Tantra is many different things, to many different people. If you asked ten experts what tantra is, you would get ten different answers, without fail. The word itself is fairly explanatory, however, in that its truest meaning is ‘weave.’ Essentially, with this practice, you are weaving all parts of yourself together with the Divine, regardless of what you consider to be ‘the Divine.’ Still, nobody can truly define what it is, because it does mean so many different things to so many different people.
This practice, in its various forms, has been around for centuries. It is widely practiced in China, Japan, Tibet, Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, and many other countries, and it is gaining popularity in the United States and Canada as well. We believe, however, that the practice originated in India. Overall, it is believed that this practice combines Hinduism and Paganism. While some consider it to be associated with religion, others will vow that it has nothing to do with religion at all.
It is the fact that different types of this practice exist that makes it so hard to define. You see, many people will just focus on one aspect of the practice, instead of everything that it entails. For example, you will most likely hear of tantric sex often – but this is just one aspect. Other aspects include yoga, shamanism, Taoism, and shiviasm, the Right-hand Path, the Left-Hand Path, as well as many, many others.
Most people who are serious about this practice learn it from a Guru, and they often learn just one aspect, or may learn multiple aspects of the practice. It is practiced with the use of rituals, including private or secret rituals, identifying with the deities, and even through sexual rituals. It may even be practiced solely and simply as a form of yoga. Like many other serious practices, it will take time to learn this practice, and you must study the different aspects and paths seriously in order to find your way through the various traditions, and to choose your own path.
While tantra is the main practice, it may include the use of a mantra and a yantra – or more than one mantra or yantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated over and over. A yantra, on the other hand, is considered to be an ‘instrument,’ but it may not be a musical instrument. It could be something that is tangible, yet symbolic to the person who is practicing the tradition. Both may be used in the practice, or not used at all, as this is an individual choice – although certain traditions may focus on mantra or yantra.