Why I Love Tantra.

Via on Jul 9, 2010

I love Tantra because of its no-BS spirituality. I love Tantra because it’s about walking your spiritual talk.

I also love Tantra because of its rich, ancient history. The prehistoric landscape of ancient India contained two separate rivers, one Vedic and one Tantric. The Vedic stream supplied the world and the Indian continent with philosophy and religious rituals, while the Tantric stream supplied yogic practices and Tantric meditation.

Through the parallel flow, as well as the occasional commingling of these two rivers, the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of India became a reality.

I love Tantra, because it has not only shaped the world of yoga and Ayurvedic healing, but it has also influenced a whole tapestry of cultures and wisdom traditions throughout the world, including Buddhism, Taoism, Chinese medicine, and even Greek and Celtic culture and mythology.

In the old days, Tantra became known as Taota in China. Over time, this Chinese version of Tantra metamorphosed into Taoism.  Tantra has also been linked to the Dionysus cult in Greece by eminent Indian scholar Alain Danielou, who, among others, claimed there was once a Tantra-oriented civilization that stretched from Spain to the river Ganges.

I love Tantra because it is a comprehensive body-mind-spirit tradition that includes the practice of physical yoga exercises, devotional dancing, mantra meditation and chanting, breathing exercises, visualization techniques, sacred cosmology and even alchemy and holistic medicine.

This comprehensive tradition is often referred to as Tantra Yoga. Yet most Western books on this subject today inform us that Tantra is simply some form of esoteric sexual practice.

Indeed, most of the writings on sex-tantra have been lifted straight from the pages of the Kama Sutra, a Hindu text on lovemaking, which is neither part of Tantric nor yogic literature.

Not surprisingly, more and more people are searching for a more authentic and holistic experience of Tantra. This search was reflected in the article “Tantric Sex” in O: Oprah Magazine, where its 14 million readers learned that Western Tantra has been “overly sexualized.”

I love Tantra because it is about finding balance in all aspects of our lives. In its essence, it is about seeing and realizing that everything we do can become a sacred, spiritual act, including sex.

As yoga writer Vimala McClure reminds us, Tantra is not just the yoga of sex; Tantra is the “yoga of everything.”

So, while Tantra signifies the various, ancient yogic paths and their particular history, the practice of Tantra—a Sanskrit word that literally means the practice that leads to spiritual liberation—can also be loosely characterized as the universal quest for union with God in all the world’s wisdom traditions.

I love Tantra, because, Tantra simply means spiritual transformation, the path to inner liberation. Irrespective of religion, the spirit of Tantra is reflected in all genuine spiritual practice. For Tantra is not based on religious faith or belief; it is based on empirical practice.

I love Tantra, because Tantric yogis embrace both unity and duality, both wholeness and opposites. They have realized that these opposites dissolves in Brahma, in Spirit, and that the inner essence of all life and all things is bliss and love.

That is why Tantra is often called the path of ecstasy, or the path of love.

The Essence of Tantric Spirituality

I Love Tantra because of its notion that everything is Divine. This essential realization—that every form, particle or atom of this universe has an inherent capacity to reveal the Divine. That everything is, at its core, God, that is the essence of Tantra.

I love Tantra because of its no-BS spirituality. Tantra realizes that there is no free spiritual lunch. We must engage in a sustained spiritual effort (sadhana) in order to realize this inherent Divinity. No weekend seminar in Hawaii will give you instant enlightenment!

No-BS spirituality means that in order to experience sacredness in everyday life, we must practice spirituality—hatha yoga, meditation, prayer and chanting—diligently. We must walk our spiritual talk. It’s that simple.

In other words, daily spiritual practice is essential in achieving results on the path of Tantra.

I love Tantra, because it signifies a spirituality that is vigorous and fearless, a spirituality that encourages and enables us to overcome limitations, phobias, worries and egotistical tendencies head-on.

I love Tantra because of its alchemical use of energy, its ability to transform desire into bliss, and violence into peace.

For the Tantric understands that all dualities, all conflicts and opposites, all forms and energies are different expressions of God that ultimately dissolve in a state of nondual unity and peace.

I love Tantra for its adherence to nondualism; its ability to see the oneness of everything. In India, both Tantrics and Vedantists are nondualists—they both believe in the Oneness of existence—however, where the Tantrics see the world as Divine, the Vedantists see it as an illusion.

It is perhaps this holistic and practical attitude—that Divinity is everywhere and that sacredness can be realized anywhere—that makes Tantra so appealing to contemporary seekers. At least that is why I really and truly love Tantra.

About Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes was born in Norway and lived for nearly three years in India and Nepal learning directly from the masters of tantric yoga. He has written extensively on tantra, yoga, culture and sustainability, and his articles have appeared in books and numerous magazines and newspapers in Europe and the US. His forthcoming book on Tantra will be published by Hay House India soon. He is currently contributing editor of New Renaissance and a columnist for Fredrikstad Blad, a Norwegian newspaper. He lives in an eco-village in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Visit his blog here: Eight Fold Path. His book Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit: A Personal Guide to the Wisdom of Yoga and Tantra can be purchased here.

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29 Responses to “Why I Love Tantra.”

  1. JenniferKH says:

    beautiful, my friend. I was hoping for a fantastic retort. I agree with you wholeheartedly and echo your love for Tantra. Touching only briefly on the confusion of Tantra with 'sex-tantra', you elaborate on the beauty of true Tantra instead of drawing more attention to the misunderstanding. Much gratitude.

  2. Robert Allen says:

    Ramesh

    Great article, I couldn't agree more. I love tantra too, a lot. Thanks for the awesome post.

  3. Robert Allen says:

    p.s. I took a look at your previous articles here on Elephant and I look forward to reading them. You have a great clarity in your writing.

    • Ramesh says:

      Robert, Synchronistically, in some of my articles here on Elephant, especially in some of the titles, I have used irony, sensationalism, and sarcasm, as well… Sometimes, we need to stir things up a bit, right?

  4. Ramesh says:

    Robert, wonderful to know that there was deep love behind your irony…

  5. Padma Kadag says:

    Hi Ramesh,
    I am posing a question for you…but not just for you; any other persons are welcome to give a response. What compels you to write about Tantra? How is writing about Tantra in a public forum different than how Tantra is revealed "traditionally"? Maybe you see where I am going with this. You seem well versed in a "traditional" application, both intellectually and practically, yet you do discuss openly Tantra. Mind you, there are no secrets being revealed but even laying the ground work for an individual to learn the path of Tantra is important and lays the all important foundation. Does the public forum diminish Tantra's ability to effectively help individual's? Does it intellectuallize an unintellectual path? And so on and so on….What do you think?

  6. Ramesh says:

    Great question, Padma. what I write about Tantra contains mainly historical, philosophical or inspirational insights. I may also, when time premits, write about some of the practical teachings of Tantra, but as your questions indicate, there are certain aspects of Tantric teachings that are only taught by teacher to student, they are taught orally and are secret in order to maintain their potency as oral teachings, thus I cannot write about them.
    So while I can write about certain aspects of Pranayama (breathing exercises), I cannot reveal exactly how it is practiced. That has to be learned from a competent teacher. There is a difference between hatha yoga pranayama and raja yoga pranayma, for example. Although both are tantric practices, raja yoga pranayama is generally taught in secret. There is also Rajadhiraja yoga pranayama, vishesh pranayama, etc. and they are also secret teachings.

  7. Michael Bond says:

    Hey Ramesh,great article! Found you on Elephant, hope everything is well with you, take care!

  8. Padma Kadag says:

    Ramesh…Is the picture of the wood carving in the "ITOUCH MYSELF" article by Waylon depicting masterbation?

  9. [...] Why I Love Tantra | elephant journal. [...]

  10. Annette says:

    On… "Tantra simply means spiritual transformation, the path to inner liberation. Irrespective of religion, the spirit of Tantra is reflected in all genuine spiritual practice. For Tantra is not based on religious faith or belief; it is based on empirical practice." –

    Can't help but think of mystics of all traditions for they are the living tantric beings. Yes, can relate now as my spiritual paradigm is the canvas of 'svatantra madhyamaka – The School of Valid Empiricism'. Whenever I read about the hesitancy of revealing teachings to those whose mind's are not ready, such as concerns esoteric practices in Hinduism and Buddhism (and perhaps to what Padma is referring), I think of the warning of all great teachers, yogins, masters, enlightened ones of not leaping perilously to erroneous conclusions about (what one might THINK) Oneness (or Voidness in T. Buddhism) to be:

    "Absolute truth refers to the appearances of the mind and the material phenomena. This means that every visible or perceivable reality appears as "real" to deluded minds but as "unreal" to enlightened ones. 'Absolute truth' refers to the primordial simplicity that the tradition calls 'inherent voidness'. It represents the ultimate reality of mind and materiality. The concept of voidness is very hard to explain and is even harder to comprehend. The tradition warns meditators against premature conclusions, misconceptions, and improper approach. Voidness must be understood as representing far more than nothingness or the mere absence of (the crude and subtle entities of) the dualistic phenomena. Voidness constitutes the ultimate nature of all phenomena. This voidness affirms all phenomena as being relative. " ( Mahamudra: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation).

    On… "I love Tantra because of its alchemical use of energy, its ability to transform desire into bliss, and violence into peace." :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l-YYqjhVi4

    Thank you Ramesh,
    Annette

    • Ramesh says:

      Annette, You said:
      "Can't help but think of mystics of all traditions for they are the living tantric beings."

      Wonderful, and exactly mirrors my own view about the universal spirit of transformation in all mystical traditions.

      Yes, because one cannot think about Oneness, it goes beyond thinking and can only be experienced.
      But also: I think it is important that Western students of yoga, tantra and Buddhism learn to appreciate the wide spectrum of teachings out there; that some are appropriate for a public yoga studio, some for a public lecture and yet others are more appropriately taught between master and student as part of the oral tradition. Ceratin mantras cannot be learned by reading, they must be heard and pronounced and then only repeated silently in order to maintain their potency as meditation tools. This is not due to dogma, this is due to certain sonic sciences related to mantric sounds, etc.
      Also, many pranayama techniques are very powerful and must be "handled with care" and practiced according to the exact method and when the student is ready. Thus it is not good to share such teachings in books.
      Great youtube video, by the way!

  11. Beautiful article, Ramesh.

    Sometimes our seemingly serious disputes about terminology, approach and history mask the fact that we agree completely on the basic nature of spirituality, which is wonderfully described above.

    What you write above is entirely consistent with YogaDemystified.com. My eBook is from a different perspective and uses a different set metaphors, but the spiritual essence is the same, which is not surprising, since it's heavily influenced by the Tantra-driven writings of Stephen Cope and Rod Stryker.

    Thanks for this beautiful piece. I will make it the next post on Elephant's Facebook page.

    Bob Weisenberg
    ElephantJournal.com

    • Ramesh says:

      Bob, you made my day with your comment above! Just got back from a long walk up to a different mountain top, and then this from you. Wow!
      After all our intense debates and then finally these words from you! Can hardly believe it, Bob.

      This article is in essence rewritten from parts of my book manuscript, which means that I have at least partial approval for this project from my toughest, most tenacious critic. Not bad!

      I gave a talk to a group of yoga teacher students earlier today (Kaoverii's class), and synchronistically one of them mentioned afterward Rod Stryker and how inspired she was by his teachings.

      So, a million humble thanks and Namaskars (or Namastes) to you, Bob, for your kind comments and for promoting this piece on Elephant's Facebook.

      • Ramesh, if there's anything that proves the universality of Tantra wisdom it's that two people like us, one of whom, me, has no credentials whatsoever, and you, who has 36 years of credentials, can still be on the same exact wavelength on core spiritual ideas. All of our robust debates have been about important but, in the end, second level matters.

        I'm anxious to read your book.

        Bob Weisenberg
        YogaDemystified.com

  12. integralhack says:

    Great article, Ramesh. I was instantly reminded of stuff Bob Weisenberg writes and then I saw Bob's post above!

    Naturally the "transformation of desire" aspect of tantra is huge for us practicing Dharma. Alchemical transformation seems much better than abstinence or denial, after all!

    I stumbled a bit over the Taoism/Daoism originating from Tantra, however. Is this a claim that Alain Danielou has made? While I don't think it is impossible, I think it might be challenging to prove that linkage.

    • Ramesh says:

      Matt,
      thanks, too, to you for your nice feedback and for recognizing Bob's spirit in my writing… just great!

      The transformation of lower desires and wants into higher desires and wants and longings is what yoga and tantra is about, definitely not suppression and not denial. Lama Yeshe brilliantly lays this out in his book on Tibetan Buddhist Tantra and that is what I have been taught as well from the Tantra tradition of India.

      Yes, Danielou mentions the Tantra/Tao link as well as Bhattacarya, and I learned from Anandamurti who was a master linguist as well as Tantric master that Tantra became Taota and then Tao in India, and of the early influx of Tantric Indians going into China some 4-5000 BCE and then Indians having to go back to China to relearn certain forgotten Tantric teachings and bring it back to India. But back in prehistory Mongols (and Chinese) would practice Tantra side-by-side with the Indians, so the roots are shared from early on. Vashista, who wrote the yoga Vashista, was one of those went back to China. There is also a close link between Ayurveda and Chinese medicine and traditionally it is believed Ayurveda predates and influenced Chinese medicine, which then developed on its own. Similarly, Chinese words like Chan comes from Dhyan (sanskrit for meditation) and indicates a close linkage.
      I will look up some more sources on this when I have time.

  13. Randall Smith says:

    I am relatively new to yoga, and articles like yours really help to educate folks like me. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Powerful statements that touch on the heart and soul of tantra. Funny you mentioned the O article on Tantric Sex. Was that the one that ran in 2005? If so, I wrote a letter to the editor that was published about it in a subsequent issue.

    Blissings,

    Edie

  15. aramaa says:

    Great write up, Ramesh

  16. kapil says:

    indeed u r good at tantra….i liked ur article and answers….

  17. april says:

    I love Tantra because it helps us delight in all of life…sweet and thank you!

  18. Kashif says:

    Unfortunately many of us who love tantra, only do so for the "overly sexualized" parts and aren't really interested in learning about the deeper spiritual practice. For my own take on what is Tantra, which is in itself a deeply misunderstood term, you can read: http://www.loveandyoga.com/understanding-tantra

  19. [...] based on class discussion this week, I trust I’m on the right path. I’ve read about Tantra, been intrigued and interested I guess…but not really getting it. Put in relation to what I know, [...]

  20. Ramesh says:

    Jennifer, it's amazing, is it not, how people's perception about Tantra is so different. In the West, people thinks its about sex, in India, they think its about magic, which is like saying Catholicism is about drinking wine and eating round potato chips. In the more sophisticated yoga community in the West, people think it's about sacred sex or complicated yogic rituals and kundalini practices. Some have heard about Kashmir Tantra or learned about Osho's version of Tantra. Western yoga historians and scholars proclaim Tantra came "late" on the Indian historical scene, in the Middle Ages to be precise, because that is when Tantric scriptures were written down. In the Indian oral Tantric tradition itself, which Western scholars have yet to really discover or interpret, except perhaps for Alain Danielou, and which I come from, it is understood that yoga is tantra and that its history is at least 7000 years old. So it all depends on one's perspective, background and cultural baggage. So when I say Yoga is Tantra, many raise their eyebrows and some think I am a fanatic or dogmatist. BUT, all I am trying to say is that this perspective is part of the truth, because all of these perspectives are part of the truth, some more so than others, but nevertheless valid perspectives. Yes, tantra is about sex, but it is mostly about being and living a yogic life, about meditation, asana practice, studying sacred texts, and leading a sacred life. About yoga!

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