“Tantra” is Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Hindu tradition. Like many other sacred languages such as Hebrew or Tibetan, there is frequently not simply one singular meaning that can be applied to the words which we translate. Thus “tantra” is often translated as “continuum” or “unbroken stream” and indicates a flow of consciousness from ignorance to enlightenment. The word also translates as “web” or “warp” and encompasses all that is. Tantra represents the interconnecting energies between all things in this and other planes of existence. Other words used to describe tantra are: leading principle, essential part, model, system, framework, doctrine, rule, theory, scientific work, order, chief part, rule, authority, science, mystic works, magical formulas, means, expedient, stratagem, medicine.
The etymology of “tantra” comes from the combination of two words “tattva” and “mantra”. “Tattva” is the science of cosmic principles, while “mantra” refers to the science of mystic sound and vibrations. In the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition, tantra is sometimes referred to as “Secret Mantra”. This may be to distinguish it from being confused with Western concepts of neo-tantra. A definition of the meaning of Secret Mantra from the Tibetan Buddhist standpoint is as follows: `Secret’ indicates that these methods should be practiced privately. `Mantra’ means `protection for the mind’ and often utilizes sacred sound to do this. Thus, the function of Secret Mantra is to enable us to progress swiftly through the stages of the spiritual path by protecting our mind against ordinary conceptions through the use of sound.
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