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Tantra and Fundamentalism
Developments in the United States -- from the Terry Schiavo case to the debate over stem cell research to the move toward teaching so-called “intelligent design” in the public schools -- have highlighted the global trend toward fundamentalism. These debates make it clear that the United States is not at all immune to this trend. Recent surveys indicate that a significant percentage of the American public embraces what can be considered fundamentalist religion.
While we fully support the rights of all people to practice their religions as they see fit, we are disturbed by the intrusion of intolerant religious ideologies into the political sphere. The rise of the Christian Right in America is a threat to all of us who practice "alternative" religions or lead any type of "alternative" lifestyle.
The Tantric tradition is, by its nature, opposed to such authoritarian and dogmatic worldviews. Tantra recognizes that all experience has the potential to be religious, and it encourages the fearless exploration of one's own consciousness. It stands diametrically opposed to dogmatic, rigidly moralistic, and fundamentalist approaches to life. Historically, Tantra and related spiritual approaches have been suppressed when power is in the hands of fundamentalists.
Political engagement is frowned upon as somehow unspiritual, at least by some in the "new age" movement, but we'd like to echo the words of the traditional elders of the Iroquois Confederacy: "a spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics". While this is an indigenous American perspective, it is a point of view that we share. True spiritual consciousness depends on a recognition that everything is connected, and that we are all in this together.
The Tantric approach to life rejects fundamentalism, dogma or any kind of rigid mental attitude -- whether traditional religion, political ideology, or new-age spiritual correctness. What Tantra embraces is a profoundly realistic way of living that includes a search for truth in both the inner and outer worlds; at its best, this search is unencumbered by preconceptions, prejudices or ideologies of any kind.
Truth is discovered through meticulously exploring all things, with a high degree of awareness. On an internal level, a commitment to sadhana is required; on an external level, cultivation of both emotional and intellectual capacities is beneficial. As our Guru, Swami Anandakapila Saraswati, has written "Tantra is the way of the hero." It takes courage to examine and evaluate, and this courage is badly needed in the world today. Too many people are content to blindly accept what they are told.
"It is therefore up to each individual to establish his or her own moral [code] on the basis of his/her chosen religious beliefs, freely, without preconceptions. Tantra has no organized structure, there is no dogmatic or centralized authority, therefore no one is empowered to speak on its behalf, not even a Guru, who at best represents one particular current, one particular Tantric trend and not all of Tantra." - Andre Van Lysebeth, Tantra: The Cult of the Feminine.
But don't believe this because we say so. Cultivate your own capacities!
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