Many of us who were raised in the West have pretty complicated feelings and cultural programming about sex. As I ponder what I know of other cultures also, it seems clear that sex is an issue that evokes great fear and results in the desire to control through rules, rituals, laws, and more subtle influences like "values" and ideals. This fear arises from the reality that in desire channeled through sex, there is great power. Sex is the vehicle for the very creation of life; what could be more God-like?
As we evolve spiritually and begin to question the values and rules we were taught by our religions, our new awareness extends to all corners of our lives. We begin to see all we do in a different light, and what we desire shifts as we attain a higher state of awareness and new priorities. We may make big changes in what we do for a living, what we eat, how we care for our bodies, and how we interact with others. Because of our intense and confusing cultural programming about sex, it may be especially challenging to let go of the perspectives, beliefs and values of others in this area, and forge our own paths.
So much of religion is rooted in fear. We are given a list of things we're forbidden to do, and understand the consequences will be dire if we "break the rules." The gods of these religions are imposing, judging, and restrictive. We are taught to fear these gods, and to repress in ourselves anything that would be considered "bad" in these religions. This inner splintering is what creates our insatiable hunger for excitement, approval and "love," and inner conflict or guilt about our natural intrigue with the "forbidden."
In contrast to this fear-based religious teaching, tantra is love-based. The goal or motivation on this path is unconditional love of self, of others, of All. Instead of repressing "bad" parts of ourselves, we aim at channeling all of ourselves in loving ways, and more fully expressing our entire beings. The tantrika makes love not only to her partner, but to everything, to everyone; she falls in love with all of life and creation. Instead of a god that is to be feared, in tantra, God is to be loved, embraced, united with.
Tantra embraces the physical and desire as a positive path to spiritual growth. It spiritualizes sex, rather than judging sexual desire as sinful. Instead of resisting or trying to transcend sexual desires, in tantra one works with those energies and transmutes that power in a focused, conscious way. In fact, in tantra, one embraces all experiences as learning experiences; judgment and resistance are released, and an open and positive approach to all of life is developed.
Tantra teaches that there is one basic and infinite power in the Universe underlying all life, and through divine union, the lover can channel that power to attain perfect harmony with All That Is. In the cosmic union of yin and yang, sparks ignite that unite the lovers with the total and unlimited power of the Universe. It is wisely said that power in and of itself is not good or evil, it is what is done with that power that is important. Tantra teaches us how to use sexual power in a spiritual way.
It is my understanding that "tantra" in the West is at best a partial and slanted philosophy compared to the ancient teachings of Hindu or Buddhist tantra. In fact, if we let go of the label and loosely define "tantra" as a spiritual path that embraces sex as sacred and teaches us how to use sexual energy to attain higher states of consciousness, then it can be said that tantra has existed for thousands of years and in many cultures, from India, Tibet, and the rest of the Far East to Hawaii and even some Native tribes of North America. While "purists" may balk at our Western "bastardization" of ancient tantrik teachings, no matter what we call the path, any philosophy that helps us to be more present, aware and fulfilled in our lives is valuable.
Though it is considered remarkable because of its positive approach to sex, Tantra is not about sex. It's about being more engaged in all we do; it's about allowing loving desires to flow; it's about consciously refining our skills and power in matters we care about. Most adults can cook an egg, but a chef who has made a discipline and an art of cooking can create an omelette that nourishes the palate, the heart and the spirit as well as the body. Similarly, many people can have sex, but a tantrika who has made a discipline and a spiritual art of making love can connect with her lover in a way that also nourishes the heart and the spirit as well as the body.
Tantra is about learning to stay in the moment, to get more naked with ourselves, our lovers, and with God and the Universe. It's a dance with Life in which our holy desires bathe our human lusts with a divine light. It's one way to apply our spiritual awareness and wisdom to yet another corner of our lives, to open our hearts more fully, to engage more deeply, to remain more present and loving in all we do.
We can make even the mundane in our lives sacred through the practice of ritual. The difference between doing the dishes, and doing a dish meditation, is that in the meditation, we are fully present and aware as we move through each moment. As we transform sex into a sacred ritual, it becomes a meditation, and is infused with the power of our full presence. In return for our energy and focus, we open to higher states of awareness, deeper levels of intimacy, and greater peace and fulfillment.
People use all kinds of things to distract themselves from the present in order to try to make themselves feel better. Some people eat junk food their bodies don't really need in order to change their state of consciousness or distract themselves from what is happening in the moment. Others drink alcohol or take drugs. What many don't know is that one can get higher and more blissful by making love consciously than by smoking marijuana, and not suffer the life consequences that come when we try to ignore or avoid "reality."
In that quest to feel better in the moment, we are constantly looking for excitement. We crave entertainment, and our insatiable quest for drama, intrigue, and thrills is nowhere more apparent than in our entertainment industry. There is nothing wrong with this desire for intense experiences, except that when we're unaware, we run from small thrill to small thrill, trying in vain to satisfy our boredom. Life becomes an endless series of empty thrills.
Why watch others pretending to lead exciting lives on television when we can be leading exciting lives ourselves? Why watch a couple making passionate love in a movie when we could be uniting with All That Is in ecstasy ourselves? In tantra, one does not even need a partner; there are ways to work with the same principles individually. It is up to each person to choose how present, how conscious, and how freely loving they will be in each moment, regardless of whether or not they have a partner to share the experience with them.
There is nothing wrong with desire, or wanting to live a passionate life. It is perhaps ironic, however, that to be traditionally considered ready for the tantrik path, one must already have conquered passion. This does not mean that one must be without passion; far from it. It means that we must rule our passion and desires, rather than allowing them to rule us and lead us into wrongful action (wrongful action meaning that which we are not in harmony with, or know to be unloving in some way).
Most of us have become so immune to the unloving way that sex is presented in our culture and media that we don't even question what we see. Sex is often portrayed as a matter of power over, rather than power with. It is a matter of conquest, of who wants who more, and whether or not we can "resist" temptation. Sex fuels our television shows, movies, songs, billboards, commercials, magazines, etc... It's scintillating but forbidden at the same time. This creates inner conflict that breeds frustration, guilt and anger, and in turn creates the "battle of the sexes" and sexual violence.
In contrast, tantra strips away all the moral conditioning and the conflict, guilt and frustration, and returns us to a childlike innocence and openness. Picture a baby delighting in the sensual pleasure of playing with her own toes. Picture a three year swimming naked in warm ocean waters, totally in the moment and without any self-consciousness about her pleasure or what others may think of her. In childhood, we engage all of life with curiosity. We explore each new experience with wonder, and if it's pleasant, with delight. We know how to truly play, to let go and allow pure positive energy to flow.
When we're in that state of flowing pure positive energy, not only are we in bliss, but we are also most powerful as creators. An orgasm is a moment when we are flowing tremendous energy without any resistance; we totally let go and just let it flow. It's a very powerful time for visualizing what we want, for we can channel that energy to manifest what we need or desire, whether it's a divine relationship, a new job, or a sense of abundance. Where thoughts go, energy flows, and when we cultivate and channel the infinite synergistic power of divine sexual energy, we can work magic in our lives on many levels.
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