The word tantra comes from ‘taan’ - to stretch, to expand, and ‘tra’ - a technique, or to go beyond. A technique to stretch and go beyond. What do we stretch and how is it done?
When we drink a tea or eat a piece of chocolate, we want to savour the taste for a long time even after swallowing it. We sort of hang on to the feeling on our tongue and stretch it for as long as possible. When this is consciously practised, it is the beginning of tantra.
The first thing that happens when we try to stretch a feeling is that we have to be present in the moment. We cannot taste chocolate yesterday or tomorrow, it can be done only in the Now. Normally our brains are continuously chattering and our minds are either in the past or future; we live in a continuous dream, imagining we are awake.
Say we are touching a beautiful flower. In that moment we pause and try to dissolve our consciousness into the softness and fragrance of the petals, and we stretch and hold this feeling as long as possible. Patanjali calls this dharana. As we practice, we are able to stretch and hold for longer periods of time, as if we are expanding each passing moment of time into an eternity. We feel as if the passage of time has stopped and we are lifted into a space filled with bliss, joy, ecstasy and happiness. This is samadhi.
Then it does not matter what life brings. You may be criticising or insulting me but I just feel your voice and expand the intonation and ringing of your words and lo, I am lifted into bliss.
One of the oldest scriptures on tantra is called ‘Vigyan Bhairava’. The story is that Parvati was meditating at Kanyakumari and Shiva is sitting in Kailas. She asks him different questions on how to enter into samadhi. Shiva shows her a hundred and twelve different techniques of transcending the Now and entering Eternity. As some of these relate to extending the bliss in sex, tantra became very controversial.
Most of them have nothing to do with sex but show us how we can stretch each moment of life to a level of unsurpassed joy and happiness.