“What is Tantra?”
Tantra is an ancient esoteric science of transformation, leading to self-realization and enlightenment. The Tantras are ancient Indic scriptures detailing the philosophy and practice of that science. Parallels exist in China in the practical and philosophical Taoist traditions, in Greece in the Western Mysteries, and in various shamanic traditions the world over.
Is tantra a religion?
No. Tantra itself is not a religion, though its seven-plus millennia-old worldview has informed Judaism, Catholicism, Gnostic Christianity, Bon, Buddhism, and of course, Hinduism.
The Sanskrit word Tantra translates roughly to “web” or “loom,” and refers to interconnectedness of all matter, energy, and consciousness, predating similar views in western science (most notably in quantum physics and astronomy) by many thousands of years.
How is tantra practiced?
Tantra has over twelve major areas of practice (yogas) within its complete system. In the sex-obsessed West, Tantra has become synonymous with maithuna (tantric ritual sexuality), which is only a part of one of these twelve disciplines. A true tantric yogi studies and practices several of the disciplines to some degree. The new-age “Neo-Tantra” popularized in California is a fabrication – a distorted fragment of a complete system, which in Hindu Tantra includes:
Hatha Yoga, Vamamarga Tantra Yoga (including Maithuna), Dakshina Marga Tantra Yoga (including Sri Vidya), Laya Yoga, Mahavidya Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Nidra Yoga, Nada Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Mantra Yoga (Japa), and Yantra Yoga, among others…
“What is Yoga?”
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj , “to yoke, to harness.” In authentic usage, yoga means “union”, or any spiritual practice of self-discipline that quiets the mind (manas), and stills the senses (indriya) in order to achieve self-realization or enlightenment. In the traditional view, enlightenment requires both internal (microcosmic or human) “effortless control” and external (macrocosmic or universal) grace. There are many forms of yoga:
- Hatha Yoga: The word Hatha is derived from two roots: HA means sun and THA means moon (hatha is the yoga of balancing and controlling the yang/ yin principles). Hatha yoga is also known as the Way of Force. It consists of postures (asanas, or “seats of meditation”), muscle locks (bandhas), attitudes or gestures (mudras) breath control (Pranayama), fundamental techniques of purification (Kriya), and methods of mental concentration. Hatha yoga is used in the Ayurvedic tradition for health and physical development, and in the Tantric tradition for spiritual development. The classic texts of Tantric hatha yoga are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Hatha Yoga Ratnavali, the Siva Samhita, the Goraksha Samhita, and the Gerandha Samhita, and most importantly, much information is transmitted only through “oral” tradition – which is really the personal transmission of communications, feelings, expressions, postures, movements, attitudes and energy which cannot be transmitted by texts. All physical yoga is an offshoot of the hatha yoga tradition. Each recent school has left its name on a set of excercises extracted from this vast tradition.
What are “Bikram Yoga”, “Ashtanga Vinyasa”, Viniyoga, Iyengar Yoga, Power Yoga, Integral Yoga, Sampoorna Yoga, Mysore Yoga, Yin Yoga, etc.?
These are all brand names for the trademarked hatha yoga exercise sets of different hatha yoga masters/businessmen, such as Bikram Choudhury, Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and numerous others — they are all personal versions of Hatha yoga!
- Tantra Yoga: (tantric sexuality, tantric sex, etc.) Yoga of love, sexuality, and effortless control and transformation of the sexual energy. Transmutation & Sublimation of the energy from the lower centers to the higher ones. The Union of Shiva & Shakti (or masculine and feminine/ universal and telluric energy). The mastery and transmutation of sexual energy. Transfiguration of the self and of the beloved.
- Laya Yoga: (“Kundalini Yoga”) meditation of awareness of the resonance of the body and mind (microcosm) with the universe and beyond (macrocosm), using internal mantra, visualization, and more. Absorption!
- Mahavidya Yoga: the yoga of resonance with the Cosmic Powers (the Great Knowledge)
- Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of superior intellectual knowledge and wisdom. It implies a perfect self-knowledge, an objective analysis, which leads to the spiritual awakening. The practitioner stops identifying him-/herself with the body, psyche, mind and ego.
- Raja Yoga: The Yoga of intensive mental concentration; profound meditation and absolute control over the mind. It implies observation of ethical and moral codes, an absolute control over the senses, and perfect concentration and meditation. The eight limbs in Patanjali’s (vedantic) raja yoga are: Yama – the ethic code; Niyama – the moral code; Asana – physical poses; Pranayama – breathing control; Prathyahara – interiorization; Dharana – mental concentration; Dhyana – meditation; Samadhi – ecstasy.
- Nidra Yoga: The Yoga of conscious sleep and astral projection.
- Nada Yoga: The Yoga of attention to internal and/or external sound, including music and performace of music. Internal sound, or Nada, in bindu and anahata, is the final focus in Laya / kundalini yogas.
- Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of complete devotion – this can be devotion to one’s family, to society, to a higher power, to the guru, to the destitute, or to all sentient beings/creation, etc…
- Karma Yoga: Yoga of detached actions of service, without seeking return or reward. It implies consciously undertaking an action for its own sake, not for the sake of its result.
- Mantra Yoga (Japa): The yoga of sound repetition using certain syllables, words, or phrases (aloud or inwardly) which carry a specific energy or resonance.
- Yantra Yoga: Use of concentration on , receptivity to , and visualization of an archetypal, symbolic image, and identification with its specific energies.
- Taoist Yoga & Qi Gong: Parallel Yogas from the Taoist Chinese esoteric systems.