The Scoop on this Misunderstood Tradition
“So how does that work,” asked a New York yogi friend after my weekend Tantra workshop at the Himalayan Institute. “You went up there with a partner or something?”
No such luck.
My weekend at the tranquil ashram in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was the opposite of a hook up: 10 hours of lecture, 2 asana classes, simple vegetarian meals, and quiet grounds. My fellow attendees were yoga teachers, life coaches, construction workers, students and doctors, level-headed people who either knew Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, the spiritual head of the Institute, or had heard of him through friends and teachers. Unlike the last Tantra workshop Tigunait gave in the late 90s, no one in attendance seemed to expect an orgy.
“The goal is to introduce a system of living and being, transferring techniques to become free from our own fear. Then we contribute to a healthy society where people don’t suffer the same intensity of pain,” says Tigunait, who holds two doctorates, one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad, India, and another in Oriental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and was a close disciple of Swami Rama.
“Tantric Tradition and Techniques” is part of their 6-part Living Tantra series dedicated to teaching the general ideas behind this very powerful—and much misrepresented—tradition. Techniques vary but here the aim is health, well being, and empowerment—the accumulation of shakti power—to benefit individuals and society as a whole.
“I’m seeing an amazing kind of fear,” said Tigunait of his travels to lecture and meet with students nationally and internationally. “People are waking up in the night with trembling hearts but don’t know what they are afraid of. Where is this pain coming from?”
“My philosopher’s mind could see that the things we suffer today are deeply rooted in the past.” From this insight, Tigunait decided to offer the comprehensive Living Tantra series.
“Tantra is a vast science that talks about life. Life and spirituality are not so separate. The wall between the sacred and mundane is erected by our ignorance,” he said.
Goals of Living Tantra
The goals of the seminar are three-fold. First, to train people to attain freedom from their most immediate obstacles such as fear, pain, anger, and sorrow. Next, to allow them to identify what their core being is—what they are and what they wish to become. Knowing ourselves allows personal and collective healing to happen. “Fire would no longer be fire if it went against its nature,” says Tigunait.
The last goal is for people to share what they have. If they have anger and sorrow, then that’s what they are sharing. If they have peace and tranquility, then it’s a different story.
“Misery,” says Tigunait, “is not necessary or required.”
“The purpose is to find something to apply to our lives so we become healthier, more beautiful, and joyful human beings and spread that into our lives.”
You might wonder if this very wholesome agenda was disappointing. Not at all. Tigunait told many stories of Tantra’s power to conjure and transform, defying our understanding of life, death, time and space.
In Tigunait’s village in India, for example, a Tantric priest was charged with the task of locating stolen jewels. Using mantra and rituals, he imbued a bowl with prana sending it spinning over the landscape. The bowl settled in a field just beyond the town limits spinning furiously until villagers dug up the jewels that were buried beneath.
In another story, Tigunait’s father died before he could fly back to India and travel to his family’s village to see his father one last time. As he was traveling, his guru, Swami Rama put the prana—life force—back in Tigunait’s father so father and son could say goodbye properly. He briefly brought his disciple’s son back from the dead.
We didn’t learn any magic this time, but Tigunati did teach us a Tantric approach to bastrika breath and a simple meditation technique both designed to concentrate pranic power in the body, mind, and spirit.
So what about sex?
As for the persistent idea that Tantra involves sex, Tigunait says it was introduced to Westerners—whether they were traveling in India or at home in the US—by fake gurus. “My conclusion is that the drug and sex culture as Tantra was introduced by low-grade saddhus who didn’t know any better.”
Tigunait, however, is the real thing.
Published on yogacitynyc.com November 2010in Meditation, gurus, & esoterica, Yoga and YogaCityNYC.com.