Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Traditional Tantra and Neo-Tantra

At Traditional Yoga Studies traditional Tantra is compared with so-called neo-Tantra. Though I don't think the distinction is quite as clear it's made out to be, the article tries to differentiate between the two:
Tantra, or Tantrism, is the broad term by which Western students of India’s spirituality designate a particular type of teaching within Hinduism and Buddhism. What that teaching is cannot be readily summarized, because Tantrism comprises a very wide spectrum of beliefs and practices. However, to proffer a simplified description, we can say that most schools of Tantrism include the following features:
Eleven features of traditional Tantra are listed. The discussion then turns to neo-Tantra:
Neo-Tantrism, by now a stable feature of the New Age movement, is a popularization of Tantric teachings. In many cases, the teachers of this new-wave Tantrism appear not to have had the benefit of proper initiation by a competent Tantric guru; nor have they, generally speaking, studied the Tantric scriptures in sufficient depth to have a clear understanding of the extraordinary heritage they purport to represent. The danger of misunderstanding and vulgarization is obvious when we scan the popular literature.
Why is misunderstanding and vulgarization a danger exactly? Every field has amateurs and professionals, dilettantes and experts. Why should Tantra be different? What is wrong with sharing knowledge with interested people even if they are not and may never be interested in making a full commitment to practicing traditional Tantra? That is exactly where most of the next generation of Tantric practitioners will come from - from those who got a taste of Tantra and wanted more.

If you have had a taste and would like to know more about traditional Tantra, read the full article.

3 comments:

Shaji.k said...

Hi Jennifer. I write to thank you for the invaluable knowledge and wisdom you take the trouble to codify for lesser mortals, like me, who are initiates in the path. I hope this good work continues and people like me will always look to it a beacon in our stormy journey to the land of the spirit.
thank you,
shaji.

Mawiyah said...

Why is misunderstanding and vulgarization a danger exactly? Every field has amateurs and professionals, dilettantes and experts. Why should Tantra be different? What is wrong with sharing knowledge with interested people even if they are not and may never be interested in making a full commitment to practicing traditional Tantra? That is exactly where most of the next generation of Tantric practitioners will come from - from those who got a taste of Tantra and wanted more.

There is nothing wrong with sharing knowledge, but the dangers are in not letting it be known that, unless the essence of what is being shared is actually shared or mentioned, people have a tendency to take what is being shared at face value; assuming it is the end all. Unless they have the sense or desire to look for the source of this knowledge, they will assume that 'what they see on tv' is the truth and that there is nothing more to it. It is a matter of healthy human development, one that Neo-Tantra fails to encompass.

That is why you have your field of 'amateurs and professionals, dilettantes and experts'; there are those who wish to embody the essence of what they are doing and will truly go to the source to embody it, and those that have a talent for creative expression and interpretation, but miss the mark...not seeking the essence of what they are engaged in.

Tantra is nore than just sex, or increased sexual pleasure...it goes beyond the physical sensation. While the physical sensation is a part of it, it's not the essence.

Traditional Tantra encompasses Neo-Tantra...whereas Neo-Tantra lacks the essence of Traditional Tantra.

Jennifer Lawless said...

"There is nothing wrong with sharing knowledge, but the dangers are in not letting it be known that, unless the essence of what is being shared is actually shared or mentioned, people have a tendency to take what is being shared at face value; assuming it is the end all. Unless they have the sense or desire to look for the source of this knowledge, they will assume that 'what they see on tv' is the truth and that there is nothing more to it. It is a matter of healthy human development, one that Neo-Tantra fails to encompass."

Again, I have to ask, so what? Those who want more knowledge will seek it out, while those who don't won't.

The problem with "footnoting" is that it obscures the point for many people because, at the time, they simply aren't interested in origins, sources, and the "truth." They just want some usable information. If they do get that usable information, they may become curious to find out more. However, if they don't find what they're looking for to begin with, they may never seek further.

I'm generally unsympathetic and impatient with the notion of protecting "secrets" from the "immature" or unworthy." Revealing knowledge doesn't diminish its value if it actually has value. I think one reason knowledge is sometimes hidden until the seeker is committed to the teacher or organization is that the "secrets" actualy aren't of much value. I don't think that's the case with Tantra, so revealing the knowledge helps rather than hurts.