Tantra: Divine Union of Man & Woman
The meaning of the word Tantra, derived from Sanskrit, is “to weave”. In the tantric lifestyle, we weave together all aspects of our lives into one harmonious whole. Work becomes a meditation, making love becomes our spiritual practice, the lover and the beloved melt into one.
In the Tantric cosmology, the whole universe was created and continues to evolve through two fundamental forces, which together form one indestructible divine union. These are the male and the female aspects, and in Tantra they are represented by the goddess Shakti and the god Shiva.
Shakti represents the female principle of pure energy and dynamic potential, whereas Shiva who embodies the male principle, emanates creation and power. Together, Shiva and Shakti are the divine couple. Their erotic interplay, their cosmic dance, is how the world was created, according to the Tantric belief.
You may have seen Indian art depicting a man (often a Buddha-like figure) sitting with his legs crossed on a lotus flower and across his lap sits a woman, often depicted nude. This is the classic tantric position also known as Yab Yum, and those pictures are known as Yab Yum Deities.
In Tibetan, yab yum stands for “mother father”, and it describes the divine union – energetic and sexual – of mother and father, the female and male principles, Shiva and Shakti. In Tantric practice, the woman is honored as Shakti, and the man as Shiva. There are many tantric rituals in which these essences are visualized and embodied. There is one tantric practice in which the woman straddles the man and together they visualize the divine powers of a Yab Yum Deity above their heads, and eventually allowing these powers to enter their energy system at the 7th Chakra, the crown of our head.
This sounds very interesting indeed, however, how does this apply to our everyday life? Tantra acknowledges that every man has some feminine aspects and every woman has some male aspects. And to live most harmoniously, all aspects are consciously woven into a fabric of balance and understanding.
Let’s look at it from the perspective of the Chinese Yin and Yang philosophy. Yin is the female principle – receptive, soft, flowing – and Yang is the male principle – outgoing, full of initiative, strong. We all carry Yin and Yang inside of us and our actions throughout the day reflect the Yin and Yang aspects. A simple and fun tantric practice is to become aware of our Yin and Yang aspects. Not only is the practice itself entertaining but it can dramatically change the way we relate to our beloved, the world around us and our attitudes at large. Yin and Yang is represented in us in many ways, just as the male and female principles have many colors. For example we consider that the act of giving is a yang action, while receiving is considered to be yin.
Once you have mastered the delicate art of observing yin and yang in your lovelife, you can apply the same attitude towards other actions in your life. You can consciously switch roles for the day. Let’s say your partner tends to be very directive (nothing wrong with that) and you are the one who always does things the way he wants (nothing wrong with that either). But just for the experiment, decide one day that you are going to be the directive one and your partner will surrender to the way you want things done. It will give both of you an understanding about the other person, and deepen the intimacy, clarity and harmony of your relationship.
The Yin Yang symbol (see above) describes a harmonious circle divided into two areas – the black (Yang) and the white (Yin), with a circle of white in the black part and a circle of black in the white part. In Tantra, this symbol represents complete balance of male and female principles.