There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the word Tantra. The moment you hear this word in the West, you may immediately think about tantric sex, and if you hear this word in the East especially in India, you may immediately think about black magic. So what is the truth? Let’s understand step by step.
Let's first understand the basics of Tantra.
- What is Tantra?
- Schools of Tantra
- Left-Hand vs Right-Hand Path of Tantra
- What is Tantric Sex?
- What is Tantric Yoga?
Tantra embraces everything, it does not deny anything. It emphasizes that if you live your life skillfully, then you can have enjoyment, fulfillment, accomplishment as well as liberation and freedom. As you can understand that both sexual practice and black magic are part of left-hand Tantra. Now, let's go further.
Misunderstanding and the Truth
There are several temples in India which display erotic art sculptures and painting, these temples were built according to the tantric system. The total sculpture consists various aspects of human life, mythical stories, depicting God and Goddesses, warriors, musicians, animals, birds and spiritual values centered around the tradition, the erotic themes constitute not even ten percent but unfortunately, travelers mostly focus or mention about the sexual part of the story. Because sex is more stimulating to a human mind. As stated in earlier post, Sexual life has a threefold purpose. Some practice it for pleasure, others for procreation, but the left-handed Tantric practices it for Samadhi or Transcendence.
So Maithuna is a sexual ritual, practiced skillfully for reaching the higher state of consciousness, and for gaining power or enlightenment. There are many other rituals for the same goal which may not be very attractive to an individual rather may feel gross. Thus sexual union is just one of the ritual, out of many practices, and it is not all of Tantra and hence Tantra does not mean Sex.
Many practices on this path also lead to provide you Siddhi or special spiritual powers. Once you have the power, they can be used for good or bad, when it is used for the bad purpose, people call it black magic (Black tantra), which is ideally forbidden. Thus, Tantra also does not mean Black Magic.
Tantra in the West has been misunderstood as it is more or less associated with special sexual practices with the worship of the Goddess, along with the focus on chakra and kundalini with some life and body affirmative approach. It may hold some value but it does not comprehend all the aspects of Tantra, nor does it reveal its essence. The state of Tantra in the West is similar to Yoga, where it only relates to the physical side of it, which represents a tiny part of the whole system.
Since we live in the materialistic world, the spiritual traditions are scaled down into the physical model.
Since Sex is the most attractive subject that no human can stay untouched from it. Tons of book has been written on Tantra and mostly they talk about tantric sex, which is just a tiny fraction of the whole system, not all of Tantra. It’s like taking a name of the most interesting city in a country and popularizing as the country. Many tantric texts contain no references to sexual practice, other mention them as preliminaries. Tantra contains all ordinary activities including breathing, eating, sleeping, hugging, kissing, gardening, cooking, praying & worshiping into sacred action, but it does not mean that Tantra is promoting such activities for ordinary gratification, or just one of these activities is Tantra.
Next, Tantric master does not mean that one who is adept at sexual practices, but it usually means a person who is master of mantra or an energetic type of yoga practice.
Many Tantric masters such as Shankara and Ramkrishana were life-long celibates. However, it does not mean that one has to be celibate to be a tantric master. You choose if you want to live a celibate or householder life.
Tantra emphasizes methodologies of transforming energies and is not concerned about suppression or ordinary pleasure. Many spiritual traditions emphasize transmuting sexual energy because sex is the core energy of our existence.
Many great yogis have come from householder traditions and many Rishis were married and had children. Some Rishis used the skills and tools of Tantra for sexual intercourse for their pleasure as well as to procreate the right offspring. They made love for hours and exactly knew the right time based on planetary position as when to ejaculate for the right quality of children. Yoga never encourages us to merely repress ourselves
, though it does encourage self-discipline through Brahmacharya. The Yoga tradition does not reject sexual energy as evil, bad or shameful. If you are not redirecting your energy in proper practice such as in meditation etc., Yoga tradition considers that celibacy may be harmful because the unused energy can stagnate and cause various physical and emotional problems.
So, either you are practicing Tantric sex and/or Tantric Yoga, it is part of Tantra but not Complete Tantra System. You are only borrowing the tools, techniques, and philosophy of Tantric system to enhance the experience of your practice.
A regular practice of Tantric Yoga may not directly reveal much about “Maithuna” or sexual union ritual, but it can certainly help you to bring more juice and beauty into your intimate life. Also, knowledge of Tantra is not studied on your own but only received from a qualified teacher.