When they make love a sin, a well of guilt and fear, who will dare stop then to savor, grasp or master the power of your sacraments, O Ramanatha?
Isn't it exceedingly peculiar that every era has to reinvent the
wheel of tantra for itself? Or unaccountably odd how quickly the
enthusiasms attending its re-discoveries vanish from collective
memory? Or just plain strange when no society in a thousand years
seems to notice its potential for evolutionary transport? Even
today, in this know-it-all age, how many recall the history or power
of erotic disciplines? How many even remember their names?|
Curious, given the time. Long decades of bio-physical plunging about beneath the flooded basement of the flesh, bearing back tales of another world, a realm of light and space and energy. Centuries of saints, shamans and luminous old faggots awakening to the songs of the body electric. Millennia of official amnesia since erotic yoga's populist thunder shook the temples of India, China, Japan.
For such a pacific, life-affirming bunch, tantrics always manage to attract a world of grief. Throughout history their temples have been trashed, texts burned, apostles executed and vilified. But their seminal insights have had a life of their own and regenerated in all climes and cultures: early Christian agape houses, dervish long songs, Konarak and Khajuraho, Red Hat lamaseries, the poems of the Golden Cauldron. The ritual trappings, the deities evoked, vary by era and religious surround, but the common recognition of sensual love as metaphor and method of enlightenment has characterized all paths here termed tantric.
Tantra, Sanskrit for warp fibers, were originally conceived of as filaments of divine knowledge binding consciousness and creation. Humming taut between past and future, flesh and spirit, self and the Thou of the universe, these sacred threads symbolized the energetic interconnectedness of all creation. Personal existence weaves back and forth across these metaphysical longitudes and the most beautiful patterns of life work in ikat with their colors. The interpenetration of the fibers, the pumping heddle, the loss of individual strands in the greater design all suggested to the ancients a state of createive fusion, fusion as process, the rampant interchange of energy, identity and consciousness. Intercourse was the proper noun, the noun as verb, expressive of sensual embrace and the bonding interplay of minds and being.
In early India, this erotic variation on the loom-of-life metaphor
generated literature, arts and paths of practice that were popular,
seductive and socially incendiary. The Virashaiva (Heroic Siva)
movement of the 11th century was one such devotional and radically
egalitarian outbreak of tantric religiosity that left a rare trove
of unincinerated writings. This luminous body of poetry embraces all
the major themes of tantra consciousness and furnishes the fragments
quoted herein. Although initiates often use idiosyncratic names for
Siva, all poems are ultimately addressed to the spirit of the
universe as Beloved.
if you shoot an arrow plant it till no feather shows,
if you hug a body bones must crunch and crumble;
weld, the welding must vanish.
Love is then our lord's love.
For tantra the perfect bond between humanity and creation is
not filial, but erotic. Mother Nature, yes. A moment of Her past
births you, but then vanishes in time. The Nature you mature to is a
lover, Terra Erotica - bawdy, juicy and fine. And the sensual
delights she offers not only gladden the flesh, they arouse and
affiliate all the Earth spirits too. This is an ancient intimation.
Mohenjo Daro seals of 4000 BC portrayed their realized males not as
ascetic wretches or plump inert toads, but as priapic ecstatics. In
these terra cotta gardens of enlightenment, the consummated yogi is
depicted flaming in the lotus position, phallicly erect, attracting
a basking retinue of birds and beasts. (Cf. Big Frankie of Assissi.)|
the top piece a man; rub them together till they kindle:
tell me now, O Ramanatha, the fire that's born, is it male or female?
All Virashaivite poems and fragments are adapted from:
Speaking of Siva, Penguin Books, Ltd., Middlesex, '73
Part I: Song to Omega