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Tantra, pt 1.

Namaste all,

without further ado:

Tantra means thread in Sanskrit, specifically the warp thread that dresses the loom and gives support to the fabric formed by the moving shuttle or, in a rug, the individual knots. Without it, there can be no cloth. It can also refer to the cord used for stringing beads to make a necklace, a rosary, mala, or garland. Tantric or more rarely, tantrik, is the adjective.

The word "tantra" refers to an "oral practice tradition," where there is a direct link from teacher to student. It is important to understand that a tantric connection is more than a lineage association, or an affiliation to a tradition. To belong to a certain tantric lineage means that the skills themselves are learned, practiced, mastered, and handed on with a special kind of permission.

Tantrism refers to an esoteric system in which exercises, practices and rituals are handed down directly from teacher to student by word of mouth, though often with the aid of teaching materials in the form of pamphlets and pictures. Such a manual can also be called a tantra. Any tantra is usually part of a system that was discovered, developed, or established, to explain, teach and initiate people into a radically different way of looking at, and acting in, the world.

The esoteric, concealed, or secret part, is often misunderstood as a reference to the intentional concealment of ancient practices. And it is true that some of these tried and true techniques sometimes rely heavily on symbolic or "twilight" language.

Also, there is little doubt that some teachers wanted to keep certain things from their competitors, and that there were times and political situations during which it was not wise to meet privately in small groups for any reason.

However, the word "esoteric" in relation to tantric information, systems, and practices, has more to so with the fact that they operate at a subconscious or subliminal level -- below the threshold of everyday awareness. Without proper explanation and careful guidance, an impatient and unprepared person could really get into trouble with some of these methods.

Attention was drawn to tantrism when some sexual aspects of it became known in the West. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, this has led to a great deal of confusion on the subject. People incorrectly tend to assume that "tantric" means something like, "about dynamic sexual technique."

In pre-tractor agricultural societies, draft animals could only work together if they were kept in unison by means of a yoke. The English word is derived from the Sanskrit yug from which we get the familiar yoga. But yoga originally just meant "yoke," the set of hoops that could be attached to a long shaft or tied to a set of reins controlled by a person. In fact, yoga is a way of referring to a tantric tradition.

In tantrism, the student and teacher are yoked or linked by the teachings, and by obligations and responsibilities. The individual is linked to past masters. The aspects of the teaching are linked: word with action, thought and sound, visualization and gesture, etc. Not least, the outer actions and words link to the practitioner's psychology and other characteristics and inclinations.

The connotation of the word "yoga" is "discipline" in the sense of training to learn a technique. In the ancient Indian worldview, there was little division between mental, physical and spiritual aspirations. If a person wanted to be a better fighter, they had to learn to be a better thinker and concentrator, too. And they also had to consider why they wanted to achieve their physical goals, and what use that might be in the long run. So, in yoga, the various aspects of the person are yoked to accomplish a task or a goal.

Student and teacher are yoked in a special relationship of confidence and trust. Students of the same teacher, school or lineage may consider themselves to be yoked together, too.

In the West, that comprehensive kind of training is fairly new. For example, visualization as a means of obtaining improved results in sports has only been used for about a generation. In India and later, in Tibet and in China too, the body-mind connection has been understood and practiced for thousands of years.

There are various types of yoga, any and all of which may form part of a tantric system. However the physical exercises of Hatha yoga are only the most widely known aspect of yoga. Hatha yoga works primarily with muscle flexibility, breathing and concentration to improve the health of the physical body and to relieve stress. Kriya yoga uses visualization, gesture and ritual worship. Karma yoga works on, and through, the perfection of the tasks of daily life.
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Tantra, pt 2.


The symbolism of sex is used in Hindu and Buddhist imagery to show inter-relatedness. Rarely does it "refer" to actual contact. In Buddhism, where images are used as visual aids, a male-female pair stands for Compassion and Wisdom, and the pairing of knowledge with "skillful means" or, method.

As an aspect of Hinduism, tantrism can include maithuna or sexual connection that usually has as its ultimate goal, the union of the individual soul with the Universal. Ecstasy of a sexual nature is only one of the lesser objectives, but that is how it has been most often misunderstood until recently. Sexual yoga can also be practiced with the objective of acquiring certain impressive abilities, accomplishments or siddhis. However, enhanced sexual experience is not the objective of any genuine yogic system or tantric tradition. That would go against the very foundation of a view that sees all beings as part of a greater whole that encompasses several different realms of existence; in which beings are dependant on each other, and where experience has consequences far beyond one's own desires or immediate knowledge. In the Shurangama Sutra the Buddha is quoted as warning that there are teachers who have been misled and continue teaching the false doctrine that the male and female organs are the means to liberation or enlightenment.

The Role of Sex

Lama Thubten Yeshe (Introduction to Tantra, 147) wrote: "There is a certain point in the mastery of the completion stage where physically embracing a consort is necessary...."

There is no doubt that for most people, sexual activity provides a powerful and even sometimes, an overwhelming, experience. It is those qualities that can be used in an advanced stage of practice. Then the partner can be "used" as an activity support, or "action seal" (Skt. karma mudra.) When both partners are practitioners, then there can be further benefit.

John Powers (Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, 1995) explains:

In these practices, one visualizes oneself and one's partner as specific deities, and one's sexual union is used as a way of generating very subtle minds….
In the practices using seals, the experience of orgasm is conjoined with techniques that draw the winds into the central channel. The result is an indescribable experience of bliss and direct perception of emptiness. The partner is referred to as a 'seal' because the practice seals the realization that all phenomena are a union of bliss and emptiness. According to the second Dalai Lama, one relies on a seal "as an external condition and the experience of the compression process as the inner condition...."

Tantric texts stress that practice with consorts is not a form of sexual indulgence, but rather a form of controlled visualization that uses the special bliss of sexual union. It is restricted to very advanced practitioners, yogins who have gained control over the emanation of a subtle body and have awakened the mystical heat energy. Those who have not advanced to this level are not qualified to practice with an actual consort; people without the necessary prerequisites who mimic tantric sexual practices thinking that they are practicing tantra are simply deluded, and may do themselves great harm.

A karma mudra can also be imaginary, since one is ready for this kind of practice after having attained skill with Completion stage visualization. However, even Je Tsong Khapa who founded the Gelugpas, agreed that to attain Buddhahood in one lifetime, it is necessary to use an actual consort (karma mudra) saying, "A female companion is the basis of accomplishment of liberation." That is, in order to generate an illusory body as that of a particular deity with all the qualities of existence, another person must interact with it.

John Powers explains further:

The only other way to accomplish this is to transform the clear light of death into a deity, but this can only be done when actual death occurs. According to Gelukpa tradition, this was the choice that Tsong Khapa made. He was concerned that some of his followers might go astray if he were to practice with an actual consort, and so he postponed the generation of an illusory body until his death. When the clear light of death manifested, he effected the transformation of subtle body and arose as a fully enlightened Buddha.

Powers quotes Daniel Cozort (Highest Yoga Tantra, 1986):

"Shakyamuni Buddha, in his last lifetime prior to enlightenment, used an Action Seal, but it is said that although [Tsong Khapa] became a Buddha, he did not use an Action Seal, becoming enlightened in the intermediate state instead ... because he feared his followers would imitate him without being properly prepared, thus hampering instead of enhancing their practice..."

Also, many masters from Atisha to Kyadrubje are reported to have noted that there are few people around that can act as the Wisdom (Skt. vidya) consort, since they do not have all the required characteristics (Lessing and Wayman Introduction to Buddhist Tantric Systems.)

For more on the subject: Lama Thubten Yeshe. The Bliss of Inner Fire, Wisdom Publications.
Tantra, pt 3.

The Difference Between Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism

According to Min Bahadur Shakya of the Nagarjuna Institute, Nepal:

Vajrayana and Hindu Tantra are NOT the Same.
Vajrayana Buddhism is also called the path of skilful

means, secret path or effect vehicle. It is not limited to
the Tantric process only. Its main principle is based on
Madhayamika and Vijnanavada doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism.
The main goal of Hindu Tantra is to actualize the permanent, eternal Brahma as the realisation of the ultimate truth. In Vajrayana Buddhism, on the other hand, there is the system of meditation of the unity of Samatha and Vipashyana according to the Tantric or Sutra Mahamudra systems. These methods are unknown to Hindu Tantric systems.

The purpose of Vajrayana Buddhist practice is to attain the perfect enlightenment of Buddha whereas in the Hindu Tantric system, the basis is to realize the Ten Mahavidyas as the highest forms of deities.

In Vajrayana Tantric meditation, the method is the generation and completion stage of the meditation whereas in Hindu Tantric meditation system, the method is limited to the generation stage.

As a result of these meditation[s,] ... Vajrayana practitioners achieve the state of complete enlightenment, whereas in Hindu Tantric system, the attainment is the Brahma realm. Therefore, it is a gross mistake to state that Vajrayana
and Hindu Tantra are similar.

Furthermore, in Vajrayana Buddhism, there are innumerable methods of meditations on Gurus, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Istadevatas, [Tib. yidam] Dakinis and Dharmapalas. The Ten Mahavidyas ... considered [the] highest deities in [the] Hindu Tantric system, are relegated to the positions of [mere] ... protectors of the Dharma (ie. Dharmapalas,) who can only clear obscurations in a practitioner's practice but not really give enlightenment.

The deities in Buddhist Tantras are considered as the manifestation of our mind whereas in [the] Hindu system, it is the ultimate principle itself.

for more information the interested reader is directed to:


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An interesting coincidence is the meaning of the word 'inspiration', as to inhale and also to receive spiritual awareness. This had something to do with my last post in the Tantra thread. Anyway.