Integrated Tantra Definition
The World Association of Tantra Professionals defines Tantra in a manner free of the Hindu, religious, and language issues that have contributed to the confusion over an accurate definition of Tantra.
The WATP refers to this as Integrated Tantra and does not present a different or new definition, simply a definition that makes sense to a wider segment of the population.
According to the integrated definition, Tantra is the spiritual practice and study of the life force energy as it is perceived and expressed through the human body. The concepts of Tantra are actually very easy to understand, the fact that many find it very difficult to define it is an artifact of our social programming and conditioning, and the way Tantra has been traditionally presented.
In the practice and study of Tantra the life energies are acknowledged to a great extent. While our Western culture has externalized these energies and called them "God", Tantra teaches that the source of these energies are within us and we express them in our behavior, language, creativity, thought, even appearance.
In Tantric practice the life energies are acknowledged as they are expressed from their source within the individual and through the energy channels (often called Chakras). These channels are the paths through which the life energy expresses spirituality and intelligence, intuition and insight, communication and language, love and compassion, will and gratitude, sensuality and sexuality, and humility and self esteem.
These channels are universally experiential to human expression, many poetic verses have been written about heartfelt gratitude, grief, and love, the "gut feelings" of will and frustration, as well as the localization of sexual sensations. These are just a few examples of these channels and their relationship to sensation and expression.
There are three possible reasons that discourage the understanding of what Tantra really is. These errors are:
1. Defining Tantra through Hindu terminology.
2. "Americanizing" Tantra.
3. "Sexualizing" Tantra.
The reason the first is confusing is that no one growing up in our culture can understand the deepest meaning of the Hindu. We inevitably interpret the Hindu concepts from a Western Christian perspective. Further confounding the issue is that this Western Christian perspective, whether "Protestant" or not, is highly influenced by the hypocrisy, suppression, and exploitation of the Catholic Church over the span of the last 500 years. Even though the Catholic Church often recognizes and "atones" for their mistakes, such as the execution and later canonization of a number of saints, they continue to promulgate the errors in the present.
Some of us think we can define Shiva, Shakti, and Kundalini, concepts that are at the root of the Hindu philosophy. However, if 100 of these people that claim to understand these deities and energies were interviewed, each would provide a different definition. Often these definitions, again, would be expressed through filters of conditioning under the influence of the Western "god in heaven blessing and cursing us for our good and bad behavior" paradigm.
Even the simple Buddhist concepts such as karma, emptiness, attachment, and mindfulness are often interpreted through this paradigm as well. The fact is that we are programmed, conditioned, and brainwashed by the cultural paradigm that God is outside of us, with everything that we think will make us happy.
Once one starts on the Hindu path the understandings of more subtle concepts such as Nadanta, Samhara, and Udana create even further confusion and challenges.
The reason the second reason is confusing is that Americans, for example, do not even consider the basic energies of Tantra to be elements of our universe.
If asked, Americans might be able to remember four elements of their universe (earth, air, fire, and water), unless they watched the movie, "The Fifth Element" four or five times and understood the role Mila Jovovich played in the film. Even so, the importance of this element is hardly understood.
The elemental energies of the life force are very mystical and magical, and the dissociation of them from our cultural understandings is perhaps the worst tragedy to befall us in history. The religion of Tantra restores the importance of this fifth element and the study and practices encourage the free expression of the life energies through the individual.
The third reason creates a misunderstanding around Tantra that makes it less universally understood. Discussing Tantra in relationship to orgasm, controlling bodily responses, stimulation of erotic zones, sexual "healing", even our perceptions of sexuality, does little to help the naive individual comprehend the wealth of insight in the world of Tantra. Tantra is about the life force energies and all expressions. The topic and issues that many face in the sexual realm are an important part of Tantra just as they are an important part of the full life span of an individual or couple.
The approach that makes the most sense is defining Tantra free of the Hindu religion and philosophy, free of the Hindu terminology, free of the sexual focus, and free of the attempts to "Americanize" it. Tantra is a religion but one that increases your understanding , encourages your faith, and enhances your belief system.
To reiterate, Tantra is the practice and study of the life force energy as it is perceived and expressed through the human body, both individually and as experienced with others. The concept of a life force energy is nearly universal, Chi in the Chinese, Ka in Egypt, Ki in Japan (the root of Reiki), Prana in India, Eros in Greek (where the whole concept of Tantra can be understood in a clear light), and Animus in the Latin.
It would be hard to dispense with the idea of a life force energy. We know via the limited understandings and vocabulary of quantum physics, that everything in our world, animate or not, is composed of particles, space, and energy. The reason your world looks solid is that relatively few particles are moving so fast that we experience them in millions of places at once (due to the slow speed of our perception).
The life force is a different sort of energy, hence referred to as mystical and magical earlier, as it animates material forms and adds the element of consciousness or awareness to existence.
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