Tantra and the union of consciousness and energy

Tantra challenges a number of western beliefs. The scientific notion that consciousness is a product of matter. The gendered belief that the masculine is active and the feminine passive. And the dualist belief that we are separate from the divine.

Hamraz Ahsan in his book Tantra: Life-enhancing rituals of power, which is basically a condensed re-write of Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s book Kundalini Tantra, begins by clarifying that consciousness (Shiva) is passive while the energetic, creative force (Shakti) is active. Consciousness might be all-knowing, all-seeing, pure state of awareness, but without the energetic input of Shakti it is dormant. Likewise, kinetic energy might be powerful, ever-expanding, ever moving, but without the awareness of Shiva it is unstable. It is through the union of consciousness and energy that matter forms and holds.

The role of the tantrika (tantra practitioner) is to pierce this reality, to see the true nature of the universe, to see our true nature. Once we are able to see (or to return to) our true nature we are able to dis-attach from our lives, thereby accepting all of life on an equal basis, no longer chasing pleasure and running from pain.

This is where we get the idea that the world is an illusion. Not that it doesn’t exist but that it is not what we thought it to be. Pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow exist, but they exist as a play of the divine, a play between consciousness and energy.

This is something to be known through experience, not through the intellect (the Monkey Mind as it’s called in Buddhism). Indeed, it is the calming of the mind that we strive for through meditation, often utilising all of our senses. And when we talk of the senses, at this point, sex invariably raises its head.

Why we have such an aversion to sex (and such a craving for it) is a consequence of our moralising history (and I would say, material strands around recognition and distribution of social control) which portrays sex as a sin and the pleasure we gain from it as unnatural. This attitude, alongside our short-sighted approach to climate and many other areas of cultural and social life, has left a legacy of poison.

From a tantra perspective there are three reasons for sex; procreation, pleasure and to reach samadhi. We would quickly go extinct if we didn’t procreate, and off course die off from over-population if all we did was procreate. Sexual pleasure allows us to connect to our bodies and gives us a glimpse of experiences beyond the mind, but also can act as a great distractor. When we step beyond sex as a vehicle of procreation or pleasure to connect to the Bliss beyond, we can return to our true nature.

Bringing it all together

Our true nature is the union of Shiva/Shakti, consciousness/energy, where the world is seen as the out-breath of that union, and so the sexual analogy is there from the start. We direct our sexual energy, through the breath, to reach oneness. The sexual act becomes then a spiritual act if the intention is the reach samadhi. This is why so much emphasis is placed in tantra on intention, devotion and ritual as a means to convey our respect for our sexual/spiritual energy, our spiritual journey and our divine destiny.

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