To most, Tantra means sacred sexuality. However, the real tantra is a rigorous spiritual discipline and a vast field of study, with the sexual aspect being an important part of it. Associated with fertility worship and paganism, early Tantric beliefs were based on observations that life itself was a result of the act of love.

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Sacred Indian texts (from the Sanskrit word tan meaning "to span" or "to loom". The Tantras cover a unique aspect of literary and meditative thinking in India that ran against the dominant cultural patterns of the time. The Buddhist Tantras which were written between 500 and 800 CE. The Hindu Tantras came later, between 900 and 1400 CE. They were meant to instruct the devout on how to use mental and physical techniques to escape the eternal cycle of birth-death-rebirth (see karma, transmigration and reincarnation). Unlike the conservative ascetics practicing Yoga, the Tantrics learned to harness sensual powers to pursue freedom and wisdom.

The religion, Tantrism, based on the tantras, is founded on a dual manifestation of the supreme being, that of male and female principles. In Hindu Tantrism, the male principle (Siva) is passive and represents perfect knowledge. The female principle (Sakti) is dynamic and active, representing energy and motion. In the Buddhist version, sometimes called Vajrayana (which means "the vehicle of the thunderbolt"!), the male principle (Prajna) represents perfect wisdom.

This duality is often represented with sexual imagery, where male and female participants prolong activity without orgasmic release. It is believed that the power of retention can bestow enormous psychic control to the participants, eventually leading to their freedom from the birth-death-rebirth cycle. Additionally, Tantrics ingest marijuana and alcohol, and consume meat, fish an various aphrodisiacs. Not surprisingly, most Hindus regard Tantrics with some suspicion. Although Tantrism is not a large part of Hinduism in general, it is integral to Vajrayana Buddhism.

Tantra is a wide-spread sexual practice, with strong ties to Buddhism. The idea is to strenghten the connection between lovers' souls and to tap the true energy between a pair in the most intimate of acts, sex. The practice of tantra has many religious connotations; as there are huge ties to meditation. Great sexual feats are possible by great practitioners of this art, including male multiple orgasm, amazing sexual stamina, and pure female bliss.

Tantra has been described in many Indian texts as sacred. It involves intimate knowledge and respect of the human body, both yours and your lovers. Massage, touch, stimulation, and sensation are at the heart of this beautiful expression of pure love. It has been described as almost divine. I am very respectful, and would personally like to read and learn more about these fascinating ancient practices. Many celebrities are very much into this (recently) trendy art. Sting is supposedly a master of this art, going for sessions lasting many hours. Woody Harrelson has claimed that has done absolute wonders for his relationships, among others.

The heavy association with sexual practice seems to be a western preoccupation with Tantra. In most Buddhist studies, there is no mention of sex, and not even the sublimation of pleasure until you reach quite complicated areas of Buddhist theology.

Buddhist Tantra (as distinct from Indian tantra) is a largely Tibetan practice. The word Tantra refers to a class of Buddhist teachings, supposedly uttered by the buddha in various incarnations, and other boddhisatvas like Manjushri. Tantra claims to transcend the boundaries of Hinayana ("Lesser Vehicle", a feature of which was that only monks acheived nirvana), and Mahayana ("Greater Vehicle", in which all could attain nirvana, like Zen), and is consequently sometimes called Vajrayana, the Adamantine, or Indestructible Vehicle.

All Buddhist teachings aim towards the perfect awakening of a Buddha, and Tantra is no different.

The western association with sex seems to come from the Tantra attitude towards sensory perception. In all Buddhism, one needs to distinguish that the world of sensory perception is illusory. In Mahayana Buddhism, that is attained by denial ("There is no spoon"), or through ignoring them. In Vajrayana, the attitude is that the possession of sensory objects can also lead through enlightenment, through the skillful practice of Tantra.

It is stressed that the attainment of nirvana through this means is for the "skillful" and for people with "superior faculties". To do so otherwise, would be to immerse yourself more in sensory perception, and into samsara, the exact opposite of the goal of Buddhism.

Indian Tantra differs in its emphasis on Yogic Tantra, and the rejection of monastic celibacy (all for the good of course). Indian Tantra practice is also shamanic, in that there exists a body of spells for different purposes, including some from texts like the Hevajra. The ones I have heard of include love spells, and defeating enemies. Don't sound too pious to me.

Tan"tra (tan"tra; tun"-), n. [Skr.] (Hinduism)

A ceremonial treatise related to Puranic and magic literature; esp., one of the sacred works of the worshipers of Sakti. -- Tan"tric (- trik), a.


© Webster 1913

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