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

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tantra: The Left Hand Path

Left-hand tantric practice is traditionally known as chakra puja, "worshipping the chakras." Here the word chakra has a double meaning: a chakra is a center of consciousness within the body, and a chakra is also a circle - in this context it is a circle formed by a group of practitioners.The human body is the living shrine and the chakras are altars within that shrine.The practice of sitting in a circle around the master while worshipping the Divine Force at the altar of the chakras is called chakra puja. The master is known as chakreshvara (the lord of the chakras and the lord of the circle of aspirants). In other words, instead of invoking the Divine in a geometrical yantra, left-hand tantrics invoke Her in the yantra of the human body.

According to left-hand tantrics the Divine Force resides in the muladhara chakra at the base of the spine. While She is living in the human body She is known as kundalini shakti,and presides over the totality of matter and energy that constitutes the entire phenomenal world. The goal of left-hand tantra is to attain Her grace and thereby experience Her manifestation in all forms of matter and energy. But under most circumstances kundalini shakti is asleep, and to gain access to Her abode and awaken Her the sages experimented with every possible means - including ingesting herbs, minerals, psychedelic drugs, and performing "forbidden" practices, as well as mantra, pranayama, and ritual. Ultimately they developed chakra puja, which they found to be the fastest way to pierce the chakras and experience oneness with Her.

Among other things chakra puja involves liquor, meat,fish, mudras (gestures), and physical union. It is called vama marga, "the left-hand path," as opposed to dakshina marga,"the right-hand path," in which these five components are prohibited. The left-hand path is controversial, and those who are not familiar with the scriptures and the oral tradition believe that it advocates drunkenness and orgies. This is a gross distortion. In fact there are stricter prerequisites to the left-hand path than the right-hand path, and following it requires more discipline, because the aspirant must maintain intense concentration on the practice in the midst of the strongest sensual stimulants. To make sure that the students walking this razor's edge keep their balance throughout, the practice is always done under the direct supervision of at least one adept (sometimes more), who monitors every step.

To stay tuned to the guru shakti (the shakti of the master) you replace your consciousness with his consciousness by means of intense contemplation, and throughout the chakra puja he is sitting in front of you. He carries you in his heart.He not only watches how you perform the rituals, hold your gestures, do your pranayama, or recite the mantras, he also observes your breathing patterns, which carry the signals of your subtle thoughts and feelings. Throughout the practice you maintain a meditative state in which you are aware of the presence of your master at the crown chakra and of the ishta deva (the personified form of the mantra) at the heart center.The moment your mind begins to waver, your master intercedes and brings it back to the ishta deva. Only because you are always so accompanied are you able to experience the oneness of mantra, deity, guru, and yantra in your own body. Your entire being becomes an eye. Regardless of what your physical eyes perceive, you see only what is within.

This inner awareness is the fruit of chakra puja, and to test its stability masters lead their students through many paradoxical experiences until they have attained perfect victory over the mind, senses, ego, and intellect. The goal,as illustrated by the following story, is to bring spirituality into day-to-day existence, and vice versa.


In early childhood Shukadeva lost interest in worldly life and became a monk, committing himself to intense austerities and study of the scriptures. After years of sadhana he asked his father, the sage Vyasa, where and how he could find the highest wisdom, and Vyasa advised him to visit King Janaka, the wisest man and greatest yogi of that time.

When the young saint presented himself at the gate of Janaka's palace he was forced to wait a week before being admitted. Then he was ushered into a luxurious guest house in one of the palace gardens, where the atmosphere was in vivid contrast to anything he had encountered in his monkish existence - the rooms were richly furnished, beautiful women catered to his every wish - and the young ascetic felt as if he were suffocating. After several days in this oppressive atmosphere he was brought to the regal chambers, where he found the king lounging on a couch in his queen's embrace,a jeweled chalice in his hand. A maiden was soaking his left foot in hot water and his right foot was resting on the lap of another nubile young woman. Shukadeva found this incomprehensible.

King Janaka gestured casually for the young man to have a seat; the king seemed to be sunk in some sort of sensual stupor.But to Shukadeva's astonishment the king immediately turned the conversation to spiritual matters. He knew why the young man's father had sent him to the palace and even repeated the parting conversation that had taken place between father and son. In the midst of this two servants rushed into the room shouting that the east wing of the palace was in flames. Unperturbed, the king poured a few drops of water on his palms, closed his eyes for a moment, threw the water in the direction of the east wing, and resumed his conversation with Shukadeva. In a few minutes the servants returned with the news that the fire had been miraculously extinguished. King Janaka acknowledged the news without interrupting his conversation, and the young ascetic finally realized that the king was demonstrating complete masterfully established within himself, he was unaffected by liquor,women, and impending catastrophe.


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