Tantra and Spiritualized Yogic Sexuality

Tantra (तन्त्र) is the esoteric traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism that developed in India from the middle of the 1st millennium CE onwards. The term tantra, in the Indian traditions, also means any systematic broadly applicable “text, theory, system, method, instrument, technique or practice”. A key feature of these traditions is the use of mantras, and thus they are commonly referred to as Mantra Marga (“Path of Mantra”) in Hinduism or Mantra Yana (“Mantra Vehicle”) and Guhya Mantra (“Secret Mantra”) in Buddhism. However, Dr. Swami Hardas, the inventor of Swami Hardas Life System explains Siddha Mantra as the most powerful and beneficial Siddha mantra for people of any walks of life.

Tantra Meaning

Tantra literally means “loom, warp, weave”. According to Padoux, the verbal root Tan means: “to extend”, “to spread”, “to spin out”, “weave”, “display”, “put forth”, and “compose”. Therefore, by extension, it can also mean “system”, “doctrine”, or “work”.

The connotation of the word tantra to mean an esoteric practice or religious ritualism is a colonial-era European invention. This term is based on the metaphor of weaving, states Ron Barrett, where the Sanskrit root tan means the warping of threads on a loom. It implies the “interweaving of traditions and teachings as threads” into a text, technique, or practice.

What is Tantra? - Definition from Yogapedia
Tantra Meaning

The various contextual meanings of the word Tantra vary with the Indian text and are summarized in the appended table:

The Appearance of the Term “Tantra” in Indian Texts Hide
Period Text or Author The Contextual Meaning of Tantra
1700–1100 BCE Ṛigveda X, 71.9 Loom (or weaving device).
1700 BCE Sāmaveda, Tandya Brahmana Essence (or “main part”, perhaps denoting the quintessence of the Sastras).
1200-900 BCE Atharvaveda X, 7.42 Loom (or weaving).
1400-1000 BCE Yajurveda, Taittiriya Brahmana Loom (or weaving).
600-500 BCE Pāṇini in Aṣṭādhyāyī 1.4.54 and 5.2.70 Warp (weaving), loom.
pre-500 BCE Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa Essence (or main part; see above).
350-283 BCE Chanakya on Arthaśāstra Science; system or shastra.
300 CE Īśvarakṛṣṇa author of Sānkhya Kārikā (kārikā 70) Doctrine (identifies Sankhya as a tantra).
320 CE Viṣṇu Purāṇa Practices and rituals.
320-400 CE Poet Kālidāsa on Abhijñānaśākuntalam Deep understanding or mastery of a topic.
423 Gangadhar stone inscription in Rajasthan Worship techniques (Tantrodbhuta) Dubious link to Tantric practices.
550 Sabarasvamin’s commentary on Mimamsa Sutra 11.1.1, 11.4.1, etc. Thread, text; beneficial action, or thing.
500-600 Chinese Buddhist canon (Vol. 18–21: Tantra (Vajrayāna) or Tantric Buddhism Set of doctrines or practices.
600 Kāmikāgama or Kāmikā-tantra Extensive knowledge of principles of reality.
606–647 Sanskrit scholar and poet Bāṇabhaṭṭa (in Harṣacarita and in Kādambari), in Bhāsa’s Cārudatta and in Śūdraka’s Mṛcchakatika Set of sites and worship methods for goddesses or Matrikas.
975–1025 Philosopher Abhinavagupta in his Tantrāloka Set of doctrines or practices, teachings, texts, and systems (sometimes called Agamas).
1150–1200 Jayaratha, Abhinavagupta’s commentator on Tantrāloka Set of doctrines or practices, teachings.
1690–1785 Bhaskararaya (philosopher) System of thought or set of doctrines or practices, a canon.

Tantra Definition

Ancient and medieval era of Tantra

The 5th-century BCE scholar Pāṇini in his Sutra 1.4.54–55 of Sanskrit grammar, cryptically explains tantra through the example of “Sva-tantra” (Sanskrit: स्वतन्त्र), which he states means “independent” or a person who is his own “warp, cloth, weaver, promoter, Karta (actor)”. Patanjali in his Mahābhāṣya quotes and accepts Panini’s definition then discusses or mentions it at a greater length, in 18 instances, stating that its metaphorical definition of “warp (weaving), extended cloth” is relevant to many contexts. The word tantra, states Patanjali, means “principal, main”.

Modern era Tantra

The occultist and businessman Pierre Bernard (1875–1955) is widely credited with introducing the philosophy and practices of tantra to the American people, at the same time creating a somewhat misleading impression of its connection to sex. That popular sexualization is more accurately regarded as the western Neo-Tantra movement.

In modern scholarship, Tantra has been studied as an esoteric practice and ritualistic religion sometimes referred to as Tantrism. There is a wide gap between what Tantra means to its followers, and the way Tantra has been represented or perceived since colonial-era writers began commenting on it. 


The term tantrism is a 19th-century European invention not present in any Asian language; compare to “Sufism”, of similar Orientalist origin. The term was introduced by 19th-century Indologists, with limited knowledge of India and in whose view Tantrism was a particular, unusual, and minority practice in contrast to Indian traditions they believed to be mainstream.

Tantrism is an overarching term for “Tantric traditions”, states David Gray in a 2016 review, that combines Vedic, yogic, and meditative traditions from ancient Hinduism as well as rival Buddhist and Jain traditions. It is a neologism of western scholars and does not reflect the self-understanding of any particular tantric tradition. 


According to Padoux, the term “Tantrika” is based on a comment by Kulluka Bhatta on Manava Dharmasastra 2.1, who contrasted the vaidika and tantrika forms of Sruti (canonical texts). The Tantrika, to Bhatta, is literature that forms a parallel part of the Hindu tradition, independent of the Vedic corpus. The Vedic and non-Vedic (Tantric) paths are seen as two different approaches to ultimate reality, the Vedic approach based on Brahman, and Tantrika being based on the non-Vedic Āgama texts. 

One of the key differences between the Tantric and non-Tantric traditions – whether it be orthodox Buddhism, Hinduism, or Jainism – is their assumptions about the need for the monastic or ascetic life. Non-Tantrika, or orthodox traditions in all three major ancient Indian religions, hold that the worldly life of a householder is one driven by desires and greeds which are a serious impediment to spiritual liberation (moksha, nirvana, kaivalya). 

Tantric traditions

Hindu Tantra

Within Hinduism, the word tantra often refers to a text, which may or may not be “tantric.” There are also tantric Upanishads, which are late Upanishads as well as tantric Puranas (and Puranas influenced by tantric ideas). Besides these types of texts, there are also various types of tantric “sastras” (treatises) which may be “commentaries, digests, compilations, monographs, collections of hymns or of names of deities, and mantras and works on mantras.” 

There are various Hindu tantric traditions within Shaivism, Shaktism, and Vaishnavism. There are numerous tantric texts for these different traditions with different philosophical points of view, ranging from theistic dualism to absolute monism. 

Śaiva and Śākta Tantra

Śaiva Tantra is called the Mantramārga and is often seen as being separate teaching from the ascetic “Atimārga” tradition (which includes the Pāśupatas and Kāpālikas). There are various doctrines, textual classes, and schools of Shaiva Tantra, which often overlap with the Shakta tradition in different ways.

Their scriptures (the Śaiva Agamas) and basic doctrines are also shared by the other traditions as a common Śhaiva doctrine and many of their rites are also used in other schools of Shaiva Tantra. The prescriptions and rituals of the Śhaiva Siddhānta Agamas are generally followed by Śhaiva temples in South India and they are mostly compatible with orthodox Brahmanism, lacking terrifying deities and animal sacrifice.

Vaiṣṇava Tantra

This sect does not identify itself as “tantric”. The worship and ritual of most of the Vaiṣṇava temples in South India follow this tradition, which is ritually similar to the Shaiva Siddhanta. 

According to David B. Gray,

During the medieval period another tantric Vaiṣṇava tradition emerged in Bengal. Known as the Sahajiyā tradition, it flourished in Bengal around the 16th through 19th centuries. It taught that each individual is a divinity, embodying the divine couple Kṛiṣhṇa and his consort Rādhā. This tradition integrated earlier Hindu and Buddhist tantric practices within a Vaiṣhṇava theological framework.

Buddhist Tantra

There are various Buddhist tantric traditions throughout Asia which are called by different names such as Vajrayana, Secret Mantra, Mantrayana, and so on. The Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tradition has been dominant in Tibet and the Himalayan regions. It first spread to Tibet in the 8th century and quickly rose to prominence. The Tibetan Buddhist tantric teachings have recently been spread to the Western world by the Tibetan diaspora. Nepalese Newar Buddhism meanwhile is still practiced in the Kathmandu Valley by the Newar people. The tradition maintains a canon of Sanskrit texts, the only Buddhist tantric tradition to still do so.

Tantric materials involving the use of mantras and dharanis began to appear in China during the fifth century period, and Buddhist masters such as Zhiyi developed proto-tantric rituals based on esoteric texts. Chinese Esoteric Buddhism became especially influential in China in the Tang dynasty period with the arrival of esoteric masters such as Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra to the capital city of Chang’an. 

Other religions

The Hindu and Buddhist Tantric traditions significantly influenced many other religions such as Jainism, Sikhism, the Tibetan Bön tradition, Daoism, Shintō, Sufi Islam, and the Western “New Age” movement.

In the Sikh literature, the ideas related to Shakti and goddess reverence attributed to Guru Gobind Singh, particularly in the Dasam Granth, is related to tantra ideas found in Buddhism and Hinduism. The Tantric traditions within Jainism use verbal spells or mantras, and rituals that are believed to accrue merit for rebirth realms.

Saiva Tantra – Krama-Trika synthesis of Abhinavagupta – Non-Dual Saiva Tantra
Saiva Tantra

Tantra Practices

One of the main elements of the Tantric literature is ritual Rather than one coherent system, Tantra is an accumulation of practices and ideas from different sources. As Samuel writes, tantric traditions are “a confluence of a variety of different factors and components.” These elements include:

  • Mandalas,
  • Mantras,
  • Internal sexual yogic practices,
  • Fierce male and female deities,
  • Cremation ground symbolism, and
  • Concepts from Indian Philosophy.

Main features of Tantra

The tantric scholar Ramakaṇṭha gives four main features of tantra:

1) Concern with ritual modes of manipulation (of the environment or one’s own awareness),

2) Requirement for esoteric initiation (to receive access to the scriptural teachings and practices),

3) A twofold goal of practice: the soteriological and supramundane one of liberation (variously conceived) and/or the mundane one of extraordinary power over other beings and one’s environment, and

4) The claim that these three are explicated in scriptures that are the word of God (Agama) or the Buddha (Buddhavacana).

Defining features of Tantra

According to Anthony Tribe, a scholar of Buddhist Tantra, Tantra has the following defining features:

  1. The centrality of ritual, especially the worship of deities,
  2. The centrality of mantras,
  3. Visualization of and identification with a deity,
  4. Need for initiation, esotericism, and secrecy,
  5. Importance of a teacher (guru, acharya),
  6. Ritual use of mandalas (maṇḍala),
  7. Transgressive or antinomian acts,
  8. Revaluation of the body,
  9. Revaluation of the status and role of women,
  10. Analogical thinking (including microcosmic or macrocosmic correlation), and
  11. Revaluation of negative mental states.

Tantric techniques

There are a wide array of Tantric techniques or spiritual practices (sadhana) such as:

  • Dakshina: Donation or gift to one’s teacher,
  • Guru yoga and Guru devotion (bhakti),
  • Diksha or Abhisheka: Initiation ritual which may include shaktipat,
  • Yoga, including breathing techniques (pranayama) and postures (asana), is employed to balance the energies in the body/mind,
  • Mudras, or hand gestures,
  • Mantras: reciting syllables, words, and phrases,
  • Singing of hymns of praise (stava),
  • Mandalas and Yantras, symbolic diagrams of forces at work in the universe,
  • Visualization of deities and Identification of these deities in meditation (deity yoga),
  • Puja (worship ritual) and other forms of bhakti,
  • Ritual sacrifice, including animal sacrifice,
  • Use of taboo substances such as alcohol, cannabis, meat, and other entheogens,
  • Nyasa, installing mantras on the body,
  • Ritual purification (of idols, of one’s body, etc.),
  • Yatra: pilgrimage, processions,
  • Vrata and Samaya: vows or pledges, sometimes to do ascetic practices like fasting,
  • The acquisition and use of siddhis or supernormal powers. Associated with the left-hand path tantra,
  • Ritual Music and Dance,
  • Sexual yoga: ritual sexual union (with an actual physical consort or an imagined deity), and
  • Dream yoga.

Tantra Worship and Ritual


Worship or puja in Hindu Tantra differs from Vedic forms somewhat. While in the Vedic practice of yajna there are no idols, shrines, and symbolic art, in tantra they are important means of worship.


These rituals are not so much a succession of actions as a play of mentally visualized and experienced images, a situation common to all Tantric traditions, wherein rites, meditation, and yoga are exercises in creative identifying imagination.

The theory behind these rituals is the idea that all humans have a fundamental impurity (mala) that binds them to rebirth. The initial step in this path is the ritual of initiation (diksa), which opens to door to future liberation at death.

Left-hand path elements of Tantra

In the non-dualistic and transgressive (or “left hand”) traditions like the Kali cults and the Trika school, rituals and pujas can include certain left-hand path elements that are not found in the more orthodox traditions.

These transgressive elements include the use of skulls and other human bone implements (as part of the Kapalika vow), fierce deities like Bhairava, Kubjika, and Kali which were used as part of meditative visualizations, ritual possession by the deities (avesa), sexual rites and offering the deity (as well as consuming) certain impure substances like meat, alcohol and sexual fluids. 

Śaiva Siddhānta

There is also a fundamental philosophical disagreement between Śaiva Siddhānta and the non-dualistic schools like the Trika regarding ritual. In Śaiva Siddhānta, only ritual can do away with “innate impurities” (anavamala) that bind individual Selfs, though the ritual must be performed with an understanding of their nature and purpose as well as with devotion.

In the view of the Trika school (especially in the work of Abhinavagupta), only knowledge (jñana) which is a “recognition” (pratyabhijña) of our true nature, leads to liberation. According to Padoux, “this is also, with nuances, the position of the Pñcaratra and of other Vaisnava Tantric traditions.”

Yoga, mantra, meditation

Tantric yoga

Tantric yoga is first and foremost an embodied practice, which is seen as having a divine esoteric structure. As noted by Padoux, tantric yoga makes use of a “mystic physiology” which includes various psychosomatic elements sometimes called the “subtle body”.

This imaginary inner structure includes chakras (“wheels”), nadis (“channels”), and energies (like Kundalini, Chandali, different pranas and vital winds, etc.). According to Padoux, the “internalized image of the yogic body” is a fundamental element for nearly all meditative and tantric ritual practices.

Tantric yoga is not a kinky, four-hour sex marathon | Well+Good
Tantric Yoga (Spiritualized Yogic Sexuality)


The use of mantras is one of the most common and widespread elements of tantric practice. They are used in rituals as well as during various meditative and yogic practices. Mantra recitation (Japa) is often practiced along with nyasa (“depositing” the mantra), mudras (“seals”, i.e. hand gestures), and complex visualizations involving divine symbols, mandalas, and deities.

Nyasa involves touching various parts of the body while reciting the mantra, which is thought to connect the deity with the yogi’s body and transform the body into that of the deity.

Visionary meditation

Another common element found in tantric yoga is the use of visionary meditations in which tantrikas focus on a vision or image of the deity (or deities), and in some cases imagine themselves as being the deity and their own body as the body of the deity. The practitioner may use visualizations, identifying with a deity to the degree that the aspirant “becomes” the Ishta-deva (or meditational deity).

Mandalas and yantras


Yantra is a mystical diagram that is used in tantric meditation and rituals. They are usually associated with specific Hindu deities such as Shiva, Shakti, or Kali. Similarly, a puja may involve focusing on a yantra or mandala associated with a deity.


According to David Gordon White, geometrical mandalas are a key element of Tantra.  Mandalas symbolically communicate the correspondences between the “transcendent-yet-immanent” macrocosm and the microcosm of mundane human experience, which also reflected the medieval feudal system, with the king at its center.

Mandalas and Yantras may be depicted in various ways, on paintings, cloth, in three-dimensional form, made out of colored sand or powders, etc. Tantric yoga also often involves the mental visualization of a mandala or yantra. 

Sex and eroticism

While tantra involves a wide range of ideas and practices which are not always of a sexual nature, Flood and Padoux both note that in the West, Tantra is most often thought of as a kind of ritualized sex or a spiritualized yogic sexuality. According to Padoux, “this is a misunderstanding, for though the place of sex in Tantra is ideologically essential, it is not always so in action and ritual.” 

In the tantric traditions which do use sex as part of spiritual practice (this refers mainly to the Kaulas, and also Tibetan Buddhism), sex and desire are often seen as a means of transcendence that is used to reach the Absolute. Thus, sex and desire are not seen as ends in themselves. Because these practices transgress orthodox Hindu ideas of ritual purity, they have often given tantra a bad image in India, where it is often condemned by the orthodox. According to Padoux, even among the traditions which accept these practices, they are far from prominent and practiced only by a “few initiated and fully qualified adepts”.

Myths About Tantric Sex

Tantra isn’t just a sexual practice. It’s an Eastern philosophy that includes several spiritual concepts.

Tantric techniques include breathing, yoga, and meditation which can then increase sexual energy. A common misconception about tantric sex is that it involves wild, uninhibited sexual experiences. While tantric techniques can open you up to new sensations, it’s as much a mental practice as a spiritual one.

Another misconception about tantra is that it’s always necessary to have a partner. While many couples practice tantric sex together, it can also be an individual practice.

In reality, genital contact or intercourse doesn’t even have to happen to have a tantric experience. Sexual intercourse can enhance your experience, but you can also practice tantra to feel more connected to your own mind and body and give yourself pleasure.

In fact, those who practice tantric techniques, or follow the tantric path, have the overall goal of freeing the soul and expanding consciousness. 

Tantric sex also isn’t about bending into strenuous poses or positions. It’s about being close to your partner in a way that’s comfortable for you. You have the freedom to move and touch however you and your partner decide is best.


Because of the above, I am confident that you have learned in-depth about Tantra, its meaning, definition, traditions, practices, myths, tantric sex, etc. Now, that you have become self-sufficient to practice and achieve the goal, hence it’s the right time to use your acquired knowledge for gaining numerous benefits for well-being.

After reading this article, how would you rate it? Would you please let me know your precious thoughts? 

Frequently asked questions

Before posting your query, kindly go through them:

What is the meaning of Tantra?

Tantra literally means “loom, warp, weave”. According to Padoux, the verbal root Tan means: “to extend”, “to spread”, “to spin out”, “weave”, “display”, “put forth”, and “compose”. Therefore, by extension, it can also mean “system”, “doctrine”, or “work”.

Which is the ancient and medieval era of Tantra?

The 5th-century BCE scholar Pāṇini in his Sutra 1.4.54–55 of Sanskrit grammar, cryptically explains tantra through the example of “Sva-tantra” (Sanskrit: स्वतन्त्र), which he states means “independent” or a person who is his own “warp, cloth, weaver, promoter, Karta (actor)”. Patanjali in his Mahābhāṣya quotes and accepts Panini’s definition then discusses or mentions it at a greater length, in 18 instances, stating that its metaphorical definition of “warp (weaving), extended cloth” is relevant to many contexts. The word tantra, states Patanjali, means “principal, main”.


What is tantric yoga?

Tantric yoga is first and foremost an embodied practice. As noted by Padoux, tantric yoga makes use of a “mystic physiology” which includes various psychosomatic elements sometimes called the “subtle body”.


Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantra

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