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

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Three Schools of Tantra

Over time the tantrics developed so many techniques that it became impossible to study them systematically or even to find a progression from one type of practice to another. So the adepts made an attempt to categorize them, using as a guide the journey from gross to subtle, from the external to the internal realm. And on the basis of this simple reasoning they divided all tantric practices and techniques into three major categories: those employing external objects, those which are purely meditative, and those which combine both techniques.This is the basis for the three major schools of tantra.

Most humans operate at the level of body consciousness: our sense of pleasure and pain and our experience of success and failure correspond to our bodies and to the world around us. So all the tantric practices requiring the involvement of our bodies, senses, and material objects were organized into one group called kaula - literally, "that which is related to kula (the family)." This is the path of householders. Practices accompanied by rituals, the recitation of scripture, pilgrimage to holy shrines, and fire offerings belong to the kaula path.The goal of tantric practices at this level is to organize life in such a way that everything - including interpersonal relationships,the acquisition of material objects, and the satisfaction of the biological urges -becomes a means to spiritual growth.

Another category of practices is used to internalize the rituals. Those who aim at complete independence from external objects but who have not yet gained access to the inner realm of consciousness undertake this set of practices, which are partly ritualistic and partly meditative. Because they combine both techniques they are called mishra, literally "mixture" or "combination."

The third category of practices consists of purely meditative techniques that enable the aspirant to maintain awareness of their oneness with the Divine within. This school of tantra is called samaya, which means "one with Her." Its goal is to allow consciousness to move upward through the energy channel that flows between the eyebrow center and the center at the crown of the head. It is only after gaining access to this channel, called the brahma nadi, that practitioners can achieve their goal of meditating at the crown chakra and experience their oneness with the Divine Mother.

All tantric practices, from the lowest end of the spectrum to the highest, fit into one of these three categories: kaula, mishra, and samaya; they refer to external, combined, and internal practices. There is no strict rule holding an aspirant to this sequence, but adepts usually initiate students into kaula practices first. Even before this, however, students are led through a preliminary series of practices, beginning with standard mantra meditation and followed by the tantric way of meditating on that mantra. Only then is the corresponding yantra introduced, along with the practice of rituals.

Unfortunately the majority of students stop their quest at this point and start to experiment with tantric techniques that aim at cultivating the power to perform miracles. According to the scriptures, however, to concentrate on such powers is a distraction and an obstacle to spiritual growth; if we are not diligent, some of them can be injurious. That is why such practices are called "forbidden tantra." But if we do not become entangled at this level of achievement, further initiations lead us to discover the mishra and samaya level of tantric mysteries. The first step is to become familiar with the kaula theory and practice, including the distinction between the right- and left-hand paths within the path of kaula.


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