Question: What is tantra exactly? It is said that in the tantric tradition, when the relationship between the guru and shishya becomes intimate and sacred, there could be a closeness that could even be sexual. The shishya-guru attraction – as evident in the Krishna-gopi tradition of amorousness – might manifest as sexual union. So what is tantra really and how does it relate to our sexuality?
Sadhguru: Unfortunately, in western countries, tantra is being presented in such a way that it is supposed to mean uninhibited sex. It has been so badly misinterpreted. This is because books on tantra have been written by people who just want to sell books. They are not tantrics in any way.
The word “tantra” literally means a technique or a technology. This is an inner technology. These are subjective methods not objective methods. But in the current understanding in society, the word "tantra" refers to very unorthodox or socially unacceptable methods. It is just that certain aspects are used in a certain way. It is not any different from yoga. It is a limb of yoga called tantra yoga.
The human mechanism is a composite of the physical body – an accumulation of food consumed; the mental body – the software and memory part that makes individuals function in specific ways; and the energy body – the fundamental upon which these two are housed. What is beyond this is non-physical.
The compulsive and cyclical nature of the body and mind render themselves a barrier for higher possibilities. Tantra is to go beyond, so that compulsiveness of the body and mind does not keep us trapped in our limitations. It is about learning to use the body, not as oneself, but as a stepping-stone to deliver this being to the highest possible dimension.
Tantra is not about unbridled sexuality, as assumed by many. Sexuality is a fundamental instinct instilled in our bodies to ensure the species perpetuates itself. This is a basic requirement. At the same time, one must know the limitations beyond which it will not carry us. It is only on recognising the limitations and the longing to touch other dimensions enters, that yoga and tantra become relevant.
People thinking in terms of “I have sexual needs so I will follow the tantric path,” is nonsense. In tantra, it is not that someone is using just sexuality to grow. They are using every aspect to grow. Unfortunately, there may be people who are attracted to such a path for the wrong reasons. They go because they want a spiritual sanction for their sexuality. Why do you want to bullshit yourself about spirituality? Handle your biology as biology, you do not have to give it other names.
Sexual needs can be fulfilled by forming relationships for that purpose, either within or outside the fold. Using spiritual process to fulfill sexual compulsions is reprehensible and irresponsible. It can lead to various levels of loss because the tantric process is not only used for the individual’s spiritual growth, but also to create an energetic space to support other possibilities that bring wellbeing to many.
Unlike sexuality, which tends to find release at the lower level of the energy system, tantra is about building our energies to the fountain-head of the uppermost dimension of the energy system
The simple principle of tantra yoga is: whatever can take you down can also take you up. The ways in which a man usually sinks in his life are through food, alcoholic drink and sexuality. Tantra yoga uses the same three vehicles to rise up. Unlike sexuality, which tends to find release at the lower level of the energy system, tantra is about building our energies to the fountain-head of the uppermost dimension of the energy system, so that one’s energies spill from the top. Of the different energy manifestations in the body – referred to as the 114 chakras – spilling from the top three is considered the highest. If you have to build up to this, every basic instinct, including the sexual instinct, emotions, intellect and survival process must be used to build and hype the energy system. The intention is to deploy all instincts for which a certain amount of energy is dedicated in the body. If one goes into an actual sexual act, the build-up and the purpose of it will be lost.
But once people start using certain substances, they must be in a certain state, otherwise it just becomes addiction. This needs extreme discipline, a kind of discipline which is not possible for most people to even attempt. When people walk this kind of path, if a 100 people take it up, 99 will end up only as drunkards.
However, this is what is known as left-hand tantra which is cruder technology. It involves various rituals. There is also a right-hand path which is very refined technology. These two are completely different in nature. The right-hand path is more internal and energy-wise, it is all about you. It does not involve any ritual or outside act as such. Is it tantra? In a way it is, but the word yoga includes all of them together. When we say yoga we are not excluding any possibility – everything is there in it. It is just that a few perverted people saw a certain type of process which is purely left-hand tantra where there is certain usage of the body. They just took that part, magnified it and wrote books about it with all kinds of weird sex. That is not tantra.
So tantra is not some weird nonsense. It is a certain capability. Without it there is no possibility.
Tantra means you are able to use your energies to make things happen. If you can make your mind razor sharp to cut through everything, this is also one kind of tantra. If you make your energies work upon your heart to become utterly loving and you can burst forth with enormous love that just overwhelms everyone, this is also tantra. If you make your physical body enormously powerful to make it do incredible feats, this is also tantra. Or if you can make your energies do things by itself without employing the body, mind or emotion, this is also tantra.
So tantra is not some weird nonsense. It is a certain capability. Without it there is no possibility. The question is “How refined is your tantra?” If you want to make your energies move, do you have to do 10,000 rituals or can you just sit here and do it. That is the big difference. Low technology or high technology is the question, but without tantra, there is no spiritual process.
I am talking about upgrading your technology. You don’t have to huff and puff to get into an orgasmic state. If you sit with your eyes closed, you can drip with orgasms in every cell of your body.
The Guru-shishya relationship is to deliver the shishya to a higher dimension of consciousness, not trap one into the compulsive nature of sexuality. Above all, this sacred relationship is definitely orgasmic, but not sexual. I am talking about upgrading your technology. You don’t have to huff and puff to get into an orgasmic state. If you sit with your eyes closed, you can drip with orgasms in every cell of your body. Those who have failed to achieve an orgasmic state of existence will associate an ecstatic state with sexuality because that’s probably the highest level of experience they have known.
People always try to take recourse in the Krishna-Gopi relationship. As the legend goes, Krishna gave an orgasmic experience to 16,000 women simultaneously. This cannot happen with sexual union. A shishya can establish a very intimate relationship with a Guru. Intimacy is generally understood only as two bodies touching. The body is not intimate enough for one who is on the spiritual path. The physical body is an accumulation from outside, so in the tantric and yogic systems, the body is never considered an intimate part of you. Only when energies meet and mingle and a Guru’s energies overwhelm and override the shishya’s energies, it leads to an orgasmic experience – a union, but not of the sexual kind.
If all you want is to do a meditation or spiritual practice, you don’t really need a Guru. The Guru is here essentially to overwhelm you with nameless ecstasies. So tantra is a technology of liberation, not enslavement.