The Roots of Tantra: Sarita’s Blog

Sarita talks frankly about misconceptions about Tantra, the roots of Tantra in India, how it spread to other countries and created other lineages, and how Tantra is in the world today.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

Part of my mission in teaching Tantra is to clear up misconceptions about it. When I moved to Europe in 1999, having spent 26 years in India, I was amazed to find out that most people seemed to believe that Tantra was all about sex and promiscuity with a few feathers and some incense thrown in for good measure. The general public still carry such concepts, and some even think that Tantra is a code word for a massage with a ‘happy ending.’ How did these misconceptions happen?

Tantra scriptures were first translated into English during Victorian times. The Victorians were so prudish, that they used to cover the legs of tables with cloths, believing that the legs of the table were too sexually suggestive. In this milieu, when translators realized that sex was accepted and used as part of spiritual discipline in Tantra, they freaked out, and dubbed it ‘The Cult of Sex.’ That unfortunate label has stuck until today. I offer here a little reality check.

Meanings of The Word Tantra

Tantra is a Sanskrit word, which has several meanings.

1.To weave
2.Transformation
3.Transformation of poison into nectar
4.Methods for transformation

The meaning connected to weaving is profound. As you weave two opposite threads are brought together to create one cloth. It is a universal law of life, that when you consciously bring any two opposites together, Godliness is experienced. Tantra methods play with bringing together all opposite polarities in a conscious creation dance.

The alchemy of transformation happens when a base substance is transmuted through the fire of our awareness into its divine aspect. The transformation of poison into nectar has to do with using Tantra methods to transmute those areas of human life that are normally considered to be pitfalls, such as animalistic sexuality, emotions, ego-mind, power trips, etc.

In the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra, a 5000-year-old scripture, Lord Shiva answers questions on life, love and spirituality from his consort Paravati. Each of his 112 answers opens a portal into spiritual awakening through a method of meditation. These methods cover each and every aspect of human life. Most major religious traditions of our world have their roots in one or more of these methods.

History of Tantra

Ardhanareshvara

Tantra weaves together the masculine and feminine paths

Tantra can be traced back before recorded history, probably originating in India. There were two religions; one worshipped the feminine as the deity, and the other worshipped the masculine as the deity. Eventually, these two religions melted into each other, coming to the wise conclusion that God is both male and female, Shiva and Shakti. The merged deity is called Ardhanareshvara, God as half man half woman.

In the Shiva Puranas, (ancient Tantra Scriptures) there is a description of a civilization which thrived 60,000 years ago called the Assours. They were known to be masters of sun technology and had three great cities, one of those cities being in a large space ship, another one in the sea, and a third on land. They were devotees of Shiva, and enjoyed pleasure and sexuality as an integral part of life.

They were unconquerable till a devious trick was played on them. A spy was sent to become a servant in the court of the sky city. This servant appeared as a holy person who was dedicated to the celibate path. Slowly but surely, he managed to convince a great number of Assours that it was preferable to be celibate for spiritual advancement, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sex. The more the Assour people devoted themselves to the celibate path, the weaker they became, and could at last be conquered.

Enslaving Humanity Through Sexual Repression

This story may or not be true, who knows? But it is certainly symbolic of what has happened to humanity. When we allow our root energy, our sexuality, to be trimmed or cut, we become like Bonsai Trees, dwarves rather than giants. We cannot access our full strength and potential. I believe this has been done with foresight by those whose aim it is to enslave human beings. The experiment has been very successful! In fact, the real fall from grace, the real expulsion from the Garden of Eden, has been the moral judgement and disrespect of our genitals as our primary life force. Our God or Goddess nature can only be experienced if we embrace all of who we are with full acceptance.

Tantra Essence

Expressing the wild power of the divine feminine

Part of the enslavement has taken the form of repressing the feminine power (Shakti). By repressing and condemning sex, and particularly giving no space for feminine sexual wildness and abandonment, we have cut ourselves off from our potential for ecstasy and fulfilment. In the book, ‘The Vagina’, by Naomi Wolf, she points out that woman’s sexuality is directly linked to her spiritual potential. When we don’t know how to access our full flowering of sexual passion, we are but a pale shadow of what we could become as women and as Goddess.

When a woman’s sexual power is dormant, a man does not feel fully received by her, and thus senses himself to be ‘cast out of the garden’. He wanders aimlessly, not finding a homing signal through anchoring in the divine feminine. This creates inner conflict, leading to outer conflict and war. Someone is only ready to die for their country if they are not sexually fulfilled. If fulfilment is the status quo, we will not be able to subscribe to war as a sane concept. Fulfilling sexuality opens the way for life affirmation. Sexual frustration leads to a death wish.

Tantra Transmission

Master Atisha

Master Atisha

Throughout the ages, Tantra teachings have sometimes been at the forefront of society, and each time this happened, the society would flower into great creativity and joyous fulfilment. Other times, Tantra would be repressed by the political or religious rulers of those periods. Being such an ancient science of life, Tantra has found ways of moving undeterred, underground. For many thousands of years, the Tantra lineage has remained unbroken, branching into several varied approaches. Much of the transmission has happened through matriarchal lines, being passed down from mother to daughter.

There have also been many great Male masters, each one leaving their own unique stamp in the breadth, depth and height of the Tantra Tree. Some of the greatest names still resound to this day;

Shiva Shakti, Abhivanagupta, Goraknath, Saraha, Tilopa, Atisha, the Baul Mystics, to name a few. Osho has spoken on several of these great masters and their teachings and for the person who really loves Tantra, I highly recommend reading Osho’s books on this subject. One of my co-teachers, Chintan, has created a series of groups based on the exquisite poetic teachings of some of these masters.

Tantra; Ancient and Modern

For thousands of years, India has been on the cutting edge of research into the expansion of human consciousness. Mystics, scholars and masters have poured their genius into defining the mysterious world of enlightenment. Tantric research into human existence has reached to a pinnacle of comprehension, which is both simple and elegant.

Tantra Essence

Tantra honours the masculine and feminine equally

Each cell of our body contains the whole universe. The microcosm contains the macrocosm. Sex and Samadhi are one. Male and female are complementary aspects of one whole, as is day and night, in-breath out-breath, birth and death, and all other contradictory elements that make up our dual world.

The feminine path of love and devotion merged with the masculine path of awareness and witnessing is the Tantra life approach. It is a homecoming, helping us to relax into what is, with wise acceptance and compassionate love. It has deep roots into the past, and simultaneously offers a pioneering vision for our future.

Osho says: “Tantra is a very revolutionary concept—the oldest and yet the newest. Tantra is one of the oldest traditions and yet non-traditional, even anti-traditional, because Tantra says unless you are whole and one, you are missing life altogether. You should not remain in a split state, you must become one.”

Understanding Tantra Lineages

Traditionally, Tantra has always been passed on in the form of an experiential transmission. The Master devises situations and methods of meditation to help the disciple awaken their inner sensitivity, awareness, fluidity and love. The quality of the Tantra transmission is dependent on the depth of experience carried by the teacher. We can only pass on what we have lived deeply.

There are many streams of Tantra based on the experience of one or more masters of that lineage. Here, I describe seven main streams.

Kashmiri Tantra honours Shiva and Shakti and offers a unique blend of the female path of love and devotion with the male path of witnessing and awareness. In this lineage, love as a spiritual path is respected. There are many techniques, some of which use sexuality for awakening, and others focus on any other aspect of human experience such as senses, emotions, mental cognition and subtle spiritual states.

Tantra Yoga is ascetic and male oriented. Adepts of this path use yogic disciplines and some may also engage in sexual union but are encouraged not to fall in love or to move into relationship. Sexual union is used like a rocket to move into heightened spiritual states.

Aghori Tantra explores heightened spiritual states through Yogic Siddhis, special powers, offering the transcendence of physical limitations, including death. Some of their practices appear extreme, such as meditations and rituals done in burning ghats, where the dead are cremated.

Tantra Essence

The Baul Mystics of Bengal

The Baul Mystics of Bengal bring together Tantra, Bhakti, (devotional worship) and elements of the Sufi Tradition to offer a singing, dancing and celebrative path, which pulsates with living wisdom and joy.

Tibetan Tantra is a unique blend of the ancient Shamanic Bonn tradition, Buddhism, and Indian Tantra coming from the lineage of Saraha. In a nutshell, it focuses on transcendence of the wheel of birth and death, offering a magnificent tapestry of refined wisdom.

Chinese or Taoist Tantra, as it is commonly called, focuses on the dimensions of health, longevity, and immortality through massage, sexual union, qigong and breathing techniques. Traditional Taoist medical doctors would commonly prescribe sexual positions and ways of lovemaking for curing physical health issues.

Neo-Tantra is a term coined by Osho to describe his vision of a world based on the Tantra approach to life, love and spirituality. Many Neo-Tantra practitioners are not even aware that the term came from Osho and there are many varied experiments happening under this umbrella (some of which have very little to do with Osho or Tantra).

Renaissance of Tantra

Tantra festivals are happening all over the world!

Tantra festivals are happening all over the world!

If you can find a teacher in whose presence your heart feels like it is growing wings, and you begin practising Tantra meditations, this combination will awaken your inherent wisdom, supporting you to reclaim your original state of oneness.

Tantra is now experiencing a renaissance all over the world. One example of this is the number of Tantra festivals springing up like mushrooms in many places. This year alone, there have been Tantra festivals in Thailand, England, France, Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Holland. At the end of November, there will be a Tantra Festival in India. This is great news! Tantra has made almost a full circle around the world and is already returning back to its homeland; the snake eating its tail.

Like rain to thirsty earth, the Tantra vision nourishes the wholeness of life, embracing human nature as a magnificent expression of universal energy. It offers an intelligent way for us to move forward into the new dawn of human consciousness.

Recommended Reading

  • Tantric Quest: An Encounter With Absolute Love by Daniel Odier
  • The Book of Secrets by Osho
  • The Beloved Volumes 1 and 2 by Osho
  • The Tantra Experience by Osho
  • The Tantra Transmission by Osho
  • Tantric Transformation by Osho
  • Tantra: The Supreme Understanding by Osho
  • Die Yogi Die, by Osho
  • Kali’s Odiyya: A Shaman’s True Story of Initiation by Amarananda Bhairavan
  • The Vagina by Naomi Wolf
  • Sexual Secrets by Nik and Pennny Slinger
  • Divine Sexuality by Mahasatvaa Sarita

One response to “The Roots of Tantra: Sarita’s Blog”

  1. Yoga Bija says:

    Thank you!

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