What is Tantra?

Updated: Oct 24, 2018

Tantra is an art, a science, a spiritual path and a lifestyle. It is a Sanskrit word which means, to weave, to transform through methods, and to transform poison into nectar. The basic concept of this life approach is that each human being is a reflection of the entire cosmos. By entering inside one’s own subjective being with a witnessing consciousness, all aspects of the body / mind and emotions are revealed in their refined potential. The refined potential of every human being is divine. Therefore, in Tantra, the whole person is accepted as divine.

Cosmic Consciousness Through the Senses

Each aspect of being human can become a door to expanded consciousness. You can begin the Tantra path from wherever you are right now. If you have anger, you can learn a method for discovering the tremendous potential for spiritual awakening contained within that energy. If you are feeling sexual, this quality becomes a key to open all the secrets of human energy. In fact, with Tantra, each sensorial experience offers a door to cosmic consciousness.

Origins of Tantra

The origins of Tantra are probably as old as the human race. However, as a teaching, it was first recorded through the scriptures of Shiva, a Tantric Master who lived between 5-7000 years ago in India. He has given to the world 112 methods of meditation which use each aspect of the human experience as a door to spiritual awakening. His life approach embraces sensual love between men and women as an integral part of the spiritual path. He has revealed the importance of an equal balance between male and female principles.

God as Half Man, Half Woman

A depiction of God according to Tantra is Ardanareshvara, half man, half woman. In Shiva temples throughout India the object of worship is a stone carving of the female genitalia which cradles a stone carving of the male genitalia, symbolizing, among other things, the importance of the balance between feminine and masculine principles. The name given to the male genitals is Lingam, meaning wand of light. The name given to the female genitals is Yoni, meaning sacred place.

Mahamudra: Orgasm with the Universe

Spiritual awakening according to Tantra is called Mahamudra, which means ‘The Great Gesture’ arising from the experience of orgasm with the universe. The way to reach this sublime state is through the art and science of Tantric meditation. These methods have always been passed as a direct transmission from a Master. In other words, the power of the teaching is contained not in the written word, but in the oral and experiential ambience created with the presence of one who has realised Mahamudra. The practitioner of Tantra imbibes it and is transformed. This transformational process is experienced as a remembrance of one’s essential nature.

Tantra Renaissance

In our modern world Tantra is experiencing a renaissance. However, since people have very little idea of exactly how to interpret it there is a tendency to make an unrecognizable stew containing a little of everything. There is also a tendency in our Western world to focus almost exclusively on the sexual interpretations of Tantra. This is a natural reaction due to the fact that we are just emerging from centuries of sexual repression. When more people have experienced the benefits of Tantra as a life approach this need to focus almost exclusively on the sexual aspect of it will become more balanced.

Tantra: Many Streams Flowing Into One River

Over the years there have been many ways developed to experience Tantra. Because it depends on subjective experience as a key to spiritual awakening, no dogma or religion can be made of it. It is a path for the individual, honouring the uniqueness of each human being. For this reason, each Tantra teacher brings a fresh flavour to the Tantric path. Confusion abounds, as we seek to discover the true Tantric message and come across myriad interpretations of this life approach. A brief outline follows below of some of the streams that have developed from different environments.

The Shivaistic stream from India says yes to love, yes to life and yes to sex. Nothing is considered lower, nothing higher. Every aspect of the human being is honoured.

Tantra Yoga, also from India, is more male oriented in its approach, saying yes to sex but no to love. Sex energy is used to catapult the adept into expanded consciousness without the emotional entanglements, which may arise if one surrenders to love.

In Tibet, the meeting of Buddhism with the ancient Shamanistic Bonn religion offered a unique climate for the flowering of Tantra. Meditations on impermanence and death inspire the seeker to transcend the wheel of birth and death. Sex is allowed within a very precise framework, which seeks transcendence of the body / mind.

In China, The Taoist climate gave birth to yet another approach to Tantra. Traditionally, the Chinese have researched a great deal into the subject of health and longevity. They have developed methods of Tantra which use the vital energy contained in the sex act to regenerate the body and bring about better health. A part of this teaching focuses on the conservation of semen as a way of maintaining youth. The methodology is very precise and technical.

Each aspect of Tantra has valuable insights to offer. When choosing a particular direction or teacher it is wise to listen to your heart. If your heart feels uplifted by that teacher or that approach then it is good for you. If your heart feels oppressed, shrinking, then it is a wrong approach for you. Each soul carries a unique programme, so the art of finding a path in life is to discover what gives you wings to fly closer to your own soul calling. In our days, many people are called towards a path, which seeks to bring harmony between body and spirit, sex and superconsciousness, men and women.

Article by Ma Ananda Sarita


Working with:
British School of Meditation
Muse EEG Brain Sensing Headband
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