One of the most harmful aspects which inevitably follows every form of popularization of the Ancient Knowings, is the vulgarization of their contents.
For example, the Science of Yoga has been reduced to a trivial sequence of gym exercises for the recovery of physical health. Meditation is an excuse for daydreaming, inner development an armchair- discussion of what is true and what is not.
The same naive faith has befallen a huge and precious corpus of Knowing such as the Tantric Path. Every kind of idiocy has been said about this topic, every kind of book and self-styled teacher has used this term to justify a still-existing deviation or, in the best of the cases, a whole of inaccuracies and misunderstandings that can only mark a huge ignorance.
For the reason of what such a term as “Tantra” can evoke in common minds, this writer feels in some way concerned to confront such an argument, not fearing the misunderstandings, but because of the respect of the few that follow such a path with sincerity and accuracy, and there are very few people I know who belong to this category of individuals.
The purpose of this text and of this Blog page is the development of consciousness, so in speaking of the tantric path, this writer will leave the common and in some way, offensive image of Tantra as, in the best of cases, a sort of psychotherapy based on sex or even a “tool” to increase sexual performance. Let us enter into the core of one of the most efficient teachings for the total transformation of a human being.
A “Revolutionary” Approach
One of the most peculiar aspects of the tantric vision is the revolutionary approach towards other traditions. For the tantric practice, the illusory world and the freedom from illusion (samsara and nirvana) coincide. It’s as if to say that even the total immersion in a life that is illusory brings the possibility of freeing ourselves from the illusion.
In summary, in Tantrism , if the essence of divinity corresponds to the beatitude (ananda) and if the work of one who tries to free himself is to oppose every kind of suffering, limitation, and conditioning, then this means that all that is joyous and pleasurable gets closer to the sought after aim.
After all, observation shows us that joy and pleasure produce an expansion of being, allows us to overcome the limits of an egoic identification and the approach toward others. Pleasure brings one to a principle of unity while pain, boredom, and fear tend to limit us in a state of separation.
What remains is the problem of attachment. How is it possible to avoid the desire to produce the links, the identification with objects of the senses and feelings which are the origin of the same suffering?
Tantrism doesn’t deny the reality of attachment, of identification, but it asserts that, in counter, the best way to eliminate the core of desire is not to repress it, but to express it, and satisfy it until it’s consumed and to use it as powerful force to break the barriers of the egoic “I”.
After all, desire is inborn in humans and is also the essential motor for every action. Not even death can destroy the desire, seeing that the yearning for life experiences that had not been possible to experience, brings the desire for rebirth.
And because it’s not possible to avoid this force by repression, which could force it to deeply increase, the only method of eradicating the desire, is to bring it to pass, by satisfying it.
Although the aim of Tantrism, such as for all ascetic practices, is the liberation from the illusionary world and the state of conditioning, its approach is in some way “non conventional”: to overcome the need to experience, one needs to consume it, to fulfill it.
The liberation from the senses is achieved just through using the very same senses: the “executioner” becomes an “ally”.
It’s a process that sacralizes everything which sees the Divine in the whole of life, that seeks a merging from the “inside” of the manifestation pursuing the causes, diving consciously into the effects. Tantrism is a “direct” way which “leaps” directly through the process of purification and ascension that is peculiar to all the other traditions. It’s also a difficult path which imposes one to proceed on the edge, pursuing the pleasure of fulfillment without remaining identified with it.
Characteristic of Tantrism is the prevalence of the practice instead of a theoretical reflection, the recourse to a metaphoric language which would seem in many aspects ambiguous (in the sense of ambivalence that is necessary in a dualistic world), and the intense seeking for ecstatic states (that have not to be confused with what is ordinarily intended as “ecstatic”). Obviously, the use of sexual practices is not only allowed, but even recommended, and this is the main reason for the popularity of Tantrism in the collective image inventory.
In fact, in Tantra, it’s the narrowness of our desires that leads to the “perdition”, not the opposite. We grasp just the single and separated aspects of a desire scattering in dozens of little pleasures. In meager words, we don’t know nor do we understand what we really wish for. We are unable to grasp through an ample and conscious vision, that our desire can’t be satisfied by small, limited satisfactions, since it is, in reality a divine desire, a desire of transcendence.
By being satisfied with partial pleasures, we’ll never achieve the complete satisfaction, the beatitude, but we’ll achieve momentary happiness which will soon be overturned by the flow of a dualistic, identified life. There will always remain something of the unsatisfied that will strongly force us to desire again something else, in this and in the other lives (according to the theory of reincarnation).
Certainly, Eros is a fundamental force of life – the desire for beauty, creation and unity that pushes us to action. It’s the emanation of the shakti – the creative energy that animates the entire universe. Only through getting consciously in touch with such force will we achieve the aim of unifying ourselves with the universal force and knowing its causes (the source from which it is born). Such energy surrounds us, animates us and moves at our every action. Any attempt to deny and block it is an act of castration, of limitation. This is the reason why we have to explore every experience, remove any doubt, and verify at first hand what we really wish. Also, what usually is not marked in the modern commercial books about tantrism is just the distinctive tract of such a path, namely, the presence of a state of awareness that imposes a constant mental presence during every experience. The life force can be used to overcome our conditioned and automatic nature; better said, it coincides with the push towards transcendence. Indeed, if we didn’t have the desire, would we have the aspiration toward self -development, to awaken?
Speaking about eros (seeing that the popularization of an initiative practice such as Tantra brought to relate it exclusively with sex in a trivial and ignorant way), in the Tantric path it is not suppressed. The fragmentation of our personality that, in consequence, depraves the principle of Eros, must be overcome.
So, even during the sexual practice, there’s a need to amplify the vision to a more universal perspective: the practice has to continuously contemplate the presence of the divine in the force/desire that moves it; it has to consider the partner with respect and without yearning, or possessiveness, and as an expression of the sacred.
The overcoming of the dualist vision is what can emancipate the human being and Tantrism marks with fineness that, beyond every desire lies the fundamental impulse towards Unity. Every state of pleasure produces a sense of unification, while every condition of suffering contains division and contrast.
Life is an experiment we have to accomplish in a conscious way, and the experience in life (and not in a monastery) that is peculiar to tantrism, is the seeking for the original unity within oneself, with others, with the universal forces, with the Source.