I have a question about the equality of the sexes in Tantra. I quote from the book Tantric Yoga
by Gavin and Ivonne Frost: "It is recognized that the female is both the giver of life and its taker-away. She can be seen as a lover or she can be seen as a mother, a matron, or a wise crone. In a similar way, the male can be the destroyer or the creator. He can be the angry avenger or the wise old man. In Tantra he is generally the more passive, obtaining life and illumination from female."
I must admit, being male, that the last sentence does grate somewhat. I am very interested in Tantra, but since I sincerely believe in the inherent equality of the sexes, I find the Tantra idea that women are superior to men somewhat repulsive. I was wondering if you could perhaps comment on this. Do I have a correct understanding of Tantric philosophy regarding this matter? I have also read, incidentally, that many men often are reborn as women and this is seen as a progression, a sort of moving to a higher level.
It saddens me that many writers interpret the Tantric teachings in a way that depicts the man as a passive student of the woman. To my knowledge and way of thinking, Tantric practice is devoted to developing a capacity for experiencing life without duality. Tantra teaches us to be inclusive of everything. It is a non-grasping, generous, open-handed and spacious view of life that shows us how to sit in witness to every thing life has to offer us without exception.
It is a view of life that embraces life’s paradoxes - I can and do love my beloved in one moment and find myself reacting with anger and fantasizing about packing up and leaving a short time later. Tantra is for mature and passionate people who can handle the fact that we are sometimes strong and sometimes weak; generous and occasionally stingy; lusty and shy; courageous and afraid. That the roles we engage in: initiator - responder, male - female, teacher-student, are fluid and not fixed.
Historically, Tantra first began to emerge at the end of the period when the Goddess was still being worshipped by people throughout the planet. The Tantric teachings carry the teachings of many prominent women teachers who were greatly revered. The Indian books of love: the Kama Sutra and Kama Shastra were written several centuries apart, and the Tibetan Book of Love, reflect the importance that the Indians and Tibetans placed upon honoring the feminine and bringing her to the fullness of her sexual pleasure.
They also were strongly moral and ethical texts that addressed the right and proper relationship between a man and woman. There are references to the wisdom and qualities that a woman possesses and the importance of understanding and appreciating her gifts, but there is no emphasis that a man should always be passive or that she is more powerful than he is. The gifts of maleness and femaleness are different and complimentary. It has been our task since the dawn of time to learn to be with one another and to find the qualities of both the feminine and the masculine in balance within each of us.