The Tantrik Householder
A Jaya Kula reader asked about the role of family relationships in Tantrik life. In general, Tantra has always been a householder tradition. As far as I know, there were no Tantrik ashrams or Tantrik monastics until modern times. Some Tantrik adepts have lived or wandered about on their own. But historically and today, we find that Tantrik Gurus often have husbands or wives, consorts, “significant others,” and/or children. Whether we are talking about the Tantra of the ancient villages of India, the Tantra that was appropriated and refined by Brahmin masters from the 8th-12th century in Kashmir, or modern day Tantrik Gurus and practitioners worldwide, we are largely talking about people leading active lives in the everyday world.
This path is different from that of the grihastha, or householder described in the Laws of Manu, an ancient Indian text that prescribes four stages of life for members of the Brahmin caste. The traditional householder is “holding off” on enlightenment. Yes, there are daily observances and practices, but one waits until the kids are grown before giving 110% to moksha. It is also different from the traditional sannyasin path of withdrawal from the world of family and job.
The Tantrik householder is engaged in regular activities, but is not identified with these. She or he is detached in life. Detachment doesn’t mean not caring. It means not grabbing, sticking, or holding. Detachment is living without aggression. You let go and relax in every moment.
For the Tantrik householder, every activity is an offering of self to Self, whether raising kids, doing the dishes, singing kirtan, or working at a job. This is the attitude to be held in every moment. One tastes dispassionately whatever arises. One recognizes everyone and every situation that arises as none other than the expression of the primordial, natural state. One continually remembers one’s nondifference from that.
For this reason, the path of the Tantrik householder is a path of direct realization. Far from being an easier way for folks of the Kali Yuga, it is the most rigorous way. Even while engaged in distracting activities, one continually remembers, recognizes, and consciously embodies the groundlessness of life.
This is the path of unconditional availability to the life process.
Now, most of us cannot really begin to grasp this. And if we do, we don’t really want it. Or it terrifies us. This is our situation, and it is fine.
With regard to our daily lives, we must try to discover our real situation and remain aware of that.
For instance, a young woman once told me very proudly that she was a celibate practitioner. It turned out that she simply hadn’t yet made love with anyone. That was her real situation. So, when we have friends, family or love relationships, or even casual relationships, or a lack of these, the most important thing is to recognize exactly what we are doing and not create a self-serving story about it. This is the first step, and the foundation of all authentic practice.
If we are lonely and feeling left out, we should recognize this and seek appropriate, fulfilling company.
If being alone for a time is clearly appropriate, we should bravely explore that.
We should use our discernment and develop clarity about when we are approaching our relationships with the View of Self-realization, and when we are not.
If we need peace and quiet, we should arrange that.
If we are running away from our situation and draining our energy with distracting, inappropriate relationships, we should clearly recognize that.
Every time we recognize with clarity our real situation, we undergo a recalibration. We “tune into” more of life, even as we are learning more about our limitations. We can relax the effort of fantasizing and making a drama or problem out of everything. We can just look and see and go on from there.
Whether you sit on a mountain, join an ashram, live as a regular householder, do hours of yogic practices in your city apartment, or walk the path of the Tantrik householder, discovery of the aware, natural state is still where you are headed.
And no matter what your situation, your relationships present you with opportunities to relax your tensions, relax your sense of separation, and discover more of life’s seamless continuity.
Lots of love,