The Basic Idea
Tantra involves many different beliefs and practices, but there is one common theme. In all practices, there is an emphasis on the joining of two seemingly opposite life forces — male and female, yin and yang, dark and light, hot and cold, etc. — to create one powerful force leading to higher consciousness. Basically, by joining these two halves, you make a whole, which leads to spiritual (and sensual) bliss.
It's All about Unity
The basic principle of Tantra is unity. That can be expressed in many forms. It could be unity with the world around you, or unity of spirit, which brings peace and clarity, or when related to sex, the unity of man and woman to bring about the ultimate pleasure and fulfillment. Once you achieve the desired unity, you reach a higher consciousness and connect with a divine place. (In traditional Tantra, this usually involved a connection with a god, a creator, an ultimate being, or some other deity, but today it is often interpreted to mean a place of complete bliss.)
The Ancient Approach
In ancient Hindu times, the Tantra approach to sex involved using meditation combined with nonorgasmic sensual activities, resulting in spiritual bliss. This technique involved activating and stimulating the energy centers (the chakras, which will be discussed in detail in Chapter 13), each of which played an important role in helping participants pursue their ultimate spiritual destination.
What is sacred sex?
When the techniques of Tantra are applied to sensual acts, this is sometimes referred to as “sacred sex.” This term is used to refer to any sexual experience that helps a person attain a stronger connection with the universe or a higher power.
Shiva and Shakti
When discussing Tantra and the idea of unity, it is necessary to include Shiva and Shakti, who represent masculine and feminine archetypes in Hindu symbolism. Shiva, the male, is pure consciousness; Shakti, the female, is the power of creation — she's the life force energy that combines with his power of thought to manifest the physical world. One cannot exist without the other, as the two are inseparable and it takes both powers working in harmony to keep the universe functioning (more on Shiva and Shakti in Chapter 3).