When people think about anything related to Tantra, one thing which almost dominates their mind is the erotic aspect of it or better known as tantric sex. If you ask any random person on the street about what tantra is, they’d most probably bring the topic back to the spirituality and occult intercourse practices in some way or form.
It seems everyone loves talking about tantric sex, which is very funny. Because there is no such thing as tantric sex in the actual manual of Tantrism. It’s just that most of the western world thinks of and understands the word “Tantra” in that way.
Tantrism is like any other religion which has its history and tradition that a few sects of Hinduism follow. It has a sea of occult practices and sex is only a tiny part of it. But if you search the Internet, most of the articles would cover tantra as if it is only meant for sex and pleasure, which is not true.
So, the question arises – If tantra is not solely about sex, then what is it?
What Is Tantra?
Tantra is an ancient spiritual science that can be dated back to several thousand years in the past. Originally it was a concept of realizing the supreme truth that evolved within a few sects of Hinduism in India, and then as time passed by it grew to a subsequent number of followers.
Here one thing to note is that the word “Hinduism” had not existed during the period. No one in India was familiar with the word, and for a long time even still today the official name of the religion is called “Sanatana Dharma”.
In its true definition it’s not a religion, but a cultural lifestyle that the people of the land have been living on for ages.
The term “Tantra” had always been in the cultural lifestyle. However, people recently have started linking tantra with only the occult practices of its extreme side. Here is the video I’ve found on YouTube which beautifully explains Tantra and its association with Hinduism.
Therefore, the word “Tantra” is so big and complex that defining it would be a real challenge for a non-expert like me. However, one thing is crystal clear. Tantra is ultimately meant for reaching the Paraathman (god) and liberating oneself from the infinite loop of rebirth.
The History Of Tantra
Tantra as we know it has been around since the beginning of human civilization, but there are several gurus in the timeline of Hinduism who was responsible for making and packaging the abstract wisdom of it accessible to common people.
The very first tantric guru to mankind was a man by the name of Sada Shiva. He was the one who originally gave “tantra” its name.
I know, don’t be confused with the word “Sada Shiva”. People often think of Shiva as the destroyer god of Hinduism. However, if you dig a little deeper you will find that there are two parallel meanings of Shiva.
One, which is the metaphor used to symbolize the cognitive principle of what is god, and the second one is the human being named “Sada Shiva”. We mostly worship the idol of Sada Shiva, who lived thousands of years ago.
Interestingly not many people, even from Hinduism, are aware of this fact.
As with any other knowledge, the tantra and its principles then traveled across the world making many lineages of it. The prime examples of such lineage of Tantra are Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, etc.
They all share the same principles and rituals of the main tantric practices of Hinduism. However, the deities in those tantric lineages are fairly different by their character and personalities.
What Tantra Isn’t?
The term “Tantra” as I said before, is very broad and complicated in nature, but certain things are no way near to what the western world thinks of Tantra. We need to clear up that first to grasp the tantric philosophy with more clarity.
Tantra is not about black magic, sorcery, or weird practices.
People connect Tantra to black magic because it has a fair amount of cryptic texts and scriptures which were originally meant for keeping away uninitiated people. But unfortunately, it also made a void where people started to fill their interpretation of it and linked the great knowledge to some kind of dark rituals.
Another source of misinterpretations of Tantra comes when reputed scholars make mistakes. There are many authors who knowingly or unknowingly took many metaphorical languages used in Tantric texts literally.
More often than not this resulted in Tantra being associated with abominable practices, such as sacrificial rituals, incest, manipulations, etc.
To give you an example, when we refer to the symbolic language used in tantric texts like Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna Nadis as the Ganges, Yamuna, and Sarasvati rivers, it becomes the source of many confusions.
Technique For Improving Consciousness
Tantra is a Sanskrit word, in which “Tan” literally means the expansion and “Tra” means liberation. Therefore, it is basically a process in which you go through to awaken and expand your consciousness to a level where you can attain liberation.
The practitioners of Tantrism believe that every living being has a certain level of consciousness from crude to subtle, and Tantra as a technique allows them to broaden their level of consciousness.
So, that they can achieve ultimate awareness which is required to understand every aspect of the Maya (the cosmic illusion).
No Concept of Impurity In Tantra
In Tantrism, there is a belief that everything is made by God, and thus to reach it you’d have to understand everything. To them, nothing is impure or immoral as everything is ultimately created by god.
There is no such border between pure and impure. Everything is created equal, and thus unconventionally utilizing sex as a means of achieving Moksha also falls under this philosophy.
Tantra Is Not About Sex
In the medieval period, India started to witness a great surge for illustrating erotic imagery as a sign of good fortune and protection. The carving of such erotic idols in some famous temples in India shows the important role sexuality and lovemaking played in one’s spiritual growth at that time.
But in the western world, the tantra generally means sex, which is linked to only ecstatic sexual pleasure. Even though the majority of tantric texts don’t portray intercourse in that light.
Sex and lovemaking have always been shown as a potential and divine way of spiritual growth.
According to many sacred texts of Hinduism, the entire universe is a product of the unification of two divine sexual energies. Therefore symbolizing erotic imagery was not considered a bad thing.
However, from the beginning, people never fully grasped upon the intricacy of this great knowledge, and always linked it with some sort of taboo.
Of course, after centuries of Islamic and Christian domination, suppression of sexuality and fixating only on the erotic side of Tantrism has become a new norm. Unless you dive deep into the concepts of it, you’d never find the real wisdom behind “Tantra” and its spiritual aspect.