Tantra is found in advanced Hindu, Vajrayāna Buddhist,
religious practices throughout Asia. It is an ancient ritual involving extensive
preparation and prior education by the practitioners under the close direction of
their guru (teacher).
Neotantra was recently imported into the West and is at least partly divorced from
its religious roots. It is also known as "modern tantra," or by the
somewhat derogatory term "California Tantra." Neotantra is primarily
viewed as a collection of sexual practices including sexual
intercourse. Practitioners' goals typically include increased intimacy and
a delayed and more powerful orgasm for themselves and their partner.
Tantric sex within Hinduism:
Hinduism is the third largest religion in the world, after Christianity and
Islam. It is centered mainly in India. The origin of Tantra has been lost to history. The earliest form of Tantra
sex may have been a method of generating bodily fluids as an offering to Tantric
deities. The rituals may also have evolved from clan initiation ceremonies.
Tantric texts state that sexual activity can have three separate and distinct
purposes: procreation, pleasure and liberation. Those who use tantric sex to seek liberation
abstain from reaching an "... orgasm in favor of a higher form of ecstasy."
1 Guidance from a guru
(teacher) is of primary importance. Tantra is normally considered appropriate only
for those "... individuals whose temperament and self control will enable
them to forego sexual indulgence." 2
During ritual sex, the male participant represents the god Shiva; the female
represents the goddess Kundalini Shakti. At the same time, "... each participant experiences
a fusion of their own Shiva and Shakti energies." 2
Contrary to Western belief, Tantric sex was only practiced by a minority of
Hindu Tantra sects. Many of those groups that practice sexual Tantra do it
symbolically rather than physically.
Tantric sex within Buddhism:
Tantric sex is practiced by some advanced students of Vajrayāna Buddhism.
This Buddhist tradition currently has perhaps 10 million adherents and two main sub-schools:
Tibetan Buddhism is found in Bhutan, Southwestern China, Mongolia,
Nepal, Northern India, Russia, and Tibet. Shingon Buddhism is found in Japan.
One of the most important goals in Buddhism is to overcome desire. Vajrayanists feel that the best way to achieve this goal, and to work towards
enlightenment, may be to experience desire "... fully and thereby drain it of
every mystery." 3
A sadhana is the path by which the sadhaka (practitioner) can attain
One sadhana is restricted to experienced sadhakas and involves Tantric sex. The
goal is spiritual growth towards enlightenment rather than sexual pleasure.
This Buddhist tradition
adopted the Hindu concept of energy centers in the human body. They are
called chakras (wheels), and total eight in Vajrayāna. Author Kevin Trainor
"The goal of sadhanas is to move the energy released ... upward until it
reaches the 'crown chakra" at the top of the head -- the seat of spiritual
evolution -- and produces the experience of incomparable bliss, transformed
consciousness and nirvana."
Some sadhanas call for male and female partners to practice sexual yoga.
In this act, the couple join as divine consorts to magnify and move the
innate energy upward in both. Profane pleasure-seeking and orgasm represent
failure, since union should deflect the sexual energy into the mystical
channel of enlightenment." 4
The practice is not without its dangers.
Vajrayanists believe that breaking the rules -- perhaps by using sadhana techniques
to achieve orgasm or by sharing the techniques to non-initiates -- can result in
mental illness or trigger many cycles of rebirth in Hell.
Practitioner Shambhavi Sarasvati writes:
"Authentic Tantrik practice ritualizes every aspect of life in
order to place the sadhika (practitioner) in synch with the rhythms of
nature. Tantra ritualizes your life from the moment you open your eyes in the
morning, throughout your whole day, as you fall asleep, while you are sleeping,
and until you open your eyes again the following day. You may practice sexual
ritual. You may not. You do not have to do sexual yogas to practice Tantra. 5
Some elements of Tantra have been imported into the West where it is called
"modern tantra," "neotantra," or by the deprecating term "California Tantra."
FAQ at alt.,magick.tantra comments:
"Neo-tantra typically makes use of the traditional tantra yoga asanas
(positions), breath control, and meditation, but it is taught outside the
framework of Hindu culture and religion. ... Unique to neo-tantra is a
modern or New Age tendency to include massage (so-called "tantric massage"),
Reichian body-work (e.g. "bio-energetics"), and even counseling (e.g.
"sexual healing") to the course of study." 6
The goal sought by the couple is very different: rather than a state of tantric
bliss as in Hindu and Buddhist Tantra, it is greater intimacy with each other
and a delayed and intensified orgasm for both. Shambhavi Saraswati of Rikhia, India, explains the difference
between real Tantra and Neotantra simply: "Neo-Tantra ritualizes sex. Authentic Tantra sexualizes ritual."
Practitioner Shambhavi Sarasvati continues:
authentic Tantra is certainly not about having better orgasms, unless your goal
in this life is to realize yourself as a killer orgasm."
"... There is a wonderful saying in Tantra: It is better not
to begin, but if you begin, it is better to finish. Neo-Tantriks may be having
fun, but they have not begun to practice Tantra." 5
Neotantra is sometimes associated with New Age
spiritual practices. It is sometimes defined so broadly as to include all forms
sexuality. The term is sometimes used in advertising sex education courses to
make them more appealing to the public. It has been used by commercial sex workers as a
gimmick to increase sales. It frequently modifies Hindu and Buddhist Tantra by
deleting the involvement of a guru and doing away with the necessity for
intensive meditation. 7
Georg Feuerstein, a Buddhist with training in Hindu Tantra, wrote:
"Many are attracted to Neo-Tantrism because it promises sexual excitement
or fulfillment while clothing purely genital impulses or neurotic emotional
needs in an aura of spirituality. ... Today translations of several major
Tantras are readily available in book form... This gives would-be Tantrics
the opportunity to concoct their own idiosyncratic ceremonies and
philosophies, which they can then promote as Tantra." 8
"Typically, the Kama Sutra and/or Ananga Ranga are
referenced and even referred to as 'Tantras.' In actuality, these works are
simply sutras on love and sex and are unrelated to the traditional
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