A science or sadhana (spiritual practice) based on a vast collection
of religious and occult Hindu scriptures that emphasize
the shakti (energy of the deity), usually called kundalini, which
comes from the goddess. The scriptures are generally in the
form of a dialogue between the god Shiva and his wife Parvati.
In treatises where Shiva answers the questions, they are called
agama; where Parvati answers it is a nigama.
The tantra scriptures represent a cumulation of knowledge
dating to ancient times. The majority of texts are written in
Sanskrit, but are also found in Pali, Prakit, Tibetan, Hindi, and
Bengali. They are considered encyclopedias of esoteric wisdom,
covering topics such as creation and destruction of the
universe, worship of the gods, spiritual disciplines, rituals, occult
powers, and meditations. The tantras also discuss the subtle
anatomy of the body including the chakras (spiritual centers)
and the connection paths between them through which
the kundalini energy travels. The tantras are also supposed to
be specially relevant to Kali Yuga (the present age of devolution).
As vast and varied as the scriptures appear, however, they
all have one characteristic in common ‘‘an integrative approach
to sadhana, with the objective of making the best use of
all available resources within and without.’’ Tantra can be considered
the holistic approach to spiritual practice.
In opposition to traditional Judeo-Christian and aesthetic
Eastern practices, Tantra does not seek to sublimate the flesh
to the spirit, the physical to the metaphysical. Instead, tantra
seeks to reintegrate all aspects of life, to ‘‘dissolve boundaries
we’ve created, the separateness, the diconnectedness and become
more connected with all of life.’’
Since the tantra’s purpose is to integrate all aspects of life,
it is a practice where numerous varieties of sciences can blend
hatha yoga, pranayama, medras, rituals, kundalini yoga, nada
yoga, mantra, yantra, mandala, visualization of deities, alchemy,
Aryurveda, and astrology can all comfortably fit within the
realm of tantra. But because so many intricate sciences and
techniques can be employed, it is usually advised that the tantra
is studied under a competent master, who can lead the student
through the complex weave of ideas and procedures.
In the West, tantra is often identified with sexuality and sexual
practices. Tantric ideas are often used to help individuals
and couples transform love making into a more satisfying experience,
on the physical, emotional, and spiritual realm. By integrating
the male and female aspect of the individual and the
couple, tantra is used to raise the sexual union to a reflection
of the mystical union between the shiva and shakti aspects of
the divine.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Tantra
A popular knowledge of tantric anatomy came to the West
through Theosophy. Western scholar Sir John Woodroffe
(1865–1936) wrote several pioneering books on tantra and
translated tantric scriptures under a pseudonym, Arthur Avalon.
The various systems of tantric yoga based on the tantras
have spread in the West through the twentieth century.
Avalon, Arthur. The Serpent Power. London Luzac & Co.,
———. Shakti and Shakta. 3d ed. Madras, India Ganesh,
———. Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra).
London Luzac, 1913. Reprint, New York Dover Publications,
Chakravarti, Chintaharan. Tantras Studies on Their Religion
and Literature. Calcutta, India Punthi Pustak, 1963.
Feuerstein, Georg. The Shambala Guide to Yoga. Boston &
London Shambala, 1996.
Greenwell, Bonnie, Ph.D. Energies of Transformation. Valencia,
Calif. Shakti River Press, 1990.
Mookerjee, Ajit. Tantra Art. New York Random House,
Mookerjee, Ajit, and M. Khanna. The Tantric Way Art, Science,
Ritual. New York Graphic, 1977.
Rawson, Philip. Tantra The Indian Cult of Ecstasy. London
Thames & Hudson, 1974.
Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani ‘‘The Living Science of Tantra,’’
Yoga International (May 1998) 22-29.
Williams, Stephen. ‘‘Tantra An Introductory Dialogue with
Raymont Powers C.T.T.’’ Gentleman’s Quarterly, August 1997,