It is not necessary to believe in God to be a tantrik. When I say ‘God’, I mean the popular connotation of the term: A benevolent force which loves us all, controls everything on the planet and is ultimately fair and just. I simply cannot embrace this concept. Not when I see people being murdered, women and children being raped, the planet being environmentally destroyed, war and injustice being the order of the day. How many Wall Street executives got sent to jail for their role in the 2008 global financial crisis? How many of the victims got compensated and had their lives restored? This is only a fraction of what I’m talking about.
I studied International Development and am myself from a colonial background. Not the side which did the colonizing of course; the other side that suffered. I am fortunate enough to be descended from parents who endured and then successfully overcame poverty. I am of the generation which had enough to eat, study and think critically. I even got to migrate to Canada on a mixture of merit and money. To some, I’ve lived like a princess since my university and immigration bills were paid by my parents. To others, I’m a pauper because I have less money and material possessions than they do. People are certainly entitled to think of me what they want, but it does not bother me in the least. I am at peace and contented in living my truth, for this is where true liberation lies.
Tantra as freedom
All that tantra requires you to do is have a belief in consciousness and energy, as the fundamental and dynamic elements of our existence. We are all but different manifestations of the same source. There is no one way to be human. We are all a part of the tree of life, even though we seem disparate from each other. We are interconnected. It is for this reason that the metaphors of Shiva and Shakti were invented: To personify the principles of consciousness (Shiva) and energy/power (Shakti). It makes it easier for us to meditate upon these concepts as deities rather than as abstract principles. They are easier to attach the mind to.
To unite with source is to know peace, if not euphoria. Traditionally, this has been accomplished through the chanting of mantras, breathing exercises, physical exercises (what the Western world knows as yoga) and ritual cleaning.
There are no reasons given to us for our existence: We simply are. There are no hard and fast rules to live by: We are encouraged to gather information, observe our thoughts, reactions and feelings, and then do what we think is best. It does not mean that we become nihilists. It means that we become empowered to create our own meaning and perceptions of life, remembering that we are but leaves on a tree. The individual is as important as the whole, and decisions must be made considering the two dimensions.
I chose tantra because it is a spirituality that allows me to discover for myself who I am, away from the external programming bequeathed to me by my place of birth, cultural community, gender, heredity etc. It values who I am and encourages me to accept others as extensions of myself, without trying to dominate and control them. It encourages me to seek knowledge and not limit my understanding of the world to one book. It is the study of the macrocosm (universal) through the microcosm (individual). Historically, it has included the study of astronomy, physiognomy, numerology, physics, chemistry, ayurveda (indian medicine) and psychology etc.
Tantra is different from traditional Indian thought in that it does not see the universe as maya or an illusion. Rather, it is a concrete manifestation of energy and consciousness, driven by individual and collective desires. This is true in nature as it is in humans. Our world is our creation and together we can change it.
Thanks to Wil Geraets for his article ‘Tantra Yoga’, based on ‘Tools for Tantra’ by Harish Johari. It can be read here: http://www.sanatansociety.org/yoga_and_meditation/tantra_yoga.htm#.U2mlVIFdUfu
Photo credit: Shiva and Shakti, -Reji, Flickr.