What makes tantra a spiritual path and not just another type of sexual exploration (not that there is anything wrong with mere exploration!). But Tantra is a spiritual path, not a sexual path….so what makes it so?
A fundamental tantric principle is that transcendence is attained through the union of opposites. Taoists call these “yin” and “yang” and use examples from nature such as night and day, heaven (sky) and earth, fire and water, male and female. Tantrics call the opposites “Shiva” and “Shakti”, and images of a god and goddess making love together in yab yum position is a symbol of this union.
THE UNION OF LOVE AND MEDITATION
Osho described tantra as the union of love and meditation.
In “normal” life Shakti predominates and it is easy to get lost in our experiences. It is over-identification with each experience or thought that causes this. It results in what Buddhists call “suffering”, and it is often what prompts people to look for some spirituality or healing in their lives.
In monastic life there is a choice of meditation over love. One reduces external sensation and experience in order to increase meditative awareness. It is a more “Shiva” path and thus generally appeals more to masculine people.
Tantra chooses the union of both. It is an unusual spiritual path in so doing, as the majority of spiritual paths follow the monastic way as the highest attainment. But tantra was often known as the householders’ path.
The pitfall, of course, comes from practitioners over-emphasising the experiences without an equal measure of meditation.
It is quite common, especially with those just entering the path, for people to get drawn into the high experiences of Tantra and to neglect a daily meditative practice. Life is itself a teacher, and so suffering will generally result until meditation or awareness is brought in. Life has a momentum of waking us up!
“Suffering” of an excess of experiences include emotional overwhelm, chaos and confusion. For example, with too much emphasis on experiences in Tantra, one may start to get really attached to the feeling of the experience and long for it to repeat. This leads to an overwhelming ache of desire. Another form of “suffering” is from too many experiences too fast, and feeling overwhelmed by it all. These effects can all be brought into balance with a simple sitting meditation practice…a little time just watching the thoughts and emotions passing by without getting involved at all.
Likewise, one can also experience an imbalance of too much masculine-style practices such as meditation. If this is not balanced with experience and connection to others then one may become stiff, withdrawn and have a lack of empathy.
Tantra aims to balance both. The feminine practices (such as dance and massage) to open one to life. The masculine practices (such as meditation and study of tantric texts) to connect one to consciousness. Some practices are more shiva-shakti balanced within themselves, such as yoga and qigong.
…UNITING FORM WITH THE FORMLESS
Thus Tantra is a path of uniting form with the formless. Love, life and experience is met by awareness, meditation and consciousness. Notice the connection to life and death. Shakti is life: movement, energy, feelings and so on. Shiva is death: that consciousness that pervades beyond all transient life. Shiva-Shakti, the tantric union, is a union of life and death.
The consciousness in a tantra class may take the form of a formal meditation practice, or it may be brought through by bringing awareness to a certain experience.
It is up to you to choose, as a practitioner, what balance you need to bring to your life. If you feel uptight and cut off from life, the Shakti practices can open you up. If you feel and sense life intensely and get easily overwhelmed, then bring more meditation into your daily practice, ie add more Shiva practices. if you feel balanced and are ready for inner union, then discover the Tantric meditations and Tao Inner Alchemy Practices. In these you often meditate upon the movements of Shakti, or sexual energy, within your own body. So your own meditative awareness (Shiva) meet and unites with your energy (Shakti). These arts are best learned from a teacher.
Bear in mind that different teachers teach different aspects. Rather than judge a teacher as being too boring (too much meditation for your current liking) or too hedonistic (too much experiential tantra for you right now), recognise that each teacher has a gift and it is up to you to choose what to embrace in this time in your life.
Ultimately you are responsible to create your own reality. The law of Shiva-Shakti or Yin-Yang is understood as a spiritual law, just like a law of physics. So use it to create the balance, harmony and union that you want in your life.
© 2014. Shashi Solluna. All rights reserved.