Tantra gives great importance to sexuality. Whether practicing with a human partner, as in left-hand tantra, or in the more ritualistic right-hand path.
A huge part of tantric practice is learning to work with sexual energy: to direct it, sublimate it, harmonize it and express it in a sacred way. With this practice, sexuality can become an incredible catalyst for transformation, accelerating your spiritual evolution like nothing else.
This perspective is an amazing, liberating change from the common view where sexuality and spirituality are opposites! And yet, with all of this intensity, sex can again start to seem again like a heavy topic.
So many fledgling practitioners might ask, can I still have casual sex if I want to be a tantrika? Or is it goodbye to flings, one-night stands, friends with benefits and all that?
The reality, as usual, is more complicated than a black-and-white, yes-or-no answer. Let’s explore both sides and you can draw your own conclusions.
No, casual sex can’t be tantric
There are a few reasons why tantric sexuality runs counter to the “fast food culture” that prevails in many casual sexual encounters.
- Sacredness vs. hedonism
In tantra, sex is sacred. It is viewed as an enactment of the divine play of consciousness and energy, separation and union, and as one of the most powerful and direct pathways to mystical experience.
Tantrikas have always held sexuality in great reverence, understanding also that sexual energy is extremely powerful and volatile, and must be treated with care for it to be a positive force for evolution. Traditionally, tantric sexuality took place often in a ritual setting, where the practitioners’ intention and consecration to the Divine could safely channel such an intense power.
Contrary to popular modern belief, traditional tantra was not just a dressed-up form of hedonism. Rather than going around searching for one pleasurable experience after another, the tantric view is to use pleasure (or actually any experience, sensory or emotional) to contact that bliss of pure Being, which is beyond the need for any object of pleasure.
It was considered the more dangerous path, compared to ascetic practice, because without sufficient awareness and spiritual maturity, it is very easy to confuse the means for the end—to get lost in pleasure, in following desires, and forget the longing for transcendence that lies within every desire.
So casual sex—only for pleasure and lacking the container of consecration or a ritual setting—almost by definition is the opposite of tantric sexuality.
- Taking care of what other energies you mix with
Since sexual energy carries so much significance in left-hand tantra, taking care of this energy—purifying the subconscious tendencies around sexuality—takes on a vital importance.
In every sexual encounter, there is an exchange of energy. This is especially relevant for women, since the more receptive, “yin” partner naturally tends to absorb and retain more imprints from the “yang” partner, but it goes both ways.
This is beautiful and can be very positive! However, if you make love with someone you don’t know so well, you might end up carrying some imprints which are not so harmonious, and these can take some time to clear. (Not necessarily five years or seven years or whatever fixed number you hear about; it’s more about just for how long you feel that other person’s energy alive within you.)
As you go deeper in the path of yoga and tantra, becoming more sensitive to subtle realities, the imprints picked up from someone who smokes, drinks alcohol or carries a lot of negative emotions can be disturbing.
- Love and commitment
Ultimately, tantric sexuality is not just about moving energy, which can happen in any situation. It’s about love.
The lasting results of the practice come from commitment, the intimacy and sense of surrender that can only come with deep love and trust.
A few encounters or experiences, no matter how intense those experiences might be, are only stepping-stones or windows to what is possible. The real work for tantric couples unfolds over time, with long shared commitment to the practice and to each other.
Yes, casual sex can be tantric
On the flip side, we can start with the view that sexuality itself is sacred in any form (with consent and enjoyment from all involved). It’s only your attitude towards sex that makes it seem shameful or sublime.
Sex can be tender, intense, playful, frisky, awkward, meditative, or any flavor at all. That sacred dimension is still there, as long as you’re present to recognize it.
Another element to consider is that relationships can be profound even if they don’t last very long, maybe even only for a night.
The idea of “the one” is deeply entrenched in our culture. That perfect person who will complete and fulfill you in every way, for your entire life, making your life have meaning just as soon as you find them.
It’s a beautiful idea, which can take on a spiritual façade under the label “soul mate” or “twin flame”. But it’s an idea more suited for fairy tales than for real life.
In reality, no other person will ever complete you. You have to complete yourself.
It’s true that some relationships have a depth, a karmic resonance, that seems to go beyond your own lifetime. But the depth of a relationship can’t be measured in the time that you’re together or the form that that relationship takes.
You spend years in a committed monogamous relationship that remains shallow, a “marriage of convenience” or comfort.
Or in just one night with someone, your souls can touch in a way that leaves both of you transformed.
What matters in tantric sexuality is union of Shiva and Shakti, not the individuals—seeing the divine in the other person no matter who he or she is, or what your relationship connects you on a personal level.
Going past any attachment to the “soul mate” myth, you can find that everyone you meet is a teacher and companion on the road, whether you walk together for a long time or only a few steps.
So with a recognition of sacredness, a willingness to truly go beyond your limits and encounter the Infinite in the form of a human being, any sexual encounter can become a tantric practice. Only then, that casual sex isn’t really “casual” any more.