What Do We Mean by “Tantra?”

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When most people hear the word “tantra” they think of sex, and often here in the Western world you’ll see “tantra” used as a marketing term, such as come to this or buy this because it’s TANTRA, you’ve seen this right? Actually, Osho, who was a spiritual teacher and Tantra Master from India, explained it this way: At the essence, all teachings basically boil down to one of two paths to God, enlightenment, realization, whatever term you want to use: the Yogic or the Tantric.


In New Age circles you’ll see it all mushed together, but if you look closely, you’ll see that there are actually two separate paths. The Yogic path says that there’s something you have to do to get to God: you have to eat a certain way, or you have to never be angry, you have to wear a certain kind of clothes, or you should not have sex. There are a myriad of ways you can develop and try to change yourself, and in the West we would say we’re very “yogic” because we’re all developing ourselves, we want to become better, we want to become superior people, and we want to become high(er).


The Tantric path, which is not as well-known, is that there’s nothing to be done, everything is already perfect. In this moment, is anything missing? All is permitted, all is holy, all is divine, there’s nothing you need to do. You don’t need to eat a certain way; you don’t need to stop being sexual; if you’re angry be angry. Osho would have people get totally angry and in his Dynamic Mediation you’d just go crazy and mad and spill out all your anger instead of trying to repress it. The point was not to create a world full of angry people, the point was to create people who are fully human, and being angry is an essential part of being human. So the tantric path would say that everything about you is human and beautiful including your anger, including your pain, including your sexuality, so Osho said celebrate everything you are: this is the tantric path.


There have been different paths calling themselves tantra, and you will find ones that actually are yogic in that they teach exercises to become a super lover, a tantra super star. Osho’s Neo-Tantra was not about that, it was facing your fears, growing yourself up about love and sex, and in the process experiencing yourself as a fully sexual being.


© 2017 Catherine Auman  This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Tantric Dating: Bringing Love and Awareness to the Dating Process

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Catherine Auman is a Los Angeles psychotherapist specializing in transpersonal psychology, also known as spiritual psychology.

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