Tantra, sexual energy and desire

We desire things because we perceive ourselves to be separate from them. Tantric mediations focus on

There is a fundamental difference between directly experiencing sensuality and seeking it. Tantra is not hedonism, which is the pursuit of sensual pleasures. Tantra is the absorption in what is here now.

And of course, as human beings, we have desire.

"When desire or knowledge have manifested, forget their object and focus your mind on object-less desire or knowledge as being the Self. Then you will reach deep reality."
Vijnanabhairava Tantra

Instead of trying to eliminate desire,Tantric mediations focus on seeing beyond the apparent duality of desire and its objects. We desire something because we perceive ourselves to be separate from it. As this sense of separation and lack dissolves, then the energy of desire ceases to become a bond to suffering, but instead an expression of joyful love and oneness.

"Every living thing perceives subject and object, but the tantrika resides in their union."
Vijnanabhairava Tantra

Procreation, conception and birth are the most profound miracles of life. We all exist on this planet through this alchemical meeting of the sperm of our father with the egg of our mother. The essence of our existence is sexual. And sexual energy is both pleasurable and powerful. It is possible to enter into the wonders of this mystery as a meditation.

Symbols of the sexual-spiritual union of male and female exist all around us, once we open ourselves to that possibility. In traditional cultures the sky was seen as “father sky”, and the earth “mother earth”. The meeting of earth and sky is where male and female meet.

The Hindu Tantric symbol of the Shiva Lingam is a representation of the male and female genitals, and principles, fully united. These symbols can repeatedly remind us of this great mystery, and can remind us of this ultimate wonder.

"O Goddess! The sensual pleasure of the intimate bliss of union can be reproduced at any moment by the radiant presence of the mind that remembers intensely this pleasure.
When you meet again with a loved one, be in this bliss totally and penetrate the luminous space."
Vijnanabhairava Tantra

Kriya Yoga is a system of techniques to consciously move energy through the body. Tantric Kriya Yoga involves direct sexual contact between love partners. There is no belief system, just a path of action, which produces powerful and immediate results, predictable, repeatable and objectively verifiable.

It works on all levels of a person’s life, strengthening the body, calming the emotions, enhancing thought processes, and leading to an inner balance that can open the door to spiritual awareness. It includes a rotation of conscious sexual forces between two partners, mixing the male and female energies in an internal alchemy.

In the words of the Vijnanabhairava Tantra:

"When you practice a sex ritual, let thought reside in the quivering of your senses like wind in the leaves, and reach the celestial bliss of ecstatic love."

My own personal experiences include the wonders of a simple caressing meditation, which can be called “Tantric Touch”. One love partner connects with their own inner heart centre and a place of devotion whereby touch is offered as a celebration of the Divine.

They then tenderly caress their beloved with very fine, delicate continuous touch, first with a feather, and then with the fingertips. Every part of the body is honoured with equal reverence. This brings each partner fully present into the moment, and at a certain point the giver and receiver melt into one.

The receiver feels extremely alive, and it can be hard to locate the feather or fingertips on their body, as the whole skin feels gloriously alive and tingly. The first time that I experienced this, it was as if my mind expanded and my sense of touch was almost auditory, singing, and I was at once both peaceful and blissfully alive. I was filled with a sense of love and deep appreciation.

“While receiving a caress, sweet Princess, enter the loving as everlasting life.”
-excerpt from Shiva Sutra

Leora Lightwoman read psychology at Oxford University, then trained as a yoga teacher and bodyworker. She has been a Tantra practitioner since 1993. In 2001 she formed her own school, Diamond Light Tantra. This is a pragmatic and eclectic approach to sexual, emotional and spiritual healing.
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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue