Tantra is a belief system that originated in India and is practiced by a small number of Buddhists and Hindus. Essentially, it is a tradition in which followers pursue awakening through embodiment, and union is sought through intimacy and relationships. However, Tantra is viewed in the West very differently from its originally practiced ways, and it is mostly pursued for its focus on using sexual unions as one of the ways to reach awakening.
In reality, there is a much larger Tantric discipline, and only a small portion of it has to do with sexual passion. This practice heals while allowing any and all feelings to be met with acceptance, and it teaches followers to become sensitive to their emotions. Therefore, they are then able to fully feel others, their feelings, and their needs.
Tantra has been defined as an Asian body of practices and beliefs that center on the fact that the universe is simply a concrete manifestation of divine energy. Followers believe that this energy created the universe and that all humans have a part of that energy within themselves. By channeling the energy, followers believe they can become more creative, spiritual, and one with their surroundings.
Since there are a wide range of groups that are covered by the concept of “Tantra,” it is difficult to definitively describe Tantric practices. However, many Tantric practices use some common elements, including yantra and mantra. In Buddhist and Hindu Tantra, mantras and yantras are used to focus the mind through the conduit of specific gods like Ma Kali or Shiva. Deity identification is also practiced, because as an early development of Hindu-Vedic thought, Tantra embraced Hindu gods, especially Shakti and Shiva. These deities were worshipped externally and were also used as meditative objects where the practitioner imagines himself to be experiencing the vision of the deity.
Tantra practitioners believe that most people live inside of their own judgments, evaluations, assessments or thoughts. Their bodies give signals, but they ignore or miss them, so they are unable to experience feelings of pleasure and happiness. When people do feel, they often experience emotions of hurt, sadness, and unhappiness. For these reasons, followers believe that the meditative practices of Tantra can improve emotional and physical health.
Many studies have looked at the benefits of meditation, a common Tantra principle, on heart health. Regular practice has been shown to help with high blood pressure. One study has shown significant lowering of heart rate and blood pressure in adults who practice meditative techniques regularly.
Frequent meditation is also thought to be an immune booster by warding off illness. One study that tested immune function examined flu shots that were given to people who had meditated for eight weeks versus people who did not meditate. Later blood tests indicated that the group that had meditated had higher antibody levels that were able to protect against the flu virus.
Tantra yoga is a holistic approach to studying the universe. It draws from all sciences, including astronomy, physics, chemistry, psychology, and astrology, in order to realize philosophy in daily life. The practice of Tantra yoga studies all life rather than categorizing and separating different areas within human knowledge.
Tantra yoga works to expand awareness within all forms of consciousness, whether this is a sleep, dream, or waking state. This is accomplished through deprogramming and reprogramming, and Tantra yoga teaches followers to identify the factors that influence our feelings and thoughts in order to overcome obstacles.
The simple principle in Tantra yoga is that the things that can take you down may also bring you up. Food, sexuality, and alcohol can often make a man sink in his life. However, Tantra yoga can use these vehicles to raise him up. Tantra builds energy to the uppermost dimension within the energy system rather than the lower level like sexuality.
In modern culture, the term “Tantric sex” often brings Sting to mind. Ever since the rocker made drunken interview comments about having Tantric sex with his wife for hours, the specifics of Tantra have been murky. Unfortunately, Sting didn’t exactly get it right, as this 5,000 year old spiritual practice doesn’t mean that you need to have sex for hours. Instead, Tantric sex focuses on enlightenment and gaining a reverence for your partner, which will last well beyond a single sexual experience.
Sex, masturbation, and pleasure are often thought of as taboo topics in Western culture, but the concept of Tantric sex has worked to eliminate some of the negativity associated with sexual encounters. In the classic sexual ritual of Tantra, participants worship each other as if they are deity embodiments. Participants are encouraged to have an attitude of reverence within their sexual experiences, and the Tantric approach to sex has more to do with the mental approach than it does with physical technique.
Tantric sex also allows participants to feel pleasure for longer. For most people, the transcendent potential of sex is only experienced briefly during orgasm. With Tantric sex, prolonged experiences are part of the tradition, and the orgasm is viewed as a mystical experience that can help partners to experience a sense of merger.