The original ancient tantra was a path to enlightenment and liberation for anyone on a spiritual path. Later on, the practice became available to other persons, not necessarily on a spiritual path. Today, tantra is available in the West on a commercial level. This modern and commercial version of the original tantra is called neotantra.
And, it is popular in the West, used to spice up sex lives or bring harmony in relationships. So, what does neotantra entail? And, how does it differ from the classical tantra version? Let’s discuss more in this article: –
Tantra is a philosophy and a set of practices that form the basis for our healing and transformation. It revolves around working with the three most powerful human experiences. These are sexual desire, love, and our desire for freedom. Historical records indicate that tantra came into Buddhism and Hinduism in the 6th century. At this time, the practice was in spiritual rituals to invoke all-powerful deities. It, however, spread fast in India, with Hindu and Buddhist monasteries studying its ideologies.
Some of the pioneers of neotantra include: –
- Sir John Woodroffe
- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh
- Margot Anand: “Skydancing” tantra. The Art of Sexual Ecstasy
- Daniel Odier, Charles Muir, The Richardsons and others
Neotantra vs. Classical Tantra: The Differences
#1: Focus: All vs. Select Ancient Teachings
Classical tantra embraces ancient holistic Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain religious practices. These are authentic tantric teachings to balance, heal, and enrich our physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental being. More so, it liberates us from suffering by getting rid of trauma, societal conditioning, or ignorance, leading us on a path to spiritual awakening.
In contrast, modern tantra focuses on limited ancient instructions relating to sexuality. Here, the practice alters the original teachings on tantric sex to create its western variation. Here, tantric sex draws on the creative power of sexual energy to evoke healing and transformation in our lives. It bridges the gap between sex and spirituality as a form of transcendence.
#2: Spiritual Sex vs. Sacred Sex
Since neotantra focuses only on the teachings on sexuality, it is a small puddle in the original classical tantra. The practice combines modern therapeutic techniques with original tantric concepts like sacred rituals and devotions. It aims at elevating the person into a higher level of spirituality. Hence, sexual pleasure is no longer focused only on the genitals but the entire body. Modern tantra benefits us physically, psychologically, sexually, and spiritually. Check out some of the activities typical of neotantra below: –
- Purifying one’s chakras and consciousness
- Making the sexual space sacred
- Having slow, uninterrupted sex
- Looking at orgasm as a means, not a goal for sexual intimacy
- Practicing mindfulness during sex; being present in body and mind
- Becoming aware of your entire body during sex
- Practicing meditation and relaxation as part of sexual intimacy
- Attaining transmutation of one’s sexual energies
- Maintaining eye contact/gaze with a partner
- Practicing slow and deep breathing
- Expressing love
- Controlling ejaculation and other sexual impulses
In contrast, classical tantra has three traditional forms as follows: –
The monastic tradition of classical tantra refers to an intense way of living where the participants withdraw from mainstream society to pursue purity. The participants live solitary and disciplined lives, characterized by silence, prayer, and a struggle against sin and vice. They spend most of their time studying the ancient tantric texts and practicing sacred rituals like drawing mandalas, singing mantras, and performing ritual prayers (fire pujas). Likewise, the monks sustained their lives by doing simple manual work like farming, gardening, basket weaving, and rope making.
The householder tradition of classical tantra involves lay practitioners applying the sacred concepts of tantra to ordinary everyday activities. For example, lay practitioners seek to find magic or unity in nature, people, and animals. They do this as they go about their lifestyles when talking to others, cleaning, working, meditating, or engaging in intimate relationships. The ultimate goal is to live in communion with the universe.
Wandering Yogis Tradition
During the early medieval period, the Mahasiddha people living in forests and caves of Northern India practiced the wandering yogis tradition. It is a combination of yoga and tantra, also called tantrikas. These people would hold ganachakra ceremonies, a type of tantric feasts, and practice meditation to celebrate the pleasures of senses. There was singing, dancing, eating meat, drinking alcohol, and having sex. Today, the wandering yogis tradition remains active in India, often taught in yogic schools.
#3: Conflicting Sexual Ideologies & Interpretations
Did you know that some neotantra sexual ideologies are considered as sinful when viewed under classical tantra? Indeed, unlike neotantra, classical tantra does not entertain sexual fantasies in pursuit of sexual pleasure. Also, the original tantra views any sexual activity that involves menstrual blood a taboo.
#4: The Benefits
Below are some of the benefits of classical tantra: –
- Growing presence and self-awareness
- Practicing self-love and body confidence (acceptance)
- Harmonizes the active and receptive energies
- Connects our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual being
- Expands lovemaking beyond attaining an orgasm
- Promotes healing, integration, transformation, and spiritual maturity
Here are some of the benefits of neotantra: –
- Get more from a sexual relationship
- Attain a sexual awakening characterized by the loving presence and profound intimacy
- Healing wounds from sexual trauma
- Have longer and satisfying lovemaking sessions
- Releases toxic sexual energies, including shame
- Provokes a journey of self-discovery leading to the entire body or multiple orgasms
- Improving communication and communion between intimate partners
- Cultivate a holistic approach towards sexual intimacy, focusing on mind, body, and spiritual connection
- Delaying orgasm or preventing premature ejaculation or non-ejaculatory orgasms for men
What does tantra mean to you? Tantra continues to be a subject of fascination for many, even misunderstood at times. Yet, the practice has evolved for centuries and is now either classical tantra or modern tantra. Whereas classical tantra sticks to the authentic teachings that are a path to spiritual enlightenment, neotantra focuses on only the sexual component of the original tantra. By channeling sexual energy throughout the body, neotantra aims to achieve a higher level of intimacy and sexual pleasure.