Tantra is a loose term assigned to practices characterized by ritual, rites of passage, energy work, and the utilization of the mundane to reach the supramundane and understanding the relationship between the micro and macrocosm. These aspects of Tantra can be spiritual and/or material. A guru is often consulted to help the practitioner have a mystical experience and properly guide them through the associated rituals.
Yoga is a vital part of Tantra as it awakens the ability to reach the divine in the practitioner. An integral part also of Buddhism, there is different forms of yoga in existence to meet a person’s spiritual needs – varying from vigorous to peaceful movements. Visualizations, evocations and mantras can also help the Tantra practitioner reach a point of spiritual awareness.
Tantra has had roots in areas of the world such as China, Tibet, Japan, Cambodia and Indonesia. It is closely affiliated with religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, Tantra ties closely to Vedic tradition- or rather the rejection of the orthodox beliefs. Practicing Tantra is meant to bring the practitioner a blissful feeling of self awareness while sorting away illusions.
The exact rituals associated with Tantra are difficult to pin down since they vary greatly depending on region and the available tantric community. Commonly employed rituals include the repetition of mantras and yantras (amulets) to invoke deities. Feasts and bodily functions can also be included in the rituals. Although it gets the most attention, sexual rituals play a very small part of traditional tantric practices.
The term Tantra is of course most familiar to Westerners for the sexuality related to that small portion of rites. It is believed the sexual practices originated early in the Hindu culture as a means of forming body fluids that were thought to be transformative and a necessary offering to the deities of the Tantra. The fluid exchange often involved man, woman and guru (also a man). The female fluid was thought to be the fluid of the clan and it could be used to mark a man’s belonging to that community. These rituals of Tantra evolved to focus on bliss and the divinity of union.
Tantra evolved when it moved west to become what is known as NeoTantra. The sacredness of sexuality was kept but the involvement of a guru was abandoned, as were some of the ritualistic rules and meditations. NeoTantra followers favor aspects of the Tantra like full body orgasms, the worship of the female and many do still study the non sexual aspects of the rituals.
The history and spirituality of Tantra is so great that those merely seeking sexual thrill might want to look elsewhere. Tantric sexuality is more of a pleasurable religious act than an impulsive physical satisfaction. Studying the meaning of Tantra and employing some of the rituals in conjunction with the acts of physicality will heighten the cognitive clarity that practitioners are truly seeking. The mental effects will last much longer than the physical pleasure, but will pave the path for future enjoyments in bodily union.