article is reproduced with permission from the website
Yoga Institute, Inc.
AS YOU CAN PROBABLY imagine, we receive many inquiries
about books, tapes, seminars, etc. on the subject that
I sarcastically call 'new age tantra.' Occasionally,
I review such materials for the sheer irritation value
of it, hoping to find some depth. Rarely do I find anything
even to get my feet wet. Rarely do I recommend 'this
genre' to anyone interested in a serious study of tantra.
Mostly such workshops, books, videos, and tapes misrepresent
the authentic tantric tradition, which is well established
through several well respected lineages. Such materials
are usually very far from genuine tantra in spirit (most
importantly), in form, or in content. As a rule, they
constitute cleverly disguised digressions on sex and
marriage therapy or are musings on the theme of Kama
Sutra -- a medieval Indian treatise on human sexuality.
is unfortunate that tantra has become another casualty
of our plastic culture that loves the common denominator,
that trivializes everything, and that strives to delude
us with grandiose ideas of perpetual youth and pain-free
life. Let us not allow ourselves to become sullen, silent,
and guilt-ridden perpetrators of triviality. Let us
not allow the rich and profound tantric tradition to
be watered down and ignored through distortion.
serious student of tantra should know that the main
point of tantra is contained in the very meaning of
the term tantra: tan means expansion and
tra connotes liberation. Thus, tantra always
refers to liberation through expansion -- breaking through
personal barriers and courageously going forward toward
the Divine Bliss both as an individual and as a society.
Ultimately, tantra is the path of the spiritual warrior
(shambhala/avadhuta) that encourages us to fight
unceasingly against limited or prejudiced thinking,
against inner and outer enemies of genuineness, truth
and the Divine Plan, against shallowness. In particular,
tantra inspires and teaches us to seek Ananda
-- the Divine Bliss -- as opposed to being caught in
the cage of merely looking for pleasure and avoiding
is true that tantra encourages savoring life to its
fullest, with its pleasure and pain, beauty and ugliness,
living and dying. It is true that tantra teaches us
how to go beyond, how to reach the union of these
opposites and how to transcend them. It is true that
many images used in tantric philosophies and practices
to represent these opposites appear to be obviously
erotic. However, one should not interpret these images
out of context, merely based on the first visual impression.
its very core, tantra is founded on the philosophical
notion that one Living Divinity (Brahma) separates
Itself into Him (Shiva) and Her (Shakti),
into the Creator and the Creatrix, into Cognitive and
Operative Principles of the Universe. Everything: God,
Truth, Divine Love is viewed as having two aspects:
male and female, now and then, here and there, self
and other-than-self. The continuous relationship between
these opposites generates appearances of energy and
matter. Our continuous ego-driven (Shakti-inspired)
interference with our life's mission (i.e., the Divine
Plan for us) sustains the separation of these opposites.
Thus, we are caught in the Play (Lila) of energy
and mass by holding onto ever-unresolved, infinitely
complicated relationships between the opposites created
by the Divine Order Itself for our edification and imprisonment
in the world of perceived self and other-than-self.
a system of practice that aims to resolve and go beyond
these opposites, tantra naturally endeavors to address
the most obvious example of Shiva and Shakti engaged
in eternal play: the attraction and relationship between
the sexes. In a heterosexual situation, the man embodies
a bit more of Cognitive Principle (Male/Shiva) than
a woman, while the woman embodies a bit more of Operative
Principle (Female/Shakti) than a man. Tantric techniques
help an individual to balance these two principles within
and, thus, to reach a state that equally embodies Shiva
and Shakti, Male and Female, Anima and Animus.
such evolution, such development, such training is accomplished
in several very specific steps. The crude tantric teachings
(i.e., tantric dos and don'ts) are used to prepare a
person for the more subtle tantric teachings (yoga).
Subsequently, the yoga system is engaged to calm the
tug-of-war game of opposites, to learn to handle this
game well and eventually to go beyond such dualistic
mode of being through a form of Abhidhyan (non-dualistic)
yoga practice. Typically, a well-balanced tantra yoga
training would include developing a solid moral foundation,
a daily practice of asanas (yoga postures), mental
exercises of concentration and meditation as well as
certain advanced rituals of appeasing the deities (puja/japa
yoga) and serving your guru/teacher (guru yoga)
and his ashram (karma yoga). Since the tantra
yoga system of practice is based on the tantra yoga
philosophical system, such training would necessarily
include learning the theoretical side of tantra from
a reputable source.
and sincere efforts at yoga practice ensure that a sadhaka
will gradually move away from animality (pashu)
and eventually proceed to the stage of skilled warrior
(viira). A viira (brave individual) is
a person who has gained control over the six enemies
and eight fetters. The six enemies are physical longing
(ka'ma), anger (krodha), avarice (lobha),
vanity (mada), blind fascination (moha),
and jealously (ma'tsarya). The eight fetters
(bondages) are hatred (ghrn'a), apprehension
(shaunka), fear (bhaya), shyness (lajja'),
hypocrisy (jugupsa'), pride of ancestry (kula),
vanity of culture (shiila), egotism (mana).
There is a certain advanced initiation into a tantric
(not a yoga) practice (kapalika diiks'a) that
dramatically accelerates gaining control over six enemies
and eight fetters and reaching the brave stage of spiritual
development. Such initiation is available to anyone
who has reached a certain degree of expertise in our
tantra yoga meditation system.
rituals constitute a miniscule part of tantra. Such
practices are undertaken only if they are absolutely
necessary for a disciple's further spiritual development
and only after he or she has become an unquestioned
expert in laya yoga (yoga of dissolution), i.e.,
he or she has become a viira (see previous paragraph).
To attempt a practice of sexual tantra before the successful
completion of proper preparatory training is pretty
much like studying higher mathematics without first
being trained in arithmetic! The presence of such desire
betrays the student's ignorance, impatience, and confusion
of pleasure seeking with reaching out to Divine Bliss.
is not possible for a novice to practice sexual tantra
rituals even if he or she tries because the beginner
has by definition no experiential foundation on which
to base such practice. The beginner can surely go through
the motions: like children who imitate 'peculiar' motions
they observed in their parents' bedroom. Trust me, though,
such 'tantric' union yields no spiritual babies.
this point let me also warn the reader: if practiced
prematurely, sexual rituals can potentially undo years
of efforts at yoga practice. Tantric gurus know that
a practitioner's mind must be established first in Cosmic
Consciousness (viira stage, i.e., control of
six enemies and eight fetters), then he or she can experiment
with anything. For this reason spiritual masters are
known to test their disciples severely before they impart
such sexual practices, for both the teacher and the
student must be certain that the student is ready for
announcements from the proponents of phony 'new age
tantra' usually cater to particular groups of people.
Who is usually attracted to the so-called 'sexual yoga'?
1) People who need basic sex education, 2) People who
desire to go beyond (resolve) their adolescent emotions/notions
regarding sex, 3) People who want uninhibited sex packaged
as a spiritual practice, 4) People who are ashamed of
or are out-of-touch with their sexuality, 5) People
who are trying to reconcile their strong and unrestrained
sex drive with their spiritual longing. All but the
last of these groups are confusing personal fulfillment
with spiritual growth. That is why 'sex tantra' seminars
are necessarily populated by people who are in need
of emotional growth and who confuse psychology which
seeks to improve their personality in relation to its
functions in the world with spirituality (such as genuine
tantra) which seeks to free the eternal human soul (atman)
from the bondages of the world. A person would qualify
for a genuine tantric initiation (tantrikii diiks'a)
only after this confusion has been adequately addressed.
This is important because the practice of tantra yoga
can commence only after an aspirant has procured a tantric
initiation from a qualified teacher.
rational attitude to inquiry requires that we check
the sources and references of any information that is
being presented to usbe it a book, a tape, a person.
How did the author acquire his or her knowledge? How
many years did he or she practice and what are the results
of such practice? I have not yet found one book, etc.
on 'new age tantra' that references authentic tantric
scriptures, teachers and practices. The authors of such
books usually have not studied with a genuine tantric
master but had a limited course of study with a sex
therapist masquerading as a 'sex-tantrik.' (I think
I may have invented this term. I love it and demand
credit for it!) This state of affairs is unfortunate
considering that the genuine information is widely available.
get me wrong. 'New age' tantra may actually be helpful.
Such sex and marriage therapy can be really healing.
'Sexual tantra' may free people of inappropriate shame
of sex, educate them about sex, enhance their enjoyment
of sexual life. If you want to have great sex -- go
for it! Have fun, have pleasure! But act responsibly
and do not call it tantra -- for the whole point of
all tantra training is gaining freedom through attainment
of spiritual Divine Bliss (A'nanda) that
is beyond physical pleasures and pains of sex.
Living in A'nanda is a permanent happy state while an
orgasm is an intermittent, temporary pleasure.
a postscript to this commentary, here is what Georg
Feuerstein who is, in my opinion, the foremost yoga
scholar living today emailed me a few days ago in answer
to my inquiry about the sexual content of tantric scriptures
and about his opinion of 'new age tantra': "Here
are my thoughts on the subject of sexual Tantra in a
nutshell: As far as I can tell, right-hand or conventional
(samaya) Tantras generally don't deal with sex.
Extant left-hand Tantras apparently are confined to
a single textthe Vamakeshvari. The in-between
Tantras of the Kaula tradition do mention sexual
practices. But nowhere is ananda (bliss) confused
with sukha (pleasure), as seems to be the case
with what a Gelugpa lama once jokingly called
'California Tantra'. That's the crucial point as far
as I am concerned. Even in the left-hand and Kaula
texts, sex is simply one of the components, and none
of the scriptures equate Tantra with sex. Thank God!"
Feuerstein's book on tantra will be published by Shambhala
in April 1998. [It was published; see below. --Ed.]
He is hoping that it will provide some sort of corrective
to the ridiculous versions of tantra promoted nowadays
in the West.
photograph, and trademark copyright 1991-2000 Abhidhyan
Yoga Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.
Abhidhyanananda Avadhuta (also known as Rev. Fr. Anatole
Ruslanov) completed full monastic training in India under
the direction of one of the great spiritual masters of
this century, Shri Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (Shri Shri Anandamurti),
and is a lineage holder of a Tantric Yoga tradition. In
1991 he founded Abhidhyan Yoga Institute, Inc. For a longer
biography of him, see
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