Tantra, along with Karma and Dharma, is one of the most widely abused and misunderstood terms in the West. It still carries with connotations of sex, and the “dark arts”. While I cannot possibly define or exhaustively write about all the aspects of tantra in a page, it irks me whenever I have a discussion with someone and the mention of the word tantra almost automatically triggers the response, “oh, sex?”. Online too, a search for tantra leads one to “tantric sex” with a ridiculously high frequency.
Here’s what I understand Tantra to address:
The universe has an inexhaustible supply of Energy – something that flows through it. Since we are a part of the Universe, the energy flows through us and can be channelled. For this, you need to be aware of your own being, conscious of this energy and yourself, and such channelling can lead to bliss, and well being.
What has this got to do with sex? Well, that is an open question. The discourses in the Upanishads and Vedas that discuss Tantra make us aware of the male-female dichotomy as also the “togetherness” of the opposite sexes. Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati are prototypical male and female. Practitioners of the principle of Tantra are often devotees of the Lord Shiva. Parvati, in the Tantric tradition is called “Shakti”, which is also a word that means, quite literally, “Power”.
Tantra is about the unity of the microcosm(the human body) with the macrocosm(the universe) through processes(rituals and practices) that encourage self-evolution and self-involution. The ultimate goal of tantra is to elevate the being to a state of pure consciousness and identity.
As you can see, Tantra has to do with a lot more than sex, so it is painful to see it degenerate into a fancy “way” of having sex.