The Basic Secret Rite
While there were many types of sexual rituals practiced by Tantrics over the years, the most basic and probably the most easily understood is the secret rite, or the basic sexual ritual, also known as Maithuna Sadhana in Tantra. Although this is a simplified description, here is a basic overview of how this ritual might go.
Maithuna is a Sanskrit term for “union,” which is often used to refer to a sexual union. It represents a spiritual unification for the purpose of creating spiritual balance and harmony. Maithuna Sadhana is the spiritual (and often physical) union and oneness of man and woman.
The Warm-Up Stage
Before starting the ritual itself, the proper setting must be established by the careful placement of candles, the selection of music, and the lighting of a fire.
When the time is right, the couple begins the ritual by taking a bath or shower. They then massage each other with oils. Often, they then engage in a period of stretching, yoga, or even dancing, in order to relax the muscles and to get them in the proper frame of mind.
Then they sit closely together and do some simple meditation routines. Along the way, they focus on their breathing, trying to synchronize their breathing patterns.
Honoring Each Other
At this point, they move on to the main part of the ritual: honoring each other. Traditionally, the woman is honored first. Her partner begins worshipping her as a goddess, adorning her with beautiful scarves and fabrics and massaging her with oil. He then slowly and gradually begins touching her body in a very deliberate and predetermined sequence. Meanwhile, his partner visualizes techniques to imagine her energy force growing increasingly stronger and rising up through her body.
The man takes occasional breaks to meditate, during which time he might gaze into the fire or candle. During this process, the man (and possibly the woman) recite certain chants and mantras. For the man, these repetitive mantras often include telling the woman how beautiful she is, and how much he worships her as his goddess.
The couple then shifts roles, with the woman worshipping her partner.
Lovemaking Takes Place
When worship is finished, the couple begins the actual act of lovemaking. In ancient texts, the woman is almost always described as sitting on the right side of the man when the ritual begins, and then moves to his left side for this stage of actual lovemaking.
While the specific positions can vary, the sequence is often discussed and agreed upon beforehand. If the couple has a specific purpose in mind, a goal they wish to achieve through this ritual — conceiving a child, for example, or attaining sexual healing — they would constantly visualize it throughout this part of the ritual.
If the man ejaculates, the couple remains in union for as long as possible afterward, allowing the woman to absorb his vital life energy.
As part of the preparations for the ritual, the couple should have a bowl or tray of fruits or other treats waiting nearby for when they have finished making love. Ancient Tantric practitioners considered this important, as the process was believed to be draining, and often worked up hunger and thirst. It was viewed as important that the couple be able to replenish their energy following the sexual union.
The sexual ritual was often conducted on specific days of the month, commonly on “desirable” times during the woman's menstrual cycle.