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Sexuality: Taoism and Tantra

Subject: Sexuality: Taoism and Tantra
(Alan Watts)
	...It is true that in Taoism and Tantric Buddhism there are what 
	appear to be techniques or 'practices' of sexual relationship, 
	but these are, like sacraments, the 'outward and visible signs 
	of an inward and spiritual grace.' Their use is the consequence 
	rather than the cause of a certain inner attitude, since they 
	suggest themselves almost naturally to partners who take their 
	love as it comes, comtemplatively, and are in no hurry to grasp 
	anything from it. Sexual yoga needs to be freed from a 
	misunderstanding attached to all forms of yoga, of spiritual 
	'practice' or 'exercise,' since these ill-chosen words suggest 
	that yoga is a method for the progressive achievement of certain 
	results -- and this is exactly what it is not. Yoga means 'union,' 
	that is, the realization of man's inner identity with Brahman or 
	Tao, and strictly speaking this is not an end to which there are 
	methods or means since it cannot be made an object of desire. 
	The attempt to achieve it invariably thrusts it away. Yoga 
	'practices' are therefore sacramental expressions or 
	'celebrations' of this union, in rather the same sense that 
	Catholics celebrate the Mass as an expression of Christ's 'full, 
	perfect, and SUFFICIENT sacrifice.' 

	Means are irrelevant to what is already sufficient. Thus 
	contemplation or meditation which seeks a result is neither 
	contemplation nor meditation, for the simple reason that 
	contemplation (kuan) is consciousness without seeking. 
	Naturally, such consciousness is concentrated, but it is not 
	'practicing concentration'; it is concentrated in whatever 
	happens to be its 'eternal now'.
	Sexual yoga or, as it is technically called, maithuna is a 
	common theme of Hindu sculpture, though it has been suggested 
	that its origins are Chinese, arriving in India as the 
	backwash of the spread of Buddhism.... Scholars...have made it 
	plain...that what [is represented] is at once a metaphysical 
	doctrine and a sacrament at least as sacred as Christian 
	matrimony.... They are emblems of the eternal spirit and 
	nature [and] represent the consummation of contemplative love 
	between mutually dedicated partners.
	The general idea of Tantric maithuna, as of its Taoist 
	counterpart, is that sexual love may be transformed into a 
	type of worship in which the partners are, for each other, 
	incarnations of the divine. Perhaps this statement must be 
	somewhat modified with respect to Buddhism and Taoism, to 
	which the notion of worship is really foreign, and one must 
	substitute the contemplation of nature in its true state. 
	The embrace of maithuna involves also a transmutation of the 
	sexual energy which it arouses, and this is described 
	symbolically as sending it upwards from the loins to the head. 
	Yoga, as is well known, involves a peculiar symbolism of human 
	anatomy in which the spinal column is seen as a figure of the 
	Tree of Life, with its roots in the nether world and its 
	branches, or its flower, in the heavens beneath the 
	'firmament' of the skull. The base of the spinal-tree is the 
	seat of the kundalini, the Serpent Power, which is an image 
	of the divine life-energy incarnate in nature and asleep under 
	the illusion of maya. Yoga consists of awakening the Serpent 
	and allowing it to ascend the tree to the heavens, wherefrom 
	it passes liberated through the 'sun-door' at the apex of the 
	skull. Thus when the Serpent is at the base of the spinal-
	tree it manifests its power as sexual energy; when it is at 
	the crown it manifests itself as spiritual energy.
	According to Tantric symbolism, the energy of the kundalini 
	is aroused but simply dissipated in ordinary sexual activity. 
	It can, however, be transmuted in a prolonged embrace in 
	which the male orgasm is reserved and the sexual energy 
	diverted into contemplation of the divine as incarnate in the 
	woman.  The partners are therefore seated in the cross-legged 
	posture of meditation, the woman clasping the man's waist with 
	her thighs and her arms about his neck. Such a position is 
	clearly unsuitable for motion, the point being that the 
	partners should remain still and so prolong the embrace that 
	the exchange between them would be passive and receptive rather 
	than active. Nothing is DONE to excite the sexual energy; it is 
	simply allowed to follow its own course without being 'grasped' 
	or exploited by the imagination and the will. In the meantime 
	the mind and senses are not given up to fantasy, but remain 
	simply open to 'what is,' without -- as we should say in current 
	slang -- trying to make something of it.
	In trying to understand anything of this kind, the modern 
	Westerner must be careful not to confuse the symbology of the 
	kundalini and the ascension of the sexual force with any 
	physiological situation. Indeed, anatomical symbolisms of this 
	kind are so strange to us that they hinder rather than help our 
	comprehension of the real intent. Furthermore, almost all 
	ancient sexual ideas are bound up with notions of the semen and 
	its properties which we no longer share, and thus we do not 
	regard it as a vital fluid to be conserved like blood. Our 
	physiology does not support the idea that the male orgasm is a 
	debilitating leakage of strength, and therefore the mere 
	avoidance of the orgasm will have little significance in any 
	modern application of sexual yoga.
	The importance of these ancient ideas to us lies not so much in 
	their technicalities as in their psychological intent. They 
	express an attitude of sexuality which, if absorbed by us today, 
	could contribute more than anything else to the healing of the 
	confusion and the frustration of our marital and sexual relations. 
	It remains, then, to separate the underlying sexual philosophy 
	of Tantra and Taoism from symbolic and ritual elements which 
	have no meaning for us, and to see whether it can be applied in 
	terms of our own culture.
	Nature, Man and Woman, Watts p. 194 [...]- 204.
	The height of sexual love, coming upon us of itself, is one of 
	the most total experiences of relationship to the other of which 
	we are capable, but prejudice and insensitivity have prevented us 
	from seeing that in any other circumstances such delight would be 
	called mystical ecstasy. For what lovers feel for each other in 
	this moment is no other than adoration in its full religious 
	sense, and its climax is almost literally the pouring of their 
	lives into each other. Such adoration, which is due only to God, 
	would indeed be idolatrous were it not that in that moment love 
	takes away illusion and shows the beloved for what he or she in 
	truth is -- not the socially pretended person but the naturally 
	Ibid., p. 205.


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