Tantra is about receiving the great blessings - the full power - of the masculine and the feminine, not just at the human level but as cosmic principles.
Tantra is about inner harmony and the incredible - truly Divine - gifts that reveal themselves in the state of inner balance.
These gifts include the infinite unfolding of human potential, practically dissolving the frontiers between the human and the divine. (See articles about the Siddhas for more on this).
The ultimate goal is the utterly liberating Self-Knowledge - also known as Atma Siddhi.
Photograph by Gustavo Gonçalves.
"Tantra is not all about what we can get out of sexual play, or what we can give to our sexual partner.
But today, undeniably, Tantra has become associated with fantastic sex, sexual healing. and relationship therapy.
So let's look first at the sexual dimension of Tantra, and 'sexual healing'.
Encountering Tantra, it is common to hear people praising Tantra for helping to overcome or to cure sexual dysfunctions.
However, 'sexual dysfunction' is not just frigidity, erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
We live in a world that is plagued by sexual dysfunction of all kinds.
These range from temporary personal issues to long-term or serial relationship problems.
Also, in the West, where studies on this have been done periodically, we can see that it is still common for women to not experience orgasms during much of their lives, or to not experience a single orgasm in their whole life.
It may still surprise us that many adult women, who have had years of sexual relationship, have never experienced an orgasm.
This is not an anatomical issue, it is a social and psycho-somatic issue.
And in these circumstances, is it any wonder that birth is typically such a stressful and difficult process for women?
The connection may at first not be obvious to us, but a woman's access to her own pleasure-potential is believed to have a great deal of influence on how labour unfolds and the degree of intervention that may be required in order to give birth.
(See the link at the end of the article for more info.)
It is still common today for women to fake orgasms because men are so disconnected from what women feel and therefore from what they need in order to experience sexual pleasure.
Really this is because men are often so fragmented and disconnected from themselves, and this is why for so many men sex - or pornography - becomes a compulsion. or even a self-destructive addiction.
So, men generally simply don't know how a woman opens up to pleasure, and in many cases women too are unable to guide the men because they're afraid to offend the man or because they don't even know themselves and their sexual needs well enough.
Holding space and giving guidance to explore and discover our sexual needs, as men, as women, or as sexual partners is what much of modern Tantra has become occupied with.
What truly helps us to establish trust and to create and sustain intimacy is one of the gifts that Tantra has been bringing to the West.
Trust and intimacy is, for many women, the first step in discovering their pleasure-potential.
It is therefore usually the first step in the literally 'mind-blowing' or 'consciousness-expanding' orgasms that are facilitated by Tantric practice with a partner.
But as I've become well-known for emphasizing: Tantra is not all about sex, it's not all about pleasure, and it's not all about orgasms.
Tantra is not all about what we can get out of sexual play, or what we can give to our sexual partner.
It is also not just about ritualizing sex to turn it into 'sacred sexuality'.
Tantric practitioners and especially Tantra teachers have a response-ability to address worldwide issues around sexuality.
Traditionally, Tantra is ultimately about spiritual Liberation... but it has also always been associated with some degree of cultural and social activism, raising awareness or creating alternative systems to reaffirm equal social rights and human dignity for all members of society.
I cannot overemphasize this, True teachers of Tantra have a much greater responsibility (or 'response-ability') than is generally recognized.
Tantra leads to a deeply liberating, heart-opening and consciousness-expanding bliss - a divine ecstasy.
This is not just heightened sexual orgasmic pleasure.
In fact. we cannot let Tantra just be another form of pleasure-seeking - another fascinating distraction - even if it does address some of our personal and social symptoms of imbalance.
So, before exploring the spiritual dimension of Tantra, let's look at this other aspect of Tantra's importance today.
Tantra is traditionally also a social, and ethical movement, promoting the equality of genders and the dignity of all human beings.
The social dimension of Tantra.
In some cultures we still have the extreme fear of women's sexual freedom and a taboo around female sexual pleasure even to the point of institutionalized female genital mutilation (known as FGM, or 'female circumcision').
UNICEF estimated in that in 2016, 210 million women worldwide had suffered genital mutilation (or 'female circumcision').
When compared to the previous chart (showing the figures in 2007), it seems that female genital mutilation has been increasing in Western countries. There is often much hypocrisy in Western criticism of foreign customs, but maybe we can together learn how to welcome the true intermingling of all cultures, and respect their differences, while also helping those who suffer from cultural abuses and those who perpetuate them to drink from the best of 'Western' culture, while we also have the humility and maturity to learn from what is beautiful and inspiring in their cultures.
When we speak of sexual issues we can see therefore that the range of issues goes from the mildly inconvenient personal dysfunctions to the truly devastating and life-altering culturally-sanctioned dysfunctions.
What we see in these cultures of female genital mutilation is the idea that female 'honor' is judged on her conformity to 'tradition' - effectively on her renunciation of sexual pleasure - helping to ensure that she will behave according to the culture's standards of 'proper' behavour.
The young girl, usually at the age of 6-8, undergoes the 'cut' that removes her labia, clitoris, or that in some cases leaves her vulva entirely sewn up, with a small hole intended to allow her only to urinate and for the menstrual discharge to be released. In these cases, the husband is given the 'honor' of cutting her open to be able to have sex, after which she may be sewn closed again.
Although these customs seem incredibly barbaric to most of us in 'Western civilization', the truth is that we are often unaware - or prefer to remain 'ignorant' - literally ignoring human rights abuses perpetrated by or happening in our own countries.
More and more countries are becoming aware of high-level abuses taking place systematically even by the law-makers and 'stars'..
In January 2017 alone almost 500 arrests took place just in the state of California relating to human trafficking and pedofilia.
The truth about our degree of civilizational sexual dysfunction is so disturbing and unbelievable that we live in denial just so that we can get on with our lives in peace... but ignore-ance is not bliss.
Underneath the surface, we are suffering a collective pain and it is up to each of us to discover how to live in a way that empowers a more humane world to come into being.
There is no doubt that we as human beings have much work to do on a more conscious sexuality, but actually all of this is a symptom of something deeper worldwide - our disconnection from our true self and our true potential.
It is 'culturally-normal' to grow up and be 'educated' in a way that leaves us alienated from ourselves, each other and from our true power.
Only a reconnection to our self in a profound way can truly provide the foundation for lasting change in the world.
If we are to shift away once and for all from perpetuating all kinds of abusive and inhumane practices that are part of not only 'foreign' cultures, but also our own, we need to have a strong foundation of healthy, loving education.
Tantra today needs to be not just about how to make love, but about how to spread love.
It needs to be not just about breaking our personal comfort zones and getting naked, or touchy-feely in a weekend workshop, but truly learning how to bring freedom, integrity and human dignity into all areas, for all people.
It is no longer a time for spreading 'civilization' through war and through conquering 'savages'... It is a time to lead by example.
As practitioners of authentic Tantra, we can go beyond idealism... we have an incomparably powerful tool. We have the 'weapon' of inner peace - an inner peace that is grounded in courage, self-knowledge and willingness to explore the shadows while carrying the torch of compassion.
It can seem unattainable when we put it in spiritual terms, but the fact is that authentic Tantra is embodying divine love, divine grace, divine power and divine inspiration.
These are not 'super-human' powers.
They are the expressions of the human potential that we were gifted with and that Tantric practice awakens and strengthens in us.
Ecstatic saints of all cultures have had the key 'Tantric' understanding that the Divine is ever-present and is enlivening us at this very moment.
The secret I want all seekers, practitioners and teachers of Tantra to know is that the true value of Tantra is not the sexual orgasm but the Divine bliss that is not dependent on physical stimulation.
And if our practice of Tantra is not taking us to the level of embodying that Divine bliss then it's not genuine Tantra - it's just an exotic fascination - an elaborate fixation for our pleasure-seeking.
But the point is not just to temporarily or repeatedly experience the wonder of this highest pleasure - 'Divine bliss'. It is to allow the inner transformation that occurs as a result of it.
Modern Tantra approaches do not support this adequately.
Divine bliss - also known as 'Samadhi' - is the Tantric (and Yogic) way we can release ourselves from the fear, pain, anxiety or numbness that has been carried in our nervous system.
It is the way we can switch off the defensive-aggressive self-serving mechanisms carried in our genes that we are so easily triggered by.
Most of the time we are at war with ourselves and each other not by true necessity but through projecting our fear onto all the situations in our lives.
This fear is in essence the tension that has accumulated and which Tantra can dissolve so effectively.
May we accept the responsibility that we have today having received these teachings from the ancient systems and spread these tools to empower change and see the world we believe in come to life.,
(Article by Peter Littlejohn Cook)
For a look at the spiritual dimensions of Tantra see the articles under keywords such as 'Moksha':
The work of obstetrician and humane birth advocate Dr. Michel Odent:
UNICEF's study of Female Genital Mutilation:
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