Tantra & Transnationalism, the Dichotomy of Soils and Souls in Asian Psyche.

How many of us call immigrants transnationals? Probably not many, as the beautiful latin term trans/tranz, replete with potentiality, is being used mostly short for transsexuals or transgenders. It’s true that the original root of the word trans denotes ‘opposite’ or ‘across’ (e.g., transcontinental), or into another state or place (e.g., transonic). In chemistry, trans denotes molecules with opposite arrangements of substituents. In genetics, it stands for a molecular structure with two atoms on opposite sides of a given plane. Yet, the connotation of trans means much more. It represents transformation, transcending and surpassing. Transnationalism implies not just operating across geographical boundaries, but extending ones identity, culture, values and perspectives. It connotes courage, chaos, and confluence. Viewing immigrants as transnationals adds depth to understanding the complex processes of surpassing or transforming occurring in their lives.

Interestingly, the term Tantra originates in Sanskrit root tan, that means weaving or warping of threads on a loom, and shares elements of the term trans. The deep mystery of Tantra is replete with symbolism of Ardhanarishvara, the half-man half-woman form of Shiva and Shakti, and also implies duality in unity. Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Tibetan Bön tradition, Daoism and Japanese Shintō tradition––worship this polarity. Shiva (the seed) and Shakti (manifest diversity) effortlessly enmesh in Asian psyche. It is revered as one being, that integrates and balances the inseparable opposing forces of the masculine and the feminine.

Understanding the androgynous symbolism of Tantra, can direct one to view the transnational experience at its fundamental psychological roots, and perhaps, even predict influences that hold sway, and exert control. It is commonly known that for immigrants, ‘home’ means two soils and two souls or identities, perpetually overlapping and intersecting. What is not commonly understood, however, is that East Asian and South Asian immigrants are culturally encoded to absorb and reflect this duality at whole another level, and perhaps at an advantage to exploit its inherent dichotomy. There is also an urgent need for a balanced analysis of migrant experience. We are mostly trying to decode their “American dream” through day in life studies conducted in host countries, without decoding the beginning, the roots of their identity on native soil. The conditioning and upbringing, the myths and mythology, the collective consciousness and influence of their home countries, must be equally and simultaneously in conversation. This alone can help us fathom (and grapple with) the tension that binds their duality.

Unless one has sipped roadside chai at local dhabas, inhaled incense in Pagoda temples, attended traditional tea ceremonies, heard the Namaz reverberate through ancient ruins, or driven through streets of old Delhi––one hasn’t fully understood the trance like experience of disappearing boundaries of transnationals. In truth, there are no American dreams. They are all native dreams. It’s the seed that dictates the branches, the Shiva (consciousness) that dictates Shakti, the play of consciousness. There are no quick fixes or short cuts to fathom this pas de deux, or the “step of two.” It is a duet wherein both dancers must be present to tell their story. The author Rachna Chopra is an Indian American, and founder of South Asian Insights (SAI). .