Some people define Tantra as a cult with a spirit of free love, the remains of the psychedelic era of the sixties. Others think of Tantra as a spiritual form of New Age sex therapy, something out of the 1990s pop culture of California. Tantra was very widespread in India from 320 to 650 AD, even flourishing. However the Western world of the modern era has only recently discovered and revived the practice, reinterpreting it as the traditional Buddhist and Indian practices, but in a New Age version, which is being called “Neotantra.”
Definition of Tantra
“Tantra” is derived from Sanskrit, an ancient Hindu language. The rough translation is “to weave energy” or “web.” It describes a system of being directed at bringing together the contradictory aspects of ourselves, like femininity and masculinity, light and dark. Tantric practices are meant to bring together our opposing forces, hastening our journey to spiritual enlightenment. Such practices include meditation, yoga, holistic health, Ayurvedic medicine, deity worship, plus a spiritual full-bodied involvement in sex.
Dating back 5,000 years, this ancient Eastern practice of Tantric sex is for the purpose of attaining enlightenment. The philosophy behind the practice goes far beyond the bedroom and affects all areas of one’s life. Tantra, along with its modern counterpart, Neotantra, which is mainly focused on sex, teach that making love, when begun with full awareness, is the gateway to spiritual and sexual transcendence. Tantric philosophy and tradition believe that sexual intercourse and orgasm coalesce to bring about optimum spiritual awareness. When male energy or Shiva combines with female energy, or Shakti to form a sexual union, this is thought to be the ultimate in enlightenment.
Tantric sex is an extremely intimate, deeply spiritual, spontaneous yet meditative type of lovemaking. Tantra is meant to teach practitioners how to extend the act of lovemaking through channeling, instead of squandering one’s orgasmic energies. This energy is channeled and flows throughout the body, which raises sexual consciousness. In Tantric sex, there is no particular goal in mind. The participant strives only to enhance bodily awareness by being spiritually present in a harmonious and perfect union with their sexual partner. This is not the practice of using your partner for the purpose of sexual gratification. Instead, partners give each other vital energies that build and build even after completion of the sexual act.
Tantra & Sexual Preference
Followers of Tantra are taught to revere their partners, transforming the sexual act into an expression of love. In Tantra there is no moral judgment placed on sexual preference. The focus is never on whom you engage in sex with but rather on how. Therefore, anyone attracted to this philosophy is welcome to practice Tantra.
Read more about Tantra Sex and You
Practitioners of Tantra are referred to as ‘Goddess’ or ‘Tantrikas.’ To them sexual energy is thought of as a spiritual, all-encompassing force of life that lies dormant within a person, spreads throughout the universe, and affects everything the individual does throughout their entire life. As we are sexual beings, we all have the ability to increase this energy within ourselves to experience mystical or alternate states of consciousness or mind. Tantrikas become “goddesses” and “gods,” with their bodies transforming into temples of female and male divinity.
In 4th Century India, Tantrikas spent years and years being guided by a spiritual teacher, engaging in extensive yogic practices and ritual to master and purify their minds and bodies. This was all to awaken powerful psychic forces to help the adept to achieve higher states of mind and consciousness. The sacred act of making love, it was believed, could blend the duality of their sexualities to become a divine union of ecstasy.
Tantra’s Vision of Wholeness
The vision of Tantra is of wholeness, of truly embracing everything. The reason for this is that every experience in life, good or bad, teaches us to become more fully aware of who we are and how we can expand our physical and mental capacities. With everything we have an opportunity to learn. For example, feeling sexually frustrated is not thought about in negative terms, but an opportunity for reflection, to examine our own sexual motivations and convictions. It’s time to ask what sex means to you. When in the past have you experienced this type of behavior? Are you just tolerating the situation you’re in, or are you truly enjoying it? What opportunities are available to help you change? Through this kind of self-reflection you can develop a sense of how to enhance your sex life. Ideally, these kinds of improvements would generalize to other aspects of your life and lead to a more satisfying existence.
Tantra & Gender Equality
In Tantra, wholeness is seen and encouraged; opposites are embraced, seen as compliments of one another, not contradictions. This means that the concepts of femininity and masculinity are not divided strictly between genders, but viewed as two ends of a spectrum that merge and meet in every human. Tantra understands that each person, woman, man or otherwise, has both feminine and masculine qualities. By discarding the usual gender stereotypes we can all greatly expand our sexual identities, honoring the polarity within ourselves, which has most likely been ignored.
In Tantra, the female is freed up to explore her masculine side by accepting that she too is capable of being the dynamic leader during lovemaking, to take the initiative in creating ways of teaching and guiding her partner, to experience pleasuring herself as well as her partner. The male practicing Tantra is persuaded to explore his more vulnerable traits, his softer side. He can come out from under the weight of his traditional responsibilities and cease the performance and just relax. He is freed up to take his time during sex, to really make love instead of worrying about the goal. He can allow his partner to initiate while he receives pleasure. In this way the male is not giving up any of his masculinity, nor at the same time is the woman abandoning her femininity. What the two are doing is expanding their personas to embrace their other polarity.
Connecting to the Life Source
In Tantra, as the feminine and masculine polarities merge together, another dimension in our awareness is opened up – a sense of sacredness. When we feel the sacredness of a true sexual union, we can experience a profound connection our life force, the source of all creation. This connectedness raises our consciousness beyond our physical plane and moves it into a more profound field of energy and power. In this state, our mind leaves the immediate and is filled with a sensation of complete acceptance and total comprehension. It is thought that this is when people feel linked, by way of their partner, to everything and everyone else in the universe.