The essential idea of Tantra is that everything in the universe is an expression of the divine and thus can be tapped as a source of consciousness and being. Tantra is a marked change from the traditional Vedic and Upanishadic teachings that put yogis in a cave isolating them from the normal human experience of desire.
Tan is from the root word meaning “expansive” or “whole”. This gives recognition to the divine Shakti energy which is the entire fabric of existence. This idea gives rise to the sense that the divine is found within any and all experience. In Tantra the path of freedom is not the renunciation of human desire.
Tantra is an integrative approach to yoga tapping into every aspect of inner and outer life. All experience is a potential source of conscious awakening to divine energy. It has a profound impact on yogis’ thinking about the body and practice.
Everything is different in its energetic expression even those things entirely mundane. Tantric practitioners sometimes may use extreme measures in order to seek energetic intensity and the pure awareness of being.
There are three traditional forms of Tantric practice usually said to require the guidance of a teacher. They are mantra, yantra and puja.
Mantra practice depends upon the vibrating energy of sound and repetition. Many chants used are found in the Vedas and are placed in conjunction with meditation, space purification and the imagination of the protective wall of fire.
Yantra extends meditation to a more intimate level involving entrance into the mantric world where Shakti energy bestows the power to destroy resistance. Ritual, visualization, chanting and offering are combined with meditation in yantra.
Puja is called the “left-hand” path of Tantra as it moves yogis from internal esoteric practice into fully living in the world. In puja practice self-mastery envelops intense sensory experience with divine ecstasy. Puja aims to bring spirituality into daily life and then back from here to the divine.
Tantric knowledge is born of experience rather than philosophy. Material reality is not meant to be transcended but human beings are transformed into a life of enlightenment and happiness.
Trantra arises from among the lower castes of India’s strictly stratified society and opens a path of full spiritual potential to any ordinary person.
The influene of tantra grew distorted by reactions rooted in some of its rituals, especially those involving sex. Many Westerners regard Tantra as “sacred sex” disregarding its most essential meanings.
Sexual relationship is a part of Tantra but the practices are more subtle. In the 9th Century Tantra adopted from Kashmir Shaivism the tenant that all of existence is one with no division between pure and impure.
In the Tantric perspective yoga is to be without separation. Yogis are to reconcile the body, breath, mind and emotions without distinction. In this way they embrace the fullness of all energy. Yogis become this one thing where in its space everything is alive.
Liberation from ego, dualistic thinking and incomprehension of wholeness are the fruits of Tantric practice. Going onto the Tantric path opens yogis to understanding their beautiful space as an amazing wholeness.
The above ideas and information are referenced to Teaching Yoga (2010) by Mark Stephens, North Atlantic: CA.