A student who came to the lectures of a teacher, but had not become a disciple, was sometimes invited to stay on a little. On one occasion he asked about a Tantrik ceremony he had heard about. A pair, male and female, perform a rite on the night of the full moon, by which their sexual conjugation is sanctified and made uplifting. “I and my girlfriend have heard about this and we should like to try it. It seems a beautiful idea.”
The teacher replied, “These things are not recognized in the classical tradition; they very rarely lead to any lessening of bondage to the world, with its consequent suffering.”
But the student persisted that it was surely wrong to rule out any aspect of the divine current. He had been impressed with the phrase that in the ceremony, heaven and earth were made one.
Finally the teacher told him, “I have not practised these things, but I have read one of the principal texts. It is true that there are code-words in the texts: for instance, wine may be referred to by the word tirtha, literally meaning a holy place. But some participants have described them to me. In these rites, a principle of nature is solemnly worshipped with flowers and incense. A few sips of wine are permitted, but there must be no trace of vulgarity. The pair worship the divine principle in each other, and in the universe. They must fast the day before the ceremony, and must not touch each other during the twenty-eight days leading up to it.”
The student was taken aback. “Wha-a-t? Oh, we couldn’t do that. We thought this was just a special event once a month, a sort of extra. We can’t let it interfere with our ordinary life.”
The teacher gave a little smile. “Yes, some of the enthusiasts for these things somehow overlook plain statements of the text. They just pick out the things they think they will like. This Tantrik ceremony represents a restriction, not a license. Perhaps it was devised for people normally tending to be promiscuous. It requires tremendous strength of will; some of them call themselves heroes. They have to worship the divine principle with the same joy not only in some particular expression but when it strikes their body with accident or disease. These are no fair-weather worshippers, my friend. It is not impossible that there should be a spiritual benefit from such teaching, but there is a great risk of misunderstanding and abuse. That is one reason why it is not part of the classical tradition of the Upanishads and Gita, and it is best avoided.”