Most of what you’ve been hearing about Tantric sex is false.
Or rather, it’s not the whole picture…
In the West, with the New Age and personal development movements growing, there’s been a lot of talk about spiritual life. Yoga studios are all over, the Law of Attraction is a buzzword, and meditation is starting to be taught in schools and businesses. One of our most powerful urges is also shining in the indigo spotlight—sex.
In an attempt to spiritualize sex, we have taken an age-old practice and adopted it for our own desires. Countless books and videos claim to teach Tantra, which is said to be a practice that deepens sexuality and takes it to new levels. While there is nothing wrong with trying to enhance your relationship with your partner, it’s important to honor the genuine message of Tantra if its name is to be invoked.
A CLOSER LOOK
Tantra evolved from the Vedic tradition of India, an ancient spiritual doctrine that some believe originated 7000 years ago. The word Tantra, depending on who you ask, means technique, ritual, or expansion—we can say that it is a practical method for spiritual development. It often employs gestures, chants, visualizations, postures, and movements.
What distinguishes Tantra is the acknowledgement of both the masculine and feminine principles that constitute reality. In some ways, this is similar to the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang. Some Tantriks call these principles Shiva—the god, representing universal consciousness—and Shakti—the goddess, representing energy and matter. Tantra is a nondual philosophy, believing that all of existence is Divine, and that the physical and transcendent are merely two aspects of one, indivisible whole.
This leads to the second quality that distinguishes Tantra: it sees the mundane as having ripe potential in spiritual development. In other words, the energies that are spent and generated in daily life can be redirected for attaining Enlightenment. The Hindu mystic, Sadhguru, explains more:
The simple principle of tantra yoga is: whatever can take you down can also take you up…tantra is about building our energies to the fountain-head of the uppermost dimension of the energy system, so that one’s energies spill from the top.
THE ROLE OF SEX
Sexuality can play a role in Tantra, however, it’s role isn’t what Westerners often depict it. In one sense, the relationship between the Guru and the disciple can be very intimate, and ignite orgasmic, ecstatic states. It is said that Lord Krishna simultaneously gave 16,000 women orgasms. This type of orgasm, though, goes beyond sexuality and is not even physical. It is the opening of barriers to greater consciousness in the disciple, and the closest experience many of us have to relate to that is sexual orgasm.
Sexual energy can also be transmuted into more rarified forms that accelerate an initiate’s evolution. This is also a practice in Taoist Inner Alchemy, which requires significant discipline and training to master. There are certain schools that allow physical intimacy in the process of sexual transmutation, and advocate that such work dramatically deepens intimacy. Yet even these schools acknowledge that there are much more advanced levels. These involve having “sex” with the polarities within yourself, and even “making love” to the Cosmos. Upon reaching these levels, physical sex may feel superfluous.
MORE THAN A FEELING
Tantra is definitely a rich field of intense spiritual work. It is not synonymous with spiritual sex, for it encompasses so much, and it does not promote spicing up your life with exotic sex postures. Kundalini yoga, Hatha yoga, mudras, mantras, and ritual dancing all can be considered forms of Tantra. One could even go so far as to say that mindfulness in brushing your teeth, transforming your anger into ecstasy, or simply feeling the Divine Spirit in every rock and dumpster are all nods to Tantra.
It’s not uncommon for Eastern traditions to be misunderstood in the West, even with good intentions. Knowing that Tantra is not strictly about sex, it might also be worth pointing out that there are ways to introduce sexuality into your spiritual growth. It’s not a sin!
Below are some resources for leading you in the right direction, if you feel called. Remember, though, that sex is only one of the many aspects of the human experience, and that if you are very serious about your spiritual development, you may one day reach the point where you will re-evaluate the importance of sex in your life.
Please share your honest responses. No judgment—promise! What role does sex currently play in your life? Has it propelled you to greater heights? If so, how?