July 7, 2010

Why I Hate Tantra. ~ Robert Allen

What begins as the sacred almost always degenerates to self help.

I too dislike it:  there are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.  ~ Marianne Moore

The 7th century tantric practitioner in ancient India drawing yantras and intoning mantras to merge with the Divine has now merged with weekend seminars for couples on freedom through sexual expression. One thing always becomes another. And what it becomes usually has a dollar sign attached.

Since when does a spiritual system cost money, and lots of money?

Since the promise of quick sex and a quick fix.

We like quick fixes in America. Rugged individualism and manifest destiny can turn easily to entitlement. We want it, and we want it now. And we don’t want to have to work for it. We’re a Burger King culture (have it your way), and want everything served up on a bun, we want instant gratification. We want instant sex.

That said, I hate tantra. But not for those reasons. They’re just the surface of the theological iceberg.


I was a tantra teacher. I loved tantra, the continuum of the web of being. I joyed in it. I talked of nothing else and came to be known as “that tantra guy.” I appreciated the moniker as a fun side of pride, but something was wrong, something was missing. Being that tantra guy wasn’t enough.

Having a “spiritual job” was diluting my personal practice; the work kept me focused on the practices of others and their personal victories of spirit. And as I listened to them, I had stopped listening to myself.

I had forgotten my foundation. It was time to step away from the front of the classroom, and into the back.

Since I stepped away from the front of the class, these are the things that I’ve learned:

Neo-tantra, often referred to as sacred sexuality, is not tantra.

Tantric practice includes rubbing yourself with ashes of cow dung, baptism by ensanguination, and f*cking on dead bodies. That’s tantra. It’s not all about sex. It’s not f*cking everyone you meet.

Tantra is a religion. Tantra uses mantra, magical symbols, energy work and visualization rituals to aid the practitioner in blending with the divine within and without.

Neo-tantra picks and chooses a bit, which is fine, but completes itself in sex, not liberation.

Tantra is liberation theology, a mystic entwining of the poles with the human body. Tantra is the vast embrace of Shakti and Shiva, the work the ritual, the bliss the reward.

Neo-tantra is a natural ideal. The sensual focus on your partner, the slowing of the need for climax, and learning the courses and curves of each other’s bodies is a beautiful experience. This embrace of the sacred teaches us respect and love for our bodies and spirit. But it’s not tantra.


Maybe it’s new wine in old bottles, maybe I’m tired and cranky. Maybe I’ve had one too many “tantric hugs,” creepily, with the ahhhhhhhh and ohhhhhh released during the sexualized inapproriate embrace.

Maybe I’m over it, maybe I needed a change, or maybe I shouldn’t teach, but be taught. Maybe I need a guru, the man or woman that represents, in no uncertain terms, God. Is God.

So what to so in a country, a hemisphere, that has no gurus? Make it up. Make it easy. Water it down like strong wine.

I really really hate tantra.


As a teacher, I was pleased with my work. As a householder I am pleased with my life, my love, the world.

I’m not saying one can’t exist without the other, I’m not saying those who charge for their wisdom and grace are wrong. I’m saying that I can’t do both.

Grace descends for me now; now I can live in surrender, practice and bliss.

There is a tantric concept known as pratyabhijna, meaning recognition of your own true nature. Perhaps we do, or don’t need a guru or teacher for that. Sometimes, our holiest moment is the easiest, sometimes it comes with hard work. In the end, there is nothing to seek but ourselves.

In the meantime, I hope I know what I am and where I am going. I’m me and I’m with the divine. Which was really always true anyway.

Robert Allen is a writer and teacher in the realm of relationships and the men’s movement. His articles have been distributed widely on the internet. He’s the author of the Integrity Pledge, a five part pledge  for men who love women, and want to love them better.

Robert lives in northern California with his wife, elephant journal columnist Lasara Allen, and two daughters.

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