Tantra means loom in Sanskrit, or also, specifically, the warp thread that dresses the loom and gives support to the fabric formed by the moving shuttle or, in a rug, the individual knots. Without it, there can be no cloth. It can also refer to the cord used for stringing beads to make a necklace, a rosary, mala or garland.

The word tantrism is of the Sanskrit origin, tantra means action. Tantrism is found in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Many scholars believe that tantrism, a method of psycho-spiritual advancement, developed in India before the purported arrival over 3 thousand years ago of so-called Indo-Europeans. With the pressures brought to bear on Indian religious life by the 8th century invaders, the tantric systems were maintained in the south of the sub-continent and also in Bengal where they formed an inextricable aspect of the Goddess (Shakti) religion. Those Indian, and then later on, the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, have preserved these systems intact since ancient times.

Tantric Deity

Tantrism and Sexuality

The symbolism of sex is used in Hindu and Buddhist imagery to show inter-relatedness. Rarely does it "refer" to actual contact. In Buddhism, where images are used as visual aids, a male-female pair stands for Compassion and Wisdom, and the pairing of knowledge with "skillful means" or, method.

As an aspect of Hinduism, tantrism can include maithuna or sexual connection that usually has as its ultimate goal, the union of the individual soul with the Universal. Ecstasy of a sexual nature is only one of the lesser objectives, but that is how it has been most often misunderstood until recently. Sexual yoga can also be practiced with the objective of acquiring certain impressive abilities, accomplishments or siddhis. However, enhanced sexual experience is not the objective of any genuine yogic system or tantric tradition. That would go against the very foundation of a view that sees all beings as part of a greater whole that encompasses several different realms of existence; in which beings are dependent on each other, and where experience has consequences far beyond one's own desires or immediate knowledge.

Shiva Linga

Tantrism and Shivaism

Tantrism is closely related to the cults of Shiva and Shakti. Tantric yoga seeks to unite these two principles (consciousness and energy) within the individual. Consciousness is the static and immutable aspect while energy is the dynamic and impermanent one. These pairs of opposites are innumerable. For example, one finds the pairs [male/female], [sun/moon], [yin/yang], [0,1], and so forth … [Additional information]

Tibetan tantric Buddhism

Tantric Buddhism is an adaption that arose in the seventh century A.D. through a fusion with folk practices in northern parts of India. It places great emphasis on sacraments, including initiation ceremonies, and the performance of chanting rituals. One of the most significant of these diagrams being the Mandala which can be seen as representing the universe.

Tantric Buddhism still forms - in some four main schools - the basis of Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) is actually another name for tantric Buddhism. Many scholars think that it derives from the schools of esoteric Hinduism that developed in Bengal and South India. Some say, however, that it is the other way around. In it, various skillfull techniques are used which operate to refashion the psyche. Since one of the widespread tools in this process is the saying of mantras, this form of Buddhism is sometimes referred to as mantrayana.

Although Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism are distinct, they nevertheless share some common features. These include: a search for liberation during the present lifetime; a view that the body is divine and contains the bipolar universe within it; the use of visualization and yoga, particularly Kundalini yoga in Hindu Tantrism; and a concern with the construction of sacred diagrams (yantra, mandala), ritual gestures (mudra) and the repetition of sound formulas (mantras) in order to gain liberation and achieve magical power (siddhi).