views updated

Sahajīyā (Skt., from sahaja). A sect of Tantrism preponderant in Bengal, whose practice involved ritual sexual intercourse (maithuna). The origins of the sect are in the Sahaja-yāna of the Buddhist Siddhas (8th–12th cents. CE).

The Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyas adopted the theology of the Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavas who maintained that the soul is both identical with and distinct from Kṛṣṇa or Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. This doctrine is known as unthinkable difference-in-identity (acintya bedhābheda). The purpose of Sahajīyā ritual sex is to transform desire (kāma) into pure love (prema). Ritual sex was performed with a parakīya woman, unmarried or ‘belonging to another’. As in other Tantric sexual rites, semen is not ejaculated but directed ‘upwards’ through the suṣumṇa nāḍī to the sahasrāra padma where the bliss of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa is enjoyed. For a further development, see BĀUL.