Tantra? What is it?
Some say it’s about orgiastic sex. Others, abstinence. More again that it’s something to do with the kundalini, and so is probably a bit of both.
Tantra is one of those things, like Zen, that is pretty nigh impossible to pin down.
It’s origins go back to ancient times, predating Hinduism, the oldest religion in the world. It has also been associated with Vajrayana, a variation of Mahayana Buddhism. The word Vaj, from Sanskrit, means indestructible.
So, then, what the hell is tantra anyway? Well, one thing we all can agree on is that it’s something to do with sex.
Ok. So that’s a good place to start.
is beautiful as we all know. It is also fundamental to everything in life. It
is what holds us in existence. We were born out of sex, and it is through love,
desire and the deepest human urges that we mate and so perpetuate the species.
But procreation isn’t the only reason we have sex. Yes, there is a deep,
instinctual drive to survive, but lovemaking comes from pleasure and the urge
to know our own bodies, and those of our partners better, and to put our
partner’s needs above our own. It is an expression of gratitude for the
awesomeness of life.
Some would argue that the purpose of sex is procreation only. Anything else, they say is a regression to the animal state. However, this argument is spurious because it fails to understand both humans and animals. In the animal kingdom procreation is the sole purpose of sex, and the female of most species can only conceive once a year, limiting sexual activity to that time. Therefore, those who put forward this argument - that sex is for procreation only - are in fact saying we should behave like animals.
But for humans sex will always be about more than making
I believe deeply sex is a spiritual thing. It becomes profane only when it is used as a prop to control wealth, property, even people.
It must be fairly said though that down through the centuries sex and the sacred haven’t exactly enjoyed the easiest of relationships.
Why is this? Let us explore.
All religions, cultures, political systems, to one extent or another have had phobias around sex. We have tried to regulate sex from the earliest times. We have rules on dress, public decency, that sort of thing, even down to what is appropriate in the bedroom. In some societies women are not allowed out without a male escort. Monks and nuns are expected to take vows of chastity. Indeed the institute of marriage itself is a form of sexual regulation. In one form or another we sought to constrain sex.
Like it was dangerous!
However, that aside, I actually believe this chasm has its roots in the psyche. It’s deeper than the ordinances around sex and human behaviour. It touches on the nervy feeling that sex has something to do with keeping us in bodies. I’m not talking about any religious aspect.
What I'm saying is there’s a part of us that longs, deep down,
to be totally unfettered. And sex is, firstly, a physical thing. So it's likely there will always be a tension
between sex and the non-body experience.
Despite the ecstasy it can bring us to, sex is fundamentally transitory, ephemeral, impermanent.
Hell, everyone knows it only lasts a few seconds!
the world’s way of dealing with this is twofold. It seeks at the same time to
overwhelm while also to undermine our natural urges.
In the first element the id dominated aspect of sex is strong. Focus rests on the satiation of immediate needs, self-gratification, sex as a convenience, a palliative which drives us unconscious.
Tantra is the very opposite, it seeks to make us conscious.
In the second the superego battles for dominance. Here the need to control the sexual urge is just as strong as the sex drive itself. And it is more insidious, because it fuels the very thing it seeks to restrain. But the idea that you can ‘give up’ something is just insanity. The more you try the more you’ll want it.
Abstinence is like attempting to put out fire with kerosene.
Hence we end up with this gargantuan pull between the craving to engage and the craving to avoid. And this tug-of-war is being played out in society today with everyone as unwilling pawns.
Regulation of course arises from
control, which in turn comes from fear; the fear that I may be out of control,
that my environment or those around me will somehow overpower me. Tantra does
not seek control nor use sex as a means of oppression. In fact it never uses
sex for any purpose only to become awake.
Self-indulgence and self-sacrifice are really mirror images of the same thing. They both pretend to give you what they can’t. They both leave you deflated and disappointed.
In some ways sex is dangerous.
Are we attached to sex because we find it pleasurable?
Or, is the opposite true, do we find it pleasurable because we are attached to it?
Perhaps the point
Tantra embraces desire without getting lost in it. While you’re subject to the mind you’re slave to desire.
But what if desire itself were illusory,
that, not only does the thing you desire not exist, but the desire as well?
Let’s say you saw a large table in front of you filled with mouth watering food, but you knew it was only a mirage. Would you still want it? Not likely. You would go off and look for the real thing. It wouldn’t hold any attraction at all for you. This is what happens when we see through illusions. They no longer hold their desire.
Of course the purpose of tantra is transcendence, and if you practice tantric sex in time the attachment loses its grip. But if you do it solely with that intention, then it probably won’t. Weird or what? But that’s the contradictory nature of tantra, and how it cannot be defined easily. Tantra is something one does rather than knows about.
Because if we decide that ‘transcend’ means ‘get rid of’, then we’re not really doing it. We have decided what the outcome ought to be beforehand.
Remember, the need to transcend one’s desires contains a hidden catch, “the desire to get rid of desire”. And this is another trick of the mind.
Don’t worry. As I said at the top, it’s confusing!
You can apply tantra to any aspect of your life, not only sex. By feeling whatever it is you are doing, fully, with integrity, while at the same time knowing there is a deeper reality going on underneath, then you have taken the first steps. You’re doing tantra.
Very basically, tantric sex is having sex consciously. The mechanics of the thing are beyond the scope of this article. Indeed I’m not sure if they can be written down. One needs to learn it from a tantric master (male or female), or with your own partner under instruction. However, if you are thinking of engaging in tantra just be aware there are many out there who are presenting something they call tantra, but which is nothing of the kind. Choose your teacher carefully. Seek guidance from your Higher Self and follow that guidance. There is something known as LA tantra, which basically means having sex with hot therapeutic oils. Very pleasurable I’m sure, and very beneficial too, but definitely not tantra.
So, is tantric sex really sex devoid of pleasure? Not at all. You can have all the pleasure, but tantra just doesn’t conscribe that as the main purpose of sex. It’s not about getting one’s kicks, so to speak. The tantra master does not become a slave to his feelings (themselves illusions), neither does he deny them. Instead she makes love in awareness. And in this awareness a state of heightened consciousness is realised.
The function of tantric sex then, would appear to be, not so much to experience the greatest sex ever (although apparently that can happen!) but to pierce the illusion of sex. The real satisfaction is the satisfaction of awakening. Tantra brings us into our body only to bring us out of, and beyond it. It restores the sacredness of sex and illuminates who we really are, which is indestructible love.
There is a voice that doesn’t use words - listen!
Reality is merely an illusion - albeit a persistent one.