“Wherever you are is the entry point”
Tantra, as Georg Feuerstein explains in his book “Tantra. The path of Ecstasy 1” denotes a genre of spiritual teachings that affirm the continuity between spirit and matter.
I believe that to declare that someone is entitled to talk about Tantra, means to compromise its knowledge with centuries of wisdom. Thus said, I am by no means an expert in Tantra teachings nor able to fully explain the basic concepts of it; but what I can do is talk about some teachings I’ve received directly from many respected teachers of Tantra.
I’ve been blessed to have crossed paths with two of the most renowned theorists and teachers of this Philosophy in the western world, both of which are Anusara Yoga 2 exclusive teachers. The first one I had the pleasure to meet is Carlos Pomeda, whose studies are frequently addressed to Kashmir Shaivism, a northern India tradition. The other teacher, Douglas Brooks, is devoted to the southern India teachings of the Auspicious Wisdom, the goddess-centered Tantric tradition of Shrividya. (Their vast resumes speak for them both 3)
I remember that after taking a full-time weekend yoga and meditation workshop in Mexico with Carlos Pomeda, there was one main idea that stood out in my mind for months afterward. Pomeda pointed out how we are identified with our own definitions of ourselves; such as: “I am a woman, I am American, I am a brunette, I am a yogi…” and so on. What he highlighted was that every time we identify ourselves with all these concepts, we are limiting our being to the small part of the universe that is “woman” or “American”, or “yogi” (As a westerner, I found his words to be a beautiful way of explaining the meaning of Ego). I realized that limits are always personal, and we decide whether we experience life from the whole universe within us, or just from a small part of us. That day, Pomeda’s lesson ended with a beautiful meditation centered on a simple word: Me. He encouraged us to find what part of ourselves we would call “Me.”
When I came out of a Douglas Brooks’ similar yoga and meditation retreat that was also held in Mexico, some of his words kept spinning in my mind afterward as well. He said “If you search the divine, compromise to be more human; the more human you are, the more divine you will see the world”. In the same line, he pointed out that “we are born human, but in a deep sense, we create our own humanness” and “you are a prefect imperfection” he said “embrace such imperfection; you should not become something you are not, but embrace the gift that has been given to you”.
Tantra is frequently believed to be a discipline focused on maximizing states of pleasure, because we know little of its most profound wisdom. Many commercial publications are focused around tantric sex and forget every single principle it teaches. It is a philosophy that heartens you to enjoy life from a higher perspective, which does not infer that it supports Hedonism. Carlos Pomeda would say that Tantra spiritualizes everything, including sex.
If I could define Tantra in one word from what I’ve learned, I would definitely choose the word “expansion” (The verbal Sanskrit root “tan” means “to expand”). Expansion of vision, experiences, consciousness, possibilities… I felt particularly attached to this Philosophy of life when I realized it had no limits. Instead of encouraging us to restrain or neglect a part of us as human beings in order to attain liberation, it invites us to learn from our individual experience and by our own available means (body, senses, desire…) It teaches us how to see the intrinsic sacredness in each single being, event, feeling, action... it dares us to understand that there are different levels of consciousness from which we can experience life.
I always thought it was quite difficult to follow most of the traditional yoga philosophies (which have two main foundations: practice and restraint) in my everyday life. I think I would have to live in a cave to do so. On the contrary, I found out that Tantra is applicable to any situation and place. What tantric teachings have challenged me to do is to try living everyday, every single event, from my “utmost Me”.
I hope this article aroused an interest in you to find out more about this fascinating Philosophy. I encourage you to research Tantra, and when doing so, to follow some great advice I just heard: When approaching anything new, one must always have “curiosity without assumptions.”
~Andrea Pieck is a part of the Xinalani Family. She is a yoga and meditation practitioner, and she really enjoys reading and writing. She’s particularly passionate about Philosophy, seeking always for new perspectives and ideas.
1 Georg Feuerstein, Tantra, The Path of Ecstasy
2 Anusara Yoga is a system based on Tantra philosophy and centers its practice on compassion and opening the heart. If you want to learn more about it visit: http://www.anusara.com/
3 If you want to learn more on Kashmir Shaivism or Shrividya Tradition, visit Pomeda’s (http://www.pomeda.com/) and Brooks’ (http://www.rajanaka.com/ ) webpages