My first post translating ‘The Essence of the Tantras’ by Abhinavagupta, which I’ve been working on for sixteen years.
Many who believe that Tantra is mainly about sex found justification for their belief in the publication of a book called Kiss of the Yogini: "Tantric Sex" in its South Asian Contexts. This short post, drawn from my PhD dissertation, seeks to show how deeply problematic that book is, and offers a three-point definition of what distinguishes Tantra from other forms of Asian spirituality.
This extraordinary sutra teaches the goal of Tantrik Yoga—and of every nondual path—here called jīvanmukti or 'embodied liberation', and offers a beautiful definition of that goal: "jīvanmukti is defined as the natural freedom that arises for one who has recognized her own essence-nature when the entire mass of bondage melts away yet she continues to care for the prāṇas of the body."
Awareness, like a fire, ‘devours’ all things; that is to say, it is that inner space in which all experienced things converge, and in which all experiences are dissolved and ultimately resolved. Since all beings exhibit that capacity at least partially, we know that all beings are forms of that same divine Consciousness which has the capacity to 'devour' all things.
Chapter Thirteen of the Recognition Sutras is the pivot point of the text; what came before describes the process by which transindividual Awareness (aka Divine Consciousness) contracts into the form of a deluded and suffering human being, while what comes after describes the process by which such a being realizes his or her nature as that unbounded Consciousness.