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Neotantra, or tantric sex, is the modern, western variation of tantra. This includes both the new age and modern Western interpretations of traditional Indian and Buddhist tantra. Some of its proponents refer to ancient and traditional texts and principles, and many others use tantra as a catch-all phrase for "sacred sexuality", and may incorporate unorthodox practices. In addition, not all of the elements of Indian tantra are used in neotantric practices, in particular the reliance on a guru, guruparampara.
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As tantric practice became known in western culture—a development that started at the province of Qazvin in Persia at the end of the 18th century, and that has escalated since the 1960s—it has become identified with its sexual methods in the West. Consequently, its essential nature as a spiritual practice is often overlooked. The roles of sexuality in tantra and in neotantra, while related, are actually quite different, reflecting substantial differences in their cultural contexts.
In neotantra the most important features of sexual practice revolve around the experience of subtle energies within one's sensual embodiment, and the accessing of these energies both to enhance pleasure and to challenge our egotism into its dissolution. Thus, tantric sexuality often cultivates ecstatic consciousness as well as increased spiritual awareness of the erotic consciousness that pervades one's human embodiment as well as everything that contextualizes this embodiment.
Tantric sexual methods may be practiced solo, in partnership, or in the sacred rituals of groups. The specifics of these methods are often kept secret, and passed from practitioners to students in an oral tradition. It must be remembered that genuine tantric spiritual practice is merely one aspect of a comprehensive spiritual path of meditation—and that the sexual and erotic aspects of tantra cannot be authentically engaged in without adequate preparation and discipline.
In sum, neotantric sexuality is just one dimension of a spiritual path that is devoted and dedicated to the challenge of becoming aware, in every moment of our embodied lives, of the supreme flow of the sacred lifeforce itself—the sacred unity of love.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, tantric sexual practice (Sanskrit: Maithuna, cf. Tibetan:Yab-Yum) is one aspect of the last stage of the initiate's spiritual path, where s/he, having already realised the voidness of all things, attains enlightenment and perpetual bliss.
Teachers of this version of tantra frequently have the belief that sex and sexual experiences are a sacred act which is capable of elevating its participants to a higher spiritual plane. They often talk about raising Kundalini energy, worshiping the divine feminine, activating the chakras,. In this context, the word "tantra", generally refers to the set of techniques for cultivating a more fulfilling sexual or loving relationship. On the other hand, there are also some truly dedicated scholars and teachers in the field of modern tantra.
Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho, used his version of tantra in combination with breathing techniques, bio-energy, yoga, and massage in some of the groups at his ashram. He is the author of many books on meditation, taoism, buddhism, and mysticism, and at least six on tantra. One of them is Tantra, The Supreme Understanding, in which he unpacks the verses of the "Song of Mahamudra", by Tilopa. In addition out of his discourses on the Vigyan Bhiarav (or Vijnaya-bhairava), the 112 practices for enlightenment resulted in the much longer The Book of Secrets. His students continue to develop his concepts.
One of Osho's students, Margot Anand, founded a school called "Skydancing" tantra. She is the author of dozens of books including the Art of Everyday Ecstasy and the Art of Sexual Magic. Another modern tantrika is Daniel Odier who believes that desire can be a valid pathway to transcendence. Sexologists Annie Sprinkle and Joseph Kramer (Sex educator) are two examples of practitioners who teach sacred erotic massage.
In 1997 Deborah Anapol convened a national Celebration of Eros, "a Conference on Sacred Sexuality, bringing together for the first time, teachers from Tantric, Taoist, Sufi, Buddhist, Jewish, Pagan, Wiccan, Occult, Native American, and Afro-Caribbean traditions."
Georg Feuerstein, a German Indologist who also trained in tantra, writes in the epilogue of his book Tantra: Path of Ecstasy:
"Many are attracted to Neo-Tantrism because it promises sexual excitement or fulfillment while clothing purely genital impulses or neurotic emotional needs in an aura of spirituality. If we knew more about the history of Tantra in India, we would no doubt find a comparable situation for every generation." He goes on to say, "Today translations of several major Tantras are readily available in book form... This gives would-be Tantrics the opportunity to concoct their own idiosyncratic ceremonies and philosophies, which they can then promote as Tantra."
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