What is Tantra?
Let’s start with the dictionary definition. It can help us see beyond new-age interpretations and varied opinions.
noun a Hindu or Buddhist mystical or magical text, dating from the 7th century or earlier.•
[mass noun] adherence to the doctrines or principles of the tantras, involving mantras, meditation, yoga, and ritual.
I love that the dictionary uses the word magic! Actually magic was a doctrine, quite like alchemy and gnosticism coming from the hermetic tradition. Magic is a western mysticism, similar to the eastern mysticism of kabbala, sufism, yoga, tantric buddhism, tao etc.
Nice one Apple.
From my studies, I’ve discovered that the ‘tantras’ are a collection of texts (hundreds actually) coming from a particular time in Indian spiritual history.
Tantra, then, isn’t a type of practice but a way of looking at spirituality, at this time, according to these texts.
Basically, tantra was a philosophy or understanding that developed around 600 CE.
At this time, India had seen loads of intensely awesome spiritual systems. Pretty much the best that humans have ever had to offer. Including all kinds of meditations and techniques.
Buddhism, the vedas, vedanta, YOGA, ad-vaita, it was esoteric heaven, they were also exposed to christianity, greek philosophy, meditation, magic and more.
The seers and sages of this time were going next level deep into the awakening of consciousness, and this is how the tantric philosophy was born, outlined below.
There are two parts to Tantra:
1) the tantric philosophies
2) various revised, or new, practices that evolved due to this amazing new understanding.
- Ok, what was this understanding? The tantric texts and philosophy were an ‘upgrade‘ on the spirituality at the time (Vedanta). Vedanta holds the view point of Brahman and Maya. Brahman being the absolute, and Maya being the veil. ‘Absolute’ (look it up) means un-differentiated, and Maya is the relative. The relative world, the world of form, (that which our senses and mind interacts with) is seen to be a veil over the absolute reality – the ‘pure’ existence or consciousness.
The sages at this time were well-positioned to update this world-view. Through their deep exploration, they understood Brahman and Maya, as Shiva & Shakti: Consciousness and Form. As eternally married and inseparable. None was greater or more divine, or more infinite, or REAL. That Shakti is actually the only one who takes us to Shiva, and is only a veil to those who believe it so. That the two Divine principles make up the whole – this is a true non-dual system. And this is only the first step in a profound metaphysic about how the Divine is in union with itself to form existence. Important: This system is ridiculous (in the good way). It is potent, a gift, and deserves the highest reverence and respect in my opinion. This system was not created from a human standpoint, but from those that were dwelling so, so deeply in the absolute. To reduce it down to a human doctrine of relationships or masculine and feminine is the reflection of the dilution of love, life and wisdom widely spread on the planet today.
- *Returning from the rant* This metaphysic was produced from such a deep and magical inquiry into how our reality is unfolding. And led to some interesting practices. Man and woman practitioners were invited into a new way of doing yoga, meditation, visualisation, to merge with the universal energies, which they now called “Shakti”.
If I could sum it up in two words – Tantra is metaphysical* and devotional**.
From such an intimate understanding of reality, or ‘enlightenment’, devotion for this Divine play began to overflow with more love and wisdom then ever before.
The next step…
Wow, there are so many places we could go from here describing more of the metaphysic (how this union works and who Shiva & Shakti really are), or what some of these practices were (yantra, mantra, tantra, visualisations, mental concentration, hatha yoga (kundalini), ritual and puja (where the sex was extracted from), philosophy and technique). All of these require a level of purity and maturity which are brought through our daily practices – so keep them up!
The type of yoga we practice at Spanda School is tantric in its nature, merging consciousness with form & energy. The silent retreats are incredibly tantric and so is our 28 day immersion. If you’d like to hear about our offerings please sign up to the newsletter or pop us a comment below. Thanks for reading!
noun: the branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, identity, time, and space.
noun [mass noun]: love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person or activity
Join us for our next “Origins of Tantra” workshop at Spanda School.