The way Tantra is practiced comes in some “colors,” which is just one of many approaches of categorizing Tantra, and in this post we’ll going to take look at the perceived differences between White Tantra, Red Tantra, Dark Tantra and Black Tantra.
In addition, one may also encounter Pink Tantra and Grey Tantra. We’ll not describe these types in this article, but do give the idea: Pink Tantra is usually considered a blend between White Tantra and Red Tantra, and Grey Tantra a blend between White Tantra and Black Tantra.
But first this: Tantra as a whole is all about embracing our complete being and expressions in order to become and be a whole person, without separating our various inner and outer aspects in distinct realms. It means to come to a liberation of the suppressed parts of our being, which often lay in the moral, sensual and sexual sphere. It’s basically about bringing all parts of our being into full consciousness and to finally transcend them into bliss and spiritual enlightenment.
Tantra has a history of rebellion against a conservative society, trying to break through taboos and rigid rules, and that’s why Tantra movements and practitioners themselves have been often persecuted and suppressed by the ruling classes. Tantra has always been seen as “dangerous” for an orderly society, and subsequently often as something that needed to be destroyed.
As for the types of Tantra we will discuss further below, note that you will find different interpretations in “the field,” notably in the West, and I’m not claiming that the definitions below are “the way.” This is just a help to “get some idea.” Moreover, in practice, “the colors” are not always strictly separated, and Tantra teachings and trainings may use one, mix some or blend all types of Tantra.
In any case, Tantra is a vast realm of Indian religious and spiritual practices, a way of life, or, perhaps better, a way to come to life, but trying to expound all Tantric types and practices in this post would lead to a book. So, for what it is, below you’ll just find a brief explanation of the types of Tantra, categorized in the way they are thought to be practiced nowadays.
White Tantra is a pure spiritual practice, which attempts to directly transcend the ego through disciplined mental and physical practices using Yogic and meditation techniques. Usually there’s a teacher or Guru involved who shares or transfers the teachings. Well-known White Tantra practices are, for instance, Tantra Yoga, Tantric Kundalini Yoga and Kriya Yoga, and typically in White Tantra you will find plenty use of chants, mandalas, nyasas, mantras, yantras and mudras.
White Tantra is seen as a direct and fast way to attain spiritual growth and finally self-realization or spiritual enlightenment. In fact, White Tantra tries to directly bypass or overcome dark or suppressed elements in our being with certain techniques. It perhaps brings those elements into consciousness, but there’s no aim to materialize or realize them. Nevertheless, physical health, pureness and well-being are deemed important also for spiritual growth, thus work on preparing the body is likewise of significance.
Additionally, in White Tantra much work is done on the purification and refinement of the heart to come into perpetual love. Nonetheless, even White Tantra may be practiced with sensual, partner and sexual elements, which some then call Pink Tantra.
Red Tantra is more focused on using and transforming sensuality and sexuality into spiritual realms. There’s the idea of looking into and embracing that what is forbidden, the taboos, in order to release trapped energy. It’s thought that this trapped energy causes blockages and frustrations and hinders us to become a complete, whole human being expressing our inner self in a healthy and balanced way.
This has often to do with suppressed emotions and desires, in which suppressed sexuality plays an important part. But it can extend also to other issues, like, for instance, the use of drugs, eating meat, or uncontrolled dancing, and such. In fact, it’s about liberating ourselves from perceptions, prejudices, rules, morality, and judgments prevalent in society.
Notably within the Neo-Tantra movement we see a lot of work done in the intimacy, sexual, and genital sphere. Think of modalities and practices such as Lingam Massage, Yoni Massage, Tantric Breathwork, Sexual Union and Tantric Sex, Sexual and Emotional Dearmoring Bodywork, Yoni Mapping, and Yoni Wand practices, just to give you some examples.
Dark Tantra can be considered a “specialized” form of Red Tantra and moves into areas such as bondage, sensory play, sensation play, kink, fetishes and other sadomasochistic practices, but in a space that’s sacred and safe. The idea here is to overcome suppressed sexuality, accepting and embracing our sexuality, desires and dark side, and unlocking and moving Tantric vital energy through the body. In fact, in its highest form it’s about transformation and healing.
On a practical level, one could see Dark Tantra as a blend of BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism), Tantra and Tantric Massage, creating a combination of that what is forbidden and blissful at the same time. Examples of contemporary Dark Tantric bodywork are Kinkassage® and Bondassage®, which are Neo-Tantric and Neo-Taoist blends mixing Tantra, Taoist Bodywork, Kink, Fetishism, Bondage and Massage.
Black Tantra is a form of Tantra that focuses on esoteric practices of working with dark material and occult energies to realize the intentions of the practitioner. Its about acquiring and exercising magical powers. One could compare it with so-called Black Magic.
The practice, for instance, uses sexual energy to visualize certain desires during sexual intercourse and orgasm, which then supposedly come true in actual life. It’s thought also that it uses certain Tantra techniques and Tantric rituals to create alternative realities, or to manipulate and control other people.
An interesting way of looking at Black Tantra is that it — in contrast to the other colors of Tantra — aims at not only achieving full consciousness of our inner-most (often hidden) desires, but also at realizing or materializing those. In fact, it makes Black Tantra a more explicit ego-based practice.
Of course, the root idea of Black Tantra is also to embrace and overcome our ego, but the temptations of actual powers acquired to realize (materialize) deep hidden desires, may finally leave the practitioner trapped in “the dark.”