Tantra (Sanskrit: तन्त्र , “loom, warp”; hence “principle, system, doctrine”, from the verbal root tan “stretch, extend, expand”, and the suffix tra “instrument”), anglicised as tantrism or tantricism, is the name scholars give to an inter-religious spiritual movement that arose in medieval India in the fifth century CE, expressed in scriptures (called “Tantras“).
The historical significance of the movement lies in the fact that it impacted every major Asian religion extant in the early medieval period (c. 500 – 1200 CE): thus Shaivism, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, and Jainism all developed a Tantric dimension. Even Islam in India was influenced by Tantra. The geographical impact of Tantric ideas and practices spread far outside of India, into Tibet, Nepal, China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Today, it is Tibetan Buddhism and various forms of Hinduism that show the strongest Tantric influence, as well as the international postural yoga movement and most forms of American alternative spirituality grouped under the New Age rubric.
While the doctrines of Tantra vary too widely to summarize briefly, one of its most salient features when compared with earlier forms of Indian religion is that its nondual forms reject the renunciant values of classical yoga, offering instead a world-embracing vision of the whole of reality as the self-expression of a single, free and joyous Divine Consciousness (for example, see the concept of the world as the divine play of Shiva and Shakti.). The practical consequence of this view was that householders could aspire to spiritual liberation in the Tantric system, not only monks. Furthermore, since Tantra dissolved the false dichotomy of spiritual versus mundane, practitioners could entail every aspect of their daily lives into their spiritual growth process, seeking to realize the transcendent in the immanent. Tantric spiritual practices and rituals thus aim to bring about an inner realization of the truth that “Nothing exists that is not Divine” (nāśivaṃ vidyate kvacit), bringing freedom from ignorance and from the cycle of suffering (saṃsāra) in the process. Though the vast majority of scriptural Tantric teachings are not concerned with sexuality, in the popular imagination the term tantra and the notion of superlative sex are indelibly, but erroneously, linked. It is the case that in the nondual schools that advocated “left-handed” practice (vāmāchāra), sexual ritual was employed as a way of entering intensifying and expanding awareness and dissolving mind-created boundaries.
There are a number of different definitions of Tantra, not always mutually consistent. Robert Brown notes that the term tantrism is a construction of western scholarship, not a concept that comes from the religious system itself. In other words, tāntrikas (practitioners of Tantra) never attempted to define Tantra as whole the way Western scholars have. However, it is fair to say that the general term Tantra denotes the teachings and practices found in the scriptures known as tantras. The Tantric tradition does offer two important definitions of what constitutes a tantra and why it is named such. The first comes from the Kāmikā-tantra:
Because it elaborates (tan) copious and profound matters, especially relating to the principles of reality (tattva) and sacred mantras, and because it provides salvation (tra), it is called a tantra.
The second traditional definition comes from the 10th century Tantric scholar Rāmakaṇṭha, who belonged to the dualist school called the Śaiva Siddhānta:
A tantra is a divinely revealed body of teachings, explaining what is necessary and what is a hindrance in the practice of the worship of God; and also describing the specialized initiation and purification ceremonies that are the necessary prerequisites of Tantric practice.
Modern scholars have also provided definitions of Tantra. David Gordon White suggests its key principle is that the universe we experience is the concrete manifestation of the divine energy that creates and maintains it: Tantric practice seeks to contact and channel that energy within the human microcosm by means of ritual in order to achieve creativity and freedom.
Tantrism originated in the early centuries CE and developed into a fully articulated tradition by the end of the Gupta period. Tantric movements led to the formation of many esoteric schools of Hinduism and Buddhism. It has influenced the Hindu, Sikh, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions and spread with Buddhism to East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Rather than a single coherent system, Tantra is an accumulation of practices and ideas, characterized by ritual that seeks to access the supra-mundane through the mundane, identifying the microcosm with the macrocosm. The Tantric practitioner seeks to use prana, an energy that flows through the universe (including one’s own body) to attain goals that may be spiritual, material or both. Most practitioners of tantra consider mystical experience imperative. Some versions of Tantra require the guidance of a guru.
Long training is generally required to master Tantric methods, into which pupils are typically initiated by a guru. Yoga, including breathing techniques and postures (asana), is employed to subject the body to the control of the will. Mudras, or gestures, mantras or syllables, words and phrases, mandalas and yantras, symbolic diagrams of the forces at work in the universe, are all used as aids for meditation and for the achievement of spiritual and magical power. During meditation the initiate identifies with any of the numerous Hindu gods and goddesses, visualizes them and internalises them, a process likened to sexual courtship and consummation. The Tantrika, or tantric practitioner may use visualizations of deities, identifying with the deity so that the aspirant “becomes” the Ishta-deva or meditational deity.
sumber : http://en.wikipedia.org