What Is Tantric Buddhism?

Tantric Philosophy

You may have heard of Tantric philosophy or tantric practice through the spiritual grapevine.

Perhaps you heard that it’s a different sect of Buddhism or Hinduism, but you were certainly bound to hear or read that it that it has some kind of relationship with sex…but that’s not necessarily true!

In fact, much of the tantra philosophy has absolutely nothing to do with sex.

The confusion comes into play because it’s quite complex and deep, and requires a little extra thought in order to properly understand.

Origin of Tantric Buddhism:

The Sanskrit reference to Tantric Buddhism is Vajrayāna, which means the “Diamond Way”.

The “Diamond Way” was most likely developed from the Hindu version of tantra over 2,000 years ago in India; but the way these two are practiced today are very different from each other.

It can be hard to define the exact origin of Tantric Buddhism, but we do know that Vajrayāna Buddhists believe that Buddha himself taught variations of tantric philosophy to kings that could not leave their worldly affairs.

This philosophy also informed the creation Tibetan Buddhism, since it’s largely located in Northern India.

A crazy fact: we also know that if it weren’t for tantric philosophy, Buddhism in India may have perished in the 13th century! That’s because many Indians were (and still are) very attached to Hinduism.


So what exactly do practicing Tantric Buddhists believe?

Vajrayāna follows the Two-Truths doctrine. This is the belief that there are two kinds of truth for every person:

  • Relative- Common sense truth
  • Universal- Ultimate truth, or that which is devoid of characteristics

The goal of Tantric Buddhism is to become awakened or “enlightened”, thereby discovering the real universal truth, moving past just simple relative truth.

Of course, this is similar to normal Buddhism, but with a few distinctions:

First, you could almost consider Vajrayāna a form of enlightenment through deity-worship. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they believe these deities are real…more like they are archetypes to be followed and imitated.

Second, there is a practice of viewing pleasurable experiences as tranforming experiences of enlightenment. In other words, everything becomes spiritual.

From the late Lama Thubten Yeshe, in his book Introduction to Tantra: A Vision of Totality:

“The same desirous energy that ordinarily propels us from one unsatisfactory situation is transmuted, through the alchemy of tantra, into a transcendental experience of bliss and wisdom. The practitioner focuses the penetrating brilliance of this blissful wisdom so that it cuts like a laser beam through all false projections of this and that and pierces the very heart of reality.”


Vajrayāna, or Tantric Buddhism, is certainly an important part of eastern practices today.

But one thing it isn’t is completely focused on sex or sexual energy.

Rather, it’s actually a focus of viewing every experience as an opportunity for enlightenment- sex or otherwise.

A profound philosophy indeed!

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