Tantra - A Much-Misunderstood Path to Liberation

  • By Jeffery D Long
  • April 2016
  • 812 views

Editor: Prabuddha Bharata, the magazine from the Ramakrishna Mission came out with a special issue in January 2016 titled ‘Reflections on Tantra’. Esamskriti is uploading select articles from this masterpiece issue. If you like to download the entire issue (one with brown cover) http://advaitaashrama.org/pbarchive

Excerpts: “Tantra. The word brings to mind a vast range of images and connotations, some positive and some extremely negative. How any given person views tantra will depend on a range of factors, including that person’s  cultural background and general orientation towards spirituality and the formal religious and moral conventions of one’s society. In the minds of many, tantra is associated or even identified fully with practices that defy most traditional standards of moral purity, both in India and in the West: practices called by scholars antinomian. These practices include transgressive sexual behaviours and even, in some cases, cannibalism.

Depending on how conservative a person might be, this image of tantra will inspire either revulsion and disapproval or great excitement at the thought of a spiritual path that allows—indeed requires—the free indulgence of the senses. Both types of reaction can be found in both India and in the West, though it is probably fair to say that the fi rst kind of reaction— revulsion and disapproval—has been more common in India and the second—excitement and intense interest—has come to characterise Western approaches to tantra—a pronounced shift from the Victorian period, when tantra began to attract the attention of the Western world, refl ecting the broader shift that has occurred over the last century in Western attitudes towards sexuality and sensuality.

Both types of reaction, however—positive and negative—are based upon a profound misunderstanding of what tantra truly is. Can antinomian practices be found in certain tantric traditions and given justification on the basis of tantric philosophy? Certainly. Are these practices in any way representative of tantra as a whole? Certainly not.”

To read full article in PDF format.

Author is is a Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, USA.

This article was first published in the Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata (www.advaitaashrama.org). I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. You can subscribe online at www.advaitaashrama.org. Cost is Rs 100/ for one year, Rs 280/ for three years, Rs 1,200/ for twenty years and Rs 2,000 for twenty five years.