What is tantra?
What is Tantra?
All of us who work with tantra ask ourselves the question "what is tantra" on a regular basis. It is a question with as many answers as lack thereof. Here I will clarify the concepts and hopefully give you an answer to the question "what is tantra".
Tantra is a spiritual doctrine that has its roots in the Indus Valley more than 5000 years ago.
A doctrine is a teaching that deals with a certain practical action, you can say that it is an embodiment of philosophical theories. It is not a religion or spiritual precept, although tantra has influenced many religions and spiritual systems.
The Indus Valley was a fertile place by the Indus River in India and here flourished a matriarchy with a culture where nature was seen as divine. During this time there was no written language, the earliest signs of Tantric culture are a series of seals, on which animals and people in ritualistic situations are depicted. The tantric culture spread to the south and has influenced both Vedic and Brahmanical teachings and later tantra was systematized in yoga. The breathing exercises in yoga and many yogic meditations are directly connected to tantra.
Is tantra sexual?
The basic theory of tantra is that everything is part of the divine creative power, or God. In tantra, the creative force is called "sexual energy", but it is something much bigger than a sexual act. The sexual energy is the empty, but supremely creative force of the universe.
Everything in life can be a sacred experience according to tantric philosophy, even the sexual act. In our innermost existence we are one with God and from this perspective there is no polarity. There is no good or bad, no light or dark. It is we as humans who occupy ourselves with categorizing and defining our world.
Separation as the root of suffering
We live in a subjective existence with our own and cultural values in good and bad, desirable and reprehensible. We seek support in our values from each other and create communities and communities that share the same general value base. In a world of separation, we yearn for our innermost self, a sense of unity and belonging. Therefore, we identify with the group where we get a response for our values and where we can reflect ourselves in each other. We get a false sense of oneness.
Our human mind creates samsara, an illusion that separates us from unity and leads to acts of egocentrism, judgment, and the pursuit of lust and gain. We therefore live in an endless chain of karma, where we must constantly reap the fruits of our past egocentric thoughts and actions.
Tantra is the teaching of how we practically break this chain and achieve samadhi - a state where we merge again with our innermost, divine existence.
There are many spiritual practices that lead to samadhi. The difference between tantra and many other spiritual and religious practices is that in tantra we allow the duality and separation of life to lead to unity. Where many religions see God as something separate that must be met through worship and submission, Tantra sees God in all of existence, with worship and submission as a consequence.
While many spiritual traditions practice asceticism and restraint, tantra allows us to explore life to the fullest, thereby losing our desire and striving as a result of oneness with God.
The word tantra and its meaning
When we want to examine what tantra really is, we must immerse ourselves for a moment in the word tantra itself. The language that was spoken in the Indus Valley is called Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a very special language, where every syllable in a word has a special meaning. When these syllables are put together, a whole sentence is formed which often has a very deep philosophical meaning.
The word tantra consists of the syllables tan and tra. The syllable tan means "to expand" and tra means "to protect". The word tantra itself means "thread" and "loom".
The word tantra indicates a fabric that is woven in a way that causes it to expand safely. The threads are YOUR thoughts and the web is the existence you create for yourself with your thoughts. You are the one who weaves and thus you are the creative force of the universe.
We can compare the word tantra with the word sutra which consists of the syllable su, which means "list" and tra, which means "to protect". The word sutra means "thread" or "rule" and the word is used in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism Buddhism as a name for the short and poetic injunctions that a master shared with his students in order for them to learn to let go of their ego.
With the help of spiritual rules or "sutras" one strives to renounce the self, the emotions and the world in order to achieve samadhi.
A person who practices tantra expands his thought pattern which leads to transformation and release of energy which in turn leads to samadhi. A Tantrika does not believe in any ultimate truth but accepts that truth is subjective because it is created by a mind that can only be subjective. Despite this, even our subjective mind is a part of emptiness, everything or God.
Does it sound pretentious and complicated? Read the next article about what tantra is in practice.