Although we don’t want to restrict the scope of our investigation to any given approach or tradition, we cannot address the theme of Yoga and sexuality without a major reference to Tantra.
Tantra is generally intended as a self-realization path based on complete acceptation.
Sexuality and other natural instincts are often banned from our conscious awareness by social norms and most spiritual doctrines.
On the contrary, in Tantra the search for peace, knowledge and wellbeing involves a direct confrontation with the body and its primal drives.
The present explosion of sexual content and opportunities makes a lot of people believe they know everything about sex. Despite of that, this central enigma of our life often remains unaddressed. It’s the most exhilarating side of existence, but also the most terrifying!
Tantra claims to offer some tools to reconcile pleasure with love.
Tantrism has ancient roots, and it spreads through the millennia all over Asian cultures and religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and more). In this expansion, it takes on different shapes and forms, and it’s therefore quite pointless (and common) to speak about a true Tantra.
The original meaning of the word Tantra is unknown, as the very idea is a legacy of a pre-Arian culture whose language is lost in time. The various and colourful etymologies presented by modern-day gurus are all likely to be complete bullshit.
Essentially, what Tantra came to mean at the peak of its popularity in the Indian Middle Ages is method, system, instruction manual.
In ancient india, where different schools or Darshanas were contending the best theoretical understanding of reality, there emerges an approach entirely based on practice and experience.
This is the context where Hatha Yoga – the art of praying with one’s own body – was developed.
But Hatha Yoga is but one element of the Tantric universe, whose techniques are not limited to bodily manipulation, and embrace the totality of the human being.
When insistence on physical restraint becomes a fixation, it produces sensorial numbness and mental stiffness. The exact opposite of Tantra, which aims to the complete release of the creative source which lies dormant in each individual.
EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED
A second, inspiring translation of Tantra is fabric.
Tantra is the warp and weft webbing which holds a cloth together.
According to this primeval insight, subjective experience is but a knot in a dense network of dynamic wires and connections, from which the whole universe unfolds.
At birth, one’s consciousness is dissolved throughout this net. The doors of perception are open wide, which makes us learn more in the first twelve months of our lives than in the rest of our earthly existence!
Learning though, means defining stuff. By structuring our identity we trace the borders of our Ego, shearing uncountable links to the benefit of just a few. The adult individual ends up enclosed in a fortress, which soon becomes his prison.
To set ourselves free again, we must allow ourselves to dive back into the Absolute. So Tantra is not really about learning something, but rather about removing filters, bringing down barriers.
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
Now we see why Tantra is often associated with extreme practices. Prison walls cannot be smashed down by kind manners: you need a ram. The Ego is a cunning and stubborn bastard: it needs to be cheated, flattered, challenged, humiliated, drained and bewildered until it’s worn out. At that point only will it see it own void and lower its defences.
Each teacher has his or her own method. Practices can vary depending on the historical age, the culture and the sudden insight.
The uncountable ‘Currents of Tantra’ are often divided into Right Hand Tantra, milder and widely accessible; and Left Hand Tantra, where nothing is spared to dismantle the Ego, opening consciousness to an ecstatic yet overwhelming reality.
We also distinguish between a Red and White Tantra, based on the inclusion or exclusion of the sexual element in the system of practices.
According to Red Tantra, sexual desire is too fierce a beast to be tamed. It shall therefore be cherished as a means of growth.
In Red Tantra sex is the access key to the person’s psycho-physical and inter-personal dynamics. It’s in fact understood that the bulk of the Ego’s defences have arisen throughout the evolutionary process (both of the spices and of the individual) in relation to the reproductive function. With the completion of sexual maturity, the orgiastic drive present in every individual starts clashing against the regulation of sexual behaviour typical of their spices, social group, family, age, etc.
This generates inner conflicts that, buried deep into the unconscious, usually last until death, preventing the subject to derange from his socially defined experiential rail.
This is not negative per se. Pandering to social norms makes life safe and protects from external conflicts. On the other hand though it suffocates consciousness, foreclosing any state of deep and lasting fulfilment.
FEAR NO FEAR
Challenging behavioural schemes we have acquired since early childhood can be scary, and it certainly requires some guts to embrace a tantric path.
Most contemporary western Tantra schools have a relatively mild approach, where each challenge is faced in a reassuring context, encouraging you to only go as far as you feel ready to go. This neo-Tantra welcomes the unique traits of the individual, with the aim of favouring their wellbeing, their enjoyment of life and the prosperity of all their relationships.
Nevertheless, one needs to acknowledge that fear is possibly the most powerful emotion of all (the root of all emotions, some say) and also the sturdiest obstacle we all find to the fulfilment of our life aims. A Tantra that goes about entirely avoiding the conjuring of our fears and the subsequent confrontation with them would be little likely to have any effect at all.
By its very nature, this path lends to be walked in pairs. In all stages of life, the quality of our erotic and sentimental relationships is the core element to our happiness. Quite often though, a relationship is also flawed by destructive dynamics that trouble its harmony and stability.
If you are currently in a relationship, Tantra may offer you and your partner precious tools for growth and communication.
If you are currently single, you may learn to enjoy your present status until it lasts, and auspiciously enter your future engagements.