A Brief History of Tantra
The first question many people have about Tantra: is it all about sex? The answer is no. A small yet powerful part of Tantra’s philosophy and practices deals with the understanding and cultivation of sexual energy, but it is not by any means all about sex. The second question is often: is it related to yoga? The answer is yes. In fact hatha yoga is profoundly influenced by Tantra.
Despite popular myths, Tantra isn’t a crazed sex cult, a New Age fad, the Kama Sutra or even a religion. It is a philosophy and spiritual practice that began as an oral tradition and started appearing in texts in 6th century India, later thrived in Tibet and gradually made its way to the west over the past 100 years in various forms.
It’s also important to note that you don’t have to drop your current religion or convert to anything in order to study or practice Tantra.
While the word Tantra has several meanings, modern teachers often mistakenly believe that it means “to weave.” More accurately, as described by Christopher Wallis, it means “to spread wisdom that saves,” alluding to the fact that “Tantrik practices give us a means of strengthening and protecting ourselves from worldly harm as well as bestowing the ultimate spiritual liberation.” Tantra can also be translated as a “device for expanding.”
To make things a little more complicated the word “tantra” can also just refer to a specific text or lineage of Tantra. So, in fact there are many tantras. I’ve studied a few tantras in depth: the Mahamudra Tantra, Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, Spandakarika, as well as the lineages of Kashmir Shaivism and Sri Vidya.
While many of these classical lineages of Tantra are still studied today, most in the western world are more familiar with a modern iteration of Tantra (often called Neo-Tantra), which rarely includes classical tantric philosophy and is more focused on a spiritualization of sexuality. It’s my intention to bridge these two worlds and provide a well-rounded understanding of tantric practice.
The goal of Tantra isn’t how to have good sex, it’s how to make life, in all its complexity (both the beauty and the pain), continually orgasmic, authentic and adventurous. If you are just interested in having better sex, there are much easier methods and plenty of sex educators I can recommend.
That being said, these days it’s extremely common and beautiful to start your tantric exploration through sensuality. Tantra provides an abundance of practices that begin with focusing on pleasure and expanding sensation in the body. This is an amazing way to learn meditation (most find it much easier than chanting in a cave or sweating it out on a yoga mat!). It’s equally beneficial to start your tantric path with your mind through coaching and reading. Either way, If you are ready, I’d love to support you.
The first question I want you to ponder is: what is in the way of you getting started? So much of Tantra has to do with getting out of our own way and pushing past the limiting beliefs you’ve been handed by family or society. What would it feel like to be free of all of that mental static and feel truly relaxed and in touch with your heart, mind and body?
For more personal writings depicting tantric philosophy practiced in everyday life, please see my blog.