June 2005

Overview of Classical Tantra
Komuso Shihan
Master of Koten Bushido
8th Dan

A serious student of tantra should know that the main point of tantra is contained in the very meaning of the term tantra: tan means expansion and tra connotes liberation. Figuratively, it means "The Web" [of Life]. Thus, tantra always refers to liberation through expansion—breaking through personal barriers and courageously going forward toward the healing and enlightenment inherent in Divine Bliss as an individual, as partners, and as a society. Ultimately, tantra is the path of the spiritual warrior (shambhala/avadhuta) that encourages us to fight unceasingly against limited or prejudiced thinking, against inner and outer enemies of genuineness, truth and the Divine Plan, against shallowness. In particular, tantra inspires and teaches us to seek Divine Bliss as opposed to being caught in the cage of merely looking for pleasure and avoiding pain.

It is true that tantra encourages savoring life to its fullest, with its pleasure and pain, beauty and ugliness, living and dying. It is true that tantra teaches us how to go beyond, how to reach the union of these opposites and how to transcend them. It is true that many images used in tantric philosophies and practices to represent these opposites appear to be obviously erotic. However, one should not interpret these images out of context, merely based on the first visual impression.

At its very core, tantra is founded on the philosophical notion that everything sacred--God, Truth, Divine Love--is viewed as having two aspects: male and female, now and then, here and there, self and other-than-self. The continuous relationship between these opposites generates appearances of energy and matter. Our continuous ego-driven interference with our life’s mission sustains the separation of these opposites. Thus, we are caught in the Play (Lila) of energy and mass by holding onto ever-unresolved, infinitely complicated relationships between the opposites created by the Divine Order Itself for our edification and imprisonment in the world of perceived self and other-than-self.

As a system of practice that aims to resolve and go beyond these opposites, tantra naturally endeavors to address the most obvious example: the attraction and relationship between the sexes. In a heterosexual situation, the man embodies a bit more of Cognitive Principle (Male, Yang) than a woman, while the woman embodies a bit more of Operative Principle (Female, Yin) than a man. Tantric techniques help an individual to balance these two principles within and, thus, to reach a state that equally embodies Male and Female, Anima and Animus.

Regular and sincere efforts at joint male/female practice ensure that a sadhakas will gradually move away from animality (pashu) and eventually proceed to the stage of skilled warrior (viira). A viira (brave individual) is a person who has gained control over the six enemies and eight fetters. The six enemies are physical longing (ka’ma), anger (krodha), avarice (lobha), vanity (mada), blind fascination (moha), and jealously (ma’tsarya). The eight fetters (bondages) are hatred (ghrn’a), apprehension (shaunka), fear (bhaya), shyness (lajja’), hypocrisy (jugupsa’), pride of ancestry (kula), vanity of culture (shiila), and egotism (mana).

Sexual rituals constitute an indispensable part of tantra, in the joining and intermingling of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical energies.To attempt a practice of sexual tantra without proper preparatory training is pretty much like studying higher mathematics without first being trained in arithmetic! The experiences must be such that one does not proceed in ignorance, impatience and confusion or without seeking reaching out to Divine Bliss.

Present-day announcements from the proponents of phony ‘new age tantra’ usually cater to particular groups of people. Who is usually attracted to the so-called ‘sexual yoga’? 1) People who need basic sex education, 2) People who desire to go beyond (resolve) their adolescent emotions/notions regarding sex, 3) People who want uninhibited sex packaged as a spiritual practice, 4) People who are ashamed of or are out-of-touch with their sexuality, 5) People who are trying to reconcile their strong and unrestrained sex drive with their spiritual longing. All but the last of these groups are confusing personal fulfillment with spiritual growth. That is why ‘sex tantra’ seminars are necessarily populated by people who are in need of emotional growth and who confuse psychology which seeks to improve their personality in relation to its functions in the world with spirituality (such as genuine tantra) which seeks to free the eternal human soul (atman) from the bondages of the world. A person would qualify for a genuine tantric initiation (tantrikii diiks’a) only after this confusion has been adequately addressed. This is important because the practice of tantra yoga can commence only after an aspirant has procured a tantric initiation under the guidance of a qualified teacher.

 

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