"Tantra shows that within every moment of our lives-within every feeling and thought and activity-are contained deep and powerful truths which, if examined in a clear light, can lead to true freedom." --Marc Allen
In Sanskrit the word tantra, means "expansion" or "weaving." We invoke the Tantric spirit by expanding our ways of giving and receiving sexual energy. Tantric Buddhism developed in India in the region of Bengal in the fifth through thirteenth centuries C.E. during a time of tremendous chaos, invasions, wars, and epidemics. Tantric Buddhism, which is a continuation of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhism, arose outside the Buddhist monasteries as a protest movement by the people who felt that desire, passion, and ecstasy should be included among spiritual practices.
The Tantrics made the brave and daring assertion that enlightenment can be found in all activities including those that were forbidden; so it has always been controversial. The criticism that Tantrism is degenerate is countered by the assertion of its adherents that greed, ignorance, and aggression are the degenerate pitfalls of Buddhism, not ecstasy. In the Tantric view, prudishness can be a form of aggression. There is a possibility of decadence in Tantric practices if the goal is compassion is forgotten, and hedonistic adventurism takes precedence. To counter this, the Tantric teacher insists on a sense of responsibility.
Sufism resembles Tantrism, and was probably influenced by it, since both traditions share the image of the lover and the beloved as characters in the sacred play of the divine. Taoism includes Tantric elements. There was a parallel development in Hinduism that emerged from communities devoted to the feminine goddess, Shakti. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there is no mention of a feminine divinity: she appeared with the tantric texts.
There are very old chthonic elements in Tantrism, which emphasizes the awakening of the kundalini or divine energy, symbolized by the rising of a sleeping serpent at the base of the spine. An East Indian would never say "I thought it" of an inner revelation. To them the revelation comes from the Gods.
Tantrism celebrates and honours the body in all its human functions, including sexual intercourse. Sexual union is practiced as part of the initiation process and as an ongoing ritual for the purpose of bringing about religious transformation and providing a bridge between humanity and divinity. Exponents of the tradition say embodiment is not a "soul" in a "body," but rather a multi-layered mind-body continuum of corporealness, affectivity, cognition, and spirituality whose layers are subtly interwoven and mutually interactive. The Tantric goal is to maintain a clear realization of emptiness in the midst of passion. Tantrism offers many exotic rituals and methods such as feasts, poetry, dance, song, and the use of meat and alcohol, and many practices for partners.
The enlightened mind is a natural state of being fully present in the moment with no thoughts to interfere with the clarity of the next moment of awareness. Tantrists and other pan-Buddhists meditate on Avalokitesvara, who is the "Lord who regards the cry of the world." In China, the Goddess of mercy, Kuan-yin, is a similar figure because she gives compassion. The gurus in Tantrism can be male or female. Today, the Tantric Buddhist or Hindu of India enjoys the continuity of a very ancient, aboriginally influenced tradition.
In the Tantric view, there is clarity to any sense experience or emotion when it first arises, but then the clarity is obscured by judgments. There is no need to prevent thoughts from arising, one simply appreciates the true nature of mind in the experience of the moment. The language of Tantric texts contains veiled allusions and metaphors. This ambiguity provides a superficial meaning for the ordinary person, and many layers of hidden meanings to the initiate. This twilight language is used to alter the consciousness of the disciple and to produce more compassion and wisdom. For example, the texts often refer to the union of a lotus and and a vajra, or diamond scepter. Clearly, these are metaphors. They can be interpreted as referring to psychic processes such as the uniting of wisdom and compassion, or bliss and emptiness. Simultaneously they can mean bringing together the female and male organs in physical union. The multiple meanings are all intended.
If there is any interest, I will follow with Contemporary uses and "How to Begin.
Happy Awareness To All.