The following will be an exploration of Tantra yoga. Herein, Tantra Yoga will be defined and described. Tantra Yoga will then by analyzed through a Western Perspective, and then Western society will be analyzed through this Eastern Yogi perspective. Based on the analysis herein, a conclusion will be drawn as to which culture holds the best sexual practices. Let’s explore!
Tantrism is a deep, detailed, and lengthy subject, whose practitioners hold various perspectives, and which can be examined through numerous unique perspectives. A complete and thorough explanation of Tantrism is beyond the scope and breadth of this paper; however, a description and breadth as relevant and proper for this paper will be given. The focus of this paper will be specifically Tantrism in relation to the Indian (Hindu) traditions—this paper excludes all other views and interpretations of Tantrism—like Buddhism and Taoism—for the sake of focus and brevity. Henceforth, all terminology is in reference to Hindu Tantrism, and they will have no other meaning.
Before Tantrism can be discussed, a general understanding of Yoga must first be given—to understand Tantra Yoga, it is first necessary to understand its “place” in the Yogas as a whole. Yoga is “a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation (Merriam-Webster).” The goal of Yoga is the union with Brahman—which is a Holy (Hindu) Trinity. For the sake of brevity, and to westernize a bit, the goal of Yoga is to become one (to unite) with the universe, with All that is.
Yoga consists of a broad range of exercises all of which enhance the health of the Yogin (practitioner of Yoga) in some way. There are a variety of “ways” of Yoga, including: union by knowledge (Jnana Yoga), union by vision or form (Yantra Yoga), union by voice and sound (Mantra Yoga), union by bodily mastery (Hatha Yoga), union by mental mastery (Raja Yoga), and several others (note: while performing one Yoga the Yogin may also be performing other Yogas as well). The goal of Tantric Yoga is union through harnessing sexual energy (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia).
Tantrism holds that there are two ways of harnessing sexual energy. The first way of Tantrism is to become celibate and to resist orgasm. Semen is viewed as precious and valuable fluid that harnesses great energy. The energy contained within semen can be converted and focused into other “channels”; it can increase overall daily energy, and sexual energy can be converted to mental energy thereby improving meditation. Semen, being precious, is to be hoarded; therefore, sexual relations are avoided. In the second way, Tantrism heightens consciousness through sexual union. Sometimes contact with flesh is involved, other times contact is imagined; sometimes orgasm occurs, other times it does not. The Yogin is free to choose either way of capturing sexual energy, and he can change ways as he sees best.
At this point it is best to know down some possible stereotypes of Tantrism:
“Tantrism is not, however, a license to ‘do what you will’ or to indulge in orgies of pleasure; though, inevitably, it has sometimes been taken as such, and the excess of some sects have given it a bad name with orthodox Hindus and Buddhists. The person who makes Tantric ritual an excuse of licentiousness and who concentrates on the physical pleasure instead of the mystic expansion of consciousness is held by Hindu and Buddhist alike to be a ‘fool,’ for he is creating bad karma instead of liberating his spirit. (Hewitt, p. 500).”
Before intercourse, the couple meditates by concentrating on either mantras (sounds) or yantras (visuals). Coitus is an aid to meditation. Coitus is a way of joining opposites (as described below), and in this way, the individuals become complete. Through Tantric sex, individuals transform their bodies into the divine bodies, into gods and goddesses (Eliade, p. 228). Being as such, the woman is viewed as a stepping-stone from the couple’s corporeal selves to higher beings. The goal of every Yoga is the same: for Tantric Yoga, by ending thought, ceasing breath, and preventing semen loss, sex becomes the vehicle that which transcends and unites the Yogin the Brahman, with All that is, and in this way they experience their immortality.
Like the Chinese Ying and Yang, men are seen as white, good, and positive while women are seen as dark, evil, and negative. As Yoga demands a strict healthy, vegetarian diet, Tantric Yoga often encourages eating meat and drinking alcohol—BIG Yogic taboos. It is likely that, in Tantrism, as the woman is viewed as a dark and negative force, and by the “violations” of strict diet, that this “kick” or “thrill” of indulging on the wild side adds to the overall excitement and creates energy useful for meditation.
Tantric Yogis have mastered some impressive physiological functions. There are a variety of (Hatha) exercises that condition and tone the sexual muscles and organs, improve circulation to the sexual organs, and improve suppleness and mobility of the spine and waist. Some of the impressive and noteworthy sexually-related abilities of some Yogins include: touching their eyebrows with their tongues, sucking up semen and (and entire glass of) water through the penis into to bladder, sucking up liquids through the anus, sexual intercourse for over two hours continuously without orgasm, and the contractions of the penile and vaginal muscles (bringing the clitoris closer to the penis during coitus, as well as increasing friction and pleasure for both) at will.
Critically, how “good” is Tantrism, especially when compared to Western thoughts and sexual practices? From the perspective of a Westerner, Tantrism may seem exotic, time-consuming, and complicated. Tantrism makes much ado about nothing, and the benefits are not worth the work to receive them (or, at best, they cancel each other out). The Westerner would likely say that sexual relationships are and should be physical. The best way to approach sex is to engage in those relations that maximize the quantity of physical pleasure for both partners. Moreover, the Hindu religion is clearly a contradiction to Christian doctrine. Why would the Westerner want to be united with Brahman?
The main problem with Westerns trying
to understand Eastern thought is… well, they are Westerners!!
Eastern thought is like a completely different “format” of thinking;
their psychology, value system, and metaphysical worldview is unlike Western
thought. It is easy for the
Westerner to make the above acquisitions against
The Eastern thinkers would see a spiritually distant nation. They would quickly notice the common dualistic metaphysical view (body and mind are unique). The would notice our preoccupation, with seed, progress, efficiency, material goods, and physical pleasures. They would also notice we have, to prevent suffering, the never-ending drive to change our environment to suit our desires. The Easterners would feel sorrowful and pitiful in their thoughts of Western society, and rightly so.
Western society is starving spiritually. To make matters worse, this society offers (in general, and this point is certainly arguable) no paths to unite the individual with his or her spiritual essence (those who are united are the exception—not the rule). People need to experience their spiritual selves, and people seek to feel it. They search for this bliss, but they do not know what or where it is. Instead, they turn to their Marlboro’s, jack Daniels, and white powder. The seek sexual relations as and end in itself, or as a means only to pleasure. Although all these can provide temporary relief, none of them can provide inner peace.
Sex. Advertisers use sex to get our attention. TV shows use sex to boost ratings. There is porn on nearly every channel that can legally show them. The Internet is swamped with adult pictures and short movies. Have you ever wondered why it is that Western Society is so obsessed with sex? It is significant to note that, during orgasm, an individual often, if only for a second or few, loses consciousness of time, space and self (ego). This is precisely the goal of all Yogas, as well as the method of choice for Tantra Yoga!
For most Westerners, orgasm is the
closest they will ever come to experiencing meditation, as close as they will
ever come to experience their “higher selves.”
Western culture needs to embrace their spiritual selves, and learn to
experience and transcend their being and thought into a divine
essence. This is not necessarily
a contradiction to Christianity. The
oneness the Hindus call Brahman (a Holy (Hindu) Trinity) could easily be
“corrected” to God and the Christian Trinity.
Multiple significant Christian “mystics” have meditated and
transcended themselves, including St Teresa of
The fast paced, now is better, and always in a rush mode of our society does more harm than good in the bedroom. This collective mind-set conditions males to ejaculate quickly—to get the quick fix. Tantrism can teach Westerners that slow and calm is better, especially when in the bedroom. Additionally, it is understood that the physical benefits and controls gained by Yoga would dramatically improve sexual relations in Western societies (which is also relevant for gay and lesbian relationships). Further, not only would the increased blood flow to the pelvis present the male with a harder and firmer erection, but it would also increase sexual arousal for both sexes.
Epicurus (Soccio, p. 206) and John Stewart Mill would certainly argue against the previous Westerners claim that “the best way to approach sex is to engage in those relations that maximize the quantity of physical pleasure for both partners.” Epicurus and especially Mill (Denise, Peterfreund, and White, pp. 166-182) would quickly address the difference between quality and quantity. They would explain that there are two kinds of pleasures: mental and physical. They would explain to the Westerner that mental pleasures are of a superior quality than physical pleasures because while physical pleasures can be intense they are short-lived and in many cases unhealthy, while mental pleasures are calm, tranquil, and endure for a long time. No quantity of physical pleasure is ever better (nor should be preferable) to any mental pleasure—regardless of the quantity of the mental pleasure. If Epicurus or Mill where here, they would certainly argue that Tantra Yoga is a higher quality of sexual relationship, and therefore is superior and should always be preferable over the sexual practices of the West.
The author of this paper has been a practitioner of Hatha Yoga for about two years [as of the date I wrote this paper, which was December 2000]. Some of his personal experiences have been used to understand, interpret, and write about the various issues contained within this paper—there is much common ground between Hatha and Tantra Yoga. Tantrism seems to provide a safer, healthier, more pleasurable, more fulfilling, and a higher quality sexual experience than does current Western sexual relations. Although Tantra Yoga is a better way than present Western ways, Tantra Yoga is unlikely to be the best of all the Yogas. Practitioners of the other schools of Yoga sometimes disapprove of the Tantric ways. Even so, Tantra Yoga is likely to be the most appealing Yoga to many westerners. Given an option between the two, Tantra should replace the Western ways, and after a while, the Tantra Yoga ways should be replaced with other, perhaps “better” Yogas. One step at a time…
Denise, Peterfreund, and White.
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Eliade, M. (1969). Yoga: immortality and freedom. (2nd ed).
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Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. (1998). In Yoga.
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