What is Tantra?


The Byron Bay Echo Article by Louise Beaumont

In certain ancient cultures sexuality and spirituality were entwined. Although not lost completely, ancient philosophies such as Tantra were known by few, and as time went on sex became a taboo subject in many western cultures. The world changed again however, as is the nature of evolution, and attitudes towards sex opened. Sex, a subject so widely broadcast, with unfathomable commercial influence, has now itself been significantly influenced by the consumer world. The physical aspects of sex seem to be intimated in everything we see and do, but perhaps this period of overt sexuality has reached its extreme. No extreme is sustainable, the edge has been found and maybe it is time to turn back. Sexuality and its expression so often mimicks what is happening in society. Sexually repressed and inhibited during the Victorian era; free, rebellious and reactive in the swinging 60s; dynamic, aggressive and stereotypically male in the 80s; overt, provocative and material in the 90s and beyond. What will come next? Now is the age of greater awareness and presence, a reconnection to the very things that give us life, of more sustainable living. Our sexuality will undoubtedly be influenced by that too. The need to reconnect with all that is around us is more commonplace now. The selfish, consumeristic attitudes of recent history are no longer acceptable. In 2009, sex remains an influence in most facets of the consumer world.

The trouble is, when anything is mass produced it is cheapened, with few exceptions. Sex is no different. We are overstimulated, overexposed to everything. Overexposed to sex, overwhelmed by choices, and simultaneously losing the true connection with God, spirit, nature, the source of life. People are looking for change. The innate need to profoundly connect makes us less tolerant now of nonchalance, superficiality and experiences based solely on the physical, the material. We are recognising the need for sustainable practice, and why shouldn’t that extend to our fundamental selves and the way we relate to each other? There are a growing number of people bringing more awareness to their lives, a greater presence to all that they do. A resurgence of the art of sacred sex may just come from our need not only to reconnect, but to sustain that connection. The word Tantra means to manifest, to expand and to weave. In the tantric sense, sex is thought to expand conciousness, weaving together the polarities of male (represented by the Hindu god Shiva) and female (embodied by the Hindu goddess Shakti), into one, a harmonious whole. Tantra, as a philosophy, arose in India more than 6,000 years ago, as a rebellion against organised religion that proclaimed sex should be rejected in order to reach enlightenment.


Diane and Kerry Riley were at the forefront of bringing Tantric philosophy and practice to Australia. Together for 30 years, dividing their time between Byron Bay and Sydney, they have each written books on sacred sex and co-created a DVD. They teach courses worldwide on sex, love and relationships and believe that sacred sex can not only be integrated into modern relationships but must be if relationships have a real chance of maturation. Kerry says, ‘Not dissimilar to the beginnings of yoga, Tantra in its early days was quite religious, esoteric and somewhat elitist, accessible to just a few. Diane and I wanted to make sacred sex more accessible. We ourselves have three children, both run businesses, we had to learn how to integrate it into our real lives.

Yoga is now accessible to everyone, and in so many different facets, and Tantra is similar in that way.’ Diane agrees, ‘Modern Tantra is hard to define. In its true essence it is a perspective on life. It’s attitude is one of acceptance, inclusion and expansion. It can be inclusive of current sexual practice and expanding on that, being open to everything.’ Diane says that it has even been described as broadly as anything that doesn’t harm anyone emotionally, physically or spiritually. ‘During my teaching, I often remind young girls that their sexual energy is precious, like a garden, only invite someone who will respect and admire it, not someone who will trample on it.’ The Rileys believe sacred sex is when mind, body and spirit are intertwined. If the mind is only concerned with the physical outcome of, for instance, orgasm, then it is likely the sex will take on aspects of a performance, the destination becomes more significant than the journey.

Kerry says that the mind creates the experience, therefore if you are totally present and believe the union to be a special one, that your partner is a god or goddess, then the sex will be a sacred experience, connecting you both to each other and to a higher plane. He adds, ‘There seems to be no polarity between the sexes now. It is more than acceptable now for a woman to be sexy, but this has reached extreme levels and many have become more male in their attitude towards sex. And some males have lost what it means to be a man. But I think it’s great we have gone to this extreme, because it has now allowed us to come back again. To have the perfect union there needs to be yin and yang, both partners need to tune into their true essence but also be in touch with the opposite energy that exists in themselves too.’ Diane adds, ‘What it is to be a sexy woman has been affected by a growing commercialisation of female sexuality and sometimes influenced by the male stereotype of sexual behaviour. For most women, the quality of their sexual experience is tightly linked with the level of emotional intimacy they feel with their partner. Kerry and I like to examine how lovers can develop and enhance heartfelt connections between them. Many people are incorporating more relaxed and adventurous attitudes towards sex and their own sexuality. Sacred sex is about bringing more soulfulness to sexual intimacy.

‘Around the globe we are experiencing a growing awareness of the importance of honouring the sacred balance on our planet and in our relationships to the living world around us, in order to live sustainably and in harmony with our environment. I feel it is natural to extend this concept to a most fundamental aspect of our lives – sexuality.’ Diane and Kerry Riley can be found at www.sexyandsacred.com.au.

Article by Louise Beaumont