Advanced Yoga Practices
Tantra Lessons

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Lesson T69 - Romancing the Stone  (Audio)

From: Yogani
Date: September 18, 2009

New Visitors: 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 forward.

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 ones 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 mountain.

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, personal preference.

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.

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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, and AYP Plus.

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