There is so much mystery around the word and practice of Tantra, yet modern translations can offer profound insights into this most precious of teachings.
Tan is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘expansion or stretch’ and Tra signifies ‘instrument or technique.’ Think of it as a practice that elevates us as human beings, expands our minds, leads us from the crude to the subtle, from bondage to liberation. Sounds high-minded, yet the techniques are actually pretty simple! The history of Tantra is intertwined with the development of civilization in ancient India and is said to date back to the second millennium BC.
A ‘Tantra’ typically takes the form of a dialogue, it outlines a conversation between The Goddess, the Creative Power of the Universe, and The God, the Consciousness That Permeates Everywhere. Many refer to it as Shiva and Shakti, Devi and Bhairava or lover and beloved.
Meditation is about focusing on something and going deeper and deeper into it. Tantric techniques encourage us to enter life fully from where-ever we are – ‘to go right into our hunger, or desire, and enter into the awareness of that with total abandon, so that you may go with it right into the root of the movement of the universe’ (Lorin Roche).
One of my favorite translations of an original Tantric script is The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche. This translation of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is accessible and beautiful to read. For a sample please read on…
The Radiance Sutras A version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra by Lorin Roche
One day The Goddess sang to her lover Bhairava,
Beloved and radiant Lord of the space before birth,
Revealer of essence,
Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,
You, who in play have created this universe
and permeated all forms in it with never-ending truth.
I have been wondering . . .
I have been listening to the songs of creation,
I have heard the sacred sutras being sung,
and yet still I am curious.
What is this delight-filled universe
into which we find ourselves born?
. . .
The One Who is Intimate to All Beings replied,
Beloved, your questions require the answers that come
through direct living experience.
The way of experience begins with a breath
such as the breath you are breathing now.
Awakening into the luminous reality
may dawn in the momentary throb
between any two breaths.
The breath flows in and just before it turns
to flow out,
there is a flash of pure joy -
life is renewed.
Awaken into that.
As the breath is released and flows out,
there is a pulse as it turns to flow in.
In that turn, you are empty.
Enter that emptiness as the source of all life.