Tantra: Yeah, I said it. Tantra


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Well, much to my surprise, I’m being called to a Tantra meeting this Sunday. I was invited by a meet-up member after I signed up for a interfaith religious group in an attempt to solicit church ideas. So, I felt it was only fair to give Tantra a fair shake.

Tantra: The word alone evokes mental imagery of old out of shape hippies having sex with a slew of partners while each watches one another with lust in their hearts. After doing some research into the origins of this mysterious practice, it comes as no surprise to me that that my narrow minded sensationalist ideas about Tantra are based on "new age" stereotypes caused by cultural misrepresentations of this sacred spiritual practice by the Western world.

There are so many varied definitions of the meaning of Tantra. According to the book "Tantra in Practice," author, David White, professor of Religious Studies at the University of California, Tantra is "that Asian body of beliefs and practices which, working from the principle that the universe we experience is nothing other than the concrete manifestation of the divine energy of the Godhead that creates and maintains that universe, seeks to ritually appropriate and channel that energy, within the human microcosm, in creative and emancipatory ways." In White’s book, he attempts to educate people on the intentions of Tantric practice and the influence it has had on several different religions such as Buddhism, Sikh, Islam, and Hinduism to name just a few.

While there is much mysticism revolving around the origination of Tantra, many believe this religious science was first taught in India almost 7000 years ago. Theologians suspect that development of Tantra relates back to the development of civilization in ancient India. When Aryans, nomads from central Asia, entered the country of India many of their Rishi sages, were curious about the origins and destiny of the universe. These sages complied sacred books known as The Vedas which were based on the idea of Supreme Consciousness. This Consciousness, according to the Rishis, could be accessed only through an external ritualistic practice as opposed to a personal, intimate relationship from within.

During this same time in history, Aryans fought to conquer indigenous groups in India. These races, Austrics, Mongolians, and Dravidians approached spirituality from a different perspective than the Aryans. It differed from the Vedic practiced because it was rooted in more of an introversion process than external ritualistic one. Aryans were interested in this practice and so they intertwined it with their own. They learned the Tantric system and later the Vedic books were influenced by it.

Legend ascribes the origin of Tantra to Dattatreya, a semi-mythological yogi and the assumed author of the Jivanmukta Gita ("Song of the liberated soul"). Others see Lord Adinath, or Shiva, as the first Guru of Tantra. The "Tan" in Tantra rooted from the Sanskrit word means "expansion" and "liberation" which signifies how Tantra practice elevates and expands the mind toward oneness with God.

Tantra has it’s place most commonly in Hindu and Buddhist yoga. Here, mantras play an important role not only for focusing the mind but often through the visualization of specific Hindu gods like Shiva, Ma Kali (mother Kali, another form of Shakti) and even Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of wisdom. Similarly, puja will often involve concentrating on a yantra or mandala.

Tantric believes that the body contains a series of energy centers referred to as chakras which can often be associated with elements, planets or occults powers. The phenomenon of Kundalini, a flow of energy through the chakras, many see as essential to Tantric practices while others regard it as simply unimportant. Kundalini is the flow of the central spiritual current, that, when moving, opens chakras and encourages the "yoking" of a human and God to oneness.

The Western practice of Tantra that finds itself advertised on the cover of pop culture magazines such as Cosmo as "5 new tantra sex moves that will blow his mind" does actually have roots in the ancient Tantra writings that were created 7000 years ago. The most well known and understood of the Tantra texts was designed specifically to teach a meditator how to center the mind and come to a single point of focus. These writings contained 112 meditations that encouraged individuals to attain this focus and clarity. It tickles me to know that of these 112 texts, 3 were relating to sexual meditations and somehow when someone hears the word Tantra, the imagery of old hippies having sex and group orgasms is what comes to mind! My suspicion is, that much like how the practice of yoga has now been manifested into a suburban housewife exercise program, Tantra as known by the American culture has done the same. Meditation, oneness with God, and understanding the human body and it’s relation to the mysteries of spirit just doesn’t sell as well as sex. So those 3 texts are all that’s remembered and the rest, we unfortunately have thrown away.


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