from the book:
The Essential Tantra
by Kenneth Ray Stubbs, Ph.D
Tantra is an Eastern spiritual philosophy. Initially coming to us from approximately third and fourth century C.E. India, this experiential examination of existence evolved from many roots in antiquity and was adapted and modified in a myriad of subcultures and religions. Both India and Tibet, both Hinduism and Buddhism, have many variants of tantra. Chinese Taoism and tantra have many resemblances. Indeed, in their popular evolutions in the modern West, these two philosophical systems are often mingled into a single framework.
Tantra, a Sanskrit word, is similar to our concept of weaving. "The web of life" and "the interconnectedness of all that is" are useful connotations for understanding tantra as a philosophy. My simplified version is "embracing all" or "acceptance of all."
In general, this philosophy emphasizes practical, experiential approaches. Central to the many variations is this teaching: Rather than being obstacles, our sensory experiences can be a path to spiritual wholeness, to atonement.
In stark contrast to beliefs of atonement, so dearly held in our modern Western religions, tantra teaches neither the flesh as inherently evil nor the spirit as inherently good.
In tantra, it is the body and the senses that provide vehicles for us to go beyond the duality of evil and good. Learning to perceive and transform subtle energies, we can rediscover essence, which is the sacred connection of everything.
A story about the three main schools of thought in Buddhism conveys the meaning of transformation.
A practitioner of one school is walking down the path of life. Upon seeing a poisonous plant in the middle of the path, the practitioner turns around to follow another route.
A practitioner of the second school is walking down the same path and also sees the poisonous plant. Instead of turning back in the opposite direction, this practitioner cautiously detours slightly around the poisonous plant, sort of like letting a sleeping dog lie, and continues on down the path.
A practitioner of the third school, also on the same path, upon seeing the plant says, "Yes, now I can learn about this poison." He or she then sits down and begins to consume the plant.
Applying powerful transformational skills gained over many years of meditation, the practitioner is able to become at-one with the essence of the plant and the poison. And the poison is no longer poisonous, for the poison and the practitioner are no longer different or opposite. They are no longer in disharmony.
Here we have transformed our emotions into a willingness to connect with what we are avoiding (the poison). We have also transformed our emotions into a willingness to let go of what we are grasping (continued life).
Moreover, we have transformed ourselves so we have the ability to resonate our energies in harmony with the essence of others’ energies. Even potentially harmful energies (here the poisonous chemical) cease being harmful because with conscious intent we are able to vibrate our energies in the same patterns as the poison’s. Energetically, we become the same as the poison.