Sometimes it seems that Tantra means as many things as the number of people prepared to comment on it. There are, however, some common elements that makes up most people’s understanding of this spiritual path, starting with the statement that it is a “spiritual path” as opposed to a “religious path”. Religion is a shared experience, a collective path where the adherents subscribe to a set of beliefs, rituals and expected rewards, such as salvation. It is in effect a contract. Spirituality in contrast, is a pathway of discovery, unique to the individual and very often solitary. In its purist sense it requires nothing, there are no rules and it promises nothing but the path itself.
This starting point is crucial since it explains the fluid and individual experience that each one of us has of Tantra and it creates the backdrop for the tantric practice of acceptance. Whilst all religious practices and many so called spiritual paths stipulate a list of rules of what one should and should not do, as well as frequently spelling out the consequences for deviation from this code, Tantra excludes nothing. It instead encourages acceptance of what we are and invites the exploration of what feeds our spirit and what does not without the baggage of preconditioning. As we begin our exploration of acceptance, we come face to face with Tantra’s most notorious and possibly synonymous facet which is it’s embracing of our sensual and sexual energy as a natural and potentially transformative aspect of our being. This is perhaps where Tantra contrasts most strongly with religious practices. It is where it generates most public interest, dismissal, misconception and misuse. It is also the often point where we have the greatest opportunity to begin to heal. It could be likened to the Ashtanga Yoga practice of chikitsa, where a level of healing is offered by the Primary Series before moving deeper to more subtle levels.
To grasp the transformative potential of our sexuality we need to unpack its various aspects. Let’s start with our preconditioning. There are few areas which contribute to how we perceive and interact with the world without and that within than our capacity and perceived right to experience sexual pleasure. From pleasuring ourselves to receiving pleasure from others, we are programmed with a list of what good girls or boys should and should not do, well before we have the ability to filter these “laws”. As we continue through life, through our interaction with the world: peers, media our sexual taboos and desires continues to be shaped, most often contrary to what our core being is crying out for. Our relationship to Sex holds up a powerful mirror to our emotions, needs and attachments, through which we can track where we can move freely and where we are held back. The giving and receiving of touch for example can quickly unveil areas of resistance or difficulties simply being in the moment. Then there is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is one of the most traumatic injuries people inflict on each other. It stands to reason that denying our right to experience sexual pleasure freely without the burden of religious of cultural prejudice only adds to the obstacles that people who have suffered abuse need to overcome to heal and ultimately attain access to sex as a tool of transformation.
…… and if we allow the sexual healing to take place then we begin a journey of realising our full orgasmic potential to take us deep into stillness, into no-mind. Orgasm, along with the moments of our birth and death, are our most accessible gateways to be fully in the present. For a moment, there is no past, no future, so self, no other, there just is. “So what”, you might say, especially if it is so momentary? Through Tantra the orgasm expands; it lengthens and it broadens in quality. It starts to move beyond sex to include others experience, a walk in nature perhaps or a swim in a lake.
Of all spiritual Masters Osho was the most famous and persistent in his invitation for us to drop our condemnation of sex and to shed the cultural preconditioning steeped in religious doctrine. He pointed out the obvious psychological phenomenon, that the harder we try to supress something which is part of our true nature, the more it eats at our being from within. Look no further than at the extensive list of catholic priests who abuse the vulnerable in their care. On the contrary, by fully embracing our capacity for pleasure, we step into bliss and eventually move beyond sex into meditation as a higher, more permanent and amplified experience of bliss that is samadhi.
In conclusion, Tantra is an experiential spiritual path, where we strip away our conditioning and trauma until we expose our naked, authentic being. We cast off the armour which obscures or distorts our sensations like we could cast off shoes and step barefoot onto wet grass – immediately the sensation grabs us. This allows us to then meet each interaction and experience with the response it deserves without the projections of past trauma. Tantra takes us home, back to nature and back to ourselves and allows us to step into the void that is our own being.