Life takes me to places sometimes I would not on my own choose to go to—and these routes always fill my life with details--frequencies--that my conscious brain did not know I needed.
This Spring, I find myself teaching three graduate-level courses. One of these courses is an elective on Women and Tantra with the Women's Spirituality Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). When I was asked to teach it, I knew it would be a continuation of the ancestral healing, learning, apprenticeship I had entered into with my PhD dissertation. In the dissertation, I signalled tantra as one of the ancient pathways women in India had walked that honored their voices, vitality, and authority. Now, as I teach this class, I find myself arriving at a new rapprochement with tantra as a living tradition and methodology. In the process, I am realizing how my inner/outer practice—in the living, experiencing—has slowly been integrating the central tenets of Tantric thought. Life is truly a beautiful unfolding guided by the psyche in its collective, ancestral, interconnected, and arriving aspects—we can trust that we will get where we need to as long as there is an openness in us to be responsive. We don't have to plan it all.
Syllabi, however, do need to be planned. I am grateful to the scholars, practitioners, artists who have created texts imprinted with their seeing and investigations that will now create opportunities for others' voyages, contemplation (riffing off Lao-tzu). And, a reconstruction of women's wisdom lines from South Asia must surely be a collective voyage—not just because many of our wounds have been collective. The deeper I go, the more I encounter inhabitants traversing the deep waters.
Here then are a few scholar-practitioners I included in my Women and Tantra syllabus:
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena, who I met at her talk, "Kali the Evolutionary Force: Philosophy and Praxis for Our Times"—organized in 2019, serendipitously, a week after I had a vision in which Kali asked me to open up to her.
Rita Dasgupta Sherma, who was gracious enough to recommend some of the formative texts in Tantra.
Madhu Khanna, who I met in 2014 at her talk, "Reading Kali and the Tantric Way: What Would Kali Do?" and subsequently for a rushed coffee in New Delhi.
Lata Mani, who was initiated into an awakening to Devi, the Divine Mother, through her illness, and found her critical feminist frameworks transformed/expanded through this contact into a nondual orientation.
Mani Rao, fellow poet and scholar, who found a living legacy of mantras among practitioners in the Andhra-Telangana region coming from vedic and tantric contexts.
Vak (Vac) has been knocking on my door. Here is an invocation to Vak I wrote for the Reclaiming Spiral Dance. Kabir too has a lot to say about sabda--the true word—and this was part of the talk I gave at the Oakland Summer School, and the workshop I taught at the AAWAA.
To continue tending to this relationship with the word, I am also bringing in translations of poems/songs by practitioners such as Lal Ded (translated by Ranjit Hoskote) and Yeshe Tsogyel.
Since this class entails both critical and experiential components, I get to bring in earth-based/somatic practices so as to invite the students into an awareness of their connectedness with the living cosmos in an embodied, enfleshed way.
So here we are. The semester is underway. I am so curious about where this will take all of us who have come together in the circle/container of this class.