TAOIST TANTRA by Kris Deva North
Detailed formulas, practical applications, clear illustrations and step-by-step guidelines from
the definitive writer on Taoist Tantra:
Is it disgusting, boring, worthy and dangerous, or can Tantra offer self-realisation by having
a good time?
The Tao is the One, the source (1); Tantra is to expand and to liberate (2). Both see the
world "not as a vale of tears, of sorrow or of suffering, but of subjective and objective beauty,
a world of reality, neither an illusion nor an evil...the path is smooth and straight". The aim
is enlightenment: Union with the Divine (3), the means, sexual ecstasy. The practices are lofty and
profound, sacred and profane, barring nothing except harming another.(4)
While the Tao is Harmony, Tantra "challenges practitioners immediately to see all things and all
experiences as intrinsically pure and innately perfect.... including situations meant to shock, repulse
or terrify ... heart and mind will be illuminated"(5). Courting the disapproval of society, Tantra
bashes down boundaries, barriers and taboos, prescribing "forbidden acts"(6), opening windows to
spiritual independence, creating opportunities for grasping the moment, shoving you along the "short
path" to ultimate peace, the indescribable experience of subtle clear light.
Flavoured by its roots, Hindu ritual is based on surrender(6), eating forbidden meat and drinking
forbidden alcohol. Women practitioners (personifying the goddess Shakti) are seated either Right or
Left of their male (Shiva) partners in the tantric circle. In the Right-Hand Ritual members enjoy
sex with their own partner, in the Left-Hand Ritual with others, of any or no caste and regardless
of sexual appeal. Rituals culminate in orgasm, with Shiva ejaculating in ecstatic surrender to the
power of Shakti, the divine.
The mechanistic nature of the rituals and unofficial use of drugs help participants overcome
apprehension, inhibitions and aversion to such practices as breaking caste taboos, ingrained over
lifetimes in the Hindu consciousness. Liberation from conditioning of caste, taboo and convention
leads to a freedom from fear possibly comparable with that of a committed Christian or Jew discovering
that sin has been abolished.
For many this is enlightenment enough. Others continue to surrender: possessions, dwelling, family,
becoming Saddhu, beyond ritual. Beyond the beyond, the Aghora sect live tantra "at the Left Hand of
God" (7), frequenting cremation-grounds, eating human flesh and excrement, having sex with the dead,
surrendering all attachment to shorten their chosen path by many incarnations.
For the male and female Buddhist, with their "inner experience of dissatisfaction with this
existence"(8), the focus is bliss rather than sexual ecstasy. The Right-Hand path means practising
alone or "Single Cultivation"; Left-Hand or "Dual Cultivation" is with a partner, preferably a member
of the same tantric family: teacher, pupil, co-practitioner(5). A man should not surrender semen, in
fact if he "spills it, this is considered a great fault .... a very grave mistake"(9). The reward
for correct practice is enlightenment in just one lifetime.
"Addicted to sin and anger"(3), we in the West yearn for ecstasy yet pollute the practice of
pleasure with demons of Shame, Guilt, and Fear of punishment(10). A Western guru diverts such "demons"
by encouraging an attitude of Reverence or describing practices as Sacred, but labels as "shame-muscles"
parts of the body which might otherwise be described as pleasure-zones. Judaeo-Christian patriarchal
conditioning influences western tantra towards the socially approved ideal of the faithful couple.
Carefully drawn boundaries and use of psycho-therapy and counselling help groups and individuals meet
fears and inhibitions arising from repression or sexual wounding earlier in life. This approach suits
seekers who might otherwise not take even a first step on the tantric path. Enlightenment here could
mean freedom from sexual trauma.
Indian classics advise setting aside twelve years yogic preparation of the physical and energy-body,
Taoists (11) recommend Tai Chi and QiGong to open and clear energy channels(3). Western tantrics,
wanting immediate enlightenment, now, at the weekend workshop, might find certain practices overload
the nervous system, with painful and sometimes dangerous long-term side-effects.
Is Tantra something more than disgusting, boring, worthy and dangerous? Stoned and inebriated,
fearful of the great fault, the grave mistake, plagued by guru-demons of shame and guilt, we seek
the true spirit of tantra, the path of ecstasy. Can we attain self-realisation by having a good time?
"Secret Instructions of the Jade Chamber"(12) is a Taoist text on harmonising male (yang) and
female (yin) energies. Sin is not recognised, nor any concept of right and wrong beyond individual
conscience. With "...all things and all experiences intrinsically pure and innately perfect..." it
is unnecessary to create difficult and painful processes. Pain and difficulties arise only from our
responses to experiences.
Taoist Tantra is mutual nourishment, yin drawing on yang and yang from yin. Single, Dual and
Multiple Cultivation can be practised, for pleasure, health and longevity, healing, self-realisation
and, ultimately, experiencing a self beyond the cycle of life and death: Re-Union with the Tao, the
universal Source. As above, so below: each of us a microcosm, two heavenly cycles fusing in the
moment of sexual climax.
Taoist methodology begins with the familiar: the physical and the formulaic. In progressing from
novice to adept, the practitioner learns to transcend form and formula. There is no sacred focus,
all human sex being sacred in the union of Yang, the force of Heaven, with Yin, the power of Earth.
Sex is seen as the servant, not the master. Practitioners learn to control and harvest the abundance
of reproductive power, otherwise wasted in unmindful intercourse: yang having the power to repopulate
a continent in a single ejaculation, yin with eggs to generate hundreds of lives. If the products of
our pleasure are not being deployed to start new life, say the Taoists, we can internalise the intense
energy, all the hormones and nutrients, to improve our own lives.
Repression of the natural urges is considered unhealthy. In the words of Mantak Chia, a modern
Taoist Master, "Sex is natural. The human being has a powerful sex drive - and you cannot keep the
pingpong balls under water. Sometime, somewhere, they pop back up, maybe as disease, maybe as
emotional problems, causing energy blockages, leading to illness. The Tao is the way of recycling,
Men and women redirect orgasmic energy through the Microcosmic Orbit (Small Heavenly Cycle), for
good health and long life, with the additional benefit for women of controllable and painless
menstruation (13). Practitioners enjoy increased vigour, improved stamina and enhanced sensation
through "whole-body-orgasm". Harmonising male and female peaks and valleys of arousal and orgasm
without energy-loss enables longer and more pleasurable sexual encounters.
Woman loses energy more through menstruation and childbirth than orgasm. For man, it is vital to
open the Orbit otherwise non-ejaculatory orgasm can cause aching, congestion, wet dreams or headaches.
Retention and recycling is important but Taoists also make recommendations for seminal release related
to the age of the practitioner and season e.g. rarely in Winter, a time for conservation, more
frequently in Spring - and the springtime of a relationship, with its urgent need for surrender to
the goddess. However, Secret Instructions of the Jade Chamber contra-indicates practice when in
the grip of emotional extremes and unbridled passion, then adding that because you may become ill
from it, you may also be cured by it! Other contra-indications include practising when drunk, too
soon after a meal, and when constipated.
Mantak Chia speaks of the spiritual power: "You can either pray 100,000 hours, or you can
consciously guide the sexual energy in the Microcosmic Orbit"
The Tao is the way of harmony, Tantra expands and liberates. Without gender discrimination,
rules, hierarchy or clergy, requiring no conversion or belief system, offering guidance rather
than dogma, the Tao of Tantra is a short sweet path to spiritual independence, or your own conception
of self-realisation or enlightenment. These words of the Dalai Lama capture the essence: "if the
meditator applies certain meditative techniques it is possible to create opportunities for grasping
the moment and consciously generating the experience of subtle clear light...during the time of death,
of deep sleep, and sexual climax."(9) If His Holiness were a woman, he might have included the moment
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- Ecstasy through Tantra, John Mumford, Llewellyn 1988, ISBN 0875424945
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