Although it is commonly used today to describe esoteric or sacred sexual practices, the Hindu-Buddhist term tantra actually means continuity." It is about the interconnectedness of all life forms; how, moment to moment, each event unfolds from the next, in much the way that a flower opens. It is an entire way of life, encompassing everything we do, say, think, or intend. In the Buddhist system of graduated levels of spiritual practice, the tantric path is considered a state of high achievement, one that requires the direction and guidance of an experienced teacher, basically because of its difficulties and challenges. Tantra involves the nonrejection of all things. Not the indulgence in everything, but the nonrejection of anything. In other words, it may be easier and less confusing to live with lots of rules about good and bad, and to simply follow them, no matter what. It is more challenging and requires lots more maturity and the ability to maintain balance in one's spiritual practice when one is exposed to things that are easy to indulge in - money, food, alcohol, drugs, sex, power. Yet, each of these things is a vast source of energy. Each of these "substances" may be deeply experienced as sacred, when approached in the right context.
No longer the sole prerogative of the Hindu or Buddhist adept, aspects of tantric sexuality are being taught in workshops and discussed in popular magazines as another exotic panacea for all our sexual woes. While there are definitely advantages to these forms of liberating ourselves from our sexual hang-ups, and while sexual attitude restructuring is invaluable and highly recommended, in most cases it is unfair to call these programs by the name of tantra. Sex workshops are to tantra, as playing a tape of Gregorian chant in your car is to adopting a monastic vocation. In casually or exclusively presenting "tantra" or "sacred sexuality" as a primary means of increasing sexual vigor, proponents have adapted the accoutrements of an age-old, sacred lifestyle in ways that may actually undermine the essential meaning of the practice. Consider for a moment that the Dalai Lama is a tantric adept, and those visions of sexual bliss that the word tantra conjures up quickly dissolve. Tantra and other genuine practices of sacred sexuality are meant to provide a multifaceted path to self-realization.