Were Monique Roffey’s Tantric Workshops Really Tantra?

I’ve been reading reviews of With The Kisses Of His Mouth, novelist Monique Roffey’s account of her sexual adventures in the small ads, French nudist resorts, English sex clubs and…‘tantric workshops’. Good luck to her. But I put ‘tantric workshops’ in quotes because they don’t seem to have had very much to do with Tantra.

I do get a bit irritated when the Tantric tag is attached to things that really aren’t Tantric at all, whether by journalists or by those running courses. I don’t doubt that the workshops were invaluable and professional but why call them Tantra if they’re not?

Because Tantra was not founded by any single person and has never had any sort of ruling body to define its beliefs, so its teachings have varied from century to century, place to place, and guru to guru. But there are certain essentials and if you really want to practice ‘Tantric sex’ it’s important to understand what they are.

First of all, there never was something called ‘Tantric sex’ anyway. There was a body of beliefs and, within that, some practitioners (I stress some) used sexualised rituals. I, like many others, use the phrase ‘Tantric sex’ for convenience, but strictly speaking it’s no more correct than talking of Catholic candles or Christian bread.

Many people believe they’re practising Tantric sex if they light incense and candles, play Eastern music, stare into one another’s eyes, proclaim their love, and keep on for an hour or more. But none of those things define Tantric sex. Theoretically, it’s not even necessary to know the person you’re having sex with. What really makes Tantric sex different is not its range of physical sexual techniques (potent though they are) but its range of psychological techniques and the intention behind the sex. The prolonged state of excitement which Tantric sex is capable of creating is only a beginning. It’s aim is the attainment of a quite extraordinary state of mind known as ananda or bliss.

Ananda, in this context, is not the same as happiness. Ananda is something very special and, at its optimum, known as jagadananda, very rare. So rare that most people never experience it in their lifetimes. So how will you know it? For one thing, however long it lasts (it could be minutes, it could be hours), and however you generate it, once you’re in it, it’s independent of external things. It’s like lighting a flame that then burns on its own. Other names for it are rasa (juice-joy) and maharaga (the great emotion). It certainly includes happiness, it certainly includes a secure sense of being loved (by something), but most important of all is a sense of being beyond the kinds of fears and anxieties that are part of normal life. In other words, Tantric sex is a spiritual experience. If the aim of the sex isn’t spiritual, then it’s not Tantric sex.

You may have heard that Tantric sex is all about lengthy sex sessions during which the man does not ejaculate. That isn’t strictly true, either. In fact, in early Tantric sex, ejaculation was considered vital because both a man’s and a woman’s sexual fluids were believed to have magical powers. But it is true that the man must be able to control ejaculation and therefore prolong sex, so that both partners have the greatest chance of basking in this radiant state.

No one even knows when Tantra began as a spiritual path. The earliest surviving documents to be given the title ‘Tantra’ date from the 7th century, and are Buddhist, but most scholars believe Tantra arose out of Hinduism. Certainly the origins of Tantra go back much, much further.

Tantrikas, like Hindus, have always believed in what we now call the ‘Big Bang’ theory. That’s to say, they believe the universe was once the size of a dot and will return to a dot. And that the process will be repeated over and over. Endlessly. The expansion is powered by the ONE, the Divine Consciousness, or Brahman. Brahman was lonely and split into two, a god often called Shiva, and a goddess often called Shakti. It was their lovemaking that created the visible universe, sending out patterns of vibrations that coalesced into the forms that we, tricked by maya (the covering that conceals true reality) perceive as solid. So that is very much in line with modern quantum theory.

When Shiva and Shakti stop making love, so the vibrations will cease and the universe will return to a dot. When Tantrikas make love they, as it were, become Shiva and Shakti, helping create the vibrations that maintain the cosmos. So keep on playing your part as often as possible.

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