I recently posted something in a Tantra group about how the younger women today are different from the women of earlier generations. It seems to me that the women of the new generation are more assertive in their sexuality and less ashamed about their animal selves. A female reader responded to me and asked, “Okay then, how do we go from lusty animals to Tantra and divine sex?”

That is a wonderful question. Let me take this opportunity to summarize what I have learned about Tantra. Before I start, note that I use the term “Tantra” rather loosely to mean some kind of sacred sex. As I understand it, there is no uniform definition of Tantra. There are definitely different schools of Tantric thought. There are, for example, Buddhist Tantra and Hindu Tantra. Tantra is not monolithic. The Christians too have their own notions of sacred sexuality. The Taoists have what is called “the art of the bed chamber,” which they view as crucial to a person’s health and well-being. There are Chinese sex manuals written thousands of years ago on this topic. I have learned from many different schools, but I am not a slave to any one of them. What I am saying below is just my own understanding and interpretation, based on three decades of reading, thinking and practicing sacred sex. You are welcome to disagree with anything I say. I don’t claim to be a Tantric authority. But I have been teaching spirituality for decades, primarily Zen. I see a deep connection between sexuality and spirituality, something many religionists have denied. It is my view that once you grasp the essence of spirituality, it will be reflected in your sexual expressions and you will have much freedom to innovate and come up with your own version of sacred sex.

On the surface, there is a blatant contradiction between our animal self and sacred sex. But although sex is often vilified as “base” and “unworthy” in the mainstream religions, there is no “high” or “low” in Tantra or in Taoism. One of the major problems in human sexual expression is the condemnation of sex, by various religious sources, as “defiled,” “dirty,” and “sinful.” Such hierarchy of high and low is at odds with Mahayana Buddhism’s notion of “emptiness.” “High” and “low” are just social constructs and labels. It is our discriminating mind which labels, say, religious rituals as “sacred” and sexual activities as “profane.” It is also the working of our discriminating mind which labels humans as “higher” than and “superior” to the other animals. I see it as our ego at work. Our lusty animal nature is not something to be despised, despite what the religious moralists tell us. Without animal lust, none of us will be here. Between two people who care for each other deeply and trust each other deeply, each partner’s self-revelation of his or her animal self is extremely erotic and thrilling. For that is an expression of vulnerability and trust. That is true intimacy. The sacredness of sex has to do with that absolute trust of each other, the willingness to be vulnerable to each other and the reverence of each other as the incarnations of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine.

Second, there is no secret recipe to Tantra or sacred sex. Today, many people swarm to Tantric workshops, or to some Tantric gurus, thinking that there is some tried-and-true secret formulas to Tantra. But sacred sex cannot be reduced to a script. It is not something that is rigid or mechanical. There is no boiler plate for sacred sex. Spontaneity is crucial for any vital sexual experience. This is where creativity comes in. Also, if you are concerned about sticking to some script, how can you pay close attention to what your partner needs at the moment? Don’t be fooled by the illusion of a method. You have to go by your heart and soul. Today, many people disapprove of Osho, due to the various scandals they hear about Osho’s organization. But I find Osho’s teaching about sacred sex spot on. He said, “Let sex be a playfulness.” If there is a manual for sacred sex, then it cannot be play. In sacred sex, you have to let go of your ego and your self-consciousness. You have to be relaxed enough to enter into a state of “no mind” and genuine play. There is no script to follow. Sacred sex is nature’s dance and a celebration.

To sum up, where does sacredness come in? Sacredness is not intrinsic to the sex act itself. The sacredness to be found in any form of sexual expression is only the sacredness that you and your partner have brought to that sexual encounter. It has much to do with your attitude. When you regard sex as sacred, then it IS sacred. By the same token, if you regard sex as “dirty,” then it is dirty. When you regard your partner with respect and reverence, there is sacredness in your sexual expression. There is also no HOW. Sacred sex has to do with your letting go of ego. When you enter into sex with the innocence of a child, not looking for control, not seeking to manipulate or to gain, then the sex becomes genuine play. And the whole universe celebrates and rejoices with you.

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Published author, Zen teacher, professor, scientist, philosopher, social commentator, socially-engaged human

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