"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Friday, November 13, 2015

The World of Tantra

The tantric literature is so vast that it is almost impossible to study it all, let alone practice a significant fraction of it - infact it is said that it would take even a true adept a thousand lifetimes to practice all the tantric disciplines. The texts are written in Sanskrit (with the exception of approximately a thousand texts in Pali, Prakrita, Tibetan, Hindi, and Bengali)and represent the cumulative knowledge of masters over millennial. We will take a look at the three main schools of tantra and delve into the distinctions between the left-hand and right-hand paths of the kaula school in coming posts, but for now what matters is to remember that all tantric texts and the techniques they describe have one characteristic in common: they adopt an integrative approach to sadhana, with the objective of making the best use of all possible resources, within and without.

Because their scope is all-encompassing, tantrics have always discarded conventional standards of morality, ethics,and purity whenever those standards were found to be obstacles to the process of personal growth and self-discovery, and this has set them apart from the religion into which they were born. Yet their liberal and scientific approach to personal fulfillment has prevented them from forming a tantric religion. Thus at a social level tantrism refers to a particular way of life, at a philosophical level it refers to shakti metaphysics,and at a spiritual level it consists of a set of techniques for gaining access to the multi-level forces within the human body and the cosmos.

According to tantrism there is a perfect equation between the universe (the macrocosm) and the human being (the microcosm). Through direct experience tantric masters throughout the ages have confirmed that the active and dormant forces in the universe correspond to the forces in the human body, and that the whole universe lies within each of us. And because tantrics hold the human being to be the pinnacle of creation, gaining complete knowledge of this interrelationship is considered the highest tantric endeavor.To this end they have experimented with the power of sound (mantra), form, color, and shape (yantra), and have documented their influence both on humans and on the different aspects of nature. They have studied the subtle properties of animals, herbs, and minerals, and have found ways of awakening the forces dormant within them to activate mantra,yantra, and the power of the mind. And in the process they have discovered how the energies of herbs, minerals, gems,planets, and constellations correspond to different parts of the human body. These findings ultimately resulted in tantric systems of yoga sadhana, medicine, astrology, and alchemy, which are well-documented in tantric texts and allied literature.

As its diversity shows, tantra approaches sadhana holistically,holding that to experience the beauty in the fabric of life we must weave together all of its torn and tangled threads.That is why most tantric practices consist of a range of disciplines involving the body, senses, breath, and mind, as well as the use of ritual objects, mantra recitation, silent meditation,visualization of deities, and meditation on a purely abstract, formless, divine being. The goal is to demolish the illusion that a wall stands between the individual and the divine, to correct the false impression that internal and external reality are mutually exclusive.

Fire is the center of all tantric rituals, both external and internal; the study of tantra cannot be fruitful without the esoteric knowledge of fire. It is fire that transforms the gross matter of the herbs and other ritual ingredients offered to it into subtle energy that can be recognized by the corresponding subtle forces residing in the psyche and its counterpart in the cosmos. And this process is governed and guided by the power of mantra, yantra, and ishta deva (a personal form of the impersonal divine being), as well as by our own faith. And that is why tantric rituals, accompanied by a fire offering and performed precisely, help the practitioner achieve the desired goal quickly and easily.

Still, this is no simple matter. Tantra is a complex science involving not only extensive scriptural knowledge but also guidance from a competent master, who can create a perfect structure for spiritual practice. A master well-versed in tantric scriptures knows how to determine the exact time and place for performing the ritual to ensure its maximum potency, and to this end he or she can initiate a student into appropriate mantra along with its corresponding yantra.By looking into the practitioner's planetary placement in astrological charts, the adept can give precise instructions on how to use specific herbs, flowers, minerals, and grains as part of the fire offering.What is more, every practice is accompanied by a cluster of disciplines, which only a true adept can teach with precision. These ordinarily consist of mudras (hand gestures) and nyasas (techniques for synchronizing the different forces of the main and subordinate mantras in one's body);techniques for creating a harmonious balance between oneself and the forces of the cosmos;and techniques connecting oneself with the power of the mantra by means of intense visualization of the deity along with the recitation of a long set of mantras [known as kavacha (armor), kilaka (anchor), hridaya (heart), patala (flower petals), etc].

Courtesy:Tantra Unveiled by Rajmani Tigunait


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