it is the "romancing" of a
stone image, picture, crucifix, or any other object. It is what is in the
devotee that counts, and there is no requirement or limitation on an object
that may be used as a vehicle for divine union. It is in the heart of the
devotee. In fact, the process of bhakti may eventually be internalized to
where the object of devotion becomes the human nervous system itself, the
temple of God, the kingdom of heaven within. That too can be erotic leading
to divine ecstasy – the joyous ongoing marriage of
the divine poles of stillness and ecstatic energy within us. It is always
the same dynamic. Only the vehicles will be different according to culture,
religion and personal preference. Most of all,
Besides the sexual aspect we discuss here, tantra is known for its
recognition of innumerable icons, mantras, mandalas, symbols,
etc., all for providing vehicles for awareness to move beyond external
fixation and attachment. So, while any
object of perception can become an object of idolatry (selfish
solicitation), so too can the same object become a vehicle for divine
transcendence. The journey may be erotic at times. Or it may be purely
devotional without an erotic component. Or it may be a mixture, gradually
shifting over time from erotic to ecstatic. It is all in the heart (and
neurobiology) of the practitioner. It is an ongoing process of purification
and opening, driven by spiritual desire (bhakti) and the acts we undertake
in expressing that divine impulse coming from within.
The guru is in you.
Note: For detailed
instructions on the methods of tantra in relation to the broad scope of yoga
practices and the enlightenment process, see the
AYP Tantra book.
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