Tantra is generally understood in today”s more open and better informed climate, to refer to a spiritual tradition of personal enlightenment and self-initiation.
This was not always the case for, as the late Donald Michael Kraig, author of Modern Tantra, points out in the introduction to his book ‘Modern Tantra’ the subject has has so often been thought of as a rather open and licentious form of sexual practice.
This perception – one that was mainly fuelled by the sexually-repressed, and inherently voyeuristic attitudes of the Victorians, has wiped away a rich tradition of Eastern spirituality which Kraig is determined to restore to its proper place.
Threats From Tantra
Kraig explains how Tantra not only became a whipping-post for Victorian sexual repression but that it also was, and still is, deemed to be a threat to our spiritual establishment.
Based upon a central power structure, each of the three major religions seek to contain their power and influence through a system of dogma and belief.
The author reveals how Tantra opposes those concepts by offering a self-initiatiating process into the mysteries of life and, as a consequence, also a self-empowering system – one which ultimately leaves the priests and autocrats in the church stripped of their central power base.
Tantra teaching is also markedly robust in defending itself from external categorization for, as Kraig points out,
No single individual, group, workshop, or book speaks for all of Tantra.
The Roots of Tantra
Kraig introduces his readers to a root and branch approach to understanding Tantra as well as to its relationship within Hindu practice and beliefs.
However, as he points out, as a Jew he can see close connections between Tantra and the Kabbalah.
In the book he catalogs the primary Hindu deities and their spiritual as well as historical significance. This catalog includes both well known Hindu gods such as Ganesha and Shiva alongside lesser well-known ones such as Hanuman and Saraswati.
Each one has their own yantra which Kraig includes and comments upon in his book.
The Mystical Keys
In the first of his two mystical keys Kraig continues his look at yantras; namely Sri Vidya. Here he dissects the core features of this most important of all yantras and describes the effect of integrating this image into the aura.
Part two of the keys, titled ‘Sri Magick’, explores the practical usage of the eight-petalled lotus and that of elemental magick as aspects of the worship of the goddess.
Here he also explains how the Sri Yantra actual refers to a nine chakra system rather than to the more traditional seven.
As in the practice of all spiritual system, Tantra uses specific tools.
Kraig recommends the use of the 108-beaded mala, the danda stick, murthi, shivaling, shanhk, incense burner, and the diya lamp.
Other important assets to successful Tantra practice is the observance of rituals for special occasions. Some of these are held annually but other, more important, initiatory ones are held once in a person’s lifetime.
Another powerful tool at hand is that of timing of spiritual practice by observance of astrological cycles; but the most important tool of all – and the one most venerated in Tantric philosophy, is the human body.
Nadis and Chakras
Whilst, in Tantra, the care of the physical body is of primary importance, it is the etheric body, along with its centers of power and lines of force, that is the most important in practising mind-body work.
In Modern Tantra, Kraig looks at the metaphysical properties of the human aura and its various sheaths or layers. He also explores the chakras along with their color associations, attributes and functions.
He also considers the Mudras and the associations of each of the fingers of the hand.
In the final stages of ‘Modern Tantra’, Kraig approaches the more specific aspects to Tantra which includes sex and magick.
Firstly, he defines what magick is along with its aims and goals. He explains how to raise or generate the energy needed for any sort of magickal operation.
Pre-requisites for this includes relaxation, meditation, contemplation and breathwork.
Again, with reference to the importance of the body as a temple, Kraig approaches sexual union through yoga and specific exercises designed to limber up those all-important sexual muscles. First of all these are practiced alone and then in unison with your partner.
Finally, the author presents the reader with what he refers to as ‘The Full Tantric Sexual Experience’. This centers upon achieving that state of transcendent bliss which leads to direct experience of the divine.
As Kraig states in his closing remarks about the effectiveness of tantric work,
Namaste. That which is of the gods in me recognizes and honors that which is of the gods in you.
Modern Tantra is not a merely for those who might be curious about sacred sexuality. Instead it is a modern take on an ancient spiritual philosophy which, in this day of decaying orthodox philosophical structures, might just be the perfect book for a new generation of practising magickians.
The book itself is physically large which does justice to the number of large illustrations that it includes. These add considerably to breaking up the text but, and particularly in the case of the yantras, many of them would have benefitted from having been reproduced in color instead of just black and white.
It is interesting to note that references to sexual practice covers less than one percent of the book’s content. Instead, the author focusses on presenting the core features to Tantra and the Hindu system that gave birth to it.
Graig does this extremely well, and he offers a huge amount of practical as well as theoretical guidance on various related subjects. If you are new to the subject of energy work and magick, this book is worth every penny of your hard-earned cash. For those who are a little more grounded in Eastern practice then this book will be less useful.
Modern Tantra is a well-produced book that educates rather than titillates; informs rather than obfuscates. For anyone who is tired of old and non-practical approaches to traditional spirituality, this is a wonderful place to open up to new spiritual vistas.