What even is Tantra anyway?Aug 12, 2021
Exploring the infamous path of pleasure and liberation
(And no, it’s not just about sex)
'Tantric sex secrets to have her long orgasms'
'Tantric guru involved in sex scandal'
'Tantric massage parlor shut down for prostitution'
You'd be excused for thinking that Tantra is some kind of sex cult or weird freaky new fad if you're going by what you see in the media about this tradition.
I have been practicing and exploring 'Tantra' for something like 7 years now, but I only really started to ‘get’ what Tantra really is about in the last 2 years as I began studying with a Tantric scholar through the Tantrika Institute and reading translations of the ancient texts. Even through attending so many workshops, events and doing courses the 5 years before, I had a bit of a misguided sense of what it was based on what knowledge there is in the West.
Many people who come across it online or in popular books would think it is about massage, sexual techniques, orgasms and ‘masculine/feminine’ polarity if they did some basic searches, but that is almost all totally modern misappropriations of the path. Tantra did include sexual rituals and practices, but that is not the focus of the path. A lot of what you find in modern Neo-Tanta workshops is a mishmash of Tantra, Taoism, Shamanism, Hermeticism and other traditions mixed together which can create a lot of confusion for people diving into these teachings as many of these traditions contradict each other, even as some aspects overlap. And yes, originally I was part of this scene and sharing what I thought was Tantra with others, all with good intentions of course but unaware of the 'Truth'.
Here’s a quick rundown before I dive deeper.
The sexy, sensual, and often quite hedonistic path of pleasure that most people know of these days. Many practices have debatable origins (if they even come from the tradition or were made up by westerners) and it is focused on having more pleasure, connection, and intimacy.
Positive- Helping people reconnect with their sexuality, feel more, heal sexual trauma and connect deeper with others.
Cons- Generally very heteronormative so can be offputting for queer people. Some abuse scandals in schools and can attract abusive people who take advantage of people looking to heal trauma. Also generally results in a huge inflated spiritual ego because they miss the ego-dissolving practices key to the tradition.
An embodied spiritual path of awakening that includes all aspects of life as an expression of the divine, including sex and the body. Nothing is taboo, all is included but generally the focus of the tradition is to wake up to the fact that you are ‘god’. Mostly a solo journey and focused on meditation, ritual, mantras, and how you live in the world. Tantra has many facets, some quite conservative and others included magical practices and more of the ‘path of pleasure’ focus. Tantrikas aim to dissolve the ego, expand into unity consciousness and fall madly in love with all of life.
Pro: Get woke AF, liberate yourself from suffering and fall in love with all of life. Yay!
Cons- Can be inaccessible for beginners, not so many original sources in English and translatable for the public, very complicated system to study all the mantras, yantras, texts, rituals etc.
While embracing sex and the body as sacred and a path to liberation is definitely a beautiful and enticing part of Tantra, many are totally missing the point and missing out on some amazing benefits of exploring this path that come from the original tradition. I personally love to blend the two, giving the sexual awakening powers of NeoTantra more depth (and effectiveness) in combination with the ancient philosophy and original practices. In this way I use sex and intimacy as a gateway to Non-Dual awareness and expanded states of consciousness, and it's damn effective!
Tantra is a spiritual tradition that had its peak around 500-1500 AD and barely survived through to modern-day (but thankfully did!). It has influenced Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism is ‘Tantric’ Buddhism) as well as Taoism, Hinduism and even western esoteric traditions. Tantra has its origins and roots entwined with Yoga, but Yoga actually went down the ‘right’ path (conservative and dualistic) while Tantra went ‘left’ (liberal, transgressive and nondual). Tantra is an ancient and complete path to liberation (awakening/enlightenment/freedom from suffering) and it has a lot to offer the modern person, as it was designed specifically to be a spiritual path that the average person can do! Most spiritual traditions say if you want to be enlightened then you have to give up the comforts of life and go be a monk/priest/whatever away from society and devote your life to the path. Tantra says you can use everyday life as a path to awakening- that your work, your relationships, your kitchen cleaning- this can all be sacred and a full expression of consciousness.
People misinterpret the Shiva/Shakti deities to be about masculine/feminine aka male/female dynamics, but like yin/yang enegies, these personified dieties are actually representations of fundamental principles of reality- namely the container of consciousness and the energy/manifestation of consciousness. They're shown making love because these 2 reality principals always co-exist and are merging in every moment. Later paths of Tantra even removed the shiva/shakti image because it created too much duality and instead worshipped ParaDevi or Kali as the supreme nondual expression of these energies.
Tantra offers a rich and epic philosophy, as well as a lot of practices that expand your awareness, help you heal from past emotional imprints and trauma (Samskaras) as well as helps you to free your mind by noticing ‘stories’ and ‘projections’ (vikalpas) and being able to free yourself from believing them. It helps us break free of conditioning from society so we can be our true, authentic selves. It offers practices on how to transmute emotions, how to accept and have unconditional love for all beings, how to transcend the fear of death and how to fall madly and hopelessly in love with every part of reality.
It’s pretty fucking epic to be honest, and it has blown my heart, mind, and pussy open in more ways than I can describe in words. Through Tantra I have been able to enjoy the subtleties and simplicities of life, understand more about the true nature of reality in an embodied and experiential way, learn to love and accept people in my life more and to be able to embrace every part of life as a spiritual practice- whether it’s expressing rage, wallowing in grief, doing the dishes or having orgasms that shoot me across the galaxy and merge me with another being.
And the sex is fantastic too.
There is so much more to say about Tantra, but I’ll stop here for now! I just hope this inspires you to see there is far more than meets the eye when we talk about Tantra.
Sensual Artistry is a space for exploring the realms of pleasure, intimacy and spirituality through the Tantric Arts.
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