The old Western colonial model of conquer-ing, assimilating and therefore eliminating the unwanted, is directly opposite to the approach yoga takes on resolving conflicts - be they within oneself, or between others.
In the end, mindsets such as "I am a victim" and "overcoming the oppressor" only ever lead in the opposite direction to the goals of personal liberation. Evidence of this is the resultant backlash against feminism by men who felt threatened by a movement of stronger women. For those involved in this style of conflict, different battles may periodically be won and lost, but the war will still continue, ad infinitum.
Other examples where fighting the enemy does not work are in "the battle against one's weight"; "beating cancer" ; "eliminating guilt". Such concepts and their resulting efforts only create personality divisions. Who is this "me" who is going to beat this other part of me? What are these things called weight, cancer or guilt, if they are not part of "me"?
Rather than attaching to divisive sexist concepts such as - "how can we win them over; how can we make them see our point of view; how can we make them treat us as equals" - a yogi spends their time and efforts investigating - "what are my own male and female aspects; how can I better understand why those aspects are conflictive; how can they be brought together to work for a common good; how can I utilise them both to advantage in my search for higher consciousness?" The outcome of this self reflective position will ultimately lead to better understanding of one's own self, one's neighbour, one's society, and all beings.
Whilst planning and thinking about this book I was struck by the lack of modern female spiritual mentors. The woman typically presented as a suitable icon in our culture today is usually revered for either her physical beauty, sporting prowess, homemaking skills or else her business acumen. Of course, the Supermum is one who fits all 4 of these! Another insidious female character is the Warrior Princess who, being single, sexy, powerful and clever, saves the world by overcoming evil in exactly the same way as the macho male hero has done for centuries. But none of these models adequately represent what most women feel is their true nature. Although privately cherished, rarely are women publicly acclaimed for their deeper traits of compassion, spiritual wisdom or fecundity. The modern presentation of womanhood fails to respect women for what they are, rather than what they do, and for what makes them uniquely women rather than for their success in
attaining attributes which are more highly prized by men - nubile beauty, physical and intellectual strength. Due to this populist pressure, as well as female insecurity, there is much effort by many women to reinvent themselves into something far removed from the essence of their femaleness. How often do we hear that women still feel cheated, over-worked, undervalued and torn between desires for a domestic maternal life and being an active participant in the workplace and society. Women today need not only the freedom to make choices about their lives, but girls approaching puberty as well as young mums, also need realistic role models to inspire and help them make these choices wisely.
The ideal role models for women have always been the different Goddesses venerated in the ancient spiritual cultures, many of whom are being rediscovered by women today who are sick and tired of the unsatisfactory feminine ideals popularly presented to them. Not only have the Goddesses lost out by becoming dominated by the Gods of our society, but society has also lost out by failing to recognise the valuable spiritual role Goddesses have to play through the possibilities of living and working in unison with the Gods.
As mentioned at the outset, tantra involves the interplay between two fundamental entities: consciousness, as represented by shiva (the male principle); and energy, as represented by shakti (the female principle). Whilst reading the following sections, where I outline how tantra divides the whole of creation (including human nature) into these two complementary opposite elements, please try to leave aside all the commonly understood meanings of female and male.
According to tantra, at one level of existence there is duality and at another level there is non-duality. Within our bodies, our minds and the whole cosmos there are understood to be two elements: shakti and shiva, energy and conscious-ness respectively. Through union of these dualities, there is creation of a whole new level of reality which is something greater than the sum of its parts - yet still including its components. In other words, 1 + 1 = 3.
This concept should not surprise anyone really. We know it to be the foundation of chemical compounds, as in H + O = water (H20), and of course social couplings such as marriage where man + woman = couple. In each of the resultant