A simple question without a simple answer, and any attempt at
definition will necessarily be incomplete. The roots of the word are
Tan - thread, web, stretch, weave, spread or expand, and
Tra - tool or instrument.
Tantra - tool for expansion or a weaving.
Through tantric practice one can experience an expansion of
consciousness and recognize the interconnectedness of the web of
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At the same time, "Tantra" can refer to any of a number of sacred
texts in the Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Many of
these texts contain detailed guidelines for spiritual practice. From
this perspective, Tantra is a vast body of spiritual and physical
knowledge, encompassing an array of practices, including many forms of
yoga. These practices are aimed at expanding consciousness and
liberating oneself "through life and not through escape, using the
body as an instrument". In Tantra, the energies of the body are used
as the fuel for spiritual development.
In the West, Tantra is often called the "Yoga of Sex". While there is
a kernel of truth in this phrase, the popular press has created a
misleading impression that Tantra is about having better orgasms or
about becoming a better lover. Since tantric practices are designed
to expand consciousness, they can expand a person's capacity to give,
receive and experience pleasure, not only in the sexual realm but in
all areas of life, provided that person is willing to do the work. It
is important to be aware that Tantra is not an easy path; it is "the
way of the hero who neither rejects nor fears any aspect of life".
Many Western Tantra teachers emphasize very powerful techniques for
enhancing sexual pleasure and intimacy, while some traditional
teachers discourage students from exploring sexual Tantra at all.
(Both approaches are incorrect, and are not scripturally based.)