One fundamental aspect of Tantra and of Yoga that I see often being discarded, diluted or approached with little understanding in the neo-tantric and gym-yoga versions is Devotion - devotion to the Divine.
There is a tendency either for westernised Tantra and Yoga to focus on cultivating more personal independence... which sounds like a good thing, right?
This personal independence is sought either by trying to be more 'sophisticated' and doing away with worship of the divine, saying it is only a symbol for the inner Self, or we go to go to the opposite extreme and become relatively sentimentalist when it comes to devotion, both in relation to the 'deities' of the tradition and also towards the guru.
We can see this sentimentalism also affecting the use of sacred sound in tantra, in the way traditional mantras, slokas, stotras are now being turned into pretty melodies, instead of sung in the traditional metre, a rhythm that influences the life currents and that was considered so essential in traditional teachings..
In Tantra, and in Yoga, Devotion to the chosen form of the Divine (the Ishtadevata), and to the Guru, is not just wishy-washy sentimentalism, it is a science of opening the heart, staying in the flow of Grace, and ultimately of embodying Divine Power and Divine Intelligence.
Devotion, regardless of how literally we believe in the chosen 'deity', is a practice that prepares us for the ultimate surrender, the surrender of all attachments and identifications, that allows us to wake up to our true Liberated condition, a flow of Unconditioned Beingness - that has been described in some traditions as 'Sahaja Samadhi'.
Unfortunately, seeking wholeness through personal independence is fighting a losing battle.
It is an approach that will tend to pamper the ego-centric feeling of being a separate self.
Wholeness requires not only empowerment but also a dissolution of the familiar sense of self.
That wholeness - that we could also call being 'Free' or 'Liberated' (because until we feel whole we will be constantly seeking fulfilment) - requires a balance between absolute humility together with receptivity to Grace, and absolute Power/'Siddhi'.
It is a seemingly impossible balancing act, that only total renunciation of the self can accomplish.
- Peter Littlejohn Cook