The Yoga of Integrating Consciousness and Energy
Tantra Yoga—Seeing the Sacred in the Mundane
The Sanskrit word tantra means “weaving” or “interconnection.” It comes from the root tan, meaning “to extend” or “to expand.” Although it only formally became relevant in the East after the fifth century A.D., Tantra Yoga (or Tantrism) is an ancient form of yoga. It is a path of ritual and esoteric practices to awaken shakti (latent cosmic energy).
One of Tantra Yoga’s basic principles is seeing the sacred in the mundane. The objective of Tantric training is to transcend the barriers between the holy and unholy as a means to reveal our Real Essence, the Self. A Tantric practitioner aims to see all aspects of the natural world as manifestations of the Divine Shakti. Tantra celebrates the human body and seeks to unite all dualities within the body. While Raja Yoga (“royal” yoga) emphasizes the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind as the way to liberation, Tantra Yoga asserts that we should open to the prana (cosmic life force) both within and without the body in order to awaken to the Divine.
A World-Embracing Approach
Tantra Yoga is characterized by its acceptance of the world—of all events and experiences—viewing everything as complete and appropriate aspects of life. Our life experiences become the arena in which we cultivate spiritual understanding. Unlike many traditions, which deny the world or have strict rules and ritual prohibitions, the Tantric tradition recognizes that no area of life should be rejected. Freedom, spontaneity, creativity, and well-being in this lifetime are the experiences a Tantric practitioner seeks. Tantric practices are an exaltation of energies and feelings, all aimed at revealing the Spiritual Heart (the Supreme Self).
There Are Three Main Types of Tantra Yoga:
- Left-Hand Tantra (vama marga), which includes sexual techniques and other non-conformist practices
- Right-Hand Tantra (dakshina marga), which includes the use of a variety of ritualistic methods but does not include sexual acts
- Direct Tantra, which focuses on meditative practices
Tantra Yoga uses the power of mantras (sacred formulas) and yantras (diagrams symbolizing the Cosmos or various divinities). In some practices, Tantra also uses the help of healing and purifying plants. Rituals are consecrated to Shakti (the Divine Mother) in Her countless forms, or to Shiva (the supreme transcendental reality). Tantra Yoga also uses asanas, pranayama, and mudras, and has a synergistic relationship with Bhakti Yoga (the yoga of Devotion). An important part of Tantra (even considered its heart) is Dasha Maha Vidya Yoga (the yoga of the Ten Great Wisdoms). Read more about the Dasha Maha Vidya here.