INTERVIEW WITH ZEENA
Part 3 - "The Breaking of Taboo and Transgression of Social Norms in Religion and Culture"
FOR THE SCHOOL OF RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY AND CLASSICS
UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
UKZN: In this study, I am trying to find the significance of taboo breaking and social norm transgression in religion and culture. Tantra and the Ministry of Jesus are being used as the primary examples to show the significance. I also wish to show how it relates to the power relations in society…not only the external power relations but the power relations within a person’s mind because as a person develops into maturity, they develop an identity and socialization takes place which creates a particular individual and that individual adheres to norms in society…what the power relations in society have instilled within them to follow and I felt that taboo breaking and social norms transgression was relevant to that.
Zeena: [Pertaining to the social norms and societal reasons:] We could start by referencing the fundamental taboos as seen within the traditional Tantric Rite of the Five M’s, (otherwise known as the ganachakra or gaṇapuja, similar to the Tibetan tshog).
Within Hindu society, that transgressive rite engages taboo foods and actions, for the purposes of transcending their grip and their hold over the mind; it involves overcoming the idea of dualism and strengthening one's yoking directly through the guru and the kaula. Growing up we live with edicts, which are either given to us by conventional religion or society (and really, in Western society, religion is not very strong; societal conventions are stronger, monetary conventions are stronger than religion). We can look to the 5 M’s for its relevance in Hindu society (perhaps not so in modern times - but maybe up until the last century), the eating of meat, the drinking of alcohol, the eating of fish, the eating of parched grain, and certain forms of sexual union, were activities which, for certain religious reasons, one was not supposed to engage in. And so by doing them, you were transgressing concepts of dualism.
Dualism is a point of reference. So when we live by edicts, when we live by dogmas and orthodoxies, no matter whether they're in the Hindu caste system or in our own caste system (we create our own caste system, every country has their own class system – it doesn’t matter what the politics is, there are certain classes that organically form) certain norms and standards of social conduct form as well. And whenever we have these norms and perceived proper standards of living, whenever we have such edicts and dogmas, then that creates a point of reference by which duality is formed. Are you this, as opposed to that? Where is your position as opposed to the other? Are you higher or lower on the pecking order?
Then once we realise the nature of cyclic existence we understand that these classes or castes are a reflection of cyclical existence; they are a reflection of the wheels that are constantly in motion, the mechanisms of society – of life itself. With the realisation that you are caught up in this cyclic existence comes an awareness. Do you really want to keep repeating yourself again and again? There's a difference between consistency of practice - which of course we have to maintain consistent practices in order to, comically enough, in order to break with the greater Samsaric existence. But maintaining consistency of one's practices is different than ignoring cyclic existence. Not everyone is even aware that they live within cyclic existence - most people are not, or they're selective about which aspects of it they wish to acknowledge. That's due to a fear of impermanence. So, when we have an awakening to the immensity of what cyclic existance really means, you think, “Oh my god, there's something wrong here!” That awakening can come in any form. It can manifest in any way. Some people feel that they are stuck in a rut, like a cog in a wheel - their daily routine, and nothing is changing - and yet, that is in its very nature, a part of cyclic existence; that you are on “autopilot” and just going along with what’s happening.
So, the breaking of taboos...however the individual conceives of that for their given situation (everybody’s life situation is different, everybody's environment and culture is different) whatever your culture, or environment and your life situation is, you can use this concept of the 5 M’s as an example of how one might break taboos in his or her own environment. But it's nearly impossible to have the clarity of mind and self-awareness to be able to accurately know where all of your own weak points are, which need overcoming. That gets back to why you need someone who's qualified and trustworthy to guide your spiritual progress, and to confront you with your own sacred cows.
So, why do Tantrics break taboos? For what purpose? Well, for a person who embarks on that path it could be because we realise that we have been living our life on ‘autopilot’, regardless of how interesting, or not, our life might have seemed. We realise that living a life on autopilot filled with seemingly meaningful distractions, isn’t the true meaning of life; that that isn’t our purpose for being here. So the breaking of taboos is not just to be a provocateur or reactionary, or to be the weirdest guest at a party, or to express your individuality. The breaking of taboos is an urgent, inner burning need to understand what our purpose is here…that's the first level. Then beyond that it's an internal process of coninuing awakening. For the practitioner it's to create internal transformation by challenging ingrained fears, worries, dogmas, orthodoxies, etc.. Then beyond even that, there are deeper, more complicated reasons for the breaking of taboos which can only be discussed with your guru.
By taking the first steps of breaking your patterns and habits, of breaking your own dogmas and orthodoxies, of breaking your familiar conditions, you create internal transformations which will enable you to begin seeing reality more clearly, without concepts, narratives or filters...and it will ultimately hasten your way toward total release of all the suffering, and causes of suffering that come of cyclic existence.
[...to be continued...]
The preceding is an excerpt from:
An Interview with Zeena Schreck – September & October 2013
for “The Breaking of Taboo and Transgression of Social Norms in Religion and Culture”
A Research Project by Che Chetty at the
SCHOOL OF RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY AND CLASSICS
UNIVERSITY OF KWAZULU NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA