In many places in the world, Tantra has become somewhat misconstrued, becoming synonymous with sexuality – a misunderstanding that veers far from the true essence of this ancient practice, which is far richer and more profound.
Far more than a set of techniques designed to enrich our intimate relationships through sex, Tantra is a holistic and varied spiritual tradition with many offshoots, each encompassing a wide spectrum of practices, including meditation, rituals, yoga, and scripture.
Originating in Hinduism and Buddhism, these Tantric practices have influenced and extended to diverse spiritual practices worldwide, including Taoism in China, Tibetan Bon religion, and Western New Age movements.
At its core, the ultimate goal of the traditional Tantric path is to achieve self-realization and spiritual liberation (often referred to as “moksha” or “nirvana“) while remaining fully present and connected to our bodies in the physical world.
This means practitioners of traditional Tantra strive to transcend the limitations of the ego and the subsequent dualistic perception of reality and instead experientially understand the interconnectedness of all existence.
Tantra is an awe-inspiring philosophy, and in this article, we’ll run you through some of the best Tantra books and why we love them. And trust us – these books are not mere reading material, but gateways to a world of profound insights and transformative practices.
6 Tantra Books You Should Read
#1: Tools for Tantra By Harish Johari
Written by Harish Johari, a distinguished authority on Indian spirituality, tantra, yoga, and Ayurveda, “Tools for Tantra” continues to stand the test of time since its publication in 1985. Touching on chakras, kundalini, meditation, breathwork, visualizations, and more – it’s a must read for anyone curious about Tantra.
Geared toward individuals intrigued by the practical application of Tantra in their everyday lives, this remains one of Johari’s most celebrated works, for its profound yet accessible insights into the whirlwind world of tantra and its related practices.The book is filled with practical tools and guidance, adopting an educational approach where readers can gain an understanding of tantra’s fundamental principles, rituals, and practices – helping to demystify the often misunderstood and intimidating concept of tantra.
One of the best aspects of the book is the way it addresses tantra’s connection with art, specifically yantras, exploring the creation and utilization of sacred symbols, mandalas, and visual representations for spiritual purposes and advancement.
#2: Speaking of Siva By Anonymous
A compilation of devotional verses hailing from 6th to 10th century Tamil India, Speaking of Siva is a beautiful, foundational text written by diverse and anonymous poets that we recommend for anyone interested in the wider historical and cultural roots of Tantra.
Emerging from the bhakti (devotional) protest movement, these verses bear an engaging resemblance to the works of popular Islamic scholar and mystic Rumi, yet Speaking of Siva remains surprisingly undiscovered by Western readers – which is a great shame!
Delving into the interplay between Shiva and Shakti, Speaking of Siva sheds new light on Tantra’s desire to harmonize and integrate the masculine (Shiva or Siva) and feminine (Shakti) energies within us to achieve spiritual awakening and enlightenment.
For this reason, these verses also resonate with individuals drawn to Hindu scripture, mantras, and bhakti yoga – but you don’t have to be a poetry buff to enjoy this book.
While many people (including myself!) often find it hard to connect with poetry, these poems, thanks to their masterful translation by one of India’s most esteemed authors, immerse even the least poetic readers in the writers’ devotion of Shiva and Shakti energies.
#3: The Book of Secrets By Osho
Tailored for seekers of meditation and self-discovery, this best-selling book by the renowned and polarizing Indian spiritual teacher, Osho, provides deep and intriguing insights into consciousness and the human psyche through a tantric lens.
Encompassing meditation techniques, breathwork, and visualization, this remains one of Osho’s most famous works, diving deep into the profound wisdom of ancient Tantra, specifically, a 5000-year-old scripture featuring 112 meditations aimed at achieving liberation.
What makes this book so valuable is Osho’s ability to bridge the gap between these ancient practices and modern seekers. He accomplishes this by providing insightful commentaries and sharing his personal experiences alongside each of these meditations, making them both comprehensible and practical for contemporary readers.
While Osho’s ability to captivate the hearts of thousands of devotees worldwide is undeniable, his teachings on sexuality and morality, cult-paralleled behavior, legal entanglements, opulent lifestyle, and provocative statements have collectively made him a rather controversial figure.
This only makes The Book of Secrets all the more interesting, as a glimpse into the mind and teachings of one of India’s most famous (or some would say infamous . . .) spiritual leaders.
#4: The Tantric Way By Ajit Mookerjee, Madhu Khanna
Crafted for individuals seeking to integrate Tantra into every day, this book offers a near-exhaustive guide to the tradition’s history, philosophy, and essential practices – as well as imparting many practical methods for meditation, visualization, and integration into daily life.
Over the last few decades, the Western interest in tantra has surged, driven by its universal goals of self-knowledge and liberated joy, in a way that sidesteps and transcends Tantra’s Hindu origins.
This book brings these origins to the forefront. Rooted in a comprehensive exploration of the historical aspects, development, evolution, and context of Tantra, The Tantric Way delves into astronomy, astrology, alchemy, cosmology, and Advaita philosophy within tantrism.
Covering both ‘left-hand’ and ‘right-hand’ tantrikas’ views on sexuality, ritual, and philosophy, the book is rich with illustrations and offers a great insight into the core and many paths of Tantra.
Written by Ajit Mookerjee and Ph.D. Madhu Khanna, the book also couldn’t have more qualified and illustrious authors. Ajit Mookerjee, a distinguished expert on Eastern art and the sacred texts of India, spent many years studying and living according to the tantric principles.
With a Ph.D. from Oxford, Madhu Khanna is a scholar of Indian philosophy and religion, currently serving as the Director and founding trustee of Tantra Foundation.
#5: The Life and Teaching of Naropa by Herbert V. Guenther
Geared toward anyone curious about the teachings of Buddhist master Naropa, this great biographical book provides an in-depth and engaging account of Naropa’s life, his important role in Indian Tantric Buddhism, as well as translations of pivotal texts and teachings.
Living way back in 1016-1100, Naropa was not just any Buddhist master but was widely considered a Mahasiddha, which translates to “great accomplished one” in Sanskrit.
This term, used in various Indian spiritual traditions including Buddhism and Hinduism, refers to an individual who has achieved an exceptionally high level of spiritual realization, insight, and mastery through intense meditation and yogic practices – basically an enlightened being.
A large part of his path to enlightenment was through (yep, you guessed it) Tantra. In fact, Naropa played a pivotal role in the development of tantric Buddhism, studying under Tilopa, a foundational figure in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
The book offers an in-depth exploration of Naropa’s journey, and his own tantric practices, including his experiences with the advanced Six Yogas of Naropa (unique sets of tantric practices).
But what really earns this read a place of the best Tantra books list is the way Guenther connects Buddhist concepts with Western analytic philosophy, psychiatry, and depth psychology, facilitating a deeper understanding of the described tantric practices.
With a writing style that seamlessly combines description and informativeness, The Life and Teachings of Naropa is far from a traditional biography, providing elusive and sketched details about Naropa’s early life, while simultaneously delving into his teachings in great detail.
Overall, The Life and Teaching of Naropa doesn’t merely narrate; it instructs. Delving into the cultivation of wisdom, imparting invaluable lessons that resonate deeply with contemporary readers seeking spiritual growth through Tantra – this is simply a must-read!
#6: The Yoga of Power: Tantra, Shakti, and the Secret Way by Julius Evola
Designed for those fascinated by the esoteric dimensions of Tantra and Yoga, this treasure offers a broad insight into their history, philosophy, and core practices – including practical meditation, visualization techniques, and thought-provoking insights into human consciousness.
In this book, Evola breaks down intricate concepts from ancient texts and provides practical guidance on techniques derived from these teachings. From pranayama to kundalini and more, he clears the fog surrounding a world that can often seem foggy and uncertain.
His lucid and captivating explanations make it accessible even for readers who are new to Tantra, helping them grasp the intricate philosophies and distinctions among complex ideologies including Tantra Dharma, Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
The best bit is that Evola’s masterful prose and intricate storytelling is simply captivating.
Challenging and enthralling, The Yoga of Power is widely appreciated as a profound work on esotericism, standing in stark contrast to contemporary authors who have, at times, trivialized Tantra by reducing it down to a topic for New Age sexual manuals.
Simply put, The Yoga of Power belongs on everyone’s shelf. It’s a must-read in the realm of Tantra books.
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