What’s the Difference Between Neo-Tantra and Traditional Tantra?

What’s the Difference Between Neo-Tantra and Traditional Tantra?

Neo-tantra, also known as modern or contemporary tantra, refers to a Westernized version of traditional Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist tantra practices that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s. It typically incorporates elements of yoga, meditation, and various sexual techniques and practices aimed at promoting spiritual growth and personal transformation.

Unlike traditional tantra, some of which can emphasize celibacy or strict sexual regulation, neo-tantra places a greater emphasis on sexuality as a means of achieving higher consciousness and spiritual connection. This has led some critics to view neo-tantra as a form of spiritual materialism or new age commodification of ancient spiritual practices.

It is important to note that neo-tantra is a complex and multifaceted concept that can vary significantly depending on the specific tradition or teacher. As with any spiritual practice, it is important to approach neo-tantra with caution and discernment, and to seek guidance from a qualified teacher or community.

What is Traditional Hindu Tantra?

Traditional Hindu tantra is a vast and diverse system of spiritual practices that originated in India around the 5th century CE. Here are some key facets of traditional Hindu tantra:

  1. Focus on energy: Tantra views the universe as a manifestation of divine energy or consciousness, known as Shakti. This energy is seen as both immanent and transcendent, and can be accessed and harnessed through various practices.

  2. Rituals and practices: Tantra involves a wide range of practices, including meditation, mantra recitation, visualization, and ritual offerings. These practices are designed to awaken and channel the energy of Shakti for spiritual growth and transformation.

  3. Use of symbols: Tantra uses a variety of symbols, such as yantras (geometric diagrams) and mandalas (sacred circles), to represent the various energies and aspects of the divine.

  4. Emphasis on guru-disciple relationship: In traditional Hindu tantra, a guru or spiritual teacher is considered essential for guiding the disciple through the practices and unlocking their spiritual potential. The guru-disciple relationship is seen as a sacred bond and is often based on trust and devotion.

  5. Integration of sexuality: Tantra acknowledges and celebrates the role of sexuality in human experience, and recognizes it as a powerful source of energy that can be harnessed for spiritual growth. 

It’s important to note that traditional Hindu tantra is a complex and nuanced system of practices and beliefs, and it varies greatly depending on the specific tradition or lineage. A

What is Shaktipat?

Shaktipat is a term used in Hinduism to describe the transmission of spiritual energy or awakening from a teacher or guru to a disciple. It is considered a powerful and transformative experience that can have a profound impact on a person’s spiritual journey.

During shaktipat, the teacher or guru is said to transfer their spiritual energy, or Shakti, to the disciple through various means, such as touch, gaze, or even intention. This can result in a range of experiences, including intense physical sensations, visions, and deep states of meditation.

The effects of shaktipat can vary from person to person, but it is often described as a profound and life-changing experience that can lead to a deeper understanding of oneself and the universe. It is believed to accelerate one’s spiritual growth and remove obstacles that may be hindering one’s progress on the spiritual path.

Shaktipat is considered a rare and precious gift, and it is typically only given by qualified teachers or gurus who have attained a high level of spiritual realization themselves. It is important to note that shaktipat should be approached with caution and discernment, and should only be received from a trusted and qualified teacher or community.

Overall, shaktipat is viewed as a powerful tool for spiritual transformation and awakening, but it is not a requirement for spiritual growth or realization. Many spiritual seekers have found deep fulfillment and awakening through other practices, such as meditation, self-inquiry, and service.

Why is Tantra Considered Esoteric?

Tantra is considered esoteric because it involves the use of secret or hidden practices and teachings that are only revealed to qualified initiates who have undergone specific rituals and initiations. These practices are often considered unconventional or taboo by mainstream society, and as such, they are kept secret and reserved for a select group of individuals who are deemed ready to receive them.

In the past, tantra was largely reserved for the Indian upper class, including royalty, priests, and scholars. This was due in part to the fact that tantra was believed to require a certain level of education and cultural sophistication, as well as access to specific resources, such as time, money, and leisure. 

Additionally, tantra was often associated with the Brahmin caste, which held a privileged position in Indian society and was considered the custodian of spiritual knowledge and practices. As such, access to tantra was often limited to members of this caste and those who had been granted special dispensation to study the teachings.

Overall, the esoteric nature of tantra and its limited availability in the past reflect the fact that it was considered a highly specialized and advanced system of spiritual practice that required careful guidance and instruction. However, it’s worth noting that the accessibility and democratization of spiritual knowledge and practices have increased in recent times, and many people from diverse backgrounds are now able to access and benefit from the teachings of tantra.

What are Common Focuses of Neo-Tantra?

  1. Focus on sexuality: Neo-tantra places a greater emphasis on sexuality than traditional tantra, and sees it as a means of achieving higher consciousness and spiritual connection. Practices such as tantra massage, tantric sex, and sacred sexuality are often taught as part of neo-tantra.

  2. Integration of Western psychology: Many neo-tantric teachers incorporate elements of Western psychology, such as mindfulness, communication skills, and emotional processing, into their teachings. This reflects a shift towards a more holistic approach to personal growth and transformation.

  3. Emphasis on individual empowerment: Neo-tantra often emphasizes the importance of self-discovery and personal empowerment. It encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth and to explore their sexuality in a way that feels authentic and empowering to them.

  4. De-emphasis on guru-disciple relationship: Unlike traditional tantra, which places a strong emphasis on the guru-disciple relationship, neo-tantra often encourages individuals to trust their own intuition and to develop their own spiritual practice. This reflects a broader trend towards a more decentralized and individualistic approach to spirituality.

  5. Commercialization and commodification: Unfortunately, neo-tantra has been criticized for its commercialization and commodification of spiritual practices. Some critics argue that the emphasis on sexuality and personal empowerment has been co-opted by the mainstream wellness industry, leading to the proliferation of expensive workshops, retreats, and products marketed towards those seeking spiritual growth and transformation.

Neo-tantra is a diverse and multifaceted practice, and not all teachers or communities emphasize the same aspects. As with any spiritual practice, it’s important to approach neo-tantra with caution and discernment.

How are Polyamory and Tantra Different?

Polyamory and neo-tantra are two distinct concepts, although there may be some overlap in certain contexts.

Polyamory refers to the practice of having multiple romantic and/or sexual partners at the same time, with the knowledge and consent of all involved parties. Polyamorous relationships can take many different forms, ranging from open relationships to more structured forms of non-monogamy.

Neo-tantra, on the other hand, is a spiritual practice that aims to integrate sexuality and spirituality, with the ultimate goal of achieving higher consciousness and spiritual awakening. Neo-tantra emphasizes the importance of developing a deep and intimate connection with one’s partner, but this does not necessarily imply the practice of non-monogamy.

While it is true that some neo-tantric communities and teachers may advocate for non-monogamy as a means of exploring and expanding one’s sexuality and spiritual connection, this is not a defining characteristic of neo-tantra as a whole.

How Does Hatha Yoga Support a Tantric Lifestyle?

Hatha yoga is a physical practice that aims to bring balance to the body and mind through the use of physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation. Hatha yoga can support a tantric lifestyle in several ways:

  1. Physical health: Practicing hatha yoga can improve physical health, flexibility, and strength, which can support overall well-being and the ability to engage in other tantric practices.

  2. Mind-body connection: Hatha yoga encourages practitioners to develop a deeper awareness of their body and breath, which can help cultivate a more intimate and aware relationship with their own physical and energetic body. This awareness can support tantric practices, such as energy work, meditation, and visualization.

  3. Kundalini awakening: Hatha yoga is often used as a preparatory practice for the awakening of Kundalini energy, which is a central practice in many tantric traditions. The physical postures and breathing techniques of hatha yoga can help activate and move Kundalini energy through the body, which can lead to heightened states of consciousness and spiritual awakening.

  4. Purification: In many tantric traditions, the body is seen as a vehicle for spiritual growth and awakening. Hatha yoga can help purify the body and energy channels, allowing for a clearer and more unobstructed flow of energy throughout the body.

How Can a Monogamous Couple Begin to Practice Tantra?

A monogamous couple interested in practicing neo-tantra may begin by exploring the following:

  1. Communication: Open and honest communication is a foundational aspect of neo-tantra, and it is essential that partners feel comfortable discussing their desires, boundaries, and expectations. They may consider having a conversation about what they hope to gain from exploring neo-tantra together, and any concerns or fears they may have.

  2. Breathwork: Neo-tantra often incorporates various breathing techniques to help deepen intimacy and connect with one’s partner. Couples may begin by practicing simple breathing exercises together, such as synchronized breathing, or exploring more advanced techniques like circular breathing or pranayama.

  3. Sensual touch: Neo-tantra often emphasizes the importance of sensual touch and intimate physical connection. Couples may explore ways of touching each other that feel pleasurable and nourishing, while staying attuned to each other’s needs and boundaries.

  4. Mindful presence: Neo-tantra encourages individuals to be fully present and aware in each moment, without judgment or distraction. Couples may practice cultivating a state of mindful presence together, such as through eye gazing, meditation, or simply being fully present during lovemaking.

  5. Sacred sexuality: Neo-tantra views sexuality as a sacred and transformative practice, and encourages individuals to approach sexuality with intention and mindfulness. Couples may explore ways of bringing a sense of sacredness to their sexual encounters, such as by creating a sacred space, using ritual, or setting intentions for their sexual connection.

It’s important to note that neo-tantra is a vast and multifaceted practice, and that couples may need to experiment and explore different practices to find what works best for them. It’s also advised to work with a facilitator who specializes in your needs and unique relationship dynamic, as some neo-tantric practices can be intense or emotionally challenging.

Here’s some Tantric poetry to mix things up a bit, and to give you a little insight as to what one could feel when experiencing the kind of ecstatic states Tantric practices can help us cultivate:

In the depths of ecstatic bliss,

My heart awakens, sings and lifts,

A current flows, electrifying,

Energy surges, deeply satisfying.

The body shakes with pleasure and delight,

As the senses merge, revealing inner sight,

A deep connection, a sacred dance,

As my soul awakens from its trance.

Emotions surge and overflow,

As the energy expands and flows,

The heart opens, a vessel divine,

As I am touched by the divine.

In this tantric state, I feel complete,

Body, mind, and soul in harmony meet,

The universe within me unfolds,

As ecstasy, love and divinity behold.

Ultimately, Tantra has helped thousands of people awaken to even more of their potential to connect with and experience the best that life on Earth has to offer, but choosing a teacher can prove difficult. Remember, teachers are humans too, but they should have a spiritual practice or philosophy that resonates with your own.

A teacher who has invested deeply in their spiritual practice is more likely to embody the principles and teachings of tantra authentically. They are less likely to be motivated by ego and more likely to be committed to the spiritual path and to helping others on their journey. They should also have accumulated a wealth of experience and knowledge that they can share with their students. They will have faced their own challenges, overcome obstacles, and developed a deeper understanding of the spiritual path.

In tantra, the transmission of knowledge and energy from teacher to student is considered essential. A teacher who has invested in their spiritual life is more likely to have developed the capacity to transmit spiritual energy and insights to their students, and because Tantra involves practices that can be intense, powerful, and potentially transformative, it is important they know how to guide students safely through these practices, avoiding potential pitfalls or dangers.

I hope this article has helped. If you feel called to learn more about Tantra and would like to be in touch, please do so here.