There is the greater tantra and the lesser tantra.
Yet, in using the terms greater and lesser there is no value judgment implied. The greater tantra is about the whole of existence and the fundamental truths of spiritual experience. The lesser tantra is about the spiritual way of sexual enjoyment and union. The sexual way of tantra leads to comprehension and experience of the greater tantra. So it certainly is not of lesser value. If one can reach the greater tantra wisdom without the sexual tantra, then this is fine, but the sexual tantra is the way that is emphasised in this teaching. The sexual tantra brings both partners to the greater tantra wisdom. It accomplishes this because it uses the energies of the body to reach greater spiritual experience. Also, through sexual tantra the wisdom of tantra can more easily be known, because the greater tantra wisdom is an understanding of the sexual reality of spiritual existence. This sexual reality, in the greater sense, not confined to physical sex, is about the complimenting polarity of spiritual experience. This polarity is represented or reflected in man and woman, and in sexual experience, but it is beyond this as well, for it involves every kind of polarity in our experience of reality. For example, one expereinces the enjoyment of receiving love and the enjoyment of giving love. Receiving and giving are polarities in our complete experience of existence. Our life can be seen as a ryhthm of receiving and giving, and there is even the potential for merging these two together in one complete, whole experience simultaneously. Another example is observation and involvement. At times we experience an observation of life, of others or of ourself. We find interest in this observation and we learn from it. Though at other times we are involved in the world and in our activity. This is being fully in the flow of experience. It is being, being involved. This is represented by the sacred circle of life, wherby we can observe from outside the circle or particptae within it. Most often, though, there is some kind of blending between these two polarities of experience. So when one is observing there is still some degree of subjective involvement, since we cannot really be fully outside the circle of life. And when we are subjectively involved in life, there is usually some degree of observation within this, some dgree of focussing within the possible wholeness of involved experience. Also, with these polarities there is the potential of synthesis, whereby one can be very involved in the flow of life and consciously observing this simultaneously.
Another example is control and surrender. These apparent opposities rae often taught as significant approaches for the spiritual path. Some paths emphasize personal control and others emphasize personal surrender.
Some systems develop the will and others surrender it. Opposite spiritual prescriptions, such as these, tend to confuse newcomers or tend to create spiritual debates as to what is the Right approach. If we look carefully at spiritual prescriptions offered by the many spiritual groups, we could place them in opposite camps, according to what qualities they emphasize. Very often one approach is emphasized and super-valued to the exclusion and suppression of its opposite approach. The mind tends to make one approach the Ideal, and then its logic tells it that the opposite must be negative and must somehow be transmuted into the Ideal. This becomes an internal struggle between the accepted ideal and its opposite presumed to be negative or in need of redemption. The tantra describes a different approach, a kind of meta-approach, which is not to follow any one approach to the exclusion and suppression of its opposite, that is, not to super-value some ideal spiritual approach or attitude while de-valuing its opposite. For example, self-control/development and self-surrender, impartial observation and involved abandonment, receiving and giving, getting even more into physical sensation or pleasure and transcending it all as well, are all valued with a balanced equality. These few examples of opposite life-approaches can show how the tantra views the web of divine existence and the spiritual path. Each polarity is valued equally with its opposite. Yet the tantra understands that each polarity is emphasised or made a reality at different times in the spiritual journey. Because of the nature of this existence one of the polarities is often viewed as needed, to the exclusion of the other, so that one approach is employed or made a reality in one's experience. The tantra accepts this dualism of experienced existence. And yet, the emphasis on one spiritual approach, to the exclusion of its opposite, is itself an approach, which must be reconciled with a non-excluding approach. In other words, one side of the spiritual journey is the one-sided emphasis, while the other side is a non-emphasis or reconciliation of the opposite extremes. So, the tantra accepts and prescribes, at times, emphasis on one of the polarities, which is a movement away from its opposite, and at other times it prescribes reconciliation or synthesis of the opposites. The goal, if we speak in this way, is the union of the opposites or the realization of their unity, but along the spiritual journey of experience these opposites will have their reality, and they will be approached in a direction away from their opposite. Union, or realization of their unity, will gradually become the true spiritual reality, in a kind of higher synthesis of those opposites, wherein both are experienced simultaneously, but our reality in this journey toward union, which we must realistically accept, is to do with this dualism of opposite approaches. We must first accept our reality as it is experienced, or as it is viewed by the mind, so we must work on both approaches, which cannot be done simultaneously but done one at a time.
At any one time one can only take one of the approaches, one of the directions. Yet this becomes the major inherent problem of the spiritual path, because the tendency of mind is to super-value one approach in prejudice to its opposite.
This can become a spiritual fanaticism, whereby the person, often supported by a group belief, over-values one approach, making it the supreme ideal, and begins to habitually suppresses its opposite as a kind of evil or negativity. In this way the one ideal approach begins to dominate and suppress any natural impulse towards the opposite direction or approach, a natural impulse which would otherwise lead the person to spiritual balance and wholeness of spiritual realization. And yet, the tantra does not de-value one-sided emphasis, for it recognizes the need to work on one approach, in a kind of exclusion of its opposite, for a sufficient time to develop this or stabilize this within the body-mind of the individual. Emphasis is accepted as inevitable but also valued for its evolutionary results, yet the goal is syntheisis, union, and simultaneous realization. The path to this spiritual union will necessarily involve both self-control and self-surrender, both self-integration and both self-anihilation, and both liberation and incarnation.
These are necessary approaches, and opposite as well, leading to the complete spiritual experience, wherein both polarities are found to be simultaneous realities. The danger is not in the experienced dualism, nor in the excluding emphasis, but in believing this dualism to be the ultimate reality and in emphasising one polarity as the ideal approach for the whole spiritual journey. One must accept both, accepting the nature of duality, and work with emphasis, while still rembering the ultimate ideal of union and the ultimate reality of unity. As for technique in applying such a syntheisising path, vs. an all-out excluding path, there is little that can be said, for it all depends on the individual and where they are at the time. In the respect for both sides of the same reality, that is, keeping a respect for the opposite of any belief and opposite of any emphasis, one can develop, or surrender to, a spiritual rhythm of the opposites, a rhythm which, if maintained over due course, will eventually lead to an alchemical blending and union in experience. This union is both a realization and a manifestation in the presence of life. It is both an experience of divine existence as-it-is and a self-activity of divine power. The rhythm of the opposites can be experienced and actualized as a play or dance, though sometimes it is more of a struggle. This can depend on our attitude to the play or tension of opposite approaches. In the beginning of the spiritual journey there is found to be a certain amount of struggle because of our past conditioning and tendencies of the unawakened mind. This is marked by a struggle to understand the complete spiritual purpose and path which, as is pointed out, appears to be polarized or even paradoxical, and the logical mind cannot easily comprehend this so it tends toward some extreme emphasis or belief system. Then, there is also the struggle to actualize such a seemingly paradoxical path, and one of the polar approaches usually becomes more developed through emphasis and so becomes more predominate in our activity or practice. So, this path of reconciliation or union is not so easy to realize and actualize, for the line of least resistance, in the context of each person, will always be toward one of the extremes. Thus, there is even the struggle against a tendency toward extremism.
Again, in the tantra this tendency is not viewed negatively, but is viewed as a natural impulse of spiritual existence and a necessary side of the spiritual journey. Yet, its opposite impulse is to be equally respected, which is the natural spiritual impulse toward reconciliation and union of the opposite approaches. We can call this reconciling impulse the will-to-synthesis, as one of the primary aspects of Divine Being, reflected in our own inner feeling of purpose. Each must realize this on their own, and the exact path of synthesis will be a unique experience and journey all our own, as it comes together in our own being, in our own spiritual life journey.
The path of emphasis, that is, practicing an approach or direction, can be quite easy and felt to be natural, if this particular emphasis is our predominate tendency. This is experienced as a path of least resistance, and its lack of struggle gives a sense of enjoyment. But if the path of emphasisis is motivated by the path of synthesis, then we might experience somewhat of a struggle, since the will-to-synthesis may require the opposite approach to our present tendency of emphasis. Yet there need not be a struggle if there is acceptance of the reconciling path and hence acceptance of the opposite approach. If there is no resistance to the opposite approach, then the opposite approaches both become non-resisting to the other and either one is enjoyed. Then, the path of synthesis becomes a play or a dance toward union. The synthesis itself, the union, and hence the anihilation of the opposites, will sometimes be experienced and sometimes not. But one need not feel pain or disapointment in the experience of duality or in the path of rhythm, for this is the way to union, and the way itself is as much enjoyed as the union itself. The play, the dance, the sexual experience of spiritual life, is itself a joy, and can be viewed as one side of the spiritual goal itself, the other being union. So, the tantra relieves our suffering, caused by idealizing one kind of experience or approach over its opposite, or caused by our internal struggling, and yet it does not merely prescribe the line of least resistance, whether that be surrender of desire or enjoying desire, wherein we repulse or suppress any thought or impulse to re-direct our attention and energies toward the opposite of any ideal. The tantra accepts struggle and tension, as much as play and ease, for all of this is viewed as aspects of spiritual life. We might view these as opposites, which seems true to our experience, and that comprehension of dichotomy is respectively accepted in the tantra over-view, but there is no idealization of one in exclusion to the other and no suppression or denial of one approach or life-attitude in favor of the other. Some spiritual philosophies explicitely or implicitely idealize and favor struggle over playfulness and ease, while other teachings view struggle and will as the inherant problem of the spiritual path. We could give many other examples of such polarization and idealism in spiritual teachings, for example, embodied enjoyment vs. liberated consciousness.
But tantra views these polarizations as the inherant truth of spiritual existence, each having value and each deserving equal emphasis. In one sense, the tantra could be viewed as friend to all spiritual teachings, and yet, in another sense, the tantra is seen as the enemy by most so-called spiritual teachings because of its acceptance and practice of what each of those teachings believe to be evil, negative, or opposite to the correct spiritual approach.
Thus, the tantra teachings have almost always been suppresed as the enemy of materialism and spiritualism, or as the enemy of any dualistic philosophy, depending on which camp is polically, religiously, and culturally in power. Parts of the tantra teaching have often been accepted, used or incorporated into certain of these camps or religious teachings, but of course only the parts which appear to emphasize their set beliefs, while the parts of tantra teaching which appear opposite or negative to these set beliefs are quickly dismissed as corruptions of the teaching or suppressed as unfortunate evils within the teaching.
Thus, for example, the physically sexual views and practices of the tantra and the emphasis on a kind of uncontrolled, anarchic, uninhibited, spontaneous, ecstatic expression of the spiritual person were fearfully suppressed and dismissed as corruptions. Political or religious establishment, especially urban organized establishment, could not allow such spontaneous release of physical libido and uninhibited expression, since this appears to be the antithesis of civilized organization and the feared potential of organizational anarchy. Though, in the opposite camp to this establishment, there were, and still are, those rebellious to the establishment and in full agreement with tantric inhibition, spontaneity, etc. So this rebellious camp has always tended to revere and emphasize these teachings of tantra, often going to the far extreme of libidinous and uncontrolled ecstatic celebration, which, of course, is just what the establishment feared and so justifies their repression. This reveals the common pattern of authoritarian repression and the forces of revolution, if we can abstract the general analogy. The point, though, in relation to the teachings of tantra, is that one side of the tantra is viewed, in exclusion to its complimenting opposite, and one idealistic camp fears and suppresses this, while the opposite camp idealizes and practices this particular emphasis to the far extreme. This is what can happen with the tantra, or any teaching similar to its dual-sidedness, unless both sides are understood and respected. First we must respect and understand dualism, for this is how existence is realized, and polarization is the nature of the spiritual journey. From this embracing of duality, or polarity, comes union. Sexually, as the man and woman embrace, respecting and enjoying their polar difference, and discovering how their differences compliment and fit into each other, the union is eventually realized.
This union of opposites is, in one sense, a realized unity of the opposites within oneself, as the opposites fulfill themselves in the rhythm of self-expression or self-experience; while in an opposite sense, the realized unity is not of oneself at all, but is the realization of being whole in the embracing union itself, such that the experience of unity is in the ecstatic disolving of the isolated self melting into one energy body composed of the man and woman dissolved in this deep, penetrating embrace.
This other sense of unity is not about oneself. It is not about one's own experience or one's own mind-body. It is about a unity of experience between the man and woman, which can only come about through their deep embrace and surrender of themselves to each other or to the embrace itself. It is about a unity realized through the embracing union of the two separate existences, both complimenting each other in love's embrace. It is when the penetration is most deep and you hold your lover tight, then let go of any holding back and allow oneself, the experience of separate self, to melt into an experience of embracing union, wherein the two bodies feel as one. So, in this latter sense of unity, or wholeness, there must first be two, two complimenting polarities embracing together in union. In the former sense of unity, or wholeness, the one who was thought to be either male or female, that is, only half of the potential wholeness, is realized as whole in oneself. Each of us, whether man or woman, is whole in ourself, but this wholeness is just our potential until we come to realize it.
The mind tends to focus on one aspect of truth at a time, such that one recognizes and identifies with some aspect of oneself, but not all aspects of oneself, and our pattern of thought is to notice and identify with certain kinds of aspects to the exclusion or neglect of other aspects. These more recognized and identifiable kinds of self-aspects can be categorized as male or female attributes. Or, one feels and thinks these particular aspects are `me', while the opposite kinds of self-aspects are `not-me'. This is how the mind works, by polarizing in some manner, either by gender concepts or simply by what is `me' and `not-me'. But what is forgotten here is that those self-aspects identified as oneself are just those qualities more consistently recognized, while their opposite aspects are those qualities less recognized. Yet this just tells us what we usually or habitually recognize about ourself and what we usually don't. If we could let go of focussing on our usual self identifications, for example that I'm tender like a woman or that I'm strongly assertive like a man, or that I'm receptive or that I'm giving, and open up to consciously experiencing a different or opposite quality of oneself, then our self-understanding would be more complete, more whole. It is true that each of us have developed or nurtured some kinds of self-qualities more than others, and we may have even suppressed some kinds of qualities with the motive to be more male or more female, so we would need to nurture those other qualities in order to become a more balanced human being. Yet, it is also true that we already have, or already are, these other qualities, to certain degrees, but we merely do not recognize them or focus attention on them.
So the first step in realizing our greater wholeness of self is to open up to the recognition of those qualities as they are already a part of our manifesting being. In terms of modern psychology one begins to recognize the shadow qualities of the manifesting self, those self-aspects which are shadowed by our usual focused light on their respective opposites. Thus, we recognize more of our wholeness as it already is, and these shadowed aspects of oneself then become more nurtured by our acceptance and our conscious experience of them. And we discover, or uncover, more of ourself, more of our wholeness, through conscious intercourse with others. The many aspects of oneself become known through interaction with another, because each of the aspects only exist through a relation. For example, the giver is known in relation to a receiver, and vice versa.
The male qualities, however defined, are more recognized and nurtured in relation to the opposite female qualities, and vice versa. This is an esoteric law of recognition and development, and its understanding depends on our subtlty of intuitive experience. It is more simply an understanding of how opposites compliment and nurture each other. Thus, in tantra the sexual intercourse between man and woman present the greatest potential for self-revelation and experienced wholeness, as long as there is a continuous interplay between opposite kinds of self-recognitions or, in other words, as long as the man or woman does not merely fixate upon one kind of quality or experience at the exclusion of its opposite. During the course of sexual interplay both man and woman ought to experience, in due course, each of the opposite qualities in activity. In fact, the sexual ritual offers the potential to experience all the essential aspects of self-being, of human being, in their essential nature, and if we can see how any self-aspect, or aspect of experience, has its related opposite, then we should be able to experience any of the opposites during the rhythmic course of sexual interplay. And thus, wholeness of being is further realized. This brings us back to the relation between the first sense of unity and the second sense of unity as just considered, the unity experienced of oneself and the unity experienced of the two merged as one. Both senses of unity are equally significant. The second sense of unity literally requires someone other than ourself with whom we can merge or unite with. This uniting of the two is a transcendence of one-self in the merging embrace with the other, and the experience is of a greater, expanded unity of sexual opposites or of `this' body and `other' body. It is the experience of the Tao, the blending mergence of yin and yang, and the wholeness is greater than our singular body.
Whereas in the first sense of unity the experience of wholeness is found in one body-mind-being, and the experience is singularly our own. Here, we find the opposites within ourself, whereas in the other sense of unity we find the opposites in the completeness of relationship. Yet, both senses of unity are intrinsically related and dependent on the other. However paradoxical it may sound, the unity found in the embracing relationship requires a surrender of any one-sided focus on particular kinds of self-qualities and an experienced synthesis of opposite self-qualities. For example, in union there is no more experience of being the giver or the receiver, the penetrator or the opener, and one is found to be both simultaneously. Thus, the wholeness of self is realized in complete unity. Considering the sense of self-unity, or the experience of opposite self-qualities in their related wholeness, this requires the rhythmic intercourse between oneself and another, and the complete union or synthesis of these opposites in oneself are finally realized in the united embrace with that other being. This understanding is subtle and its impications are greater than literal sexual intercourse, but it is more easily experienced through the sexual ritual, which is one of the reasons for that tantric practice.