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Friday, February 5, 2016

Chakra Puja: The Third Initiation in Tantra

The goal of left-hand tantra is self-mastery, and to accomplish this end tantrics use liquor, meat, fish, mudras, and physical union in such a way that the wall between sense pleasure and divine ecstasy is demolished. Scriptures such as Kularnava Tantra, Kamakhya Tantra, and Bagalamukhi Rahasyam explain how the left hand tantrics do the practices incorporating these "forbidden" ingredients. Prolonged mantra practice, the grace of the deity, and the blessings of the master enable them to induce the highest degree of spiritual awareness during the performance of chakra puja. But unless this awareness is cultivated, the act of eating and drinking is devoid of spiritual meaning.

The most important ingredient in the chakra puja ritual is liquor that has been derived from herbs and sanctified by the power of mantra and rituals. It must come from the master.Normally liquor contains energy that causes disorientation,inertia, and loss of memory, but by leading it through a multi-level spiritual processing (such as shapa vimochana and amriti karana) the master removes this energy and awakens spiritually illuminating properties in its place. Now this liquor is, figuratively speaking, liquid fire capable of consuming all impurities; only then is it ready to be used in the practice.

There is a specific way of receiving this drink from the master, pouring it into the chalice, and placing the chalice in the center of a special yantra drawn on the ground.

The yantra on which the chalice is placed 

Next the aspirants perform a long ceremony consisting mainly of mantra recitation and mudras to propitiate the divinity that presides over the liquor. Then while sitting in the lotus posture or the accomplished pose, aspirants purify different aspects of their body, breath, senses, and mind by sprinkling liquor into their mouth as they perform tattva mudra. The mantras used during this purification are the same as those recited during viraja homa, the fire offering that accompanies the vows of renunciation. Next the aspirants invoke the sages of the lineage, Lord Ganesha (the remover of obstacles), and the presiding forces of the various chakras, and offer this sanctified liquor to them.

Tattva Mudra
This is the initial part of the practice, and when it is completed the master permits the students to begin propitiating the kundalini shakti. This is done in five rounds of meditationon Her, each beginning with a prolonged breathing practice,the recitation of prayers, mantra japa, and meditation. After the first round of meditation the student drinks a chalice of liquor. After the second round the aspirant takes a bite of meat and a second chalice of liquor. The third round entails a bite of fish and a third chalice of liquor, and the fourth, a bite of a dish made of deep-fried grains and a fourth chalice of liquor. After the fifth round of meditation the student mixes red and white sandalwood paste (a substitute for male and female sexual energy) and offers it to the kundalini shakti before drinking the final chalice of liquor.

Each round of meditation follows a similar pattern but some of the prayers are unique to a particular round. The first round of meditation on kundalini shakti is done in the following manner: before offering the liquor into the fire of kundalini the aspirants recite long prayers and do breathing practices that combine breath retention and mantra japa.While they sit with their head, neck, and trunk in a straight line and balance the chalice on a tripod formed by the thumb,index finger, and middle finger of their left hand, they meditate on the kundalini shakti that dwells in the muladhara center yet pervades the entire body. Through intense meditation they allow their individual consciousness to merge with the kundalini shakti, and while maintaining this state of oneness they take the chalice in their right hand and visualize the liquor being offered into the fire as they drink it.

The series of prayers (known as patra vandana, or chalice prayers) that precedes the offering of liquor in each round creates a contemplative mood and intensifies the practitioner's inner awareness. The chalice prayer recited during the first round of the offering, for example, invokes the three groups of sages of the lineage, Lord Ganesha, the three main centers of divinity within the body, and various groups of tantric adepts.The chalice prayers also describe how liquor is a goddess at the esoteric level; when and how she was born; in what sense active and passive forms of bliss are associated with her; how the forces of creation, sustenance, and destruction emerged from the combination of the two aspects of bliss; and why liquor is the best offering that can be made to the fire of kundalini. In addition, by elucidating the symbolic meaning of the liquor, the chalice, and the rest of the ritual paraphernalia,these prayers help aspirants enliven their knowledge of tantric metaphysics with the spirit of love and surrender. The penultimate verse reminds the aspirants once again of who the masters are and reiterates that it is only with their permission that they are offering the nectar of liquor into the fire of kundalini shakti. Then they recite the final verse:

Ahanta patra bharitam idanta paramamritam.
Purnahanta maye vahnau juhomi shivarupa dhrik.

I, Shiva, offer the liquor of this-is-ness [objective awareness]  contained in the chalice of I-am-ness [subjectiveawareness] into the fire of perfect I-am-ness [Supreme Consciousness].

While reciting these prayers aspirants are expected to visualize their body being replaced by the fire of kundalini, and while maintaining that awareness they drink the liquor until the chalice is empty. Subsequent rounds follow a similar pattern.

It is a myth that left-hand tantrics always use sex as a part of their practice. Actual physical union is involved only when aspirants have attained perfect mastery over their biochemistry as well as over their mind and senses. And only those who have attained perfect mastery of yoga techniques such as khechari mudra, yoni mudra, and vajroli kriya (and are thus able to force their sexual energy to travel upward) have the ability to incorporate physical union into the fifth round of chakra puja.

Drawing on the scriptures Goraksha Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Mircea Eliade in his book Yoga: Immortality and Freedom explains chakra puja as follows: "To hasten the ascent of the kundalini, some tantric schools combined corporal positions (mudra) with sexual practices. The underlying idea was the necessity of achieving simultaneous 'immobility' of breath, thought, and semen. The Goraksha Samhita states that during the khechari mudra the bindu (= sperm) 'does not fall' even if one is embraced by a woman."


The tantric masters do not write about their sadhana or even talk about it to anyone other than initiates, and they require their students to take a vow never to disclose its exact method (although they are allowed to discuss the philosophy and metaphysics underlying these practices). This is why there is not a single scripture that contains complete information about how to purify the liquor and perform the chakra puja. However, for the sake of preserving a general knowledge of tantra as well as inspiring aspirants, adepts often write about practices into which they themselves have not been initiated, freely admitting that these manuals are incomplete and must be supplemented by the oral tradition. But they will never, under any circumstances, talk about the disciplines they themselves observe or the mantras they practice.

For example there is a scripture called Prapanchasara,attributed to the great master Shankaracharya with a commentary by his disciple Padma Pada. At one point the commentator explains the subtle differences among the twelve subtraditions of Sri Vidya. With one exception he offers an elaborate description of all these subtraditions,even giving mantras practiced by each. But when he comes to discuss the particular variation, kadi vidya, which is unique to his own tradition he simply says, "This great mantra is known to the whole world; there is no need to write about it."

Tantrics blanket themselves in seeming confusion, and in our search for tantric wisdom we must remember that what tantrics say is not necessarily what they do. Paradox and contradiction are hallmarks of the tradition, and to make sure that their students (as well as they themselves) are free from all temptation tantric masters perform rites that are incomprehensible to most of us. But underlying the contradictions,their social and moral behaviors are grounded in this simple formula: "Pig's droppings are as good as name, fame, and honor; being hailed as a guru is mere noise; ego is another form of drunkenness. Only after renouncing these three does one truly remember the name of God."

The left-hand school of kaula tantra is demanding and requires a great deal of preparation (and kaula tantra is only preliminary to the practices of the mishra and samaya schools). We need to be physically fit and emotionally balanced to undertake even the first level, the tantric practice of mantra sadhana. For example completing the purascharana that follows mantra initiation requires the freedom to organize our life around the practice. The second initiation and the practice following it is even more elaborate, and so requires even greater freedom. The first and most important requirement, therefore, is to gather our resources and minimize the obstacles to spiritual practices before undertaking them, and to this end tantric adepts discovered the techniques for awakening the forces of nature within and without so that the practitioner first becomes effective and successful in the world.

There are a number of tantric practices that have no direct bearing on spiritual enlightenment or experiencing oneness with the Divine; rather, their purpose is to help overcome specific problems, such as discord in the family, poverty,depression, grief, and anxiety. Tantrics see nothing wrong in using spiritual practices to draw a husband and wife closer together, for example. Their reasoning is that if a wife and husband understand each other they will not waste time and energy criticizing and quarreling; family life will be peaceful,and the time and energy saved can then be used for higher purposes. In addition there are practices for the welfare of humankind, for restoring harmony in nature, and for peace,to name a few.

Tantrics have also found that seeing a tangible result from a practice will help aspirants cultivate faith in tantric practices in general as well as remove obstacles that prevent them from undertaking higher practice;furthermore they can use this practice to help others overcome similar problems.For this reason the masters insist that if you wish to stay on the path and eventually achieve the highest goal of life you must do at least one of the tantric practices which shows an immediate result, even if the result is worldly.


  1. I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

  2. Hey keep posting such good and meaningful articles.


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