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Tantrism: An Overview

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Subject: Tantrism: An Overview
   by Dinu Roman
  Introductory note:
   Some time ago I started a thread of discussion about tantrism
   (hindu), in my opinion really misunderstood by many so-called
   Without claiming high expertise, I will attempt to cast a bird's
   eye view on this science. I would appreciate any intelligent and
   documented comments.
   I am talking about HINDU TANTRA. (even though I don't really see
   a fundamental difference between hindu and tibetan / buddhist
   TANTRISM is a system of Ideal Monism. Its central position is
   that there is only One Ultimate Principle, but that this
   Principle has two aspects, one Transcendent, and the other
   Immanent. The Tantras explain in great detail the origin of
   Spirit and Matter; they discuss the nature of the Ultimate
   Principle; and they explain the cause of the Initial Impulse of
   TANTRA deals with the different aspects of the Supreme
   Consciousness and practical ways to experience them.
   There is no body of traditional literature that has suffered such
   widespread criticism, from Western and Eastern scholars alike, as
   the Tantras, due mainly to their highly esoteric character which
   made it impossible for non-practitioner scholars to obtain
   adequate information of their true content and to have a deep
   understanding, through direct experimentaion, of their
   TANTRA considers the Universe as being a MAGICAL REALITY, in
   contradistinction with VEDANTA, which says Universe is an
   illusion (MAYA).
   TANTRAS deal with all subjects, from the creation of the universe
   to the regulation of society, and they always have been the
   repository of esoteric spiritual knowledge and practices,
   especially the spiritual Science of Yoga.
   The TANTRAS accept the VEDAS and are in no way hostile to the Six
   Darshanas. The purpose of Tantrism is to provide a way for
   salvation of man during the present age (KALI YUGA). Their
   principles are of universal application without regard to time or
   place, temperament or capacity. They maintain and prove that mere
   philosophical specualtion on the Ultimate Nature of things is not
   enough to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the soul, no more than
   a description of a banquet is sufficient to satisfy the physical
   hunger of the body. Therefore, the Tantras provide not only the
   principles of speculation, but also the basis for experience;
   they not only argue, but mainly experiment. They provide a
   rational foundation for the spiritual exercises of the Yoga
   Science that will liberate man during ONE lifetime. These
   practices are referred as SADHANA, i.e. that successful practice
   which leads to final emancipation of the soul. Throughout their
   structure, the Tantras place an overwhelming emphasis on the
   practical aspect of spiritual knowledge.
   The stated purpose of TANTRISM is to provide the spiritual dwarfs
   of Kali Yoga with a means to use their overpowering obsessions
   and lower passions as a spiritual rocket fuel and to sublimate
   their animal tendencies into spiritual ecstasies. The very high
   teachings of the Golden Age of spirituality (SATYA YUGA) are no
   longer practicable, nobody understands them deeply, they are just
   dead letter. We are too feeble, too much the slaves of our senses
   to undertake the austerities of self-discipline as spelled out in
   the prime VEDIC scriptures. For us a different manual of
   spiritual liberation, suited to our needs, has been provided -
   The TANTRAS. The way provided by the TANTRAS must be the
   reintegration of the two poles of being - Male (+), and Female
   (-). There is no other way in Kali Yuga.
   TANTRA, although monist, postulates and demonstrates, through the
   exceptional achievements realized by very advanced adepts, the
   existence of the Unique Absolute as being composed of two
   essential realities, both eternal but of a complementary nature:
   SHIVA - The Supreme Spirit, The pure Sentient Consciousness - and
   SHAKTI - the Nature, the sphere of objectivity. SHIVA is the
   Ultimate Principle of the Absolute Reality, the Primordial Cause,
   the Transcendent-Immanent Ultimate Essence. SHAKTI is the
   totality of the Cosmic Manifestation, the Universe.
   SHAKTI impregnates the whole cosmic manifestation as a secret
   invisible energy. She contains the ocean of possibilities through
   which SHIVA can manifest.
   As polar Realities, SHIVA is the Everlasting Male Principle, the
   Cosmic Father; SHAKTI is the Everlasting Female Principle, the
   Cosmic Mother of the Worlds.
   Due to the similitude that exists between Man and Universe, these
   two Ultimate Realities have their reflection in every human
   The aim of TANTRA is to provide the necessary procedure to
   discover these Realities within the practitioner's being and to
   realize the fusion between them and their Cosmic correspondents.
   In this way, the YOGIN achieves KAIVALYA, a permanent state of
   perfect autonomy and transcendental self-mastery. In other words,
   when the YOGIN knows the Cosmic SHIVA through his human SHIVA, he
   attains the highest state of consciousness and expanded
   awareness, known in YOGA as SAMADHI.
   This is but the first step toward enlightenment. The second step
   is the outward journey from the Infinite, from the state of pure
   beatitude, to the finite, overflowing, in a supreme abundance,
   the bliss of the Supreme upon everything that is manifested. This
   Truth was beautifully expressed in a symbolical manner in TABULA
   SMARAGDINA, a Cabalistic text:
     "From the Earth [this mysterious energy] rises to the Sky,
     then returns to the Earth, encompassing the Higher and the
     Lower Powers. In this manner you obtain the greatest and the
     most perfect glory. From now on, all the Powers of Darkness
     run away from you."
   The supreme state is not attained by turning away from the world
   (which is the attitude of other spiritual systems that consider
   the world as an illusion) but by realizing that the Absolute
   manifests in all things. Its skillfull means teach how to use the
   appropriate Teaching for the particular circumstance.
   TANTRA envisions the Universe as an extremely complex,
   multi-dimensional web of invisible energies. This Science permits
   the controlled expansion of consciousness beyond the web of
   illusory appearances and thus liberates us from ignorance. TANTRA
   is also called VAMA MARGA, i.e. The Left Hand Path, due to the
   fact that women, who are of lunar influence, negative polarity or
   the left, play an essential role in this Science. However, The
   Way which is recommended here is not at all made of negations or
   austerities as in most other spiritual systems, but of pleasure
   and beatitudes. TANTRIC tradition puts forth clearly that the
   state of harmonious integration and spiritual freedom can be
   obtained only through direct experience, gained by passionate and
   detached living of everyday life. The inferior levels of
   consciousness cannot be efortlessly controlled and successfully
   surpassed unless fully and frantically, intensely and totally,
   lived in the whole plenitude of their power.
   Pleasure is not an end, but a way to reach Divine Consciousness.
   In this respect, TANTRIC texts say that nobody will be able to
   obtain spiritual perfection using difficult and boring (for our
   Kali Yuga mentality) techniques. Perfection can be easily
   realized using the wise fulfillment of all wishes. The very same
   processes that for others could cause decay or death, venom or
   evil, can be used wisely and firmly for spiritual uplifting and
   transformed into a miraculous cure of the soul.
   "One can fall due to the earth, another one can, without doubt,
   raise himself with the help of the earth."
   Another text says:
     "If a man is a YOGIN, he does not enjoy sensual pleasures;
     while one who enjoys them cannot know YOGA. That is why the
     KAULA (a TANTRIC School) way, containing the essence of sexual
     enjoyment and YOGA, is superior to all paths. In the KAULA
     approach, sexual enjoyment turns into YOGA directly. What in
     conventional religion is considered sin, [when practiced our
     way] becomes meritorious."
   Another version of the same text:
     "In other systems, neither a YOGI can take to the enjoyments
     of the world (i.e. he cannot be a BHOGI; nor a BHOGI who is in
     the midst of worldly enjoyments can be a YOGI. But in the path
     of KAULA, both YOGA and BHOGA have a happy union. KAULA DHARMA
     is BHOGA and also YOGA; what apparently is a sin, here is
     turned into a force for God; and the SAMSARA becomes a means
     for release."
   In the TANTRIC tradition, YOGA (union with God) is simultaneous
   with the passionate living of worldly delights, leading to the
   state of enlightenment through the supernormal powers (SIDDHIS),
   which are obtained through practical application of these special
   procedures. These powers serve a definite purpose in the way of
   attaining the Supreme.
   The TANTRIC philosophy itself includes in its theory all the
   levels of the Universe and gives a paramount importance to
   astronomy, biology, parapsychology, anatomy, meditation,
   medicine, music, art and even sexuality. In fact, the sexual
   experience, considered to be a unification of the Everlasting
   Male (+) and Everlasting Female (-) principles, has a very
   important place in TANTRIC techniques and procedures which are
   often profoundly erotic.
   Here, sexuality forms only the basal, prima facie of its
   techniques. It is subjected to a rigorous discipline, because it
   is known that the secret of Life lies in controlling the sexual
   To understand the TANTRIC attitude toward sexuality requires a
   totally open mind and a reversal of perspective. Accustomed as we
   are by a puritanical mentality to seeing sexuality as a "sin" to
   be avoided and ashamed of (or, in any case, to keep it "secret"
   because of its "impurity"), we have all the chances to consider
   TANTRIC Love as being a defiant assault on conventional morality
   and thus to miss completely the tremendous spiritual value of
   such a perspective. In order to understand it, we must first come
   to view the human dimension as vibrating in identity with the
   sacred, divine aspects of Creation. From this sacred perspective,
   sexuality is seen as re-producing at a smaller scale the
   continuous and beatific interaction of a Cosmic process which is
   manifesting the entire Universe from the Absolute Reality. In
   this new vision, "sin" disappears (it never existed, anyway!),
   being replaced by pure beatitude and total love. Sexual union is
   thus a form of meditative discipline with profound psycho-mental
   and spiritual effects.
   Therefore there is no obscenity or pornography but only sublime
   symbolism and refined beauty. The figure of a man and woman
   coupled in sexual union is not thought impure or sinful. On the
   contrary, it is considered to be a veritable sacrificial rite.
   The male worshipper has an attitude toward the woman which is
   different from that of an ordinary person performing the sexual
   act. The woman is transfigured into a living symbol and earthly
   manifestation of the Divine Mother of the Universe (PARA SHAKTI).
   Likewise, for the woman, man represents a vital embodiment of the
   Everlasting Male Principle (SHIVA). The sexual beatitude raised
   at the transcendental level of an extraordinary psychic
   experience with a spiritual character reflects, then, the
   ineffable happiness of a subtle cosmic nature, known in YOGA as
   ANANDA (i.e., cosmic beatitude) and in TANTRA as SAMARASA (i.e.,
   the savor of equality).
Retention -- the untold secret

   It is important to emphasize that TANTRA YOGA substantiates its
   techniques of spiritual development on the perfect yet efortless
   control of the sexual energy . Traditional texts say semen
   contain consciousness as the ova contains primordial creative
   energy. Here the point is to return to the practitioner the
   enormous amount of raw sexual energy in such a way that this
   subtle energy may be sublimated and its efficiency used for
   higher purposes, i.e. psycho-mental and spiritual.
   Being in perfect physical, emotional and mental health is a must
   for approaching any of the sexual practices of TANTRISM. Modern
   civilization leaves its mark on our integrity, so we need to open
   up and to re-learn to experience as intensely as possible our
   senses. While it is true that cultivating the sensory awareness,
   here being included different techniques of amplifying the sexual
   pleasure and of opening up to experience deep sexual orgasm, can
   be a useful preparation for TANTRA, these incipient techniques
   are not TANTRA yet if they are not accompanied by a total, yet
   effortless, control.
   The Science of the ancient Sages (SIDDHAS) teaches that the
   sexual reproductive power (the Life Force) can be transmuted into
   superior forms of energy called OJAS and TEJAS. The practitioner
   causes his seed to rise up to his crown center (SAHASRARA), where
   it becomes transformed into SOMA, the Nectar of Immortality.
   Through the TANTRIC procedures, the semen is took over by the
   lymphatic system. The lymphatic system consists of the fluid
   (lymph) that bathes the tissues, being similar in composition
   with plasma. The lymph contains white cells involved in the
   immunity system of the body. These white cells produce
   antibodies, special substances which attack the foreign organisms
   (microbes, etc.) and render them harmless. Through the lymphatic
   system, the semen reaches the brain (CORPUS CALLOSUM) where it is
   processed into extremely subtle energies (OJAS and TEJAS) used by
   the higher mind. As the physical brain needs oxygen and proteins
   to function properly, the higher mind (superconsciousness) needs
   big quantities of OJAS and TEJAS energy. The TEJAS energy is that
   energy which produces the halo around the saints' head. The OJAS
   energy is that energy which confers an extraordinary vigor, power
   and virility.
   The transmuting of the semen's energy into OJAS and TEJAS does
   not take place only in men. Women who practice TANTRA YOGA
   realize the transmutation of that energy which produces the ova
   and the menstrual cycle. These energies are transformed into OJAS
   and TEJAS exactly as in the men's case. As a result, the
   menstrual cycle becomes scarce or even disappears completely, and
   the ovulation process slows down or even stops. Nevertheless,
   when the conception of a baby is desired, the energies are
   permitted to accumulate at the pelvic area, the ovulation returns
   to normal and the menstrual cycle appears again.
   Another important characteristic of the Tantric Way is that
   spiritual growth is realized through extreme intensity of energy
   (SHAKTIPATA) spontaneously born during the passionate living of
   intense emotions, including both sexual and non-sexual emotions.
   The Supreme Existence reveals itself instantaneously during the
   tumult of violent emotions such as extreme terror, vivid
   curiosity, deep compassion, total anger, profound pleasure.
   "In order to penetrate into the Supreme Reality, everything that
   is at hand is to be considered as a modality; because, as the
   TRIKA system puts it, the human being must not submit to any
   restrictions (in order to attain the Supreme)".
A secret TANTRIC text

   When controlled and directed by a lucid mind, this paramount
   intensity of the extreme emotions creates the instantaneous
   welding of all levels of the human being (physical-sexual,
   emotional and mental-spiritual) which are normally disconnected
   and therefore acting independently. Thus, the practitioner
   becomes aware of the inner abyssal power that lies within himself
   and starts to bring it to the surface. The transcendence of the
   inferior levels of consciousness is realized through an
   exceptionally frantic living of every moment of everyday life. In
   this way, the duality disappears into the flashing unity of the
   Supreme Consciousness, without change (NIRVIKALPA).
   TANTRISM uses therefore the Way of Energy (SHAKTOPAYA - the
   descent of SHAKTI) as a tool to reach the Ultimate. Tantrism has
   a unique approach to enlightenment and transcendance. In Tantric
   vision, augmenting the intensity of one's feelings, pleasures,
   desires, natural instincts (burning ardor, strong passion,
   turbulent excitement, etc.), IN A SPECIAL STATE OF MIND (this
   state of mind is lucidity and DETACHMENT) become a powerful aid
   that make for a heightened consciousness, concentrate spiritual
   force and lead to liberation of Self and to union with the
   Absolute. TANTRISM teaches to its students that, while being in a
   state of perfect detachment and clarity of mind, raise your
   enjoyment to its highest intensity and then use it as a spiritual
   rocket fuel.
   In this vision, there is no good and bad, no lower and no higher.
   There is only energy (SHAKTI). It is purely our inner attitude
   that determines the morality of an action. Humans have two
   choices: to let this energy rule their life - and then they are
   its slaves - or to effortlessly control it through the TANTRIC
   techniques - and then they become the masters of it. TANTRISM
   knows that the secret of life and death lies in controlling
   effortlessly the sexual energy, which is the prima facie, the
   basal aspect of human beings. Sexuality is subjected to rigorous
   discipline, being used to conquer lower desires. This is the
   profound meaning of BRAHMACHARYA - the third YAMA. The person who
   practices successfully BRAHMACHARYA is called BRAHMACHARIN = one
   who uses material bliss to attain spiritual bliss.
     At the time when an emotion - such as love, etc. - rises to
     the climactic point, senses automatically cease to function,
     and Consciousness shines clearly.
     SPANDA KARIKA, a Tantric text.
   Therefore, at the time of the rise of an emotion, the YOGIN
   becomes introvert and ends the emotion by withdrawing the
   internal senses from the object (which caused the rise of that
   emotion) and by focusing the energy of emotion toward the
   In the sexual union of two partners that resonate with each
   other, ANANDA (bliss) becomes manifest. Resting the mind (Self)
   in it leads to the identity (SAMADHI) with the Ultimate. When, on
   account of the satisfaction of the senses (that the sexual union
   produces) the ANANDA (bliss) aspect emerges, the two partners
   rise above the senses and experience the unity of SHIVA and
   SHAKTI - Consciousness and Energy. For reaching this, the flow of
   the vital energy is send up to the crown of the head (SAHASRARA).
   - Dinu Roman

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