A good place to begin defining Tantra is with a companion word, Yoga. Both Tantra and Yoga began in India at least ten thousand years ago. The basis of Yoga is the quest to free the individual soul from matter and return it to a state of union with the Divine. Yoga means union with God. The very basis of both Yoga and Tantra is the eternal nature of the soul or atma as it is called in Sanskrit. Matter is unconscious and the soul is conscious, so the purpose of Yoga is to liberate the atma or consciousness from the cycle of repeated birth and death.
Tantra is the other side of the same Eastern world view. It means “to weave, the Cosmos and that which expands.” Tantra sees God as both male and female, God and Goddess. You could think of them as the Divine Couple, the origin of male and female. The entire Universe is created through their sexual union. In China they are called Yin and Yang, in India Shiva and Shakti or Vishnu and Lakshmi. In this view, everything in the universe is polarized male and female. The whole universe is held together by a sexual bond, whether you call it positive/negative, light/dark, or electrons/protons. According to Tantra these are all male/female polarities.
Therefore to be a Tantric is first to be a Yogi intent upon liberation from matter through union with God. Tantra views the Universe as if it was a Divine male and female being in the act of making love. From that divine sexual union, life is created. Therefore sex is the sacred joining principle on which life is based. The joining of male and female is considered sacred when it is used to create and support life. This natural view is the basis of Tantra. You could say that Nature is a mirror being held up to reflect Divine existence. Tantra arose in a culture where men and women saw each other as equally Divine, as an embodiment of the male and female God reflected here on Earth.
The female side of God was ignored by Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Without the worship of the female side of the Divine we fail to connect the feminine principle to a higher source. This has led to an unfortunate struggle between men and women. It has led to conflict where there should be love, true intimacy and understanding. It has also led to a technological world in danger of tearing the fabric of our connection to the Earth.
Tantra seeks to heal that conflict at all levels. With a proper understanding of male and female in ourselves and the world around us, we can become co-creators in the fabric of life. Tantra seeks to work harmoniously with Nature and like Yoga, seeks to liberate the soul. While we are here the relationships of this world should be lived in a sacred way. Those relationships are supported by our eternal relationship with the Divine. Yoga teaches that our relationship with God can also be a romance. We are not just servants or children of God, we have the ability to develop a passionate loving soul relationship with God/Goddess which is eternal.
Our first love should be a dynamic union with God. Our Earthly lover should also be treated as Divine. There is a difference between the two in magnitude but for all practical purposes our worldly beloved is an opportunity to learn how to love God/Goddess with total passion and unconditional love. That kind of Tantric relationship weaves us into the fabric of life. This is the real meaning of “Making Love.”
Not all Yogis are Tantrics, but all true Tantrics are Yogis. Some people prefer celibacy to an active sex life. So traditionally there are Tantrics of both right and left hand paths. Right hand means celibate and left means sexually active. Both are valid. In India, it was usually the active warrior personality who applied the principles of tantra to perfecting their sexuality. This gave rise to the well known “Kama Sutra” and a highly developed science of sexuality in ancient India and China. It is this perfection of sexuality that has become popular in the New Age movement as Tantra. Sexology is a branch of Tantra, along with Ayurvedic medicine, Astrology and many other arts. Anything which weaves the male and female into the fabric of life is a Tantra.
Some people say sex is only for making babies. Tantra says sexuality is also for making a conscious connection with the Cosmos. Tantric sexuality is healthy and natural but requires study to achieve perfection. For example, men need to learn control of ejaculation in order to be fully Tantric and women need to learn how to release their full potential in nine ascending levels of orgasm. These skills can be taught by an experienced teacher without the necessity of inappropriate sexual contact. To master anything takes training, practice and higher knowledge. Sex is the beginning, not the end. But if you miss the beginning you may miss the end.
You could say that sexuality within Tantra is the science and art of joining two people to produce an innocent joyful life in co-operation with Nature and in union with God. The proper use of passion is the key to liberation. Tantrics believe in proper expression instead of repression. Our body is a temple of the Divine, and everything we do should be a Divine meditation. Ultimately, we have three choices about what to do with desire. We can be destroyed by it (ignorance), be desireless (Yoga) or move into desire in full consciousness (Yoga/Tantra). The Tantrics say: “Power is man’s secret, creativity is woman’s secret, and man and woman is God’s secret.” The secret of Tantra.
© 2008 Jeffrey Armstrong All Rights Reserved
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