To be able to understand a concept like tantra one can take several roads. The easiest road is to do research into the written history of this concept. The lazy road is to follow a teacher verbatim. The intelligent road is to grapple with the notions that gave rise to the existence of this concept. To follow the intelligent road does require the use of some scientific disciplines like Aetiology and Hermeneutics.
The researcher of ancient writings about any given concept, is always confronted with the interpretation of the specific institution who wrote and presented the manuscripts. The essence of the original concept could be heavily clouded by the slightest interpretations or translations of the scribes. The concept of tantra was assimilated into all main religions and therefore one needs a trained eye and critical mind to separate religion from the essence of tantra. Tantra does not belong to Hinduism, neither to Buddhism, neither to Islam or Christianity. Tantra can be found within all these religions but it doesn’t originate from any religion.
The fact that tantra did get abducted by religions does highlight the importance of tantra as an awareness technique regarding the realities of life and not only as a mental construct. We will come back to this important distinction many times more as we try to unravel the birth of tantra. The study of the writings of religious organisations shines a lot of light on how they grappled with tantra within an existing religious mindset rather than reciting the origin of it.
The fundamental processes that lead to the birth of tantra are identical to the processes that give birth to any social change programme that you can think of. This is how it goes: some individual or even a group of people first observe a situation clearly, they then realise the need to deal differently with these existing social patterns and proceed to postulate a change in mental construct about the topic they would like to change. This new mental construct flourishes because it is anchored in an existing expectation that lives in people’s hearts. The unwillingness to carry on with the status quo is the driver behind the scenes but none of this would have been possible without the precondition of having perceived or interpreted the current situation clearly.
Tantra doesn’t follow the same procedure regarding the bringing about of change, it actually has no interest in bringing about any social change. The similarity ends with the basic condition that one first has to perceive clearly, to first become an astute observer, that is the similarity. Tantra doesn’t focus on outside patterns as to change them but look at outside patterns as how they influence internal patterns. Tantra has as a goal to fathom the total depth of the essence of what is happening in and through us and gives little importance to what to do with it.
A simple example of a process of change is capitalism and communism. Some individuals grasped that a small substratum of the population holds the majority of the wealth within that society. For this to change some individuals postulated the theory that the common group as a whole can share in all the wealth that is available. A common sharing was proposed instead of the winner takes it all, concept. This message fell on fertile ground as communism took root and flourished for some time. Once again, in tantra it isn’t about the bringing about of change that is important but the basic condition that one should first be able to comprehend the current reality clearly, long before one can alter one’s position regarding it.
Tantra still exists after thousands of years as it still resonates with what lives in the hearts and minds of people. People want to know and will continue to search for knowledge about the basic building blocks of their human existence. People want to know “who” they are, “where” they are and “with whom” they are. Should “who we are” be an own invention, should “where we are” be of our own making or should “the way we share” be fabricated in our own minds, then we can dispose of any interest in tantra as we will be able to change all that we have created as it was all created in our minds. If there are fixed, natural, instinctual patterns occupying the expression of ourselves, then the acute need for investigating tantra does exist.
Should we not be the captain of our ship, should fixed patterns run their course in and through us, then it might dawn on us that we are stuck with constant internal drivers, that we are set on fixed tracks towards indulging in a process like procreation, in order to produce copies of our genes. The quest was and still is to penetrate the depth of our internal drivers and then flow with them instead of fighting them. Tantra is a technique that has a specific focus about what it wants us to see, what it wants to highlight for us and what it wants us to embrace as a given fact about life in general.
The common default is to say that people need to deal differently with existing aspects like spirit, or soul, or chi, or prana, or energy or whatever you want to call it. Others say that these aspects should be activated or amplified. This basic assumption that a technique should deliver a desired outcome of change can’t sustain a technique to exist for ten or more thousand years. Should one subscribe to an understanding of tantra as a technique to bring about change then one has to acknowledge that tantra must be ever changing to suit different needs depending on unfolding developments. Tantra flourishes because people want to know “what is” and not because of “what can be”. Tantra occupies itself with being a simple technique to see, feel and share what is a permanent part of life and by embracing it we have a chance to become alive and be part of it.
Tantra can never be dealt with as a loose standing entity. Tantra stands on the shoulders of a giant called yoga and yoga stands on the shoulders of a giant called meditation. Therefore, one can’t talk about the birth of tantra without touching on the birth of meditation and yoga in this conversation. Tantra is the climax of a trilogy and to grasp anything of the essence of tantra, one needs to start at the beginning, the foundation, the real need that existed in people to postulate several techniques regarding awareness of what is and not about what should be.
Conditions that prevailed to facilitate the birth of tantra.
Many thousands of years ago it dawned on humans that they had a choice and that they were the only higher primate with that specific choice. Shall we call our discussion group humans? For this discussion I use the words humans and people as interchangeable concepts as it will save me time, not having to explain too much around the point I want to make, instead I can concentrate on driving home the essence of what I want to share. I refer to humans when I dwell in the far distant past and I use the word people when documents with writing became available.
Humans have two genes for the structuring of procreation partnering, unlike other higher primates who only carry one of these genes. Humans have a gene for “one-on-one pair bonding” partnering and also a gene for “multiple oneness alpha state” partnering dynamics. This very contradiction, this very option or possibility to choose, gave rise to the rapid development of the pre-frontal cortex of the human brain. Humans had to deal with the innate contradiction they experienced by having two genes regulating one concept, the concept of procreation partnering.
This confusing and the important associated need to deal with it, stimulated the brain to develop differently in humans than in other higher primates. Humans developed a bigger pre-frontal cortex because of the existing “having a choice / being obliged to choose” situation and not the other way around. Humans didn’t develop complex behavioural patterns because of the bigger pre-frontal cortex in the human brain but developed a bigger pre-frontal cortex because they inherited contradicting genetic material that pushed them to develop more complex brain patterns, more rapidly than other higher primates.
With a bigger pre-frontal cortex, human beings developed the ability to question, to challenge and to actively use the concepts of why, when, where, with whom, what for etc. The acquisition of a larger pre-frontal cortex facilitated more complex networking inside the human brain and prompted humans to search for a technique to fast track awareness about what is really happening in and through them. There was a need to know what are the fixed aspects of being in life, as well as how to stay flexible in the structuring of the mind regarding what we know, as a static belief system couldn’t serve the individual and or the group over an extended period of time.
It dawned on humans that they could know, become aware about fixed patterns of life, it dawned on them that they could know about their ability to structure thoughts about their observations. This very awareness insight needed to be exploited, this very awareness insight needed to be put to work with skill and precision. This awareness was the very essence that separated them from other living creatures and it needed to be investigated, analysed, structured, put to work, protected and treasured. Techniques had to be developed to hand them opportunities to dive deep into specific topics about the meaning of life. Several techniques did come to light and each of them had their very own origin and application.
Humans experienced the critical need to procreate with a partner / partners in ways that would support them to make copies of their genes in the most effective ways possible. Two ingrained possibilities were available to them, the pair bonding state and the alpha multiple bonding state. A choice had to be made but without having clarity about the criteria, without having the facts available and without the possibility that transitions between these two systems could be made, the chances of making progress were slim.
The same need to choose between these two systems exists till this very day. The same need to know what really is, exists till this very day. Unfortunately, people developed a habit to trust extractions of mental patterns more than extractions from awareness. The anchoring of knowing moved from being anchored in awareness to mental gymnastics. Judgements fabricated through mental processes took over as the reality of life rather than awareness about life.
When I use the word “people” and not “humans” I refer to more recent times, maybe tens of thousands of years instead of dealing with concepts that happened hundreds of thousands or even millions of years ago. Humans developed a more advanced and elaborated operational structure within the brain, in comparison with other higher primates, a development that enabled them to thrive on dualities instead of being bogged down by them. People started to develop techniques to assist them to know what is, to incorporate it in their daily life and to share it much more efficiently between themselves. The crucial need to question became the simple factor that necessitated the birth of awareness techniques to clearly observe all that is left as unchanged after being questioned.
Meditation, yoga and tantra did not fall from the sky, it did not reach us because of the channelling efforts of the gods and it did not pop-up out of nothing into some enlightened person’s mind. These concepts came about as techniques to address specific needs in the lives of people. Everyday people looked for everyday techniques to hand them opportunities to live their everyday lives with awareness, to take part in what was happening instead of being victims of ignorance about what life has to offer.
Meditation was born because people needed a technique to hand them opportunities to observe what is, to observe the fixed patterns in their lives, to work with what is going on within them and to be able to share their observations and experience of the fixed patterns within them. When a person identifies with an experience, when a person is unaware that he/she is more than that experience, when a person is unable to observe, when a person is consumed by fixed inner patterns, when a person just does something for the sake of doing, when life just happens to that person without having any knowledge about it, then the need for a technique “to see” or “to observe” becomes obvious. Mediation is a technique that was born from the need to observe and therefore meditation hands opportunities to the practitioner of meditation, a special status, an observer status of his or her life and nothing more.
The technique of meditation came about because of an ever-present and nagging need to development something to facilitate the fast tracking of awareness about what is. In addition, meditation as a technique later provided the basic observation framework for science, a technique that would empower people to gain knowledge and be aware of the fundamental aspect of life in general. Science is structuring of the keen observation after clear questions have been postulated.
The origin of meditation is directly linked to the need to become aware of procreation instinct and the regular practice of the meditation techniques, still has as focus the instinct of procreation. Tantra does not deal with the sexuality and procreation instinct, meditation does. Ask any monk meditating for hours by sitting on his heel about the unlimited number of orgasmic-wave sensations running up his spine.
The technique of meditation became about because of a need to observe procreation instinct. The technique of meditation is designed to focus on procreation instinct. Procreation instinct is ever unfolding, ever adapting to changing circumstances and challenging conditions. For that very reason we have to employ a technique like meditation so that we can be fully aware of what the real situation is, each and every moment of our lives.
Tantra is a technique that hands us opportunities to observe, to see that we have two patterns of relating to partners, that we can deal with it in a variety of ways and ultimately, to become aware that we are more than the fixed instinctual patterns that run through me. People can’t escape these instinctual patterns, people can’t deny their existence and people can’t change or modify them. With meditation as an awareness technique we become aware that we aren’t victims, not even subordinate or slaves of instinct but that we can be co-creators of life, that ourselves and instinct can walk hand in hand and that we can become alive about the life that flows through me.
Since procreation results in infant off-springs, since infant off-springs require care, therefore a second scenario came about that showed humans that they lack the understanding of the presence of two distinctly different caring systems and that they can do with assistance in the form of techniques. Two taking care styles developed and existed side by side because two partnering styles were deployed in people by instinct.
One group of humans could favour a specific style of care taking of off-springs and another group could favour the other possibility. The pair bonders would operate as units of two individuals with quite similar role descriptions within a wider group. The alpha multi bonders would consist of several individuals who represent a variety of roles as well as a clearly defined hierarchy amongst themselves. On their own there could have been harmony in each group but when these two groups came in contact with each other, it would have been chaos. Not to mention the inner chaos when people instinctually know that there is an alternative care taking system running through their veins, one very different from the one they live right now, waiting to be revealed. These were the crucial circumstances that prompted the need for a second awareness technique to come into existence.
By having two opposing genes for partnering associations paved the way to two differ styles of taking care of infants. In the pair bonding scenario, the male and female partners take care of the off-spring in an equal manner. There is little differentiation between them about who is responsible to find food and or feeding the infant. It is almost as if each partner has to put in one hundred percent of the responsibility to secure the survival of the infant. In the alpha, multiple individual pairing state, the taking care of infants is centralised amongst groups of individuals, especially the females and the young.
Yoga as a technique came into being to hand people an opportunity to observe their taking care patterns, to feel and flow with what happened naturally within them and to know that their own body is the central vehicle of dispatching care to the off-springs. To gain awareness of the own body, to gain awareness about the importance of maintaining the own body so that they can take sufficient care of the young, that is what yoga as a technique handed people.
Since procreation results in infant off-springs, since infant off-springs require care, since the group needs a unifying identity, therefore this third scenario showed people that they lack the awareness to deal with the situation adequately. In the presence of two distinctly different partnering, taking caring and the organising of “in-groups and out-groups” systems, people realised that they can do with support in the form of a technique to fast track their awareness. Two taking care styles developed and existed side by side because two partnering styles existed. Two styles of creating in- and out-groups existed because of the two styles of partnering and taking care systems.
Tantra deals with the concept of in- and out-groups because sexuality in partnering, taking care of off-springs were already dealt with through awareness that came about through meditation and yoga techniques. Should sexuality, partnering and procreation still be dealt with in non-awareness, should taking care styles still be practiced in non-awareness than all of it get carried forward into tantra.
Tantra gets distorted when there is a lack of awareness that can be reached through practicing meditation. Tantra gets distorted when there is a lack of the awareness that can be reached through practicing yoga. This is exactly what is happening in the spiritual industry today. People try to use tantra techniques for procreation sexuality and for taking care awareness. This is unfortunate as this situation dilutes tantra techniques and leaves the practitioners of tantra techniques bewildered. It is so bad that India is the only country in the world where tantra is an illegal practice when it is practiced without the supporting structures of meditation and yoga. Tantra as it is practiced nowadays, without meditation and yoga, drives people mad and absurd practices are concocted in the name of tantra.
Tantra as a technique came into being to hand people opportunities to observe their patterns in creating in- and out-groups, to feel and flow with what happened naturally within them regarding “being with the people they are with”. To gain awareness of own discrimination patterns, to gain awareness about the importance of maintaining adequate in-groups against out-groups, that is what tantra as an awareness technique endeavours to hand people.
Do you know the origin of the awareness technique that you practice?
-Martin du Toit