Tantra can be defined in many different ways. Culturally and historically, there are several different branches of Tantra, The most obvious division is between the Tibetan, buddhist Tantra and the Indian, hindu Tantra. They have a lot in common, such as the same origin, but there are also many significant differences – just as significant as the difference between buddhism and hinduism.
There are also the two branches right hand Tantra (dakshina marga) and left hand Tantra (vama marga). There are also divisions that goes by the names white tantra, red Tantra and black Tantra. There are branches of Tantra that are more revolutionary, anarchistic varieties of Tantra, branches that are very much focused on sex and sexual magic, and there are even extremely ascetic branches of Tantra wherin the followers practice celibacy – something most people would not associate with Tantra…
As within all ideologies and cultural divisions, there are always the secterians, those who claim that their particular version of Tantra is the “right” Tantra, the only correct form of tantra, and everyone else are wrong. It could be about modern, commersialised “Neo-Tantra”, which of course isn’t “genuine”. Yes, there are washed down and commercialised versions of Tantra, just as there is with anything else. There’s washed down and commersialised music, but that doesn’t stop anyone from playing the music they like.
If something has real substance, and a true inner force, one doesn’t have to worry about it being threated by bad copies. Those who want the real stuff will find it. Arguing about which Tantra is the “right” Tantra becomes even more ridiculous when you consider how many different expressions of Tantra there are already, and how many different branches that has been created over the centuries. And as a matter of fact, a central aspect of Tantra is to break rules and preconcieved ideas, in order to liberate ones consciousness from mind blocks and programming.
Tantra is anarchistic. The goal of Tantra is to achieve absolute oneness with the Divine, with Everything, and to be a free, strong, independent individual, having power over your life – and one way to achieve this goal is to break down mental programming of the brain, by doing everything different from what you are used to, turning everything upside down, breaking your own mind patterns and norm systems.
Tantra as a spiritual movement is very, very old, like yoga – and they are intimately connected to each other. The oldest texts about Tantra are approximately 2.000 years old, from India, but noone really knows how old Tantra is. Some historians claim that tantra has animistic, shamanistic roots, and since from my own, limited personal experience of the shamanistic perspective, having worked with shamanistc techniques for more than 20 years, I can only confirm this theory. There are many things Tantra ans shamanism have in common.
And still, Tantra is extremely modern. Tantra is all about seeing that everything is connected to everything else, in the web of life – which on one hand is very similar to our ancient Norse pagan view of everything connected to the Urd web of Destiny, but on the other hand also very much like the views of modern time quantum physics. The old physicist and Nobel prize winner Niels Bohr claimed that one atom in one part of the universe can’t move without another atom in another part of the universe being influenced by it – every atom moves every other atom. This is what some people would call holistic thinking – to see everything as an individable wholeness, where everything influences everything else.
Tantra provides a set of techniques and attitudes to create harmony between body and soul, between individual and wholeness. To realize that everything really is connected. A path beyond dualities, beyond concepts of good and bad. One part of Tantra includes meditation, another part includes sex. Sexuality is such a strong force within every lifeform, including humans, so it is logical that it can be used for many things, including conscious spiritual work.
One central attitude within Tantra is that we are all Divine. I can see every woman as a Goddess, and every man as a God. And it doesn’t even require that you believe in God. It’s not about that. It’s an attitude thing. A common greeting phrase in India is “Namas Te”, and one interpretation of that phrase is “The Divine in me sees the Divine in you” – or as you could say it in the meeting between lovers, if they are a man and a woman – “The God in me sees the Goddess in You” – “The Goddess in me sees the God in you”.
One way to define spirituality, as opposed to religion, which demands you to believe in someone else’s revelations, is that spirituality is totally dependent on your own, personal experience – of total presence in the now, in the present, to feel limitless and flowing, to experience total unity with everything, to be in ecstasy. Tantra teaches that sex can be a very efficient path to experience this unity with everything, with the Divine. And so does many other spiritual pathways, so tantra is not by any means unique in this regard – only one of the more sophisticated in its realm.
In our “modern time”, most of us are unfortunately strongly conditioned to see sex and spirituality as opposites, as contradictory, but it is really important to see that there is no absolute truth to this idea. Historically speaking, there has always been cultures and philosophies that worshipped sex, utilized sex as a natural part of everyday life, as well as in the religious, ceremonial aspect of life – and there are still cultures like that.
Tantra also includes a ceremonial attitude towards sex, seeing your partner (and yourself) as a worshipable, divine person, worthy of 100 % respect, devotion and reverence. To achieve a 100 % ecstasy, you need a 100 % consent and a 100 % devotion. Your partner becomes the God and/or Goddess, and you really have to see it that way – otherwise it doesn’t work. You have to be totally devoted. Devotion is the key to every success, and that goes for tantra aswell as everything else. So it is a question of consciousness.
What I have integrated within myself, from the tantric tradition, and into my everyday life, is a variety of things. The questioning, anarchistic, revolutionizing and mind-blowing aspect of tantra, to expand your consciousness and widen your perspective through breaking down your borders and boundries, old ideas and concepts, the social programming that holds us back from growing into the Divine, Limitless Creatures we all are, behind all that crap we have been covered by since early childhood.
This is a central aspect of Tantra, and is even integrated within the name “tantra”. One of all different translations/explanations of this ancient sanskrit word is “expanding web”, which comes from the understanding that we are all part of the same universal web – the Matrix, if you want – or the Norse pagan “Web of Wyrd”. And it can also be translated into “expanding consciousness”, which of course is what tantra is about.
Another very important tool that can bring a very strong positive influence, in Tantra, is the ceremonial consciuosness. It is really all about attitude. A ceremony, if well designed, can be a great tool for you, if you want to focus yur thoughts, your emotions and your will on one particular thing, one particular mindset, one goal.
Tantra is very, very much more than spiritual sex. Yes, sex is definitely one component within many variations of Tantra, but definitely not all. Tantra is NOT about certain techniques, certain meditations, certain rituals, certain sexual postures – or any practical arrangements at all. Tantra is first of all a matter of consciousness, of atitude.
You can do anything with a tantric attitude. You can do yoga, have sex, give and recieve touch, such as massage, of course – but you can be equally tantric washing dishes, tasting wine or driving a car. You can have the consciousness and attitude of a tantric while cooking and eating, building a house, painting, playing or listening to music – or just about anything that involves the senses, here and now. Tantra can be so much more than you think.
So how can I learn more about tantra? Today, we don’t have to go to India or Tibet, and search for the old tantric master in a secluded village or ashram. With the help of modern communication technology, we can now read about tantra in books,and on the Internet. But we also need to practice. So it can be very inspiring and clarifying to attend some tantric workshops, preferably a few with different teachers, so that you may find the model that suits you best. The combination of reading good theory books and applying practical exercise is usually the most effective.
Attending one of our workshops may be a very good introduction to the tantric lifestyle – and it can also provide a good development in the future. We have many workshop participants who come back for more, over and over again.
We generally don’t brand our workshops as “tantra workshops”, even if we on a purely technical basis of course could do that, since almost everything we do on our workshops is tantric, one way or another. But we want to focus on the purpose, rather than the tool, or even the name of the tool, the content rather than the outer shell. We also want to avoid preconceptions and prejudice, based on shallow ideas on what tantra “really is”. Therefore we prefer to call them “Love Workshops”, which is literally totally correct.
Really, if you get down to basics, our workshops are entirely about the art of Life, Love, Pleasure, Sex, Devotion, Empathy and Presence.
And that is definitely very, very tantric.
© Carl Johan Rehbinder 2008