Book Reviews -- Body Health -- Sacred Sexuality
Author: Daniel Odier
Title: Tantric Quest - An Encounter With Absolute Love
Book Review 15.10.2010
(c) 2010 by Heidrun Beer. All rights reserved.
This book review was originally published on a mailing list for oldtime Scientologists. It therefore contains special words from the Scientology universe, marked in italic print. Please look them up in a Scientology dictionary.
Having reviewed two Tantra books before, I wasn't very thrilled by the idea to read yet another one, but my closest friend's recommendation came with such urgency that I thought he must be on to something.
I took a few free days over the last weekend and read Daniel Odier's "Tantric Quest" after all. Now I know why my friend said I should read it - I had a very incomplete picture of the Tantric idea, also I hadn't read a book of such passion and purity for a long time, and finally I had no idea how old my own views of life are - I thought they are totally new, but in fact they are totally ancient, or should I say eternal - always existing at some plane of existence, elusive and yet ready to open up to people who want to tap into this layer of consciousness, if they really, really demonstrate strong commitment?
To Daniel Odier it would open up only after enormous expenses and physical efforts, at the very point where he was ready to let go of his dream to study this secret wisdom. And yet to me, and you, it now opens up just by turning some sheets of paper. Makes you think about the idea of "paving the way" - he built a Tantra center based on this experience, in Paris of all places, the very town where I stayed while reading the book, after it had been sitting unread on a shelf for many months in my residence in Austria. Coincidence? You judge!
Now, the book. It is not following the usual pattern of "How To" manuals, structured by the topic's internal logic. Instead, it is an unbelievably colorful autobiographical account of how the author first found the female Tantric master Devi - in itself a mix of a thriller movie and a slapstick movie located in the India of 1968, containing also some information about the author's earlier studies -, and then the most detailed story of how she taught him "Shivaic Tantrism, the secret spiritual path that seeks to transcend ego and rediscover the divine by embracing the passions."
Quoting more of the book cover: "Tantrism is the only ancient philosophy to survive all historical upheavals, invasions, and influences to reach us intact by uninterrupted transmission from master to disciple, and the only one to retain the image of the Great Goddess as the ultimate source of power. Entire Tantric lineages have followed great women masters, and today numerous female yogis continue to transmit this age-old wisdom. After months of searching deep into the Himalayas, Odier met Devi, a great female yogi who would take him on a mystical journey like none he had ever imagined. At times moving him beyond the limits of sexual experience, at times threatening him with destruction, she taught him what it is to be truly alive and know the divine nature of absolute love."
Now here we have one frequent misconception about Tantrism. In many people's minds it is firmly embedded as something sexual in nature, which it is NOT. Or better, it is much bigger than that. But at the same time, also much more simple. What Devi did with Daniel, was simply to make him dissolve the mental patterns, the various barriers imposed on him by society and religion, and his deepest fears, until he arrived at his own true essence and was intimately in touch with all of existence. Most simple indeed, but only as a concept - no longer when actually done!
Doing such a thing in real life rather than with the chunks of clay used in clay table processing looks incredibly peaceful or incredibly dramatic, depending on from where you look - a blanket in a hut right beside a cozy fire, or the edge of a cliff in a wild storm. And yet all of it is "just physical existence", coming to you through your five senses. In our very own Student Hat, LRH gives priority to the real thing when he talks about adding mass to theory, priority over clay demos, drawings and the demo kit. Tantrism seems to use the whole physical universe as the spirits's clay table. What if it was installed for that purpose in the first place?
At one point in the book Devi describes to Daniel how different these drills can look for each individual student. For him, having to spend three days and nights naked in the forest was one such drill. Leaving him alone over night in a colony of lepers was another one... So much for the "fears" part. Another fascinating part of the teaching was how she got him in touch with the 36 tattvas - principles of existence, containing consciousness components along with material substance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tattva).
Here we come to the sexual part of her teachings. While immensely intense, they have to be seen as just one color in a complete spectrum of sensual experiences rather than having a strong focus - as usual our oversexed culture misinterprets that and fails to see the overwhelming fullness, as well as the deep spirituality of the Tantric approach. (Hilarious how Devi reads his every thought with infallible precision and puts a little pebble into a tea pot, each time he starts to think while he is supposed to quiet his mind... not really a feature of the average horny woman.)
Daniel Odier's language is so natural and colorful that we believe his Tantric training is unfolding before our very eyes as we are watching, little flies on the wall. For his own adepts, decades later, he is making the training less difficult and less dramatic - after all, we live in the "Kali Yuga" (the dark age, which is supposed to end somewhere after 2400), and you can't pose too big a challenge to the people living in that age, they need much more pampering than he got it (he doesn't say that - I do.) Or maybe he just cognited on the idea of a gradient...
These were just some impressions. It is not really possible to give the entire substance of the book without reading the book. Here are some quotes, just to illustrate the quality of thoughts and of language (translation from French by Jody Gladding, an author living in Vermont). Most quotes are from the words of Devi, Daniel Odier's beautiful female teacher.
- "Tantrism rejects nothing. All mental and bodily processes are wood, which we add to the great fire that consumes the ego and leads us straight into the absolute."
- "In frenetic or compulsive sexual pursuit, the face often shows only pain, tension, constriction. When a man penetrates a woman in full consciousness, time is dilated, pleasure is extended, all the senses are opened to this experience, and suddenly the bodies truly take their place in space. Play, laughter, breathing, the shuddering of the limbs, all tend toward opening. The eyes, the intimate organs, the heart all come alive. The whole chemistry of the body is altered, the mind eases, and the brain teems. The skin softens and exhales its perfume. At this moment only, two bodies communicate deeply, and there is something of the divine in the sexual relationship. When two bodies are nude and embracing, they discover the space where they can let things be. Beginning from there, the tantrika can go much further still. But without this preliminary presence with the other, relaxed and in perfect harmony, all asceticism is bound to fail."
- About the five senses: "We subject these five tattvas to compulsions. We lose their richness. Everything is rushed. How long since we've delighted in eating a piece of fruit? How long since kissing's made us lose our breath, feel dizzy, and blush as a wave of energy surges through our bodies? How long since our lips have traveled up and down the whole body of the one we love? How long since we've smelled the world? How long since we've sensed a being's distress or joy by the odor? How long since we've lost ourselves looking at the marvellous wings of a butterfly, at the clouds, at the stars, at the bark of a tree, or into the eyes of another human being? How long since we've understood what another human being says to us, not by the words but by the inflections of the voice, its timbre and tone? Without a deep connection with these things, the heart is not opened. All that we exclude from our experience because of principle, belief, fear, ideals, ignorance, or lack of attention feeds our protective systems, which are slowly transformed into prisons."
- "As soon as there's a system, the Tantric spirit is lost. As soon as stockpiling begins, the Tantric spirit is lost. This awareness is what gives Tantric writings their unique fluency, like a river that can't be stopped. As soon as devotion for one's master makes us ignore the master in ourselves, we no longer take part in spirituality. As soon as we lose contact with reality in order to follow the Absolute, we lose contact with the Absolute. The entire Absolute is contained in reality. There's not a trace of it elsewhere."
- "Human nature can never be really opened to ecstasy until everything that was imagined, but not experienced as a result of morality or social repression, can finally be enacted with divine spontaneity. In this way, the Tantric adept doesn't leave a single hidden residue, a single unsatisfied desire, a single dream remaining within, that can't be discharged through the sadhanas. [Wikipedia: Sadhana, a Sanskrit term for "a means to accomplish something" used in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.] That's a major point of the Tantric quest. All repression that isn't flushed out or satisfied produces beings tormented by the spirit. They will never achieve divine spontaneity. This is one of the reasons why Tantrism is sometimes misunderstood by Hindus and probably also Westerners who see an opportunity for impulsive debauchery where the divine exercise of spontaneity and the radical elimination of unsatisfied desires intersect."
- "Any sexuality that doesn't grow out of divine love is only a sham you might abandon yourself to, which you can't call Tantrism. Any experience linked to the ego, desire, or possession has nothing to do with Tantrism. To become a tantrika you must have the soul of a hero. Under no circumstances can someone ruled by passions or victimized by an egotistical, manipulative sexuality complicated by power or repression advance successfully along the way."
- About his time among lepers: "Reality had seen to opening up deep communication and getting me in tune with the other. I vaguely understood that disease was only a superficial facade for this initiation. The real base was simply the other, which presents itself when the ego implodes. It wasn't a matter of giving a little or a lot, of giving anything at all. It was simply a matter of giving oneself. It's this gift that the ego refuses most stubbornly to make."
- "It's important to understand that the initiation I am giving you into the Great Union could be accomplished just as well symbolically, without any carnal contact at all. Its value would be the same. The whole Tantric itinerary can be completed in absolute chastity. Each master has complete freedom to decide. It's also one of Tantrism's great strengths that nothing which makes up being human is rejected. There are no rules, no methods, no way, no effort, no accomplishments, no fruit. Everything happens as if one is letting his own sky be cleared of haze and clouds. The sun, moon, and stars are always there."
- "The Great Yoga - that is to drink, to eat, to touch, to see, to walk, to sleep, to urinate, to defecate, to listen, to remain silent, to speak, to dream, to love, to sit, to cross the street, to get on a bus, to travel through town and country, sights and sounds, beauty and ugliness without ever being separated from the divine, which is in the self. No type of yoga is better than that which isn't afraid of immersion in reality. Outside of reality, there is not a single trace of the absolute."
- "All teachings must be marked with the seal of the heart, and the seal of the heart is what makes Tantrism penetrate all."
Daniel Odier's website: http://www.danielodier.com