Popular meaning of Tantra in the West
In recent times Tantra is mistakenly defined as and misunderstood to be a method of only sexual practices. Modern Tantra is often excluded erroneously from yogic practice altogether. This is actually a very restricted view of Tantra. The true meaning of Tantra is that it is a meta-philosophy and a state of being which would integrate the self into the universe and spiritual elevation until one reaches enlightenment. The spiritual aspect of Tantra is completely absent from the modern interpretations.
The core meaning of Tantra
Ordinarily yoga practices involves practicing a number of yoga postures in a specific sequence along with meditation and breath control. These Hatha Yoga practices form a preparatory and preliminary part of Tantra. However Tantra Yoga is more detailed because it transcends beyond the mat and is all encompassing making every aspect of life its own.
To be completely immersed in yoga, to live it is Tantra. The state of being which represents the feminine aspect of the Divine is known as Shakti. Shakti creates life and also celebrates all the aspects of life including sexuality. Western understanding of yoga is goal driven – leading to better health, better mind, and better spiritual plane. This goal driven approach to yoga is masculine. Tantra seeks to realign masculine with feminine and introduces Shakti as a way of receiving life and all that it has to offer instead of working on goal after goal.
What does sex have to do with it?
Tantra recognizes the feminine and masculine energy that coexists in everyone, in all things in this world and the very universe. When performing a sexual act one partner is the embodiment of the feminine or Shakti and the other is masculine or Shiva. Tantric sex is a protracted process and can be thought of as a form of meditation in the pre-orgasmic state. It is a way of using the sexual act to reach higher levels of consciousness rather than depending only one standalone orgasm.
In context of Tantra, love making is thought of as meditation and one allows the sexual energy to be in constant unceasing flow. The partners nurture this energy in each other. This is poles apart from the masculine, pleasure oriented approach to sex; in tantra both partners direct their efforts to achieve oneness.
What is tantric meditation?
Whereas in other systems of meditation there is significance attached to the concentration of the mind and focusing of breath, in Tantra that is dispensed with. There is no confrontation with what arises in our mind but an acceptance and out of that comes liberation. Tantra meditation is a set of practices by using which we expand our mental consciousness and liberate energy. Tantric meditation works together with Kriya Yoga to arouse the consciousness. As the “chakras” are activated energy flows from “muladhara” to “sahasrara” chakra which forms a connection with spiritual energy. By absorbing this energy the Tantra practitioner becomes enlightened and his consciousness is liberated.