What is the first idea that comes to mind when you hear the word Tantra?
Most beginners would say sex or some spinoff of sex, such as: sacred sexuality, a spiritual approach to sex, sex for better relationships and deeper intimacy, kinky sex to spice up your sex life, or some erotic, acrobatic positions to achieve sexual fulfillment.
The truth of the matter is: Tantra is none of the above! Which begs the question…what is Tantra, really? This is where the story gets a bit more complicated.
Tantra is a tradition rich in spiritual technologies, techniques and practices which are clearly defined in a collection of scriptures dating back to 300 and 400 CE. Those numerous and varied texts pertain to any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.
According to some sources, the word Tantra is made up by the joining of two Sanskrit words: tanoti (expansion) and rayati (liberation). In this sense, Tantra means the liberation of energy and expansion of the consciousness beyond its gross form. In other words, Tantra is a method to expand the mind and liberate the dormant potential energy, and its principles form the basis of all authentic yogic practices.
Others define Tantra as “web” or “network,” a reference to the universal truth that everything in our reality is interwoven, interconnected, and interdependent with everything and everyone else.
In short – and as a VERY simplified definition – we can define Tantra according to two primary and fundamental principles:
Before we get to the detailed mysteries of what Tantra is, it’s important to know what it is not. Firstly, Tantra is not sex. While it is true that there are teachings that address sex and sexuality within the breadth of all that is Tantra, these are not, by far, the basis of this expansive and extensive system. In fact, the tantric sex teachings represent only 5%-10% of the tantric knowledge.
Tantra is not defined by sexuality alone – there are many other branches that make up this vast and expansive “tree.”
Visualize the global system of Tantra as a mature and ancient tree with many branches. Tantric sex is one single branch of the whole tree of Tantra – one branch that contributes its individual parts to make a tree whole, complete, and robust.
Tantra is also not a religion. It is a non-denominational spiritual system that can be practiced by anyone, given the right attitude and dedication.
Religions are exoteric by nature, meaning that they encompass the outer ring or circle of adherents or participants, while Tantra is esoteric – it addresses the inner circle. In short, religions are designed for the masses and Tantra was designed for the select few.
The tantric writings, teachings, and practices are purposely obscure so that only initiates – those who had demonstrated that they reached certain levels of spiritual achievement – could understand them. Traditionally the true tantric teachings, at least those that were authentic, were closely guarded and only transmitted orally from master to disciple after long periods of preparation, practice, and purification. Luckily, these spiritual gems are more widely accessible to modern spiritual seekers then in ancient times.
Dogma and creed have no foothold in the tantric tradition. Tantra instead is a “self-science”, a practical study of the self. In other words, the teachings and techniques are transmitted to the practitioner by the master, but ultimately it is up to that individual to do his or her own spiritual practice in order to realize the fruits personally and harvest the results of the techniques provided.
Great debate surrounds the origins, history, and practice of the complex and at times controversial body of knowledge known as Tantra.
To the best of our knowledge, it originates from ancient traditions in India, roughly 3,000-5,000 years ago. At that time a unique spiritual system was born which provided answers, explanations, and powerful practices pertaining to energy, deities, the structure of the universe and reality, yoga, philosophy, and metaphysics.
It is said that Tantra first made its way to the West in the 1800s, when its philosophical foundations were introduced to curious scholars. In the 1960s and ’70s the West witnessed the spiritual renaissance and sexual openness of the hippie revolution.
The sex-positive, sensual paradise that the sexual teachings of Tantra promised became alluring for this generation. From that point onward, the spiritual dimension of Tantra became more hidden and unknown to those who discovered it, and the sexual approach prevailed. This distortion remains common until now, with very few seekers becoming fortunate enough to encounter authentic teachings addressing the whole tree and its spiritual roots – not just the one fascinating branch of sexuality.
Tantric masters understood a fundamental and universal truth – everything in this reality is made up of energy.
Energy is a universal force that is within us and all around us. It is infinite in nature and has massive potential. Why were tantrics interested in energy? Because if decoded, utilized, and employed properly, it could be used to propel a person expeditiously along the spiritual path.
There are many, many different types of energy operating in our reality and in the universe. Regardless of the type, ALL energy operates according to and is governed by specific laws. Unlock these laws and, in essence, you will acquire the master key for controlling and mastering all energy.
For example, take electricity, which is a form of energy. Through scientific inquiry, human beings were able to decipher the laws which ultimately form the basis of electricity. As a result, electricity was no longer understood as an ethereal concept, but rather it became known as a tangible and sensorial event that could be created on command and at will.
If everything in and around you is made up of different types of energy – the physical body, money, emotions, thoughts, the mind, love, success, relationships, a car, a house, health – and the laws which rule all of these different types of energy are uncovered, then a person can essentially become the master of his or her own life and a master of the universe.
When this occurs, people are no longer victims of chance and happenstance but control, dictate, and create their own lives and, therefore, their own realities and destinies. A person can surpass duality and realize his or her true nature. This is the definition of ultimate freedom and spiritual liberation.
To understand energy better, it is helpful to understand chakras. One could say the chakra science originated from Tantra; there are clear references to the seven chakras in many of the ancient tantric texts written millennia ago.
The seven chakras are not just some vague or abstract new-age concept, but rather are as real and tangible to tantrikas as their own limbs, an example of some of the deepest age-old wisdom. These sophisticated energy centers of the human being serve as antennas which allow human beings to communicate, coordinate, resonate, and attenuate with the universe and a myriad of universal energies.
In their dive into the science of energy, the ancient tantric masters studied all the universal energies and the laws that governed them exhaustively. They also sought an understanding of how energy worked in human beings within the prism of the chakras – the intermediaries between the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of the human being. The chakras make possible something that is finite in nature (the human being) to access the infinite (universal energy) and potential which can be harnessed and utilized for spiritual purposes.
Tantra refutes the dominant thinking that spiritual liberation and perfection can only be attained through rigorous asceticism and renunciation of the world – a notion prevalent in many spiritual traditions. Instead it embraces all of reality. Tantrikas (tantric yogis) believed that human suffering arises from the mistaken perception of separation between the earthly world and the spiritual world. To remedy this fallacy, Tantra advocates the celebration of the sensual and material dimensions, and by doing so, one can in the process transcend the physical.
Reality is ultimately beyond good and evil and merely an expression of divine energy. Therefore, according to the ancient tantric texts, all of reality – including the physical body, food, sexuality, laughter, emotions, joy, pain, relationships, and many other facets that encompass being human – can be used to reach the Divine Absolute and realize one’s own innate divinity. This is paradoxical to most, if not all, religions.
In Tantra the physical body is the greatest spiritual tool – a manifested aspect of the Divine that can be used intelligently and ingeniously to access the unmanifested, or that which is beyond this reality and physicality.
To be born is to flow out from the unmanifested Godhead, or Divine Consciousness. Reaching enlightenment, the essential goal of Tantra and our ultimate purpose as human beings, is to flow back and become one with our true nature once again – and Tantra can take you there.
It is believed by scholars and practitioners alike that Tantra appeared in response to a period of spiritual decline, which is still visible today. According to this theory, powerful measures were needed to counteract the many obstacles that modern people face on the road to spiritual liberation, such as greed, dishonesty, physical and emotional illness, attachment to worldly things, complacency, and toxicity. Tantra does just that.
Tantra is believed to be THE MOST relevant and applicable spiritual path for all modern people today for three reasons:
The tantric system comprises diverse paths and branches which help practitioners achieve spiritual realization while, at the same time, embracing the manifested world. Tantra allows human beings to mutually reconcile the worldly and otherworldly, attaining bhukti (material enjoyment) and mukti (spiritual liberation) side by side.
We have defined Tantra in a simplistic way as both the science and study of energy and a comprehensive spiritual path for evolution. We can thereby surmise that all the different branches of Tantra are firmly established and rooted in these principles as well, otherwise they would not be deemed tantric.
Tantra includes a variety of magical and mystical branches, or paths, that all lead to the same objective – spiritual realization – in the truest sense. Each path is a path in its own right taking practitioners to the highest goal. However, when applied synergistically and simultaneously together, they cultivate a global, harmonious, and powerful human being while at the same time amplifying and expediting the effects and results substantially.
Here we define eight different branches of Tantra, which together form the whole tree of this spiritual science:
Tantra Yoga is the asana component of the tantric path. It is a physical practice with an energetic emphasis. This unique methodology of yoga differs from all other current yoga systems prevalent today. In most modern yoga practices, yoga is just a tool to reshape and stretch the physical body. In Tantra Yoga the body is the tool to achieve the yoga – or union between the individual self and the Divine Consciousness. This is how far yoga can go when authentic practices are at the forefront.
Tantra Yoga – through the practice and application of many different technologies such as asanas, mudras, bandhas, and others – uses the physical body as a means to reconnect a practitioner with more subtle and intangible forms of energy and aspects of themselves. As a result, a person begins to recognize himself or herself as the energy being that they are, and the process of self-realization truly begins.
Moreover, Tantra Yoga is a practice that can bring about exceptional health and healing, purify the physical body, overhaul the emotional framework, develop desirable attributes such as willpower and unconditional love, plus much more. This is by far the most dynamic and bona fide style of yoga you will ever encounter.
Meditation as a practice is highly misunderstood. It is often mistaken to be a technique to simply quiet the mind, reduce stress, or relax. While these are legitimate and noteworthy effects, in Tantra, these effects are considered one-dimensional and fall on the secondary or tertiary platform when real forms of meditation are employed. In fact, meditation – as defined in the famous text, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – is the controlled expansion of the mind. This is galaxies away from the simple promise of temporary repose that more elementary forms of meditation give.
Tantric Meditation is a sophisticated form of energy-based meditation which utilizes different aspects and formats of energy such as sounds, colors, mantras, yantras, vibrations, and visualizations to elevate, expand, and evolve a practitioner’s level of consciousness. While there are many different types of meditation out there, Tantric Meditation is by far the fastest and most direct path to mental development, mind expansion, and soul evolution.
Serious practitioners can experience extraordinary focus and clarity, develop superhuman and paranormal abilities, tap into universal consciousness and intelligence, and eventually become the master of their own mind, leaving behind their slavery to habitual mental processes. While direct and demonstrative, time and effort are required to see the larger results.
Likened to breathwork games and hyperventilation techniques nowadays, pranayama in actuality is the act of controlling the prana, or life force energy, through rhythmic breathing practices. The aspect of controlling the prana or universal energy consciously is what makes this a tantric practice.
This energy is subtler than the air we breathe and exists in us and all around us. By learning to control the prana within ourselves, we can learn to control the universal prana.
Pranayama brings us closer to our ethereal nature where we can begin to feel energy moving through the subtle channels within our being. It is an extraordinary practice that enables us to sense and control the chakras to a high level, bypass normal physical limitations that time, space, and gravity impose upon us, and heal the body to a miraculous degree.
When we speak of Kundalini Yoga, we are not referring to the prevalent Kundalini Yoga of today, but instead to an esoteric branch of Tantra whereby advanced techniques are secret and only shared with initiates.
Kundalini Shakti is a cosmic energy with great potential, located at the base of the spine in all human beings. When this energy is properly awakened (through authentic tantric practices), the aim is to gradually move it up the spine and eventually bring it to its culmination point at the crown of the head. A person who achieves genuine kundalini rising can experience a vast remodeling on every aspect of his or her being and is on the road to becoming a great spiritual master.
What exactly is a tantric relationship? Is it polyamory? Is it an open relationship?
A tantric relationship represents a powerful union which can accelerate the spiritual evolution of both partners. This spiritual component is what separates tantric relationships from all other modern relationship dynamics. When properly understood it can lead to incredible transformation of the couple and can eventually deepen the relationship between the individual and the Divine.
Tantric Relationships teach True Love and how to cultivate it within yourself and within a partnership. This can lead to powerful openings of the heart and very deep intimacy at the level of the soul. A couple has the ability to transcend all superficialities and facades that cloak modern connections of the heart, and Tantra assists them as individuals to reach the Divine through the context of their relationship.
One of the most potent known universal energies is the sexual energy – an elemental force that is present in all living matter and human beings. The sexual energy can create life, as we know, and its creative and energetic potential is monumental.
Ancient tantrics recognized this fact and discovered that if the sexual energy is harnessed in a specific way it can be used to catapult a person into elevated spiritual dimensions and higher states of consciousness. This is why tantric masters studied the sexual energy and why it is a recognized tantric path – not because they were obsessed with sex but because they were obsessed with enlightenment.
These masters were consumed with spiritual realization and they understood that the sexual energy has a unique quality to it that endows no other energy. It can act like a nuclear reactor within a human being. IF it is cultivated and utilized in a specific way, the sexual energy can propel a practitioner to alternate spiritual realities, and ultimately all the way to the Divine. In other words tantric sex bridges the gap between sex and spirituality, and unites them as one.
In addition to being a superior and sacred form of sexuality that is grounded in tantric energy, tantric sexology also gives practitioners access to powerful types of orgasms that run very deep and are spiritual in nature. Both men and women learn how to become multi-orgasmic and experience unparalleled sexual pleasure.
Through its practice men and women can become hyper-aware and hypersensitive to touch, the breath, the presence of energy, vibrations, and subtle nuances in the emotional state of a partner. There is complete presence and sexuality is transmuted into an experience of totality. Blissful states can be reached, and a tantric wave of continuous supersensory, magical, spiritual ecstasy achieved, which ultimately transforms your whole being and view of reality. Tantric sex gives rise to more profound intimacy and connection with ourselves and others.
Differing greatly from erotic massage, Tantra Massage is foremost a spiritual and healing approach to massage, utilizing an energetically based and sensual style of bodywork. It is not a part of the original tantric texts or teachings, and yet this renowned form of healing therapy provides modern people with a necessary bridge to higher tantric teachings.
Initially Tantra Massage involves skin contact, the use of oil, and the activation of key trigger and energy points on the physical body. With practice it has a high potentiality to move toward the more breathtaking and dramatic hands-off practice, leading to a tantric full body energy orgasm.
This wondrous and inspiring therapy can bring about an expansion of energy, extraordinary health and healing, an elimination of blockages present in all human beings today, deep sexual satisfaction, unveiling of the true sexual potential innate in all men and women, a re-sensitizing of key pleasure areas, a stepping stone to tantric sex and extraordinary orgasmic experiences, a resetting of the emotions, a purification the mind, and an awakening of the spirit.
It can have a profound and unexpected effect on men’s health and women’s health and can remedy common sexual disorders and dysfunctions, such as frigidity, premature ejaculation, impotence or erectile dysfunction, and many others.
Kashmiri Shaivism represents the most esoteric and exclusive knowledge in Tantra. Masters of this great spiritual path developed high metaphysical teachings reflecting a profound understanding of reality and the universe.
Studying and practicing this secret tantric science creates a strong field of spiritual resonance with the crown chakra – the seat of lucidity, detachment, and transcendent higher consciousness – and is a catalyst for profound transformation.
It can be challenging for those new to Tantra to discern how exactly to interweave these extraordinary teachings into ordinary life.
As a beginner practitioner a tantrika would first of all develop and adhere to a daily spiritual practice that includes techniques from Tantra Yoga, Tantric Meditation, and pranayama, and could additionally supplement with exercises from Tantric Sexuality and Tantra Massage.
In time the practitioner would progress on the yogic and tantric path and gain further advanced techniques that will transform and purify the mind, body, and spirit more and more. Through steady motivation and determination, Tantra supersedes its influence as merely a daily practice and eventually becomes an exquisite way of life with practical applications for all aspects of existence and everyday experiences.
Having a designated space for a daily spiritual practice can prove to be particularly valuable and beneficial if you are looking to cultivate routine and commitment. A consistent practice in a designated place embeds a habitual thinking pattern into the subconscious mind. Additionally, that space, over time, will become impregnated with spiritual energy which can act as a catalyst for your progress and provide support.
Here are some important considerations when choosing an appropriate space:
Equally as important as preparing your space for spiritual practice is preparing your mind. Trying to execute practices or techniques with a chaotic or turbulent mind will produce similar results.
You can easily prepare your mind with the following suggestions:
By now it is understood that Tantra is not sex. Therefore, practicing Tantra alone is not only accessible but highly encouraged.
Your daily spiritual tantric practice should be done solo and independent of friends, family, and even partners. This encompasses Tantra Yoga, Tantric Meditation, and Pranayama as described and mentioned above.
There are many practices within the realms of Tantric Sexuality and the Tantra of Relationships that can be done with or without a partner. If you are currently without a partner such practices are highly encouraged to do solo. Doing so will help to change and upgrade your resonance, making you more successful in attracting a high-quality and fitting partner, if that is the aim.
After completing our 10-day Tantra Massage Therapist Training students learn how to produce energetic effects and even the energy orgasm within themselves, without a partner. So even Tantra Massage is a tantric practice that can be practiced alone with the right training.
The best and most recommended way to learn Tantra is through the direct approach of attending workshops and retreats with an accomplished teacher. This isn’t a selling tactic or marketing ploy. In fact, there are numerous benefits to learning Tantra in person, in the presence of a teacher who can verify correct practice, that simply cannot be gained through a virtual learning platform or by reading a book.
If a Tantra retreat is designed with authenticity and real tantric knowledge, and practice is indeed at the basis of the curriculum, then successful transmission can only be done as tradition dictated – from teacher to disciple. This spiritual transmission and energy transfer cannot be accomplished in an online classroom or via a prerecorded video. And while books can be a great supplementary resource on the spiritual path, the true tantric texts were written in a codified language to preserve the power and secrecy of the teachings. This makes the direct and in-person teaching environment the only way for the true knowledge to be shared properly with aspirants.
Attending a retreat or workshop as a couple can be a profound healing and growth tool for couples.
Through the teachings and an intensive retreat environment, individuals are confronted with and given an opportunity to witness their own blind spots, patterns, strengths, and weaknesses, and they are taught powerful practices for purification, ego management and recognition, emotional cleansing, heart-opening, self-inquiry, self-development, and deep introspection. The individual undergoes a personal remodeling that can shift a relationship dynamic from blame and shame to forgiveness and healing, or simply up level a relationship to a spiritual partnership.
Somananda Tantra School offers courses with both singles and couples in mind. A single individual does not have to miss out on the magic and beauty of Tantra for the mere reason that he or she does not have a partner. Once you realize what authentic and real Tantra truly is, and that it is not based around sex, you will ask yourself, “Why did I wait so long to explore Tantra?”
At Somananda Tantra School we do not offer retreats or courses that include sex or explicit sexuality of any kind. We design each course and retreat to foster a deep internal experience, a spiritual awakening, an arousal of curiosity, and a transformational journey unique to each individual participant. It is our goal to bring long-established, and oftentimes forgotten, spiritual teachings from an Indian and Tibetan heritage out of obscurity in a pure, authentic, and accessible way.
Founder and Senior Teacher
An inspiring tantric yogini, Liisa is a strong driving force of the school – both as a senior teacher and general manager.
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