I have a considerable amount of passion for this topic. Eros, defined as the desire for union, is a powerful force, albeit one that is often misunderstood and disrespected.
In secular life, this desire is interpreted narrowly and directed towards other human beings. Of course, this is important. But without a broader understanding of eros, we miss opportunities to experience the gift of life in all of its erotic splendour.
Some of our best loved poets speak of the desire for union with the Divine, or with nature, in erotic terms. Rumi would be one that is often quoted. I’ve loved a Deepak Chopra publication of his love poems. Rumi speaks of the erotic face of God and not of a human lover.
‘You arouse me with your touch
although I can’t see your hands.
You have kissed me with tenderness
although I haven’t seen your lips.
You are hidden from me
But it is you who keeps me alive’
In some traditions this erotic aspect is considered to be feminine.
This month I’ve been reading the biography of the man who built the Devipuram temple in South India. The temple faced controversy for its use of erotic icons. The Goddess and the Guru by Michael M. Boden is recently published and a very fascinating read.
The book tells of how one of India’s leading nuclear physicists left his job, following a spiritual awakening in his 40’s, and devoted the rest of his life to a Feminine tantric (non religious) spiritual path and social causes.
The separation of the secular world from the divine has led many to believe that it is necessary to separate oneself from family, from a lover, from income generating work and from other material responsibilities if one wants to live a spiritual life.
What drew me to tantra, as a mother and householder, was the promise of relevance to my life and concerns. My quest started around 15 years ago, after reading a book called Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw. Further fuel was added to the fire when I discovered Daniel Odier’s book, Tantric Quest, a few years later.
Sensationalism of tantra, in both India and the west, has led to many misunderstandings of the erotic images and sexual metaphor.
Although I never met Guruji Amritandanda/Dr. Sastry, who died in 2015, I have been a student of one of his senior students for 9 years. I have some understanding, therefore, of this man’s incredible gift to the world. I appreciate teachers, such as Guruji and the qigong masters that I follow, for their deep knowledge of science as well as spirit. They have brought teachings out of the mystical closet and given clear explanation of their relevance to modern life.
Amritananda/Dr. Sastry, in particular, took a stand for the Feminine. ‘Patriarchal religion, untempered by matriarchal wisdom, he asserted, is the root cause of the world’s strife and misery today, and balance must be restored.’
He wasn’t afraid to restore eros to her rightful place as a Feminine transformational power. The book details his courageous stand against prejudice, ignorance and prudery.
Here’s an excerpt from a notice that he posted outside the Devipuram temple.
‘This unique temple is built to tell you that you are goddesses and gods. If you like, you can be like them too. You are free here. Nobody stops you. All the powers shown here are dormant in you subconsciously. Your sadhana (practice) consists in bringing these powers out to use them for loving yourself, improving yourself and all those around you. You gain nothing by leering or laughing at the goddesses here. You gain everything by understanding your own nature as reflected in them. You are beautiful and lovable, just as you are. You are erotic. Nothing wrong with that! You can create your identity and destiny. You are not powerless. You don’t have to be what others tell you to be. We are with you in empowering you to be yourself.”