There are huge misconceptions about Tantra. What are the differences between Tantra and Neo-Tantra? What is Neo-Tantra and Tantra massage? First, I will explain the Indian Tantra and the Tibetan Tantra traditions below. Then I will go into Neo-Tantra mostly widely known as Tantra massage.
( Note: Tantra massage is Neo-Tantra and models the philosophy of Tantra. Very very few Tantra massage therapists are true initiates of Tantra. Tantra massage should be recognised as NEO- TANTRA to end this modern and wide-spread ignorance and misrepresentation of Tantra. That said, NEO- TANTRA is extremely needed into todays modern world and an excellent way to get into touch with ourselves and our bodies, emotions, mind and sexuality )
What is Tantra?
Tantra is a broad spiritual and philosophical tradition that originated in ancient India over 2,000 years ago. It encompasses various practices, rituals, and philosophies aimed at personal and spiritual growth, self-realization, and connecting with the divine. Tantra seeks to embrace ALL aspects of life, both the spiritual and the material, and view them as interconnected and sacred.
Tantra emphasises Mantrayana ( the study of mantras) and/or "secret Mantra". The practices and rituals given by the Guru or master are always kept secret! A tantric Sadhana (sadhana means practice i.e. practice of the God/Goddess/Diety) must be given by a Guru to the disciple trough transmission and the disciple must never share their personal mantra with anyone (Indian tradition). In Vajrayana, also known as Tibetan tantra, it is similar- initiations into the deity happen within the Sanga and should not be shared outside of it.
Within the broader context of Tantra, there are different schools and lineages with unique practices and teachings.This is an extremely important to note! The symbols, mudras, mantras and rituals will be usually slightly different. Mantras can have a different pronunciation according to the lineage. All Tantric traditions involves meditation, breathwork, rituals, mantra chanting, mudras, visualizations and other techniques such as Yogic postures to expand consciousness and connect with higher states of awareness.
Indian Tantra Tradition Explained
Tantra is a spiritual and philosophical tradition that dates back thousands of years in India. Some well-known forms of Indian Tantra include Kaula Tantra, Shakta Tantra, Vaishnava Tantra and Kashmiri Shaivism to name a few. The actual regions in India developed these tradition as you can tell from Kashmiri Shaivism which started in Kashmir.
It would be impossible to explain all the aspects of Hindu Tantra but here are some key aspects of Indian Hindu Tantra:
Emphasis on the Divine Feminine: Hindu Tantra places a significant emphasis on the worship of the Divine Feminine, known as Shakti. The feminine energy is revered as the creative force of the universe, and various goddesses are honored and invoked in Tantric rituals and meditations. ( Devotees will gravitate to either the Mother/Divine Feminine/shakti or Father/Divine Masculine/shiva) I believe this gravitation is from past life and also the psychological make up of the individual in this life. When you first begin practising Tantra the first stages of Tantra ( in the non-dual Hindu tantric traditions) is to make a connection to the deity and develop the relationship like a mother or father. This ensures a very personal and close relationship that can not be broken. This stage of practicing the Sadhana is mostly psychological but extremely important to build up to the more spiritual practices. I personally, got initiated in Kolkata- Bengal area which is famous for Shakti/the divine mother lineages.
Sacred Texts and Traditions: Tantra has its own set of sacred texts, known as Tantras or Agamas to name a few. These texts provide instructions and guidance for Tantric practices, rituals, and symbolism. There are different Tantric lineages within Hinduism, each with its specific teachings and practices.
Sadhana and Rituals: Tantra involves the practice of sadhana, which includes meditation, mantra chanting, visualization, and rituals. Tantric rituals often include the use of symbolic objects, such as yantras (sacred geometric diagrams or numbers), mudras (hand gestures), and offerings done in Pujas (ceremonies) and sadhanas.
Chakras and Kundalini: Hindu Tantra recognizes the subtle body, including the concept of chakras (energy centers) and the awakening of Kundalini energy. The process of awakening Kundalini is considered transformative and leads to higher states of consciousness. I personally, did not get much instruction on Yoga (that deals with asanas/postures) from my Guru in Kolkata but he did teach me about how the planets and elements reside in the body.
Guru-Disciple Relationship: The relationship between a guru (spiritual teacher) and disciple is considered essential in Tantra. Initiation (diksha) from a qualified guru is seen as crucial for the transmission of Tantric knowledge and practices. I want to at this time reiterate QUALIFIED GURU! There are many "gurus" claiming they are qualified and an initiate must be extremely careful on who they are learning from. Checking the gurus lifestyle, mode of living, intentions, experience, connections to their guru are a few crucial points to consider. In India, there are many tantric "gurus" or disciples who are knowledgable on stealing energy from other people or leading the person astray which could result in a spiritual crisis or psychosis. I have been blessed with a true authentic Guru from the direct lineage of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. I have only heard stories of people getting messed up by gurus in India and have had a few manipulative ones trying to connect with me on Facebook. These tantrics will usually show their colours quite quickly- any sign of coarse language, saying they can show you tantric rituals or an angry attitude when you decline is a NO GO!
Embracing All Aspects of Life: Tantra embraces all aspects of life, including the physical, emotional, and spiritual. It does not reject the material world but rather integrates it into the path of spiritual growth. This will be more apparent down the road (at least in my experience with Hindu Tantra) as the beginning stages can lead to isolated spiritual learning situations, retreats and slowly integrating these rituals and philosophies into everyday life. Family and friends may not understand your process at first but as you embrace and embody tantra this will change! As a tantric, you also learn how to transmute emotions through your practice ( which I learned in Vajrayana)
Five Makara Rituals: Some Tantric practices involve the use of the "Five Makaras," which are symbolic substances starting with the letter "M" in Sanskrit. These substances are sometimes misinterpreted as involving non-spiritual or immoral activities, but in Tantric rituals, they hold symbolic significance related to transformation and transcendence. These five makaras are alcohol, meat, fish, gesture and sexual intercourse. How these 5 makaras are practiced has split traditions and have been debated for centuries. A few take them literal and most are practiced symbolically. The 3 Gunas ( Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) come into play here with how the tantric practitioner will overall practice tantra and the rituals. Many traditions claim that if taken literal the rituals are grotesque and the person doing this is performing black magic (which is mostly correct in my view but not always).
Tibetan Tantra also known as Vajryana Buddhism Explained
Tibetan Tantra, also known as Vajrayana Buddhism, is a form of Tantric Buddhism that originated in India and later spread to Tibet and other Himalayan regions. Vajrayana is a prominent school of Buddhism in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of northern India.
Tibetan Tantra is considered a swift path to enlightenment but also requires a deep commitment to ethical conduct, a strong foundation in Buddhist principles and a stable meditation practice.
Transmission and Lineage: Tibetan Tantra places great importance on the direct transmission of teachings from master to disciple. The lineage of Tantric teachings is seen as vital for maintaining the purity and efficacy of the practices. There are a number of different lineages in Vajrayana which again slightly differ but not as much as the Hindu Tantra traditions.
Deity Yoga and Visualization: A central practice in Tibetan Tantra is deity yoga which is practiced in Anuttara Tantra widely known as the Highest Yoga Tantra which is the 4th and highest class of Tantra. Practitioners visualize themselves as specific enlightened deities (yidams) embodying various qualities of wisdom and compassion. This practice allows them to connect with the enlightened qualities and realize the non-dual nature of reality.
Mandalas and Sacred Symbols: Mandalas, intricate geometric diagrams, are used in Tibetan Tantra as a visual aid for meditation. These sacred symbols represent the entire universe and serve as a blueprint for achieving enlightenment. Every deity has their own mandala which should be studied and understood. This a complex task that can take many many years to understand!
Mantra and Rituals: Mantras, sacred sound vibrations or syllables, play a significant role in Tibetan Tantra. They are recited or chanted to invoke the blessings and energies of enlightened beings and to purify the mind. Secret Mantra is especially important here as mentioned earlier in this post. Each deity also has a seed syllable attached that is used not only with the sound but in visualisations. This website is using the seed syllable of Tam which is Arya Tara- Green Tara's seed syllable.
Subtle Body and Energy Channels: Tibetan Tantra acknowledges the subtle body, which includes a system of energy channels (nadis) and energy centers (chakras). Practices aim to awaken and direct the flow of energy (prana) for spiritual growth. In the previous blog post I wrote about Channels, winds and drops.
Guru-Disciple Relationship: The guru-disciple relationship is highly valued in Tibetan Tantra. The guru is considered the embodiment of the enlightened qualities and serves as a guide for the disciple's spiritual journey. Guru Yoga is performed in all of Highest Yoga Tantra sadhanas and holds a direct link between you and the deity you are performing the sadhana for. The guru and the refugee field is extremely important!
Empowerments and Initiation: Initiations (empowerments) are an integral part of Tibetan Tantra. They mark the formal beginning of a specific Tantric practice and connect the practitioner to the lineage of enlightened beings. Empowerments can be a few hours, a few days or even weeks or months. Of course, the longer the initiation is, the more in-depth the empowerment will be. Please note: you can get an initiation into a deity with out taking what we call in this tradition- a commitment. You also do not have to do the practice for the deity. In each empowerment you will be given one of the mantras of that deity that you can practice. Short empowerments are very popular today and can be found at many Dharma or Monasteries. It can be looked upon more as a blessing. Longer empowerments and Initiations can happen- usually after the person shows interest in practicing Vajrayana. They will also have to learn how to perform the Sadhana correctly after the initiation.
Esoteric Practices: Tibetan Tantra includes advanced practices for advanced practitioners, such as tummo (inner heat) and dream yoga. These practices are considered powerful methods for realizing the nature of mind and achieving profound spiritual experiences. I am currently learning these practices and again, this is something that can take years or lifetimes to fully perfect.
In both Indian and Tibetan Tantra, the ultimate goal is to attain spiritual awakening and liberation from cyclic existence (samsara). The religious texts Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra vary along with the deities. Vajrayana takes a non-dual approach while Hindu Tantra is mostly non-dual for instance except for Kashmir Shaivism. Hindu tantra evokes the deities while Vajrayana utilises the mantras of the specific deity and practice deity yoga. The initiation process also differs where in Hindu Tantra you usually work more closely one on one with your guru rather than in a bigger group of people known as a Sanga in Vajrayana. What is tantra ...is different for each Tantric lineage and tradition.
And now finally... Neo Tantra and Tantra Massage!
What is Tantra...or rather Neo- Tantra? After reading about this you will be able to see the differences in Tantra and Neo-Tantra.
Neo-Tantra is a CONTEMPORARY interpretation and adaptation of traditional Tantra practices that emerged in the Western world during the 20th century. It draws inspiration from various aspects of ancient Tantra but differs significantly (almost completely) from the traditional Tantric practices found in ancient Indian texts. Also known as New Age Tantra or Western Tantra- terms I would love to see Neo-Tantra practitioners say! :)
I want say here that most of this blog post is about letting people know that Tantra and Neo- Tantra is not the same and very watered down version of Tantra .... Even so, Neo-Tantra is hugely valuable and a very needed service to the modern world right now but in a completely different way than Tantra. It is also extremely important to find honest and authentic Neo-Tantra teachers and practitioners who understand this difference.
Here are some key characteristics and aspects of Neo-Tantra which can be practiced in Tantra massage:
Emphasis on Personal Growth: Neo-Tantra places a strong emphasis on personal growth, self-awareness, and self-discovery. It often incorporates elements of psychology, sexology, mindfulness, and self-development techniques.
Focus on Sensuality and Intimacy: While traditional Tantra acknowledges the sacredness of sensuality and intimacy, Neo-Tantra sometimes places a more significant emphasis on sexual practices and techniques as a means of spiritual connection and exploration.
Diversity of Practices: Neo-Tantra encompasses a wide range of practices, including conscious touch, energy work, breathwork, meditation, yoga, and various workshops and rituals aimed at expanding consciousness and cultivating intimacy.
Individual Approach: Neo-Tantra encourages practitioners to explore and develop their individual spirituality and connection with the divine, rather than adhering to a specific set of traditional teachings.
Eclectic and Syncretic: Neo-Tantra often draws inspiration from various spiritual traditions, blending elements of Eastern spirituality, Western psychology, New Age beliefs, and other esoteric practices.
Increased Self-Awareness: Neo-Tantra often incorporates mindfulness and self-reflective practices, which can lead to greater self-awareness and understanding of one's emotions, desires, and thought patterns.
Enhanced Communication: Neo-Tantra explores the sacredness of sensuality and intimacy, which can lead to improved communication and deeper connections in relationships.
Stress Reduction and Relaxation: Practices like conscious touch, breathwork, and meditation in Neo-Tantra can help reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve overall well-being.
Emotional Healing: Through various practices, individuals may experience emotional release and healing, allowing them to address past traumas and cultivate emotional resilience.
As you can see Tantra massage and Neo-Tantra have huge benefits for the modern woman and men. The fast paced modern world with everyone on their electronic devises and social media is crippling our society and leading to much confusion in relationships. Neo-Tantra is excellent in helping couples and individuals get better relationships with themselves and others. Now I hope you can see the differences between Tantra and Neo-Tantra.
As a Traditional Tantric practitioner with experience in both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra as well as Neo- Tantra, I would be happy to help you discover both these worlds of Tantra. Feel free to call me on tel:+49 152 28321111 to book a Tantra session with me in Berlin.