Living Tantra, Part 3: The Bright Side vs. the Dark Side
“Just as there are enlightened people and ignorant people, there are enlightened tantrics and ignorant tantrics,” Swami Sadananda continued. “Just as there are good trades and bad trades, there is good tantra and bad tantra. A science by itself is neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is how it is applied. These days people often associate tantra with black magic, voodoo, drugs, alcohol, and sex. Tantra has become synonymous with immorality and orgies. That represents only the dark side of tantra.
“The bright side of tantra is supremely enlightening, revealing, and empowering to body, mind, and soul. For untold ages people have been using it to heal themselves and to heal their families and societies. Yogis have used it to accelerate their practice and reach their goal with fewer obstacles. Ayurvedic practitioners have used tantra to make their medicine and healing techniques more effective. Businessmen have used tantra to succeed in their business. In the olden days, kings and emperors used tantric practices to invite rain and to enhance the fertility of the soil. It is well known that astrology without tantra is lifeless. Spirituality without tantra is just a matter of faith and is meaningful only to believers.
“Over millennia, tantrics have invented numberless applications of tantric knowledge. Some of those applications appear lofty and others trivial. You must not forget that everything in life—from the loftiest to the most trivial—has its rightful place. Educated Tibetan lamas apply tantra to protect themselves from the greatest enemies—ignorance, egoism, anger, hatred, jealousy, and greed. Shepherds in Tibet apply tantra to protect their sheep and goats from wolves and disease. Learned sadhus and saints apply tantra to cultivate love for themselves and love for God. But ignorant priests practice tantra to influence the minds of their followers so that their loyalty remains undivided.
“Yogis apply tantric wisdom to awaken their kundalini shakti so that they become adept in the field of yoga. But a person of limited knowledge uses that same tantric wisdom to awaken that same shakti in a pendant, only to become a voodoo man. People sell a diamond for the price of cheap glass for the same reason people practice tantra for a cheap experience—because they don’t know any better.”
What is Tantra?
Intrigued, I asked, “Swamiji, what is tantra really? What are its dynamic principles? How can we learn and practice tantra systematically?”
Swami Sadananda answered, “Tantra is an embodiment of the highest form of healing and enlightenment. Healing occurs when our body, breath, mind, and consciousness work and support each other in a harmonious fashion. When they are disjointed and struggle to function without much mutual cooperation, we fall sick, become old, and die. Tantra is comprised of techniques for reconnecting our body, breath, mind, and consciousness, allowing them to work and support each other. Enlightenment occurs when karmic impurities, mental stupor, intellectual confusion, and emotional turmoil do not block the flow of our inner light. Tantra is comprised of techniques that burn our karmic impurities and make our mind clear, our intellect sharp, and our emotions peaceful.
“The secret of tantra lies in its ability to integrate everything. For ages people have been fighting an unending war—the war of good and bad, right and wrong, virtue and sin, heaven and hell, sacred and mundane, freedom and bondage. Caught in this war, monks and householders, clergy and laymen, politicians and philosophers, men and women, poor and rich, and businessmen and those fully committed to inner life are equally miserable. Tantra has a remedy for this misery. This remedy works because a tantric seeks freedom in the world, not from the world. Here the sacred and the mundane are held together in harmonious balance. Worldly success and spiritual development go hand in hand. It is a joy-driven path. It is a path of active participation in life. It is not a path for those who seek salvation after death, but a path for those who seek health, wealth, peace, and happiness while living in the world.
“That’s enough for today. We’ll talk later about your questions about the dynamic principles of tantra and how to learn and practice tantra in a systematic and methodical manner.”