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What is Tantra?

I am not a scholar of Sanskrit or Tantra. Nor are my forefathers from India. However, I can tell you from a place of embodied experience combined with intellectual research, what tantra is to me.

Tantra has been the biggest gift of my life. Tantric darśana allowed me to rise from the mud of destructive thinking and behavior. A stunning scripture became my savior. Invited to sense my body as divine, I opened my awareness to vibrating life. Beauty and wisdom live in the core of all beings. The art is to open the eyes that see it. Tantric teachings have taught me that pain becomes the gain, obstacles are part of the spectacle, and that from crisis strength arises. Immersed in the practices, I found meaning in life. Tantra has rescued my body and mind. Tantra has strengthened me to the degree where I dare to soften and set myself free. Tantra led me into the big void and my biggest fears. In the darkness, I was pierced by light. In heartbreak, my heart opened to more love than I ever knew I could take. In my despair, I realized that what had happened was more than fair. It was part of the play; it was all part of the plan, showing me what I actually am. In the surrender, I opened to wonder. When all was taken away, I opened my eyes to eternity. I saw the whole universe inside of me. Forever I will be free. I no longer believe, I know exactly what is true to me.

Tantra is a tool (tra) to stretch us (tan). Tantric practices invite us to stretch our way of thinking, our perspective, our worldview. Like any elastic that is tightened; we stretch ourselves, and then we draw back. If we do not draw back, we can become weakened. Every stretch must be integrated in order to strengthen us. When we have integrated and thereby strengthened the foundation, we might be able to stretch a bit further. Potentially, the practice can gradually expand (tan) our consciousness – our capacity for sensing, perceiving, and receiving wisdom. Poetically, tantra is translated as “a loom” “a tool for weaving.” A loom can create an expanded tapestry from threads (sutra). A sutra is a verse in the sacred scriptures from India. Every verse is condensed knowledge – a tread of wisdom, that can expand within us as we engage with it. Every stretch that offers us a realization – a moment of “aha” – is a tread that can help us see the bigger picture. Every stretch into different layers of existence gradually expands our consciousness and the sensed experience of our personal field. The tantras – the sacred texts – are keys that can unlock the boundaries of the human mind for those who are ready. Tantra saves (tra) those who are not ready yet – saves them from the expanded experience that can lead to uprootedness if we do not have a strong foundation. The more our mind, body, and soul become able to stretch, the stronger our ability to draw back home must be. Tantra saves those who are ready from the constrictions of the human mind and offers the experience of ultimate freedom by carrying us through (tra) the layers of existence. When we bind several threads together, we can reach further. When we weave different textures, colors, and qualities we get a stronger and more interesting tapestry with patterns that can open our awareness for wonder. When we weave, we bring fragmented parts together, and thereby create wholeness.

Tantra is a lifestyle or way of thinking that brings us home. We are already perfect; we just need to open our awareness to the beauty the universe offers us in order to experience it. Tantra teaches us that we are not separate from the divine and that life on earth is a gift to be savored. Life is not a punishment; it is the result of divine love. As we engage ourselves in the techniques of the tradition, the teachings can become very alive within us – empowering us from the inside. As wisdom becomes alive within us, it stretches our ability to sense, breathe, enjoy, love, and perceive – one dimension at the time. Potentially, it expands our consciousness to dimensions beyond the physical world. As we expand and stretch, tantra teaches us to draw back home to integrate the new insights. We integrate to become whole. We integrate to make sure that we leave no parts of ourselves behind.

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Etymology

  • Tan means: to stretch, do in detail (Grimes). Tan means: propagate, elaborate on, expand on (Wallis 2013:26)
    • *ten- : Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to stretch,” with derivatives meaning “something stretched, a string; thin.” (etymonline.com)
    • In Danish is it an instrument for creating yarn – fibre snos til en tråd.
  • Tra means: protecting, instrument, tool, technique (Grimes). In European languages tra is the root of: traverse and trans = to carry across (etymonline.com).  Tra means: save, protect (Wallis 2013: 26)

Wallis 2013 p. 26: “Tantra spreads (tan) wisdom that saves (tra).” Saves and strengthens us from our limited way of thinking and from worldly harm. And “tantra is a device (tra) for expanding (tan).

Wallis 2013 p. 25: Tantra means a doctrine, a book, a scripture, a theory, (the translation “loom” is a homonym). Tantra refers to specific sacred texts with divine realizations – wisdom channeled by ancient seers in the Indian subcontinent. Tantra also refers to the system of practices presented in those scriptures.

Sources

Grimes: A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy

Wallis: Tantra Illuminated

https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=tantra

Lorin Roche: The Radiance Sutras

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