It really does boggle my mind how so many people interpret Tantra as being only about sex.
There are abundant writings on Tantra, translated from Sanskrit or books in English by scholars of ancient Tantra writings. These writings make it really clear that Tantra is a path to enlightenment using methods of meditation, rituals, mantra and mudra. All the senses are utilized in Tantra Meditation which means that pleasure can also be used as a portal into awakened consciousness. The essential components of Tantra are the entwined qualities of Love and Meditation. Love represents the feminine path while Meditation represents the masculine path.
The Full Spectrum of Who We Are
In Tantra, all aspects of creation are part of one organic whole just as all the colours of the rainbow merge into white light. By exploring each colour in the full spectrum of who we are, we become expansive, wise and integrated. For this path to be effective, however, it needs to be firmly anchored in the practice of Tantra Meditation. It takes great awareness to delve into the inner universe. Emotional quagmires lurk in the recesses of our subconscious and we need to be capable of shining the light of awareness into all aspects of our being.
Perversions start when people who practice Tantra begin focusing their exploration solely on the sexual aspects of life instead of integrating this with love and meditation. I believe people in the west find the subject of sexuality fascinating because through the Judeo-Christian framework, sexuality has been repressed, turning us towards a confused, ungrounded state of being. Our society teaches people to live from the head and naturally, we will feel something is missing! We begin searching for something more, and in our search the tendency will be to look for a path that can bring emotional and sexual fulfilment. Of course, sexual and emotional fulfilment is important, but it is not the whole picture.
Integrating Sexuality, Love and Spirituality
For deepest fulfilment, we need to explore and integrate sexuality, love and spirituality. Tantra offers this and includes the harmonious balancing of male and female energies. This fact, if understood and lived deeply, is radically transforming for individuals, couples and the society as a whole.
The vision of Tantra which has come to the west is often distorted, luring people into a downward spiralling kundalini. There is a tendency for it to be biased towards an ‘opportunist style’ of male dominated sexuality, emphasizing licentiousness. In this model, the female approach to life is overlooked and because women are receptive to the masculine in their sexuality, women may buy into a licentious version of so called ‘Tantra’ and be fooled into thinking it is helping them.
Invariably, when I offer women’s Tantra, women are at first astonished, then hugely relieved that they actually have the right to be feminine! They discover, maybe for the first time, the power of love, emotional fluidity and intuition and what this really means for women.
Men’s Tantra is equally important, as through this, they can discover their true essence, the power of consciousness and how this translates into enlightened sexual expression, life enhancing creativity and expressions of power in service of love.
If we wish to truly understand Tantra it is important to practice Tantra as indicated by someone who has imbibed the essence of it. By practicing a living transmission of Tantra methods, you will be learning through your own direct experience how to expand your capacity for an integrated inner ecstasy.
Esoteric Tantra includes:
– The art of Mudra: Positions of the hands and fingers which help us align to particular aspects of universal consciousness.
– The art of Mantra: Sacred sounds, which bring alignment with particular siddhis (powers).
– The art of Ritual: Creating a space where the divine can descend, through Sacred Geometry, Yantra and Mantra.
– Meditation: Utilizing a witnessing consciousness to embark on a journey exploring the 5 senses, all emotional states, subtle energy, chakras, kundalini, the elements, imagination, intuition, creativity, the power of thought, no mind, transcendental states of consciousness, love, devotion, sex, birth and death.
The Meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum
A famous example of Mantra is: Om Mani Padme Hum. Millions of people chant this mantra daily and may not even know the deeper Tantric symbolism of it. This is because of a sexually repressive outlook on life. It is a fact that early Masters of Tantric Buddhism (such as Padma Sambhava and Tilopa) had female consorts and or female Tantra initiatresses, important for their enlightenment process. In today’s world the importance of Tantra initiation is omitted from most spiritual teachings and because of this the true meaning of ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ has been concealed.
The original mantra came from Tantra sources in India and is of Sanskrit origin. Om is the soundless sound, the essence of the universe.
Mani is jewel, usually symbolizing a diamond (hardest substance).
Padme is lotus, symbolising both ultimate truth and the Yoni. This mantra is a code for Tantric sexual union. When we bring Lingam (diamond) into the Yoni (meaning sacred place, symbolized by the lotus) we are enveloped in the soundless sound, Aum, the essence of the universe. Hum represents enlightenment in this very body.
Sacred Sexual Initiation within Tantra
In ancient India and Tibet, Tantra initiation followed a particular sequence. The devotee would need to pass through many levels of development of his or her consciousness before being initiated into sacred sexuality teachings. Only when sex no longer had an overpowering pull (due to multiple transcendental experiences) was the Tantrika then initiated into the methods using sex as a portal into universal consciousness. Usually his or her training would continue for at least 5 years before he or she would be considered ready to embrace the intensity of ‘sex with awareness.’
From this slow and conscious approach to sacred sexual teachings, the practitioner of Tantra is then truly able to say: “Sex and Samadhi are one.”
Tantra is a Pilgrimage
When we travel on pilgrimage, it is a delight to walk on a path in nature and to realise this outer path is taking us towards our true inner nature. The outer path is symbolic of the inner path. Tantra is a pilgrimage, with ups and downs, challenges and beauty, awe inspiring events as well as hardships. Through consciously walking the path, we learn and grow into our potential. Understanding Tantra as a pilgrimage helps us to not be in a hurry, but rather to savour each step. The journey itself becomes the goal.
In esoteric Tantra, we open up kundalini energy and travel the path from earth to sky, sex to spirit. But this is not the whole journey. Once we have accessed spirit, it is important to then invite spirit in and through the body as a descent of grace, anchoring spirit on this earth.
Our primary lesson on this planet as human beings, is to learn how to be ‘spirit embodied.’ The light of the spirit, brought into our physical density, transforms this density, this physical form, into a luminous transmission of universal consciousness. We become a gift to this planet simply by breathing, by being. As Zen Master Hakuin said: “This very body the Buddha, this very place, the lotus paradise.”
Tantra is a deeply compassionate path. Its acceptance of the wholeness of the human condition is deeply insightful. Hedonistic and spiritual aspects of the human being meet and merge in Tantra practice. Spirituality becomes juicy and fun and hedonism becomes a diving board into a pool of consciousness. In this way, our humanness is accepted, played with and realized in its fullest potential. We realise ourselves as the divine feminine and the divine masculine.
Ardanareshvara; Godliness as Half Male, Half Female
In the Tantra life approach, when the divine feminine and divine masculine merge, they are transmuted into Ardanareshvara, the depiction of God who is half-male and half-female. This symbolism represents the inner alchemy that happens through the inner marriage of our right and left sides of the body, and left and right hemispheres of the brain. This merger gives rise to genius within. With this awakening of genius, inner ecstasy is experienced simultaneously. In Tantra, it is said that through such awakening, divine soma nectar flows from the crown chakra.
The Realisation of Inner Ecstasy
I have explored this experience and have discovered that such a realisation and awakening of consciousness is very similar to death. In fact, in deep meditation the body is fooled into thinking death is near and releases the inner drug (DMT) that normally gets released with death. This inner drug leads to a psychedelic experience of merging with the universe in an ecstasy of love.
People try outer drugs in the vain attempt to somehow have such a sublime experience. We sense that it is our destiny to experience ecstatic oneness with the universe. However, outer drugs offer only a pale shadow of what is possible through a deeply lived experience in Meditation. Our own inner pharmacy is much more potent than any outer drug can be. But there is a price. There is no quick fix. You have to earn Soma through personal transformation methods.
We can never understand Tantra unless we practice Tantra methods. And once we taste the sublime ecstasy which is our birth-right, there is no going back. Tantra becomes our way of life.
Mahasatvaa Ma Ananda Sarita