The world is constantly moving with no time to breathe and stay put. Therefore, it is essential for individuals to explore a spiritual connection to the world around them to prevent getting lost in the fray. Spirituality is more than just a connection to the divine. It is the recognition of the belief that there exists something that is greater than ‘the self’. It is the acceptance of the belief that being human transcends sensory experience, that everything in nature is part of a greater whole that is cosmic in its essence.
While there are many ways to attain spirituality, a controversial, yet immensely popular pathway is through tantra. While tantra is often viewed as something erotic and sexual, it transcends those definitions and is much deeper than conceived to be. The meaning of the word Tantra in Sanskrit means to ‘loom’, ‘weave’, or ‘create’. In that sense, Tantra interweaves various facets of different religions, teachings, and traditions to create something completely unique. Therefore, for anybody trying to explore tantric spirituality, it is essential that they know certain things before they delve into this controversial practice. A wrong understanding of tantra can inhibit you from experiencing it in all its essence. This article will help you shed some light on the subject.
What is tantra?
The origins of tantra can be traced back to the ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions. While they were primarily an oral tradition, obscure texts on the subject have been found from days of yore, neatly preserved and written in Sanskrit. The 6th century is considered to be the time when tantra first developed as a philosophical and spiritual practice. Tantric practitioners are known to worship Shiva and Shakti, the former representing the inert male consciousness and the latter represents the tumultuous and powerful female counterpart.
However, 1100 AD seems to be the time when tantra started to ebb out as Islam predominated the world. It has made a resurgence in modern times, with Western enthusiasts exploring this archaic spiritual practice and incorporating it into what is known as the spiritual practices of the New Age.
Many famous practitioners of Tantra have described this way of life to be a genuine pathway to spirituality. Tantric spirituality differs from alternative and more orthodox methods of attaining spirituality in the sense that it considers a person’s sexuality to be a gateway to divine consciousness. While the orthodox streams of religion consider sexuality to be a baser instinct, tantra celebrates it to be something essential. It allows a person to expand their consciousness by letting them open and find a way to interweave their contradictory personality traits and combine them into a unified whole.
Tantric spirituality is essentially a spiritual path that teaches about enlightenment. However, it is a very rare spiritual practice that incorporates sexuality instead of excluding it. It considers sexuality to be a gateway to spiritual awakening and personal illumination. It is an approach of attaining spirituality by considering a person in his/her complete essence, which also includes his/her baser instincts.
How is sexual energy related to tantric spirituality?
Sexual energy comprises the most powerful energy that exists in nature, namely the energy of creation. Tantra simply utilizes this energy to allow practitioners to connect with themselves holistically and in the process be able to connect with the divine consciousness that has created all life. Tantra should not be confused as a template people need to follow to have sex. Instead, it should be conceived as the spiritual pathway people must undertake while conducting the act of sex.
The final goal of tantra is to allow the practitioner to reach spiritual pleasure instead of sexual pleasure. The means to that end might include sex but never solely relies on it. This practice instead includes other tools and methods as well. Tantric spirituality primarily focuses on the achievement of spiritual bliss and the use of its various tools to find a deeper connection with the self, and in that essence the divine.
Understanding the true relationship between sex and tantric spirituality
Sex should not be confused and comprehended to be the only essential aspect of tantric spirituality because it also teaches the opening of the higher chakras in a person. According to Margot Anand, a famous tantric practitioner, the various sexual practices of tantra need to be kept secret and should not be taught to the uninitiated. Her way of thinking aligns with the Tibetan approach towards tantra. It states that before practicing such tantric sexual acts, one needs to invest heavily in preliminary education, spiritual practices, and purification of the self. The uninitiated might consider sexual tantra to be a blissful experience, since they have enjoyed one night of unadulterated lovemaking, but they fail to gauge the complete picture that this spiritual practice provides.
Unless you purify yourself, you are bound to get stuck and would never experience the ecstatic freedom that tantra aims to provide. Tantra is a means to transcend the first three chakras and unless you cleanse yourself, you get stuck within these chakras. To reach the higher chakras a person needs to combine their spiritual inquiry while developing a way to channel their sexual energy. The ideal tantric yogi would be able to do both in parallel.
Osho, one of the greatest teachers that tantric spirituality ever had, said that sex is akin to the fruit that hangs on a tree. Once the fruit has ripened, it falls off the tree, and there is no reason in nature for it to stay on the tree anymore. In other words, Osho was trying to say that to truly understand tantra people need to go to the very root of this sexual energy. They need to explore it, understand it, and only then can they fully experience and transcend it. It asks practitioners to explore their sexuality, live the experience to be fullest and harness that energy, and use it in every other aspect of your being.
Tantric spirituality and yoga
Like the rest of this practice, even while forming its own school of yoga, tantric yoga borrows and incorporates. Its sources include various positions and methods from other yoga schools that have been combined together. The final aim of such practices is to achieve a higher state of spirituality and to attain oneness with the self, as well as the universe. Sexual gratification and liberation might be a part of such yoga practices but is only a means to an end. By becoming one with yourself, you inherently achieve higher sexual pleasure. Tantric yoga focuses on allowing the participants to attain tantric spirituality and mindful intimacy, therefore being able to connect with the partner in the most intimate manner possible. Certain asanas like the seated sukhasana, heart-opening partner yoga in Titanic pose, asanas to build intimacy, and explore vulnerabilities have been known to be implemented in tantric yoga.
Tantric yoga is deeply interconnected with the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Yogic philosopher Patanjali has even celebrated the idea of attaining brahmacharya to reach a higher level of spirituality while practicing tantric yoga. He asks practitioners to forge relationships that allow you to understand the higher truths completely.
Brahmacharya teaches practitioners to use their sexual energy and help it restore their connection to their own inherent spiritual selves. It asks the practitioners to never use this energy to harm others. It is a method of exploring your strengths and weaknesses. A method to resist the union with others or yourself. It is the method to then be able to cultivate the ability to consciously respond to such issues. It teaches a person to not unconsciously react to such issues based on the body’s baser desires and fears. In the words of Osho, the ultimate sexual delight does not come by chasing and searching for thrills but in practicing the art of ‘silent waiting’.
Tantra: A path to higher spirituality
As is evident, tantric spirituality can be described as the soul having sex with another soul. It is a pathway and practice that allows you to explore the higher streams of consciousness. It enables you to activate every chakra in your body, not just the ones that control sexual pleasure. It allows you to attain spiritual ecstasy as well as sexual ecstasy, and both are intimately interconnected. After all, every life began with an orgasm.
However, many debates have plagued tantra and maligned it with controversy, owing to sex being an integral spiritual tool in the practice. It is not prudent to view this spiritual practice through such a narrow lens, as it transcends far beyond the practice of trivial sexual indulgence. Therefore, making sure that you practice with the right guru or chose the appropriate partner for yourself is essential to attaining true tantric spirituality.
The energy of creation is extremely powerful and is one of the most essential energies in nature. Therefore, caution is necessary while learning how to harness this profound energy. Sex is inherently very vulnerable and intimate. Therefore, you need to be careful when using this act as a tool that allows you to achieve spiritual upliftment. To practice tantra in the correct manner, proper guidance, extensive preliminary education, cleansing of self, spiritual practices, and clear intent are absolutely necessary. Only then can you truly experience the magnanimity and wholeness of tantric spirituality.