“The art of love is the poor man’s art, the one avenue to ecstasy opens to those who lack all other talents.”
– Walter Kaufman
As practiced in Tibet and India, the Panchatattva or Secret Ritual includes some features not easily adaptable to Western life.
To begin with, there is the question of the shakti or ceremonial sex partner. In the West, both law and social usage require that the disciple’s ritual consort be his own wife. If the latter is unwilling or unable to perform the rite, he is left the alternatives of employing symbolical substitutes or of seeking an illicit union.
Most Eastern gurus carefully select the mudra or partner to be used in the discipline, the selection being based upon certain qualities believed to be essential for a successful sadhana.
In most cases, the disciple’s wife is found to be satisfactory and is instructed in the ritual according to the guru’s individual methods.
Sometimes, however, when a disciple has no wife or when she is not competent for the techniques, a guru may select a parakiya (some other woman), or a sadharani (one who is common or who is paid for her services).
In the latter two instances, the mudra is ritually married to the disciple for the sole purpose of the rite. This ritual wedding is known as a Shiva marriage. It may be terminated at the end of the sadhana, or it may be consecrated as a lifelong spiritual union.
The latter practice brings to mind the “agape” or spiritual love that became an important institution in early Christianity. Tertullian sanctioned such ties for men who craved the companionship of women. In order not to subject the weakness of the flesh to too severe a test, however, he counseled male followers to select as their consorts “the least dangerous among women-widows beautified by faith, endowed with poverty, and sealed by age.”
Monks and nuns of the early Church are known to have entered into spiritual espousals of this kind. In some instances, the couple retired to the solitude of the desert, mountains or woods, where the man devoted his life wholly to meditation and prayer, cared for and – it is said – chastely loved by his Platonic helpmate.
In the case of Tantrism, sexual relations with the mudra to whom the disciple has been wed by Shiva nuptials is strictly forbidden outside the sadhana.
The Divine Union
To understand this point of view, the reader must recall that during maithuna or sacramental union, Tantriks believe that the partners become for the time being a divine couple. Through them flows the cosmic, creative energy of the universe. The mudra is no longer a woman – she is Parashakti herself. The man, likewise, is no longer merely a man, but incarnates Shiva.
Unless this spiritual transformation occurs, Shastra warns that the union is a secular act, therefore carnal and sinful.
On the other hand, when a mystical union of Shiva and Shakti takes place, the sadhaka drinks the ambrosial soma drink, and thereby acquires “the dark moon powers of Shakti.”
Successful sadhana, therefore, requires the intelligent participation of both partners. Here in the West, where the guru must of necessity be “the Lord Shiva himself,” instruction of a ritual consort not familiar with the rite is limited to literature.
Secret Ritual Adapted To Western Requirements
The secret ritual which follows is one adapted to Western requirements by a Tantrik guru of Bengal who, in addition to expounding the Shastra, has a successful law practice in Calcutta. To preserve his anonymity, we shall call him Pundit Ramkishore Chatterjee, although that is not his real name.
“Some of the more elaborate refinements of sadhana,” he explained, “considered virtually indispensable here, have been omitted or abbreviated for non-Indian shishyas.
“For example, it would be most impractical for a student in America to construct a mandala (mystic diagram) with vermilion or red sandal-wood paste, as we do here in India. Nor would it be fruitful for him to do so, without being able to enter it, so to speak, and to meet the forces of the unconscious that would await him there.
“The various mantras given at initiation when a guru is present, also have been omitted. They cannot be properly learned or recited from a book.
“I’m well aware,” he continued, “that many persons versed in Kuladharma will argue that sadhana without these elements cannot bear fruit. I must insist that it can and that it does. They are but instruments and symbols, and their power is derived from the mind. The mind, therefore, may draw from other sources, by other means.
“During the past twelve years, I have initiated five non-Indians – three Americans and two Europeans. In each instance, the diksha (initiation) was modified to meet their personal requirements and their national backgrounds. In each instance, the yoga was successful.”
The first two things to be considered in the performance of this discipline are time and place.
As regards the appointed hours, preference is given the period between 7 p.m. and midnight, although the sadhana may be undertaken at any time convenient.
Strict Hindu tradition recognizes only one day each month when the performance of ritual coition is ritu or proper. That is the fifth day following cessation of the shakti’s menstrual period. In parts of Tibet and China, this stricture is not observed.
The entire rite should be carried out in dim light, but never in total darkness. The best kind of illumination is a lamp which will produce a deep violet hue. At the time of actual maithuna, this lamp should be placed in a position allowing its rays to fall directly upon the muladhara region of the shakti (female partner).
The room where the sadhana is to take place should be clean, tidy, and well-ventilated. The temperature must be of a level to permit the ritual partners comfortably to remain nude during much of the procedure.
A vase of bright flowers – especially a bouquet of scarlet hibiscus or of red roses – adds a festive touch, but is not essential to the ritual.
The kula-dravya (articles used in the sadhana) are brought into the room at the time the rite is to begin; and the relicts are removed immediately after it is concluded.
These articles are:
A silver tray or china platter upon which have been placed small portions of any freshly cooked meat; fish; cereal biscuits (any commercial brand) or cooked rice; several whole cardamon seeds.
Two glass tumblers and a pitcher of drinking water, to which a few drops of rose water have been added.
A decanter of any kind of wine – sweet or dry.
(Instead of wine, Western students may use brandy, whisky, or liqueur. However, these should be consumed in modest amounts.)
Two liqueur glasses or small cups.
Two candles in holders.
Essence of musk or patchouli.
These materials and instruments should be arranged in an esthetically pleasing way, as one lays a table for a banquet, using a clean linen cloth.
Each article of the festive spread has a symbolical meaning for the sadhaka, According to Shastra, they, together with maithuna, represent the entire universe (jagat-brahmanda).
Wine, says the Mahanirvana Tantra, represents the element fire. It signifies prakriti or creative cosmic energy, which brings joy to man and dispels his sorrows.
In this connexion, psychologists have long been aware of the effect of moderate amounts of wine as a means of unlocking the door to the unconscious mind.
William James, in his “Varieties of Religious Experience,” notes that: “The sway of alcohol over mankind is due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold fact and dry criticisms of the sober hour … It brings him from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core … It makes him for the moment one with truth.”
But just as Tantrik scriptures warn against excess, so James observes:
“It is part of the deeper mystery and tragedy of life that whiffs and gleams of something that we immediately recognize as excellent, should be vouchsafed to so many of us only in the fleeting early phases of what in its totality is so degrading a poisoning.”
Meat, the second tattva, which stimulates growth of the body and development of the mind, signifies the element air. It also represents all animal life upon the earth.
Fish, related symbolically to the element water, stands for the generative powers of the body and the flow of prana through the three principal nadis. With it, the sadhaka identifies himself with aquatic forms of life.
Parched cereal unites one with all vegetable life, and through it, with those geodetic currents drawn from the soil as the nourishment of terrestrial life. The cereal embodies, so to speak, the element earth.
Similarly, as explained earlier in the present work, the cardamom seeds illustrate the bifold structure of physical creation, wrapped in its sheath (kosha) of maya or veiling. Mystics of all faiths have affirmed this duality in every aspect of life, pointing to it as the source of all creative activity.
Finally, the fifth tattva or sexual union, is ether, the basic substratum behind all creation – the very root of the visible world.
So the maithuna couple, if they persevere in their embrace, come to feel and know the supreme bliss that permeates the process of creation. Even the non-Tantrik scriptures of India note the sacramental nature of the act. Hence the passage in the celebrated Brihad-aran-yaka Upanishad, which Edward Carpenter – ignorant of its inner meaning – called “obscene”:
“Her lower part is the sacrificial altar: her hairs the sacrificial grass, her skin the soma-press. The two labia of the vulva are the fire in the middle. Verily, as great as is the world of him who performs the Vajapeya sacrifice, so great is the world of him who, knowing this, practices sexual intercourse; he turns the good deeds of the woman to himself; but he, who without knowing this, practices sexual intercourse, his good deeds women turn to themselves.”
Immediately prior to the sadhana, both partners are instructed to bathe carefully, from head to toe. In addition to purely esthetic considerations, the bath is de rigueur in the Tantrik ritual because bio-electrical currents must flow freely between the couple during bodily contact required in later phases of the sadhana. Experiments have shown that these currents attain their greatest intensity in the genital area of the human body.
Upon emerging from the bath, the shakti anoints herself liberally with her favorite scent (more than used for street wear), provided it is one of the better French perfumes, most of which include in their formula, either musk or civet.
She then dons a negligee of thin silk, nylon or fine linen. Orthodox Tantrik opinion holds that this garment should be red, or a shade close to that of the hibiscus or China rose, which is the symbolic flower of Tantrism.
The sadhaka wears a dressing gown or robe of any material such as linen or silk, provided it is a non-conductor. It may be of any color or design.
If both ritual partners have practiced the preliminary disciplines they enter the sadhana chamber together, and both proceed with the first step of the secret ritual, the yoni mudra.
If the shakti has not undergone the preparatory training, the male shisshya enters the room alone and calls his mudra (partner) after he has completed the initial discipline, which follows:
After lighting the candles, he seats himself in the practice posture he has found to be most suitable for meditation. After emptying the residual air from the lungs, he equalizes the breath and brings it under control by pranayama (inhale seven, hold one, exhale seven; repeat twelve times).
Upon inhaling to begin the thirteenth breath cycle, he holds his breath for seven counts before exhaling to the count of seven. During the period of retention, he focuses his awareness strongly upon the muladhara center, situated between the anus and the root of the genitals.
As he holds his breath, he stimulates this center by contracting the sphincter muscles of the anus. Mean-while, he visualizes creative union taking place between Shiva and Shakti; that is, between cosmic consciousness (purusha) and cosmic energy (prakriti). As this union occurs, he imagines a vital current flowing upward through the central channel (sushumna) of his spine and on to the top of his head.
This retention cycle is repeated twelve times. Then the mudra is called in and the rite proceeds, with both partners participating.
At the table-altar, the shakti sits on the sadhaka’s left hand. When both are seated, and after a moment’s silence, the sadhaka performs the ceremony known as the panchikarana, thus:
With the index finger of his right hand, he taps the wine decanter, exclaiming “Phat!”
Then, while uttering the seed syllable, “Hung,” he makes a gesture as though veiling the decanter. This done, he sits back and regards the wine for a moment with unblinking gaze. Thereafter, he joins the thumb and ring finger of his left hand and gestures toward the decanter, saying: “namah.”
Finally, removing the stopper, he grasps the decanter in his left hand. Closing his right nostril with his right hand, he brings the wine close to the ida or left nostril and inhales the aroma from the vintage.
Turning his head away from the decanter, he exhales through the pingala or right nostril. This smelling procedure is repeated three times. It is done for the purpose of purifying the three nadis or subtle channels of psychic energy.
Thereafter, he intones the following mantra:
“Devata bhava siddhaye.”
The two small glasses or cups are filled two-thirds full of wine. One is passed to the shakti, and the ritual partners lift their glasses in unison and drain the contents.
Thereupon, the sadhaka refills them, again only two-thirds full. Then the couple each takes a small piece of meat from the plate, holding it between the thumb and third finger of the right hand. They mentally repeat the words, Shiva, Shakti, Sadha-Shiva, Ishvara, Vidya, Kala.
Realizing that they are in the presence of the Devi, they reflect: “I purify my gross body with atmatattva.” Then each consumes the piece of meat.
This is followed by wine, the glass or cup being held between the thumb and third finger of the left hand.
The sadhaka refills the wine glasses.
Now a small portion of fish is taken in the same manner as the meat. Holding it, the partners mentally recite the Mulamantra: Deva bhava siddhaye. The wine is consumed.
After the sadhaka has again refilled the glasses, the same karana is repeated, using the parched grain or biscuit. Once more the glasses are drained and refilled.
At this point, a portion of each of the shuddhi (meat, fish, and biscuit) is eaten, followed with wine.
“Then let them each take up his own cup and meditate upon the kula-kundalini as being divine conscious-ness in the body, and who is spread from the root chakra to the tip of the tongue. …”
The worshippers again empty their glasses, which are then filled with water. This is used to rinse the mouth thoroughly.
From the shuddhi-patra (plate or platter holding ritual food), the sadhaka takes a cardamom and passes it to his shakti, who receives it in the palm of her left hand. He then takes one for himself. Both partners break open the outer sheath or husk. Regarding the bivalvular grain within – two halves forming a unity within the enfolding sheath – they recall that all creation is likewise a unity, which appears to be a duality when viewed through the veil of prakriti. They reflect that this duality constitutes a polarity and that the same polarity is present within them.
Then the cardamoms are removed and chewed to sweeten the breath.
Thereafter, the partners leave the table and repair to a couch or bed, where the maithuna is to take place.
The shakti now disrobes (except for any jewels she may wish to wear) and seats herself upright on the edge of the bed or couch. The sadhaka stands before her.
The violet lamp is lighted and placed in such a position that its light falls upon the nude body of the shakti.
Viewing her now as an incarnation of the Sapphire Devi, the sadhaka gazes upon her with admiration and awe, as one pondering the mystery of creation and the unfathomable secret of being. For she is “extremely subtle; the awakener of pure knowledge, the embodiment of all bliss.”
Again, the sadhaka contemplates her as “the unsullied treasure house of beauty, the shining protoplast, the begetter of all that is, that inscrutably becomes, dies and is born again.”
In the Lalita Vistara it is written that she it is “whose slender waist, bending beneath the burden of her breasts’ ripe fruit, swells into jewelled hips, heavy with the promise of infinite maternities.”
Unless the sadhaka can thus envision his shakti, he is counselled to proceed no further with the sadhana. For, according to virtually all Tantrik opinion, without such realization, the maithuna which follows is a carnal and secular act, no different from ordinary sexual intercourse.
After observing the shakti in this way, the sadhaka places his hand over his heart and recites the mantram: “Shiva hum, So’ hum,” which means, “I am Shiva; I am She.” He thereby identifies himself with the cosmic union of Shiva-Shakti.
Then he projects into his shakti’s body the life of the Devi by a rite referred to in Tantrik texts as nyasa. The word is derived from a Sanskrit root meaning “to place,” and the modus operandi consists in placing the tips of the fingers on certain parts of the shakti’s body, uttering the appropriate mantra. The purpose of this practice is to awaken vital forces that lie dormant in these regions of the gross body.
Using the index and middle fingers of his right hand, the sadhaka lightly and deliberately touches the shakti’s heart area, crown of her head, three eyes (that is, center of forehead and two eyelids); hollow of the throat, left and right ear lobes, breasts, upper arms (left and right), navel, thighs, knees, feet, and yoni.
As he executes these motions, he recites the following mantra, either mentally or aloud:
“Hling . . . kling . . . kandarpa . . . svaha.”
The sadhaka next removes his own robe, and the partners lie together upon the bed, the shakti on the left of the sadhaka. She reclines flat on her back, and he upon his left side, facing her.
In the event that the sadhaka’s breath flow is not already through the pingala or right side, it will soon take that channel, after he has lain for a short time on his left side.
When he clearly perceives that the flow is through the pingala, he is ready to assume the maithuna position, which is accomplished in this way:
The shakti raises both her legs by bending her knees and pulling them upward toward her chest. The sadhaka then swings the upper portion of his body away from hers and brings his lingam into close contact with her yoni. She then lowers her legs, and he places his right leg between her legs. Properly carried out, the maneuvers bring the sex organs of the ritual partners into close contact, which may be prolonged over a period of time without tension or discomfort.
Lying thus fully relaxed, the sadhaka gently parts the labia of the yoni and partially inserts his lingam. Deep penetration of the vagina at this point is neither necessary nor desirable. But close contact between the lingam and the moist membrane of the inner yoni is important.
The sadhaka and his consort now lie completely motionless and relaxed for a period of thirty-two minutes. During this interval, the co-partners visualize the flow of pranic currents between them, the strongest being at the point of contact between the sexual organs. Such concentration is not forced or tense, but performed in a detached, almost somnolent way.
Gradually each partner will become aware of a rising tide of pleasurable sensation, growing in intensity as psychic energy courses through the reproductive organs and the chakras.
According to Pandit Chatterjee, among Western students practicing the sadhana, a sudden acme of sensation occurs at some point between the twenty-eighth and thirty-second minute of practice. This abrupt excitation, unlike anything ever experienced before, results in orgastic and involuntary contraction of the body’s total musculature.
A clearly-perceived decrease of tension follows, as the direction of the pranic currents is reversed, now flowing inward rather than outward, entering the nadis of the subtle body and energizing the entire organism.
This inexpressible experience of unity is called samarasa in the Tantrik texts; that is, a state which is nir-vanic. That is why maithuna has such an important place in Tantrik disciplines. By means of this inversion, this flowing back of pranic currents, reabsorption of the cosmos occurs. Time and eternity become one, Shiva and Shakti are wed within the sadhaka’s own being, and he knows the totalization that preceded creation of the universe.
Unless this inflowing of energy occurs, together with the rapturous state just described, the sadhana has failed and ought to be repeated again at a later date.
In their instruction of the sadhaka, Tantrik gurus lay great emphasis upon cautioning against allowing ejaculation to occur. Such a hard and fast rule obviously calls for great self-control and previous training on the part of the male partner in the sadhana. At the same time, it places Tantrik sadhana beyond the reach of the libertine, the voluptuary, and the idly curious.
If, during maithuna, the sadhaka feels ejaculation to be imminent, he is instructed to prevent it by holding his breath, at the same time turning his tongue backward as far as he can against the roof of his mouth.
In India and Tibet, yogis gradually lengthen their tongues by certain practices until they can reverse them, turning them backward into the hollow space beneath the epiglottis.
For the Western aspirant, however, it is sufficient merely to curl the tongue backward as far as possible, suspend the breath, and contract the anal muscles as in practicing the discipline which preceded maithuna.
It is important to bear in mind that the immediate aim is the temporary and simultaneous arrest of breath, thought, and semen. The Goraksha Samhita declares:
“So long as the breath is in motion, the semen moves also. When breath ceases to move, the semen is likewise at rest.”
If involuntary emission does occur, then the sadhana is terminated, since it will then bear no fruit. At the same time, gurus tell their students that if ejaculation is unintentional, it ought not to discourage further attempts to practice the rite.
If the sadhaka is successful in overcoming the urge to indulge in conventional orgasm, he continues to maintain his maithuna position for several minutes following the samarasa state. This time may gradually be extended to two or three hours, if the couple mutually desires it.
The ritual may be terminated in either of two ways:
(1) The sadhaka withdraws and “returns once more to the tavern”; that is, he repeats the yoni mudra technique with which the sadhana began.
(2) Fully relaxed in body and mind, and soothed by the rapture of true union, the couple’s samarasa state passes into normal slumber. Both then awaken deeply refreshed and more harmonious in their everyday relations with each other.
Pundit Chatterjee recalled two instances in which marital alliances, torn by emotional conflicts, were re-stored to harmony and mutual love by the practice of Tantrik maithuna.
It should be emphasized that the sadhana just outlined is a yogic discipline and rite. It is not related in any way to conventional sexual intercourse. As a Tan-trik ritual, it is properly performed only once during a lunar month – that on the shakti’s day or the fifth day following cessation of the menses.
Even so, some of its features may profitably be adapted to ordinary intercourse, if the couple wishes to do so.
For example, in the secular act, the period of immobility may be observed, followed by actual orgasm.
There is little doubt that many wives in the West -where a brief and sometimes overly abrupt union leaves them tense and dissatisfied – would welcome a more deliberate approach to the sexual experience.
The need for greater concentration and mental awareness during coition is another Tantrik practice that could be adopted with beneficial results in the West. It should be noted that this implies not only the awareness of physical sensations, but also feelings of love, devotion and tenderness towards one’s co-partner in the act.
Dr. Wilhelm Reich, a tireless researcher in biology and natural science, observed that well-adjusted indi-viduals never talk or laugh during the sexual act, unless it be with words of tenderness. He points out that both talking and laughing indicate a serious lack of the capacity for surrender. For the latter requires the individual’s undivided absorption in the sensations of samarasa.
Dr. Reich stated unequivocally that men to whom such surrender means being “feminine” are always emo-tionally disturbed.
As previously stated, the secret ritual of Tantrism has higher aims, however, than merely improving sexual relations between man and wife.
According to Tantra, the priceless gifts of maithuna are wisdom and moksha (liberation from material bondage).
The ancient teachings remind us again and again that through this ritual, the jivatma or individual self, transcends time and death, to share in the immortal being of the Paratma or divine self.
Thus the mind of the sadhaka is no longer confined within the limits of logic and conscious reason. Floating free, so to speak, he gives himself over to the strange impulses and intuitive knowledge that come to him out of the unknown.
He enters the secret background of nature, the world of the artist and the saint. He is like the swan that the poet Rilke describes, who, after walking awkwardly upon the earth, enters the water – “soft against his breast, which now how easily together flows behind him in a little wake of waves . . . while he, infinitely silent, self-possessed, and ever more mature, is pleased to move serenely on his majestic way.”
In our day, when man’s rational faculty, which has transformed our lives, has also provided the immediate means of destroying them, there is an urgent need for this voyage of the soul.
Rationalist critics may dismiss such a mystical projection as a form of escapism. But does such an opinion have any real foundation beyond the materialist’s desire to consider all supralogical experiences as clinical data?
Rather, ought we not to ask ourselves whether the kind of reality to be experienced through Tantrik maithuna is not preferable to the concept whose ultimate meaning is summed up in such terms as “over-kill,” “acceptable level of risk,” and “first-strike capacity?”
Surely, Tantrik sadhana moves toward a more satisfying plane of existence; one in which there is more love and, in a final sense, more stability.