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- Romancing the Stone (Audio)
September 18, 2009
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.
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
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
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
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,
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
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.