Tantra and its Misconceptions- Reclaiming the Essence from the Illusions

Non-Sexual Tantra                                
Tantric teachings are also an integral part of the monastic and ascetic traditions of India. There is a strong Tantric side to the Vedantic Swami orders, which involves the worship of the Goddess and the Sri Yantra. Most Hindu ashrams and monasteries conduct regular forms of Tantric worship. Shankaracharya (c. 500 AD), the founder of the Vedantic monastic orders, was himself a great Tantric adept, yogi and devotee of the Goddess, though he was also a sage and philosopher of the Absolute.

A true Tantric master is a person who is a master of mantra or an energetic type of Yoga practice and does not connote one who is adept at sexual practices. Great Tantric teachers include figures like Shankara, Ramakrishna, and Nityananda, who were life-long celibates.

Yet this does not mean that one has to be celibate to benefit from Tantra. Tantra is not characterized by sexuality or its negation, but by various energetic approaches like mantra and yantra which can be applied on many levels and which provide tools for people of all temperaments and capacities. Tantra emphasizes methodologies of transforming energies and is not concerned with either suppression or ordinary indulgences through which energy is dissipated.

Sexuality and Liberation
The spiritual traditions of India - whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain - emphasize transmuting sexual energy because sex is the core energy of our existence. This has created two approaches. The first is a renunciate tradition in which all sexual activity is voluntarily given up. The second is a householder tradition in which moderation in sexuality is practiced.

The householder tradition may include sexual yoga practices, though seldom the graphic kind depicted in modern Western books on Tantra. It also aims at sustaining the social order through the family system, and thereby emphasizes sexual purity and loyalty. While the renunciate tradition is generally thought to be more direct because it allows the aspirant to focus entirely on practice, this is only a general rule. Many great yogis have come from householder traditions, and many Vedic rishis were married and had children. According to the Hindu tradition, human beings can live a householder life and fulfill their social and family duties and still achieve liberation. This is particularly important today when monasticism is in decline worldwide and in the West where it hardly exists at all.
While the renunciate tradition is generally more direct, it is more strenuous, and is the exception rather than the rule in all times and cultures, even those eras which are enlightened. It is a particularly difficult path in the modern age and in the Western world where there is no cultural tradition to support it. In this regard Yoga never encourages us to merely repress ourselves, though it does encourage self-discipline and says that we never need to bow down to the forces of desire. Yoga is part of an organic process of higher evolution whereby we naturally come to transcend our outer limitations into a state of inner freedom and contentment. It does not tell us that we must give up what provides us with happiness, but suggests that we should consider where our real happiness comes from. True happiness resides in consciousness, not in any material form, identity, or activity.

The Yoga tradition does not reject sexual energy as evil, bad, or shameful. Celibacy is only recommended along with spiritual practices to transmute that energy for usage on another level. Without meditation practices the Yoga tradition considers that celibacy may be harmful because the unused energy can stagnate and cause various physical and emotional problems. Yet without some control of sexual energy there will not be the power necessary to do higher meditation practices.

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