Tantra: It’s (Not) All About Sex
When it comes to Tantra, there always seems to be confusion. Most have come to associate it with sex; they hear tantra and immediately think Kama Sutra, and picture a whole bunch of wild lovemaking positions. But Tantra is yoga and yoga is a metaphysical art, which always addresses abstract concepts, such as being, knowing, substance, identity, time and space. And, in this case, also sex.
One and Not-One
Tantrikas believe that the universe is One Consciousness (chitti). It’s both the absolute world of pure spirit (purusha) and the relative world of the physical (prakriti). Here in the relative world, each of us appears separate, but we are simply different flavors and colors of Consciousness. Oneness is always still One, but has diversified as the many. We are One and Not One.
By many in the mind-body field, “becoming One” is touted as the panacea to every problem. But Tantrikas know that the One is already in the heart of each of us. So, instead of trying to get to Oneness, they seek the One in the many by looking for it right here on Earth. Unlike classical (Patanjali’s) yoga, the Tantra teaches that the One is present in everything, from the mundane day-to-day activities, like washing dishes, to the ecstasy of making love. Life is not a problem to be solved, or a punishment for some past wrong, so we don’t need to renounce it and go sit in a cave and meditate for a millennia. Instead, life is something to engage in fully and consciously.
Seeking the Light
Often in lecture on the subject, we hear about what the Tantrikas call “the cloak.” No, it’s not a role playing, superhero fantasy that all followers of the Tantra must play out. (Though that does sound fun, doesn’t it?) What they’re talking about is a cloaking of the Light of Consciousness.
Once we are embodied, the Light is hidden in each of us, as a limited or contracted form of the One. This is the Light we see when we look in each other’s eyes. Initially, we may notice the Light looks brighter at certain times, for instance, after orgasm or yoga asana practice. However, the more we look, the more often we begin to see the Light of the One. And the more we see it, the more we notice it in the most subtle of places, like the beauty of a sunset, or the wind gently blowing the needles of an ancient pine tree.
The Light within us, is also the Light by which we see. It is our understanding, intelligence and awareness. The Light is both what we’re seeing, as well as our capacity to see and understand. The challenge, of course, is that the Light within any of us can be dimmed by the inherent, unavoidable stresses of life. It is dimmed when we feel separate and alone and forget that we’re actually connected. Tantra would have us seek and recognize the Light, both in the eyes of our beloved and within ourselves. Looking for the Light becomes a cosmic game of hide and seek.
The good news is, forgetting is normal. We forget so we can delight in remembering, like finding a twenty dollar bill in a jacket pocket! The Universe is full of these opposites: forgetting and remembering, inhaling and exhaling, night and day, masculine and feminine, happy and sad. Between the endless contrasts, the river of life is always flowing.
Tantra seeks the paradox of combining these contradictory elements. When we bring two opposite things into harmony, conflict disappears. We might call this being balanced. The opposites — like poles on a battery — when combined, generate energy. Through balanced opposites, we open a portal to the powerful and creative force of Nature (Shakti).
Tantra is less a practice of any particular postures and more a technique applied to experience. More specifically, it’s about applying our whole self, in totality, to whatever experience is at hand in order to be align with (i.e. balanced) and open to Nature.
Literally translated, Tantra means the technique to open. It’s about making every action an opportunity to open to and step into the creative flow of vital energy that is the core of Nature. We can do this by seeking the Light, and knowing that Light is also part of the dark. We can do this by bringing two opposites into balance, and bringing ourselves into balance in the process. We can do this by engaging fully in life, even the mundane and challenging aspects, right here on Earth, instead of trying to get away from them.
Looking in the Mirror
Without the endless techniques of the Tantra, without the opposites it wants to bring into balance, there would be no me & you. There would be no way to better know ourselves. There would be just one blinding Light. Like staring at the sun, we would see nothing at all. It’s one of the many reasons the One embodied in the first place and it’s also one of the reasons we enter into relationship.
The contrast of the other helps us see our own Light more clearly. We usually see the Light in our beloved easier than we see it in ourselves. We forget our connection to Nature and become self-critical. Having someone act as a mirror can help us find balance. They reflect our Light (and our cloak!) to us and, if we’re willing to look, help us see ourselves more clearly.
How We Connect
As Osho says in The Book of Secrets, “…when Tantra says ‘sex’ energy it means ‘life’ energy.” When opposites meet in balance, sex has occurred. So really, it isn’t about the bedroom (or the counter, or the couch, or the floor, or wherever we do it) but about how we’re doing it.
Sex is, however, one of the best and most enjoyable ways to connect on a deep physical, emotional and energetic level. Sex is about bringing opposite energies into harmony (and it doesn’t matter if you’re a same-sex couple or hetero), revealing the Light of the One and moving the creative, vital energy of Nature.
Making love can absolutely be a spiritual practice, but so can walking in the woods, or mopping the floor. And that’s the whole point of Tantra; it’s not necessarily what we do, but how and why we do it. It’s the relationships we forge and our ability to see the One within them. When we see the Light (even in the dark), when we see it in the mundane, when we unite with it, fully, in the moment, we’re experiencing the Tantra. And we’re making love.