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June 9, 2009
It is recommended you read from the beginning of this tantra yoga archive,
as previous lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "What
is tantra yoga?"
Q: What is the difference between "neo" (new) tantra and old
tantra, and which is AYP?
A: Tantra is
one of the oldest integrated systems of spiritual practice in the world.
Perhaps the oldest. The earliest tantric writings from ancient India go back
4000 years or more, far older than the writings of yoga, and contain many of
the same components we find in yoga and other systems of spiritual practice
around the world. We can only assume that the relatively more recent systems
either borrowed from tantra, or made the same discoveries about the
mechanisms of human spiritual transformation that tantra had already
incorporated millennia before.
Besides being old, tantra is also very
wide-ranging in incorporating all aspects of human behavior into the mix of
spiritual practices, including behaviors that have been considered extreme
according to the cultural standards of human
civilization over the centuries. For this reason, tantra has been used
selectively according to the cultural standards of the time, or not used at
all in times when ethical conformity was highly enforced.
In fact, tantra became quite obscure and, oddly enough, only began to
find a public resurgence in India and
started to spread
around the world when English translations of some of its ancient
scriptures began to appear in the 19th century.
the "human behavior" we are speaking of has to do with the role of sexual
energy in spiritual development, and other kinds of conduct that may
have been considered to be socially or religiously unacceptable. But
especially sex, because this plays a vital role in the awakening of ecstatic
conductivity (kundalini) in the human nervous system, and addressing this
directly has often crossed the lines of propriety in societies where sex has
been neatly bundled up in the customs and taboos of the time. Meanwhile, all
of the religions have recognized
spiritual development, at least minimally. This
why we often find celibacy in the priesthood, and recommendations for sexual
restraint in the general population.
We now know that restraint of
reproductive sexual expression is one-half of the formula. The full role of
sexuality in spiritual development also requires the cultivation of sexual
overtly, covertly, or both.
Preservation and cultivation of sexual energy is the formula we have been
applying in the AYP lessons, in conjunction with other spiritual practices.
Which brings us around to "neo-tantra."
While "old tantra"
encompasses a wide range of practices that overlap with the full scope of
yoga, "neo-tantra" refers to the modern western application of tantric
methods relating primarily to sexual practices.
It is human nature
to separate parts from the whole to accommodate the need of the moment. With
the sexual revolution and a general increase in spiritual awareness
occurring in the west in the late 20th century, there
has been a rising need to understand sex better in relation to
spirituality. The rise of neo-tantra has been a response to that need, often
disregarding the broader scope of methods that have been part of tantra for
thousands of years meditation, breathing techniques, physical postures, etc.
Likewise, we have seen a separation of other elements of tantra/yoga
in the modern obsession for yoga postures (neo-yoga), and the rising
enthusiasm for non-dual self-inquiry (neo-advaita). Each of these
is a fragmentation of the whole of knowledge
to fulfill a perceived need of the time.
There is nothing wrong with this, as long as the whole is eventually
incorporated. We all have to start somewhere, and hopefully move forward
from there to a broader understanding and effective integration of practices
leading to good long term results.
While we have presented tantra as
a separate category of lessons in AYP, we
are much in favor of integrating the whole of tantra/yoga. In making tantra
a separate category, dealing mainly with sexual techniques, we have
hopefully addressed concerns that anyone might
have regarding sexual methods in relation to the field of yoga. The benefits
of yoga can be gained in the main lessons
without any obligation to delve into tantric sexual methods. Likewise, those
who are attracted to tantric sexual methods can find many connection points
back into the whole of yoga in the main lessons. All of the AYP lessons
constitute an integrated whole.
lessons neo-tantra or old tantra? It can be
viewed either way. If it is only sexual techniques the aspirant has come
looking for, then
this is neo-tantra. If one comes
looking for sexual techniques and finds the broad scope of tantra/yoga
in the process, then this is not neo-tantra anymore. It is the full scope,
the whole enchilada. What it is will be defined by the user. The same goes
for neo-anything else, meaning focusing on any fragment of spiritual
knowledge and practice as separate from the whole.
All parts lead to the whole. The goal in AYP is to provide doorways to the
whole from any of the parts. This is consistent with the spiritual
capabilities of the human nervous system, which are fully interconnected on
the inside. Anyone who engages in one or two practices will find that this
can lead to a range of practices. We can begin our
journey anywhere heart, mind, body, breath, sexuality and ultimately we will
find the whole of what we are, assuming we are willing to walk through the
door that opens in front of us. That is for each of us to decide.
we remain open, we are bound to encounter the old as we are addressing the
new. It is balancing the need of the moment with the vast
wisdom that whispers within us. In doing so, we find our awakening to
the eternal freedom that is always in the present.
The guru is in you.
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Note: For detailed
instructions on the methods of tantra in relation to the broad scope of yoga
practices and the enlightenment process,
see the AYP Tantra book,
and AYP Plus.