Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends

Tag: sexuality

Exploration and Freedom: Womanhood, Relationships, and Love

Making women’s issues more visible is not just about putting more females in positions of religious authority, like fully ordained bhikkhunis. It is about discussing and acting out ways of relating and loving that women feel liberated by and unleash everyone’s potential to provide fulfillment, satisfaction, and even enlightenment for others. When it comes to the thorny subject of love, I want to look at relationships beyond the simple dichotomy of non-attachment or pure passion and possession. Life is not so simple and I firmly believe that Buddhism understands this.

I was struck and inspired by a post from fellow blogger Lyudmila Klasanova, which was about the “Dharmodaya”: a sacred tetrahedron that symbolizes the female reproductive organ and the source of wisdom and birth.

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Blissful Wisdom as a Key to Open the Mind

Lyudmila Klasanova

Yab-yum representation of Kalachakra and his consort Vishvamata. Drawing by the author.

Vajrayana or Tantrayana Buddhism is unique among other Buddhist traditions with the acceptance of the body and the sensual experience as a source of knowledge and great spiritual power. The human body is honored as a sacred temple and sexuality is considered an important part of the path to enlightenment. As part of the most profound teachings of Buddha, the tantric Buddhism embraces desire, passion and ecstasy as an integral part of the spiritual path. According to Vajrayana the powerful emotions can be cultivated by immersion into them and not by their suppression. Because feelings are the most powerful motivating forces of the human nature, they should not be avoided but directed to the ultimate goal of final liberation.

In the concepts of Vajrayana Buddhism the enlightenment is possible when the male and female principles are combined in harmonious whole, which is the key to the spiritual perfection. The essence of Buddha is perceived as non-dual and in order to express this concept the Tantric Buddhism uses the unity of sexual opposites, presented as a union of male and female body. Their physical union is associated directly with the achievement of the higher spiritual reality. The female nature is associated with the transcendental wisdom (Skt. prajna, Tib. sherab), which is the direct awareness of reality. The male nature is related to the compassion for all beings (karuna, nyingje). This great compassion is perceived as a natural manifestation of the transcendental wisdom, as well as a skillful method (upaya, thab) to achieve it. It is assumed that through the union of the feminine aspect of wisdom with the masculine principle of the active compassion the perfect Buddhahood is being achieved.

This union is represented visually by two deities in sexual embrace, known in the Tibetan Buddhism as yab-yum, literally meaning father-mother. The mother principle represents the wisdom, experienced and taught by Buddha and the father principle – the natural expression of this insight as the great compassion. The sexual metaphor is used to denote the highest stage of the Vajrayana practice in which polarity and discrimination don’t exist, while the truth is indivisible. This state of oneness leads to rapid development of the mind by using the experience of bliss (sukha, dewa).

Yab-yum representation of Amitayus and his consort Tsendali. Drawing by the author.

Using spontaneous great bliss to realize emptiness (shunyata, tongpa nyi) is essential practice of Tantric Buddhism. The union of bliss and emptiness (detong), related to the harmony of the male and female principles, is the Vajrayana’s supreme path to perfect enlightenment. This blissful wisdom is a key to open the mind to its hidden potential and liberate it from the delusions that create pain.

In the endless play of spirit and matter,
Form and emptiness, wisdom and compassion
Everything is one.
Reaching this oneness, the polarity is united
And we are able to pass through the limitations and go beyond. 

The union of body, speech and mind is a cosmic act,
Transmission of light between the worlds
That reveals the sparks of the primordial wisdom.
The wisdom that realizes emptiness
And the bliss that dissolves conceptions.
Enter in this holy space of union!

Yab-yum representation of Vajrasattva and his consort Vajragarvi. Drawing by the author.

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