Tantra: The Ancient Religion That Is Now Seen Only As A Sexual Practice
February 7, 2018|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Many claim that through meditation and a special spiritual connection between two people, you can achieve the ultimate orgasm. But what's the real deal with Tantric sex?
Tantric sex is one of those things you read or listen to that sounds so exciting and alluring. Whenever you hear someone speak about it, you want to try it, even when you don’t really know what it is all about. I had one friend who went from being the most capitalist person in the world to abandoning all material things after going to one yoga retreat. She was so excited about her new lifestyle that she wanted us all to join her in these practices of ancient wisdom, and one of the things she used to lure people was talking about tantric sex.
According to her, this not only gave her the best sex in her life, but it was a spiritual rite that could lead you to enlightenment as you explore your desires and passions. Anyways I did some research, mostly because I thought she had been brainwashed by someone, and lucky me, I found so many things about this practice that I can’t wait to tell her, or maybe she can read them here.
So, what’s tantric sex? No matter what website you visit or what video you watch, they’re going to tell you it’s an ancient Indian practice that focuses on creating strong and spiritual connections between a couple through sex (obviously), meditation, and deep breathing. According to this, if you actually achieve it, not only will you have the best orgasm in your life, but you’ll reach enlightenment, and nothing seems to be more pleasurable than that. So, all that sounds amazing, to be honest, but has it always been that? Not really. Actually, all that information you’re going to see throughout the Internet is a modern (and I’m talking about the twentieth century) and kind of western creation slightly based on some ancient traditions, but back in the day the thing wasn't as they sell it.
This doesn’t mean that there isn't an ancient tradition or religion sustaining these practices, because there is. The problem is that many have tried to trace the true origins of Tantric sex, with very little evidence to support their theories. Some scholars claim that tantric traditions were definitely established during the first millennia AD, but they haven’t been able to really find an exact date or century. So, the research is focused on the ancient religions it's based on. With some elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, Tantrism isn’t only about sex. Actually, original tantrism focuses on many other things before sex. One of the first areas this religious practices explores is magic (often black magic), and for centuries it was seen with contempt due to this particular approach. Yes, sex can take part of this, but it isn't the protagonist of the rituals.
Now, where does the name come from? We use "tantric" as an adjective describing sexual practices, but actually, this is an English appropriation of the term tantras. These are the scriptures on which these traditions are based. Besides magic, meditation is one of the means to achieve enlightenment; thus, Tantrism is associated to yoga practices. So, to make things clear, Tantrism, or the adjective "tantric," as well as the practice we know now, are western creations and not ancient traditions as people tend to believe. But more importantly, it’s essential for us, especially for people like my friend who are so fond of this practice due to its "ancient" connection to mainstream spirituality and religions, to understand that tantras are based on scattered bits of other Indian religions.
So, religiously speaking, the main purpose of tantras is the achievement of mindfulness and concentration, so the mind is able to evoke the deities that live within us and unleash a massive spiritual energy. This is basically the reason why many religions disapproved of these practices. Moreover, sex was seen as a means to unleash the main female and male deities and channel their energy to reach enlightenment and salvation. It's all great, but when did it stop being a spiritual belief and become a sexual practice? We owe this to an English Victorian man who was known as "the most wicked man in the world." The famous occultist Aleister Crowley based most of his craft on mystic oriental traditions. The story says that he came across the tantras and interpreted sex as the ultimate source of magic. He wrote a lot about it, even when he didn't really do a thorough research to unveil the core of the tradition. That's probably why there's no evidence of Tantrism as we know it in the ancient Indian world.
Now, it’s not that there wasn’t any knowledge about this before Crowley’s texts. Actually, there are lots records made by European missionaries who were completely afraid and shocked by these “hideous” traditions. Now, recent studies claim that, most likely, these accounts were exaggerated to keep people away from practices that can sound really alluring. Even after that, in the late nineteenth century, a French orientalist and explorer, Alexandra David-Neel, did what Crowley failed to do. She delved into the origins and core of the tantras, and made a commented translation of the texts into French to explain what they were all about. However, this wasn’t as popular as Crowley's interpretation, and what prevailed in our cultural mind was the idea that Tantrism is just a spiritualized ritual of sex.
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