Campbell provides a fresh, common sense perspective on Tibetan Buddhism, informed by her practice and her association with Kalu Rinpoche, a venerated teacher in the Kagyu tradition. Vajrayana represents a remarkable and seamless integration of Mahayana, Hinduist tantra and proto-Mongolian shamanic tradition. Since it became a state religion under Tibetan kings, the shamanic element receded into the background. As far as Campbell is concerned, this resulted in severing the connection with the feminine, earthly energy - Tibet became a theocracy ruled by men for men. Spiritual authority was handed through the "tulku" system, which consisted of taking young boys (never girls) from their mothers and putting them into monasteries under strict regimen of doctrinal studies and meditation.
On the psychological level, such a system would have a tendency for creating men who are disconnected from women while having the very normal biological impulse to have sex. Unfortunately, motherless monks and tulkus would have no idea how to deal with women except from a position of cultural-spiritual authority and, Campbell would say, domination. Tulkus have been raised into cognitive dissonance: women are polluting, they are an obstacle to practice, at best women can serve others and at worst they are a nuisance - yet women are also transformed into dakinis, female aspects of being that men must associate with in order to reach enlightenment. Part of this paradox has been sublimated through tantric practices imported from India and China that used imagined spiritual consorts. Another part, however, resulted in the tradition of real people-consorts and mistresses kept by lamas. They would rationalize this as a recapitulation of the famous union between Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal that represents the bedrock of Vajrayana despite the fact that female lamas like Yeshe Tsogyal have not been seen in Tibet for hundreds of years due to suppression of female assertiveness and power by the tulku system. Subcontracting a religion to men alone is usually a bad, very bad, idea as we can clearly see in the West.
The Kalachakra tantra (practiced by Kalu), for example, has frightening apocalyptic aspects that reflect the male psyche under duress including religious warfare and extreme violence against women - something that few Western bliss bunnies eager to get initiated into the practice comprehend. Nor was the pre-China Tibet a bed of roses. Critics such as Michael Parenti would say that Tibetan hierarchy had been no less venal, autocratic, power-hungry and brutal towards its serfs (peasants and herders) than the medieval Catholic Church. Serfs were taxed upon getting married, taxed for the birth of each child and for every death in the family. They were taxed for planting a tree in their yard and for keeping animals. They were taxed for religious festivals and for public dancing and drumming, for being sent to prison and upon being released. Those who could not find work were taxed for being unemployed, and if they traveled to another village in search of work, they paid a passage tax. Monasteries lent peasants at 50% interest. If the peasant could not pay, they were made into slaves. All this was an integral part of "religion".
The Tibetan religio-political setup has been dismantled in a brutal if not genocidal, manner by the Chinese in what is one of the great tragedies of the XXth century. However, reverberations of old chauvinist attitudes have trickled up to this day, as can be seen by the Naropa cult around Trungpa (another tulku) who cavorted intoxicated with his female devotees ("dakinis"), and Campbell's interaction with Kalu RInpoche. Kalu's father was a tulku and his sons have inherited the teacher mantle, which may be relevant with respect to the scandal caused by the intergenerational and intercultural psychological drama described by June Campbell. June, acting as Kalu's translator, was asked to become his "consort". When tantric sex is practiced between equals, energy flows in a circle to the great benefit of both partners. Practiced between unequals, the flow is in one direction, essentially a transfer of life force from the weaker less aware partner to the stronger one. Essentially a form of vampirism or to put it more mildly, a way to prolong the life of a highly respected teacher at the expense of a devotee who will no doubt accrue great merit and be rewarded in a future incarnation. While this was a clear case of cultural misunderstanding, it is just as clear that Kalu's entourage was aware that the situation was not kosher as they swore Campbell to secrecy (family secrets again; a trademark of any cult).
If this happened within the Tibetan community, it would have been part of a cultural setup that is taken for granted. The Western psyche, however, does not work that way. It is much more individualized, and subsumed with shame, anger as well as an innate belief in inviolate human integrity. It was not until years later that the sheer anger at the disrespect she was shown and revulsion forced Campbell to speak out. This book thus that paints a historical, cultural, psychological, sexual and personal portrait of a fascinating religion that looks behind the lines of its ordinary glow. A religion which represents a pinnacle in the human ability to establish a relationship between the sacred and the profane and nudge us towards conscious evolution. As such, however, Vajrayana is also ever so human, depending on its messengers represented in this book by both Kalu Rinpoche and June Campbell. The two teach us about equally important aspects of incarnation. Blind devotion and uncritical acceptance of hierarchy is, in this context, anti-spiritual and an aspect of ignorance. In some visualizations practiced by Campbell, the Lama (spiritual teacher) was made into an authoritative diety in the mind of his students. How could you refuse to have sex with your own deity, especially in the context of increased prestige within the cult? Will Westerners groveling at the feet of ever-so-human holy men eventually learn this lesson, which is a precondition for becoming self-aware?