Paper presented by
Rev. Dr. John Dupuche
MCD University of Divinity,
Australian Catholic University
Catholic Interfaith Committee (chair)
Interfaith Conference on Classical Tantra in the World’s Religions
14-15 November, 2105
Janssen Spirituality Centre,
22 Woodvale Road Boronia Vic, 3155
One summer, in the garden at home I observed those insects, which, united sexually, fly through the air without separating. They gave me a glimpse of my deepest wish. As I entered on adolescence, I knew I wanted pleasure and love, but permanently. I rejected death and the ‘petite mort’. I wanted the union to be eternal. How would this be achieved?
One day, in a bookshop in Carlton I discovered the word ‘tantra’ in a book by Ajit Mookerjee entitled Kundalini Yoga. It struck me powerfully so I started to explore what was meant by ‘tantra’. Osho-Rajneesh, notorious at that time, promised total freedom and instant divinization along with unbridled sexual enjoyment. He says, “Ecstasy is your very nature. You are truth. You are love. You are freedom …. You are already there …. If you can stop all doing for a single moment the energy converges and explodes …. Then you become a god.” But this seemed off-key. So did publications such as Tantric Secrets of Sex and Spirit or Ecstatica: Hypno Trance Love Dance.
How find my truth? That was a big question. Via Br Steindl-Rast osb and Fr Bede Griffiths osb I came in touch with Dom. Thomas Matus osb in the monastery of Camaldoli in Italy who introduced me to Kashmir Shaivism. I had at last found the language, which explained what was happening in me. Just a single word or phrase would have a huge impact on me. It’s as though a primal sound were starting to hum in me, as if an energy was arising.
This in turn led to the study of the ‘Kula Ritual’, which according to Alexis Sanderson, from Oxford, the foremost authority on the tantric traditions at present, is the most extreme of the Hindu tantras.
This in turn led to the elaboration of a Christian tantra. I would like to share some reflections for your consideration and evaluation. I will follow through the description given on the flyer prepared for this Conference. I will then go through two activities. The one is a style of meditation called ‘the attitude of Bhairava’ (bhairavamudrā). The other is a ‘dry-run’ of the Mass, which I propose is profoundly tantric.
The flyer speaks of The bliss that arises from the union of opposites
For Kashmir Shaivism, bliss (ānanda), is the supreme form of śaktipata (the descent of energy) because it comes directly into consciousness. The other manifestations of śaktipata such as reeling and trembling, although they are more spectacular because they are more visible, are less significant because the energy is entering only the lower levels of the person’s being.
Or to put it differently, the kuṇḍalinī rises from the base of the spine to reach the top of the head. All the faculties open up as a result, and bliss is achieved.
In the Christian story, we are told (Jn 20:19 ff.) that on Easter Sunday the disciples lock the doors out of fear. But Jesus comes and stands among them, and shows them his hands and his side that bear the mark of the nails and the spear. He was dead but is now alive; he is beyond life and death. And this sight fills them with joy, a joy that he promised no one can take away. (Jn 16:22) This joy is the hallmark of the Christian.
What is bliss? It is the functioning of all the faculties, the enhancement of all forms of knowledge. It means going beyond the divisions of subject, object and means of knowledge. It involve a sense of immortality, a sense of presence, a sense of union and empowerment, a joy beyond anything the imagination can guess, peacefulness, knowing as we are known, fulfillment, timelessness, the unity of all aspects, healing and understanding, reconciliation and breathtaking ecstasy. In the classical texts of Christianity it is described as ‘inebriation’, ‘vertigo’, ‘learned ignorance’ (docta ignorantia), ‘mystical marriage’ and so on.
This changes things fundamentally. All aspects of reality can be turned into sources of bliss; even what is shocking and terrible. A deity is without power if he/she cannot turn evil into good, sorrow into joy, loss into gain. For that reason Jesus Christ can be considered the supreme deity because he transforms death into life.
The experiences of bliss that arise from food, art, and music are a touch of the eternal bliss. Opera houses are the antechambers of heaven. The bliss that comes from sexual union is a foretaste of surpassing joy. The experience of bliss touches the physical and transforms it. Human flesh becomes spirit without ceasing to physical. It is transfigured from within. St Paul says
“What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (I Cor 15:42-44)
The flyer goes on to say The real aim of tantra is to reach the freedom …
Kashmir Shaivism is called the ‘path of freedom’ (svātantryavāda) for it springs from the goddess who is essentially free. She is governed by nothing, but moves as she wills, bringing to birth and bringing to death.
The tantric, her worshipper, is therefore essentially free, and not bound by any rules. He is, in his essence, perfectly free. This is not libertinage in the manner of the 18th century aristocracy, or of Dorian Grey in Oscar Wilde’s novella. They were governed by their egos, and their pleasures involve cruelty.
The Christians for their part are not bound by the Law but have a spirit of freedom. I am speaking about Christians who live their Christianity, not about nominal Christians. St Paul puts it clearly. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. (2 Cor 3:17).
Freedom, it must be stressed, is more difficult than subservience, for it means being free from desire and revulsion, free from the rejection of desire and revulsion, living on another level of consciousness than desire and revulsion, free from the desire for freedom. It does not preclude pain and pleasure but it does mean not being paralyzed by them. It means rising above all these things, while being immersed in them at the same time. It means staying free in all circumstances.
Those who are truly free are not self-conscious about their freedom. They act quite spontaneously since they are governed by freedom and not by some deep complex, all their actions are freeing to others. They inspire freedom, and people feel free in their presence.
They are autonomous. They give due obedience to legitimate authority but they are not servile. They are sure of themselves but are not arrogant. They do not seek approval, for they are self-confident. They have a sense of their own authority, and know their own value. Their authority comes from grace, and is properly acknowledged by institutions. They have the capacity to assess the spiritual value or not of any situation. Their every word is a mantra, their every action is ritual. Their being manifests the divine mystery. They do not seek to control but to bless.
It is a state of true purity, an immaculate (nirañjana) state. In this condition we know what we want, we want what we know, we do what we want, we know what we are doing. The three faculties of will, knowledge and action become one. It is a state of authentic omnipotence. But so often we don’t know what we are doing, we don’t know what we want, we don’t want to act as we do. So often we are divided creatures. St Paul reflecting on his divided personality cries out “who will deliver me from this body of death”. (Rm 7:24) He then exclaims his faith in Christ, the one who is fully integrated. Paul knows that the Christ who integrates life and death will give integrity to Paul as well.
When we are fully inspired, matter becomes spirit without ceasing to be physical. It is the transfiguration. We become freedom, and our freedom radiates from us and liberates the whole world so that all becomes one freedom.
The first conversion is from subservience to autonomy. There are two other conversions.
The union of opposites …. and ….
The flyer then lists a series of opposites, “transcendence and immanence, emptiness and plenitude, male and female, etc.” The word ‘and’, is small but significant, for it suggests dualism.
Kashmir Shaivism is essentially non-dualist. All reality, it teaches, is the outcome of the relationship of Śiva and Śakti, the god and the goddess, in their play of love. The whole of reality in all its diversity is the expression of their union. All is one.
Christian theology, however, like the theologies of many other traditions, has often been profoundly dualist. It has opposed heaven and earth, Creator and creature, good and evil, sin and grace. This is so despite the essential teaching of what is called ‘hypostatic union’, that is, all is united in the person of Christ Jesus. He is the God-man; he reconciles heaven and earth. Through his experience of the greatest evil, fullest blessing has come to the world.
The essentially divisive approach of dualism has lead to the opposition of faith and reason, Church and State, grace and nature, with disastrous consequences. Feeling forced to choose between opposites, the modern mind has chosen reason against faith, State against Church, the immanent versus the transcendent. The secularisation of the modern world has been promoted through the failure to appreciate the union of opposites, and indeed the greatest union of the most extreme opposites, which, Christianity teaches, is found in the person of Jesus, the supremely paradoxical figure. As the hymn sung on Easter Sunday states:
“Life and death contended;
battle strangely ended.
Life’s champion slain,
yet lives to reign.”
The non-dualism of Kashmir Shaivism reminds us of an essential element of the Christian faith. It invites the Christian to the second conversion to be listed in this talk, namely from dualism to non-dualism.
The first pair of opposites that leads to the experience of bliss and freedom is transcendence and immanence etc.
If reality, both in the Kashmir Shaivism and in Christianity, is essentially non-dual, there can be no opposition between immanence and transcendence. Indeed, the purpose of the rituals in Kashmir Shaivism is to come to the recognition that one’s true self is the god himself. Only Shiva can truly worship Shiva, only God can know God fully, the only sacrifice truly worthy of being offered to God is God himself.
Similarly in Christianity, it the Jesus, who is “Light from Light, true God from true God” who is offered in sacrifice to the God of all the ages. Thus through him “all glory and praise is given to God for ever and ever”.
Kashmir Shaivism teaches that all reality is the expression of Śiva. All reality therefore, if only we could see it, is divine. Śiva is the great dancer, Naṭarāj, who adopts the various postures of the dance. He is the posture, which he adopts, but at the same time he is not simply identified with that posture since he can change it and adopt another posture. Śiva manifests himself in reality, which is truly an expression of his being, but at the same time, he is not limited to that reality; he transcends it. He is both immanent and transcendent.
The implications of this are significant for Christianity. There is a need to move out of the Greek mind, which wishes to categorise and objectify, into the mind of Hinduism, which sees all things as words and manifestations and expressions. The more truly persons speak truly the more they identify what they say and what they are. The speaker is the spoken. Speaker and the spoken are one.
Christian theology rejects pantheism. But the central doctrine of Christianity teaches that the Word became flesh. (Jn 1:14) The word ‘flesh’ does not mean just muscle and bone. It refers to this created order in all its limitation. The Word takes on all reality so that the transcendent and the immanent are made one. All arises through him and for him. (Col 1:16)
The second pair of opposites is emptiness and plenitude.
Kashmir Shaivism teaches that the first ‘stain’ (mala), or error, is that of the ego (āṇavamala). The practitioner needs to be emptied of all ego, to be free of the error of confusing the true self with this limited self who lives here and now, who has this particular history and this set of relationships, these aversions and desires, and who feels excluded from other dimensions.
This teaching on the destruction of the ego is easy in theory but difficult in practice, for the ego resurfaces unexpectedly in countless ways. Paradoxically, only the person with great self-confidence can be free of ego.
The purpose of the rituals of the Kula tradition is to destroy the ego precisely in the context of lovemaking, so that the home is transformed into a cremation ground where the ego is consumed in the flame of consciousness. “I am not, … I am only śaktis”. (Tantāloka 29:64) It is supremely exciting to become empty (śūnya), as we will find in the meditation on ‘the attitude of Bhairava’. The practitioner, by becoming empty, attains fullness (pūrṇa). Fullness and emptiness are one.
This process of emptiness and fullness is found supremely in the case of Jesus. The great hymn of Philippians (Ph 2:6-11) states:
Though Jesus was in the form of God,
he did not cling to his equality with God,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This is the path the Christian will follow. In the words of the Gospel, “…those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, … will save it.” (Mk 8:35)
The third pair of opposites is male and female,
According to legend, Śiva and Parvatī engaged in an intercourse (maithuna) that lasted one thousand years. This is more than a mere story, for it represents a deeply felt awareness that not only the divine state, but also human destiny consists in eternal intercourse. The question is how can this be achieved? That is the question that lies at the heart of modern day interest in tantra.
It must be stated at the outset that intercourse is not the single predominant feature of Kashmir Shaivism. The Vijñānabhairava-tantra lists 112 techniques for reaching the highest state, of which only two deal with intercourse. Verse 69 deals with the act of intercourse itself whose result is pleasure in its fullest sense, the awakening of all the faculties. However, this same pleasurable awakening is achieved by means of breath and mantra, looking at a wide-open landscape and so on. Verse 70 deals with the recollection of an act of intercourse. Thus intercourse is given its due, and at the same time it is relativised.
Nevertheless, the relationship of man and woman is at the heart of the Vijñānabhairava-tantra, for whole tantra consists of a dialogue between the god and the goddess. At the start of the text the goddess asks many questions, and once these are answered she embraces the god. The purpose of tantra, according to the Vijñānabhairava, is to reach the fullness of intercourse.
This same emphasis on intercourse is given in the Bible, which starts with the formation of man and woman in the image of God (Gn 1:27) and concludes with the union of the heavenly bride with the heavenly bridegroom, Christ himself. (Rev 21:27) It is as though the whole Bible arises from sexual union and leads to sexual union.
The question is how, can sexual intercourse be abiding and full. Is it a passing experience? That is the question I had since adolescence.
It was also the question put to Chandan who spent the last forty years of his life in a village, living in great simplicity and expressing his devotion to his guru and to the goddess. His reply is incorporated in what follows.
Kashmir Shaivism distinguishes between three levels of union and three corresponding sorts of experience.
At the first level, the ‘gross’ (sthūla) level, the focus is on the act of intercourse, and the emission of seed. It is the objective level (prameya) and is concerned primarily with actions (kriyā) and results.
In times past the procreation of children was necessary for the survival of the State, for the care of aged parents, for fighting battles in defence of the tribe, for producing the son and heir. The greatest satisfaction was in the birth of the child, who could bring fulfilment to the mother and benefit to the father. There was a corresponding downgrading of pleasure lest it be distraction from the primary duty.
The Catholic Church reflected this attitude, for it had long taught that the primary duty was procreation. Pleasure, readily identified with concupiscence, was placed low on the scale of values.
The first level is called the attitude of the bonded animal (paśu-bhava), a rather harsh term. This level is enjoyable of course, but it is necessarily of short duration.
The emission of seed is soon over. The person may wish to discover a state, which is more enduring.
This second level is called ‘subtle’ (sukṣma). Here the focus is on the emotion, the experience, the means of knowledge (pramāṇa), and the intensity of the experience. Tantric practice in the West focuses on this particular level, where the practitioners seek to prolong the pleasure and in that pleasure to have access to the divine.
By the process of coitus reservatus, the experience lasts longer, for the emission of seed brings orgasm to an end. By remaining on the subtle level, the whole body is more lastingly suffused with emotion; the varied male and female experiences enhance each other as the couple merge more intently into each other. The emphasis is on knowledge (jñāna). The many faculties open, such that the opening of one leads to the opening of another, in the manner of a lotus flower unfurling at the appearance of the morning sun. This opening is sequential as the lower chakras enable the opening of the higher chakras. This mounting experience is often described as the progress of kuṇḍalinī for it unfurls like a snake rising up the spine to reach the crown of the head. The ‘hero’ (vīra) has succeeded in directing the ‘semen’ not outwards but upwards.
According to Kashmir Shaivism, this happens supremely in the female partner because of her greater sensitivity. In her delight and ecstasy she experiences the divine bliss and takes her partner with her into the supreme abode.
The ‘hero’, the male partner, has energy and strength. He rises above the opposites of pleasant and unpleasant, pure and impure. He is without fear. His emotion here is called ‘heroic’ (vīra-bhava). He is not swayed by his emotions, and so he is able to be more aware of them and as a result they are all the more intense.
“He whose interior faculties are set on an unsullied foundation while in the midst of the set of six senses becomes fully absorbed into the divine abode.” (Tantrāloka 29: 110-111)
The ‘bonded animal’ by contrast is immersed in pleasure more unreflectively.
The male partner has realised that he is the god, the female partner realises she is most truly the goddess. Again, he knows she is the goddess and she realises he is the god, so that they unite not just as man and woman but also as god and goddess.
The term ‘spirituality’ has often been associated in the past with mortification. This is true not only in Christianity but of other traditions too. But in this vīrabhava, the shift is from asceticism to pleasure. This not ‘nooky-nirvana’ or ‘pop-tantra’. The emphasis on pleasure that leads to the opening of the highest faculties is not hedonism. This is the third conversion. If the first conversion was from subservience to autonomy, the second from dualism to non-dualism, the third conversion listed in this talk is from a spirituality of asceticism to a spiritualty of pleasure.
According to Catholic teaching, marriage – not just the institution of marriage but the experience of intimate union itself – is counted as a sacrament, for when the couple come together in effective sexuality they realise in themselves the fullness of the Christian mystery. They know heaven and earth, the human and divine, the whole history of salvation, the world itself. All the opposites are contained and revealed in their lovemaking.
The vīrabhava, like the paśubhava, is necessarily limited. The ‘heroic’ state is still tied to the act of intercourse. It is still partially involved with ego and self-concern. It is contingent on so many factors, food, health, and a suitable partner. No matter how long it lasts, it too must come to an end. The practitioner may therefore wish to experience what is even greater and more total, which is called ‘the divine state’, or ‘the divine emotion’ (divyabhava).
According to Chandan the next stage is to move from the limited self to the universal self, the divine self (divyabhava). This is extremely difficult since the ego makes its way into everything. Indeed, the person who says they are without ego is by the very statement thinking of their ego. At the same time, Chandan taught that the progression occurs quite naturally. Quite spontaneously practitioners now know their essential divinity. The emotion is at the highest, the most intense, the supreme (para) level.
If the first, the ‘bonded’, state is linked to action (kriyā) and to the objective level; and if the second, the ‘heroic’, state is linked to the level of knowledge (jñāna); the third stage is linked to the will (icchā), namely the essence of one’s being.
This divine emotion is present in every circumstance and at all times. Those who reach this state have plumbed the depths of their being and arrived at their true self. Their limited, individual being is an expression of the divine being, which is constantly in intercourse. Their experience is in a way humbling for their ego has disappeared. By contrast their true sense of self has arisen. They are the knowing subject (pramātṛ). They can truly say ‘I am’ (aham). The experience does not depend on time or place or person or beauty or pleasure, since it is the source of all beauty and truth. There is bliss and equanimity at every moment. There is no limit to their joy. They are free and follow the paths of freedom. Their pleasure is constant and they follow the paths of pleasure even at times of darkness. Therefore they can join others in their sorrow and bring them joy. They have become, in the happy phrase of Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty, ‘erotic ascetics’.
They are now in that ‘thousand-year maithuna’, at the supreme (para) level, where the gods dwell. They experience the ‘divine emotion’, the ‘divine state’ (divybhava). It is their abiding state. It is the intimate and complementary relationship of male and female, who are destined to each other
All reality is now seen as a manifestation of the goddess, so that the male practitioner relates to the whole of creation as to the goddess. A text from the Tantrāloka (29.79) states
“Moreover, having by his own nature become the sole lord of the kula, he should satiate the many śaktis by pairing [with them], he who possesses every form.”
The great Temple of the Sun at Konark in eastern India, displays the great image of the deity Sūrya (‘sun’), facing east, south and west. Countless scenes of copulation adorn the temple, for the edifice is a statement that Sūrya is the lover all beings. Just as the sun brings blessing to all living things, so too Sūrya bestows life and fertility on all. In this way the whole of reality, the universal feminine, rejoices. As the quote says: “the many śaktis are satiated”. The whole world is caught up in the divine dance.
The term ‘mystical marriage’ has generally been used to describe the relationship between the individual and Christ, whereby the devotee is pictured as the bride and Jesus as the bridegroom. It is also possible to have a concept of ‘mystical marriage’ where Christians see themselves as the bridegroom of all reality, which is like the śaktis mentioned above. All these proceed from the Spirit, the ultimate Śakti, who is the life of all things. (cf. Ps 103:29-30) This comes to its fulfilment when the individual has become divinised.
Thus the ‘divine’ person who experiences divyabhava has not only directed the ‘semen’ upwards but has extended it universally. The whole world is made fruitful by means of the semen, which has now become spiritual. In fact the original form of the semen is divine of which the gross form is its most limited state. The practitioner has returned to the original state of being.
The description given above has followed the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism where the focus is entirely on the male practitioner. This culturally conditioned viewpoint needs to be changed for the modern era. It is part of the task of this Conference to make this change.
These three levels, ‘gross’, ‘subtle’ and ‘supreme’ lead one to the other. The experience of orgasm lead to the wish to experience it more lastingly, and the longer lasting experience leads to the wish for it to endure eternally and in every circumstance. The reverse process is also true, for the experience of bliss at the highest level informs the quality of the bliss at the lower level, so that the human being is capable of experiencing in time something of the divine and eternal maithuna.
The question is often asked about Jesus. It seems unimaginable that he should not be sexually active. Some think either that he must have a relationship with Mary Magdalene or would be thinking about it, as in the film The Last Temptation, or that he must be sexually involved with the beloved disciple. However, there are many scenes in the gospel, which show Jesus’ attitude. Take for example, the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8). She is brought before Jesus who is asked if she should be stoned, as was required by the Law. He answers with the famous phrase, ‘He who has not sinned, let him cast the first stone’. One by one all her accusers leave. Jesus and the woman are alone together. Where once she lay with a man, now she stands before the man, the ultimate Man, the male and the female together in the Temple. He relates to her on the divine level, with a divine emotion. Or again consider the woman at the well in Samaria. (Jn 4) She has had five husbands and the sixth man in her life is just a sex partner. She now stands before Jesus who is the seventh man in her life, her true Man. Again, he has the fullness of the divine emotion, divyabhava. He says he will awaken in her the “fountain of eternal life” (Jn 4:14), which can be understood as sexual in the supreme sense.
At the Last Supper, when Jesus is about to go to his horrific death, he speaks of joy. He tells his disciples “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (Jn 15.11) His words are addressed not only to the Twelve who are with him at table but also to the whole world. He knows joy in every circumstance and radiates it.
Why this long treatment of the three levels? It is to make the point that the highest level of pleasure does not involve actual intercourse, and that physical intercourse is a reflection of the supreme intercourse. This supreme level is promoted in the various traditions we are looking at here. However, the idea of the supreme level is often used to suppress sexual awakening at the ‘gross’ level, with unfortunate results. As the saying goes: ‘the person who tries to be an angel ends up becoming a beast’.
The fourth pair of opposites is light and darkness,
The trajectory of tantrism sketched by Alexis Sanderson shows a shift from righteousness and light to disorder and darkness. The shift is from the gods to the darksome goddess, Kālī, whose very name means ‘black’. She is black yet she is beautiful, as the Karpurādi Stotra states, “with the darkness of the monsoon cloud” that brings the blessing of rain. It is in the darkness beyond mind that highest knowledge is attained.
This is also true in Christian mystical teaching. Gregory of Nyssa in his Life of Moses contrasts two episodes. In the first, Moses sees the glory of God in the bush, which burns continually but is not consumed. (Ex 3:1 ff.) But it is when Moses enters the darkness of the cloud on Mt Sinai that he acquires the fullest knowledge. The vision of God is a darksome light, a brilliant darkness. God is known in unknowing.
Likewise, at the crucifixion, as we are told in the gospel of St Mark (Mk 15:33), there was darkness over the whole earth for three hours, from the 6th to the 9th hour. It is in darkness that God is most brilliantly revealed. The Christian God is known sublimely in the death of Jesus.
The fifth pair of opposites is beauty and horror,
Texts such as the Karpurādi-stotra speak of Kālī who enjoys her lovemaking
in the gleaming cremation ground completely filled with masses of skulls and bones and heaps of corpses, with horrible female jackals;
The true tantric does not fear horror but enters into it because there, paradoxically, the greatest beauty is found. To flee horror is to be deprived of beauty.
Similarly, the Christian church building, though often a place of artistic and architectural beauty, is also a place of horror. Indeed, a crucifix is prominently displayed in every Catholic Church. This figure of a crucified man has a strange beauty, for from within the tortured body the great light of love shines forth. Indeed, Jesus is led by that great love to sacrifice himself for mankind. Beauty and horror have come together. The Christian, therefore, does not fear to enter into the place of horror and so to radiate light and peace.
The sixth pair of opposites is good and evil,
Kashmir Shaivism rejects the divisive concepts of good and evil, but this raises a problem that cannot be treated adequately here. Kashmir Shaivism teaches that Śiva is the source of everything. But evil exists. How can Śiva be the source of evil? Is he essentially evil? How handle the problem that has always scandalised the human mind. How can good and evil be non-dual?
Christianity has also considered this problem, and has found its solution in the events of Good Friday. The context of horror and pain, of injustice and treachery, of humiliation and death, is also the context where salvation comes to the whole cosmos. The sinless one becomes sin so as to bring blessing; he combines in himself sin and blessing. (Cf. II Cor 5:21). This is standard Christian teaching. Therefore that evil day is called good, Good Friday not bad Friday.
The Christian tantrics return good for evil, and ask blessing on those who curse them. (Lk 6:28) The Christian transcends good and evil.
The seventh pair of opposites is strength and weakness,
This matter does not feature much in Kashmir Shaivism, which emphasises the acquisition of supernatural powers (siddhi). By contrast an essential aspect of Christianity is summed up in the famous phrase of St Paul, “whenever I am weak, then I am strong”. (II Cor 12:10) Friedrich Nietzsche famously criticised Christianity for being a religion of the weak, but its weakness reflects the paradox of the cross, which is the moment of triumph.
The eighth pair of opposites is purity and impurity,
Many traditions in Hinduism are acutely aware of the need for purity. The ritual baths, the cleansing mantras, the purification of the inner channels, the washing of statues: there are countless rituals that purify mind and body. The Kula ritual, however, rejects the divisive concepts of pure and impure. This is because the deity, Śiva, is at the source of all and is manifest in all. How could anything be impure, how could anything not manifest him? The person who wishes to pursue the tantric path will be at peace in pure and impure. Indeed, practitioners of the Kula ritual will seek to enter into impurity so as to show that they rise above such a divisive category and that impurity is an illusion. It teaches:
“[The ritual is to be performed] with ingredients that are both hated by people and forbidden according to the scriptures, that are both disgusting and despised.”
Jesus himself transcends the categories of pure and impure. He allows himself to be touched by the woman who, for twelve years, had had a hemorrhage, which made everything she touched impure. In the same episode he touches the body of the dead girl, aged twelve years old, at about the age when the menstrual blood begins to flow. He is not repulsed by this blood or by the touch of the lepers who had to cover their lips and cry out ‘unclean’. Only the pure can enter into impurity. The impure fear impurity, but the truly pure cannot be made impure.
Indeed, Jesus teaches that what makes a person impure is not what come in from outside but the corruption that come out from the heart. (Mk 7:14 ff.) Christians have no regard for the inhibiting effects of pure and impure. Instead they are invited to enter into friendship with those whom others reject.
The ninth pair of opposites is human and divine,
This has already been dealt with sufficiently. The purpose of the rituals of Kashmir Shaivism is to allow a person to realize not just that they are like Śiva, but that they are Śiva. So too the rituals in Christianity in are designed to enable people to become divine. Three quotes must suffice. Irenaeus (c. 130-200) states”…. the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) for his part stated that “[i]f one knows himself, he will know God, and knowing God will become like God. Then there is the famous phrase of St Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373): “God became man so that man might become God’.
The tenth pair of opposites is life and death.
Hinduism ordinarily teaches that there are four purposes (artha) to life: righteousness (dharma), acquisition (artha), pleasure (kāma), and liberation (mokṣa). The first three are usually opposed to the fourth, since righteousness, acquisition and pleasure belong to this life, but liberation is found only in death. The tantric ideal, however, rejects these divisions, and seeks to achieve the state whereby a person is ‘liberated while living’ (jīvanmukta). It is the identification of life and death; their paradoxical union bestows power and blessing.
Christianity also links the two. Jesus is to be sacrificed; he knows it and freely accepts it, though he naturally fears that moment. He knows life and death, and in his resurrection transcends life and death so as to bring peace to the living and the dead. He has the ultimate power. So, on Easter Sunday he appears to his disciples and shows them his hands and his side, which still bear the wounds of the crucifixion. (Jn 20:20) He has transcended life and death.
Death is a problem, but when it becomes a source of life, it is a solution. Thus sacrifice, which is the meeting of life and death, is of value. The Christian is expected to enter into sacrifice, to follow the Royal Road of the Cross.
This paradoxical path …
We have examined the paradoxical path of the Kula Ritual, the extreme tantric ritual. It is a paradox, not a puzzle or riddle which can eventually be explained. The paradox defeats the mind and makes sense only at the level of knowledge beyond mind.
Christianity teaches that Jesus is essentially paradoxical. He has known good and evil, sin and grace, pain and pleasure, life and death, heaven and hell. All these contradictions he knows in himself, and has experienced them. In this way he knows the ultimate truth. In fact precisely because he is already true, he is able to experience all these contradictions. Only heaven can descend into hell. Jesus is the supreme tantrik.
Because Christianity unites the most extreme opposites it can be considered as the anuttara-tantra, the ‘tantra that has no equal’.
In keeping with this teaching, only those who allow themselves to become immersed in paradox will come to their truth. It is only in the dialectic of paradox, that a person can come to ultimate knowledge.
… is said to lead most effectively and rapidly to the highest state.
There is a constant rivalry amongst the various traditions of India as to which one is most effective. Thus, near the beginning of the chapter on the Kula ritual, we read the following quotation
“The mantras mentioned in the tantras of the Siddhānta etc. are all impotent since they all lack the splendour of śakti. The great mantras of the Kaula tradition, by contrast, are splendid with innate fire; they shine with a divine splendour, immediately causing conviction.“
Christianity holds that it is a very simple and totally effective tradition. All that is needed is to become identified through faith with the person of Jesus, who is the ādi-guru, the primordial teacher, and to live according to that faith in the service of others. It leads, Christianity teaches, to the divine state and infinite bliss even in this life, without the need for re-incarnations.
Private: Meditation, bhairavamudrā
Each person has his or her own measure of spiritual gift. It is counterproductive to wish for someone’ else level of grace and not pursue one’s own. Thus there are several ways (upāya); there is the way of action (kalpa), which is concerned with ritual. This has its place, and those who have this gift must pursue this path. There are those whose path is via knowledge (vikalpa) and emotions. This is linked to vīrabhava. This path will lead to the awakening of their spirit. There is also the path of stillness, where there is no action, and it is beyond thought (nirvikalpa). The meditators simply dwell in their own being (svabhavaviśrānti). There is the fourth, the highest way, which in fact is found in all ways and is the basis of all ways; it is the way that is in fact not a method (anupāya). It occurs quite spontaneously, totally by grace. The ‘attitude of Bhairava’ (bhairavamudrā) pertains to the third of these.
On one side of the entrance to the cave of Elefanta, in the harbour of Mumbai, Śiva is shown sitting perfectly still in contemplation. On the other side Śiva is portrayed in his dance. The two are counterpart. The dancing of Śiva, like the spinning top, is so fast that it is still. Movement and stillness coincide.
Thus in the stillness of meditation, we become completely empty. We are
“At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards;
at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.”
The supreme Self is known in the paradox of stillness and movement. The senses are completely alert, and the meditators are profoundly still. They see the outer and the inner as one. When they contemplate the inner essence of their being they see all the worlds, since all things are the expression their divine mind. When they contemplate the panoply of the world, they see their own inner self since all proceeds from them.
“He looks inwards, he looks outwards, he neither opens his eyes nor closes them.”
Many churches are of great beauty, with soaring arches, fine sculptures and exquisite works of art, where music and song lift the soul to heaven. As a consequence it is too easily forgotten that the church building is essentially and most significantly a place of horror, of distress and pain, for a crucifix with the figure of Jesus in torment, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified, humiliated, mocked and betrayed is placed in a prominent position. The church is essentially Calvary itself, which was the execution ground of Jerusalem. The Romans made a point of crucifying criminals at the gateways of cities to warn the inhabitants that the same would happen to them if they defied the might of the Empire.
The fourth song of the Suffering Servant, read on Good Friday, states
“… he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, … 3 He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering* and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces* he was despised, and we held him of no account. (Isaiah 53.2-3)
The principal item of furniture is the altar, which symbolizes the tomb where Christ is laid. Indeed relics of saints, that is parts of their body, are normally placed in the stone of a Catholic altar. It is here, on this altar, on this tomb, at this place of execution, that the priest celebrates the Mass where the participants eat of the flesh of Christ and drink his blood.
Thus the church is a place of horror but also of beauty, for it is out of love and truth that Jesus takes on his sacrifice.
He shows thereby that it is of the nature of God to want to be brought to the lowest depth; for in this way all is loved: the rough and the smooth, the good and the bad, the weak and this strong, the living and the dead. Here is greatest power.
This greatest power is shown in the fact of the empty tomb. Although the fire burns with great heat, it does not burn completely, and ashes remain. After all it is only a material fire. But the fire of love burns completely, such that the person of Christ, in every aspect, is fully consumed, and there is no trace left. The tomb is completely empty, the grave cloths attesting to this fact. He is the ‘whole burn offering’, the holocaust. He is entirely consumed in love and raised to the highest heaven.
The tantric will seek the same, to rise above all contrasts, or rather to be immersed in all contrasts and to reconcile them.
First Interfaith Conference on Tantra in Australia
Date: Saturday 14-15 November, 2105
Venue: Janssen Spirituality Centre,
22 Woodvale Road Boronia Vic, 3155
Classical Tantra in the World’s Religions
The bliss that arises from the union of opposites
Conducted by the MELA Interfaith Association Inc.
in association with Janssen Spirituality Centre
The tantric tradition is ancient and extensive, influential and profound. However, in the West it has been gravely misunderstood. Even in India, it has come to mean sorcery and charlatanism.
The real aim of tantra is to reach the freedom that arises from the union of transcendence and immanence, emptiness and plenitude, male and female, light and darkness, beauty and horror, good and evil, strength and weakness, purity and impurity, human and divine, life and death. This paradoxical path is said to lead most effectively and rapidly to the highest state.
This conference on classical tantra wishes to explore the valuable contribution tantra has made in the past and can still make. Indeed, the essential elements of tantra are found in the Hindu tradition as well as in the Buddhist tantra, in Sufi love poetry, in the Jewish Kabbalah, in the yin and yang of Taoism and in the theme of mystical marriage in Christianity.
The conference will involve input by knowledgeable and experienced speakers in these religions as well as workshops and discussions on texts and imagery. It is probably the first of its kind in Australia.
Registration fees: $165 full,
$135 concession (includes light lunches and refreshments)
Accommodation is available for $55 per night (includes breakfast)
Information: Call +61 417 560 087 for information
Registration: For those wishing to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing date 1-Oct-2015. Apply early as space is limited
Saturday: 14 Nov 2015
8.30 am Registration
9.00 am Welcome and opening ceremony
9.15 am Opening address: John Dupuche
9.45 am Introductory participant workshop
10.30 am Morning tea
11.00 am Hindu Tantra: Yogi Matsyendranath
Text/icon study in small groups
12.30 am Lunch
2.00 pm Buddhist Tantra: Ven. Thubten Gyatso
3.00 am Text/icon study in small groups
3.30 pm Afternoon tea
4.00 pm Taoism (Yin and Yang): Morgan Buchanan
5.00 pm Text/icon study in small groups
Sunday: 15 Nov 2015
9.00 am Christian Tantra: John Dupuche
10.00 am Text/icon study in small groups
10.30 am Morning tea
11.00 am Kabbalah: Merav Carmeli
11.30 am Text/icon study in small groups
12.30 pm Lunch
2.00 pm Sufism: Herman Roborgh
3.00 pm Text/icon study
3.30 pm Afternoon tea
4.00 pm Concluding general discussion: what has been achieved?
5.00 pm Finish
Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is Parish Priest of Nazareth Parish, Ricketts Point, Melbourne. He has a doctorate in Sanskrit, specialising in Kashmir Shaivism and is particularly interested in its interface with Christianity. He is Honorary Fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy at the Australian Catholic University with special involvement in interfaith relations, and senior-lecturer and co-ordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Guiding Meditation at MCD University of Divinity. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese, and member of the executive of the School of Prayer within the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation. He travels to India each year, and lives in an interfaith ashram. His book: Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka was published in 2003; Jesus, the Mantra of God, in 2005; and Vers un Tantra Chrétien in 2009 (translated as Towards a Christian Tantra). He has written many articles in these fields.
Yogi Matsyendranath has expertise in Shri Vidya and Shakta Tantra of Nepal, as well as the Nath Tradition. He was fully trained in these traditions in India and Nepal, and has been ordained as a Guru and is authorized to initiate adepts into the traditions. Furthermore, he learned from various Gurus in India and Nepal the connections between Nath Tradition and esoteric Shakta Tantra. He is an expert in all aspects of tantric puja and Hatha Yoga practice. He has written, translated and published several fundamental texts of the Nath Tradition from Sanskrit and Hindi into Russian. In more recent times, he has been actively involved in interfaith dialogue in the Interfaith Ashram in Warburton where he lives.
Thubden Gyatso was born Adrian Feldmann in Melbourne in 1943, grew up in Melbourne, Sydney, and Hobart. Graduated in medicine, Melbourne University 1968, Worked in hospitals in Australia, New Guinea, and England for 5 years. Met Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche in Nepal in 1974, became ordained at Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu at the end of 1975. Helped establish Western sangha communities in Nepal, France, and Australia. Taught at Dharma Centres in Europe, Far East, America, and Australia. Went to Mongolia in 1999 to help establish new Dharma Centre. Stayed there for four years. Performed a three-year meditation retreat on Kangaroo Island 2005 – 2008. Currently director of Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery, Bendigo, Australia. Published three books: ‘Perfect Mirror’ and ‘A Leaf in the Wind’ both published by Lothian Books, Melbourne, and ‘The World and Ourselves- Buddhist Psychology’ published at Kopan Monastery, Nepal.
Sifu Morgan Buchanan began training in Tai Chi over twenty years ago at the University of Melbourne. Tai Chi is a practical expression of the Tao. The living philosophical system called ‘Taoism’ helps us understand the world and how we can live in it by embracing the principles of change inherent in nature and human experience. It emphasises emptiness, softness, non-resistance and giving up the self. Sifu Morgan has continued his training with some of Australia’s best instructors as well as travelling and living overseas to pursue his understanding of Tai Chi and its connection with traditional Chinese philosophy and culture. He has been training with Master Law Lun Yeung since 2001, is Master Law’s senior student, and has been certified to teach the Cheng Man Ching style which focuses on Tai Chi as a starting point for investigation into Chinese philosophy, medicine and the arts. Morgan teaches three classes per week in Beaumaris as well as conducting workshops and personal tuition. He has worked out of an office in the Ricketts Point Interfaith household for four years where he’s had the opportunity to discuss philosophy and interfaith matters with Rev. Dr John Dupuche, Venerable Lama Tendar and Swami Samnyasanand.
Merav Carmeli was born is Israel. She has a BA and MA in Bible and Jewish Studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is now working on her Phd which focuses on the Zohar (the most important work of the classical Kabbalah from the 13th century) and specifically on the centrality of the Divine Feminine in this composition. She has taught Jewish Studies and Jewish Mysticism at the adult education program of Monash University through the ACJC, at universities in Israel and at other institutions.
For the last 12 years she has analysed the available Zohar manuscripts (from the 14th-16th centuries) as part of the Pritzker Zohar Project (a critical translation into English of the Zohar, Stanford University Press). She is now an Adjunct Research Associate at Monash University. Merav has published a few academic articles and she is the co-editor of two volumes on the Zohar. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and three children.
Herman Roborgh spent many years as a Christian missionary in Indonesia and Pakistan engaged in pastoral work among the Christian community. While living in these two Muslim countries, he witnessed at first hand the deep relationship that Muslims have with God and with the Prophet Muhammad. He realised that Christians and Muslims needed to develop a more respectful attitude towards one another’s faith tradition. So he began to deepen his understanding of Islam by studying the languages of Urdu and Arabic. After writing a thesis on a Pakistani scholar who had published an original approach to the interpretation of the Qur’an, Herman completed a PhD in Islamic studies at Aligarh Muslim University in India. Subsequently, Herman returned to Australia where he has been doing further research into ways of interpreting the Qur’an. His interest is to find ways of understanding Islam that can be understood and accepted by people living in a secular society like Australia.
The MELA Interfaith Association is an incorporated not-for-profit organisation which seeks to promote the ties of friendship between members of different faith traditions in order to learn from each other’s spiritual experience and to journey together in peace and harmony.
MELA activities include: Interfaith Retreats, Conversations, Study Groups on Sacred Texts, Joint Interfaith Teachings on Selected Themes, Hermitage Experiences, Conferences and Pilgrimages.
MELA Interfaith Association Inc. ABN 35 166 549 720 3227
Phone: +61 417 560 087;
 Urban p. 241
 Dupuche, John. Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the
Tantraloka. Delhi, MotiLal BanarsiDass, 2003. 551 pp.
 Dupuche, John. Towards a Christian Tantra; The interplay of Christianity and Kashmir Shaivism. Melbourne, David Lovell Publishing, 2009.
 See below.
 Creed of Nicaea-Constantinople, 381 CE.
 The Great Doxology of the Roman Mass.
 Wendy Dohiger O’Flaherty. Śiva: the erotic ascetic. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1981.
 cf. St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione or On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B.
 T. S. Eliot, Burnt Norton, (1935).
 Quoted from the Kakṣyāstotra by Kṣemarāja in his Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam, Singh, J. (tran.) 4th edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1982. p. 98.