Tantra, description and use

Tantra, description and use

Tantra is one of the most ancient practices, but at the same time controversial and little understood by our Western society. Let’s find out more about its origins and characteristics.


Tantra is a philosophy of life and self- care involving yoga, meditation and other practices. 


  • What is  tantra
  • Historical notes on tantra
  • How  tantra works
  • What ailments does tantra cure
  • For whom the practice of tantra is meant
  • Tantra, tantrism and tantrika
  • Love and tantric sex


When we talk about Tantra  we immediately think of tantric sex or mysterious and esoteric practices that have often been disclosed incorrectly: in reality , Tantrism , which represents an important stage in the evolution of all the main Indian religions, is a ritual practice and deeply spiritual , which has as its ultimate goal the awakening of consciousness.


What is tantra?

The meaning of tantra originates from the Sanskrit root “tan” , which means to extend or multiply, and from the suffix “between”, which instead can be translated as an instrument. Tantra philosophy is therefore that set of practices, techniques or rituals useful for expanding human consciousness. 

Often the image of the fabric is used, produced by the intertwining of warp and weft, to symbolize the union of the universal consciousness with the individual one and of the masculine strength ( Shiva ) with the feminine one ( Shakti ), which are the basis of the search for Tantra.

Historical notes on tantra

The origins of Tantra date back to the 4th century AD , although its roots lie in the matriarchal societies present in the Indus valley around 2000 BC, centered on the cult of the Mother Goddess and of the feminine.

With the invasion by the Aryan tribes and the transition to a patriarchal organization, which significantly changed religious conceptions and vision of spirituality, the tantric teachings began to be passed down secretly and orally for a long time, thus giving rise to different schools and currents, so you can hear about Buddhist Tantra, Shamanic Tantra, Hindu Tantra and so on.

The first written texts relating to this practice appear between the sixth and seventh centuries AD , but the Tantraloka (literally ” Light on Tantra “) by the Kashmiri sage Abhinavagupta, composed around the tenth century, is one of the fundamental works and constitutes a treatise complete and concise on all aspects of tantric practices.

How does tantra work?

Tantra is based on a non-dual vision , according to which the divine is not something to aspire to outside of us, but is part of our individuality itself: the research path therefore turns inside, towards the realization of this unit.

In Tantric thought the manifest universe is nothing other than the physical and sensorial expression of the unmanifest : the immersion and full knowledge of everything that surrounds us is therefore the only way to achieve union with what you do not see and live in a state of serenity and bliss.

The way to reach this profound consciousness goes through different levels of awareness, which according to the tantric tradition are reached by increasing and channeling the Kundalini energy , the primordial intelligence that resides in each one.

As in other oriental systems, also according to tantric philosophy everything that exists is originated from polarity , in particular from the two forces that take the name of Shiva and Shakti and that represent the male and female principle, the unmanifest and the manifest, the solar and lunar aspects, consciousness and creative energy.

Although there are tantric traditions called “saiva”, which venerate Shiva as their main deity, tantrism places a particular emphasis on the figure of the Shakti and the worship of the goddess .

In fact, it is no coincidence that there is a real pantheon of female divinities , the Mahavidya (from maha, great, and vidya, knowledge), which represent the ten fundamental pillars of knowledge and the ten energies that reside both in the micro and in the macrocosm. : 

1. Kali
2. Tara
3. Sodashi, 
4. Bhuvaneshvari
5. Chinnamasta
6. Bhairavi
7. Dhumavati
8. Bagalamukhi
9. Matangi
10. Kamala or Lakshmi


The Mahavidyas can be divided into two groups:

  1.  “Benevolent”;
  2. “terrifying”

according to the characteristics of their manifestation and each of these goddesses is associated with a bija mantra, which the practitioner can invoke in devotional practices to help him destroy and eradicate ignorance and increase and deepen knowledge and awareness.

Tantra, Tantrism and Tantrika

The term tantrism , which is now commonly used to indicate all tantric traditions, is actually absent from the Sanskrit language and from any ancient text on the subject: it was in fact introduced in modern times by some Western scholars, including the orientalist Sir John Woodroffe , who under the pseudonym of Arthur Avalon wrote some of the most famous texts on Indian philosophy at the beginning of the twentieth century , such as ” The power of the serpent “, dedicated to the Kundalini, and “The Tantra of the great liberation”.


Among the peculiar characteristics of Tantra yoga , two aspects can be underlined: first of all the secrecy character of all tantric doctrines and practices and, closely linked to this, the importance of the figure of the spiritual master , the guru, considered as a manifestation divine, to which practitioners owe obedience and devotion. 

In the texts of Indian literature dedicated to Tantra , the tantrika is the one who follows this spiritual path , as opposed to vaidika , who instead observes the precepts of the Vedic tradition. The tantrika has as its ultimate goal the moksa, or liberation from samsara , the cycle of rebirths, and the achievement of a higher spiritual condition.  The tools he has at his disposal in this journey of research are many.


In fact, Tantra includes among its methods : 

  • Physical practices of asanas;
  • breath control exercises ( pranayama );
  • visualization and meditation techniques through yantras and mandalas ;
  • recitation of mantras , syllables or sacred sounds, bearers of deep meanings or phonic form of the divine (an example above all, the pranava mantra OM, the primordial sound );
  • the puja, or the practices of worship and purification carried out in homage to a deity;
  • use of mudras, positions or symbolic gestures performed with the hands.

Who is the practice of Tantra intended for?

The practice of Tantra yoga is useful for anyone who wants to holistically deepen the relationship between body, mind and spirit, and make their energy perception more subtle. 

On a physical level, the benefits of Tantra positions are those specific to any other form of yoga that includes positions and breathing techniques. In particular :

  • Greater joint mobility;
  • muscle stretching;
  • decrease in back discomfort ;
  • benefits for the respiratory system;
  • reduction of anxiety and stress ;
  • mood improvement.

What ailments does tantra cure?

The practice of Tantra aims at achieving a state of balance and harmony between the physical, gross body, and the more subtle and spiritual bodies, and can therefore be very useful in cases where it is necessary to work on physical imbalances or on excess energy imbalances. or failing that, which can cause, for example, states of agitation and anxiety or, on the contrary, apathy and depression.


To do this, it is very important to work on the 7 main chakras , which are energy centers present along the sushumna, which coincides with the spine and represents the ascent axis of the Kundalini.

1. Muladhara
2. Svadhistana
3. Manipura
4. Anahata
5. Vishuddi
6. Ajna
7. Sahasrara
At the anatomical level , the chakras are connected to organs and glands, which are directly stimulated through targeted physical practices , but are also associated with specific shapes, colors and sounds , which can be used in meditation practices and in the use of yantra, mandala and mantra.

Love and tantric sex

In the West, Tantra began to be talked about especially starting with the New Age movements of 1960 , in relation to the sexual revolution and the liberation of the body from cultural repressions up to that moment. 

Since that time Tantra has often been mistakenly seen only as a cult of ecstasy and sex, reducing its philosophical and spiritual scope to a set of techniques aimed at prolonging physical pleasure and reaching deeper orgasms.

Although in the so-called left hand tantra the physical union between man and woman, maithuna , is a practice described and foreseen in tantric rituals, its meaning and purpose is different: it is in fact a sacred act, symbol of the energetic union between the masculine and feminine forces, Shiva and Shakti, needed to awaken the Kundalini energy and ascend to otherworldly states of ecstasy and bliss. 

In tantric love we give ourselves and open ourselves without inhibitions to the other not only in the practical act of coupling, but also and above all through a set of gestures, actions and behaviors aimed at creating a state of total harmony in the couple. 

It is in fact very important to prepare the environment , which is welcoming, warm, with soft lights, and colors, scents and sounds capable of stimulating and sharpening all the senses. And even more to dedicate time and attention , for example through the use of tantric massage, but also by cultivating a sincere exchange and intimate communication, useful for bringing the mind as well as the bodies.

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