Question: What is tantra exactly? It is said that in the tantric tradition, when the relationship between the guru and shishya becomes intimate and sacred, there could be a closeness that could even be sexual. The shishya-guru attraction – as evident in the Krishna-gopi tradition of amorousness – might manifest as sexual union. So what is tantra really and how does it relate to our sexuality?
Sadhguru: The human mechanism is a composite of the physical body – an accumulation of food consumed, the mental body – the software and memory part that makes individuals function in specific ways, and the energy body – the fundamental upon which these two are housed. What is beyond this is non-physical.
The compulsive and cyclical nature of the body and mind render themselves a barrier for higher possibilities. Tantra is to go beyond, so that compulsiveness of the body and mind does not keep us trapped in our limitations. Tantra essentially means “technique” or “technology.” Tantra is about learning to use the body, not as oneself, but as a stepping-stone to deliver this Being to the highest possible dimension.
Blowing From the Top
Tantra is not about unbridled sexuality, as assumed by many. Sexuality is a fundamental instinct instilled in our bodies to ensure the species perpetuates itself. This is a basic requirement. At the same time, one must know the limitations beyond which it will not carry us. It is only on recognising the limitations and the longing to touch other dimensions enters, that Yoga and Tantra become relevant.
Unlike sexuality, which tends to find release at the lower level of the energy system, Tantra is about building our energies to the fountain-head of the uppermost dimension of the energy system, so that one’s energies spill from the top. Of the different energy manifestations in the body – referred to as the 114 chakras – spilling from the top three is considered the highest. If you have to build up to this, every basic instinct, including the sexual instinct, emotions, intellect and survival process must be used to build and hype the energy system. The intention is to deploy all instincts for which a certain amount of energy is dedicated in the body. If one goes into an actual sexual act, the build-up and the purpose of it will be lost.
Sexual needs can be fulfilled by forming relationships for that purpose, either within or outside the fold. But using spiritual process to fulfil sexual compulsions is reprehensible and irresponsible. It can lead to various levels of loss because the tantric process is not only used for the individual’s spiritual growth, but also to create an energetic space to support other possibilities that bring wellbeing to many.
You Don’t Have to Huff and Puff
The Guru-shishya relationship is to deliver the shishya to a higher dimension of consciousness, not trap one into the compulsive nature of sexuality. Above all, this sacred relationship is definitely orgasmic, but not sexual. I am talking about upgrading your technology. You don’t have to huff and puff to get into an orgasmic state. If you sit with your eyes closed, you can drip with orgasms in every cell of your body. Those who have failed to achieve an orgasmic state of existence will associate an ecstatic state with sexuality because that’s probably the highest level of experience they have known.
People always try to take recourse in the Krishna-Gopi relationship. As the legend goes, Krishna gave an orgasmic experience to 16,000 women simultaneously. This cannot happen with sexual union. A shishya can establish a very intimate relationship with a Guru. Intimacy is generally understood only as two bodies touching. The body is not intimate enough for one who is on the spiritual path. The physical body is an accumulation from outside, so in the Tantric and Yogic systems, the body is never considered an intimate part of you. Only when energies meet and mingle and a Guru’s energies overwhelm and override the shishya’s energies, it leads to an orgasmic experience – a union, but not of the sexual kind.
If all you want is to do a meditation or spiritual practice, you don’t really need a Guru. The Guru is here essentially to overwhelm you with nameless ecstasies.
So what is tantra? It is a technology of liberation, not enslavement.
The word Tantra: is Sanskrit and literally means, “a continuum, or unbroken stream [of energy].”
The term Tantra refers first (1) to the continuum of vital energy that sustains all existence, and second (2) to the class of knowledge and practices that harnesses that vital energy, thereby transforming the practitioner.
Tantra is primarily known in two forms:
- from India; related to Hinduism
- from Tibet; related to Buddhism
Each have their own scriptures, schools, traditions, and practices, which vary widely. And, in spite of the opinions—and financial interests—of many people, the term Tantra is not immediately synonymous with sex, spiritual powers, or materialism.
For thousands of years the teachings of Tantra had been protected and isolated in order to preserve their purity and to protect the naive from harming themselves. Now that much of Tantra has been made public, it has been completely disfigured by the passions, desires, and ambitions of misguided people. The vast majority of teachings of Tantra have degenerated completely and are now dangerous. One should study extensively before taking on any teachings or practice of Tantra. This has been emphasized by all truly authentic traditions of Tantra:
Tantra Yoga had been one of the potent powers for the spiritual regeneration of the Hindus. When practised by the ignorant, unenlightened, and unqualified persons, it has led to certain abuses; and there is no denying that some degraded forms of Saktism have sought nothing but magic, immorality, and occult powers. – Swami Sivananda
Genuine Tantra is an exceptional method of purifying the consciousness of all egotistical elements: lust, pride, envy, gluttony, laziness, etc., but it is not easy or accomplished overnight, and requires great temperance, intelligence, education, and dedication. Real Tantra depends completely on robust and perfect ethics.
[Buddha] Shakyamuni did not teach that people with loose ethics will succeed in Tantra. That is not the way leading to the city of nirvana. How could these evil churls succeed in Tantra? How could people with loose ethics go to the upper realms? They will not go to a high rebirth; they will not have supreme happiness. – The Manjushri Root Tantra
Success in Tantra is determined by the ethical discipline that leads up to it.
There are many varieties of Tantra, but they can be classified in three types: White, Grey and Black. These are differentiated by examination of the results they produce.
- White Tantra: those schools that produce beings who are clean of all egotistical desire, anger, lust, envy, etc. Such beings are known as Buddhas, Masters, Angels, Devas, etc.
- Grey Tantra: those schools who want to be White but do not renounce Black methods. They are caught in the middle.
- Black Tantra: those schools that produce beings who sustain and develop the causes of suffering, namely lust, anger, greed, pride, etc. Such beings are called demons, sorcerers, Maruts, Asuras, etc.
This website is solely concerned with the scriptures and techniques belonging to White forms of Tantra.
Tantra has long been known in the West as Alchemy, and has also been present in the esoteric heart of every great religion. Study of this site will demonstrate that fact.
Why is Tantra misunderstood?
This is because one the most elevated aspects of tantrism has a special relationship to sexuality. In other words, while it does not form the totality of its content, the sexual act itself is a genuine aspect of tantrism.
Traditionally, Tantra was taught in secrecy, only to the disciples who advanced through rigorous training of the mind. A fundamental prerequisite would always be complete Chastity, something normal for any true monk or Nun. Reaching the stage of Tantra meant that one had mastered not only the foundational methods of spiritual discipline, but more advanced ones as well, and was prepared for the highest or most secret teaching. It is important to understand that, historically, the lay or ordinary people were never taught tantrism.
Why is Tantra necessary?
Sexual union provides a continuum of energy within the tantric practitioners which cannot be duplicated by any other means. This is why, without sexual union, certain types of spiritual realizations are impossible (see Solar Bodies). However, because sexual union is a tremendous area of temptation, such practices have always been forbidden by all but the most elevated students.
So, the real reason that sexual intercourse has its place within Tantra is that there is an authentic spiritual function to sexuality. Let us be clear though: desires such as lust do not have any place in spiritual pursuits.
All the functions of sex have an element of creation:
- Procreation: creation of physical bodies
- Pleasure: the creation of desire
- Psychogenesis: the creation of a spiritual nature
We can see that the first two types are the only functions understood and experienced by the common man and woman. White Tantrism is the only form of tantrism that works exclusively with the third type as its goal. We must also understand that it is not simply the physical union which is important, but the forces of love which must also be present.
Quotes about Tantra
“The Tantric student must be endowed with purity, faith, devotion, dedication to Guru, dispassion, humility, courage, cosmic love, truthfulness, non-covetousness, and contentment.” – Swami Sivananda
“The passions which bind may be so employed as to act as forces whereby the particular life of which they are the strongest manifestation is raised to the universal life. Passion, which has hitherto run downwards and outwards to waste, is directed inwards and upwards, and transformed to power.” – Mahanirvana Tantra
“In general, all systems of highest Yoga Tantra’s completion stage involve the preliminary process of controlling the vital energies…” – Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism
“In the view of Tantra, the body’s vital energies are the vehicles of the mind. When the vital energies are pure and subtle, one’s state of mind will be accordingly affected. By transforming these bodily energies we transform the state of consciousness.” – The 14th Dalai Lama