Tantric rituals harness the power/engergy of taboo acts by including either actual or visualizations of alcohol, meat and sex into the ritual.

In that system, does it still work if people don't actually believe that there is anything wrong with drinking alcohol, eating meat or sex? Also, maybe I just am not familiar with tantra, but this list is 3 out of five of the five precepts. Do tantric rituals also harness the power of theft and killing?

  • are you counting eating meat as breaking one of the 5 precepts?
    – Robin111
    Oct 23, 2014 at 22:08
  • True, as discussed elsewhere, most sects don't make meat a 1st precept violation. Maybe they have to track down some meat that was specifically slaughtered for them, while they watched and listened to it happen. Oct 23, 2014 at 22:13

2 Answers 2


I don't see tantra as "harnessing the power/energy of taboo acts". First, working with controversial subjects like alcohol, meat, sex, theft, lying, and killing is a relatively small part of tantra, I would say no more than 1/10th or even 1/20th, people just tend to exaggerate it. Second, I don't believe these subjects are worked in order to harness their taboo energy, but rather to help the practitioner go beyond some of the deeper-lying preconceptions that may be hiding in the dark corners of psyche easily accessible through controversial means.

For example, if someone has residual anxiety of emotional intimacy and openness, sex may be prescribed as a practice that involves direct open contact with another person. Same with drinking feasts, which may be prescribed as a practice of sincere communication etc.

There is also symbolic/metaphorical component to tantra as @Bakmoon said. In this line of thinking, "having sex with everything that moves" symbolizes "naked" (open, sincere) engagement with the world and "killing one's father" symbolizes abandoning the tendency to self-judge and watch oneself in favor of trusting one's fundamental sanity.


Tantric symbolism is always multifaceted. Although a lot of the imagery in Tantra is very taboo, there's more to it than just shock value. For example, the five nectars of urine, feces, menses, semen, and bone marrow aren't visualized in a skull-cup as an offering because they are transgressive, but because they represent the five aggregates, and refering to them as nectar represents that for an enlightened being they are innately pure. Even if someone doesn't find any particular part of Tantra to be taboo, they still would make sense in terms of their other symbolic aspects.

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