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Tantra Then and Now

By Dr. Lisa Apramian

Tracing the meaning of Tantra invokes a mystical odyssey into history. Scholars believe Tantra originated with the indigenous aboriginal Indians in the second millennium BC. We know that within a few centuries Tantra attained pan-Indian influence. Tantra is defined in many traditions ranging from India, Tibet, Japan and throughout Southeast Asia.

Western authors and practitioners began to write about Tantra in the late 1800’s.  Sir John Woodroffe’s  (Arthur Avalon) published The Serpent Power, in 1919. Focusing on the chakras and Kundalini yoga, Woldroffe translated and gave detailed instruction and commentary on two sixteenth century texts covering Kundalini yoga, tantra, meditation, chakras, and metaphysics. His book served as an inspiration and a reference text and is still considered one of the most important books on the subject today.

Popular authors such as Joseph Campbell looked at tantra’s Buddhist-Hindu roots and focused on Kundalini yoga, mediation, and rituals to unite spirituality with the forces of the universe. Strands of tantra were again brought to the United States in the 1960’s by Indian gurus, such as Osho, where they evolved into two branches: sexual practices (red tantra) and useful methods with therapists to promote healthy rewarding partner intimacy (white tantra).

Sexuality and Tantra Today

Contemporary tantra, also referred to as Neo-Tantra, practiced in the west and in Europe, is based on strands that were taken from the dense ancient spiritual texts and various tantric traditions. Methods and constructs of Neo-Tantra are derived from ancient Indian language or Sanskrit. In Sanskrit, tantra involves the significance of “body”; the “weaving or stretching” of being-ness, realization and consciousness; the connection of “strands” from devotees to deities or to divine spirit; the “Interior”, secret or coveted knowledge; and the “loom” or weave of the universe.

Tantra is a fusion evolving with consciousness.  It provides methods to weave non-dogmatic spirituality, yoga, sexuality, meditation, holistic health, shamanism, matriarchal, and divine feminine forms of worship into relationships. Evidence is everywhere that tantra has been and continues to permeate all aspects of our culture, civilization, and collective consciousness.

Sexuality in Civilization Transitioning

Yet, as a civilization, many may still feel confused and torn about sexuality both socially and spiritually. Sex scandals, shame, prostitution, sexploitation, hedonism/sexual addiction, sexual objectification, sexual addictions, unplanned teen pregnancies, concerns of STD’s, religious dogma, and sexual predators are real. Many have struggled with some of these behaviors and choices that reflect imbalances within us and in our cultures. Our reactions to others caught in these webs can be intense and stem from reacting with ego attachment, self-righteousness, fear, anger, attempts to control impulses, and judgment of those lost in the world of addiction and lust.

Opening up to tantra and applying its teachings to our lives puts us on the path towards sexual healing, integration, and enlightenment. We are healing wounds from sexual imbalances, oppression, repression, suppression and NOW moving towards integrating all aspects of human mind, body, and spirit. I choose to ethically use the awesome power of sexual energy and the power of attraction to enlighten via education, conscious facilitation and visionary endeavors.