Tantra in the West has been largely become known for it´s sexual practices, although at its root it has the meeting of the Divine Feminine & the Sacred Masculine, a union which can only happen inside of us. The merging of two polar energies can be facilitated through outer methods, however, these methods only aim to help us channel our energy consciously into one direction, to become – well, One. One with the Divine.
What is Tantra?
Tantra is a lifestyle rather then a philosophy, science or religion. Often misunderstood as a solely sexual practice with spiritual taste, it actually is an intricate system of physical practices, meditation, worship, energy work, reciting of secret mantra, connection to God / Goddess consciousness and a broad range of tools for self-development and self-realization, which encompass everything that life has to offer. This includes our senses, desires, feelings and body, mind and spirit. Tantra is a ritualistic and esoteric practice that emerged out of Buddhist and Hindu religion around the the middle of the 1st millenium before Christ. The word Tantra is formed of the root ‘tan’ and ‘tra’, which has been translated by the late sage Patanjali of the ‘Yoga Sutras’ as ‘one who is dependent on himself or is the master of himself’. The Rigveda, one of the first texts to mention Tantra, translates it as ‘weaving a thread’.
Contrary to some of the yogic principles from other traditions, which focus on restraining human nature through sexual abstinence, withdrawing from society to focus on spiritual practices, as well as living and eating very sparsely, Tantra embraces all of life to gradually lead the practitioner into states of divine bliss by going through and transcending his desires and experiences.
This includes our physical sensations and emotions, our state of mind and everything that can be enjoyed in life. Tantra embraces everything that happens inside of us and around us, in order to transform it into higher energies and spiritual connection through crystal clear awareness. It´s a state of allowing, which allows relaxation, rather then a state of restriction, which brings tension.
Tantra can include practices with a partner, but since the path is so broad and practices so manyfold, from traditional to modern, there is many techniques that are in fact practiced only by the practitioner with focus on movement of energy. It does not depend on physical contact nor physical practices, but at the same time does not deny them. Since Tantra is a lifestyle, it depends on the practitioner, which road he or she wants to embark on.
How to practice Tantra?
Tantra as a school with the ultimate goal of reaching Divine connection, bliss and Joy, offers anything to anyone, according to where the practitioner is at. For some this might be yoga practices, pranayama, use of energy locks (bhandas) and hand gestures (mudras) from the Hatha Yoga tradition, which are based on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shaiva Samhita to direct energy from the lower into the higher chakras. For others it might be meditations on the energy of Gods and Goddesses that open up to greater consciousness. For again someone else it might be the pujas, divine rituals, which connect to the Divine. And for the next person it might be the exploration of sexuality to reach higher states of consciousness and until then unknown states of bliss and transcending body, mind and soul to merge with the vastness of the Universe.
The outer practices of Tantra are all methods to go inward to feel the connection to the Divine, until the outer practices disappear and only the Divine is left.
Tantra and Kundalini Energy
At the basis of Tantra is the awakening of Kundalini energy, a dormant energy that is situated in the first chakra, Muladhara Chakra, and the development of siddhis, spiritual powers. Kundalini is like a nuclear power that once awakened, pierces all of the chakras, causing a chakra awakening, which starts a strong process of purification on all levels: physically, energetically, emotionally and mentally. As Kundalini rises, she stirs up old imprints from the past in each chakra, which can then be let go off, so that greater clarity, a new awareness for the world and higher states of consciousness arise. Through the ascension of Kundalini through the chakras, the energy in each chakra is purified, transformed and elevated, to unite the practitioner step by step with the Divine, the Univers or Consciousness as it is.
Tantra’s Play of Polarities
Tantra works with polarities of masculine and feminine energy to reach union, yoga. That´s why Tantra is well-known for practices that include couples, as these practices work with the polarities of both partners. By practicing with a partner, the energy of the chakras can be brought into balance through the partner and his/her complementary energy. Since men are strong (male) and hence plus (+) in the root (1st), the solarplexus (3rd) and the throat chakra (5th), they naturally complement women here, as women are minus (-)(female) in these chakras. Women are naturally stronger (male) and plus (+) in the sacral (2nd), the heart (4th) and the third eye (6th), and therefore complement men here.
However, the aim of Tantra to bring about balance and union of the polarities inside of each being is not depending on outer partner work. It can also be achieved through practices that focus on the inner world, since the ultimate aim is the union of the masculine and feminine inside, to reach a permanent state of Divine Union, also known as ananda bliss, shanti peace and santosha contentment.
Tantrik practices are aimed to balance Ida and Pingala Nadi, the two energy channels along the spine which correspond to the feminine and masculine aspects in ourselves, so that Sushumna Nadi, the central channel in the spine, can open and let Kundalini energy ascend through the chakras. This brings about a dissolution of the feminine and masculine aspects at the seventh chakra, Sahasrara, allowing higher states of consciousness to appear. The Divine is beyond masculine and feminine, just pure consciousness transcending the body.
‘Furthermore, there is a Tantra Map of Inner Consciousness. The root (inner men) and the sacral chakra (inner women) have to join, which is still a state of sleep – in the middle of the night. Then the solarplexus (inner men) and the heart chakra (inner women) join, which is the state of dreaming – twilight. Lastly the throat and the third eye chakra join to balance, which is like waking – daylight. And in the end the masculine and feminine disappear in the crown, which is going beyond – turyia.’ OSHO
Transmutation & Sublimation in Tantra through the Chakras
One method for the elevation of energy in Tantra is transmutation and sublimation.
Its aim is to raise energies from the lower chakras to awaken the higher chakras, which is an internal and individual process working simultaniously with mind, breath and sexual energy. In transmutation the sexual energy of the first chakra is elevated into the second chakra and transformed into life energy. In sublimation this life energy is harnessed to elevate it into higher chakras, such as the heart, the third eye or the crown. This brings about a process of purifcation for the emotions, too, if consciously directed into higher chakras for spiritual purposes.
The same basically happens in yoga practices too, if they are true to the yogic tradition from the lineages of Krichnamacharya, Patthabi Jois, Sivananda or traditional Hatha yoga, even without focussing on the chakras. However, Tantra takes it a step further through the intentional focus on the chakras. It works specifically on directing the energy into one chakra at a time, thereby increasing the energy in this chakra, amplifying it, and harnessing the power of this chakra for advanced purposes of the practice and in life.
If mind and breath are controlled, sexual energy will naturally follow. If sexual energy and breath are controlled, the mind will become still and one-pointed. If sexual energy and mind are controlled, the breath will slow down naturally. So even if only two of these three components are controlled, the third one naturally follows.
Tantra as a path to the Divine
Although Tantra uses sexual energy as a tool, the aim is not solely increased sexual energy or sexual skills, despite the fact that many modern day Tantriks depict Tantra as purely sexual, but the redirection of this very potent energy to open the solarplexus, the heart chakra, the throat chakra and the third eye for willpower, unconditional love, truth and inne wisdom to ultimately meet the Divine in the crown. By directing life force energy into the higher chakras, multiple awakenings can be experienced, higher states of awareness appear, a multitude of emotions in unknown depth arises and the life can become more divine, magical and connected.
Furthermore, the chakras in our body are seen in relationship with the seven Mahachakras (great chakras) of the earth, which are connected through cosmic energy, establishing a line between our Microcosm of the body and the Macrcosm of the earth and ultimately the Universe.