goal of the Kaulas is to transcend our desires. The idea is that as long as we have an overly intense attitude toward our
desires, particularly our sexual urges, we cannot overcome them. Instead we may end up unconsciously repressing them, resulting
in denial and self-deception. Desires are a form of energy. This energy cannot be destroyed; it can only be refined or transformed
into a higher and subtler level of expression, such as love or creativity - art, music, writing, etc.
So why wouldn't we want to just continue using sex for
physical pleasure? I believe, as the Kaulas did, that sexual energy is identical to the energy of the universe.
It is the very life force that brought us to be here. And because of this, it is in a sense responsible for all of the joy
and creativity in our lives. True joy and creativity is very connected to the awakening of the sexual energy (kundalini).
After all, this is our primal life force. To deny it would be to deny a crucial part of our being. If we look
at this from the perspective that our sex energy is the same as our creative life force, we can begin to recognize what the
Tantrics have been saying for centuries:
A. The same energy is at work in every form of enjoyment, be it gross or refined.
same energy is also at work in every form of creativity or creative process.
C. The more this core, raw energy is caused to express itself
through higher channels, the more joy and creativity it brings.
D. The more the sex energy is elevated to higher levels, the more one's
sexual problems automatically dissolve.
rectifying the sexual energy brings desirable results on all levels. . .
In the Tantric tradition, sexual energy is symbolized as a coiled serpent (kundalini).
In most people, the serpent is asleep - it is said that her face points downward. The small bit of awakening that is there
is at the lowest level and is seen in the animal enjoyment of sex. Tantric practices aim to awaken this kundalini, causing
her face to point upward and the energy to ascend through the cakras (energy centers) and up the susumna nadi (central channel
located on the inside wall of the spine), finally reaching Siva (her consort) at the crown of the head. The rising
up of kundalini is a metaphor for the process of the transmutation of the sex energy from the level of gross enjoyment to
the level of being in union with the Divine.
Observing Our Energy and Attitudes:
When we restrict sex just to the physical level, this causes
a drain in one's energy. This is most visible in a man, post ejaculation. Men often become very tired and are visibly
exhausted after having lost their seed. The energy that could be used to bring tremendous power is, in a sense, wasted. The
Kaula-sadhana of sex was devised to address this problem and learn how to infuse and elevate the sex energy so that it could
be utilized in the best possible way.
There are two important attitudes the participants must cultivate: the
feeling of reverence toward the sex act and a feeling of love toward the sex partner. In fact, the Kaula ritual sets up a
whole environment to help cultivate these feelings. Tantrism advocates the practice of seeing sex as something
that is holy and divine. The same attitude is to be cultivated toward the sexual partner. A man should look
upon a woman as an incarnation of the divine Sakti and the woman should regard the man as Siva. This attitude is an antidote
to the thought that sex is somehow sinful. The practice of integrating the spiritual with the sexual can help release old
ideas of Puritanism and ingrained negative thoughts about this most natural, and beautiful, human act.
What Tantra Is Not:
On the other hand, it is important to be very clear that Tantra
does not advocate hedonism. Self-indulgence and self-gratification are neither the goal nor the means of reaching the goal.
As it is written in the scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism, "The aim of the Tantric sadhana is the sublimation
of sex, and changing ones’ attitude toward sex from shame to holiness is the first step. The two evils, so to speak,
are either hating sex and seeing it as sinful or using it for complete self-gratification". On that note
I would like to add that even when a partner says they enjoy bringing intense pleasure to their lover, this is still a self-gratifying
act, because ultimately it adds to the ego's fixation.
In the Kaula-sadhana the actual sex act is done not
for enjoyment, but as an offering to the deity - not for sexual gratification, but as an actual spiritual act. It is the physical
enactment of joining as one the polarities we perceive as masculine and feminine. One could not exist without the other; an
ultimate state of union with all that is can be immediately attained. The Kularnava Tantra, which speaks in-depth of the Kaula-sadhana,
clarifies, If by merely having sexual intercourse with a woman one could become liberated, then all the creatures of the world
would be liberated through the sex act.
we can begin to understand the meaning of the phallic worship handed down to us from the Tantrics. Even today, all over India,
we see the ritual honoring of the Siva linga, which is for most regarded as the regenerative aspect of the material universe.
It is in essence formless, although we often see a rounded, phallic sculpture made out of stone and at its base is Sakti.
The woman participant in the ritualized sexual intercourse (maithuna) in the Kaula-sadhana is worshiped as the Goddess (devi).
The attitude that sex is holy and divine, as opposed to profane, is a very real characteristic of Tantra, or
in this case, the left-hand tradition. But we can also find this attitude in the right-hand scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita
and the Upanishads, where specific lines are given to describe God or Brahman as the libido that reproduces.
The Importance of Love:
Cultivating love for a sex partner, as seen from the Kaula
perspective, is something that in our western minds may be of conflict. As it is written, we should see our partner as our
own, meaning that we should cultivate a sense of identity with each other that is without duality. We tend to be afraid of
unifying with an-other for fear of co-dependence or surrendering too much of ourselves. I feel that the point here is that
each partner should intensely love the other, leaving behind the mind trips and romantic ideas of who we think we want this
person to be, and coming into a whole and spacious experience of love that is beyond the individual.
causes sex to automatically be purified. The surest means for refining the hard raw sexual impulses is to engage
in the sex act as an expression of love. And because our beloved is the Divine incarnate, we can overcome our personal needs
and expand our expression of desire to a higher state of consciousness. In my experience, the feeling of love relaxes the
crude animal impulses on the one hand, and on the other hand, cures the sometimes mechanical and lifeless sex act of its dullness
and boredom. It is helpful for married couples to keep the spiritual and loving aspect of sex alive, as over the course of
time the warmth of love can cool down and the sex often becomes mechanical. The dilemma is that if sex is ignored or repressed
it causes issues on other psychological levels, however if it is used purely for enjoyment (bhoga), it becomes, after some
time, draining and lacking in relish and flavor.
Kaulism, for the spiritually minded, is the way out of this
dilemma. Sex becomes meaningless and lifeless when it is devoid of love, that is to say when the sex partner is no longer
an object of love but becomes an object of enjoyment. So love has a dual function in relation to sex: (A) it brings joy and
satisfaction, and (B) in that very process it also sublimates sex by absorbing the experience with the sanctity
of union with the other.
The state of sex being sublimated is a happy synthesis of two things -
what is called preya (the pleasant) and sreys (the good & the beneficial). The ideal lover finds his or her desire for
sex automatically gratified, even more intensely. When the sexual feeling is transformed to a higher and subtler level, it
integrates the individual, leaving them feeling more whole than from where they started, thus adding richness and beautification
to the social surroundings of each partner.
Love naturally reconciles one's own inherent good with the good of the person who is the
object of sexual desire. The Tantric insight is to take the raw material of sex and transform it. Human beings already engage
in sex, so why not do it in such a way? It's not as if one needed to begin a meditation practice on a subject they had
no familiarity with. Sex is as natural to us as being born. The question now moves toward how the Kaula-sadhana can be a means
to bring realization (moksa). All texts of the Indian tradition, whether left-hand or not, affirm that it is the
feeling of oneness with all universal love that brings Self-realization. One cannot be realized unless one loves
the entire universe.
One might object that while the Kaula practice may help in developing the feeling of love
towards our sex partner, it does not necessarily serve to cultivate universal love, which is the means toward realization.
However, the Kaula would say that love for the opposite sex is the beginning of universal love. Tantrism exploits
the inborn impulse toward love and sex to prompt a melting into universal love.
In loving one's
sex partner, one has the first glimpse of spiritual love. Sexual love, if mastered, naturally paves the way for universal
love. Moreover, it doesn't really matter if the beloved object is a single person or the entire world; it's the quality
of love that matters. If we have in our hearts a flow of true and pure love for even one person, we can acquire the capacity
to love all beings. It is said that "If the flow of love exists within the sadhaka (spiritual practitioner)
it will saturate whatever object comes before him or her, be it an individual or the whole world".
Another reason the sadhana of sexual sublimation may be considered
a means to Self-realization is that we can reach the Self (Siva) by catching a thread of spontaneity (spanda) in our experience
and developing it more and more. I feel that sex is perhaps the greatest spontaneous act in our physical experience.
If we catch a hold of that sense and cultivate it in the right ways, we can reach the ultimate state of freedom, which is
in essence joyful activity, free and spontaneous.
Tantrism, or Kaulism, is not merely a particular
ritualistic sex worship, it is a general attitude towards life. It is a positive philosophy that integrates life and makes
it sublime. While engaging in pleasurable activities, the Kaula places his or her attention on the Self (Siva) or on love,
which is natural to the Self. The moment the attention is turned from the Self to the object of enjoyment, it is a fall. Of
course it is very difficult to keep the attention fixed on the Self or love and not allow it to drift to the enjoyment; for
this reason it is said that the Kaula sadhana is as difficult as moving on the edge of a sword.
But in my opinion it is definitely worth trying.
The pleasure of our sex life is not independent. It depends on
the Self, or love that is spiritual. If we are not seated in the Self, we are not able to experience full enjoyment of the
world. What I have learned is that the pleasure we take from, and share with, the world is proportionate to the degree of
Self-realization we have achieved. We receive from life, or the world, the joy that we are already projecting onto it.