All types of Yoga when practiced as a spiritual path seek a common goal, although the goal itself may have different labels. Nirvana, Heaven, Self-realization, and Enlightenment are all the same goal from different traditions, which are ultimately different names for the final experience of the True Self which is full of Bliss and Love.
What makes Yogas unique or different in a larger sense is how they approach the goal: the philosophies and the practices which grow out of those philosophies.
There are two important philosophical points that help define Tantra as “Tantra” rather than some other type of yoga. The first is the Tantric focus on the dynamic aspect of Consciousness (movement, vibration, energy) as an intelligent, integral aspect of Consciousness. In simple terms, Tantra focuses on Energy and seeks to understand and connect to the Source of that Energy.
While there are other Non-Dual philosophies, such as Advaita Vedanta, which consider the Supreme Reality, or Nature of the Self, to be Pure Consciousness, Tantra’s focus on the Power of Consciousness as a Force of energy which is integral with Consciousness is an important distinguishing feature. Tantra says that All beings comes from the One Reality of Consciousness, AND all experience is produced by the Power of Consciousness as movement, vibration and energy. In Tantra, this Dynamic Principle, or Power of Consciousness, is usually referred to as Shakti (as power), Kriya (as movement), or Spanda (as vibration).
The importance of the first point, leads to the second distinguishing point: Tantra adopts a positive attitude towards life and the world, in such a way that worldly experience becomes a means for reaching the final spiritual goal. This is in contrast to other Non-Dual philosophies which reject the experiential reality as “illusion” right at the beginning of practice. For Tantra, because the experience of life and the world is Created by the Power of Consciousness Itself, life is seen as a product of Consciousness experienced within Consciousness. Therefore the experience within Consciousness, or Life and worldly experience, is just as Sacred as the Consciousness itself.
Rather than rejecting life and worldly experience, Tantra seeks to help the practitioner elevate them to Divine or Sacred status to be enjoyed on a higher level of experience. Tantra sees this as simply shifting perspective to a higher Truth. Rather than rejecting the objects of the world, they are integrated and embraced as part of the Sacred movements of the Divine.
These two philosophical points work together, in that through practicing to discover the Divine in all things, we open to realize that all experiences in life are being produced through the dynamic power of Consciousness, and thus are being produced by and within the One Consciousness. The Tantric conclusion is thus that ALL things are Divine and Sacred and should be perceived and honored as such.
In more simple language, everything has been created by God, and thus should be honored as a Divine expression. There is nothing which is “not holy”, because it is all an emanation from God. Knowing and experiencing this brings freedom and joy, because everything becomes a reminder of the Spiritual Nature of reality and the Self.
From this perspective, inviting a deeper experience of the Sacredness of Life becomes an integral part of the path to discover the True Nature of the Self as Pure Consciousness.
The Tantric Philosophy has also lead to some practices which are unique to Tantra. These include working with specific types of Energy, the Chakras and other energy structures and pathways in the body, as well as the use of Sexual Energy within specific practices. These will be discussed in a future posting.