What is Tantra? I have been asked this question on numerous occasions & every time it seems it always expands but never really changes in essence. I AM often amazed by the perceptions reflected in what people think & say of it. “Can you do Tantra to me? Can you give me some Tantra?”, they ask these questions as if it is something of a material thing to be exchanged or bought on the new modern day meat market. They think it is just about SEX or at least how to have better sex, but originally it was so much more than what it has come to mean to many people who do not really know what it means because it is so far removed from us in history. Yet it is also so much less in depth than it has come to mean colloquially here in the West.

TANTRA, from the ancient Sanskrit language of India, literally means the Great Liberation. It is a way of life, a way of spiritual transcendence that is a part of the yoga philosophy of pre-Aryan Vedantic India when it was considered a to be one of the great nations of the Ancient Kushite Empire, with connections to Phoneicia, Sumer, Egypt & Canaan, etc. The Tantras, practically speaking, were also part of a body of literature that explained the discipline of yoga from a very different perspective than most suppose. And contrary to popular belief, the Kama Sutra is far removed from those ideas that originally composed this philosophy. It had sexual and erotic content of course but this was not & is not ALL of what Tantra is, despite what it appears to have become in the western mind. It was filled with the sciences of the material world as well as the world of the spirit without being confined in its discussion to one over the other like in the world we now know. Cultural awareness & technological advancements lived side by side without conflict. Indoor toilets & pools were the norm long before the establishment of the Greek or Roman Empires entered the world scene.

Like many of the words in the languages of these ancient times, there were also several layers to the meaning of the word Tantra & so by extension it can also mean, “to weave”, “to expand” as well as it aforementioned meaning concerning spiritual transcendence. The term yoga, itself means “to yoke”, “to bind”, “to join”, “to link” or otherwise “mesh” or “weave together”. The arts of weaving, pottery & agriculture are preeminently created by women during the matriarchal period of humanity when Tantric elements thrived. In our modern English, when people use the root of the word to express an adjective tense that is descriptive of it they say, “It is Tantric”. That is to say that it is of or having to deal with the philosophy of Tantra. Ancient India was at one time a nation whose spiritual guides were tantric.

The foundations of Tantra also resides in reflective & meditative practices, such as breath control exercises & the development of a very acute awareness & respect for life in all of its forms. There is no high or low, better or worse than in the philosophy of Tantra…creation has no mistakes…life events are not haphazard or devoid of lesson to take from every situation. “I rise by that which makes me fall”, is a golden edict that has survived in Tantric literature. It is amongst truest of holistic ideals that have ever existed.

In Tantra, the female practitioners who are the founders of it were called tantrikas (female practitioners of the Tantras) or sadhakas (disciples), amongst other names too extensive to list here. And theirs was, and still is a philosophy wherein the worship of feminine divinity, i.e., the Goddess was pre-eminent. Men, in this tradition worshiped women as the representatives of this feminine divinity, called Shakti, and everything in and as creation was considered to be simply parts of the one that made them. They were understood to be expressions of her body… even men. We see this in such sacred texts as the Shaktisangama Tantras, where it is said, “Woman is the Creator of the Universe. The Universe is her form. She is the true form of the body, no matter what form it takes. Whether in the form of a man or a woman is the superior form. In woman is the form of all things. In all that lives and moves in the world…” They represented ideas like this in their sacred poetry and their religious visual art which in their temples often had erotic content because it saw that even this act as not only being sacred but the most sacred act that one could perform. The enjoyment of sexual bliss was seen as one in the same with the Universal Bliss of Enlightenment that the wise sages of old sought for.

But then, men’s hearts became cold. A shift from the agricultural, freedom loving social orders of patriarchy left us with a buried legacy in almost every nation, that must be exhumed by those who wish to revive this way of life. I am amongst them who is a practitioner of this way of life, beginning with its discipline of yoga & meditation, but I have also been trained in the sacred sexual arts that are a part of it. I am amongst those men who remember when women also worshiped them as her consort, Lord Shiva. And I think that I have been made a better man because of it or at least I would like to hope so. In history, though, ancient India was overrun by the alpha male dominant nomadic invaders from the north & many of her temples were burned, razed to the ground & her followers were scattered & oppressed by an Iron Age of patriarchal rule. This kind of thing has happened ALL over the world & not just in this instance. One of the most famous sacred sexuality temples & one of the few remaining of them is called Mohenjo Daro & it looks a lot like some of my erotic drawings, only they are in megalithic sculptures of stone. A social system was forcibly introduced that divided the people into castes based on race, status and bigotry replaced the open society that once flourished on the banks of River Ganges. Being left no course but to go underground, the temple priestesses & their consorts met secretly & even persuaded some of their invaders to join them in their ritual circle meetings called puja where every man & woman was equal & worthy of reverence devotion & love.

There are very few authentic teachers of Tantra these days & many less real practitioners. I do not say this with any sense of arrogance. It is simply a flat fact. I AM glad that I keep getting asked this question because I realize that I have yet to provide an exhaustive & comprehensible answer for the earnest seeker & that means that I AM still after over a decade of study & practice, still learning. Don’t get me wrong, I AM not saying that Tantra is not about sex & sexuality. But I AM saying that it is not ALL of what it is about. What it is ALL about is the respect for life in ALL of its forms. So until such time as I reach the fullness of my walk with the Great Liberation, I will keep living, teaching & sharing what Tantra is & has been for me…the most enriching & enlivening element of my life.