I happen to be part of a mainstream class/course, where I use "tantra" as my login name.
Every time our group meets, they can see the word "Tantra" on our digital list of participants. But I haven't put a photo next to my name, so a lot of people don't know it's me.
I must admit, I chose this name deliberately. I wanted to represent myself and be a little provocative.
The interesting thing is, nobody has asked me about it for months and months.
Until last week.
And then I got the question: "so what does Tantra mean, Shakti? Is it something to do with sex?"
"No, not necessarily" I replied. "It's about inner union" I said, but then kicked myself, as I figured that wouldn't mean much to the woman who'd asked me.
Note to self: find a short and sweet way to define tantra that will be easily understood by the majority.
At the end of the class, as we all filed out, the same young woman (I mean, she could be my daughter) looked at me and wagged her finger "oh Shakti, Shakti... I looked it up ... you dirty little thing you!"
Bemused, I simply laughed out loud, then told her tantra was about love, so nothing dirty about it!
Oh boy, what a misunderstanding and what a stark reminder of the very reason why I'm so dedicated to this path.
First of all, due to such shaming - whether faux or not - for anything that appears to be about sex in a world positively ridden with manipulative, shadowy sexualised content.
I mean, just think of the soft porn haze of Love Island.... viewers lap that up and yet tut tut a woman, who associates herself with tantra?! Get yourself a perspective!
And second of all, because tantra - as I am very tired of saying - is NOT all about sex.
The word tantra actually means "weave", "web" or "technique". Nothing sexual in there at all. Not even a smidge.
And these techniques that tantra is comprised of are ways to self-realise. To know one's self as God. To merge with the Divine. To wake up !
They do not have sexual prowess as their goal, but the sublime union of body and soul. A transcendence of ego through unrestrained immersion in the immanence of now.
A loving embrace of all that we are and a deep meditation upon whatever arises as the gateway to liberation.
Including, yes, sex and desire.
But to put it into perspective, of the 112 techniques in the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, only 2 explicitly address sex and their guidance is upon how to direct our energy upwards during sex, so as activate our pineal gland, which opens the 3rd eye.
Is that raunchy enough for you?
If you associate tantra with being "dirty" or "naughty", I'd suggest you're under the spell of the guilt, shame & separation programming of patriarchal thinking and judeo-christian religion.
Let me entice you into an alternative world view, where pleasure is sacred, sex is holy and the body a manifestation of the divine.
And where you can hear the word tantra without imagining an orgy (or indeed any other repressed sexual desire of yours), but instead allow your natural curiosity and soul's longing to move you towards a life-changing truth !
Sat Nam !