The Most Sacred Rite of the esoteric Tantric practice is the Chakra Sadhana whereby the Yogis and Yoginis unite with each other in order to attain the experience of Divine bliss. This is an account based on a Tantric ritual as witnessed in the Kāmākhya Mountains in the state of Assam, North Eastern India, in about the 1970's by Samaresh Bose. This tradition is still practiced at Shri Kali Ashram. For more information on the divinities see our publication Divine Initiation.

Tantric Quest

Durga

At one end of the ashram on the mountain, Pranatosh Baba had a cottage of his own. In one corner stood a trident. In front of the trident on the floor was drawn a Tantric yantra (a sacred diagram), exactly like the one drawn behind the Kali image in the Birbhum Village (Assam in North Eastern India). In the room there were six human skulls, placed on one side on a red cloth. He took me to that room and asked me to sit down. He shut the door and sat crossed-legged on a piece of tiger skin. He began explaining: “We [Tantrics] call our bodies bhanda (receptacle).” Similarly, the Buddhist Tantrics call the body kāyas (realms). The essence of this body is the essence of the Cosmos (the universe as understood from an esoteric perspective). Indeed a Tantric's quest begins with the body. As one's body has to participate in the worship of the Divine, Tantrics render it fit with āsanasprāṇāyāmabandhas (yoga postures, breathing and subtle inner controls). There are innumerable nāḍis (meridians and nerves) in the body through which vital air circulates. “Prāṇāyāma helps clear the pathway for the air.” “But why do we do that, I asked?” “Undress and I will explain further,” he said.

When he saw that I was hesitant to undress, he said, “What is there to be shy before me? The body is to us Tantrics a sacred Temple!” Saying this, he got up and undressed me. There I was nude without a single piece of cloth on me. Whereas science teaches us that we are composed of a multitude of cells, Tantra teaches us to view the self as an organic whole. From this perspective, it explains that we are an evolute of the whole. Since we are an evolute of the whole, Tantra explains that we mirror the Divine. Based on this organic perspective, Tantra enumerates a set number of nāḍis (meridians and nerves). These nāḍis include iḍā and piṅgala (lalanā and rasanā respectively to Buddhist Tantrics) and suṣumnā (avadhūti) to the Tibetans and zhong mai to the Chinese). While listening to him, I ceased to be ashamed of my nudity. He then ran his fingers in a straight line along my perineum. Then maintaining that as the base, he drew a triangle and said, “connected with this pubic triangle is the iḍāpiṅgala and suṣumnā (lalanārasanā and avadhūti to Buddhist Tantrics respectively). When we inhale and exhale, the air travels through these nāḍis. But we are conditioned to think that we breathe through our nose. That is not at all so. These two streams of breath (iḍā and piṅgala) are employed in raising our energy through the central suṣumnā nāḍi  (avadhūti to Buddhist Tantrics). This cannot be done without the Tantric practice of yoga such as āsanas and prāṇāyāma. At the base of this suṣumnā is that kuṇḍalinī. This energy is dormant or asleep. Tantrics understand that it is our kuṇḍalinī that is our life-strength (vital energy). To Tantrics, the Macrocosmic kuṇḍalinī itself is related to our kuṇḍalinī. All this is quite meaningless to you, I presume?”

Nataraj

I replied, “Almost. But your words and presence had transported my mind to a mystical realm.” “Tantra transports one to that extra-dimensional raw experience,” Pranatosh Baba said with a smile. “It is not a feeling or experience of an analytical mind but an intuitive sensing of the potency of the real self. However, this intuitive feeling that Tantra elicits will guide you in experiencing the mystical.. Now back to the suṣumnā. It is from within this triangle (referring to the pubic triangle) resembling the female genitalia (yoni or the creatrix aspect) that the suṣumnā originates. Deep within this is the kuṇḍalinī energy (a non-practitioner can't sense it). In it is the seed of desire (the basis of our world experience), and above that is the svayambhu-linga (natural essence that augments our world experience). The svayambhu-linga and kuṇḍalinī are placed mouth-to-mouth, in embrace and are kissing each other. It is here that the kuṇḍalinī lies asleep. The purpose of worship is to arouse the kuṇḍalinī. The aroused kuṇḍalinī is the source of Mahā Śakti (The Great Energy of the Goddess). Now, to arouse the kuṇḍalinī, the aspirant (sādhaka) has to channel the breath via the suṣumnā. (This is achieved only after prolonged āsana and prāṇāyāma practice.) The suṣumnā starts approximately from the perineum and ends in the root of the “third eye.” The kuṇḍalinī has to be guided from the base of the genitalia to the root of the “third eye” in one's head. On the way of this ascent, the kuṇḍalinī moves via the six chakras (six vortexes of energy). You can compare it to a destination of the sixth station which can only be reached after passing the previous five. Where are these five? One is at the base of the genitalia and is known as the Mūlādhāra (nucleic base).” Saying this he touched that spot. Pranatosh Baba said, “Masters touch this spot in initiation so that aspirants can sensually identify this energy spot.” Next he went on to touch the Svādhiṣṭhāna Chakra or the region behind and along the spinal column, then the Maṇipūra, then the Anāhata then the Viśuddha, and then the Ājňā chakra. The last said Pranatosh Baba, “is the Sahasrāra where resides Parama Śiva (The Divine Auspicious Lord).”

“There are other explanations of the circles. I will not go into that. If the Kuṇḍalinī Śakti is lifted up to the Sahasrāra then its great union is achieved with the Parama Śiva. Out of this union of Śiva and Śakti is created the elixir (amṛta). The aspirant (sādhaka) glories in the pleasure and happiness of this union. Then she or he loses consciousness of the material world and becomes one with the Cidānanda (Divine Conscious Bliss), who is the source of spiritual bliss. However, if you think that the aspirant can easily guide the kuṇḍalinī up to the “third eye” then you are mistaken. It comes about only through years of Yoga-like practices. (Tantrics interpret āsana and prāṇāyāma variantly to Yogis.) The kuṇḍalinī repeatedly falls back to its devolved level. The aspirant's (sādhaka's) great feat is to guide the kuṇḍalinī up to the “third eye.” Practically, this is achieved through the mastery of breath. Only traditionally ordained Tantrics know this secret science. Our main quest is to be in union with Śiva and Śakti.”

I was a bit surprised and asked innocently, “Then why this secrecy about the whole thing?” Pranatosh Baba laughed out aloud and said that it was a good question. “Put on your clothes and I shall tell you.” I quickly dressed and sat down eagerly. Pranatosh Baba sat for a few moments with his eyes closed. Then he opened his eyes and said, “What I have told you so long is all about the Tantric quest. But the quest has to be conducted with a yogini--a female aspirant (as distinguished from the Goddesses or Divine Entities of Tantra). To actualise the process, I have to be united in sexual union (maithuna) with a partner of the opposite sex; that is, the partner whom I realise as the Goddess. This union of my partner and me reflects the union of Śiva and Śakti.”

“Woman is Śakti and it is by seeking after Śakti that the grand union of the Śiva-Śakti is attainable. Actually, Śiva and Śakti are One and Indivisible. All of the Tantric quest ultimately comes down to the quest for Śakti. The world is Śakti, that is why we say woman is the mother of the tri-bhūvan (the three realms or Creation). She is the source of the tri-bhūvan.”

Ganapati

I interrupted, and recited a verse. Pranatosh Baba asked in surprise: “Where did you get that from?” I replied, “From Pabitri Ma.” “Then you have got it from the right source,” he said. “But I only heard this bit,” I replied. She had recited this and a few other verses when I overheard her sing as I passed by. Pranatosh Baba said, “Pabitri Ma will soon become an ordained Guru known as a Stri Guru (Female Guru). This is unusual amongst other traditions (sampradāya) but amongst the Tantric traditions (sampradāya) it is considered auspicious to receive initiation from a traditionally ordained Stri Guru.”

“Five activities are essential in the observance of our quest. These are known in the Tantras as the Pañcha Makaras. These translate as wine (madya), meat (māṃsa), fish (matsya), parched grain (mudrā) and sexual involvement (maithuna). These are the five sacraments that are typical of Tantric sadhana (Tantric praxis).”

“According to the Tantric philosophy, the sexual union leads to the ultimate union. But this union is not to procreate. Through the sexual union, one consecrates a Goddess. In such a consecration, a Tantric employs what is known as the offering of the nine flowers: embracing (ālingana), kissing (chumbanam), fondling the breasts (stana mardana), biting (danta karmam), touching (sparśanam), extending the vagina, pressing the penis, entry, and lastly, penetration (pravesham). These are known amongst Tantrics as flowers in the practice of maithuna. With this, are recited stanzas and mantras. With maithuna, the kuṇḍalinī is guided to its place of origination (Sahasrāra) to experience the bliss that delivers one from devolving (rebirth). Through this regression, the individual self that is embodied by She, the Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, is relinquished to experience the grace of the Parama Śiva (The Ultimate Conscious Self liberates us--Jīvan Mukta.) It is impossible to describe the feelings and sensations that a Tantric couple experience during this union of the Śiva-Śakti at the Sahasrāra (Thousand-petalled Lotus).”

“You must be wondering if there is a distinction between Tantric and non-Tantric sexuality. Tantric males during the course of their practice train themselves to control their parasymphathetic nervous system and are therefore able to control their ejaculatory function. Similarly, female Tantrics gain control over the pelvic floor muscles of their sexual organs. This is attained through the practice of āsanas. During the union of Śiva-Śakti, we become one with the Cidānanda (Ultimate Bliss). In fact, couples practicing different levels of Tantricism observe different aspects of sexuality. Those wishing to guide the energy upwards practice control. However, those wishing to aspire for personal fulfillment often recite a specific mantra that augments their spiritual quest. Nevertheless, the couple does participate in sexuality to guide the kundalini toward the Sahasrāra region where resides Parama Śiva. After the kuṇḍalinī  is guided upwards, She is guided back to her natural state, to reside at the base in the Mūlādhāra Chakra.”

“Our quest is the quest for liberation (Jīvan Mukta). However, due to our philosophy, we observe a path of experience and enjoyment,” said Pranatosh Baba. When I said that I could make only partial sense out of all this but could not understand its significance, he said, “If you understood all then you would have become an aspirant (sādhaka) yourself. Also, remember it is easy to talk about all this but much harder to practise it. Tantrics often say, it is as if one is riding a wild tiger, or trying to hold on to the darting hood of a venomnous snake. Now go and open the door.”

The Permission

Skanda

Opening the door I saw Pabitri Ma and Jagat seated in the courtyard, with their backs turned to the sun. Their long hair covered their backs: they were drying their hair after bathing. With them were a few other women engaged in various chores for the coming Tantric rite. Some were chopping vegetables, and Jagat was making garlands of flowers for the altar and singing Shyamasangeet (singing specific mantras for the Divinity) beautifully. When I entered the room and took my seat I told Pranatosh Baba, “I cannot understand why you and Pabitri Ma are addressing each other as the Lord and the Śakti.” He replied, “She is the original Mother. She creates and She destroys. She is my Cosmos. My Tantric knowledge is the grace from Her original source, the Śakti (Conscious Divine). It is from Her essence that I am born. This appreciation comes from the Tantric quest. The relationship cannot be established only on the basis of our mortal transactions. Tantra teaches us to see beyond mortal conditions. A woman is understood to be a woman only because we are habited to seeing her through our limited minds. However, if we see her through a Tantric's mind, we see instead a Goddess. Therefore, Pabitri Ma is to me a Goddess and I am habited to addressing her as Śakti. The quest through Tantric union takes the aspirant (sādhaka) to the stage where he is above mere sensual experience. That is why she is the Goddess.” I could roughly figure out what he was saying.

I told him I had one more question to ask, but just then Pabitri Ma brought us some tea. Pranatosh Baba thanked her and invited her to take a seat with him. I began to feel a little restricted in her presence. I wanted to ask about a black and white drawing I had seen hanging from the wall of Pabitri Ma's room. It showed a nude Kālī stradling a recumbent nude Śiva engaged in sexual bliss. Here the Divinity Kālī had two hands, not four, as in household or temple depictions, and a protruding tongue (see Divine Initiation for the Tantric meaning of the tongue). When I looked at Pabitri Ma and hesitated to speak my mind, she recognised that I was feeling shy in her presence and offered to leave us in privacy. However, Pranatosh Baba thought it wasn't necessary. He said, “After the way I introduced this woman to you just now (as a Goddess), you still feel shy?” I then mustered up my courage and said that I had never seen any portrait of Śiva-Kālī (see Divine Initiation) presented like that before. They looked at each other and smiled. Pranatosh Baba explained, “We call that viparita-rati (sexual union in reverse). The reversal in position is obvious. We say that Śakti in the form of Kālī is willfully involved in the act of Creation (as Creatrix).(She is the Divine World Mother.) It is She who is dynamic, as to Śiva who is passive (see Divine Initiation).” I peered at Pabitri Ma and her usual smile was still on her face.

I said, “It is only now that I could roughly figure out its philosophical relevance.” Pranatosh Baba replied, “It is actually on initiation that one is taught its practical relevance.”

Then turning to Pabitri Ma he said, “Ma Devi, if you permit, then I shall invite him to witness our Chakra Pūjā this coming new moon.” Her brows knitted together for a moment in thought, then her face became the normal smiling self again as she said, “You may, but you will need the consent of Jagat, Yogeshvar and the others too.” “Certainly,” said Pranatosh Baba, and he added, “But if I ask, hopefully the request will be granted.” “That permission you will get but what right has he to join in the Chakra?" said Pabitri Ma. Pranatosh Baba looked at me with kind eyes and then turning to Pabitri Ma he replied, “He has no right but he has the potential to become a Tantric and the scriptures allow the genuine to witness the Chakra.” He was right on that and Pabitri Ma gave me her consent with her beautiful smile.

The Morning

Ksetrapala

Five days later that eagerly awaited mysterious night of the new moon arrived. I had known nothing of it before Pranatosh Baba spoke to Pabitri Ma about it before me. Maybe I should have left those Kamakhya Mountains before that night. Later on Pranatosh Baba told me, “It is true that the method of our quest is kept totally secret. This is to respect those whose understanding of religion is not more than the obvious.” Tantra is an esoteric science that does not condradict the ordinary understanding of religion. However, on deeper inquiry, the laws of Tantra take us to another dimension. An analogy can be drawn with Classical Mechanics as defined by Newton's Laws and Quantum Mechanics appearing after Albert Einstein. Newton's Laws of Mechanics, based on the properties of earthly nature, explain the reality of this world. However, when we apply those rules or laws to explain the nature of outer space, they fail. Newton's rules are true only as far as the earth is concerned. Even his famous dictum, “Everything that goes up must come down,” fails in space. After realising the inadequacy of Newton's Laws, scientists understood new laws that enabled them to understand outer space (see Turning Point, Dr. Fritjof Capra). Similarly, an ordinary interpretation of religious philosophy and the esoteric interpretation differ and it is due to this that Tantra offers a different perspective and practices. The uninitiated suspects that Tantra is unethical and immoral and yet to those who are initiated in its mysteries, Tantra becomes the most appealing form of Spirituality. Pranatosh Baba said, “I think it will be a memorable treasure for you to witness a Chakra Pūjā.”

He was not wrong. It was indeed a privelege to witness the rites of the Tantric quest. Pranatosh Baba further explained that the scriptures maintain that to witness such a Pūjā accrues spiritual merit. This is acknowledged by both the Vedic and the Buddhist Tantras. But as that night approached, I was myself not sure if I had the mental strength to honor Pranatosh Baba and Pabitri Ma. This was a sacred event but my mind was conditioned to believe that non-private sex was perverse. I began to doubt the faith that Pranatosh Baba had reposed on me. As the night came closer doubt and apprehension began to increasingly possess my mind. Would I be able to present myself at the Chakra Pūjā in a healthy and unperverted frame of mind? I even thought of running away. Even while I was in such doubt I could not help but notice something. Every day the women would bath each other with scented warm water. Their unconventional countenance made me sense that they were like Goddesses. I did not know if they used soap. Every day some women would bring some wet mud from the Brahmaputra river at the foot of the mountain to bathe each other. Then they dried each other's hair with burning incense. Apart from the rudraksha and coral beads that they wore after their bath, they did not wear much else. The daily preparing seemed to make them look like Divine Goddesses. They generally confined themselves to a room, doing what I do not know. Occasionally I could hear Jagat singing Shyamasangeet in her sweet voice. They seemed to be in sublime ecstacy all the time.

Three days before the new moon Yogeshvar arrived. I heard he was from Silchar in Assam's Cachar area. He was not quite thirty but sported long curly hair and a moustache. His tall strong body revealed his years of practice in yoga. Pranatosh Baba introduced me to him. I found him humble and polite and learnt that he was one of the oldest disciples of Pranatosh Baba. He was not an aspiring spiritualist but one who had truly been molded in an environment of spirituality. After his arrival, Pranatosh Baba spent hours with him behind closed doors in a room at the end of the courtyard. I did not know what they did in the room, just as I had no idea what all the women did. For two days I was almost alone.

Ksetrapala

That night of the new moon appeared. Pranatosh Baba had told me that the real name of Kāmākhyā was Kamapitha, and it is in dedication of Satī's (Śiva's consort) organ or creation (see Divine Initiation) that Kamapitha is honoured. To honour this the Kāmākhyā temple was erected. It is from this temple that the mountain gets its name. Therefore, it is also known as Kāmagiri (or Cupid's Mountain). There was a temple in the ashram where resided an earthen image of the goddess Mātaṅgī. The image had two hands, was shapely breasted and dark complexioned; her navel was deepset, and her pubic area was covered with ornaments. There were more ornaments around the neck and the arms, though the usual garland of skulls was missing and the tongue was not protruding. She was stradling the recumbent Śiva. It was one of the manifestations of the Goddess Durga known as Ṣhoḍaśhi. This image was worshipped at the ashram every day. At the ashram were several other disciples. Two of them reminded me of the servants of the Divinity Śiva himself. All of them were very polite and revealed bodies that were shaped by the practice of yoga. They wore red clothing. There was also a black dog. He was called Kala. He barked when strangers approached the temple precinth. He too lent a mysterious demeanour to the ashram.

Right from the morning of the new moon day there were entourages of local people paying pilgrimage to the ashram. They brought offerings to worship the Goddess Kāmākhyā Devī in the temple. Pranatosh Baba and Yogeshvar were busy conducting the worship of Mātaṅgī Devī the whole day. They were helped by Pabitri Ma and Jagat. I took a midday meal with about fifty people. The food was cooked and offered to Mātaṅgī Devī. The offering was delicious. However Pranatosh Baba, Yogeshvar, Pabitri Ma, Jagat and the rest of the Tantric participants did not eat. They were on a fast. The worship ended towards the evening and the ashram was deserted. I was the only outsider. Silence and darkness had enveloped us. Two of the men from the group of followers, named Karali and Dhiru, lit lanterns in all the rooms of the ashram. Kala the black dog kept running around outside the ashram. The door of the temple was shut, so that I did not know what went on behind it. Karali, Dhiru and the other participants were busy at various chores. They were taking all kinds of things to a specific cottage on the slope of the courtyard for the coming worship. Amongst the things that they were taking were, mango leaves, urns, sandalwood paste, vermillion, and earthern lamps.

The door of the temple opened towards the late evening. Pranatosh Baba came out and stood with everybody outside the temple. Karali, Dhiru and the the other participants came and offered their pranam (respects with palms together). Pranatosh Baba seemed to be looking out for someone. I guessed they were looking for me and I went forward and did pranam to all of them. They all blessed me, placing their palms on my forehead (to confer blessings as well as grant me their permission to witness the Chakra Pūjā). They looked in harmony with all denizens. I also noticed that Jagat and many other women wore vermillion dots on their foreheads and in the parting of their hair. (Hindu women wear vermillion marks on the parting of their hair as a marriage sacrament.) They wore bangles made of conch shell. Yogeshvar and a few of the men too wore flower garlands around their necks. This had only one implication: Yogeshvar and Jagat had just been married. I was told that those sādhakas who are initiated but not married can undergo a marriage for the specific Chakra Pūjā. This rite is done in honor of the Divinity Lord Śiva for the purpose of undertaking a Śiva worship. This is permitted in Tantra.

Pabitri Ma asked me if I had eaten. I said I had. She again asked if I needed to eat in the night. Pranatosh Baba then explained, “Once we sit down for the Chakra Pūjā we would not be able to disengage. We believe it is sacriligeous to leave in the midst of a Pūjā. If you have to eat please do it now.” Having had a late lunch I was not hungry at all and said so. Then he requested Dhiru to give me a blanket for the night as it was cold on the mountains. I followed them into that room.

It was double an average room in size. Pointing to a corner he said, “That is where you will sit. If you have to relieve yourself then do it now.” I did not feel the need and so I sat down. My feelings wandered between fear and uncertainty. The howling of a jackal outside made it worse. Dhiru came and left me a neatly folded blanket for the ensuing cold night. Pranatosh Baba told the sadhakas to bring in everything. Then he told Yogeshvar to proceed.

The Chakra

Shakti

Pranatosh Baba sat in the corner of the room where the trident was planted and a yantra drawn. On the other side sat Pabitri Ma and Jagat, side by side. The rest of the aspirants were all seated in a circle. In the faint light I saw Yogeshvar draw another yantra. Then Yogeshvar took on his lap a large urn and drew auspicious signs. He then filled it with water. The water emitted a nice smell. Mango leaves and a coconut were placed on the mouth of the urn and Yogeshvar recited specific mantras. Yogeshvar recited a series of mantras and offered various offerings from flowers to sandalwood paste.

After completing this he looked around at Panatosh Baba, who acknowledged with a smile and nod. Yogeshvar looked at Pabitri Ma, Jagat and the rest and they all nodded in acknowledgement. Now Dhiru and Karali placed in specific order various offerings like cooked meat, fish, rice, fruits, and brass containers with betel leaves. Pranatosh Baba got up from the corner and placed five human skulls (symbolising certain Divinities) around the urn. He repeated a set of mantras, sprinkled some water from a copper bowl on all the offerings and everyone knew to reciprocate with the rite. Then he threw some flowers dipped in sandalwood paste into the urn and everybody meditated for a while. After this he again uttered some more mantras and touched the urn and all the offerings. The process took nearly an hour. Later I came to know that these rites were to purify our minds to worship the Presiding Divinity.

When the purification was over, Pranatosh Baba filled another urn with what smelled like a certain kind of wine. On this urn was placed a skull. Then he intoned another set of mantras. It revealed his years of training. Much later after the worship I was told that this was not a haphazard reciting of any mantras but specific sets of mantras that described the specific instances of worship. With this rite another set of offerings was presented. With the wine, meat, fish, and rice were offered again with specific mantric accompaniments. Then they concluded the ceremony by drinking and eating these offerings as sacraments (prasādam). Then they all left the room. No one even seemed to notice me. Approximately fifteen minutes must have lapsed before they returned.

Pranatosh Baba first shut the door and then spread out the blankets with Yogeshvar's help. The rest of them too organised their own blankets. Over the blankets were spread out red woollen blankets embroidered in the Kashimiri style. The women participants did not include themselves in these preparations. They were in a meditative trance. Each looked like a goddess. Pranatosh Baba and Yogeshvar sat on their soft layered blankets and made various gestures (mudrās) with their hands and again recited mantras. They sprinkled what seemed to be water all around; sandalwood splattered flowers were also strewn all over. Then Yogeshvar lit a lamp.

Mahisha

After all this the men knelt before their women and touched their feet in reverence and did pranām. However the women were still in their meditative trance. They seemed to be reciting some mantras silently. Then to my surprise the women disrobed themselves. Then the men drew the flowers, garlands, vermilion, and sandalwood paste towards themselves and also disrobed. What I was seeing was unbelievable. No matter how poor the light I could not miss the bright firm bodies of all of the participants. The men took little twigs and drew triangles on the foreheads of the women with vermillion. Then the men touched the women by different gestures, first from the navel to the pelvis and then from the genitals downwards, first down one leg and then the other. They smeared sandalwood paste on the women's breasts to the face and from the navel to the breasts. Then it was from the right foot to the right side of the head and from the left foot to the left side of the head. Throughout all this they kept reciting mantras now unintelligibly, and took a good deal of time. Then they concentrated only on the genitals, touched them with both hands, right and left and centre, and kept on reciting mantras.

About then the men were aroused. Then they recited mantras for their own genitalias sprinkling water and smearing their genitalias with sandalwood paste. I could clearly hear them utter specific mantras. Then the men worshipped their women in Tantric fashion. Jackals were still howling outside. The skulls were all looking alive and smiling in the pale light. I was myself entranced with what was going on. All this was so unexpected and unbelievable that I sat transfixed, I do not know whether they were at all aware of my presence.

Pranatosh Baba took out a folded betel leave (paan) from a brass box and placed it in Pabitri Ma's mouth. She offered the same to him. Then the rest followed suit. Then they all said to their Goddesses, “May I attain enlightenment.” Then the Goddesses or Shaktis reached out and conferred their blessings. The Yogis then lifted them and placed them on their own laps and held them tightly to their hearts. The men were sitting crossed-legged and the women over them. In this father-mother posture, (Yab-Yum as the Tibetans would describe it), they gave themselves up to the abandon of erotic foreplay; men started addressing their women as goddesses, such as Devī, Deveshi, and Śivani.

After the foreplay had gone on for some time the men uttered some mantras as they started lovemaking. The so far still air began to be filled with moans, groans and deep breathing. Then there were moments of stillness followed by the deep and prolonged letting out of breath. After the breath was let out the intensity of lovemaking become more frenzied. Occasionally the men would be still and look intently at the women: they were controlling their breath. This would end with both laughing and becoming active again. (I was married by then, but had no idea that sexual intercourse could be like this.) Through their controlled breathing and lovemaking the men seemed to be performing a very strenous exercise. Ordinary men and women would have been tired out by then. I could see Pabitri Ma and Jagat as energetic as ever. Pranatosh Baba had spoken to me about rousing the kuṇḍalinī and guiding it up. It seemed like they were engaged in this endeavour through their yogic union. I can't remember how long they went on like this, as I did not have a watch on me. At one stage the men had stopped moving their limbs and sat still in their union.

The whole thing seemed to me so incredible that I experienced none of the normal reactions that an individual would feel when he or she saw anyone making love, though they were masters of the myriads of techniques of lovemaking.

Shakti

The men often between bouts of rigourous lovemaking became still and controlled their breath. The women often had their feet wrapped around the men's waists. If not they straddled themselves on recumbent men and this appeared as the image of Kālī Devī astride Śiva. In between all this, one could notice the men controlling their breathing, sometimes using their fingers at the abdomen, while repeating mantras. I remembered the concept of the six chakras. It become obvious that this was what was going on. The sādhakas had been able to arouse the kuṇḍalinī and guide it up to the top of the head via the suṣumnā (avadhuti to the Buddhists). I was not wrong. The men, after touching the women at the abdomen, where resided the Svādhiṣṭhāna Chakra, and repeating the appropriate mantras, resumed their lovemaking with more vigour. They became quiet again, and this time touched and worshipped the navel where the Maṇipūra Chakra was. In the same way they travelled from the heart to the throat then the spot between the eyes. These were all the spots where the chakras were and the men were apparently guiding the kuṇḍalinī up via the chakras to the “third eye” where the Mahā Śakti achieves union with Parama Śiva. Jagat was shaking all over and either laughing or crying. Her two hands and legs were around Yogeshvar's neck and she had taken almost the shape of a circle. Yogeshvar was holding her tight with his hands. Pranatosh Baba and Pabitri Ma seemed to be permanently stuck to each other and were rolling all over the ground in a peculiar manner. Only strange inarticulate noises could be heard from them. This must be the moment of total bliss. Even their breathing seemed to have stopped. Earlier on Pranatosh Baba had told me that at this moment the body became lifeless and cold and the head became warm. After this great moment of bliss they ended the rite by gradually guiding kuṇḍalinī downwards. I was tired and had drowsed off, to wake up at noon to discover that they had gone to pray at the Bhubaneshwari temple far away at Nilachal.