Tuesday, November 3

Is Day of the Dead a Tantric Holiday?

     Tonight and tomorrow are Latin American holy days known as "Día de los Muertos." The Catholics have attempted to merge the rites with All Saints day, but the Aztec roots reach back over 3,000 years. It is a special day for me, personally because I am a Mexican American woman of Jewish decent and it is also the one year anniversary of my dear grandfather's funeral.
     As my heritage, history and spiritual practices collide, I find myself reflecting on the tantric significance of the day.
     Traditionally, the focus of this holiday is to pray and remember dead friends and ancestors. When the Spanish first came to conquer Mexico, they thought the tradition looked more like mocking the dead than honoring the deceased because practices involve gathering at the gravesite all dressed up with masks and bringing sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed.
     The Native Mexicans viewed death as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. This is aligned with most tantric philosophy. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, for example teaches that life and death are not separate, and once it is accepted, death becomes just a continuation of the journey. For other tantrics, life is a dream and only in death do they become truly awake. There are also extreme tantrikas such as the Hindu sect, Aghori who fixate on death and practice at gravesites, year round.
     Even Osho Bhagavan Rajneesh, one of the greatest influences of Tantra in the West, began his spiritual path through a fascination with death. He survived smallpox and asthma, but after his grandfather died when Osho was age seven he spent much of his contemplative time with the dying and in the burning grounds. At age 14, he's said to have spent a whole week waiting for death, and nearly died of a broken heart when his girlfriend passed away. He was 21 years old when he had his first enlightenment experience which he described as the ultimate ego death leaving him "Mad with blissfulness."
      The intention of my tantric practice is not only enlightenment, but to become more fully alive in this body, during this incarnation. As part of my path, I chose to do ceremony, pray and worship my ancestors, and others who've passed to the other side. It helps me better understand who I am, and my purpose for being here.
      When my grandfather transitioned, his love, attention and wisdom became even more available to me in ways that were not possible when he was alive. I am grateful to him, and to the teachers before him. I hope you'll join me in your own form of celebration today!
     Kamala Devi
      P.S. To deepen your practice of embracing the darker aspects of life, join me and David Cates for a weekend Intensive on Shadow Dancing. Scroll down for details, and mark your calendar for other great Tantra events!

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