ANDREI LAPIN
Hindu Tantra. From Encyclopedia “Religions of the World”, v.1, 1997, “Avanta +

 

Many thousands of years ago, among an amazing beauty of tropical valleys, surrounded by eternal snows of the great Himalayas and filled with fragrance of flowers and singing birds, on the shores of the purest mountain rivers, Parvati asked her beloved Shiva: “O Shiva, what is your true reality? What is this wonder-filled Universe? What  constitutes seed? Who centers the Universal wheel? What is this life beyond form pervading forms? How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and description? Let my doubts be cleared!” Shiva answered the questions made by king’s daughter of the Himalayas, and their dialogue formed the basis of Tantra texts.

 

Subject and history of hindu tantra

Tantra does not answer the question “What is the truth?”. It answers the question “how can we experience the truth?” As a practical system of intensive spiritual development, Tantra aims at full realization of one’s divine nature. The Sanskrit word Tantra comes from two words: tanoti and trayyati. Tanoti means “expand” and trayyati “release”. Along with this, both words refer to consciousness. Thus, the word tantra means “liberation through expansion” or, to be more exact, “liberation of consciousness by means of its expansion.” Also, the word tantra is commonly translated as “activity” or “action”, referring to the activity or action of consciousness. A modern master of tantra has defined it as: “Tantra is an energy that arises in a consciousness between the emergence of an question and finding an answer to it.” The word “tantra” is also reffered to the sacred tantric texts, such as “Vigyan Bhairav Tantra,” “Sammohan Tantra”, “Tantraradzha Tantra”, “Kularnava Tantra”, “Mahanirvana tantra” and others. Some of the tantric texts do not have the word “tantra” in their titles, for example, such as “Shiva sutra”, “Ananda Lahari”, “Thirumandiram” and others.

Like any other religious system, the Hindu tantra also includes some complicated religious and philosophical ideas about the world and the man, as well as a complex of various religious rites. However, much of the techniques used in tantra, goes far beyond the usual concepts of religious rites. Many of tantric practices are really complicated, aimed at a complete change of the whole man, including his body, energy and consciousness. (This is why tantra texts are sometimes called sadhana shastra, i.e. sacred texts which are practice-oriented.) In this connection, tantra is sometimes called tantric yoga. It is interesting to note that almost all Hindu yoga is a branch of tantra. A characteristic feature of tantric practice is the use of sexual energy for its further transformation into a spiritual energy. Another feature of tantra is that it uses absolutely all available means and human qualities for spiritual progress. That is surprising, but even one’s vices and defects can become a powerful tool for Liberation! In Tantra there is no single aspect of life, which could not be transformed into a spiritual practice.

The history of tantra is lost in the mists of time. It is believed that Vedas and tantric texts arose from one common source. In “Tirumandirame” it is said that the Vedas and Agamas (tantric texts) differ only in giving much importance to some practice or other. And, also a small number of tantric texts of ancient writing period cannot be explained by the fact that tantra never existed at that time. Firstly, in tantra the knowledge was always carefully guarded from the profane in order to avoid its misapplication. Up to a certain time knowledge could be transferred from a teacher to a disciple only in an individual oral form resulting in being written only at a later time. Secondly, in tantra there is a unique view of the fact that there is a continuous process of replacement of old texts with the new ones. In this case the actual nature of the texts is preserved, but the form of presentation and the language comply with the new times, with the place and the circumstances.

The reason for this is that tantra is not a dogmatic or unchanging formal system. Tantra is a living and constantly updated system which permanently improves its methods. Therefore, the emergence of tantra is not associated with the name of one person, it has been formed by many outstanding masters. Perhaps, the first one, among all the famous ones (chronologically and by his importance) is considered to be Shiva.

 

Shiva

According to a legend, Shiva lived about 5 – 7 thousand years ago, and was recognized by all the high priorities of his time as the greatest Mahasiddha (attained complete perfection) and an avatar (divine incarnation). His wife Parvati was also a great practitioner and together with Shiva she could completely realize her divine nature. Subsequently, Shiva and Parvati became identified with the respective deities of Hindu pantheon, and some details of their biographies have become legends of gods Shiva and Parvati. Many tantric texts have got a form of dialogues between Shiva with Parvati .

Having reached the highest stage of spiritual evolution ever possible in a human body, Shiva transformed his physical body into a state of “immortal golden light.” (In Taoism this achievement is called as “diamond body”, in Tibetan Buddhism as “rainbow body”, it is called by indigenous mystics of Africa as “body of light”, in esoteric Christianity as “body of glory”. Such transformation of the physical body Don Juan Matus called as “burning with fire from within”.) In this immortal body Shiva showed himself to many outstanding masters of tantra and yoga, taking them to various secret practices.

Among some other famous masters of the past were Nandi Dewar, Agastyar, Tirumular, Boganathar, Matsyandranat, Goraknat, Patanjali, Vasugupta, Sri Kant Nakulisa, woman Kudambay, Valmiki and others who “broke the scepter of death, wandering in the Universe.” They all made a significant contribution to the formation of tantric yoga.

 

Structure of the Universe. The three gunas

According to the views of tantra, the entire Universe is composed of the unmanifested and the manifested parts. The unmanifested part of the Universe is an infinite ocean of the eternal Supreme Divine Consciousness called Shiva. The manifested part of the Universe, from its atoms to galaxies, was created and is being maintained by the eternal infinite Divine Energy or Power, called Shakti. Shiva is a static aspect of God, His Consciousness, and Shakti is a dynamic aspect of His creative, executive Power. At the same time, “Shiva has the power to create only in connection with Shakti” (“Anandalahari”). Moreover, “Shiva without Shakti becomes like cadaver (“Devi Bhagavata Purana”). Shiva is in constant connection with Shakti. “Everywhere Divine Form dwells, everywhere there is Shiva-Shakti”.

According to tantra, the manifested part of the Universe, or Prakriti (the Great Nature), created by Shakti’s power has three gunas, i.e., the main characters or the main properties. They are: sattva is a principle of light, harmony and balance; rajas is a principle of activity, mobility, and anxiety; tamas is a principle of inertia, darkness and reaction. The human consciousness also has three gunas. The guna, that manages to dominate, determines the human being’s existence, his behavior and his relationship with the world around. Sattva is a proper state of consciousness, appearing in it as a clear perception and wisdom. Sattva’s people appreciate the truth they have high creativity and intelligence, they are in a state of harmony with themselves, with others and with nature. Those in whom rajas is most strong, they are passionate and venturous, they energetically seek power, they love to lead and they appreciate prestige and authority. They are “warriors” in the wide sense of this word. People, in whom Tamas prevails, are inert, they are in the trap of fear, ignorance, servility and of destructive forces.

Each of the three gunas is necessary, but in its own place. With their unnecessary confusion or change of places there is what is subjectively perceived as impurity or disharmony. As an example, we can take an ordinary mud, which is a mixture of soil and water, each element of which is not considered individually as something impure. In Tantra, the purification of man is not removing of “impurity”, but restoring of the proper order of gunas, i.e. their separation from chaos. At the same time, what the man considered inside of him as “impurity”, “sin” and “evil”, now becomes for him like a valuable source from which practitioner can extract some building material to restore his harmony and purity. But, tantra is not just limited to that, leading a practitioner even higher, to the Divine, which is beyond the three gunas …

 

Five elements

The three gunas give birth to five elements, or natural elements. From sattwa consisting of clearness, ether arises, i.e. space. From rajas, consisting of activity, we have fire. From tamas consisting of inertia, earth originates. The “layer” between rajas and tamas, combining both mobility and inertia, is water. And between sattva and rajas there is a subtle but rather movable element which is air. These Mahabhutas (great basic elements, or entities) symbolize the five levels of density of any substance in the Universe: matter, energy and consciousness. For example, they are the following for matter : solid (element of earth), liquid (element of water), gaseous (element of air), radiant (element of fire) and ethereal (element of space). As all was created by a Divine creating energy of Shakti and all consists of her, all the existing is just her various forms. The five elements are just pure modifications of Shakti. In human consciousness, in the emotions and in the body all these five elements are also manifested.

 

Symbolism and language of hindu tantra. Lingam and Yoni.

Tantra is also called kauladharma or kaula. Kaula comes from the word kula, which means Shakti and «akula», which means Shiva. Kaula is the unity of Shiva and Shakti. The universal principle of unity between Shiva and Shakti is symbolically embodied in lingam, or in Shivalinga (phallic symbol, representing Shiva) and yoni (symbol of female genital organs, representing Shakti). Lingam in Yoni symbolizes sexual coition. Lingam in yoni is a model of any thing, and even of the entire Universe. With respect to humans, this symbol means the following. Lingam is atman, i.e. Divine Consciousness which is present in a human being. Yoni is a man himself: his body, energy, mind) Lingam in yoni means that Divine Consciousness is present in a human being as natural, strong and organical, as it is in a man and in a woman at the time of thier sexual coition. Another interpretation of this symbol is that from lingam (from the depth of the space) in yoni (into our world) a continuous stream of energy is flowing which is nectar (sudha-dhara-gamya-pradesha), flowing from coition (samarasya) between Shiva and Shakti. This energy animates the existence of our world, filling it with itself as the wind fills away the sails. Also lingam represents Purusha, i.e. the Primal Spirit (Shiva) and yoni (Prakriti), i.e. the Great Nature (Shakti). In India, for example, many of the mountain peaks are sacred places for the pilgrimage of tantra practitioners, as they represent shivalingam (Sri Kailash, Adi Kailash Shivalinga, etc.). According to some reports, throughout India there are over thirty million of lingams established (mainly in stone)!

Almost all the symbolism of tantric is sexual (and that is why it is beautiful, attractive and it can have a strong impact on the person who is perceiving it). Even the ultimate goal of tantra is usually described as sexual union with the Divine Truth, which gives endless freedom and is accompanied by infinite bliss. Many tantric practices are described as maithuna sadhana (practice of sexual coition). In tantra maithuna in a natural and obvious way symbolizes the complete fusion of the two separated parts into a whole. Here is an example to describe this practice from “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” (“Explanation of hatha yoga”) by Svatmarama:

“Between the Ganges and the Yamuna (rivers in India) there is a young virgin. It is necessary to take  her by force on the royal throne.” 

An ignorant man, if he understands the words of the text in thier direct menaning and tries to fulfill them exactly as they are, he will be sure to find himself in the wrong boat. An initiated knows that the Ganges and the Yamuna, they are ida and pingala (the left and the right energy channels running along the spine). A young virgin means kundalini, or the kundalini Shakti or kulakundalini (the primordial energy, hidden in the base of the spine). The royal throne means sahasrara (the top chakra, an important energy center, located in the top of the head area). Thus, this technique describes the process of lifting of a latent internal energy and its merging with consciousness. Consciousness, awakened by this energy and having absorbed its power, arouses for the cognition of the Divine reality. This leads to samadhi (a higher state of Divine Consciousness) and to mastering siddhas (hidden superpowers).

 

Chakra, kundalini and nadi

According to tantra, every human being has consciousness, energy and body. The body is the most dense, “material” part. The body itself may exist only as a corpse. The energy circulating in special energy structures makes it alive, which are called chakras and nadis. Nadis (literally “flows”) are channels through which the body’s energy moves. Nadis converge and intersect in seven chakras (literally “wheels” or “whirls”) located along the axis of the body, corresponding approximately to the spine. Chakras are “containers” in which energy is accumulated, converted and stored. The energy, chakra and nadis exist within the body, but not in the physical level, but in other (more “subtle”) spatial dimensions. There are thousands of Nadis (sometimes the exact numbers are cited from 72,000 to 300,000) extending from sushumna which is the central channel lying within the spine. (I would not be correct if we replace the word “energy” by “prana” where is only possible, as they are used to do in the West, because prana is really only one of the fifteen kinds of energy.)

Chakras and nadis under the influence of special practices can help us to awake our highest spiritual faculties. The lowest chakra muladhara is situated at the base of the body. It is the place where the kundalini energy is, providing the potential to achieve higher levels of consciousness and mergence with God. In the dormant state muladhara is an instinctive nature of a person, it is the center of both passion and inertia, but being awakened, it is spiritual potential and immutable base. Svadhishthana is situated above muladhara, in the lower abdomen. Normally this chakra is the sex center, the center of the subconscious, the storehouse of all the experiences and aspirations. Awakening this chakra is associated with the transformation of all the repressed and forgotten, with the transformation of sexual energy. At the level of the upper part of the abdomen is manipura, which represents will and action. For another thing, it is also responsible for the production of negative emotions like anger, for example. Her awakening gives a new permanent base for kundalini (which was formerly muladhara) and encourages an practitioner to spiritual practice. Anahata is located at the heart level and chest and is associated with love and compassion, with creative power and ability to overcome one’s fate. Vishuddha is at the throat level and it is the center of discernment, orientation in situations and acceptance of life in all its manifestations. Ajna is located at the eyebrows level and is associated with the activity of consciousness, particularly with intelligence and awareness. Sahasrara is in the top of the head. It is like a crown of ascending consciousness, its transition to the ultimate reality.

The awakened kundalini, which is difficult to be a managed, is identified with goddess Kali, tending to destruction. When kundalini becomes manageable and brings peace and bliss, it turns into Durga, a beautiful goddess. At different levels the awakened kundalini manifests itself as a creative energy, and, in accordance with the level of manifestation, it is identified with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, and other manifestations of Shakti. When kundalini reaches sahasrara, it is identified with maithuna (connection) of Shiva (consciousness) and Parvati- Shakti (kundalini), and it reveals in a human the highest level of the Divine Consciousness.

 

Schools and methods of hindu tantra 

“Classical” Tantra exists in various schools, among which the main ones are shaivas (or shivaites), shaktis, vaishnavas, ganapathis, kaumaras (or skandas) and sauritys. The most significant among them are shaivas, shaktis and vaishnavas, which, in their turn, are divided into directions. In addition, there are small tantric groups formed around a guru, and they mainly differ in their own traditions. (In general, such division into different directions and groups is conventional. In fact, tantra practitioners are not interested in this division, but the so-called “researchers” from outside, who can commonly understand tantra like just a simple spoon tasting soup.)

As a rule, the texts by shaivas and shaktis form a dialogue between Shiva and his spouse Shakti. Such texts are of two types: agama and nigama. “Agamadvayta nirvayya” says: “Agama is called so because it comes from the lips of Shiva and passing to his wife Shakti.” Thus Shiva is a guru (spiritual teacher) and Shakti is a shishya (disciple). If we take it all vice versa (Shakti will be a teacher and Shiva will be a disciple), as it is the text “Nigama kalpadruma”, the text will be called nigama. “It is called nigama because it comes from Shakti, to be heard by Shiva” (“Agamadvayta nirvayya”). The texts of other schools are usually called Agama, although they are not presented in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Shakti.

For shaivas the main deity is Shiva, symbolizing the infinite Divine Consciousness. Shaivas use lots of different exercises where yoga in its many forms is the essence of practical shivaism. The main areas of shivaism are Kashmir shivaism, or northern advaita, or trika (created by Vasugupta, North India), shivaite siddhanta (created by Tirumular, South India), shivaism of Lingayats (Central India), pasupata (created by Nakulisoy, Gujarat), siddha siddhanta (created by Gorakhnath, North India), shiva advaita (created by Sri Kant, South India). Other shivait groups are aghorus (that sometimes consider themselves shaktis), udasinys, nagys, dundees, viraktis, kapalikas, kalamukhas etc. whose followers, in their majority, are wandering ascetics or hermits, applying intense and sometimes very harsh methods of practice.

Shaivas and Shakti are very alike, sometimes so much that a shaiva can simultaneously be shakti and vice versa. The main deity of shaktis is Shakti that has dozens of different forms. The difference is that shaivas mainly use ascesis, but shaktas use much more in their practices what can give pleasure. “Rudrayamala tantra” says: “Liberation and pleasure are between the two folded hands.” Therefore, Tantra is also called bhuktimuktikaranika, i.e. the practice of using pleasure to achieve liberation. I Shiva Parvati teaches in “Vigyan Bhairav Tantra”, “Wherever satisfaction is found, in whatever act, actualize this”. But, there pain is also offered as a practice: “Pierce some part of you nectar filled form with a pin, and gently enter the piercing and attain to the inner purity.” Then, Shiva starts to explains “O Beloved, put attention neither on pleasure nor on pain, but between these.”

For vaishnavas the main deity is Vishnu. Such groups as nimbarkas, madhvas, valabhis, ramanandas, bayradzhis or tyagis, rasikas, sakhis, etc. belong to the vaishnavas. For example, some rasika men wear women’s clothing and they identify themselves with a female deity to merge the internal male and the female (consciousness and energy). Sakhi men use visualization of maithuna with a selected deity, feeling his goddess-wife. For ganapathis the main deity is Ganesha or Ganapati, the eldest son of Shiva and Parvati with the head of an elephant. Ganapati almost completely ceased to exist as a separate tantric school and now it is generally merged with Hinduism. Kaumarams worship Kumar, the youngest son of Shiva and Parvati, also known as Skanda, Subramani, Kartikeya and Murugan. He is depicted as a beautiful young ascetic. This trend is common in South India. Sauritys worship Surya, a god of Sun. In India the minorities following this tradition remained mainly in the states of Assam, Orissa and Bengal.

 

Hatha yoga, pranayama, dhyana and tapasya

Ancient masters of Tantra eleborated a great number of excellent methods of spiritual development. Among them Hatha Yoga, a practice dating back to Shiva, Patanjali and Gorakhnath. In hatha yoga they use retention and relaxation of the body in certain postures (asanas). Each asana works, firstly, on the practitioner’s body, developing his body healthy, strengthening and rejuvenating. Secondly, each asana changes the distribution of inner energy, making it move on certain nadis, thus developing and purifying them, and also some certain chakras. Third, each asana corresponds to a particular state of consciousness, its own meditation (sancrit dhyana). (From the word “dhyana” there is the Chinese “channa” which gave the name for chan buddhism. The word “chan” got turned into the word “zen” in Japan). Meditation is the basic method for many practices of tantra and yoga. In classical yoga of eight grades Patanjali dhyana corresponds to the penultimate seventh grade. Meditation is a state in which our consciousness is completely merged with the object of observation, i.e., the observer is identical with the same object of obsevation, being in a state of full awareness of what is happening. If an object of meditation is, for example, a flower, the meditator can really feel himself to be a flower. He will continually feel his petals, his mostures flowing along the stem, the way the energy moves inside of him, how he can feed upon the power of the Sun and the Earth. At this moment his consciousness, which is the consciousness of the flower, results that the meditator is the flower. The most common objects of meditation are consciousness itself or God. In tantric yoga it is believed that the present knowledge of something is only possible through meditation, i.e., by experiencing fully the truth, and not by using intellect alone. Intellectual knowledge is an attempt to understand the truth by your mind, and meditation is an attempt to feel it by all your being where mind is only a small part of it.

Other good practices to work with the body, energy and consciousness are pranayamas (prana is ascending energy, yama means control). The initial pranayamas use the connection between breathing and the state of inner energy of human. Like asanas, pranayama can purify and develop chakras and nadis, they can calm one’s mind and change a state of consciousness. Higher pranayamas are not associated with physical respiration, they can change the quality of a human body and consciousness, saturating them with God and making them immortal: “If you breathe … the ascending up fire manifests itself as a guru, which manifests as the essence of the Truth. It dissipates the darkness of the night. … If the energy circulates, the short-lived physical body will manifest the power of ten million suns. ” These are the words by the immortal Tamil Siddha Boganathar, who, according to a legend, visited China with a spiritual mission under the name of Lao Tzi, taking a form of a Chinese. (To be more precise, he transfers his consciousness to the body of a recently deceased Chinese and then to revive it with his energy. That’s why in China, Lao Tzi is called “born old”.)

Tantric methods of ascetics, who are usually implemented by about four or five million people just only in India (!), are realized in numerous tapasyas (practices) to transform the fire of sexual energy into a spiritual fire. For the uninitiated ones, such tapasya looks like unclear and often shocking. However, behind an exotic strange form a very deep inner meaning is hidden. Here are some of tapasyas which have been frequent so far. Mauna is silence. Khareshvara is a continuous standing for at least for twelve years. Thus it is impossible to bend over, sit or lie down, even during the sleep. For the rest one can use only a special support which can be used only for a slight recline. Ek-bahu is a continuous holding of one’s right hand raised for a period of twelve years or even more. This tapasya certainly should be completed by lowering one’s hands. In tapasya punch-agni (five fires), one of the most ancient ones, the practitioner surrounds himself with four fires and then contemplates the Sun, as the fifth highest fire. Full Panch-agni lasts for eighteen years, meanwhile the intensity of the fires increases gradually so that when some time has passed, the tantra practioner gets surrounded of flame ring. Each of the five lights symbolizes the flame, transforming the five elements of the body, energy and consciousness into the Divine elements.

 

Mantras

Many tantra practices use mantra. The word mantra comes from the words «manas» that mean mind or conditioned consciousness and «trayyati» that means to liberate. Mantras are sounds or words that have the power to influence the state of the body, energy and consciousness. With the help of mantras we purify the inner space so that God could enter there. Mantras can also heal, affect the functioning of internal organs, clear energy channels, activate chakras, convert the internal energy, cause desired emotions, comfort or concentrate the mind, clear the consciousness and immerse it into a state of meditation. Bija-mantra (seed-mantra) is untranslatable monosyllabic mantras, each of which is an acoustic incarnation (manifestation) of a certain type of energy. Each Bija-mantra corresponds to a specific action (expansion, compression, etc.), to a area of a organism, to a element or to some aspect of God. For example, Bija-Mantra “lam” is associated with an earth element and with muladhara chakra, “vam” is assiciated with a water element and with svadhisthana, “ram” with a fire element and with manipur, “yam” with an air element and with anahata, “ham” with a space element and with visuddha. One of the practices of tantra is an experiencing of any sound like mantra. All the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are bija mantras. The name of any object or phenomenon in Sanskrit (and in some other ancient languages) is that a combination of bija-mantras making up an appropriate word, expresses exactly the energy which is contained in an object or phenomenon. (All the names of objects were created in that way. Just like a ray of light passing through a prism, decomposing into a spectrum, i.e. into those rays of which it consists, as well as the energy, which is inherent to any thing, was “decomposed” by an enlightened consciousness of a master into different elementary components. And they were verbalized according to appropriate bija mantras. Obviously, all that process was not a result of itellectual analysis.) Therefore, in tantra it is considered that to tell the truth is very important. If the words do not correspond to the reality, the energy, awakened by them, does not correspond to the energy of the reality, either . The energy, created by lies, does not have any place in the real world, and it, finally, turns against the one who has pronounced those lies. On the contrary, if a realized master says what is not true, his words will get materialized. The energy, which he awakens with his words, is so strong, that it can change the reality. Tantra says that the nature of a man is manifested in his speech and, as a sound is closely related to the energy, the word “speech” is often understood not only as “normal” speech, but the entire human inner energy, and sometimes the term “energy” is often replaced by the word “speech”.

Many mantras have complex effects, influencing directly on the three spheres of human existence: body, energy and consciousness. For example, such property is one of the main mantras of shaivas “Om namah Shivaya”. We can translate it as “Om. I praise the name of Lord (Shiva).” Its inner and secret meanings are the following. “Om” is a conjoint recitaion of bija mantra “aum”. In Tantra there is an idea that all the Creation is generated by mantra “aum”, which is the bija-mantra of the Universe. In “aum” the sound “a” refers to the manifested world, to the physical Universe. The sound “y” refers to the world of energy. The sound “m” personifies Higher Consciousness. For human the same sound “a” corresponds to his body and to his normal state of consciousness. The sound “u” refers to inner human energy and consciousness in the dream state. The sound “m” refers to the consciousness in a state of sleep without dreams. (“Mandukya Upanishads”). “Nama” symbolizes the direction to anywhere or connection with anything. “Shivaya” symbolizes an ocean of Higher Divine Consciousness. Thus, the recitation of “Om nama Shivaya” means: “I, with all my body, energy and with all the states of consciousness, merge with God.” (It is interesting that the word “Allah” for Sufis has exactly the same meaning. So, the sound “a”, the letter “alef” symbolizes a human being. Double «L» (“ll”), two letters “lam” is an aspiration for something, a worship to something. “Ah,” symbolizes the transition to something transcendental… Indeed, the “Truth can be compared with a fountain, which spurts with one water jet up , and then it falls in a great number of drops down at different times and at different places” (Inayat Khan).)

Mantra is repeated not only loud (japa), but also to oneself (ajapa japa). They are repeated, too, concentrating on any chakra and achieving a sensation of mantra sounding inside one’s chakra. There are practices in which mantra can saturate every cell of the body so that the entire organism turns into a vibrant mantra. The repetition of mantras is often combined with respiration exercises. For example, in mantra “so ham”, meaning “I am That (i.e., God)”, on an inspiration “so” is pronounced, and on an exhalation “ham”.

 

Yantras

Also, in the practice of tantra yantras are used which are closely connected with mantras. Yantra (literally means a machine, a functioning device) is a pattern in the form of diagram, which like mantra, has the power to influence the state of the body, energy and consciousness. Mantra is an embodiment of a sound energy, yantra is its visual form. Like sounds of music, which can be written down, mantra can be represented as a corresponding yantra. Complex yantras are called mandalas. Yantras are painted on silk, on the bark of certain trees, on copper, on gold or on body. The process of yantra creation itself is a special ritual. For meditation yantra is contemplated so that it could “absorb” one’s consciousness. In order to intensify the effect, yantra is often contemplated, while reciting a corresponding mantra. The images of many yantras already contains a corresponding mantra . Yantras are not only for contemplation. They can also be visualized inside the body. Some yantras are big and they are painted on the ground. Such yantras are used for having special pujas inside of them (worship rites). Meanwile yantra works as a device manifesting the Divine energy. Dhuni (a pit for a rite to make a sacred fire) is also yantra. In Tantra, all objects and phenomena are considered as a kind of yantras. Even the entire Universe is an endless cosmic yantra. The best yantra is a human body. So, asanas (postures) of hatha yoga is nothing but yantras formed from the body. Each “body yantra” creates its own energy, which is “working” in a given asana. A special role has the practice in which an individual consciousness is perceived as a yantra that allows to go beyond one’s own limits.

 

Pujas. Rites of worship 

In Tantra a wide variety of pujas are often used, filled with deep inner meaning. In puja a worshiped deity represents some aspect of the Divine Consciousness and His creative energy. In tantra a worship rite implies the merging of a worshiper with an object of worship. Doing puja for Shiva or for Ganesha, for Kali or for Durga, the practitioner gets connected with waht is beyond the form. A deity is a gateway through whom a tantra practitioner steps into Eternity. In addition to that, a specific deity represents one aspect of One God, and therefore represents a certain standard state of inner energy or consciousness. Identifying with a deity during a rite a tantra practitioner can reach this state. So, Kali, who is managing the energy and transforming it from one form to another, personifies power. Ganesha is a power capable to clarify, including to destroy different obstacles and interferences on one’s spiritual way. Saraswati is a power of wisdom and creativity. Lakshmi is good luck and prosperity, etc. For example, if tantra practitioners find in themselves any vice, they can regularly practice a special puja. And, they should to visualize (i.e. to figure clearly) themselves in a form of Kali, cuting down the head of a corresponding demon that represents that vice. Some secret rites are associated with the representation of sexual coition with a deity (maithuna). In this case we use an image of two deities (for example, Shiva and Shakti), coupling with each other. Tantra practitioners must fully identify themselves with one of them. Feeling like a deity, a practitioner merges with a deity-partner, dissolving into each other) It can help to plunge in a desired state.

To dissolve in Shiva one can only by merging with Shakti that is in a continuous connection with him. That requires purification of the five elements. For such purification, called bhuta suddhi (i.e. purification of the elements) there is a great number of practices, including puja which is very important in tantra. The simplest puja may look like an offer of a picture or a sculpture of a deity of various offerings, among which the obligatory ones are: flowers, incense, food, sandalwood paste and a fire in an oil lamp. In this regard, flowers correspond to a space element , incense to an air element, an oil lamp to a fire element , food to a water element, sandalwood paste to an earth element. Consciously bringing all these offerings and realizing the mystical sense of what is happening, the practitioner is able to connect the respective elements of his body, energy and consciousness with the original source of the Divine, at the same time purifying them.

 

Pancha makara. Sexual tantra 

The same technique or puja at different stages of tantra is performed in different ways. The fact is that in the first levels of tantra it can look like an external form of worship, at a more advanced level of practice it works with inner energy, and then, with consciousness. This is a natural way. When a tantra practitioner moves forward, his inner experience is becoming deeper. A practitioner begins to identify himself not only with his own body but also with energy and with consciousness. As an example, you can take a well-known practice of tantric purification pancha makara sadhana (practice of five “m”). At the initial level they eat some meat (m ansa), some fish (m atsya), some cereals (m udra), some wine (m adira) and they practice sexual contact with their partners (m aythuna). Cereals correspond to earth, fish corresponds to water, wine to fire, meat to air, sex to pure space. A practitioner of this rite uses consciously each of the first four “m” to awaken and activate his corresponding energy and element. With their help, the sexual energy is intentionally activated. In the following sexual contact a tantra practtioner identifies himself and his partner with the two deities (usually it is Shiva and Shakti). Visualization (imagination) of all this should be so strong that a practitioner could really see and feel himself and his partner as those deities. The caused state of excitation is used to discover for the awareness of those depths of consciousness which are not usually reachable. In concurrence with this, the sexual energy separated from the emotions and desires that usually accompany it, completes ojas which is a subtle energy essence that has a vivifying effect on the entire organism. Climbing up into sahasrara, ojas kindles tejas which is a fire of consciousness that enhances medhagni a fire of mind and perception. Tejas and medhagni burn all darkness in consciousness. With the help of tejas and medhagni “inner maithuna” is carried out. When inner Shakti (i.e. the kundalini) merges with the inner Shiva (i.e. consciousness). Consciousness, liberated from the captivity of material world by the power of Shakti rushes to the Incomparable, the eternal Center, to the ocean of the only Reality, to the Divine.

Not every one who practices tantra is able to perform correctly this pancha makara. As for the people who are ignorant, on hearing about that rite and on complementing their ignorance with luxuriant fancy, they form a flagrantly falsified opinion about tantra, as about a sort of debauchery. As the humans usually tend to interpret everything, after they have learned a small part of something, they start to finish the whole picture with their own ideas. This is one of the reasons why tantra has been always kept in secret. In tantra, sexual contact is considered as a Divine gift, a sublime prayer, a possibility of contact with God. Ancient tantra teachers realized that such understanding was initially proper of a small number of people, and therefore they established a system of initiations, which protects the knowledge from any misinterpretations. In this respect, it is very interesting to see a symbolic meaning of many ancient tantric temples of India, such as that one of a famous temple complex in Khajuraho (which, by the way, in 1999, celebrated its millenium anniveresary). The facades of such temples are decorated with hundreds of erotic figures in the most possible unimaginable positions. But inside the temple there is nothing but the only symbol of the Divine Consciousness and its creating Energy. If a person remains outside the temple, he will see only these countless erotic figures. Entering inside, he will find only the Divine.

In the inner pancha macara five “m” acquire different meanings. Cereals are asanas (postures) that contribute to free energy movement, including kundalini, fish is pranayamas (a special kind of respiration), clearing energy channels, wine is amrita (a nectar of immortality, a special energy), born in the head and then descending into the body, meat is speech that represents the energy of the whole organism, sex is “inner maithuna”, i.e. kundalini connection with consciousness in sahasrara, leading to the merger of an individual consciousness with the Divine. The highest level of this practice is called adhidaivika (i.e. transcendental) pancha makara and it is associated with a complete purification of the five elements of the body, energy and consciousness. As a result, they clarify their state to the original state of shining light, from which they were once created. The preliminary stage of this process looks like a good transition of a physical body into a state of perfect youth. Further transformations realize a “body of golden light” , the highest state of Divine immortality.

 

Body of golden light 

On the way to the realization of body of golden light, a person overcomes five barriers: narai (gray hair), tirai (vague vision), muppu (old age), noi (illness) and maranam (death). In the process of all that, eight supernatural powers or siddhis manifest itself.

Here is how tantric saints describe the realization of body of golden light.

“There was a time when I despised my body, but then I saw God inside it and I realized that my body is a temple of Lord, and began to treat it with great care.” “The Supreme Lord, who gave me Knowledge, has entered into me and has manifested Himself in flesh of my body he has settled in me forever.” “By the sun and moon inflammations located in muladhara, even the hair got soft, delicate, shiny and emitting light.” “If a person reaches a lasting unity with the beautiful Divine Shakti … the wrinkles in his skin, and the gray in his hair disappear, and he becomes young again.” “Who has knowledge … can achieve immortality, gain a transformed body, forever young, free from aging and senility, which is a perfect incarnation of the Divine” (Tirumular). “I have prayed for a radiant body that would be forever … He fulfilled what I was praying, and now I have the body … O people, seek sanctuary in my Father, a ruler of Indescribable Magnificence, making even a physical body immortal ! .. Lord, Eternal Universal Love has given me a golden body and has merged with my heart. Merged in me, You with the Light of Mercy has transformed alchemically my body. ” The last words belong to Ramalinga Svamigalu, a saint of Vadalura (South India), who on the 30th of January, 1874 disappeared in a flash of violet light in the presence of disciples.

Unfortunately, the traditional perception of Hindu tantra in the West is amazingly primitive and superficial. The vast majority sees just only an “exotic art of love” in the radiant splendor of the way to achieve the Divine Perfection …

 

 

Additions: 

Meaning of the word “God”

In this article the word “God” (and its derivative adjective “Divine”) is not used in anthropomorphic, i.e., endowed with any of human qualities. Most often an anthropomorphic God is endowed with the qualities of the “Supreme Head”, a ruler, a judge, a punisher, a giver who can be asked for something. In the words of Xenophanes (6-5 centuries BC): “All create their own gods in their own likeness: if bulls and horses were able to sculpt, they would invent their own gods like bulls and horses.” The anthropomorphic conception of God is a product of fears and hopes of a limited human mind.

In reality, no human notions can correspond to the Reality, which is called God. Buddhists speak about it as something that is impossible to understand Nirvana with the samsaric (i.e. conditional) mind. Seeking God, some Hindus practice mantra “neti, neti” ( “not this, not this”). Each time with its help, they reject what they reveal as a result of their search. Hesychasts (mystics of Orthodoxy) perceive an apophatic experience, rejecting any idea of God in order to experience Him in direct experience. Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda that “a man is left to the the mercy of forces which are totally irrational, although at first glance they seem quite reasonable.”

 

The meaning of the words “Shiva” and “Shakti”

The word Shiva has several meanings. Here are some of them.

 Shiva is eternal ocean of the Supreme Divine Consciousness, the one God.

 Shiva is one of the three main gods of the Hindu pantheon (the other two are Vishnu and Brahma).

 Shiva symbolizes one of the three aspects of the divine perfection, an aspect of the Divine power (and Vishnu symbolizes the Divine love, and Brahma the Divine wisdom).

 Shiva is Power, destroying (or, to be more exact, dissolving) the Universe at the end of its existence (and Brahman is Force creating the Universe, and Vishnu is Force that maintains its existence).

 Shiva is a cosmic male principle.

 Shiva is the supreme consciousness of a human being.

 Shiva is force that destroys the defects in the process of spiritual perfection.

 Shiva is a historical person, one of the founders of tantra and yoga as a system.

 Shiva is the name of human spiritual evolution of the highest level, as well as one who has reached this stage.

There are other meanings of the word Shiva.

Here are some meanings of the word Shakti.

 Shakti is the great universal infinite Divine energy that is a creating and executing force of the ocean of the Divine Consciousness (Shiva), while Shakti is in a continuous merging with Shiva, representing with him two inseparable aspects of the only one Reality.

 Shakti is Divine Mother.

 Shakti is a manifested world.

 Shakti is Mother Nature.

 Shakti is a goddess of the Hindu pantheon, a wife of god Shiva.

 Shakti is inner energy of a person.

 Shakti is a cosmic female principle.

 Shakti is a female priciple of a man, his female half.

 Shakti is a female partner practicing tantric yoga.

Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Chamunda Devi, Bhavani, Tripura, Sundari, Bhairavi, Chandi, Tara, Meenakshi, Lalita, Kamakshi, Rajarajeswari are various forms of Shakti. Each of these forms represents an aspect of Shakti.

 

Shiva and Shakti

… Those who are ignorant they claim foolishly that Shiva and Love are two different things, and they do not know that only Love is Shiva. If a person knows that Love and Shiva is the same thing, he will become forever Love like Shiva. Everywhere Divine Form exists. Everywhere Shiva-Shakti … Everywhere there is Divine Dance. As Shiva is everywhere, Shiva’s mercy is omnipresent. Everything, everything is His divine playing …

(From “Tirumandiram”)

… O, Shakti! You are the sun, illuminating the inner darkness of ignorance, you are the source of sweetness of awareness, flowing for ignorance, … for which it was worth diving into the ocean of births and deaths … You the only one who gives freedom from fear and fulfils wishes … O, Custodian of the worlds! You are able to give more than we can wish for … Those are truly happy who worship You, the wave of consciousness and bliss, whose tenement is the bed on which resides the Supreme Shiva … O, the Divine, you thrusted through earth in muladhara, water in svadhistan, fire in manipur, air in the heart, ether over the heart and consciousness between the eyes, and so going up, in a secret lotus of sahasrar you are taking pleasure in your lord the Supreme Shiva …

(From “Ananda Lahari”)

 

Mastering the body connection with vices

If a tantra practioner does maithuna sadhana with his body, then he manages to master his body. That means the following. To connect with the body means to connect with your body your consciousness, i.e., start to percieve your body. Awareness is symbolized as sexual penetration of attention in the body, in every cell connecting them together. Tantra says that every one can really master one’s body only when getting aware of it. Awareness puts the body in order and gives a tantra practitioner comprehensive knowledge of all its functions and the ability how to manage them. As a result, a practitioner himself becomes master of his own body, and now his body starts to obey him, but not vice versa.

If a tantra practitioner does maithuna (connects) with his vices, his vices get transformed into virtues. In other words, tantra considers all qualities of a person, as a manifestation of his inner energy. A negative quality is manifestation of a contaminated energy. What is perceived as contamination of energy it is actually a violation of its right course. There may be whirls or obstacles on its way which manifest like vices, defects, imperfections, weaknesses. The energy itself is pure and faultless. It’s Shakti, the original Divine energy. All you need to do is to release the energy, connecting your consciousness and energy, i.e. becoming aware of the flow of energy. Just as in the case with the body, this connection symbolizes sexual attention and energy. What occurs from this connection is like untwining knots. Awareness “straightens the curved and expands the narrow.” The liberated energy begins to move freely and naturally. This flow of Shakti manifests either as a positive quality (virtue) or as siddhi.

In Tantra there is no concept of sin. There is ignorance, an inability to feel and to transform “bad” energy into a “good” one. If people knew all the consequences of their acts, they would have never done what they did. This approach is very constructive instead of a destructive and oppressive sense of guilt a human being is offered to learn and to change himself, i.e., to become perfect.

Everything is a manifestation of the original energy or Shakti. Shakti is in constant connection with Shiva or the Supreme Consciousness. To connect with this Divine Consciousness one can only by merging with Shakti. In the arsenal of tantra are methods to merge directly with Shakti, for example in the form of kundalini. There are methods to release Shakti in one of its manifestations, which can be a vice or a virtue. In this case, Shakti can be identified, detected in everything. We have just to “see the water behind the waves.” For this we need to merge with the form, with the manifestation. A simple example explains why the merger with the manifestation reveals content. Imagine that you are in a turbulent sea. If you resist the waves, they will throw you from side to side, beat your face, without letting you to see. If you sway on the waves, then you are motionnless respecting them. In this case, before your eyes there is a surface of calm waters, the waves do not interfere with the process of seeing them. In fact, waves do not exist for you. Waves are manifestations (vices, virtues, pain, pleasure, etc.). Water, i.e. is “building material” from which waves are made and they are Shakti.

 

Hinduism and tantra

The impact that tantra has had on the formation of traditional Hinduism is consuderable, but it is little known or often ignored. In fact, modern Hinduism is based mainly on tantra. It is not based only on vedas, as many people think. The main deities of vedas are Prajapati, Agni, Indra, Varuna, etc. But, nowadays, there are almost no temples in India dedicated to these gods. In modern Hinduism Shiva, Vishnu, Kali, Durga, Saraswati are worshiped , and in fact all of them are tantric deities.

 

Some of the techniques from “Vigyan Bhairav Tantra”

… Consider your essence as light rays from chakra to chakra up the vertebrae, and so rises “livingness” in you.

– Intone a sound, as AUM slowly, as sound enters soundfulness, so do you.

– Kind Devi, enter etheric presence pervading far above and below your form.

– Put mindstuff in such inexpressible fineness above, below and in your heart.

– When in wordly activities, keep attention between two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew.

– Focuse on fire rising through your form from the toes up until the burns to ashes but not you.

– With intangible breath in center of forehead, as this reaches the heart at the moment of sleep, have direction over dreams and over death itself.

– At the point of sleep, when the sleep has not yet come and the external wakefulness vanishes, at this point Being is revealed.

– Gracious One, play. The Universe is an empty shell wherein your mind frolics infinitely.

– Sweet heartened One, meditate on knowing and non-knowing, existing and non-existing. Then leave both aside that you may be.

– Look lovingly at some object. Do not go to another object. Here in the middle of the object – the blessing.

– Feel the cosmos as a translucent ever-living presence.

– When eating or drinking, become the taste of food or drink, and be filled.

– In summer when you see the entire sky endlessly clear, enter such clarity.

– Waking, sleeping, dreaming, know you as light.

– When some desire comes, consider it. Then, suddenly, quit it.

– This so-called Universe appears as juggling, a picture show. To be happy, look upon it so.

– Suppose you are gradually being deprived of strength or of knowledge. At the instant of deprivation, transcend.

-Be the unsame same to friend as to stranger, in honor and dishonor.

-I am existing. This is mine. This is this. O, beloved, even in such know illimitably.

– Feel the consciousness of each person as your own consciousness. So, leaving aside concern for your self, become each being.

– This consciousness is the spirit of guidance of each one. Be this one …

 

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