What is Tantra?
The name Tantra is filled with controversy. It’s often associated with sexual practices, more or less rightly so. Tantra is a spiritual path, a way of being and of growing on the road to life. What sets this path apart from others is its non-renunciation of worldly physical experiences.
The path of Tantra is, as others, one that ultimately aims at dissolving the ego and letting one see the truth of who they are — below mental conceptions and social conditioning. It does this mainly through sensorial and sensual exploration of the physical and energetic bodies. In essence, Tantra works to dissolve the mind through experiential meditation — a practice which, on the surface, is diametrically opposed to others which often go directly through the mind, for example as is usual in Zen meditation.
That is why, for me, Zen and Tantra form an ideal relationship — a marriage of mind and body meditations.
At the core of Tantra stands the chakra system, the embodiment of the tight relationship between the physical and non-physical aspects of our beings. Most yoga practices known to the west today are, in some measure, Tantra yoga as they are largely based on Tantric principles — however what is typically labeled as Tantra Yoga, as opposed to Hatha or Kundalini, tends to be more meditative and centered on balancing the chakras.
Is Tantra About Sex?
One of the core concepts within Tantra is that of sexual energy, also called Kundalini or creative life energy. This energy is understood to form the root of life itself, as we’re all created through sex and much of our biological needs center around reproduction and evolution.
A crucial part of the Tantric path therefore lies in accepting and allowing this energy to flow freely, as this energy is indispensable to spiritual well-being.
Unfortunately, most societies today are set up in such a way as to repress sexuality and instill shame and guilt at what is, in the end, a purely necessary and unavoidable aspect of who we are — as well as a biological imperative.
Modern Tantra (often called neo-Tantra) is therefore often focused on healing the sexual traumas induced by the social system.
Because of this, much sensationalism has been associated with Tantra being all about sex — and there are indeed plenty of Tantric practices in the world which are very tightly focused on sex. For me, however, Tantra is primarily about the transcendence of sexuality.
I’ve come to understand that our society is largely focused on using sex a means of controlling us — religiously through guilt and shame, and commercially through sex as a cultural commodity. Tantra offers a way out of this vicious circle of sexual toxicity. It enables us to claim our sexuality back, such that we can move beyond the simple biological needs it associates with, and use our sexual energy for means greater and more spiritual than mere sexual intercourse.
The energy which is made available once we are free from sexual oppression is that of creation — that of art, progress, evolution, and beauty. Tantra gives us the tools to tap into this energy and unleash ourselves onto the world as our own divine creators.
Tantra is here, not to reinforce our sexuality, but to break the prison it has become in our society.
The Tantric path has been labeled by Osho as that of Sex to Superconciousness, making a beautiful statement towards sex being the first step — one that is to be transcended on the path towards higher consciousness. Because above all, Tantra is about integrating every single aspect of who we are, just as it is — and without judgment or discrimination.