Tantra (Sanskrit: तन्त्र ; "weave" denoting "continuity" [Norbu, p. 49] ), tantricism or tantrism is any of several esoteric traditions rooted in the religions of India. The tantric movement has influenced the Hindu, Bön, Buddhist, and Jain religious traditions. Tantra in its various forms has existed in South Asia, China, Japan, Tibet, Korea, Cambodia, Burma, Indonesia and Mongolia. [cite book|last=White|first=David Gordon (ed.)|year=2000|page=p.7| title=Tantra in Practice|publisher=Princeton University Press|isbn=0-691-05779-6] Although he cautions against attempting a rigorous definition of tantra, David Gordon White offers the following definition:

Tantra is that Asian body of beliefs and practices which, working from the principle that the universe we experience is nothing other than the concrete manifestation of the divine energy of the Godhead that creates and maintains that universe, seeks to ritually appropriate and channel that energy, within the human microcosm, in creative and emancipatory ways. [cite book |last=White |first=David Gordon (ed.) |year=2000 |page=p.9 |title=Tantra in Practice |publisher=Princeton University Press |isbn=0-691-05779-6 ]

According to Tibetan Buddhist Tantric practitioner Lama Thubten Yeshe:

...each one of us is a union of all universal energy. Everything that we need in order to be complete is within us right at this very moment. It is simply a matter of being able to recognize it. This is the tantric approach. [cite book|last=Yeshe|first=Lama Thubten|title=Introduction to Tantra:The Transformation of Desire|publisher=Wisdom Publications|location=Boston|date=1987|edition=2001, revised|pages=p.4|isbn=0-86171-162-9|accessdate=2008-06-30]


There are a number of different definitions of tantra from various viewpoints, not all of them necessarily consistent. Robert Brown notes that the term "tantrism" is a construction of Western scholarship and that:

It is not a concept that comes from within the religious system itself, although it is generally recognized internally as different from the Vedic tradition. This immediately makes it suspect as an independent category. [Brown, Robert L., "Introduction", in: Harper (2002), p. 1.]

Rather than a single coherent system, Tantra is an accumulation of practices and ideas which has among its characteristics the use of ritual, the use of the mundane to access the supramundane and the identification of the microcosm with the macrocosm. [Harper (2002), p. 2.] The Tantric practitioner seeks to use the prana (divine power) that flows through the universe (including one's own body) to attain purposeful goals. These goals may be spiritual, material or both. [Harper (2002), p. 3.] A practitioner of tantra considers mystical experience or the guidance of a guru imperative. [Satyananda (2000) page number]

In the process of working with energy, the Tantric has various tools at hand. These include yoga, to actuate processes that will "yoke" the practitioner to the divine. Also important are the use of visualizations of the deity and verbalisation or evocation through mantras, which may be construed as seeing and singing the power into being. Identification and internalisation of the divine is enacted, often through a total identification with a deity, such that the aspirant "becomes" the Ishta-deva or meditational deity. [Harper (2002), pp. 3–5.]


The Tantric tradition may be considered as either parallel to, or intertwined with, the Vedic tradition. The primary sources of written Tantric lore are the agamas, which were generally composed in four parts delineating metaphysical knowledge (jnana), contemplative procedures (yoga), ritual regulations (kriya) and ethical and religious injunctions (charya). Schools and lineages affiliated themselves with specific bodies of these agamic traditions.

André Padoux notes that in India, tantrism was marked by a rejection of the orthodox Vedic notions. [For tantrism as marked by rejection of Vedic rules and notions, see: Padoux, André, "What do we mean by Tantrism?" in: Harper (2002), p. 23.] Maurice Winernitz, in his review of the literature of tantra, points out that while the Indian tantric texts are not positively hostile to the Vedas, they propound that the precepts of the Vedas are too difficult for our age, and that, for that reason, an easier cult and easier doctrine have been revealed in them. [For comment on the contrast between Vedic and tantric teaching, see: Winternitz, volume 1, p. 587.] Some orthodox Brahmans who accept the authority of the Vedas reject the authority of the Tantras. [For rejection of the authority of the Vedas by "many orthodox Brahmans," see: Flood (1996), p. 122.] N. N. Bhattacharyya explains:

It is to be noticed that although later Tantric writers wanted to base their doctrines on the Vedas, the orthodox followers of the Vedic tradition invariably referred to Tantra in a spirit of denunciation, stressing its anti-Vedic character. [Bhattacharyya, p. 20.]

In contrast, the modern author Swami Nikhilananda wrote not only of the close affinity with the Vedas, but also that the development of Tantric thought shows the influence of the Upanishads, the Puranas and Yoga. [Nikhilananda (1982), pp. 145-49]

Tantras exists in Shaiva, Vaisnava, [For a review of tantra in early Vaisnavism see: Bhattacharyya, pp. 182-88.] Ganapatya, [For a detailed discussion of Ganapatya tantric ritual see: Bühnemann.] and Shakta forms, amongst others. Strictly speaking, within individual traditions tantric texts are classified as Shaiva IAST|Āgamas, Vaishnava IAST|Pāñcarātra Saṃhitās, [For IAST|Pāñcarātra Saṃhitās as representing tantric Vaishnavism, see: Flood (1996), p. 122.] and Shakta Tantras, but there is no clear dividing line between these works, and on a practical basis the expression "Tantra" is used generally for this class of works. [For terminology of IAST|Āgamas, IAST|Saṃhitās, and IAST|Tantras, see: Winternitz, p. 587.]

Evolution and involution

According to Tantra, being-consciousness-bliss or "Satchidananda" has the power of both self-evolution and self-involution. Prakriti or 'reality' evolves into a multiplicity of creatures and things, yet at the same time always remains pure consciousness, being and bliss. In this process of evolution, Maya conceals Reality and separates it into opposites, such as conscious and unconscious, pleasant and unpleasant, and so forth. If not realised as illusion, these determining conditions bind, limit and fetter ("pashu") the individual "(jiva)".Nikhilanada (1982), pp. 145-160]

In this relative dimension, Shiva and Shakti are perceived as separate. However, in Tantra, even in the state of evolution Reality remains pure consciousness, being and bliss, though Tantra does not deny either the act or fact of this evolution. In fact, Tantra affirms that both the world process itself and the individual jiva are themselves Real. In this, Tantra distinguishes itself both from pure dualism and from qualified non-dualism of Vedanta.

However, evolution or the 'outgoing current' is only half of the functioning of Maya. Involution, or the 'return current', takes the "jiva" back toward the source or root of Reality, revealing the infinite. Tantra is understood to teach the method of changing the 'outgoing current' into the 'return current', transforming the fetters created by Maya into that which 'releases' or 'liberates'. This view underscores two maxims of Tantra: "One must rise by that by which one falls" and "the very poison that kills becomes the elixir of life when used by the wise."

The method

The Tantric aim is to sublimate rather than negate relative reality. This process of sublimation consists of three phases: purification, elevation and the "reaffirmation of identity on the plane of pure consciousness." The methods employed by the Dakshina Marga (right-hand path) are very different from the methods used in the Kaula Marga (left-hand path).

Ritual practices

Because of the wide range of communities covered by the term "tantra", it is challenging and problematic to describe tantric practices definitively. Avalon (1918) does provide a useful dichotomy of the "Ordinary Ritual" [cite web|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/sas26.htm|title=Shakta Sadhana (The Ordinary Ritual)|accessdate=2007-08-28] and the "Secret Ritual" [cite web|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/sas27.htm|title=The Pañcatattva (The Secret Ritual)|accessdate=2007-09-28] .

Ordinary ritual

Because of the wide range of communities covered by the term "tantra", it is challenging and problematic to describe tantric practices of the ordinary rituals definitively. The ordinary ritual or puja" may include any of the following elements:

Mantra and yantra

As in other Hindu and Buddhist yoga traditions, mantra and yantra play an important part in Tantra. The mantras and yantras are instruments to invoke specific Hindu deities such as Shiva and Kali. Similarly, puja may involve focusing on a yantra or mandala associated with a deity. [Magee, Michael. [http://www.shivashakti.com/kaliyan.htm The Kali Yantra] ]

Identification with deities

Tantra, being a development of early Hindu-Vedic thought, embraced the Hindu gods and goddesses, especially Shiva and Shakti, along with the Advaita philosophy that each represents an aspect of the ultimate Para Shiva, or Brahman. These deities may be worshipped externally with flowers, incense, and other offerings, such as singing and dancing; but, more importantly, are engaged as attributes of Ishta Devata meditations, the practitioners either visualizing themselves as the deity or experiencing the darshan (vision) of the deity. These Tantric practices used to form the foundation of the ritual temple dance of the devadasis, and were preserved in the Melattur style of Bharatanatyam by Guru Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer.Fact|date=July 2008

ecret ritual

Secret ritual may include any or all of the elements of ordinary ritual either directly or substituted along with other sensate rites and themes such as a feast (food, sustenance), coitus (sexuality, procreation), charnel grounds (death, transition) and defecation, urination and vomiting (waste, renewal, fecundity).Fact|date=July 2007 It was this sensate inclusion that fueled Zimmer's praise of Tantra as having a world-affirmative attitude:

In the Tantra, the manner of approach is not that of Nay but of Yea ... the world attitude is affirmative ... Man must approach through and by means of nature, not by rejection of nature. [quoted in Urban (2003), p. 168]

In Avalon's "Chapter 27: The Pañcatattva (The Secret Ritual)" of "Sakti and Sakta" (1918), [cite web|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/sas27.htm|title=The Pañcatattva (The Secret Ritual)|accessdate=2007-09-28] he states that the Secret Ritual (which he calls Panchatattva, [Panchatattva has a number of meanings in different traditions. The term "panchatattva" is also employed by the Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Rosen, Steven J. "Sri Pancha Tattva: The Five Features of God" 1994 ISBN 0-9619763-7-3 Folk Books, New York] Chakrapuja and Panchamakara) involves:

Worship with the Pañcatattva generally takes place in a Cakra or circle composed of men and women... sitting in a circle, the Shakti [or female practitioner] being on the Sadhaka's [male practitioner's] left. Hence it is called Cakrapuja. ...There are various kinds of Cakra -- productive, it is said, of differing fruits for the participator therein.

In this chapter, Avalon also provides a series of variations and substitutions of the Panchatattva (Panchamakara) "elements" or tattva encoded in the Tantras and various tantric traditions and affirms that there is a direct correlation to the Tantric Five Nectars and the Mahābhūta. [Avalon, Arthur. "Sakti and Sakta", ch. 27]

Sexual rites

Sexual rites of Vama Marga may have emerged from early Hindu Tantra as a practical means of generating transformative bodily fluids. [White (2000) page number] These constituted a vital offering to Tantric deities. Sexual rites may also have evolved from clan initiation ceremonies involving the transaction of sexual fluids. Here the male initiate was inseminated or insanguinated with the sexual emissions of the female consort, sometimes admixed with the semen of the guru. He was thus transformed into a son of the clan ("kulaputra") through the grace of his consort. The clan fluid ("kuladravya") or clan nectar ("kulamrita") was conceived as flowing naturally from her womb. Later developments in the rite emphasised the primacy of bliss and divine union, which replaced the more bodily connotations of earlier forms. Although popularly equated with Tantra in its entirety in the West, sexual rites were practiced by a minority of sects. For many practicing lineages, these maithuna practices progressed into psychological symbolism. [White (2000) page number]

When enacted as enjoined by the tantras the ritual culminates in a sublime experience of infinite awareness, by both participants. The Tantric texts specify that sex has three distinct and separate purposes — procreation, pleasure and liberation. Those seeking liberation eschew frictional orgasm for a higher form of ecstasy, as the couple participating in the ritual, lock in a static embrace. Several sexual rituals are recommended and practiced. These involve elaborate and meticulous preparatory and purificatory rites. The act balances energies coursing within the pranic ida and pingala channels in the subtle bodies of both participants. The sushumna nadi is awakened and kundalini rises upwards within it. This eventually culminates in samadhi wherein the respective individualities of each of the participants are completely dissolved in the unity of cosmic consciousness. Tantrics understand the act on multiple levels. The male and female participants are conjoined physically and represent Shiva and Shakti, the male and female principles. Beyond the physical, a subtle fusion of Shiva and Shakti energies takes place resulting in a united energy field. On an individual level, each participant experiences a fusion of their own Shiva and Shakti energies. [Satyananda, page number.] [Woodroffe (1959), page number.]

Western views

ir John Woodroffe

The first Western scholar to take the study of Tantra seriously was Sir John Woodroffe (1865–1936), who wrote about Tantra under the "pen name" "Arthur Avalon". He is generally held as the "founding father of Tantric studies." [Urban (2003), p. 22] Unlike previous Western scholars, Woodroffe was an apologist for Tantra, defending Tantra against its many critics and presenting Tantra as an ethical philosophical system greatly in accord with the Vedas and Vedanta. [Urban (2003), p. 135] Woodroffe himself practised Tantra as he saw and understood it and, while trying to maintain his scholastic objectivity, was considered a student of Hindu Tantric (in particular Shiva-Shakta) tradition. [page number: See Arthur Avalon, trans. Tantra of the Great Liberation: Mahanirvana Tantra (London: Luzac & Co., 1913); Avalon, ed. Principles of Tantra: the Tantratattva of Shriyukta Shiva Chandra Vidyarnava Bhattacharyya Mahodaya (London: Luzac & Co., 1914-16); Woodroffe, Shakti and Shakta: Essays and Addresses on the Shakta Tantrashastra (London : Luzac & Co., 1918)] Fact|date=May 2007

Further development

Following Sir John Woodroffe, a number of scholars began to actively investigate the Tantric teachings. These included a number of scholars of comparative religion and Indology, such as: Agehananda Bharati, Mircea Eliade, Julius Evola, Carl Jung, Giuseppe Tucci and Heinrich Zimmer. [Urban (2003), pp. 165-166]

According to Hugh Urban, Zimmer, Evola and Eliade viewed Tantra as "the culmination of all Indian thought: the most radical form of spirituality and the archaic heart of aboriginal India", and regarded it as the ideal religion of the modern era. All three saw Tantra as "the most "transgressive" and "violent" path to the sacred." [Urban (2003), pp. 166-167]

In the modern world

Following these first presentations of Tantra, other more popular authors such as Joseph Campbell helped to bring Tantra into the imagination of the peoples of the West. Tantra came to be viewed by some as a "cult of ecstasy", combining sexuality and spirituality in such a way as to act as a corrective force to Western repressive attitudes about sex. [For "cult of ecstasy" see: Urban (2003), pp. 204-205.]

As Tantra has become more popular in the West it has undergone a major transformation. For many modern readers, "Tantra" has become a synonym for "spiritual sex" or "sacred sexuality", a belief that sex in itself ought to be recognized as a sacred act which is capable of elevating its participants to a more sublime spiritual plane. [For "Tantra" as a synonym for "spiritual sex" or "sacred sexuality", see: Urban (2003), pp. 204-205] Though pop-tantra may adopt many of the concepts and terminology of Indian Tantra, it often omits one or more of the following; the traditional reliance on guruparampara (the guidance of a guru), extensive meditative practice, and traditional rules of conduct - both moral and ritualistic.

According to one author and critic on religion and politics, Hugh Urban:

Since at least the time of Agehananda Bharati, most Western scholars have been severely critical of these new forms of pop Tantra. This "California Tantra" as Georg Feuerstein calls it, is "based on a profound misunderstanding of the Tantric path. Their main error is to confuse Tantric bliss ... with ordinary orgasmic pleasure. [Quotation from Urban (2003), pp. 204-205.]
He goes on to say that he himself does not consider this "wrong" or "false" but rather "simply a different interpretation for a specific historical situation." [For quotation "simply a different interpretation for a specific historical situation" see: Urban (2003), pp. 204-205]

Hindu Tantric practitioners

*Shri Gurudev Mahendranath
*Swami Rama

ee also

;Hindu tantra
*Kaśmir Śaivism
*Sri Chakra
*Vasugupta;Buddhist tantra
*Anuttarayoga Tantra
*Shingon Buddhism
*Tibetan Buddhism
*Tantra techniques (Vajrayana);Other related topics
*Ananda Marga
*Great Rite
*Sex magic
*Taoist sexual practices
*John Woodroffe



*cite book|last=Avalon|first=Arthur|year=1918|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/sas/index.htm |title=Sakti and Sakta|publisher=Ganesh and Co
*cite book|last=Bhattacharyya|first=N. N.|year=1999|title=History of the Tantric Religion|publisher=Manohar|location=New Delhi|isbn=81-7304-025-7 Second Revised Edition
*cite book|last=Bühnemann|first=Gudrun)|year=1988|title=The Worship of IAST|Mahāgaṇapati According to the Nityotsava|publisher=Institut für Indologie|location=|isbn=81-86218-12-2 First Indian Edition, Kant Publications, 2003.
*cite book|last=Harper|first=Katherine Anne (ed.)|coauthors=Robert L. Brown (ed.)|year=2002|title=The Roots of Tantra|publisher=State University of New York Press|isbn=0-7914-5306-5
*cite book|first=Swami|last=Nikhilananda|authorlink=Nikhilananda|year=1982|title=Hinduism: Its meaning for the Liberation of the Spirit|edition=2nd|publisher=Sri Ramakrishna Math
*cite book|last=Norbu|first=Chögyal Namkhai |year=1999|title=The Crystal and The Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen|publisher=Snow Lion Publications|isbn=1559391359
*cite book|last=Saraswati|first=Swami Satyananda|year=2000|title=Sure Ways to Self Realization|publisher=Yoga Publications Trust | isbn=8185787417
*cite book|last=Urban|first=Hugh|year=2003|title=Tantra: Sex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religions|publisher=University of California Press | isbn=0520236564
*cite book|last=Wangyal Rinpoche|first=Tenzin|coauthors=Dahlby, Mark|title=The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep|publisher=Snow Lion Publications|location=N.Y.|year=1998 | isbn=1559391014
*cite book|last=White|first=David Gordon (ed.)|year=2000|title=Tantra in Practice|publisher=Princeton University Press|isbn=0-691-05779-6
*cite book |series= |last=Winternitz |first=Maurice |authorlink= |coauthors= |title=History of Indian Literature |year=1972 |publisher=Oriental Books Reprint Corporation |location=New Delhi |isbn= Second revised reprint edition. Two volumes. First published 1927 by the University of Calcutta.
*cite book|last=Yeshe|first=Lama Thubten|title=Introduction to Tantra:The Transformation of Desire|publisher=Wisdom Publications|location=Boston|date=1987|edition=2001, revised|isbn=0-86171-162-9|accessdate=2008-06-30

Further reading

*cite book|last=Davidson|first=Ronald M.|year=2003|title=Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement|publisher=Columbia University Press|isbn=81-208-1991-8
*cite book|last=Davidson|first=Ronald M.|year=2005|title=Tibetan Renaissance : Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture|publisher=Columbia University Press|isbn=0-231-13471-1
*cite book|first=Georg|last=Feuerstein|authorlink=Georg Feuerstein|year=1998|title=Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy|location=Boston|publisher=Shambhala|isbn=1-57062-304-X
*cite book|last=Guenon|first=Rene|authorlink=Rene Guenon|title=Studies in Hinduism:Collected Works|publisher=Sophia Perennis|date=2004|edition=2nd ed.|isbn=978-0900588693
*cite book|last=Gyatso|first=Geshe Kelsang|year=2003|title=Tantric Grounds and Paths|publisher=Glen Spey: Tharpa Publications
*cite book|last=Gyatso|first=Tenzin (14th Dalai Lama)|authorlink=Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama|coauthors=Tsong-ka-pa, Jeffrey Hopkins|year=1987|title=Deity Yoga|publisher=Snow Lion Publications|isbn=0-937938-50-5
*cite book|last=Kane|first=Pandurang Vaman|title=History of Dharmashastra (Ancient and Mediaeval Religious and Civil Law)|publisher=Poona:Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
*cite book|last=Magee|first=Michael, tr.|year=1984|title=Yoni Tantra
*cite book|first=Shri Gurudev|last=Mahendranath|authorlink=Shri Gurudev Mahendranath|year=1990|title=The Scrolls of Mahendranath|publisher=Seattle: International Nath Order
*cite book|first=June|last=McDaniel|year=2004|title=Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Bengal|publisher=New York: Oxford University Press
*cite book|last=Mookerji|first=Ajit|year=1997|title=The Tantric Way: art, science, ritual|location=London|publisher=Thames and Hudson
*cite book|last=Rao|first=T. A. Gopinatha|year=1981|title=Elements in Hindu Iconography Vol 1|location=Madras|publisher=Law Printing House
*cite book|last=Sivananda|first=Swami|title=Kundalini Yoga
*cite journal|last=Urban|first=Hugh|year=2002|title=The Conservative Character of Tantra: Secrecy, Sacrifice and This-Worldly Power in Bengali Śākta Tantra|journal=International Journal of Tantric Studies|volume=6|issue=1
*cite book|last=Walker|first=Benjamin|authorlink=Benjamin Walker|year=1983|title=Tantrism: Its Secret Principles and Practices|publisher=Acquarian Press|location=London|year=1982|isbn=0-85030-272-2
*cite book|last=White|first=David Gordon|year=2003|title=Kiss of the Yogini : "Tantric Sex" in its South Asian Contexts|publisher=University Of Chicago Press
*cite book|last=White|first=David Gordon|year=1998|title=The Alchemical Body : Siddha Traditions in Medieval India|publisher=University Of Chicago Press
*cite book|last=Woodroffe|first=John|url=http://www.sacred-texts.com/tantra/maha/|title=Mahanirvana Tantra (Tantra of the Great Liberation)|accessdate=2007-05-17

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  • tantra — tántra s. f. Trimis de siveco, 10.08.2004. Sursa: Dicţionar ortografic  TÁNTRA s.f. (Liv.) Complex de scrieri religioase ale hinduismului şi budismului posterioare textelor fundamentale. [< fr., it. tantra < tantra – cuv. sanscrit]. Trimis …   Dicționar Român

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  • tantra — s. m. [Filosofia, Religião] Conjunto de textos anônimos que contêm fórmulas e ritos observados em algumas correntes budistas e hinduístas. (Mais usado no plural.)   ‣ Etimologia: sânscrito tantra …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

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  • tantra — ► NOUN 1) a Hindu or Buddhist mystical or magical text. 2) adherence to the doctrines or principles of the tantras, involving mantras, meditation, yoga, and ritual. DERIVATIVES tantric adjective tantrism noun. ORIGIN Sanskrit, loom, groundwork,… …   English terms dictionary

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