In most traditional paths of Tantra and Taoist Sexual Practices you often hear of the importance to “purify” before cultivating sexual energy. The Taoists teach that because sexual energy is immensely creative, it will enhance and grow everything. Thus if one has a lot of un-purified anger, raising sexual energy will make you even more angry. If you have a lot of fear, it can produce anxiety attacks. Preparation practices are used to clear the energetic blocks that manifest these negative emotions before cultivating sexual chi. In the path of Tibetan Tantra, a practitioner would complete many years of non-tantric spiritual practice before starting any tantric practices. Tantra Yoga provides a wide range of techniques to prepare body and mind for the sexual practices of tantra.
But what exactly is it that we are purifying and why? What happens if someone embarks on a path of sexual practices without this preparation?
One way to view this is in terms of the ego, or the sense of false self or false identity.
As we are raised in a typical upbringing we are conditioned towards a sense of self and identity. This becomes our reality, gives us a strong sense of “I”, which may have qualities of self-importance and qualities of self-destruction also. Because we believe this is who we are, this sense of self becomes quite dense. It is manifested physically through our body and health, energetically through our emotions and mental through our beliefs. This can be called one’s ego. It is only when one embarks on a spiritual path that one begins to look towards any other reality.
Different spiritual paths offer different methods and practices that can facilitate this process. In Tantric pathways such methods may be called “purification”. The intention is to give less energy to the false aspects of self, and thus they become less dense. Some aspects of self we are more attached to than others and these may be harder to drop. Often practices of fire are used to “burn the karmic fire” and bring enough heat or energy to purify stubborn attachments.
There is a wide range of purification methods found in Tantric and Taoist lineages. They are usually on every level: physical, emotional, energetical and mental, to purify all levels. For example, there may be physical yoga posture or qigong exercises, dietary methods, emotional release, energy practices, and meditation for the mind.
As we embark on purification, the false sense of self becomes less dense, less real, and we become more aware of an inner light, divine presence, pure consciousness as the reality of who we really are. This is sometimes called our True Nature or Ultimate Reality. Instead of living from the desires seeded in ego-self, we live through the desires of Truth. The desire of Truth is almost a misnomer, because the desire is so transparent; so this desire-momentum is more of an “effortless unfolding”, as the Taoists call it.
At what point along the path of purification does one begin sexual practices?
Should one wait until completely purified, and what does that mean? Does one have to completely dissolve the ego-self and become a being of pure light before engaging in sexual practice?
This is not expected, and so there is another method used along with purification. It is the path of bhakti or devotion. This is simply the act of devoting one’s sexual practice to the Divine, and can be done even before one has recognised one’s true nature. There are different forms of this.
One method of devotion is quite simply to devote ones practice to Consciousness. In Taoism this is called itself The Tao or wu wei, sometimes translated as the Source, and may be found my meditating one one’s stillpoint/center (“dantien”). In Tantra it may be called consecration, and is simply the act of devoting one’s practice or sexual act to Consciousness or to The Divine.
Another form of devotion is through divine duality. In Taoism one may connect to Heaven and Earth, the “True Masculine” and “True Feminine” (using qigong or meditation). These are seen as the divine aspects of the fire and water of human masculinity and femininity. In Tantra the equivalent is Shiva and Shakti, the divine masculine and the divine feminine. In the technique of transfiguration we see our beloved as Shiva or Shakti, as well as transfiguring ourselves by meditating on our divine being.
What happens if we proceed with sexual practice without purification and devotion?
Sexual energy is extremely powerful, and thus use of sexual cultivation methods can make someone very powerful. Power is itself is neutral. However, the application of power may be widely differing, as we see from the good king/bad king archetypes. If power is attached to ego, then we tend to have the power to create more karma for ourself, i.e. to create trouble!
This is not just a non-tangible spiritual concept, but a solid reality. We can see it at play in the corporate world. We see companies motivated by greed and other ego-centric sources, and a lot of ripples are created, such as violation of human rights, animal rights and environmental damage. Often such companies produce products that fuel people’s unconscious desire patterns. On the other hand we are starting to see the emergence of ethical companies, motivated by higher values such as care for the environment and fair trade values. The products or services created by such companies are more likely to support the customer’s spiritual evolution and well-being.
Those who start to generate and cultivate a lot of sexual energy without purification and devotion run the risk of mis-using their power. The classic case would be the corrupt tantric guru, who takes advantage of seekers’ desires to evolve by using them sexually for his own pleasure and the cultivation of yet more power. There are also cases of “sexual healers” using techniques to better their fame, glory and bank balance, leaving their clients often feeling violated and confused (or the clients develop their own patterns of mis-use of power). Just as with the ego-centric company, all that is created from some actions will take one farther from spiritual evolution and awakening rather than closer to.
How do we know when we are dealing with an unhealthy power dynamic?
How, on a path when we are vulnerable through lack of experience, can we recognise mis-use of power? We cannot rely on what people say because words can be used to convey truth and mis-truth. Instead we must learn to recognise the presence of ego. This is done not by judging the ego of others’, but always looking within to one’s own ego.
On our own path, this is where we are really responsible. It is up to us to monitor if we are using our practices to cultivate ego or True Nature. One way is to follow our desires back to the seed, or source within. Desire is what fuels all action, so when you desire to do something check in with yourself and ask “what part of me would benefit from this?” Then see: does that part feel like ego or higher self?
For example, you desire to act as a sexual healer and offer a sexual massage to another person. Before acting upon this desire, stop and meditate into a state of clear mind. Then contemplate the desire itself and look to the source of the desire. What part of you would benefit from the act? If you find that you would like to be seen as a great tantric healer, you would like people to think of you as some great sexual expert…then this has the scent of ego about it! If however, as you contemplate the desire you feel the presence of the Divine, or you feel a strong field of consciousness, then this desire is more likely to be in harmony with spiritual evolution, both for you and the recipient.
The same process can be done from the recipient’s point of view. If you feel a desire to go to a sexual healer for a session, again sit in meditation until the mind becomes clear and then examine the desire. What part of you would benefit? You may discover you are trying to get something from the healer “if I have a session from this healer I will get some of their energy/power.” This is therefore an ego-desire. However, if contemplating the desire brings you into a state of higher consciousness, then it is more likely the desire is divine guidance rather than ego. It is not about the actions we take, but the source of those actions.
The more power involved, the more accentuated the karmic results will be. In this example, the healer is in the position of greater power (as is any teacher, guru or initiator) and therefore it is even more important that they maintain their integrity. If someone holding a lot of power performs an abusive action, it has a much stronger effect than an action of someone with less power. In this way, tantric teachers, healers and initiators have a heavier karmic responsibility. Though they may appear to cause harm to others, ultimately the greatest harm is to themselves. (If we really follow along lines of karmic responsibility we can see that the participants in the acts have also chosen to join in from an ego-based desire, and thus have their own karmic story going on).
This process of the evaluation of desire can be undertaken periodically as one moves along a tantric path, in order to keep oneself in spiritual evolution, and to avoid the pitfalls of the mis-use of power. Often there are a mixture of seed intentions. Part of us desires the fame and glory and part of us desires union with the divine. If we can find both within, we can then put our energy behind the latter and make a conscious choice.
What would this actually look like?
If one propagates ego-based desires, one creates more suffering and illusion. If one follows pure desires, one moves along a path of awakening. Simple!
If you tantric practices appear to be developing a huge sense of ego within you, this is a sign to stop and consider purification and devotion. If you are practicing multi-orgasmic practices for example, and you start feeling like “wow, I am so orgasmic” and you start to publicize the Shashi Solluna Multiorgasmic Method™, then perhaps there is some ego attachment going on. If however, as this sexual energy cascades within you, you feel that you are dissolving into the Absolute, and it brings you into a space of devotion to Spirit or awe of the Mystery; then there is less YOU, and the practices are working in a transcendental way.
It only take regular reflection and ruthless honesty with oneself to discern.
Some schools of Tantra recommend regular, if not daily, devotion of all practices to God/Spirit/Consciousness as a way to help prevent the pitfall of growing ego. Life tends to slap us round the face when we have fallen off the path, so paying attention and not blaming others if this happens, can also help.
Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own integrity, and we are not here to point out other peoples’ egoic ways. Can we trust karmic law to take care and keep the universal balance that we do not need to be the one to fix everyone else’s mistakes or prevent their pitfalls. After all, perhaps we all need to fall in a pit from time to time in order to feel the bump, see what happened and choose a new pathway next time!
copyright © Shashi Solluna 2011. all rights reserved.