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Tantric Theosophy

Oct 29, 1995 03:04 PM
by Eldon B. Tucker

Following is another passage from "The Life and Teaching of
Naropa" by Herbert V. Guenther, Shambhala.

[pages 112-13]

> The line of thought which Naropa represents is named ...
> Matrayana. It is an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism,

This is the higher aspect of Buddhism, where the Path of
Compassion is emphasized. One does not strive for nirvana for
oneself, but for the enlightenment of all beings.

> the product of an intensely philosophical spirit inspired by an
> insatiable ambition to know reality directly, not by rumour or
> description.

This sounds much like what Theosophy *can be*, after we move
forward with our philosophy towards an attempt to know reality
directly. Our Path does not end with the philosophy, it starts
there and goes much further!

> It relies on the 'inner light' rather than on the mere
> rationality of philosophy with which it is nevertheless well
> acquainted.

We first need a solid intellectual basis in the theosophical
teachings, as a foundation for further work. We go beyond the
normal intellectual apporach and go after "inner light".

> By its very name it claims to be the expression of the Real or
> the spirituality of Buddhahood. But since the immediate
> experience of the Real is an unusual and privileged state of
> being, it is also said to be 'secret'.

The immediate experience of the Real is an unusual state of being,
it is not typical. And it is a privilege to attain. Because of
this, it is something that by its nature is esoteric. We are going
beyond theosophical doctrine and approaching esoteric Theosophy.

> The philosophical significance of Mantrayana has been much
> obscured by irresponsibly applying to it the name 'Tantrism',
> probably one of the haziest notions and misconceptions the
> Western mind has evolved.

The Tantric approach is misunderstood in the West.

> It is customary in certain Western circles ... to consider
> Tantrism as a medley of ritual acts, yoga techniques, and other
> practices, mostly of an 'objectionable' type, and therefore as a
> degenerative lapse into a world of superstition and magic.

In the West, the Tantric approach is simply considered to be a
collection of objectionable practices.

> ... the Western world [has] ... reduced philosophy to a purely
> academic pursuit. The possibility that philosophy itself might
> provide guidance in conduct, and that as a way of life and quest
> for meaning it might involve the whole of man and not merely his
> brain, was overlooked.

This statement could be out of any theosophical book. Philosophy
is much more than a mind-game. It can and should involve the whole
of man. Tantric Buddhism deals with the integration of philosophy
into one's life.

[page 113, footnote]

> The main charge levelled against Tantrism is that it makes use of
> sex. As is well known, sexual imagery is excluded from religious
> symbolism in the West, while erotic forms are freely used in the
> East for conveying religious feelings.

Sexual imagery is included in Eastern religious symbolism. Tantric
Buddhism is not alone in this regard.

> Sex has no evil associations for a follower of the Tantras. But
> this does not imply licentiousness.

There is a presumption in Western thought to infer licentiousness
when sexual symbolism is used.

> To be unaware of the difference between East and West, and on the
> bsis of such ignorance to outline a development of Buddhist
> thought, can hardly be said to do justice to Buddhism. The
> various histories of Buddhist thought that have been writtern,
> all bear the stamp of the second half of the nineteenth century.

In the Victorian Era, sex was considered bad. Eastern religious
were depicted as degenerate, because of their use of sexual-based
symbolism. This completely overlooked what the symbolism actually

[pages 122-23]

> The above definition of 'Tantra' as continuity in Being-itself,
> in its directive process and its emergent effect, is the one
> adopted by all who follow the discipline of Tantrism.

The term "tantra" refers to continunity, and it points to a
practice where one sustains, on an on-going basis, the basis of
one's consciousness in non-dualism. One sustains a state of pure
beingness, out of which the experience of the world emerges or
arises naturally, and out of which one's life is directed.

> This definition shows that Tantra is the affirmation of the
> absolute unity of reality and of its being known directly. This
> it has in common with mysticism.

The Tantric approach allows for a direct experience of absolute
reality. It is possible to directly know this unified reality.
There is a mode or functioning of consciousness the universe
appears unified *to us*, and our lives is fashioned by this unity.

> The important point to note is that it reveals our being in the
> world where two ways are open:

We have two modes of experiencing life, the Tantric and the common
or ego-centric. There are two ways to be in the world, to
participate in life.

> either to give oneself over to one's being-there in one's
> capacity of being-this-or-that, in which case we become untrue to
> ourselves;

The first mode, the common experience of life, is with a sense of
subject/object, a sense of being a particular individual in a
particular place. In this mode, I am aware of being myself, a
person with specific characteristics ("being-this-or-that") in a
specific situation ("being-there").

> or to give oneself over to the infinite openness of
> being-oneself-*cum*-Being-in-itself and thereby become true to
> ourselves.

In the other mode, I am aware of my root beingness, of the nature
of being quite independent of any particular situation that I may
find myself in. I am purely myself, and true to my nature.

> But the attainment of this privileged status does not come about
> by chance or by constructing conceptual systems.

The ability to function in this unified mode of consciousness is
not an accidental happening. And it does not arise merely by
formulating in words a description of how life works.

> It is the result of a hard training -- the way of how we go about
> making ourselves -- and this also is 'Tantra'.

We are essentially self-made, and to undertake the Tantric path,
the path of continuity in spiritual insight, requires hard work.
When we endeavor to go beyond our intellectual study of Theosophy
and undertake a spiritual practice, it is not easy nor effortless.
There is much to be done in our lives, and it requires a
sustained, continuous effort.

> The training follows a definite plan, so that the frozenness of
> our being-this-or-that is dissolved and wider and wider horizons
> of reality are revealed to the student.

We would follow tried-and-proven techniques to achieve the
spiritual. The goal is to transcend the burden of a sense of
personality, to dissolve the frozen nature of our minds. The sense
of our "being-this-or-that" is to be overcome, which reveals wider
horizons of reality.

The mind is capable of direct experience, and of directly knowing
things. It's vision is blurred; it is blinded to what is before
us. The sense of "being-this-or-that" is like a cataract that
blinds the mind's eye, and needs to be dissolved. When removed, we
then can see things clearly.

> Only a few will submit to such training in full. ... [with
> Naropa] the whole course of training is available as laid down in
> his biography and transmitted to others.

There are defined systems of training available in the world, like
in Tibetan Buddhism. We're at a disadvantage in Theosophy, having
a body of doctrines to think about, but no formulated,
tried-and-proved practice to undertake. We're akin to Olympic
hopefuls with no coach to train us nor gym to work out in. What do
we do? We improvise and do the best that we can, until we catch
the attention of someone who would train us, and doors start to
open in our lives.

-- Eldon

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