What is Tantra? Setting the Record Straight

This article first appeared at tantrikstudies.org. "Tantra" is now a buzzword in the modern Western world. We see it on the covers of popular magazines and books, usually linked suggestively with the notion of superlative sexual experience. Though almost everyone has heard this word, almost no one—including many people claiming to teach something called tantra—knows anything about the historical development of the Indian spiritual tradition that Sanskrit scholars refer to as Tantra. What these academics study as Tantra bears little to no resemblance to what is taught under the same name on the workshop circuit of Western alternative spirituality. It would take a much longer post to explain why that gap is so wide—it's a deeply complex issue of cultural mediation and strange misunderstandings. However, my book