of the most distinctive things about Tantra is its insistence
that spirit and matter are aspects of one whole. Unlike
some forms of yoga in which the seeker separates the
watching consciousness from the world, Tantra urges
a synthesis. Some yogas look away from the world; Tantra
sees the world in a new aspect. Some yogas seek liberation
from the world; for Tantra, liberation is in
the world. Some yogas denigrate the body or damage it
with ascetic practices; Tantra sees it as a microcosm
of the universe and a chariot to liberation.
contrasts the two approaches this way:
yoga one has to fight; it is the path of the warrior.
On the path of tantra one does not have to fight at
all. Rather, on the contrary, one has to indulge --
but with awareness.
is suppression with awareness; tantra is indulgence
says that whatsoever you are, the ultimate is not
opposite to it. It is a growth; you can grow to be
the ultimate. There is no opposition between you and
the reality. You are part of it, so no struggle, no
conflict, no opposition to nature is needed. You have
to use nature; you have to use whatsoever you are
to go beyond.
yoga you have to fight with yourself to go beyond.
In yoga, the world and moksha, liberation --
you as you are and you as you can be -- are two opposite
things. Suppress, fight, dissolve that which you are
so that you can attain that which you can be. Going
beyond is a death in yoga. You must die for your real
being to be born.
the eyes of tantra, yoga is a deep suicide. You must
kill your natural self -- your body, your instincts,
your desires, everything. Tantra says accept yourself
as you are. It is a deep acceptance. Do not create
a gap between you and the real, between the world
and nirvana. Do not create any gap. There is
no gap for Tantra; no death is needed -- rather a
transcendence. For this transcendence, use yourself...
ordinary mind is being destroyed by its own desires,
so yoga says stop desiring, be desireless...
says be aware of the desire; do not create any fight.
Move into desire with full consciousness, and when
you [do], you transcend it.2
Taking a more analytical view, noted scholar Georg
Feuerstein writes that most schools of Tantra share
the following characteristics:
initiation and spiritual discipleship with a qualified
the belief that mind and matter are manifestations
of a higher, spiritual Reality, which is our ever-present
the belief that the spiritual Reality (nirvana) is
not something distinct from the empirical realm of
existence (samsara) but inherent in it;
the belief in the possibility of achieving permanent
enlightenment or liberation while still in the embodied
the goal of achieving liberation/enlightenment by
means of awakening the spiritual power -- called kundalini-shakti
-- dormant in the human body-mind;
the belief that we are born many times and that this
cycle is interrupted only at the moment of enlightenment,
and that the chain of rebirth is determined by the
moral quality of our lives through the action of karma;
the assumption that we live at present in the Dark
Age (kali-yuga) and that therefore we should avail
ourselves of every possible aid on the spiritual path,
including practices that are deemed detrimental by
the belief in the magical efficacy of ritual, based
on the metaphysical notion that the microcosm (i.e.,
the human being) is a faithful reflection of the macrocosm
(i.e., the universe);
the recognition that spiritual illumination is accompanied
by, or creates access to, a wide array of psychic
powers, and a certain interest in the exploitation
of these powers both for spiritual and material purposes;
the understanding that sexual energy is an important
reservoir of energy that should be used wisely to
boost the spiritual process rather than block it through
an emphasis on first-hand experience and bold experimentation
rather than reliance on derived knowledge.3
to one authority we consulted, tantra means "web"
or "woof" in Sanskrit, suggesting Tantra's
view that reality is a seamless whole, a continuum,
a woven fabric that includes all possible threads: spirit
and matter, truth and appearance, nirvana and samsara.4
Another source defines tantra as "loom,"
conveying the idea that Tantra is a technique for stretching
ourselves, for extending our capacity for attention
to the utmost.5
India, Tantra claimed to supersede orthodox Vedic teachings
for practitioners of a new decadent age. Unsurprisingly,
orthodox Hindus tend to think of Vedic and Tantric teachings
as complimentary or opposed. But in fact, many of the
mainstream practices that people think of as Vedic were
Buddhism, the influence of Tantra is heaviest in Tibetan
Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism.
The illustration is a seventeenth-century Nepalese Shri
yantra reproduced from the cover of Tantra: The Path
of Ecstasy by Georg Feuerstein. Unattributed parts
of this essay rely heavily on the introduction to the
same book. See below for bibliographic information.
Osho, The Book of Secrets: The Science of Meditation,
page 17. This book is described below.
Feuerstein, Georg, "Traditional
Tantra and Contemporary Neo-Tantrism." On the
website of the Yoga Research and Education Center.
Feuerstein, Georg, Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy,
page 1. This book is described below.
Roche, Lorin, The Radiance Sutras.This book has
not yet been published, but parts of it can be read
the author's website.