The ideal tantric consort is a sexy and devoted young girl between 10 and 17 with very specific physical and mental characteristics
Tibetan tantric practices are influenced by shamanic practices of the Bön religion
I don´t do a lot of theory in this post. It is really about the basic approach by Yogis of yesteryear to select a female practice partner.
"Tantric texts that detail the qualities of a consort almost invariably take a heteronormative male perspective by detailing the attributes of suitable women according to various typologies" (here) - but what are they?
The texts mention specific ointments for seducing the female consort. But what were the concoction´s ingredients?
They mention the technique for sucking milk through the penis. But how was this practiced?
The recently published book "Self-Arising Threefold Embodiment of Enlighthenment", a new translation of previously not published texts, provides much of the interesting detail.
The deceased Daniel P Brown explains the history of the translation of this massive book in the "Sacred Sundays" Youtube video below.
This post is only a teaser!
The book is a massive compendium of Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism in the Bon tradition.
Regarding "taking sex as the path", it contains pages over pages of the most detailed practices. They include inner practices like visualisation, and actual sex, overlaid with spiritual meanings and inner exercises.
The inner practices are an enormous unfolding of visualisation and sound exercises. As a discipline, these practices are beyond anything we imagine as "spiritual sex" in the neo-tantra movement. As Dr Daniel P Brown explains, the "Pointing Out the Great Way" organisation has trained and video - recorded contemporary Western couples to perform these previously not published tantric practices as couple. The purpose of these recordings is to preserve a tradition that would otherwise die out. However, I have not seen them published yet. Addendum: due to the likely collapse of the Pointing Out the Great Way foundation, it is unclear when or whether they will be published.
Characteristics of the ideal female consort for tantric practices
The list below contains thev physical and the mental characteristics of the females who are "suitable vessels for mahasiddhas".
When I read this male wish list to my female partner, she became a bit disillusioned about the actual historical practice of spiritual sex.
This is no wonder: in reality, it often has characteristics, as Ben Joffe sais, of a yogic wet dream. However, Joffe also points out that parts of these scriptures were often not taken too seriously, or even made fun of by the lineage holders in teaching. "What do these ugly yogis want - come on" ?!?
Physical characteristics of the tantric consort
The following characteristics probably represent a beauty model of their times!
"Youthfulness of sixteen- or seventeen-year old (note)
beautiful and the right height - not too tall or too short
a small waste and shapely lower body
a high forehead
the eyebrows slightly curved
a tight vagina
a high hair-line and yellowish skin
a sexy way of walking"
Mental characteristics of the tantric consort
The next list describes the ideal mental characteristics of the consort: sweet and devote. The description sounds somewhat similar to the concept of "radiant and submissive" woman propagated by some neo-tantric Deida adepts.
Great trust, respect and diligence
the depth of stinginess and attachment is very small
the respect and love towards the male yogi consort
one who can keep the secret words and doesn´t depend on other men than the consort
great compassion and loving kindness towards the attendants
a gentle and relaxed mind stream
adept at the pith instructions and has admiration for the secret tantra and Great Completion"
Specifics of the lotus type of woman
Buddhist scriptures are fond of systematic classifications. So, the tantric consorts are classified by the shape of - yes - their vaginal passageways. I will report here on the "best female consort", ie the lotus type. The others are the conch, elephant and herbivore types.
"With respect to the lotus, the outer signs are that the body is not too big or too tall, not is it too short, she is so beautiful to your eyes, her forehead is elevated and has three wrinkles going up, the skin of her upper and lower limbs are lush, (her body) has a sweet smell, the way she walks is sexy, she doesn´t get too old too fast, she has long curved eyebrows, and her vagina is tight. The inner signs are: her clitoris is long, and the (vaginal) passageway is shaped like a lotus flower, her (vaginal) passageway is easy to find, it is easy to open, and because of that she is the best female consort. The secret signs are that (when you see her) she blows your mind by her beauty, she has expertise as a female consort of bliss, and likewise in sucking the penis, and she has deep trust, admiration of virtue, and admiration of special conduct. This is completion empowerment. She is the action-seal (karmamudra) of fulfillment" (Threefold Enlightenment, p. 586)
Please note the modern tone of the translation. "Sexy" . "Blows your mind" . I must assume that this is Daniel P Brown's modernizing translation styl. Dating / pick-up techniques for yogis of olden times
So, when the male yogi has found a potential consort, what does he do to create attraction in her? What follows is clearly a shamanic Bön tradition close to African voodoo-practices.
"The earth where she urinates, the fat of a goat, the flesh of a dog penis, earth from a mouse hole facing towards the north are all collected into a kind of suitable vessel." Then, the yogi generates internal visualisations over this pot, of holding a hook in his right hand, grabbing the lady at her black and white channels, and lassoing her in with a lasso in his left hand.
Upon this and a few more things,
"this human damsel will have become infatuated with you. Wherever you are, for any reason, she will come to you".
Easy peasy! Just find a north facing mouse hole.
Men: don't try this at home!
Of course, the whole show also requires physical preparation by the male consort, the yogi. A particularly difficult technique was the preparation of the penis. One of the advanced yogic athletic skills was to suck in liquid through the penis, using special breath techniques and a hollow kind of straw.
After some preparation, so the instruction,
"put the straw with the ligament into the penis and push it slowly until it reaches the root, and then leave in the straw but take out the ligament. Even if a little pain or inflammation occurs, don´t worry because there is no harm".
Through breathing, the yogi first tries to move a hair or straw held losely before the straw stuck in the penis. Once that is achieved, the next step is practicing sucking up milk. Which eventually should come out of the yogi´s nose.
Ben Joffe confirms that this practice was indeed real, if not too widely used. I can imagine why! I wouldn´t do it for the most beautiful consort.
Channels, energy drops, root syllables
What then follows as practice, are highly complex orchestrations of visualisations in the style of that tradition. They using channels, energy-drops and root syllables.
This is really fascinating practice, perhaps for another post.
And what about real sex?
Of course, actual orgiastic genital sex was part of it too.
Was about the women's pleasure?
Ben Joffe provides a realistic picture of the times. Obviously, in reality it was not all about spirituality. It was often simply about sex.
For example, he cites that in the villages people often laughed about the ugly yogis in search of such an ideal beautiful consort.
How much a cave yogi could create the sexual fire in his female consort, or they all agreed to become a female consort in the first place, I still don't know. I can't imagine it to be so.
So far, Tibetan Yogic sex practices, labelled "Taking sexual desire as the path" seem to me to be oriented along the needs of the male yogi.
Shar rdza bra’ shis rGyal mtshan (Self Arising Threefold..)
Gyaltsen, S. T., Gurung, G. S., & Brown, D. P. (2022). Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment: [of Bon Dzogchen Meditation] (English Edition) (2nd ed.). Mustang Bon Foundation.
Daniel Brown (Sacred Sundays)
Sacred Sundays with Daniel P Brown. (2019). Sacred Sundays. https://youtu.be/0swudgvmBbk?t=4770
In this interview he mentions how "Pointing Out the Great Way" will also sustain the old Bön traditions of inner fire yoga with a consort
Dr Nida Chenangtsang
Chenagtsang, N. (2018). Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss: Sexuality in Tibetan Medicine and Buddhism (English Edition). 978–1-950153-00-8.
Dr Nisa Chenagtsang describes in this book what used to be secret transmissions of his lineage.
The translator of his book is Ben Joffe, the author of the "Perfumed Skull" blog. The full foreword to the book can be read on Joffe's website.
There are some extensive reviews of the book on the linked Goodreads page
Vajra Love - Collection
Downman, K. (2018). Vajra Love - Essays on Sexuality. Keith Dowman, Vajra Love.
Drukpa Kunkley´s Sutra of Sex (The discourse on mundane pleasure)
Dowman (Translator), K. (2018). Drukpa Kunley’s Sutra of Sex. Keith Dowman (Archive). http://web.archive.org/web/20200124002155/http://keithdowman.net/vajralove/drukpa-kunley-sutra-on-sex.html
Gayley, H. (2018). Revisiting the “Secret Consort” (gsang yum) in Tibetan Buddhism. MDPI.
"Tantric texts that detail the qualities of a consort almost invariably take a heteronormative male perspective by detailing the attributes of suitable women according to various typologies" - but she doesn't mention the detail
Ben Joffe, Tantric Sex Partners
Joffe, B. (2016). Tantric Sex Partners, Actual and Imagined. A Perfumed Skull.
Ben Joffe is also the translator of Nida Chenagtsang's book.
Ben Joffe, interviewed on the "A State of Mind Podcast"
Joffe, B. (2020). The Yoga of Bliss: Sexuality in Tibetan Buddhism with Dr. Ben Joffe. Anchor.
An important historical note: the requirement to be under 16 must be seen in a context where life expectancy was a 40 years. However, even 16-17 years seem to have been quite mature for a consort:
Keith Dowman translates "it is taboo to make love to a girl under 10" from the poem "The discourse on mundane pleasure"