March 17, 2011

Tantra, Pseudo-Tantra, and Charismatic Teachers

The conversation is heating up at the Tricycle Book Club discussion of Scott Edelstein's new book Sex and the Spiritual Teacher. We knew that this topic would turn some heads, and we also knew that it would put off some people who might think it prurient or in bad taste. But Edelstein treats his topic so sensitively and intelligently that dispels any notion of gossip or rumor-mongering and instead brings us to the vital question: What is to be done about this problem that is so obviously present in our communities?

A commenter brings up tantric practice:

"For Buddhists, sexual intercourse can be used in the spiritual path because it causes a strong focusing on consciousness if the practitioner has firm compassion and wisdom. Its purpose is to manifest and prolong deeper levels of mind (described earlier with respect to the process of dying), in order to put their power to use in strengthening the realization of the emptiness. Otherwise, mere intercourse has nothing to do with spiritual cultivation. When a person has achieved a high level of practice in motivation and wisdom, then even the joining of the two sex organs or so-called intercourse, does not detract from the maintenance of that person’s pure behavior..."

Nobody should condemn practitioners who take up these practices, in consensual and positively motivated circumstances. We should also be open about those teachers who do seem untrustworthy. It takes years to examine a teacher...

And Edelstein responds (in part):

Sex can certainly be used as a vehicle for waking up. It can also be used to keep us asleep and stuck. Good teachers know the difference. Deluded ones may think they do, but they are asleep and stuck--and often very charismatic and sexy. And as you point out, scrutinizing a teacher can take a long time, sometimes years. (Although, in the case of not-so-good teachers, sometimes you can tell instantly. If I enter a meditation hall and see a big statue of the current head teacher on the altar, I'll have already seen enough.)

Join the whole discussion here, where you'll also find a generous offer from the publisher, Wisdom Books, to purchase the book at 20% off when you join the Tricycle Community as a Supporting or Sustaining Member.

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