Yesterday I read the article by Be Scofield published in the Medium titled “Women Accuse Agama Yoga Founder Swami Vivekananda Saraswati of Sexual Assault” and a related article by Deva Temple, on Medium as well, titled “Tantric Couple Shares Their Painful Experiences with Agama Yoga: A Call To Examine All Tantric Teachings for Misogyny”. I have been sitting with both of these within me, as I have attended Agama Yoga School and have taken part in their retreats and Yoga levels. I also personally know a couple of women who have slept with Swami and who have shared their experiences with me of their encounters. For the record, one woman shared how empowering it was and how having sex with him supported her to understand and work with her sexuality better. They were not lovers, for her it was 2 “sessions” from which she grew a lot and is still grateful for. I have no doubt that this version of sexual encounter with Swami is rare in comparison to the versions found in these articles and others yet to be documented.
I myself have never had any sexual encounter with Swami or any of the staff or teachers there, although I must say he did make it obvious in my opinion that the door is open if I should choose to walk through it. So sitting here I had a choice to just make a comment on one or more of the many FB threads circulating about this at the moment, or simply feel compassion within me for those who are going through this. Or I could focus on how terrible Swami is, etc. Or I could move on, after all, it hasn’t happened to me right? Instead, I looked at this from a wider perspective:
What does the neo-Tantric “community” have to do with all this?
The mud and the lotus!
Let me be clear, as a woman who has experienced child sexual abuse and rape, I agree that there is nothing that can be said to justify anyone forcing themselves physically or energetically on anyone else, nothing! Nothing can make that acceptable, no matter the age, sex, gender, culture, power dynamics, circumstances, whatever, nothing! Those who abuse others need to be held accountable for their behavior, and not just on social media, and they as well as those who have been harmed by such behavior both need healing! Crystal Clear!
To me, this is so much larger then Agama’s Swami or certain “bad apples”. It’s not even about women and men. It’s about the feminine and the masculine. And there is a big difference! This is the key! It’s about a culture that discounts the feminine and values the masculine, IN ALL Of US and all around us. Which means this culture, which we are all a part of, hurts us all!
It also means that closing down the school will only move this behavior elsewhere, and/ or underground, it will not address the roots of this collective illness. What happened when Somananda was accused of rape on KPG? He moved elsewhere! Does that mean things really changed? No, of course not. And let’s suppose, just for argument’s sake, that everyone accused of sexual assault in these articles would go to prison right now, would that mean there would not be abuse of power anymore in this community? No, of course not. It would make a statement for sure, and that is supportive and needed, yes! However, others would go underground making it even harder to address. (Note: this has actually happened with teachers and staff at Agama in past years already. After allegations have surfaced, they have “disappeared”.) This is a reflection of deep rooted societal level shadows and illnesses which need to be addressed at their roots! In all of us! And we can all do more then to keep pointing the finger out, finding the shadows and the monsters out there. How about in here?
One of the things I find desperately lacking in most neo-Tantra offerings is a deep understanding that we all have a feminine and masculine within. Which is such a basic understanding in Tantra! I was introduced to the neo-Tantra world a decade ago and for over half of this time I was continuously and exclusively taught how women are “this way” and men are “that way”, and when we come together in “Sacred Union” we create a whole, and then we can go beyond duality.
What most of neo-Tantra misses, at least that I have been exposed to, is that the external “whole” is simply a tool, a projection even, of the whole which we all have within. Sure there is lip service paid to this, you can find it on many event descriptions and it is even spoken of in the group rooms. But in general the polarity game is played strongly, leaving both women and men feeling incomplete! Those in men’s bodies represent the masculine, those in women’s bodies represent the feminine, the number of women and men in a group need to be equal for exercises to function well as they are based on that perspective, men give from their sex (first Chakra) while women recieve into their sex (like-wise, women give from their heart and men receive into their heart) and up the Chakras we go alternating polarities. Having participated in the Tantra groups and Femininity groups at Agama I can say that this polarization is very alive and well there, as well as in the great majority of the neo-Tantra schools active now! Hmmmmmm. In my opinion:
Here lies the root of the problem!
As a man if I can’t recognize and honor the feminine within me I can’t honor it in anyone else. If as a woman I am raised in a culture that believes that women are less and men are more, I will most likely feel less in comparison to the masculine. This creates an unhealthy co-dependance on the opposite sex and within relationships. It also rejects (and I have heard many “teachers” even putting down) same sex unions and varied gender identity. Sadly, the illusion of form (you are the body, i.e. You are a woman or you are a man) is actually maintained when Tantra is precisely a way to go beyond that illusion (and all illusions). As a result, the illusion of separation is actually reinforced going against the most basic principle of Tantra.
What does this have to do with Swami and the sexual assault allegations? Everything!!! Divide and concur is a classic battle strategy. Dominate, overpower, suppress, etc are its manifestations, with an apparent winner and an apparent looser. But that division must first be experienced within before it can be projected out, imposed externally. As a man who dominates a woman I must first dominate my own feminine! And I will do that to the feminine in men and women around me too (ex: men should not be “pussies”, weak, sissies, and women are less) and to the planet itself! That’s how as a man I can rape or assault a woman, otherwise I can’t.
Rape and sexual assault are about power, not about sex… about power over! In this case about power of the unhealthy masculine over the feminine.
Similarly, as a woman who puts men down for being untrustworthy, it means firstly I don’t trust my own masculine within, nor the masculine in other men or women. So where does that leave us? Hurting ourselves as much as we are hurting each other! We all loose!
In my opinion, what we see happening in the new age/ spiritual/ Tantra communities is simply a reflection of our current state of affairs as a humanity. We are human, we carry our unconscious patterns and wounds with us wherever we go and we don’t just magically leave them at the door just because we are entering a Tantra group room. Unfortunately, again in my opinion, many of the neo-Tantra offerings are actually feeding these wounds, particularly the ones that have to do with sexuality! Focusing on peak experiences, stereotypes and polarity, intensity, variety and having “more”! Let’s admit it, it sells… Whether it’s cars, FB likes, or attendance in a “Tantra” group! However, there is a difference here!
As strongly as this shadow of the unhealthy masculine, and the unhealthy feminine too, seems to be rampant in these communities, that is how strongly these “worlds” have the capacity to shed light onto these very issues and through that… Create a huge shift for humanity!!! From the Mud… the Lotus is born! That can not be said about other communities.
So while there is mud here, the answers and the light are all here too! It is precisely the neo-Tantra community itself which can support the union and wholeness within and through that could come the eradication of power over dynamics, divide and conquer. My intention here is not to blame, it’s to say: we can do better then this as a community! And we all have a part to play in this. This is a big “miss” so far, which at worst can actually be harmful rather then supportive, and at best leaves men and women stuck in the old, incomplete paradigm waiting to become whole through another, which is fundamentally based on power imbalance and barter based relating.
Swami and others like him represent the unhealthy masculine and unhealthy feminine within us all. They and the women and men involved in such experiences represent what needs healing within us all and in the collective! They show us the “monsters” and “victims” which live in us all!
Honestly! What if Swami had a healthy feminine inside
that he honored equally to his masculine? Think about it!
And what if the women going to him had been empowered to have a healthy active masculine inside of them? How would that change the dynamics?
Of course it’s not as simple and black and white as masculine and feminine either. Yes, everyone has both, and Yes, everyone has unhealthy/ shadow sides to each of them too! So for example, as a woman I can have an unhealthy feminine that manipulates others and an unhealthy masculine that takes without consent. And I would need to work on all of that. Of course! So just because I”m a woman doesn’t mean I have a healthy feminine, not at all. Same applies to men. And of course the feminine and the masculine are a continuum with huge range within each of them. They are not a one-size fits all. The way my feminine expresses herself will be very different then my sister’s for example, or my brother’s. That’s what makes us unique, and there is incredible beauty in that. However, they are all fractals, aspects, manifestations, part of the feminine and of the masculine.
And once we reach there we realize, experientially not mentally, that this is all part of The ONE! That these are all abstract, concepts created to help us navigate through this dualistic reality that we live in, starting with the bodies we live in. And then we can drop the whole feminine and masculine, men and women, you and me, and rest in one-ness. However, in order to get there, beyond the illusion of separation and duality, we go through these steps of unveiling, of evolution.
I see it as a great sign that all this is coming to the light and that discussions can be had openly. Let’s not stop there as a community though! Let’s actually:
• look into how this reflects what is alive in me now, still, that needs healing, on both sides of the equation?: “perpetrator” and “victim”;
• reflect on what do I “consume” and why, as a participant of Tantra events? Are we feeding our wounds and egos or actually healing, transforming and expanding?; and
• consider what we are offering and why, as facilitators/ teachers/ trainers/ session givers. Are we actually reinforcing the same outdated paradigm of seperation, disconnection, and wounding, sugar coating it with Tantric lingo and exercises, or dealing with the deep roots of what needs to shift within so we can know our wholeness and sacredness?
I am greatful that by the time I was exposed to the neo-Tantra world I was already a vipassana meditator and was receiving empowering psycho-therapy (not the laying on the couch talking for an hour kind). This gave me a consciousness, self-awareness, empowerment, grounding and discernment I often find lacking in most people as they start with neo-Tantra. Surely more can be done to strengthen these qualities in participants within Tantra groups. But of course that would mean the facilitators would have to have these aspects integrated within them, and be able to model them.
Without true healing of wounds, traumas and patterns, distortion is inevitable in all aspects of life. So my sincerest advice for anyone on this path is to actually seek out healing for these, including one-on-one sessions. Whether it’s through therapy, primal work, breath work, certain body work, or other trauma release and healing modalities that go to the roots, whatever works for you but do it! Tantra is not therapy and sublimating energy can not replace healing deep wounds. Eventually the purification needs to involve the body, the emotions and the mind, only then can there be alignment.
And the bottom line is: I’m responsible for my words, thoughts, feelings, and actions. Only from this place, in my opinion, can true freedom be experienced, from the shackles of the bondages within!
I can also say that it is usually very helpful to actually stay with, for some time, the polarity of the body you were born into. As a woman I found it priceless to work on becoming comfortable in my own skin, accepting myself as a woman, being accepted into the sisterhood, and discovering my own unique femininity. It is similar for men! That part of my journey took a number of years to evolve and fully blossom, and to be fully anchored in my every day life. It serves me as a solid foundation for being able to connect to the masculine in a healthy way, inside me and around me. To stay connected to my body, to my truth, and to be able to express it in the moment. As a woman, I did most of this work with my sisters. I know that I could not have worked on my masculine before reaching a certain level of healing in my feminine, there was too much wounding, too much projection. So it is my sincerest suggestion to anyone on this path to spend some time with their “own kind”, women’s groups for women and men’s groups for men where a sense of belonging can be experienced, along with healing and opening in the safety and intimacy of that container. In the olden days this was a common phase we passed through as young teenagers with rites of passages, etc.
Mixed groups are also a great part of playing out this polarity. What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man? With others of the same sex or opposite sex, or in relationships, sexually, emotionally, and beyond. It is through this experimenting and mirroring that we discover who we are, and who we are not! Or so we believe! Most offerings stop here.
The time does come however, when integration with our polarity is needed… Within! When the healing of the opposite sex is needed… within! And Union and wholeness can be truly experienced… within! There are few who are truly offering such work, yet this is where the real Tantra starts! I am grateful to have Bruce Lyon as a mentor and friend who has dedicated the past 15 years to supporting people in exactly this way. There are others of course. And once we reach here, we all can support each other, women supporting men to anchor their feminine and even men supporting women modeling from their own healthy feminine (which is sometimes healthier then certain aspects of a woman’s feminine). And the reverse of course.
Yes!!! This is where we really begin to come together!
From this space, how can there possibly be any power over games?
Just like you can not dominate externally if there isn’t a part of you dominating another part of you internally, you can not experience true Union and wholeness externally unless you can experience it internally. And this is the key to knowing yourself as a soul, and as part of spirit, cosmic consciousness… Beyond form, space and time, beyond duality. The path of Tantra!
My sincerest wish is that we may all grow from what is coming out of the shadows now, at Agama and many other places, within us and around us. Swami, the teachers and staff there, the women and couples mentioned in the articles, you, me, everyone! Agama bases their teachings on how the macrocosm and microcosm are a reflection of each other. Indeed they are! So how does all this which is surfacing at the macro level (Agama, Bikram, US President, etc.) reflect itself within you? Lets all start there! Whether you have ever heard of Agama or not, ask yourself this question!