Tantric Initiation in the Traditions

James Steinberg

James Steinberg has been a devotee of Adi Da since 1973 and has worked with Him in the area of the "Great Tradition" of spiritual and religious traditions. He has also written a couple of books about Adi Da Samraj, namely Divine Distraction and Love of the God-Man: A Comprehensive Guide to the Traditional and Time-Honored Guru-Devotee Relationship, the Supreme Means of God-Realization, As Fully Revealed for the First Time by [Adi Da Samraj].

The following is an excerpt taken from Love of the God-Man. In this piece, James places sexuality in the broader context of the process of Realizing Reality Itself. He discusses three Spiritual Realizers, and points out that, while parts of their stories can be attributed to folklore, what remains true is the communication of the necessarily positive place sexuality must have (and inherently does have) when Truth or Reality Itself is to be Realized.

James Steinberg The use of sexuality as a means of Spiritual Instruction has been found in various traditional contexts and in the lives of traditional Realizers.

In the Hindu Tantric tradition three varieties of Teachers and practitioners are described. The “vira siddhas” or “heroes” were those who taught through using sexuality (as well as other “pleasures of life, such as alcohol and meat, which were normally forbidden), and they were known as the followers of the “left-handed path” (of Tantra). It was acknowledged that most people were not qualified for such a Way, which was fraught with the potential danger of attachment to sensuality and indulgence. The “pasus” were the ordinary types, or bodily-based individuals, who were instructed to live a more conventionally disciplined householder’s life. And there were also those viewed as “pure” or “sattvic” [balanced] types, who lived a very ascetical and celibate lifestyle.

The viras were known to be those of the greatest vigor, and the Way Taught and practiced by them involved the conscious use of practices shunned by the pure and (typically) indulged to excess by the pasu. These practices included drinking alcohol, engaging in sexuality, and eating cooked meat. In the West, the rich Tantric tradition is largely unexplored, primarily because most of its source Teachings were never written down, and of those that were, much remains misunderstood or has not yet been translated into English.

If sexual initiation is performed by a Sat-Guru, it is essential that the devotee by rightly prepared, for the un-Enlightened devotee may project his or her limitations on the Sat-Guru and associate with him (or her) in an ordinary way. In such a case the great Gift of Blessing granted through sexual relations with an Adept is not fully or rightly received. Further, the devotee who fails to understand or even receive the Instruction and Initiation that is given through the Realized Sat-Guru’s involvement with sexuality may develop misconceptions and misunderstandings.

Drukpa KunleyThe Spiritual biography of the Tibetan “Crazy-Wise” Adept Drukpa Kunley (1455-1570) is a testimony to the use of sexuality by Adepts in traditional Spiritual cultures as a means to Teach and Liberate. Drukpa Kunley was a “Naljorpa”, or wandering Realizer, who was full of magical siddhis [spiritual powers]. Although he had formal monastic training, he is best known for his “Crazy-Wise” actions all over Bhutan and Tibet. It is said that he had over five thousand “girlfriends”, of whom thirteen were his favorites. His exploits are full of shock tactics, humor, and utter lack of inhibition. There are numerous recorded examples of his ribald poetry and his sexual play with women. Sex and chung (Tibetan beer) are all he seems to be interested in — but this is just his “cover” by which he tests those around him.

The portrayal of such outlandish and compassionate behavior, even if the actual events themselves have become mythologized by time, is meant to illustrate both the Spiritual Instruction inherent in the Realizer’s every action, and his Freedom from all conventional limitations on behavior. Drukpa Kunley travels like a beggar or a huntsman, with hunting bow and dog by his side. But in every situation, it becomes clear that all of his actions and speech are motivated by compassion. His words and deeds bring freedom to everyone he encounters, and his sexual exploits (in particular) are both initiatory and liberating. With ordinary folk and with the monks of his time, he sports and plays, appearing flippant, but always most intently and directly penetrating any situation with the Wisdom of the Real Condition.

On one occasion, in a southern valley of Bhutan, he is requested by a group of wealthy men and women to Bless them with a discourse on the Buddha’s Teachings. “Tell us something”, they ask, “serious in content, but with some touches of humor”, in the language of common people, but with “a profound inner meaning”. In response, the mad Lama delivers a typically explicit, madly humorous, and sharply critical discourse, in the style of the Buddhist enumeration of numbered truths:

This is the discourse on mundane pleasure. . . .
A Lama’s joy is a gift,
A politician’s joy is flattery,
A woman’s joy is her lover;
That is the teaching on the Three Joys. . . .
The fast talker inserts himself into the centre of a crowd,
Monastic wealth inserts itself into the monks’ stomachs,
Thick penises insert themselves into young girls:
That is the teaching on the Three Insertions.
The mind of a Bodhisattva is smooth,
The talk of self-seekers is smoother,
But the thighs of a virgin are smoother than silk:
That is the teaching on the Three Smooth Things. . . .
Kunley never tires of girls,
Monks never tire of wealth,
Girls never tire of sex:
This is the teaching on the Three Indefatigables.
Although mind is clear, one needs a Lama;
Although a lamp burns brightly, it still needs oil;
Although Mind is self-evident, it needs recognition:
That is the Teaching on the Three Needs.

The discourse is more extended than space allows here, but it is reported that after it was over, the grateful listeners cried and laughed, and left Drukpa Kunley’s company with great faith and devotion. Over and over it is reported that Drukpa Kunley meets a woman, has sexual relations with her, and then leaves her with Instructions to continue to practice and meditate. In many cases it is described that such fortunate ones achieved advanced states of Realization.

In Hinduism, the archetypal sexually alive Adept is Krishna, who is also the most beloved Spiritual hero. With great relish, stories are told of Krishna’s sexual union with the Gopis on the banks of the Yamuna river in Vrindavan. The fullness of this tradition, as explored by Jayadeva in his Gita Govinda, depicts in beautiful erotic verse Krishna’s trysts with his favorite, Radha. All of the Gopis are in fact married women, who leave their husbands in the night to be with Krishna. There are many who claim that the stories of Krishna were intended only as allegory, and that it is not really being suggested that he was sexually involved with the Gopis at all [and that Krishna himself is a metaphor for the incarnate Divine Person, but who never really existed]. But within the context of the stories about Krishna themselves, this is clearly not the case. Krishna’s love exploits are described in great detail in order to explicitly communicate the passionate, irresistible attraction that the women of Vrindavan had for him.

There is a story, for example, in the Bhagavata Purana of Krishna’s meeting with a hunchbacked woman, Trivakra, on his way to battle with the wicked king Kamsa. She offers Krishna some sandalwood unguent, and Krishna, seeing her devotion and pleased with her, heals her back. He tells her that he will come to her house after Kamsa is defeated.

True to his word, Krishna returns to Trivakra’s side some time later and “has sport with her”. She, however, makes the mistake of wanting to cling to his physical Form. She says to him, “You must live with me for some days, dearest, and enjoy yourself. I cannot bring myself to part with you, O Lotus-eyed!” And the text goes on to say that “She, who had won the favor of Vishnu (of whom Krishna is the incarnation) . . . showed herself a fool in asking for the trivial pleasures of the senses." What Trivakra fails to fully see is that Krishna’s outward actions are truly only a means of pointing her to the Divine Condition that is beyond all action and experience.


Quotations from and/or photographs of Avatar Adi Da Samraj used by permission of the copyright owner:
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