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What is Tantra? Part 2 of 2

Updated on March 2, 2013

This hub is a continuation of The Truth About Tantra, Part 1. It details some of the beliefs and practices of Tantra, but does not give general information. For more general information, feel free to check out the first part of the hub.

A Sadhu
A Sadhu
Chakras and energy flow inside and outside of the body.
Chakras and energy flow inside and outside of the body.


Sadhus are the “holy men” of India who devote their lives to “liberation” by rejecting the first three goals of Hindu life; pleasure, wealth, and duty. Many Hindu sadhus wear dreadlocks, do yoga, and use other taboos as forms of meditation. Buddha was a non-Hindu sadhu.

Hindu Tantra

Hindu tantra is often divided into two categories according to its value system. These are known as left-handed tantra and right-handed tantra.

Left-handed tantra advocates the five M’s (taboo breaking to free oneself from the binds of society), and is considered to be a very dangerous path to take by many orthodox Hindus:

madya (wine)

māmsa (meat)

matsya (fish)

mudrā (parched grain)

maithuna (body taboos)

Right-handed tantra advocates abstaining from these practicing, and visualizing them instead.

Both schools worship Shiva and his female counterpart, the divine mother (known by many names in the form of many goddesses, such as Kali, Shakti, and Parvati). This also lends itself to a ritual worship of the "divine union", which is subject to translation. It can be thought of as an earthly union, a union of energies, or the union of oneself with the divine.

A book that takes you to the heart of tantra:

Tantra Illuminated
Tantra Illuminated

This book goes deeper into the origins of tantra and how it can affect your life.


Buddhist Tantra

Buddhist Tantra is practiced in much of Southern and Eastern Asia. It generally teaches the "right-handed" tantra, the binding of oneself with the divine through visualization and meditation.

New Age Tantra

New Age tantra is mostly practiced in the U.S. and Europe, and it has adopted many of the terms and ideas of tantra without the structure, ritual, and requirements of more traditional forms. It is often combined with other forms of religious mysticism, such as Muslim Sufism, Jewish Kabbalah, and elements of Northern European paganism and Chinese philosophy.

Chakras and Energy Flow in the Body
Chakras and Energy Flow in the Body

The Schools of Tantra

Over time, tantrics developed so many techniques that it became impossible to study them systematically. For this reason, they were divided into three schools; Kaula, Mishra, and Samaya.

Kaula employs external objects (pilgrimages, rituals, offerings, recitation of scriptures),

Mishra employs both external and internal objects (partially ritualistic and partially meditative),

Samaya (solely meditative) employs only internal objects.


Tantric Practices

Tantric practices are called pujus, Hindu rituals of worship or devotion to the divine. They can include, but are certainly not limited to:

Mantras: focusing or meditating on an incantation, song, prayer, or mandala

Concentration on the body (meditating on energy flows, chakras, kundalini, etc.)

Taboo breaking in order to free oneself from conventionality (the five M’s): Most of these taboos are considered extremely harmful if they are done to fulfill selfish desires. Rather, the practitioner must prepare oneself with meditation and/or yoga and progress beyond the literal act to understand the deeper meaning.

Deities: Tantra especially embraces Shakti and Shiva, who are considered the “divine union”. Practices involve visualizing oneself as the deity, worshiping through sacrifices, or awakening the movement of the Gods through sacred dance.

Bharata Natyam, described in detail in the fifth Veda, is a sacred dance, or form of moving yoga, practiced as a puju.


Learn Bharatanatyam
Learn Bharatanatyam

This ancient and sacred dance of India is practiced in worship rituals. It is spellbinding to watch and invigorating to learn

An illustration of Kundalini flowing up the spine.
An illustration of Kundalini flowing up the spine.


Kundalini is the coil of creative “feminine” energy at the base of the spine, said to be activated or awoken through yoga and meditation. It is visualized as a snake which sleeps coiled and, when it wakes, slithers up the spine to unite itself with the masculine energy at the base of the skull. This movement is called Kundalini Shakti, and is considered to be Shakti (the Divine Mother) in her kinetic manifestation. Yogis describe kundalini as a warm, liquidy feeling ascending up the spine. The movement of kundalini is considered vital to self-realization and the dissolution of the barrier between the physical world and the divine.

Shaktishiva. An illustration of the Divine union of the male and female energies.
Shaktishiva. An illustration of the Divine union of the male and female energies.

Shakti Shiva

The principal of Shakti and Shiva are a fundamental part of tantric teachings. It is from these male and female counterparts that the universe was created. The deities represent the divine union; union of the physical with the divine and the active with the creative.

A better understanding of Tantra

This hub focuses on detailed aspects of tantra belief, and is a continuation of another hub. For more general information, please read The Truth About Tantra, Part 1.


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    • hush4444 profile image

      hush4444 6 years ago from Hawaii

      Very interesting hub(s)! I'm so ignorant about India and its beliefs that I never knew where to begin to learn more. Thanks for getting me off to a good start!

    • stephaniedas profile image

      Stephanie Das 6 years ago from Miami, US

      The first part of this hub is "The Truth About Tantra, Part 1"