The word Tantra has been so used and misused in modern times that there is a lot of confusion about what it is exactly. Most people in the “West” equate this word with sexual practices, which is extremely inaccurate. In the Hindu Tradition there is definitely a sexual element in certain branches, but in context it is safe to say that they are a very small part of the whole. In other branches the actual sexual element is non existent. In the Tibetan Buddhist teachings I received from my teachers Lama Zopa and Lama Yeshe, plus a brief but amazing time with the Dalai Lama, the word sex never came up 🙂 (which doesn’t mean there are no practices involving sex, but again, they are a very minor, and very advanced, part of the tradition)
I fully support the idea of bringing sacredness and awareness to the sexual act, as long as we are conscious that most of the modern teachings and practices out there have little or nothing to do with the Tradition of Tantra, and I do feel it is a pity to use that label in such ignorant and disrespectful way.
Basically, the realisation of Tantra comes down to Real-izing that this Uni-verse is one Whole organism, and that it is Conscious. We are part of that organism and we contain, like a hologram, all the information and power present in it. If we accept, and ideally, fully live, this premise, then the whole of existence, every living and non living thing, every breath we take, becomes sacred. The idea that certain places and practices are sacred and separate, and that certain activities (such as sex) are evil, plunges us in a duality that is not sustainable even on a logical base. Either the whole of creation is sacred, or it isn’t… our experience will be a projection of our state of mind. Religions have strongly conditioned us in this sacred/evil duality, and the consequences are still sadly the opposite of what the Masters have taught, i.e. separation, hatred, violence, fanaticism and deep ignorance.
The most important element of the Tantric path is to eliminate this dualism in our own minds, and bring the Shiva/Shakti, Yin/Yang elements into harmony within ourselves. Sex can be an aid in this Work but is not a necessary part of it.
My interest in using the energy of sex for, let’s say, a higher purpose than simple carnal pleasure, have led me mostly to the teachings of Taoism, which are extensive, deep, and very practical. Some of the techniques from Yoga can also tremendously enhance, elevate and inform our sexual experience.
When I was requested to teach Tantra in a retreat situation, I ended up doing what I mostly do, which is to simply share those techniques, ideas and realisations that are part of my personal experience, rather than a product of scholarly learning (even though I am an avid reader). My experience involves elements of all these traditions, and the workshops I can provide may or may not involve a sexual element, depending on the context.