Tantra is the path of waking up to the truth of who we are through the unification of opposites. It is a journey of becoming fully present with ourselves, with our life, in each moment. This process of becoming present is deeply connected to the body. Whereas the mind tends to wander in the past and future, the body is rooted in this moment, here and now.
In Tantra, the body is considered a sacred temple and a gateway into divine consciousness. Sexual energy is revered as the potent life force energy to be cultivated as a vehicle to reach higher states of consciousness and ultimate awakening. Known as the non-dual path, this ancient mystery school embraces the entirety of our being. Both our fears and desires hold precious keys from which we can emerge into wholeness.
Non-dual consciousness is the ultimate realization in Tantra: the fundamental unity of all that exists.
The roots of Tantra reach back to the Indus valley approximately 5,000 years ago as a mystical path that simply yet profoundly embraced the totality of human experience. Desire, fear, passion, love and even suffering were considered direct paths, rather than obstacles, to awakening. This was an extremely radical departure from the formal and puritanical dogma of the Hindu and Buddhist religions of the time where women were forbidden to partake in many rites and the holiest of men were living in solitude seeking liberation through denial of the body. Not only were Tantrikas using their bodies as vehicles for awakening, many of the most enlightened adepts and teachers were women.
The Great Mystery
Many spiritual paths, both ancient and modern, eastern and western have incorporated aspects of Tantra. Many of them even call themselves Tantra and all are extremely different from each other. Which one is the real deal?
This is a path riddled with paradox, requiring immersion into experience rather than intellectual tinkering and for this reason it is impossible to define in a linear context. Like all mystical paths, it is mysterious by nature.
“There are many different types of paths. Some touch you like a gentle spring rain. Tantra is the wild summer thunder storm, churning with creation, destruction, bliss and emptiness.” -Tantric Master, Prem Pranama
Essential Aspects of Tantra
The ultimate truth of our reality is one of unity, interconnection and wholeness. The presence of this truth is hidden by the perceived duality which permeates every aspect of reality. At the core of all duality is the polarized frequency of negative and positive which forms the basis of our experience of reality and of ourselves. By embracing one thing, we reject the opposite and the split creates a separation from unity consciousness. Integrating polarity work is the process of illuminating the fundamental wholeness of existence by bringing unconscious material into awareness and balancing the opposing polarities that form the structure of reality. Enlightenment is often described as the experience of non-dual awareness. Awakening to this awareness can happen suddenly or gradually but is ultimately beyond intellectual comprehension alone. Supreme realization is said to occur on the level of the body, releasing a bliss that vibrates within every cell. In Tantra, every experience and encounter is ripe to catalyze awakening and no aspect of existence is more valuable than another. This is why Tantra is sometimes called the path of Yes.This non-dual openness to all of existence is the ultimate embrace of the totality of life.
In Tantra it is said that “the path is the result, the result is the path“. Rather than clinging to a future goal of awakening, the Tantric path teaches the full immersion of consciousness into this moment here and now as the gateway into the heart of reality. Instead of denying the senses by way of asceticism or compulsively indulging in sensory consumption by way of hedonism, the Tantric approach seeks to cultivate deep connection and present awarenesswithin the dance of the senses, savoring each moment as it flows into the next. In this way, even mundane tasks can become an exquisite meditation. Even painful feelings can be savored as a delicate play of sensations.
This subtle dimension of reality is laced with the sublime and dwells within every aspect of existence.
Desire is the force from which all movement of consciousness originates. To exist is to desire. Desire has been a spiritual predicament for centuries because of its connection to the inherent suffering of existence. We desire, we crave, we grasp for the object of our desire, whatever it may be. If we do obtain the object of our desire, the satisfaction is only momentary before a new focus of want takes the reins of our consciousness. In this tireless cycle we are never truly satisfied as we are constantly bound to the objects we desire. To rid oneself of desire, as some spiritual paths have attempted, is itself a desire. The desire for enlightenment is also a desire. Because desire is so fundamental to existence, Tantrikas practice sadhana, which means to see the world as your desire. To immerse deeply into the state of desiring, rather than projecting it outward onto objects, one can experience the pure intensity, aliveness and incandescence of this endless desire, letting it flow out onto every place which our consciousness touches.
As humans, we are uniquely both animal and spirit. Sexuality exists as the bridge between the two and is fundamental to our nature. Sex is the single defining characteristic that distinguishes Men from Women. We are mammals programmed and prone to biological instincts. Among the incredible technologies of the body, perhaps the most astounding is the creation of a new human life!
Our bodies can also be the conduits for extremely potent states of pleasure and ecstasy. The deep bond and intimacy we experience while making love is unlike any other. It is a direct, physical manifestation of non-dual union. This precious life force energy exists within all of us and is the reason why every single one of us came into existence.
Tantra recognizes the sacredness of sexual energy as the source of creation and as a catalyst to bring us into a state of deep presence as well as union with another and with ourselves.
In Tantric practice, sexual energy is used as a vehicle for awakening. This movement of energy can happen with or without a partner. Once we release the habitual agendas and patterns around sexual expression, such as the goal of orgasm, we can begin to dance this potent and powerful energy up the Sushumna channel where it is transformed into awakened consciousness.
Deep inside the center of the body, there is a vertical channel called the Sushumna that reaches from the base of the spine to the top of the head. This channel is the foundation of our consciousness and the location of our seven energy centers, the chakras. Accessing this channel brings us into direct contact with our subtle core. When we are living from this core, we are living in connection to the depths of our essential self, the consciousness that resonates beyond the personality. The awakened experiences of infinite Love, Wisdom and Serenity all occur when our consciousness is present from within this inner core. In Tantra, the life force energy- Kundalini– is awakened first as sexual energy and then travels up the Sushumna into the higher chakras becoming a spiritual force for awakening. In my experience, this inner energetic core can be tangibly experienced and, with practice, played like an incredibly potent instrument for accessing my essential self as well as intimately connecting to the core of another.