03.02.06

On Neo-Tantra

Posted in Articles and Essays at 4:56 pm by Adityanath

In the context of the International Nath Order, it is important to understand that what we study, practice and teach is Tantra and not Neo-Tantra.

Neo-tantra (see the Wikipedia article) is nearly always used as a synonym for sacred sexuality. While neo-tantra may use many of the same terms and concepts as tantra, it discards some of the most central elements of traditional tantra. In doing so, it inverts the very process by which tantra works and devolves simply into an exotic form of sex therapy. Typically, the Kama Sutra and/or Ananga Ranga are referenced and even referred to as “Tantras.” In actuality, these works are simply sutras on love and sex and are unrelated to the traditional Tantras.

The central features of traditional tantra are Guru transmission and ritual discipline. The practitioner cultivates the spirit and works to dissolve the Five Kleshas leading to spiritual development, Divine Awakening, and a deepening relationship with space and energy or Shakti. Only once that relationship is established can sexual union be integrated into the practice with any hope of a spiritual result. As Shri Kapilnath related in a previous post,

“The Yogi unites with his Shakti before he unites with his Shakti.”

Neo-tantra, on the other hand, typically represents that the sexual act itself is the practice by which one may elevate oneself to a higher spiritual plane. The question naturally arises that if this is the case, why isn’t everyone enlightened? The answer, of course, is that we must somehow be doing it wrong. Thus does neo-tantra descend into the teaching of a set of techniques for achieving better sex or more and better orgasms. Candles and incense assume an exaggerated importance, and the right background music is a must. Of course, the teachers of this creative art form are very important people and fees for workshops and private sessions typically run from $150 to $250 an hour or more.

It may well be that some people do need these remedial sexual therapy sessions, but it is misleading to call it tantra and thus the doublespeak term neo-tantra was born. It’s not tantra, but everyone pretends that it is, and thus the money continues to flow and make the neo-tantric world go ’round.

Peace, Freedom & Happiness,

Adityanath

17 Comments

  1. Jim Yahazim said,

    March 2, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    This is a well written, simple, and to the point paper. Thank you for clearing the confusion around this topic.

  2. Adityanath said,

    March 2, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Thanks, Jim! And thanks for helping me test the comment feature also. You get “first post.”

  3. Adityanath said,

    March 2, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    I just found a great quote in this article at LivingTantra.net which sums up this article nicely:

    “Neo-Tantra ritualizes sex. Authentic Tantra sexualizes ritual.”

    There’s more great stuff in the article. Go read it…

  4. Murali said,

    March 2, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    I have a somewhat related, but perhaps overtly simplistic, take on what tantra is really all about and I would be very glad of your comments.

    A bhajan – or any hymn for that matter – is prayer through the vehicle of music. The music itself may be very beautiful and be enjoyed for its own sake. But at the moment of true prayer, is one conscious of the music or is one lost in the prayer itself?

    I think the answer is pretty obvious. A hymn can be looked on as the “musicalization of prayer”. Similarly, in my understanding, does the “act of sex” itself disappear when a true tantric “Union” occurs.

    best

    Murali

  5. Adityanath said,

    March 3, 2006 at 8:14 am

    Well, certainly something larger than just the sexual act is going on. If the personal boundaries dissolve and you can no longer tell where you end and your partner begins, sometimes it can be rather difficult to tell who is doing what to whom. :-)

  6. Firecat said,

    March 5, 2006 at 11:19 pm

    Wonderful article, Adityanath, thank you for sharing this. It’s a subject about which there is HUGE confusion in America, and we need more clear, concise articles like this.

  7. Adityanath said,

    March 5, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks, Firecat. If you haven’t browsed the “Living Tantra” blog, you should as you may find it interesting. As one of the only other authentic tantra blogs I’ve found on the web, I’ve added it to our “Blogroll” menu as it is highly recommended.

  8. Martina Weiser said,

    May 24, 2006 at 5:36 am

    Hello,

    I think I am part of the people who use the word “tantra” to describe my work.

    well, there is prostitution and there is medical treatment – but what words should I use to make clear that my work is a full body treatment with all respect und with clear borders like in a therapeutic setting ??
    In Germany where I work, there is a big Neo Tantra scene, Tantra in India was a kind of religion that included sexuality as something sacred. That’s what we practice in our work against all moral attacks.

    by the way our prices are similar to medical treatments.

    best regards

    Martina Weiser

  9. Adityanath said,

    May 24, 2006 at 7:52 am

    Martina,

    I have no objections to what you do, nor have I suggested that all services that bill themselves as “tantra” are prostitution. The fact remains that the word “tantra” has a very specific meaning and is the name of a religious practice. The cross-cultural misappropriation of the word is not only completely inaccurate, it is extremely rude. If it were Christianity from which the word was being appropriated, it would be considered blasphemy.

    The word for what you do is “massage therapy.” It is my sincere wish that you stop misusing words from another culture’s religion simply as a sales gimmick.

    Peace, Freedom & Happiness,

    Adityanath

  10. sahajanath said,

    July 3, 2006 at 11:55 am

    Yes, very concise and to the point. I often feel a twinge when I mention tantra, because you can just see the wheels turning expecting some sort of sleazy come on followed by a ‘namaste’. Even amongst those who claim to understand, they still don’t get that Tantra really has nothing to do with sex. At best they seem to understand that it’s not “all about” sex.

    Definitely grist for the mill.

    Shanti Om

    Sahajanath

  11. Bhawna Gesota said,

    July 12, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Oh I love this thread.
    I have lived in the Bay Area, CA for the last 10 years. In these last 2 years, I started exploring the subject of Tantra. And I started discovering Tantra teachers in the Bay Area in every nook and alley. And more “wannabe” tantra teachers.
    After 2 years, I liken it to the pan shops in India, which we find in every nook and alley.
    “Tantra” is a buzz word, a mega-dollar business where it is advertised in beautiful ways, packaged into w/e workshops, advertised like no man’s business and sold.
    Welcome to the West!
    Commodification is the name of the game.

    Highly expensive workshops with Margot Anand, sacred circles, incense, namaste, candles, the perfect music to activate a specific chakra to take you to the heightened states of ecstasy…….

    Finally, I wonder what is “Tantra”? Because you see I am confused now.
    Why did the ancient Indian sages spend years and years and years, learning about Tantra? Were they plain stupid and slow and nowadays people are so smart that after 6 workshops in 2 years, they start advertising themselves as Tantra teachers?
    I think the answers are as follows:
    -Anything to do with the remotest association with sex is highly fascinating to the west.
    -There is a large guilt factor here. Probably due to the Christian doctrine? People feel “guilty”, not right about having sexual desires. And not just simple sexual desires, but more colorful ones like wanting to explore sexual positions, orgies, multiple partners, sluttish behaviour, bdsm etc etc. But of course, they can’t say it outright, you see? They were taught or have gotten some genetic transmissions, that all this is “bad” “bad” “bad”.
    But then, here is wonderful spiritual doctrine from ancient India – Tantra. Now of course, they can’e be wrong. After all India is known for its spiritual wisdom. And Tantra talks about sex and sexual union!! So after all its not bad! In fact sex is spiritual!! At last, freedom to explore secual desires!!!
    So now, I can enact all I wanted to do anyways, take a few workshops and leanr this ancient INdian tradition that sages spent years in understanding and documenting and say “I am a tantrika” or “I am a follower of Tantra” or “I teach Tantra” etc.
    You see, the human mind is very cunning.
    It can find a way to justify almost anything that it wants and make it look so good then one can rid oneself of any feelings of guilt or moral responsibility or truth for that matter.

    I feel really angry.
    In these “tantric” circles, I often find these “tantrikas” refer to me as the original goddess, the one knows it all, this Indian woman.
    I am in a perfect stage to start a business and make it run well, sheerly because I am Indian – from the land of kamasutra.

    I feel like patenting Tantra and have all these tantra teachers pay a huge amount to borrow, mutilate and commercialize.
    Finally, I think thats what needs to happen.
    Patenting to prevent intellectual rights and misappropriations.

    Namaste, !!!! Bhawna

  12. Sat-Suma said,

    July 22, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    It’s all about self-empowerment, money and abundance.

    If you look at the erotic-section and Craigslist you can find hundreds of these students if not thousands all over the country selling their skills and expertise.
    It’s amazing!

    So what did the traditional tantrics do wrong? Why can’t they get more followers? Why are they so weak and don’t set the record straight.

    All healing arts have been hijacked for this, from trasnpersonal psychology to ayurveda, reiki, and shamanism.

    It’s not just the term “tantra” which suffers here.

  13. Adityanath said,

    July 24, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    Sat-Suma,

    You wrote:
    So what did the traditional tantrics do wrong? Why can’t they get more followers? Why are they so weak and don’t set the record straight..

    I don’t think the traditional tantrics did anything wrong. Real tantra is always for the few, especially in the West. Not many Westerners are willing to enter into a practical relationship with a Guru, and those that do are not necessarily sincere.

    Plus, we tantrics are setting the record straight: here, on the Living Tantra blog, on Wikipedia. Since the neo-tantrics are more interested in sex and money, they aren’t inclined to listen. Yoga also was full of hype and charlatanism when it was first popularized in the West. In twenty years, I think things will have been straightened out and the average spiritual seeker will know the real thing from the false substitute.

    But maybe not. Cultural appropriation can be insidiously persistent. Look at the Christian appropriation of the Torah. Hardly anybody listens to the Jews whose Holy Book was stolen and interpreted in a new and non-traditional way when they try to explain that their Holy Book is being misinterpreted. This has been going on for 2000 years without sign of abating…

    Peace, Freedom & Happiness,

    Adityanath

  14. Shambhavi said,

    November 16, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Hari OM

    Have a look at the new Living Tantra post on neo-Tantra: “Tantrik Snack.”

    http://www.livingtantra.net/2006/11/tantrik_snack.html

    Adityanath, I lost your email, so I couldn’t send this to you directly.

    OM Shanti, Shambhavi

  15. Wakeman said,

    December 14, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    I can freely admit that I am almost entirely unenlightened about what tantra is and isn’t except for what I’ve read above. I’m hoping someone can tell me clearly if neo-tantric (specifically so-called tantric healing/tantric massage) is an exchange of cash for services which include sexual intercourse.

    Just stamp a big “duh” on my forhead, because I really can’t figure it out. I’m not looking for any kind of sexual services. I’m looking for enlightenment.

  16. Neon Artemis said,

    January 20, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    I have personal experience with some of these “neo-tantric” people who decide to be teachers with minimal if any training. Some fib about their training and use well known teachers in the field as their reference. No one really checks into this, and they band together and support one another in their fraudulant, sometimes illegal, practices. Many are sexual addicts who decide they want to make a living from having sex, unfortunately. This angers me very much as many tout how they empower the goddess while inappropriately sleeping with their many students, sometimes without protection. They know all the new age buzz words and talk a good game, but a lot of what they do is very harmful, I have seen people damaged by such sessions.

    If anyone is thinking about seeing such a teacher, make sure you do extensive background checking on their credentials, don’t just take their word for it that they were a student of “so and so master”. Don’t be fooled by tantric pictures and buzzwords and the talk – listen to your gut no matter what. You have the Guru you need within you.

  17. Lisa said,

    August 8, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Greetings friends,

    There is more than side to neo-tantra, and they are not all bad. Often, neo-tantra, although not in agreement with this particular interpretation that the central features are guru transmission and ritual discipline, are not bastardizations of ancient traditional tantra, exotic sex therapy, or prostitution disguises. Many neo-tantrics do not believe that sexual acts lead to spiritual enlightenment. However, not everyone is able or willing to sell their homes, pull their children out of school, quit their jobs, and spend 20 years in an ashram in India studying some ancient traditional tantra. In fact, there are plenty of kind, sincere, intelligent individuals who transmit and experience the many wonderful effects of tantric practice, sans the profusion of Sanskrit terms and Indian pseudonyms, but simply because they do not experience them in exactly the same way or from the same sources as those who consider their branches of tantra to be ancient or traditional, should not be discredited.

    Just like all languages, religions, and cultures evolve over time and geographically, so did tantra, like it or not, it is just human nature. There are Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, and yes, even modern Western forms of tantra. Nothing remains exactly the same forever. Learning tantra from a guru does not make it authentic, what makes a branch of tantra authentic is intent. There may be some long-bearded guy in a cave in India exploiting tantra as easily as someone in the United States. While tools and methods of practice may differ, both traditional and neo-tantrics, agree that central features of tantra are:

    · Full acceptance of present reality, truth
    · Self discovery and realization
    · Unity of mind, body and spirit
    · Non dualism (Oneness)

    While I do agree that it is irritating that some people are promising better sex and calling it tantra, it seems very un-tantralike and egoistic to make statements that disparage those who do not intend to sell sex and get rich by exploiting tantra, and instead are striving to make the world a more loving place. Regardless of what anyone here says, the benefits of tantra are absolutely not and will never be limited to a select few spiritual elites who have had the opportunity to delve completely into only one single interpretation of tantra. Teachers and practitioners of ancient traditional tantric branches should rejoice in the fact that modern western minds are taking interest in tantra. The best thing that tantra traditionalists can do is to accept this and create alliances with neo-tantrics to stop fostering divisions and help to drown out the voices of those who exploit tantra.

    Peace and love,

    Lisa