The true meaning of Tantra despite being a key ancient practice like yoga has been manipulated and misjudged for ages. In reality, the tantra has such a broad range of meaning and teaching that considering it as a single practice, or path is impossible. Right opposite to what many people think or believe, the word does have a meaning. To comprehend the meaning of the Tantra, you have to dig into its origin, where it came from, how it came to its existence and the very reason behind its existence from ancient to the current time.
Tantra- the term itself is meaningless without the word ‘Sutra’, which you may have heard about. The word Tantra came into existence at a time when religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism were dominant in the Asian continent. The core aspect of these religions was the ‘Sutra’- the collection of compact principles. Perhaps, one of the most famous collections of sutras to this day is “Kama sutra”. Here the word sutra represents a thread of particular thinking or thought.Now, what you need to comprehend here is if sutra is a thread, then Tantra is the whole system of these threads or thoughts. The exact meaning of the word tantra is “weaving” or “loom”. Quite different from other practices, Tantra is holistic teaching that can be transmitted directly from a teacher to a student.
The Tantra most obviously originated in India – the land of yoga in the sixth century. Although, there is very little evidence available pointing to where it emerged first the branch of tantra known as Kashmir Shaivism revolves around a mythological theory of its origin. It explains one-night Vasugupta, believed to be one of the greatest sages of that time, had a dream in which Lord Shiva appeared. In that dream, Shiva instructed the sage to go to a nearby mountain known as Mahadevgiri, where he would find 67 Sutras under a rock. The next day when the sage woke up, he went to the mountain and found the sutras at the place commanded by Lord Shiva.
According to the Kashmir Shaivism those sutras, then revealed the path of Samadi that also means spiritual liberation through the philosophy and powerful practice of meditation - together known as Tantra.
According to another theory, Tantra originated prior to the middle of the 1st millennium AD. As the theory claims, the practice drew elements from the Vedic traditions as well as meditation and yogic traditions while both of these were developing and making their place in Buddhism and Jainism during that time.
Like any other religious practice, the Tantra and its different practices also possessed different scriptures. These written scriptures were purposely obscure to ensure only people with authority can understand them. For a longer period of time, the teaching of Tantra was conducted behind the closed and heavily guarded doors and transmitted only between the teacher and the student. However, later in the 11th and 12th centuries, the tantra reached its climax and was practiced wildly in India despite the caste system that was there for every practice.
In the 13th Century when India was suffering from the invasion, the widespread slaughter of dharma, and the destruction of manuscripts, Tantra went underground and remained there until it was found again notably preserved in Buddhism. Again, the invasion of China in Tibet and the destruction of monasteries forced the remaining people to escape with this precious knowledge and disseminate it more widely. From there, it reached western countries and culture. No doubt, you can still find some similarities between traditional Tantric practices in the west and those you can find in Tibetan culture.
If we look back into the time in the 8th century, we may find that Kashmir valley, the rich land of culture was beaming with ancient religious traditions worshipping “Shiva,” and “Shakti”. Whereas Shiva represents the essence of consciousness, Shakti represents power – together they create the balance that this universe requires to exist in the first place. In other words, Shiva and Shakti when loomed together with Tantra create life and every other essence in this universe. Hence, the concept of Tantra goes beyond the birth of this universe.
Being a key practice, Tantra dominated India back in the 6th to 12th century as the invasion took place it had to fall out from its place to survive through shadows. Now after eight to nine hundred years later, it has sprung back to life with all diversity, vibrancy, and importance at Tantra Festival Rishikesh where you can align with a group of teachers to learn the depth of the Tantra while recovering an ancient practice that was lost in the 13th century. While still connected to the root, the Tantra Festival Rishikesh is spreading the tradition of Vajrayana amplified to fit the western lifestyle. Don’t let this opportunity slip out, register yourself, and become a part of this remarkable journey of discovering Tantra from the core.