Esoteric religious practices, including yoga, mantra, etc. Tantra is the name given by recent scholars to a style of meditation and ritual which arose in India no later than the 5th century AD.
Example via www.ramdass.org: The Divine Pleasure of Food
Example via www.mindpodnetwork.com: Chogyam Trungpa on the Tantric Journey
The Tantric tradition offers various definitions of tantra. One comes from the Kāmikā-tantra:
Because it elaborates (tan) copious and profound matters, especially relating to the principles of reality (tattva) and sacred mantras, and because it provides liberation (tra), it is called a tantra.
A second, very similar to the first, comes from Swami Satyananda.
Tantra embodies two sanskrit words: tanoti (expands) and trayoti (liberates)... It is the system by which you liberate or separate the two aspects of consciousness and matter - purusha and prakriti or Shiva and Shakti.
A third comes from the 10th-century Tantric scholar Rāmakaṇṭha, who belonged to the dualist school Śaiva Siddhānta:
A tantra is a divinely revealed body of teachings, explaining what is necessary and what is a hindrance in the practice of the worship of God; and also describing the specialized initiation and purification ceremonies that are the necessary prerequisites of Tantric practice.
Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar describes a tantric individual and a tantric cult:
A person who, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, aspires for spiritual expansion or does something concrete, is a Tantric. Tantra in itself is neither a religion nor an "ism". Tantra is a fundamental spiritual science. So wherever there is any spiritual practice it should be taken for granted that it stands on the Tantric cult."
Modern scholars have defined Tantra; David Gordon White of the University of California, Santa Barbara offers the following:
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.
Anthony Tribe, a scholar of Buddhist Tantra, offers a list of features:
- Centrality of ritual, especially the worship of deities
- Centrality of mantras
- Visualisation of and identification with a deity
- Need for initiation, esotericism and secrecy
- Importance of a teacher (guru, ācārya)
- Ritual use of mandalas (maṇḍala)
- Transgressive or antinomian acts
- Revaluation of the body
- Revaluation of the status and role of women
- Analogical thinking (including microcosmic or macrocosmic correlation)
- Revaluation of negative mental states