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You are here: » Dharma Karma » Soul Food » Tantra
Published on Thu, Sep 11, 2008 at 19:11


No Sex Please, we’re British

“Tantrism was an excuse for an over-sexed society to practice its favourite form of recreation”

Thus spake the British after they got to know of the Tantric practices in India. Tantric scholars have constantly maintained that Tantra was a spiritual rather than a sexual movement. But one cannot help but admit that to some, the nature of the sexual practices involved would appear nothing short of disgusting.

The Tantra cult is associated with images and scenes of debauchery, rampant and ritualistic sex, and orgies. So what is it about this cult that is so mystic, so powerful and yet so damning?



Blowing in the wind…
Tantrism, like most controversial cults, started as a revolt against prevailing social and political structures. Only Brahmans, the highest caste, were allowed to perform sacred and religious rites. Tantra flouted all norms and included sexual intercourse as part of religious ritual. It was a slap in the face of the ideal ascetic lifestyle. Who cared about how the Brahmans felt? The tantrics would worship whoever they want, however they want.

Girl Power
Tantra If the world is an expression of divinity, then everything in it must be divine. And what is divine must be worshipped. Tantrics believed that a higher spiritual awareness could be achieved through indulgent sensory experience. That was the only way one could unite with the “World Soul”. According to Tantric philosophy, this World Soul lay within the heart of the Goddess Shakti. The female energy of the Goddess was desired, as this would augment the male energy of the Tantric practitioner and enhance his spirituality.

Sex and Shakti
This female energy could only be found on earth in mortal women. The only way for the tantric to harness some of this energy was through sexual intercourse. In fact, the essence of Tantra is this union of male and female energy, a union both mental and physical. The mother goddess can only be worshipped through sexual intercourse with a woman. The woman represents Shakti, or female energy. The necessity of this form of worship led some sects to require periodic sexual liaisons between monks and nuns.
The Sex Temple
Tantra Sexual intercourse was deemed crucial to spiritual advancement. Special temples were built for Tantric sex to take place. The most famous tantric temple is in Guwahati, Assam and is dedicated to the goddess of love Kama. As legend has it, it is on this site that a distraught Shiva dropped the genitals of a dismembered Shakti after her death, in fond remembrance of their long love-making sessions. The inner sanctum of the temple is a cleft that represents Sakti's genitals and is kept moist by a natural spring. Kama was worshipped not only by sexual intercourse but through human sacrifice as well. Mantras or ritualistic chants were used during intercourse. The most common tantric mantra is "Om Mani Padme Aum" which literally translates to "the jewel is in the lotus". This mantra represents the lovemaking process.



Woodstock Tantra
It was the hippie revolution of the sixties that generated worldwide interest in Tantric philosophy. The flower power generation found a remarkable resemblance between their credo of ‘free love’ and tantric worship. Their heavy use of narcotics also proved a point of similarity. Suddenly a keen interest in India was generated. Our very own Ravi Shankar played at Woodstock, the ultimate event of the hippie. In fact, Woodstock was one event where for three days, real life came as close to tantric practice as possible.



Men only
For all the sexual liberation and spiritual bravado associated with Tantra, it cannot be argued that it gave the women a raw deal. All the records we have of Tantra are from the men’s point of view. In fact, the entire cult seems horrendously degrading to women. The only saving grace is that women in the tantric cult were treated with a much higher status than in other situations. Rudeness to women was not tolerated, exchanging married women for money was a crime and rape was punishable by death.