Health has to do with the 4 pillars: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual, and environmental. Relationships, or primary partnerships with a romantic significant other, actually encompass all 4 pillars in a very meaningful way. The path of relationship as a way to self-awareness and growth is the hardest to follow, and yet the most fruitful when done correctly. Tantra is a way of using this primary relationship as a road to self-mastery and therefore liberation from the chains that bind us from childhood wounds and ego.
Tantra, (Sanskrit word meaning “weave” and denoting continuity); is a philosophy that symbolizes the play of Shakti, (the Divine feminine energy of the Universal Creative force), and Shiva, (symbolizing the masculine energy of destruction of what no longer serves so that the new can be birthed). Tantra is a spiritual and ritual form of seeing the Divine or greater good in all that occurs, with the goal of liberation from ignorance. Tantric influences can be seen in the Hindu, Sikh, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions, and the Indian, Nepalese, Chinese, Japanese, Tibetan, Korean, Cambodian, Burmese, Indonesian, and Mongolian cultures.
Rather than a single coherent system, Tantra is a group of practices and ideas that use ritual and exercises that recognize the usefulness of seeing the mundane of life as a way to access the supra-mundane. Like Ayurveda, Tantra identifies the human being as a microcosm of the macrocosm of the Universe. A Tantric practitioner uses the prana, (life force), that flows through the universe, (including one’s own body), to attain purposeful goals. The tools used for moving energy are yoga, meditation, yantras or deities, prayer or mantra, conscious breathing techniques, (pranayama), body work, and sexual union with a spiritual partner.
According to Ayurveda, life energy, or ojas, is lost when a male has an orgasm. Sexual practices within a Tantric framework also specify that those who seek ecstasy of a higher degree than the fleeting pleasure of a physical ejaculation must learn practices that allow for sexual union to be prolonged, and therefore the orgasm is taken to a higher state and lengthened so that both partners attain what is known as a cosmic orgasm. In the West, Tantra has become a synonym for “spiritual sex” or “sacred sexuality”, with a belief that sex in itself ought to be recognized as a sacred act capable of elevating its participants to a more sublime spiritual plane. However, it must not be forgotten that Tantra actually has very little to do with sex; sex is simply one of the many tools used for moving energy and achieving an understanding and mastery of the self.
Robert Svoboda, an Ayurvedic teacher and Tantric master defines Tantra in this way:
“Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases. Ayurveda is most concerned with the physical basis of life, concentrating on its harmony of mind and spirit. Yoga controls body and mind to enable them to harmonize with spirit, and Tantra seeks to use the mind to balance the demands of body and spirit.”
According to Tibetan Buddhist Tantric master Lama Thubten Yeshe:
“…each one of us is a union of all universal energy. Everything that we need in order to be complete is within us right at this very moment. It is simply a matter of being able to recognize it. This is the tantric approach.”
Scholar Sir John Woodroffe, writing under the pen name Arthur Avalon, is credited with being one of the first of a number of Western scholars who began to actively investigate Tantric teachings. Others include Agehananda Bharati, Mircea Eliade, Julius Evola, Carl Jung, Giuseppe Tucci, Heinrich Zimmer and Joseph Campbell.
Famous Hindu Tantrics include: Ramakrishna, Swami Sathyananda Saraswathi, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath, Swami Rama, (my teacher), Sri Akshunnanath Mahaprabhu, and Brahma Sri Melanathuru Venkata Subrahmanyam (Chandi & Sri Chakra Upasana).
In the end, the ultimate path to growth is relationship, and the way to make relationship other than mundane is to make it spiritual; this is Tantra.
Great article. I finally understand the difference. Thank you, Dr Keesha!
Todd Stabler says
Keesha – what a lovely writing – thank u – I have read and practiced a lot of Saraswati’s book : Yoga and Kriya
Reene Becker says
I love the simple explaination of this philosophical frame work. I see how this integrates relationship into the “formula” of life actualization. Now that I have a significant other to share my life with I see this as a way of defining our relationship on a different level and can’t wait to discuss with him (and know that if sex is mentioned he’ll be all for it!!! Love you Dr. Keesha. .