Why Tantra?

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

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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.

So you’re a Tantrik, eh?

When I tell most people that I am a Tantrik, they have an amused curiosity.  Unless they’re men:  Then they think they have a really good chance of getting laid.  Or, that I’m trying to proposition them.

All of these approaches suffer from flawed assumptions.  They stem from the way in which Tantra has been popularized in the West.  It has been regarded as a fuck-fest and a religion based on sex.   I think Western cultures appropriated this version of Tantra:

1) Because they already had enough of their own religion, and didn’t need any more of it.

2) Their religion didn’t have any sex in it, so they thought “Groovy man!  Let’s get it onnnnn!”

This deduction has not been scientifically tested or proven of course, but I can write whatever I want since it is my blog.  Seriously, I have a major issue with the way in which Tantra has been exoticized, and reduced to a painfully constricted point of view.  Something that encompasses all of life, should not simply denote human beings shagging.  The sacred, loving and pleasurable expression of consenting, adult, human sexuality, is but one element of it.

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Tantra according to Shri Aghorinath ji is a word derived from the combination of two words: ” tattva” and “mantra”. “Tattva” means the science of cosmic principles.   “Mantra” refers to the science of mystic sound and vibrations.  Tantra then, according to Shri Aghorinath ji “… is the application of cosmic sciences with a view to attain spiritual ascendancy.”  In essence, it means connecting with our source of life and connecting with ourselves.  You may call the source “God.”  I choose not to, simply because the concept of God has become riddled with differing connotations over the millennia.  I’ll simply use the term “source” from here on in, and will posit that I do not believe it is static at all.

Scientists have theorized that life began with an explosion of light and energy, popularly known as the big bang.  Whether or not you believe this is irrelevant.  Albert Einstein proved that  E = mc2.  This means that energy is equal to mass multiplied by the speed of light squared.  Mass is the amount of matter that forms an object.  Matter is anything which can be perceived by the senses.  How is this relevant to this topic?   According to Einstein“It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing -a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind… (it) showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa.”

Einstein’s theory was subsequently proven by other experiments.  Last year, scientists from Harvard and MIT created matter using light.   This just goes to show that there is an irrefutable connection between light and energy/matter.  Light affects energy/matter.

These scientific principles can be compared to the foundations of tantra:  A belief in consciousness and energy, as expressed through the personifications of Shiva and Shakti.  Shiva and Shakti are the god and goddess which signify the principles of the universe.  For creation, preservation, destruction and re-creation to occur, there must be light (consciousness) and energy/matter.  Science does not really explain consciousness or the causes of consciousness.  However, we cannot deny that it exists.  This is where the debate usually arises.  Is there an underlying consciousness which controls everything?  (The traditional and popular interpretation of God)  Or, is there simply a source of  knowledge and intelligence, pure consciousness if you will, which is not separate from energy and at the core of our existence?  This is what I have come to believe.

Photo Credit:  Shiva and Shakti in union, AlicePopkorn, Flickr.