In my post about McYoga, I shared an image about what happens when you search for Yoga in Google— you get pictures of fit men/women (but mostly women) doing impossible poses.
I shudder to do the same for Tantra— because I know I’ll only get pornographic results.
Tantra, which originally was like a Super Yoga, has been hijacked by the “Sacred sexuality” movement. But mostly, it’s just an excuse for prostitution. I’m not even kidding— I remember an article where police busted a prostitution ring claiming to give “Tantric massages”.
And Every. Single. Guru. caught sexually harassing claims Every. Single. Time. that he was practising “Tantra”.
Tantra has become a byword for horny teenagers who cannot control their dicks.
Disclaimer: And here I would like to add: I have nothing against sacred sexuality, or people selling sex. Just don’t call it Tantra, and don’t pretend wiggling your dick makes you spiritual. If you are horny, feel free to fuck till your cock shrivels and drops off. You have my blessing. But be honest to admit this isn’t spirituality. And I repeat, I have no judgement, I accept healthy sexuality is a part of our spiritual life— just Neo-Tantra tries to make it ALL of the spiritual life.
Like all things that have been corrupted, there is a kernel of truth in this. So let’s explore this.
What is Tantra
I will answer from a Hindu/Indian perspective. Keep in mind there are Buddhist / Tibetan etc Tantras, though they are not radically different.
Tantra is like a super Yoga- an advanced (but not necessarily better) form of Yoga with a few characterises:
- Tantra is focused a lot on Mantra (sacred sound) and Yantra/Mandala (sacred geometry). The Sri Yantra is the most famous Yantra
* Tantra is often focussed on Goddess worship (though see my post on Goddess worship— it doesn’t mean what most people think it does).
* And most critically, what separates Tantra from traditional Yoga: Yoga was (is?) mainly a monastic tradition. The “real’ world was considered fake, or an illusion and the goal was to escape to some nirvana or moksha.
This isn’t me putting words in their mouth— read any traditional Yogic texts(or Buddhist), they spend a lot of time arguing how sinful this world is, how escape is the only option. Even the Buddha said The World is suffering
This may be true to some extent, but taken too far, it leads to life denying ascetics who practised extreme rituals in the Himalayas. Did they find enlightenment? Who the fuck knows, they died out there alone.
Tantra is a life affirming philosophy. It was the first time married people were told they too could get enlightenment without having to run into some forest. That they could enjoy the material world and still become spiritually awake.
The Goddess is said to give both spiritual and material fulfilment.
And you can see where it goes wrong.
Tantra says you can lead a normal life, turning anything into a meditation. Eating, walking, breathing, sleeping, sex, work.
Yes, including sex. And the Neo-Tantra idiots saw sex in that list and immediately forgot the rest.
Only some Tantric traditions had sex. There were 5 items considered “dirty” that were to be used- meat, alcohol, fish, sex and drugs.
These were often assigned to high class Hindus, who would normally not eat meat or fish or have sex outside marriage. For a priest caste Hindu (and let’s be honest, most people joining Tantric traditions would have been high caste Hindus), eating meat would have been the ultimate taboo.
The meat/alcohol would be taken as part of rituals— the student would take a bite of meat/sip of alcohol ritualistically.
And the sex would not be the pornographic type you see in Western books on Tantra, but would often be sex with untouchable caste women. Another insult to the upper caste who wouldn’t even look at such women. The goal was to break their ego, not give them a good shag.
This was done to break the egoic attachment of the student to being a “pure born” high caste Brahmin. Eating meat & drinking alcohol was something the lower castes, especially the untouchable castes would do.
And these practices become really idiotic when transferred to the West, where meat, alcohol and casual sex are common. For a Westerner, breaking the egoic attachment would be giving up these things, not further indulging in them.
The 4 Goals of life
In ancient India there were considered to be four main goals or purposes of life:
- Artha or making money— in modern times this would include not just your daily job but also starting your own business, investing etc
- Kama— technically any desire but specifically sex. But Kama can also mean enjoying good food or art, for example.
- Dharma or duty, specifically towards society— in modern times, this could be joining politics or volunteering to help the homeless or save the environment, for example.
- Moksha or enlightenment
Each of these 4 fields had its own books and experts.
Pick up any modern book on “Tantra”, and it’s full of pornographic images taken from the Kamasutra. But the Kamasutra has always been a text on the Kama domain. Tantra is in the Moksha or enlightenment domain. It’s like putting pictures on how to play football in a programming book.
And let me make a side rant: The Kamasutra has 40-50 chapters, only one of which is to do with sexual positions. Yet every modern book on Kamasutra ignores the other 40 or so chapters. The chapter on sex positions is a minor thing in the Kamasutra, which is more like an old version of Pickup artists manual. It’s like picking a book on Karate and only focussing on the chapter that talks about how to do warm up exercises.
Most modern “experts” on Tantra have confused it with Kamasutra, which is why the unnatural and unhealthy focus on sex.
So What is Tantra
I spent a lot of time on what Tantra is not because I want to destroy decades of bullshit myths that have reduced Tantra to a simple orgasm technique.
Tantra is (usually) a ritualistic form of Yoga, almost always focused on the Goddess. Even in Shiva Tantra yoga (Shiva is a male God), it is the Goddess who is worshipped. The Goddess is supreme in Tantra.
Most Tantric worship is chanting a mantra (for your chosen Goddess). In addition, the Yantra /Mandala (which is the geometric variant of the mantra) can be visualised, or in some traditions, ritualistically worshipped.
I cannot give details, as there are so many Tantras it is impossible to make generalised statements. Some Tantras are more Yogic, in which the focus is on meditation on the mantra/yantra. Others will worship the Yantra.
Even Hatha Yoga, the physical yoga, is actually a part of Tantra— original Yoga didn’t have too much focus on Asanas or postures. It was Hatha yoga that brought Asanas into focus.
This is because Hatha Yoga is focused on the Kundalini and it finds postures/pranayama is the best way to do this.
Related to this: Anything to do with Chakras/Kundalini comes from Tantra. The Kundalini itself is seen to be the sleeping form of the Great Goddess.
This is why some traditions might worship this Goddess directly, while others like Hatha/Kundalini Yoga work with her indirectly.
The goal of Tantra is always to awaken the Great Goddess and achieve spiritual awakening. The key promise of Tantras, as I said before is: One can have material AND spiritual progress, one does not have to choose.
Every Tantra agrees on this. It is one of the main promises of the Great Goddess.
It is impossible to explain more about what Tantra is without talking about the Goddess, so I will have another post about this.
Read more posts on Killing the Sacred Cows of the Spiritual World