This article is divided to two parts. The first part is about the background of Tantric Sex, and the second part is how to bring this to practice. Enjoy!
When my friend Simo asked me to write an article on “Tantric Sex” I thought to myself: “Wow, where do I begin? It’s such a huge subject!” To understand what is Tantric Sex we must first understand what is Tantra. There is a lot that can be said about Tantra at the philosophical and esoteric levels.
At the practical level, Tantra is a life path, a system, which uses the apparent reality of duality to reach full awakening. So we enter into polarities in order to go beyond them and know one-ness, wholeness. Tantra uses three pillars: consciousness (masculine energy), love (feminine energy) and sacredness (neither masculine nor feminine). By applying these pillars to any situation, including sexuality, we have the possibility to heal, expand, transform, transcend.
So what does Sex have to do with Tantra?
It is said that: Tantra is not sex, but without sex there is no Tantra. Our sexual energy is the most powerful energy we have access to within. It is also sacred, our source of life and vitality. If we know how to contain and move this energy, we can use it for healing, transformation and expansion.
Ultimately we can use it to reach non-dual states of consciousness, and even fully awaken. Tantra is the only path of spiritual awakening that harnesses sexual energy for spiritual evolution. All other spiritual paths either ignore, reject or condemn sexual energy.
In my opinion, a lot of emphasis is given to the sexual aspect of practicing Tantra because, unfortunately, cleaning up and liberating our sexual energy from fear and desire is desperately needed in our day and age. If your sexual energy is not free (clean and accessible to you), spirit cannot descend, soul cannot descend, even love cannot descend, through you all the way down to your base. None of this can fully land in you, and shine through you. In other words, you cannot fully embody any of these qualities.
The same applies in reverse. The most powerful energy you have access to within you, cannot ascend! It cannot be sublimated to achieve healing, enter altered states of consciousness and you cannot know your soul, one-ness, dissolution of the body-mind. Whichever way you look at it, ascension or dissention, you are stuck. This affects your everyday life, your relationships, your growth, your reality, and your awakening. Cleaning out and reclaiming your sexual energy is the foundation of the non-ascetic Tantric journey.
Where and how did sex become a part of Tantra in the first place?
Over the past 4000-5000 years, different branches of Tantra have flowered with different focuses. The following are some simplified interpretations and examples, some include sex and some do not. Even when Tantric paths included sexual practices, these were but a small part of the overall Tantric system, and were explored much later in an adepts journey.
The “Shivaistic” approach to Tantra, which has its roots in India says Yes to life, to love and to sex. “Tantric Yoga”, also rooted in India, can be said to include sex but not love in their approach. Sexual energy is used to reach higher states of consciousness without the entanglements of emotional intimacy between couples or partners.
In Tibet, the local shamanic path of the Bön combined with Buddhism and Tantra resulted in an approach that focuses on the impermanence of material life, the death of the body but not of the soul. Tantric sexual practices are used as a way to transcend the wheel of samsara, birth, death and rebirth. For example, male initiates were instructed to engage sexually with a beautiful young woman perceiving her as decaying flesh and bones, or to engage sexually with a an older woman, a crone, perceiving her as a young budding woman.
In China, the Tao infused with Tantra and resulted in an emphasis in harnessing sexual energy in order to prolong life, and increase health and vitality. For this, semen conservation (non-ejaculation) became a key point. What all these paths of Tantra have in common is that sexual energy, and in some cases penetrative sex as we define it today, was used to transcend, go beyond, apparent reality, duality, limitations.
What is the role of the Guru?
One huge difference between the ancient practices of Tantra and the neo-Tantric world is the Guru or Master – Disciple relationship. In the past, a Guru or Master determined what their followers, disciples, were ready for according to where they had reached on their path, and guided men and women into practices accordingly. Many women and men practiced on their own, and in the presence of their Guru, for years before they were paired up with someone else to practice with.
For example, they would chant mantras, meditate on yantras, call in deities or Mahavidhyas (divine archetypes and cosmic powers), practice moving energy and connecting to different Chakras (energy centers), strengthen consciousness, presence and meditative presence. It is said that initiates would sit and meditate on the exterior visuals of the Temples at Khajuraho for up to years, until the Guru believed they had overcome their fears (judgments, rejections) and passions (desires, lust), and only then would they be invited to enter the temples.
This was symbolic of their own journey to their essence and to spirit, the key step was to empty. Pairing up for tantric practice, including sexual union, was often done by the Guru based on favorable astrological chart compatibility rather then on emotions, love or personal compatibility or preferences; the purpose was to enhance spiritual awakening not personal relationships. Most of us would find this unacceptable today.
Sexual Tantric practices were largely based on ceremony and ritual. They were coordinated with planetary movements and alignments with auspicious moments in one’s chart, in order to harness the supporting energy. They were also precise, from body postures to mantras, to visualizations and yantras, to special sounds and smells, to focused intention. The time of the day, which day of the week, and which phase of the moon were all taken into account for the precision of Tantric rituals and ceremonies.
The neo-Tantric world, what is commonly referred to as Tantra today, is in large part the result of a renaissance started in the 1960s with the Indian Mystic Rajneesh (who became known as Osho) giving a series of discourses in English on his interpretation of the classical Tantric text written in Sanskrit: Vigyanbharaiva Tantra, as well as a series of discourses named: From Sex to Superconsciousness.
He became known as the Sex Guru, in part because he made these texts and related practices and meditations so available to Westerners; his disciples did not have to undergo years of solo practice. Numerous of his disciples went on to spread this Osho-flavoured neo-Tantra to many across the globe: Margot Anand, Diana Richardson (Puja), Ananda Sarita, Radha, Hariprem, Homa and Mukto, are some of his commonly known Tantric disciplines.
What they all have in common is the use of sexual practice as part of practicing Tantra.
Very quickly, in part because of the repression of sexual energy in our societies already described above, the sexually related aspects of Tantra became widespread and much more prominent than the rest. Many times “Tantric sex” is almost totally removed from the context of Tantra, and can be more described as conscious sexuality (if that), or pleasure enhancing techniques.
This resembles what happened with Yoga, when asanas (physical postures) quickly became the most commonly practiced aspect of Yoga in the West. In reality they are a minor part of the overall ancient system of Yoga, yet asanas were highlighted, removed from their greater context and in some cases reduced to physical exercises similar to gymnastics packaged (pitched) as “spiritual”.
The emphasis on sex has resulted in a distorted view of Tantra and of Tantric sex. For some it has been very healing, for others it has been a way to perpetuate wounds masked under a “spiritual label”. For some it’s a relief, for others it’s scary or even unfathomable.
So what does Tantric sex actually mean?
Right, so what are we even talking about here? What IS Tantric Sex anyway? As I stated in the beginning of this article, in order to understand Tantric sex we must understand Tantra. Tantric sex is the application of Tantric principles during sexual intimacy, love-making.
Strictly speaking, based on the ancient practices, Tantric sex specifically involves invoking deities, meditating on corresponding yantras and chanting the appropriate mantras. A modern understanding of neo-Tantric sex is not as specific. To me, it means that your sexuality includes consciousness (awareness, presence), love (acceptance, compassion) and sacredness (devotion).
If it attempts to bring these principles into the sexual act, if it attempts to bring into union the sex-spirit divide, and if attempts to bring states of wholeness, union, to those involved, then it has the foundations of Tantric Sex. It does not have to “look” a certain way, it is the inner space that is present in you and your partner while engaging with each other sexually. Simply put, Tantric sex has the capacity to elevate participants to a higher spiritual plane!
So this is what makes it different from other kinds of sex we may be used to. Sex can be used for procreation (getting pregnant), for entertainment, as emotional release, as a distraction, for pleasure, as an exchange, and in many other ways. Tantric sex is none of these. Yes, it can be fun and it can be extremely pleasurable. However, if we focus only on that then we miss the point: Transcendence! Transcending the ego, the body-mind, duality.
Tantric sex is not defined as vaginal-penile penetration. It is being open to be penetrated by life itself, by the Divine. Sexual energy can be accessed without any physical touch or stimulation. You can be fully clothed, alone, and not even moving. For most, that takes some practice, for others it comes spontaneously and naturally.
My point is that we cannot look at Tantric sex with the narrow definition we have of procreational sex, which is focused on penetrating with or being penetrated in the genitals. Tantric sex includes the entire physical body and the energy body, the entire being. It can be experienced alone, with one partner of the same or opposite sex, or with more than one partner, with nature, with the cosmos. Tantric sex allows us to go beyond the polarity and illusion of separation.
And what about these famous Tantric orgasms?
Again, we cannot think of Tantric orgasm with the same procreational definition of orgasm that we have. Orgasm is an event. It is based on a frequency of energy experienced in the body. The entire physical and energetic bodies can experience orgasm, not just the genitalia. Concretely, this may be felt as a wave of energy moving, a continuous bursting-like sensation, tingling that is a mix between arousal and tickling, or even a deeply peaceful state of no-mind (no thoughts or no time) and bliss where everything is pure beauty and love.
The possibilities are as endless as our expression as individuals. Where can this be experienced? In the genitals, in the heart, in the throat, in the belly and womb, in the 3rd eye area (middle of the forehead), in the crown area (top of the head), and basically every part of the body. How long does this last? Minutes, hours, and days! In case there is any doubt, here is a disclaimer: Yes, I can confirm everything I have written here is factually true from my personal experience and my first hand experience of my partners.
So what makes these orgasms Tantric and not just highly pleasurable? Good question! Again we go back to the principles of Tantra. These types of orgasmic experiences support us to feel whole! At the physical level, our whole body becomes orgasmic instead of just one focalized area (the genitals) and we feel more whole.
The more energy we can sustain for longer periods of time, the more likely we are to enter into “altered states of consciousness”, experiencing the dissolution of our physical boundaries and merging with our partner, with nature, with the divine. In these states, we are exposed to a reality beyond that of the apparent dualistic material plane, we transcend. The more often we experience these states, the more we understand that this apparent reality is not all there is.
It is through these experiences that we can expand our energy fields and tap into our greater potential, through our heart, through our soul, through Spirit itself. More and more, this then becomes our reality, one that is based on the pleasure of living, the bliss, ecstasy and joy of being alive. Orgasm goes from being an event, to a state of being.
To know that our sexual energy can be used to nourish ourselves and for our own healing (on all levels), to bridge the heart-sex divide, to bridge the sex-spirit divide, to reclaim our sacredness in this body, to reclaim our feminine and masculine energies whatever body we were born in, to accept ourselves fully as we are, to be able to harness the power of our sexual energy for manifestation, to channel higher wisdom and knowledge, to experience altered states of consciousness and feelings of dissolving into one-ness, these are a few examples of the result of Tantric sex.
Initially, for most people, Tantric sex can be extremely healing, at the physical, the emotional and energetic levels. The healing stage often includes a stage of purification: What is no longer serving us must go. A person may experience physical or emotional pain, as well as euphoria and ecstatic states as old, stagnant energies are released. These often come in layers, waves, as we reclaim different parts of ourselves.
In the presence of more consciousness, in the presence of unconditional love, whatever is not conscious and not love rises to the surface to be seen, to be healed, and to return back home to consciousness and love. As we journey deeper into love and consciousness, deeper layers rise to the surface to be healed and reclaimed. And so it goes with our “mud”: our patterns, wounds, fears, addictions, and limiting beliefs. It is in our sexuality in particular that we find so much of our “mud”, which then becomes great fertilizer for our sacred garden! This is the path to wholeness.