Classical Tantra vs Neo-Tantra
Sometimes (often) people ask me about what’s the difference between Classical and Neo-Tantra, what is Tantra, and what do I practice.
Most westerners think of tantra as something relating to sex. Of course, most books that have the word Tantra in the name will have a naked couple on the cover. People then talk about things like energetic sex, whole body orgasms, finding God through sex (that’s actually a name of a book) - so then we think that maybe tantra is about the connected and spiritual in nature sexuality.
And then we hear of Tantric Buddhism, tantrik yoga, or tantric meditations and mantras, and think - wait a second, that’s not about sex at all.
Indeed, classical Tantra is a spiritual path, a path to enlightenment, Indian ancient spiritual tradition that influenced development of many forms of yoga and many eastern religions. And it has nothing to do with sex.
One of the best ways to learn about Classical Tantra that I know of is the Tantrika Institute, where you can find a beautiful and in depth FREE course “The Basics of Tantra” as well as a huge online library of tantrik resources:
The institute is run by a scholar practitioner Christopher Wallis (Hareesh), the author of “Tantra Illuminated”.
Here’s his article about what classical Tantra is:
His blog has many useful articles about the tantrik path:
Another one of my beloved tantric teachers is Sally Kempton, a teacher of a Kashmir Shaivism tradition and an author of “Awakening Shakti” a beautiful book and a collection of meditations on the aspects of the feminine.
So what about me? Where do I stand and how do I feel about what seems to be two completely unrelated traditions? My first introduction to tantra was 100% neo-tantra, it was all about sex (or so I thought), and that’s what I needed most at that time. I needed sexual healing, I needed hope that I wasn’t broken, that sex doesn’t have to hurt, that there was nothing wrong with me. And that all those beautiful things I was hearing about - like a whole body orgasm, or an orgasm that can last for 15 minutes (if not an hour), self love, self compassion, pleasure and freedom, deep connection with others - was possible, even for me. At the time, it felt just as possible as traveling to Mars - but….. turned out I was wrong. It was possible, and even though it took me a long time to get there, I sure did.
Through Tantra, I found healing. I found out things about myself I didn’t know were possible or existed, I found a lot more than I bargained for.
My heart opened. I didn't know I was living with my heart closed.
My body awakened. I used to live from the neck up, all in my head, completely disconnected from my body, my energy, and definitely my sexuality.
My intuition woke up. I used to think I was all logic.
My creativity. I didn’t think I was creative at all. Turned out I was wrong about that too.
And then there was connection with spirit.
I started to discover who I was and that in turn brought me to classical Tantra, and spiritual awakening(s) which eventually completely changed my life. That’s the part of the story where I quit my respectable Oil and Gas career to teach - tantra(!) - because of course, I wanted to share it with others. Can you imagine something more opposite? From power suits and corporate culture, to barefoot, mantra chanting, tree-hugging, heart-opening, loving yogic community. Best career move ever. :)
I knew that if it was possible for me to heal, then it’s possible for everyone else, and I knew there were many people like me who needed to know that there’s hope. What I wanted to share was a path of neo-tantra , and it would be much easier if we just called it Sacred Sexuality and left the word tantra out of it. It worked for me and it worked for thousands of people I worked with. And, at the same time, I also wanted to share the message that there's more to tantra than sex. So much more.
I used to wonder if I had to choose only one side - sexuality or spirituality. I thought spiritual people won't take me seriously if I teach sacred sexuality, and that people who are looking for sexual healing don't need a message of God, awakening and enlightenment. It took me a while to recognize that I don't need to choose. That we need both, on different parts of our journey. We are spiritual beings and we are sexual beings, just as we are creative, energetic, breathing, living and loving beings.
I’m not a scholar, I don’t know Sanskrit. I’m a fair-weather practitioner. I have years of practicing meditation daily, and I have years where I might do it once or twice when I felt like it, but I found what works for me and it makes me fulfilled and happy.
Mileage may vary. What works for me, might not work for you, but that’s not the point. I’m not a guru nor a teacher, I am a fellow traveler who stumbled upon something amazing and wanted to share it. What worked for me is both paths, you might be only interested in one aspect of tantra, both or neither. I think it’s fun to explore.
If you have any questions, please let me know.
For some books on Neo-Tantra, click here.