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The Tension of Opposites

There has been a big debate as to whether or not someone on the spiritual path can also be a householder. Can someone who is devoted to gaining a deeper awareness/understanding of the internal landscape also be in charge of getting the groceries?

Tantric philosophy believes that we can do both. Sally Kempton articulates it so well here in Shakti Awakening.

Note: Think of Parvati and Shiva as different aspects of yourself. Shiva being the seeker and Parvati being the householder.

“Parvati and Shiva hold a creative tension of opposites. He represents the eternal drive for freedom, the yogi’s need to disentangle himself from the world; she represents the feminine drive toward expressive fullness–emotion, rhythm, even the creative flow of thoughts.

When Shiva–who stands for everything that is antithetical to society–unites with Parvati and creates a household life, they are making an enormous statement. Their partnership resolves one of the most embedded dualities in culture: the duality between life in the world and life of the spirit. In Indian life as well as in the Christian mysticism there has always been an opposition between the ascetic yogi, who withdraws from the world in order to realize his nature as spirit, and the householder, entangled in domesticity. Traditionally, the demands of the world, epitomized by family life, are diametrically opposed…

In the Tantric path, however, this dichotomy is transcended. World life and spiritual life, spirit and flesh, are recognized not as duality, but as manifestations of the same power, which is Shakti. The Vijnana Bhairava describes a practice where you discover the ecstasy of the ultimate reality by going into the throbbing heart of pleasure, inside the joy of sex, of song, of delicious food, then meditating on the ‘perfect condition of that joy’ until the supreme bliss reveals itself…

Tantra is the Goddess’s path, which means that it is for people who know how to use the physical and imagined worlds as doorways into the ultimate, as well as for world delight. The Goddess is the mistress of these worlds as she is of the physical world, which is why at the heart of Tantric practices there is a deep respect for the feminine as spiritual authority. In Tantric Quest [one of my favorite books of all time!], Daniel Odier’s teacher tells a story about how a group of hermits debated all day about whether the ultimate truth is a self or a non-self. Finally, one of the ascetics says that the argument can only be resolved by a dakini, a women practitioner. The yogini then goes into meditation on the nondual oneness between self and non-self, and in the space of presence that opens up in the circle, all agree that the discussion has been resolved. They recognize that spirit is not higher than matter, nor is matter devoid of self. Instead, it is the nature of spirit to creatively express itself in form, just as it is the nature of silence to express itself in sound.

The is the recognition that arises out of the union of Shiva and Parvati. Parvati is Shiva’s capacity to express himself in action.Without her, he is simply inactive, iner. Parvati, in scholar David Kinsley’s words, ‘not only compliments Shiva, she completes him.'” – Sally Kempton, Shakti Awakening

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