Having created her, he worshipped her sexual organ; Therefore a woman's sexuality should be worshipped. He stretched forth from himself a stone for pressing nectar [i.e., causing a woman's sexual fluid to flow] And impregnated her with that. Her lap is the sacrificial altar; Her hair, the sacrificial grass; Her skin the soma press; The depths of her sexual organ, the fire in the middle . . . . . . . . . . Many mortals...go forth from this world...without merit, Namely, those who practice sexual union without knowing this. Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 6.4.1-4
Nowhere is this dictum followed in spirit and soul more than in the canons of Buddhist iconography. In such representations, the mother is often shown in a posture with both legs around the father's waist. In this remarkable and richly symbolic manifestation, both appear simultaneously united and independent, like the complex relationship of sameness and difference between wisdom (female) and compassion (male) in the enlightened state. Ponderous, energetic forms confront the viewer in this stunning portrayal. Sitting on a full-blooming lotus, they embrace with passion, her lips seeking his. She gazes rapturously and intently at her consort with her head thrown back, heightening their electrifying aura.
She is totally nude except for some gold jewellery on her arms, a skull crown and a girdle with tassels made of gemstones. With her right had she beats out a damaru (hand drum). The damaru has sexual connotations and its two sides represent the male and female respectively. Her other upraised hand bears a skull cup. As the libation vessel of the Tantric practitioner, the skull cup essentially parallels the clay pot (kumbha in Sanskrit) of the Vedic sacrifice, the alms bowl of the Buddha, and the sacred water vase (Kalasha in Sanskrit) of the bodhisattvas.
Tantric Buddhism is unique among Buddhist sub-traditions in its acceptance of the body and sense experience as sources of knowledge and power. Tantric Buddhists eulogize the body as an "abode of bliss" and boldly affirm that desire, sexuality, and pleasure can be embraced on the path to enlightenment. In keeping with this life-affirming orientation, the movement upholds the possibility of liberating relationships between men and women and envisions cooperative yogic methods that men and women can perform together in order to transform the ardor of their intimacy and passion into blissful, enlightened states of awareness. This mood of exuberant delight, graceful sensuousness, and reciprocity that often characterizes the sculpted and painted couples also suffuses the literary descriptions in the Tantric texts, which exult in an open and unshamed affirmation of sensuality in a religious context:
Therefore, one who desires Buddhahood Should practice what is to be practiced. To renounce the sense objects Is to torture oneself by asceticism-don't do it! When you see form, look! Similarly, listen to sounds, Inhale scents, Taste delicious flavors, Feel textures. Use the objects of the five senses - You will quickly attain supreme Buddhahood. ... Candamaharosana-tantra
With their radiant and desirable pink-hued bodies, these deities seem to be saying just the same thing.
This artwork is created by Harikrishen, India's greatest living batik artist.