The True Story on Tantra – Clarifying Sacred Sexuality & Real Tantra
You’ve heard of tantra, tantric yoga, and its links to bedroom performance. Though tantra will empower you and give you relationship help, it’s not that simple.
I’m a coach mentoring men to deepen their confidence, passion, and relationships. So I get a lot of questions. Some, about all things sexuality, my methods, and what techniques I use. And a massive amount of these want to know one thing— what is tantra?
It’s time to clear it up. We’ll learn the origins of classical tantra and its difference from neo-tantra and sacred sexuality. And tackle the biggest misconceptions about tantra.
We’ll explore how you can use it to improve your life and help your relationship in this modern world.
Table of Contents
- What is Tantra— Why You Should Know the Source of Tantric Yoga
- Tantra is Not All About ‘Tantric Sex’
- The Meaning of Tantra
- The Highest Goal in Tantra
- Empower Your Daily Life with Tantra
- Tantra’s Connection With Modern Yoga
- The Tantric Origins of Hatha Yoga
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Tantric Texts
- The Tantric Origins of Vinyasa and Sun Salutations
- Neo-Tantra and Tantric Sex vs. Classical Tantra
- Practices in Classical Tantra
- Definition of Tantra by Spiritual Teachers
- Tantric Sex in Classical Indian Tantra
- Tantric Sex in Classical Tibetan Tantra
- Tantric Paths: Left-Hand and Right-Hand Tantra
- The Difference Between Tantra and Neo-Tantra
- The Fusion of Neo-Tantra and Classical Tantra
- Updating Tantra for the Modern World
- Why Ancient Tantra Texts Aren’t Enough
- Tantric Coaching— Tantra Experience Matters
- Empirical Tantra Experience is Better than Book Knowledge
- Two Modern Takes on Tantra
- Tantra: 21st Century Buddhist Perspective
- My Position on Tantra and Sacred Sexuality
- A Modern Tantra Online Coaching Program
- Male Empowerment and Jungian Psychology
- Relationship Help Through Tantra
What is Tantra— Why You Should Know the Source of Tantric Yoga
Because to use a tool, you need to know the materials and how it works.
Millions of people around the world have heard about kundalini, chakras, and prana. But they have no idea these come straight from tantric yoga scriptures.
There was no kundalini before tantra. No chakras or prana before tantric texts. Today, though, we see these through a distorted filter. Mistranslated Sanskrit and modern occultism complicate the picture.
Nowadays, people have a vague, cherry-picking idea of what tantra is. A few traditional tantric ideas, some sacred sexuality bits, and some esoteric bits. And that’s not right.
Tantra is Not All About ‘Tantric Sex’
According to ancient tradition, tantric sex isn’t real tantra. Sexuality is within tantra, but it’s far from the most important component.
There’s a historical explanation for this misunderstanding. The British first invaded India in the 17th century. From a European perspective, they couldn’t grasp the mysterious teachings of tantra.
Because of their rigid morals, they saw it as a strange and dangerous sex cult. From this misperception stems our incorrect modern-day idea. That is that tantra is all about sex.
The Meaning of Tantra
Tantra as Scripture
In the west, tantra has become a substitute word for sex. This is incorrect— think of the meaning of the word and of what the technique sought to achieve. Strictly, the word tantra means “scripture”. The tantras, or scriptures, are the spiritual texts that are the base of all tantric yoga.
Tantra as Weave
Another meaning of tantra is “weave”, the translation Western tantra teachers often adopt. Still, that meaning of the word tantra is actually a different Sanskrit word. They only share the same spelling and pronunciation.
Tantra as Technology
Some would say that the most accurate and original meaning of the word is, “a technology to expand”. Using tantric meditation and spiritual practice to expand your awareness and consciousness.
Tantra is a system of techniques to align your energies with universal energies. It helps you realize that everything is energy. There is an invisible energy web that connects everyone and everything as oneness.
Tantra acknowledges the interconnectedness of all things. Sarvam sarvaātmakam is a maxim that means, “everything is the essence of everything else”.
Tantra as Oneness
Learning tantra, we realize that we are that oneness. Just as the water droplet is individual but, at the same time, part of the great ocean. This concept is Hamsa— I am that. ‘That’ refers to our true nature: the underlying power that moves through everything.
Other names are divine consciousness, infinite potential, innate fullness, the absolute, or even God.
The Highest Goal in Tantra
The highest goal in tantra is to realize that oneness. This is also known by different names such as enlightenment, liberation, nirvana, samadhi, or self-realization.
But tantra practitioners don’t abstain from the senses, worldly pleasures, and sexuality. They seek liberation in the world, living in the world as a householder with family, work, and friends.
Tantra is the Opposite of Renunciation
How does tantra compare to other spiritualities? In short, why is it worth practicing it?
In a way, it’s the opposite of the path of the ascetic sadhus, priests, monks, and nuns. They renounced the world and the body to reach a spiritual goal. Rather, tantra is an embodied spiritual path that says yes to all life and nature. It sees the divine in everything, both the spiritual-transcendent and the worldly-immanent.
According to tantra, how you eat, breathe, work, and walk can become a mindful spiritual practice. Your healthy relationships can be a spiritual practice too.
This is the first spiritual tradition to bring embodiment to spirituality.
Empower Your Daily Life with Tantra
Tantra is the perfect practice for empowered men who live and succeed in the world. It doesn’t isolate you. It gives you relationship help and lets you connect with your partner in sex and emotions.
Practicing tantra, you don’t have to retreat into a dark cave high up the Himalayan mountains. You don’t have to stay in isolation for 12 years to become a spiritual person.
And you don’t have to leave behind your body and the world. Instead, you can bring consciousness down, integrating it into your daily life.
You can become a tantrika (tantra practitioner) where you are now. This means you become the highest version of yourself without leaving your life.
Tantra is an Experience
Ascetics think the body is impure and a hindrance to the divine. But tantrikas believe the body is a sacred temple, a vehicle to the divine.
Tantra practitioners believe they themselves and the divine consciousness are already one. They only need to realize this as experiential knowledge. That is, through their experience, not as an intellectual understanding from studying texts.
This calls for living all aspects of your life through tantra. Instead of limiting it to the mind, it extends to your relationships, your identity, and your power.
Tantra’s Connection With Modern Yoga
To understand what tantra is it’s also crucial to anyone practicing yoga today. Like we’ve said, it’s important to know the tools you’re using. You wouldn’t try cutting a chain with a hatchet, right?
It’s a little-known secret that the origin of modern yoga is, in fact, a watered-down tantra yoga.
Most westerners believe that modern yoga descends from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
We know that’s not a fact because Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are not dynamic at all. That text contains only four asanas, and they are all seated meditation postures.
It’s indeed an important text, but there’s more to the story. Against tantra, Patanjali teaches that yogis should transcend the body by becoming ascetics. This is contrary to today’s yogic practice of increasing the strength and health of the body.
So what happened? How did tantra become tantra yoga, then plain yoga?
The Tantric Origins of Hatha Yoga
Let’s get nerdy, yeah? You can skip ahead if your current mood isn’t history buff.
According to yoga historians, Goraksha is who truly compiled the earliest hatha yoga texts. This is the system we know and practice today.
Goraksha was a tantric practitioner of the lineage of the Nath tradition (1000-1200 CE).
What was his goal? Goraksha wanted to create a simplified version of tantric yoga. By removing the more complex practices of energy and mantra, he wanted to suit the mainstream.
The tantrikas saw this hatha yoga as a tantric amplification of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. These were practical prescriptions for having a good life. Worth noting: not the same as modern Ashtanga Yoga.
Swami Swatarama, like Goraksha, was also of the tantric Nathas lineage. Around 1450 CE he compiled the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a basic text for yogis.
This is the true classic text on yoga, where all modern exercise-based yoga comes from. The tantric work of Goraksha and Swatarama is the most influential on modern yoga today.
Tantra scholar Christopher Hareesh Wallis writes:
“A couple of scholars have shown now, it’s not widespread knowledge yet that Hatha Yoga almost definitely comes out of a south Indian Tantric lineage called Shambhavānanda lineage. We also have a newly translated very important scripture, called Matsyendra Samhitā, dated 1300, which claims to be the teaching that Goraksha received from Matsyendra. ”
Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Tantric Texts
Christoper Tompkins, another Sanskrit and tantra scholar, has a similar insight. He claims that, in 2016, he discovered that verses in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika came from the Varahi Tantra. This tantric scripture presented ‘Hathayoga’ as a female devotional practice. In the yoga text, this became available to everyone from any social class – men, women, and householders.
The move from tantra to hatha yoga changed a Goddess-based practice into a male-based one. This emphasized renunciation and the seminal power of male practitioners.
The yogic scholar James Mallinson writes:
“The conventional history is that yoga begins with Patanjali in the fourth century CE. That’s what most practitioners of modern yoga learn. My co-author Mark Singleton has written about how 95% of modern yoga is not from that. ”
This is a common misunderstanding. So common that most yoga teachers have learned it in their training.
Good news— the yoga teacher trainings that are correcting this are on the rise. They explain how modern yoga comes from the transition from tantra to hatha yoga. Doing this, they’re honoring the deepest sources.
The Tantric Origins of Vinyasa and Sun Salutations
What about the most popular yoga practices— sequenced vinyasa and sun salutations? These fill most yoga studios and trainings all around the world. If you’re already a yogi, you might have practiced them today!
Mallinson also speaks about these practices. He claims that Krishnamacharya created them from Swedish gymnastics only 100 years ago.
Both living masters and scholars say that isn’t true. Sun salutations and vinyasas are, in fact, ancient practices.
For example, Sadhguru teaches Surya Kriya. This is a sun salutation that comes from Antiquity, to which he’s been initiated in his past lives.
Christopher Tompkins has found clear evidence. Dozens of tantric texts, particularly the Vaishnava and Kaula Lineages, mention Asana Vinyasas.
“Both [Mark Singleton and Norman Sjoman] dismiss Krishnamacharya’s list of source texts for these practices as unrelated to the practice he sought to revive. I will disprove the theory of modern origins for Surya Namaskara and many of the Asanas applied to it, drawing directly from a collection of hundreds of unpublished Tantric sources.”
In his online course, Tompkins gives textual proof. ‘Vinyasa’ was never supposed to be only a sequence of body poses or Asanas.
The right way to perform tantric Vinyasa was to add Mantras, Nyasa, Pranayama, Mudra, visualizations. It was a holistic ritual, often performed around your own sacred Mandala. It was an integrated practice of tantra.
It’s time to put Tantra back on its worthy throne. It is the one origin to a big part of the knowledge and practices of 21st-century spirituality.
Curious about your Vinyasa practice? Watch this fascinating timeline of tantric texts depicting the vinyasa developing throughout history:
Neo-Tantra and Tantric Sex vs. Classical Tantra
What we tend to think of as tantra today is instead neo-tantra. This ignores most of the classical, text-based tantras. Instead, it focuses on the tantric sex and tantric meditation aspects.
Now we’ll start to separate them. This will help us understand how to work with each practice.
What’s the core of real tantra? The tantric perspective sees everything as sacred. You achieve this by transforming the energy of any situation into spiritual energy.
And use any emotion to reach a realization of your self as being the same as the Divine self.
This path of realization and empowerment takes you to liberation. It’s self-exploration and transformation achieved through any lived experience.
Sex is 5% of Tantra
We’ve mentioned that tantra uses any experience and emotion to achieve liberation. This all-inclusive characteristic extends to emotions like desire. And within that desire is also sexuality.
But sexuality is not the main focus in a tantric lifestyle at all. It adds up to roughly 5% of all classical tantra.
In the West, that small percentage has become nearly 100%. Our culture has simplified this ancient practice to only one of its aspects.
Sexual tantra and sacred sexuality are mostly used for self-development of your personhood. Sacred sexuality is a modern philosophy. Its goal is to transform your sexuality and relationship, and heal through connection and pleasure.
In this mix, the original, deeper tantric ideas get lost and we end up practicing red tantra or kama sutra. These two practices are not part of classical tantra, despite both coming from India.
Practices in Classical Tantra
So what does classical tantra look like?
Some original practices involved:
- Worship of deities (universal energy forms).
- Chakra (energy center) practices.
- Experiencing the polarity of God and Goddess, Shiva and Shakti.
- Rituals to invoke specific energies of the universe. These are a combination of chanting mantras and using Yajna (sacred ritualistic fire).
- Yantra (sacred geometric diagrams).
- Moving pranic energy up the nadis and chakras of the subtle body.
Some even explain tantra with the saying “Mantra + Yantra = Tantra”.
All these practices are techniques to transmute life-force energy into paranormal power (siddhis). They lead to liberation (moksha), the end goal of tantra.
* The photo is an anatomy illustration of the subtle energy system from the 1899 Tibetan manuscript Sapta Chakra.
Definition of Tantra by Spiritual Teachers
Now we’ll explore how a tantric practice can look like. Let’s take a look at five definitions for tantra given by a vast array of important spiritual teachers.
1) Sadhguru’s clear definition of tantra:
“Tantra essentially means “technique” or “technology”. Tantra is about learning to use the body, not as oneself, but as a stepping-stone to deliver this Being to the highest possible dimension.” “Tantra is not sexual but very orgasmic.”
2) Prem Baba’s defines tantra and contrasts it to other practices:
“Generally, I encourage people to follow Tantra – but Tantra is a word that has been widely misconstrued to be only about sex. When I refer to Tantra I mean spontaneity and a natural way of life that may involve sex.”
3) Swami Satyananda Saraswati also outlined tantra. In a lecture at Caxton Hall, London on Sept. 18th, 1979:
“Etymologically speaking, Tantra is a combination of two ideas – the expansion of mind and the liberation of energy. The meaning of tantra, therefore, is a process by which we expand our consciousness and liberate energy.”
4) The medieval text Kāmikā-tantra describes Tantra:
“Because it elaborates (tan) copious and profound matters, especially relating to the principles of reality (tattva) and sacred mantras, and because it provides liberation (tra), it is called a tantra.”
5) Sabara, a scholar from the early centuries of our era, gives this definition of tantra:
“When an action or a thing, once complete, becomes beneficial in several matters to one person, or to many people, that is known as Tantra.”
Tantric Sex in Classical Indian Tantra
In our modern world, the well-studied classical tantra scholar Christopher Hareesh Wallis explains:
“What is the difference between neo tantric and original Tantric sexual practices? There is a big difference, because in the original scriptures there are no sexual techniques given at all, meaning there is no description of techniques for how to make sex more enjoyable, last longer, nothing in common with Kama Sūtra at all.”
According to Wallis, there were no sex-enhancing techniques in the Indian tantra tradition. That means no relationship advice or tantric bedroom tips from Ancient India, lads.
But we can indeed find ritualistic sexual practices. These appear in the teachings of the Indian kaula lineage of Shaiva Tantra.
Sexual techniques and practices are rare in Indian tantric texts. For reasons we’ll explore later, they are much more common in Tibetan tantra.
To get a taste of how ancient tantrikas performed some of these sexual rituals, we’ll explore three of them.
1) The Tantric Sex Ritual of Kula Yaga
Abhinavagupta, a tenth-century sage called the ‘father of tantra’, writes of sexual rituals. In chapter 29 of his text Tantraloka, he describes a rite named Kula-yaga.
At its core, this is an initiation rite that involves practitioners’ sexual fluids. They use semen of men and the menstrual blood of women for worship, magic, and for mutual ingestion.
These fluids are sacred and very powerful when they become ritual tools.
Another Tantric scholar, David Gordon White, argues in Kiss of the Yogini that:
“The sole truly distinctive feature of South Asian Tantra: sexualized ritual practices, especially as expressed in the medieval Kaula rites. Such practices centered on the exchange of powerful, transformative sexual fluids between male practitioners and wild female bird and animal spirits known as Yoginis. It was only by “drinking” the sexual fluids of the Yoginis that men could enter the family of the supreme godhead and thereby obtain supernatural powers and transform themselves into gods.”
On this point, the community of tantric scholars doesn’t come to a complete agreement. For example, see Wallis’ critique of White’s writing here. The gist— to say sexual rites are the defining aspect is a bit reductionistic.
The best you can do is check out both sides of the argument and make up your own mind. Independent thinking is crucial for spiritual growth.
2) Vajroli Mudra— An Ancient Tantric Sex Ritual
The tantra yoga tradition also used a similar physical practice. This is Vajroli Mudra or urethral suction. It’s mentioned in the tantric text Shiva Samitha where it’s described as “the secret of all secrets” which can liberate “even a householder”.
In this technique, the male partner uses his penis as a straw. He sucks up the sexual discharge of the female partner and his own spilled seminal fluids.
How did they do this? By inserting a thin straw into the urethra until it enters the bladder. In theory, a catheter would be more convenient today, though still dangerous.
After insertion, they used breathing exercises and abdominal locks to start the suction. In this context, losing the energy of semen is equal to death. But reclaiming it takes you to liberation.
There is also a Hatha yoga version of Vajroli Mudra which help the male adept to not spill the semen in the first place. Theos Bernard was probably the first Westerner who ever practiced and photographed the mudra in 1943.
* Photo from Theos Bernards book “Hatha Yoga: The Report of A Personal Experience”
Vajroli Mudra— Harness Your Masculine Energy
What conclusions can we draw from this ritual passage?
That Vajroli Mudra can help us control ejaculation and keep our seminal energy.
This practice works to harness our fluids and not lose semen. Controlling seminal energy can help us achieve spiritual growth. It empowers us to become stronger in mind and life.
The problem: there isn’t much information on how to do it. Note: Don’t go inserting catheters all willy-nilly.
Because there was little information, neo-tantra filled in the gap with sex techniques.
These neo-tantra techniques are very varied. You can start with the theosophical society, and the more modern taoist teacher Mantak Chia.
They relate tantra-inspired sex practices that expand on the little information we got. Among other points, they develop the idea of how to conserve your semen’s power. These are very valuable resources— but still not Classical Indian Tantra.
3) Tantric Meditation— The Sword’s Edge Observance
The Sword’s Edge Observance ritual is Asidharavrata in Sanskrit. It is the first tantric ritual that involves sexual contact that we find in the texts.
The main idea is to cultivate sexual restraint from lust and desire in the very face of temptation. At the same time, to incorporate a spiritual practice such as meditation and mantra.
The text instructs, “The couple should adorn themselves and behave seductively, though with a mind purified by yoga.”
In one version of this ritual, the man should place his lingam on the yoni without penetration. Then, he should meditate on the sacred mantras while in the woman’s embrace.
He needs to do this with zero ejaculation. If ejaculation happens by mistake, the man must do strenuous atonement. Failing to control ejaculation is a serious ritual fault. It requires repeating the mantra 1000 times before he can come back and continue the ritual.
In another version of the Observance, penetration happens and passionate lovemaking follows. But the man must still control ejaculation and stay deep in meditation.
We should remember that these sexual rituals were only for advanced tantra practitioners. You would have to reach maturity and development on the spiritual path. It was not meant for any newcomer and its mainstay was meditation.
The Sword’s Edge Observance and Karezza
Isn’t it interesting that the old Sword’s Edge Observance reminds us of sacred sexuality? The modern approach to connected, spiritual sex, teaches the practice of karezza.
This recent technique involves a couple making love. They don’t use any friction. Instead, the lingam (penis) enters the female partner only once.
After that, the couple stays still. They focus on the sensations of sexual energy and the connection between them. This goes on until his penis becomes flaccid.
Karezza, like much of sacred sexuality, is tantra inspired. The goal is different, though. Instead of seeking liberation, sacred sexuality points more to healing, connection, and pleasure. Even though it could potentially be use towards liberation.
Tantric Sex in Classical Tibetan Tantra
We’ve mentioned that Tibet has kept the sexual aspects of tantra better than India. Today, we find a lot more references to these in the Tibetan version of the path.
In Tibet, they referred to these teachings as sexual yoga or karmamudra in Sanskrit. The early Buddhist masters of the Six Yogas of Naropa emphasized karmamudra practices. This was in the years 1016-1100 CE.
We have more historical examples of tantra yoga in Tibet. The Sixth Dalai Lama (1683-1706) was a non-celibate practitioner of tantric sexual yoga. His scandalous, sexualized biography is worth a read!
Others include the great sages and “crazy wisdom” teachers Drukpa Kunley and Milarepa. These used transgressive practices to reach enlightenment. They became famous for their defiant techniques and open sexual behavior.
But don’t just take my word on it. Let’s take a look at five references from Tibetan tantric texts.
* Photo from the book Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss: Sexuality in Tibetan Medicine and Buddhism.
1) The Swift Path of the Great Bliss of Primordial Purity by Tokden Shakya Shri
“If you [feel that] your bliss is on the verge of subsiding, the consort should move a little, slowly and gently. If you feel you’re about to lose control [i.e. ejaculate], stop all movement. Relax your gaze into space and in this way (rest) unwavering in the naturally present state of rigpa.” – (Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss, p. 298)
2) Alchemical Elixir Extraction by Lelung Jedrung Zhepai Dorje
“Without losing control of your seminal-essence, keep your inner most mind tightly focused. If you don’t know the yogic exercises for drawing up or reversing and the spreading out thigle or seminal energy drop then, when at last the thigle starts to descend enter her, and concentrating on directing your thigle as a cloud of offerings that delights all the Victorious Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, ejaculate. [.] Having finished, lick your and her conjoined sexual essence and take up some with your ring-finger and taste it.” – (Karmamudra: The Yoga of Bliss, p. 291)
3) Passionate Enlightenment
“In the Candamaharosana-tantra, VajrayoginI describes how this Tantric worship is to proceed. A yogi and yogini should seclude themselves in a hermitage to practice together. [.] She will then draw him to her and kiss him, direct his mouth to between her thighs, and embrace and pinch him playfully. She guides him in how to make the offering of pleasure to her: Constantly take refuge at my feet, my dear … Be gracious, beloved, and Give me pleasure with your diamond scepter.” – Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw
4) Cakrasamvara Tantra
“The Cakrasamvara Tantra repeatedly refers to sexual union culminating in the production of sacramental sexual fluids as “worship” (puja), and it is clearly closely connected to the “worship of the vulva” (yonipuja) that is frequently described in Hindu tantric texts, art, and architecture.” – Cakrasamvara Tantra by David Gray
5) Zhepai Dorje offers the following prayer and dedication
“Whosoever wishes to attain Buddhahood for the sake of others through sexual ritual let them look to this teaching! Through the power of its virtue may all appearances and every being and phenomena that arises without exception manifest as the chakra of sexual union, and by mastering the self-cognizing awareness of the natural state may everything and everyone be liberated all at once into the body of light!”
Tantric Paths: Left-Hand and Right-Hand Tantra
Tantric teachings take one of these two main approaches. We call them left-hand and right-hand paths.
- Right-Hand Tantra: This is the subtler, gentler path. It teaches refined techniques like visualization and inner meditative work. The right-hand practice is closer to the path in Yoga that pursues transcendence. You could say it’s more ascetic.
- Left-Hand Tantra: This is the extreme, fierce, and transgressive path. It uses methods that are taboo in our culture, like sexual practices and substances. It’s a radical method for reaching enlightenment.
Despite their different approaches, they share the goal of liberation through embodiment. They are both classical tantra.
The Decline of Left-Hand Tantra
Through the study of historians, we can look into a very different era of Indian society and culture. In ancient times, when tantra flourished, India had a more liberal view of sexuality than now.
Today, India is one of the most sexually repressed countries in the world. Curious why? Watch the Netflix documentary series Christiane Amanpour: Sex & Love Around the World.
What’s the reason for this big cultural shift? Simple— the invasions and colonization by the Muslim and, later, the British Empire.
Both colonial powers brought along their conservative religions and morals. These were full of ideas such as ‘sex is sinful’. Through this external influence, Indian culture became puritanical and ascetic.
What Happened to Tantra?
The right-hand path says tantra is all about meditation and visualization. It doesn’t include dangerous, taboo methods. For that reason, it survived this inquisition and persecution of sexual practices. But the more ‘extreme’ and scandalous left-hand tantra disappeared almost entirely.
The Persecution of Tantra in India
All these invasions resulted in the conquerors burning and destroying most tantric scriptures. About 75% of ancient tantric texts are now lost forever.
The conquerors went further. They outlawed tantric practitioners and declared tantra a forbidden, devilish practice.
Little by little, the former liberal views of tantra and sexuality vanished. Today, modern India is a conservative culture.
The authentic tantric and yogic practices, with few ancient texts, are now lost and hard to come by. The original motherland of classical tantra has turned away from its spiritual heritage. This is very sad.
The Difference Between Tantra and Neo-Tantra
Today’s modern neo-tantra exists alongside the classical tantra practices that remain.
Let’s make the distinction between them clear.
The goal— Improving sexual performance and practicing sexuality in a conscious, spiritual way. It can involve practices beyond the sexual act. These include eye gazing, mindfulness, breath, yoga, and even some classical tantra techniques.
The goal— Working with the subtle body to make kundalini travel up through the chakras to realize our true essence. It can include sexual energy and intercourse with a partner. But that is rare and reserved for the advanced, spiritually mature practitioners.
The Fusion of Neo-Tantra and Classical Tantra
Today, the ancient practices of classical tantra are getting combined with sacred sexuality.
Experts’ opinions on this are very diverse.
Many think the combination makes sense within the tantric attitude of inclusivity. This means to use whatever means necessary to stir energy towards spiritual development.
Others believe this has created a divide in the tantric community- the traditionalists and the modernists seem to be on opposite sides.
The traditionalists point the finger at the modern tantra teachers. They accuse these teachers of making false claims about their lineage and practices.
These classical scholars want neo-tantra teachers to reveal the origin of their techniques. They want to show these don’t always come from ancient scriptures.
That’s a valid point— we should always be open and truthful about what we teach and practice.
Tantra Coaching and Revealing the Sources
Tantra teachers must understand where their lessons come from. They need to be transparent and communicate this to their students.
We should avoid giving false or misleading references. And we shouldn’t claim that sacred sexuality practices are from the scriptural tantric texts. They have a place in our work— but we need to be open about them.
We should honor the true sources of our learning. And give credit and reference to them. Accountability and trust matter.
Updating Tantra for the Modern World
Tantra, like any other spiritual philosophy or teaching, doesn’t exist in a void. Its purpose is to guide people to liberation. And people are complex blends of culture, history, personality, etc.
We can agree that classical tantric practices were good for people in the ancient world. But that was a couple of thousand years ago. We’re not there now.
To practice the same tantra in our modern, technological age might not be the best approach. We could get clear benefits from modernizing tantra.
This doesn’t mean changing its core. Rather, updating the practice to integrate ancient tradition with the modern man.
Why Ancient Tantra Texts Aren’t Enough
You can’t blindly follow a model through all ages. The context of the practice is ever-changing.
Changes are ever unfolding. For example, today we find electricity essential. But in the history of civilization and mankind, this is only a very recent invention.
This technology revolution transformed the way humans relate to nature.
Our natural circadian rhythms changed because now we can stay up after dark. This disrupts our production of melatonin (sleep hormone) and the natural body-earth connection.
Now, we live in big cities filled with pollution. Electronic waste permeates our life. Contamination in water and food is unavoidable. Mental distractions on social media are always there.
All this has weakened our subtle energy bodies. Today, we can’t do a lot of things the authors taught in the ancient scriptures. Spending 12 years in solitude to dedicate to spiritual practice takes a lot of willpower – which is unprecedented today.
The context of traditional tantra was very different. It might even be dangerous for a modern man to follow the texts’ recommendations. We conclude that though the ancient scriptures are still valid at their core, we can’t blindly follow them the same throughout time.
A modification to suit the times we live in— and update— to tantra is very necessary.
We may still attempt advanced tantric practices. But we should always strengthen our energy bodies with other tools first.
* Mughal painting of ascetic yogis practicing techniques of yoga asanas and tapas (~1825).
Tantric Coaching— Tantra Experience Matters
Only following techniques from texts and scriptures can be dangerous for several reasons.
First, because often the texts were only meant to go together with oral transmissions. An experienced guru would give these to a mature, handpicked disciple. This means the tantra texts were incomplete without a teacher. Many times, they encrypted the texts so only the initiates would be able to understand.
Second, because tantra is a dynamic oral tradition that goes far back in time. The oral tradition is much older than the static texts. We’re talking of an untold number of centuries. The tantra text was only a summarized compilation of a well-established oral tradition.
Third, because tantra should be a practice, a lived experience, and not mere study. If you approach only from the intellect, it will only work on a knowledge level. This can end up causing you confusion, rigidity, and entitlement.
It’s different when you live the tantra practice. You already have the spiritual clarity and deep experience to confirm the texts.
Empirical Tantra Experience is Better than Book Knowledge
Have you ever tried to explain how a peach tastes to someone who’s never eaten one?
You could write an article (or even your Ph.D. thesis) on all the details of how juicy and sweet it tastes.
But no matter how well you write, you can’t create a real experience. Reading about a peach will never be the same as biting into a ripe peach yourself. It’s not the same as feeling that peach with all your senses.
In the same way, it’s not enough to base all our understanding of tantra and yoga on scriptures. Yes, studying can be useful to discover some illusions and untruths we hold.
It can also be a serious limitation if what’s written doesn’t match your context.
Think of it like this— an old, handy road is getting reconstructed and changes direction. But the guardrails and signs that marked the old road remain the same as before.
What happens? The guardrail and signs won’t give you good support and guidance on the path any longer.
Like that peach, tantra is a lived, juicy experience. How to unlock it if the ancient texts aren’t enough?
The good news: some masters have started on the road ahead of us. They have experienced the ultimate goal of the path for themselves. This means they have a trustworthy context and more insights than the texts alone.
The tantric master of kriya yoga, Sadhguru, talks about this:
“What is unique about yogic culture is that there is no philosophy of any kind – philosophies are scorned. Some people are trying to raise a debate, saying, “Do you have scriptural validation? Which scripture validates what you know?” What most human beings do not understand is that scriptures are a product of the realization that happened in yogis and sages. Yogis and sages are never a product of a scripture.”
Two Modern Takes on Tantra
Now we understand that there are two ways of looking at Tantra in our modern world:
1) One is to be strict in sticking to the fundamental, scriptural doctrine of the tantras.
2) The other is to allow the natural evolution of spiritual systems through time.
My online coaching aligns with this second perspective. It’s essential to adapt to our context as humanity advances and gets new knowledge.
The adaptable way allows us to expand and modernize the ancient tantra teachings. Of course, we shouldn’t transform the core. Good expansions bring in what’s true in our experience and produce real-life results.
It’s as Anodea Judith, best-selling author on chakras, says:
“The trouble with anything written down about religion, whether it is written in the Bible, the Koran, stone tablets, or Sanskrit texts, is that the written word is static, while life is dynamic, constantly changing and evolving. Religious texts that have endured through time, always lag behind the times in which they are practiced. In fact, one simple example of this is that the vast majority of writers about yoga throughout the ages appear to be men, while the modern yoga world today appears to be about 80% women.”
We need to create a version of tantra that is helpful to men today. Men’s empowerment through tantra is still possible. We only need the right approach.
Tantra: 21st Century Buddhist Perspective
How has our context changed us?
It’s doubtful that we have the same strong minds as the hard-core yogis and tantrikas of the ancient past. Their world was very different from ours.
Old-time practitioners didn’t have the stress of this modern competitive society. They didn’t have the anxiety and depression that we experience today.
On a similar note, we find wisdom from Dr. Nida Chenagtsang, author of Karmamudra. He talks about what Dalai Lama said about the tradition of renunciation in modern times:
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama often uses it [the above concept] to describe how we should practice Buddhism today. He says we should be ‘twenty-first-century Buddhists,’ practitioners who understand the rationale and meaning of the teachings, and who knows how to apply them to our current circumstances without just blindly following tradition. We are a new generation of [spiritual] practitioners living in a new century. We are new people with new mentalities and new problems.”
My Position on Tantra and Sacred Sexuality
What truths about tantra have we found?
Today, what most people think about when hearing ‘tantra’ is instead neo-tantra. In other words, spiritualized sacred sexuality, also known as sexual yoga.
There’s nothing that says either of the two paths and practices isn’t valid. It comes down to awareness and honesty. Know what you teach and what you practice. Don’t lie and say something new comes from an ancient source to get more attention, likes, and sales. Be truthful.
What’s my mission? I work to develop new methods from all of these powerful practices. I do this while preserving their integrity and honoring their sources.
My reasons for combining practices are clear. We need a practice that integrates tantra’s goals and principles in our modern lives.
I’ve seen effective transformative experience in the men I mentor and their relationships. We work together through unique methods from a combination of:
- Classical Indian and Tibetan Tantra.
- Sacred Sexuality and Neo-Tantra.
- Classical Hatha Yoga.
- Chinese Taoist Sexuality.
- Modern Men’s Work.
- Jungian archetypal psychology (read below).
Together, these become a modern and potent tool for transformation.
A Modern Tantra Online Coaching Program
They join the most important ingredient— my own self-exploration of consciousness. I’m not only a transformative life coach and mentor for men.
I’ve been a tantric yogi and spiritual practitioner for many years. This has developed my intuition and knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. It means I can guide you through the safest and most efficient path.
What’s the best way to judge any practice? Real-world results. Whether you have an embodied experience and not only an intellectual understanding.
I live and teach from that principle. And I test the positive effects of any practice on myself and master it before ever teaching it to others. Bottom line, I won’t teach you anything that I don’t practice.
This is why my online mentorship program is a world-class masculine empowerment system. I use my own unique methods I have developed from all this. They are potent, proven, smart, and transparent techniques. I live what I teach.
Male Empowerment and Jungian Psychology
Curious about what the archetypal psychology component is about?
Carl Jung added his groundbreaking psychoanalysis perspective to tantra. He explored the work of Sir John Woodroffe’s, the Sanskrit scholar and translator of The Serpent Power. You can read a free copy of Woodroffe’s foundational approach to tantric energy here.
Out of Jung’s work came the idea of observing how our minds work based on the seven chakras of classical tantra.
Jung thought these are a blueprint of individual and collective experience. A tool to understand our lives and relationships. This Jungian link also brought us closer to a deeper knowledge of the chakras.
Jungian archetypal psychology is a tool for understanding masculine-feminine relationships. It empowers you to explore the inner dynamics of your partnership. This is a key step for great sex and a healthy relationship.
Relationship Help Through Tantra
Using the tools of Tantra and the systems in my mentorship program, you’ll improve your relationship.
Curious to know how my program The Tantric Man Experience helps you? Watch this free masterclass after reading.
A warning, though. This mentorship program isn’t for everyone. It isn’t your typical sex counseling session or relationship advice.
It’s a tantric paradigm shift that will transform your way of life.
This program is only for men who struggle with intimacy, passion, or confidence. It’s for men who want help and support as they work to overcome these problems. If you’re only looking for a cool new technique, this work isn’t for you.
Still interested? Then we can work together with tried-and-true tools.
I’ll give you some more good news. I’ve been working behind the scenes to create a global community of 3800+ conscious men.
We are sharing what tools are effective for us. Our topics:
- rekindling that passion,
- becoming a master in the bedroom,
- discovering and doing the right things to please and excite their partners,
- and rebuilding the exceptional confidence they’ve lost along the way.
We don’t complain, we don’t judge, we take action!
Simply click this link to join our FREE Facebook community.
Lastly, leave me a comment below if you:
- Want to work together.
- Have references to special classical tantric practices you’d like to add.
- Need clarification on any points.
- Feel I didn’t mention anything you think is important.
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Mentor at Tantric Academy
Steffo Shambo is the founder of The Tantric Man Experience. His specialty is to empower men to realize their full masculine confidence, intimate power, and depth of connection to their partner. He has helped hundreds of men from all around the world to master their sexuality and masculine essence to save their marriage or attract their soulmate relationship. All while staying completely true to themselves.