Category Archives: Tantra

A Tantric Viewpoint: Reconnecting To Our Lover’s Energy In A Disconnected World

A long time ago in a galaxy called the “Buddha-verse”, there existed a world where the Goddess ruled. This was the world of Tantra. The core of these teachings reveal that we are each a microcosm of the universe and everything mirrored in our reality is a macrocosm of what is going on within us. For this reason, tantric’s revere and nurture their emotional, spiritual, and physical bodies. Tantra is the yoga of the heart.

“We are each a microcosm of the universe and everything mirrored in our reality is a macrocosm of what is going on within us.”

From the traditional tantric view, the Goddess (often referred to the Divine Mother) 1, gives reverence to both male and female powers. Tantra affirms that God and Goddess go together, support each other, and should be worshiped together. The couple agrees to individually embody the archetypal energies of a male and female deity.

According to the tantric world view, we are all male/female by nature. In the womb our bodies are androgynous for a certain amount of time until the soul entering the body makes a choice as to which sex would serve it best.

Plato wrote there are three types of souls: Man, Woman, & Androgynies. Man is attracted to man and woman are attracted to women. Androgynies are what we would call heterosexuals in our current times. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad describes androgyne as a male and female heterosexual but other scriptures and icons describe them as one bi-sexual body whose real power lay in their feminine attributes. 2

In Tantra, the cosmic consciousness is feminine and embodies feminine qualities. These include psycho-spiritual receptivity, compassion, and the energy of consciousness.

The masculine force is the manifestation of will, drive, and control. Tantra views the feminine as the embodiment of spiritual wisdom, with the male being the embodiment of physical wisdom.

Female energy holds the power to see through the illusions of the mind. It is the feminine energy that is the Shakti, or power-source. The Shakti is the direct access to the universe for her mate. (In Tantric practice you do not have to be a literal female to become the Shakti. It is understood there can be a female soul found within a male body and that a male soul is sometimes born in a female body).

This view is quite different from the distorted patriarchal Christian or Judaic perspective we live with now. I say distorted because there was a time when all religions honored the Goddess and believed that without Her blessings, they were powerless. In Tantra she was the Shakti, in Sufism she was the Fravashi. In the Middle East, Al Lat, the Goddess of the Moon, became Allah.1

According to The Book of Jasher, a nine foot ancient scroll intentionally left out of the Old Testament, the Jews worshipped the Goddess Asherah long before the had ever heard of Jehovah.3 Jesus called Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the apostles”, “the Divine Mother that knew all”.4

Internationally acclaimed author and tantric scholar, Miranda Shaw, revealed some astonishing research with reference to the woman behind Shakyamuni Buddha. In her book, Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, she states that he received his spiritual enlightenment during tantric sex with his wife in their palace. Only then did he renounce his kingdom and become a homeless wanderer in inspire people to take up the spiritual life.5

“(Buddha) received his spiritual enlightenment during tantric sex with his wife in their palace…only then did he renounce his kingdom…to inspire people to take up the spiritual life”

So when did this schism between the God and the Goddess occur? Apparently not until what the Hindus call the Kali Yuga (the current world age). It was written there would be a time when male energy would fall out of alignment with his female counterpart. Just as we are born of a woman’s body, the Gods and Goddesses confess they were also born of a feminine consciousness. The universe is the embodiment of the feminine principle…just as Mother Earth is. Feminine energy is creative, win-win, caring for future generations (using only the resources needed); that embodies an awareness that humans are not the only species on earth, nor a superior one.

A damaged male energy system is competitive and hoards resources. It is aggressive, entitled, and often demonstrates little empathy. Each of us has both the male and female energies within us. The kind of world we create for ourselves reflects the balance of these divine energies in our daily lives.

Why? Remember that whole microcosm/macrocosm belief system I mentioned above? We are living in two worlds right now. We have one foot in the old male energy systems and one foot in the new feminine energy that has awakened.

The old, male world is dying. It is fighting back like a bully child throwing its weight around. In the US we see it reflected in a government run by a misogynist that is using an office to benefit a gluttony of greed. We see it in the elimation of food for the poor and our old, not caring for the infirm with millions losing health care. We see it the theft of Social Security from the people who paid into it in good faith.

“The old, male world is dying. It is fighting back like a bully child throwing its weight around.”

This dying energy reveals itself in the attempted destruction of our National Parks, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Public Television. We see it in the assault on the EPA that protects our natural resources. Ending Planned Parenthood, an organization that gives affordable healthcare to millions, is not about abortion: it is about disempowering women. This energy endangers our entire planet and all her species, so that 1% of the world can control others. It is a vampiric energy, not a loving one.

Tantra clearly defines and honors the male and female energies. In American society, those roles have become muddled. So what can Tantra teach us about our masculine/feminine roles in today’s world?

The first step would be to honor the God/Goddess in ourselves. See our bodies as a temple for a visiting deity. What must we do to prepare this house for its sacred guest? Holding an image of the sacred within us sets a resonance for our life. Seeing that sacredness in others sets another resonance. When you treat all beings in your life as a visiting holy being, it brings out the very best in them. Treat the partner in your life this way and the results will be astonishing.

Folsom Twins by Uriél Dana
The Folsom Twins, Uriél Dana, 2016, Oil On Canvas

Featured Image – Detail: Bond of Union by M.C. Escher, Dutch 1898–1972. Original lithograph in the National Gallery of Canada


Footnotes

1. Walker, Barbara G. The Secrets of the Tarot, Origins, History, and Symbolism. Harper San Francisco. 1984
2. O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Hindu Myths. Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1975
3. From a lecture presented by Sir Laurence Garner, Kt St GM, KCD, author of Bloodline of the Holy Grail, at The Ranch, Yelm, Washington, 30 April 1997
4. Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels, New York:Random House, 1979,p.22
5. Interview with Craig Hamilton, What Is Enlightenment, Issue 13, Spring/Summer 1998


Parts of this article originally appeared in an article entitled:“A Tantrik Occasion” in the Dec. 1999 issue of GC Magazine in Dallas, Texas. ©1999–2017 Uriél Dana

Impotence and Tantra: How An Ancient Practice Can Shed New Light On A Modern Issue

Tantra is an ancient practice of breath and energy work that originated in Hinduism, and later migrated into Buddhism. The tantras are ancient texts that span from the the 5th to the 8th century. Each discourse represents a software for running the human body. Together they offer a kind of “stealth” spiritual technology that can help reconcile our spiritual and sexual natures.

Of the original 64 texts, only six refer to sexual practice. Due to a childhood sleeping disorder, I have been a practitioner of Tibetan Dream Yoga, another of the tantras, since age nine. When people learn I consider myself a devotional Tantric, they often plunge into questions not about dreams or breath work, but about sex.

A twenty eight year old man once confided a very private, yet common, sexual concern. He told me that although he thought about sex a lot, when it actually came to having sex, he no longer felt interested or excited. In the past he had many positive sexual encounters. Although he still continued to be aroused looking at sexy photos and film, he was concerned that he was becoming impotent.

Thinking about sex and looking at pornography are both mental activities. Notice that I said he told me he didn’t “feel” interested, or “feel” excited anymore. This is because his sexuality had moved into his “head”. Sex in Tantra transcends the mind; it is a synergetic act of the body, soul, & spirit. The mind is useful in your choice of potential partners and for preparing for love play (candles, condoms, or comforts), but in actual lovemaking it should be set aside.

Many people approach sex with the same attitude as going to the gym: mental, goal oriented. In tantric lovemaking however, our attitude will be more a kin to meditation and prayer. (Meditation being when we “listen” to God-Goddess, prayer being when we “talk to” God-Goddess). Lets talk about what these two approaches look like in our sexuality.

First of all, the mind holds fear. When we are in our “minds”, we are constantly judging, analyzing, and trying to control an outcome. We are thinking about our performance, or our partner’s performance, what we look like, or comparing our lover or ourselves to other lovers or even fantasy lovers. This means we are living in the past, or living in the future, and we are not being in our “present”. Nothing is less satisfying than being with a lover who does not “show up” energetically.

When we move our sexuality out of the mind it goes directly into the heart. It feels as different as a one-night stand versus being with someone we deeply love. In meditation we pay attention to our breathing. We breathe into total relaxation, we are present. That “presence” becomes our “present” to our lover. We are genuinely connecting with each other energetically; to our divinity.

The problem with approaching sex from the mind is it is also where we create stress and anxiety. Without meditation, these become tension in our bodies. When men experience tension, their blood pressure is affected and the valves that regulate the blood steam of their body’s arteries are also the valves that affect the lingam’s* ability to have an erection. As a rule, stress is the culprit behind impotence as it constricts the blood flow into the lingam.

When we stay in the present while lovemaking, from that place of one-ness with spirit, we are not attached to outcomes or performance. Each moment is sacred, a gift. Time slows down. Shame and guilt fall away as we fall into the divinity of our partner. We see ourselves in them. Touch them as we would want to be touched, kiss them as we would like to be kissed, hold them in the safety and light we feel when we surrender to spirit. It is surprisingly erotic to those who have never tried it.

Even though the most sexually dysfunctional man will have at least five erections during his sleep cycle lasting nearly half an hour, his waking mind, when filled with stress or tension, will create impotence. Meditation relaxes the body and is the secret of sexually empowered tantric men.

For those who may be put off by the idea of meditating, there are many forms that fit different lifestyles. One of its primary benefits is learning how to breathe correctly. Most people do not.

The way we naturally breathe as a baby or when we sleep is to expand our abdominal muscles when we inhale and contract them when we exhale. The air you breath in through your nose should go all the way down to your belly. An ancient proverb states: The nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating”.

Controlling your breath will greatly help your heart not work as hard as well as help your immune system. During normal intercourse, the rhythm of breathing with sexual movements is synchronized spontaneously. Reversing or desynchronizing breathing during sex can help control the length and stamina of your experience.

If breathwork still seems a bit of a bother remember it could be worse. An East African Tutsi cure for impotence involves the man sleeping with his Mother.

Study for Prometheus
Study for Prometheus. 18th.century. Jean Grandjean Dutch 1752–1781. Charcoal on paper

*Lingam is the tantric word for Penis.


Featured Image: 18th Century Drawing by Francois Boucher, Ecole Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux-Arts, Paris

Metaphysics, Art & Buddhism

There is a golden thread woven through every religious tradition and mystery school. Although at first glance many world religions seem to be at odds with one another, serious study reveals a unity of fundamental truths lie buried in their core. This is what is known as the ageless wisdom and it has been with us for millennia.

For centuries, this knowledge was protected or hidden from the mass population, often by priests or governments ostensibly for their own good. Secret societies such as the Rosicrucian’s, Free Masons, Knights Templar, as well as the Druids, Sufi’s, Kabbalists, and the Essenes, guarded these secret truths. Like Buddhism, they were passed down orally from generation to generation. Some of these truths were allowed to filter out to the masses just after the turn of the last century, but much of it had to be highly disguised in symbolism and code.

The introduction of Tibetan Buddhism to the West in the 1960’s marked a change in that pattern. This new American dharma (a term coined by Llama Surya Das) began making available any knowledge that would help humanity empower itself spiritually. My own introduction to Buddhism began as a child when a sleeping disorder began a four-decade practice of Tibetan Dream Yoga.

The tools of Tibetan Buddhism and The Ageless Wisdom are not new age. I prefer to think of them as “new edge”.

Many of these ideas are the foundations of quantum physics and Vajrayana Buddhism, commonly known as Buddhist Tantra.

One of the most basic yet profound truths of the ageless wisdom is “energy follows thought”. This has been rephrased many ways; thoughts are things, you are what you think about, you create your own reality, etc. Each of us is a vehicle for universal energy. This energy manifests itself as light and is formless. It is our thoughts, beliefs, and intentions that give that energy form. Buddhism follows a slightly different formula; kindness in thoughts creates energy. If you add a sense of service to something larger than yourself, you’ve added the wings of intention.

Nowhere do we find this amalgamation of energy into matter as strong as it is in the arts. For seventeen years of my career as an artist I collaborated with the late American painter, Gage Taylor. As this kind of synergy is rare among artists, we were invited to share what he and I did together and teach artists how to be successful as artists.

Traveling as guests of the U.S. State Dept. and going into places with an anti-American sentiment, we met and worked with hundreds of artists. This program use to be under the jurisdiction of the United States Information Agency after they noted that there is a universal art spirit that, once shared, transcends the work of dozens of politicians. (These were invitational tours as part of the Arts America program).

Gage Taylor and I observed impeccably painted work collect dust on walls, and we observed paintings rendered with unbelievably poor skill sell like crazy.

Without fail, when we met the non-selling artists, they were angry at the world and felt the world owed them a living.

When we met the artist who’s work sold, we would encounter a joyful, spirit-filled human who loved what he was doing, loved people, and was filled with gratitude. They also had a sense of service to something larger than himself.

Those two conflicting attitudes are reflections of the power of intention. “Intention” is what we have when we combine our desire with a sense of purpose, consciously or not, to accomplish a goal. The more clear our sense of service, the more dynamic our intentions become. The stronger the light coming through us becomes, the stronger the purpose, and the faster our thoughts manifest themselves.

When the conscious mind has one intention and the subconscious mind has another, we create whichever intention carries the stronger emotional charge.

In the examples of the success, or lack of success, with the two artists above, we see how their intention was going out as energy and manifesting themselves in the art. The energy you are channeling as you create stays in that piece of art forever. You can paint a nice picture, but people will feel the anger subconsciously and not want to be around it, much less buy the painting.

This intention also manifests itself in the joy of collecting as well as visiting museums. To stand in front of a painting in which the artist has mastered the “flow” allows you to feel you are in telepathic communion with that artist, i.e. spirit. (There is no word for this in English. In Sanskrit, it is known as the “rasa.”)

In 1987, the largest grossing gallery in the world (at that time) contacted Gage Taylor and I and dangled all the right carrots. Consequently, we moved at great personal expense to Maui. Five days after we got there, our gallery was on “60 Minutes” for fraud! This gallery also had a year’s worth of our work that they would not give back. (“A glitch in our matrix”, one might say).

We had rented a beautiful oceanfront condo and studio and tried to keep to our regular painting pace, stay out of fear, and not think about how living in the islands was like throwing money into a volcano. We always had more than one of our collaborative paintings going at a time and each of us worked on the work regularly.

There was one painting in particular that every time I would work on I would be thinking, “It’s really beautiful here, but can we afford it”?

When Gage was working on that very same painting, (unbeknownst to me), he was also thinking, “Man it’s beautiful here, but can we afford it”?

When the painting was finished it went to our former gallery on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Although this is a very prosperous area of Los Angeles, several people who stood in front of that painting said out loud, almost in trance, “It’s very beautiful, but can I afford it?” It became such a mantra for that painting that our gallery called us to see what was going on. (This is where you go into a meditation and edit the script.)

Several months later, Gage and I decided to do a little experiment with the principles of success that we had so often shared with artists. Prior to this time, our collaborations were in Gage’s style and signed with both our full names… names recognized by collectors.

Combining both of our styles, we entered a major national competition (only 75 artists chosen out of nearly 800 entries) in Bellevue, Washington. We signed this painting with the name TAYLOR-DANA, and a new look, a new signature, a new synergy was born. We were accepted.

To validate what we were teaching worked; we really wanted this painting to sell. The entire time the exhibit was up, we kept repeating to ourselves, “We really want this painting to sell in Bellevue, Washington”. Well, it did not sell… not until a few months after the show. Only then, when a couple from Bellevue, Washington came to Hawaii on vacation. Even though they lived a few blocks from the exhibit, they had never seen our painting until they visited our studio months later!

“If you expect bad things to happen to you, they do. If you expect wonderful things to happen to you, they do. Our thoughts broadcast to the world everything we believe in about our world and ourselves. How we live, where we live, our experiences, our appearance, our friends, are all manifestations of the film we have written, cast, and produced. It’s important to remember we can edit that film, re-write its script, or even re-cast ourselves just by changing the lighting in our hearts.”

We are all learning as we go, so be gentle with yourself and others.


Featured Image: Enlightenment & Purrsuasion, Oil on Canvas, 16″ Diameter, by Uriél Dana & Gage Taylor (died 2000). © 1996-2017 Uriél Dana.

The Marriage of Art & the Erotic: Together Again

©2017 Uriél Dana

When an artist stops painting, it does not mean he’s stopped making art. It usually just means he has said all he can say on a particular subject.

Life can strike us with an experience and a new series of work can be birthed to the world in an instant. Painting a series can sometimes be the only way out of being emotionally frozen. For example, Picasso entered his Blue Period after a close friend committed suicide.

In 1995 I flat-lined during a surgical procedure. I found myself in 16th century Bengal India, dying from a fall down a flight of stairs. The details of that out of body journey were life altering for me. I began dreaming in Sanskrit and Chinese; could understand the lyrics of any language in song; could suddenly play a tamboura; chant in mantra; and I could smell when people were about to die. I also started painting miniatures, Left-handed. Did I mention I am Right handed?

The miniatures I painted (and the accompanying poems I wrote) were, unknown to me, a specific genre of work called “Shringara Rasa” and that is how I still refer to the series.

Shringara (sometimes spelled sringara) is a Sanskrit word that means “erotic”, and rasa refers to the “flavor” or “mood” of an art form. Shringara Rasa refers to the way in which we reach love or ecstasy that is both human and divine. I began trying to blend this Eastern concept into a Western format in my work.

The art tradition of Hindu miniature painting came out of the 14th century renaissance in Central India and continued to thrive into the early 19th century. The Mughal Empire had destroyed medieval Hindu kingdoms and history begins to see the emergence of indigenous literature enter the mainstream of society.

Prior to this renaissance, the priests and nobles controlled all exposure to these great spiritual epics. (They were the only ones who understood Sanskrit).

These stories captured the minds and hearts of people, especially the love between the celestial lovers, Krishna and Radha. Radha was Krishna’s favorite consort and she became transfixed by a passionate obsession for him. To me, the allegory was clear: Radha and Krishna represent the Shiva and the Shakti, the male and female aspects of ourselves, longing to reunite with one another.

Krishna and Radha’s love inspired great art, poems, and music and marked the beginning of devotional Bhakti cults. (People who attached themselves to a personal deity).

Many of these stories inspired their followers to live out their lives in imitation of these Gods. The painters of the time found their subjects from these great poems. One of their favorite inspirations came from the work of the twelfth-century Bengali court poet, Jayadeva.

As a person who loves living surrealists, I became inspired, no, obsessed, by the people who embodied the divine grace and ecstatic love of these Bhakti cults.

One of my favorite stories was of a young prince, Raja Savant Singh of Kishangarh (1699-1764), who abdicated his throne and became a poet and painter. He ran off with the courtesan-poetess Bani Thani, and they lived out their lives re-enacting the lives of Krishna and Radha at Brindaban, the holy city associated with Krishna. His brother may have taken the throne, but this young prince became quite well known under his nom de plume as a poet, Nagari Das, and the beautiful Bani Thani still lives in his paintings that survive.

When I finished the first painting of this series, “Together Again”, I felt it need a poem with it, so I wrote one. Each additional painting had an accompanying poem. I later discovered that the form of poems I was writing was classic 16th century Bengali love poetry in the tantric tradition.

My research led me to a 16th century princess that had been born in Rajasthan and was to be the first Hindu queen of medieval North India. She was widowed before her husband, the heir apparent, took the throne. Her name was Mirabai, and she was the embodiment of Bhakti.

At a young age, Mirabai had experienced a spiritual transmission, or murti, from a statue of Krishna presented to her by a wandering and low-caste ascetic. She became so connected to her God that he was with her always in a kind of “spiritual marriage”. She wrote over 400 poems and created a type of devotional song now known as bhajans.

Although Mirabai’s in-laws persecuted her for her spiritual beliefs, and she was highly controversial, she was revered by her peers and honored by kings in her lifetime. Mirabai had everything, but chose to live the life of a yogini.

As a painter, a poet, and a practitioner of Tibetan Dream Yoga for over 40 years, I could not end this series until I understood everything about this art form in history. It reflected something very personal to me in my own awakening. Mirabai’s poems speak of someone who understood the inter-dimensional quality of dreams, and she often wrote of her lover Krishna visiting her in these worlds. There is a line from one of her poems that still wrenches my heart when I hear it; “I slept for a moment, the Beloved appeared, when I rose to greet him, he was gone. Some lose him sleeping, I lost him awake….”


Painting: Together Again, oil on board, 8″ x 14″, 1996

Together Again © 1996 Uriél Dana

I have a kingdom deep within

Where the veils of illusion

are pale and thin.

Light and dark merge into grey,

And love and ecstasy begin

their stay.

The King and his Queen

are equal here.

We know only love,

no pain or fear.

Our dream is a magic carpet ride

Where all worlds are one,

and souls confide.

And when the dream is a waking one,

Will you know by my eyes

that I have come?