SPIRITUAL HEROES SPONTANEOUSLY WORSHIP KALIIn the Tantric pantheon, Kali is mentioned as the first of the ten Great Cosmic Powers, because in a certain way she is the one who "spins the wheel of the universal time".On the other hand, at the end of the manifested world, time (in Sanskrit Kala) devoured all the universes of the three plans of the creation: the physical, the astral and the causal universes.The Great Cosmic Power Kali finally devours the time itself, which is Kala, and this is the very reason for which Kali is viewed as the primordial cause of the creation and destruction of the universe.The famous Tantric writing Nirvanatantra associates Kali to Brahman, the Supreme, as representing both the being (the existence) and the infinite consciousness in manifestation.This association has allowed the worship of Kali both from the metaphysical abstract perspective, as well as from a more concrete perspective, which implies certain attributes (functions, characteristics, qualities).According to the Tantric tradition, the whole manifested world springs from the Infinite Consciousness of the beatific union between Shiva and Shakti.The function of the creation comes to the divine energy bearing the name Brahmani Shakti. The universe thus created has to be maintained in the manifestation, function performed by Shakti Vaishnavi.Nonetheless, both the creation and the preserving aspects imply a molecular "death" or "destruction" of each form of the universe, function performed by Rudrani Shakti.In fact, Brahmani, Vaishnavi and Rudrani are the consorts of the three Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (also named Rudra).
HER DARKNESS DISOLVES EVERYTHINGThe simultaneous existence of these three processes within the creation clearly expresses the statements included in all Tantric writings, that the creation of the universe did not occur once, in the past, nor will the universe be destroyed once in the future, and that rather in every instant these aspects manifest as flashings creating the illusion of continuity and reality.Although the human body and mind are permanently assailed by innumerable sensorial perceptions, the state of divine ecstasy (samadhi) implies the disappearance of all mental functions and of the physical awareness into the supreme consciousness of Paramashiva, the one that is beyond all duality.The description of the Great Cosmic Power Kali describes her as being dark as the night, dancing over Shiva's inert, white body. This representation reveals the significance of the two fundamental aspects of Reality: on one hand there is the dynamic, imanent aspect of God (Kali's dance) and on the other the static, transcendent aspect of consciousness (identified with Shiva).Shiva is white because he signifies the infinite divine light (prakasha), inert because the absence of movement and action reveals the consciousness pure, homogenous and compact.On the other hand, Kali's dance signifies the dynamic, active aspect of the Divine, and the dark color of her skin indicates that the processes of the creation are disolved in Kali.From a different perspective, Kali is also the creator of the universes, as they come to life from the ashes of the Divine Consciousness' purifying fire. Consequently, Kali's action is deeply evolutionary, as she impels the human beings towards evolution, sometimes in a painful manner.Nonetheless, Kali performs her actions in the divine light and harmony, knowing that this is the best thing to do. Those who manage to pass all the tests and go through all the stages are in truth spiritual heroes, and they will be rewarded with Kali's spiritual grace.However, until God's will does not manifest the creative impulse, the divine infinite energy (Shakti) lies potential, but unmanifested, inseparably united with Shiva, in his purely transcendent aspect.The spiritual Tantric writings denote this state asSAT-CHIT-ANANDA (PURE EXISTENCE-PURE CONSCIOUSNESS-INFINITE BLISS).
KALI IS THE TIME BEYOND TIME
Then Kali (as supreme Shakti) assumes the responsibility of creating the names, as well as of their evolution.Kali is also known under the name of ADIMAHAVIDYA, the first of the Great Cosmic Powers, but this should not mislead us, as it does not imply any hierarchy, but rather the idea of order in the cosmic evolution.Kali is also named ADYASHAKTI, in her quality of energy and terrible Cosmic Power who impels humankind towards action and the universe towards manifestation.Kali's representation reveals her nakedness. This is not a trivial manner of representing a deity, but instead this fact stands for the transcendence of all limitations.Her action in the manifested world implies the destroying and in the same time purifying action of time (Kala). This aspect is suggested by the human head she holds in one of her hands.However, as the yogi is more and more concerned with spiritual aspects, and firmly oriented towards obtaining spiritual freedom at all costs, he or she will be blessed with Kali's overwhelming grace.
SHE DESTROYS YOUR EGO SO THAT YOU WILL BE ABLE TO REBORNOne of the most important hypostasis in which one can worship Kali is the goddess Durga, the one who defeated the demon Mahishashura. This demon represents in the Hindu spirituality the forces of the dark.The Vedanta philosophy presents the conception according to which there are the Divine Embodiments (avatara) who come on earth in order to perform a deep transformation of mankind.For the worshipper of God in the aspect of the Divine Mother, Durga is the only hypostasis that destroys the evil of the world in its numerous demoniac and satanic aspects.Thus, the Hindu mythology describes how the goddess has vanquished the demons and their king, Mahishashura, saving the gods from captivity and set up again the divine order in the universe.The spiritual significance of this myth is that each human being has inside both good and bad, and these energies constantly fight for supremacy.Durga, embodiment of the goddess Kali grants her support and help to those who ask for it and worship her, so that the spiritual forces develop and gain supremacy over the dark, negative influences of the psychic and mental.Durga is thus the Divine Light who destroys and burns in terrible fire of her pure consciousness any malefic force and any leftover of ignorance.
HER FORCE AWAKENS KUNDALINIThe sadhana or spiritual practice recommended for the worship of the Great Cosmic Power Kali implies the effort of purifying and activating the centers of force, so that the fundamental energy Kundalini ascends from Muladhara chakra to Sahasrara.The ascension of Kundalini represents one of the characteristic and most important aspects of this Great Cosmic Power's worship, and is correlated with the practice of sexual continence, according to the principles of the Tantric doctrine.The mysterious influence of Kali is so complex and hidden that only few pure souls may see through her actions their real significance.We meet a frequent representation of Kali as the Cosmic Mother, surrounded by a great number of different gods and goddesses. Lacking any dimensions or spatial-temporal limits, she takes on different forms and names in order to meet her worshiper's most secret desires.In certain situations, Kali embarks into action to destroy that which is perverted, weak, or useless. Thus, we may see her representation as having four or more arms, in which she holds different objects that are helpful in restoring or preserving the divine order of the universe.In her most elevated aspects, Kali is the Divine Bliss itself, that which is beyond ordinary human perception, and the nature and consciousness of the Divine Brahman himself.Consequently, there are two ways of worshipping her: as the great Goddess bestowing her grace and blessings upon all those who deserve it, and as holy energy (Shakti) who grants spiritual freedom (Kaivalya).
THE PURIFYING FIRE THAT BURNS THE EGO TO ASHESAll the representations of the goddess have in common the following fundamental elements: Shiva's dead body, her glorious attitude, the black color, but they may differ in other details, which underline her specific role in the universe, characteristic to a particular representation.One representation of Kali reveals her in an imposing attitude, meditating in a state of infinite bliss on Shiva's chest. Another representation is while shooting an arrow, with her right foot bent, on Shiva's chest.Both figures (Kali and Shiva) are in a cremation place, suggesting that all illusory things are finally reduced to ashes, burnt in the fire of time, or that they return to their primordial essential state.As usually, Kali's skin is black, the source of all colors. This also indicates the fact that she is associated to the depths of God's mystery.Nevertheless, she is surrounded by a white hallo, a gentle light whose nature is amrita and that brings peace to the eye. In this representation, Shiva's body indicates the fact that the power of God's consciousness is inherent to the unanimated matter as well.Kali's mouth is wide open and she pulls her tongue out, symbolizing the mudra of the devouring, or consuming the universe.However, this terrible and scaring aspect is backed up by a smiling attitude of the goddess, looking upon the being of the universe with kindness and affection, sustaining their life and nourishing them with her immense breasts.Her ironic laughter is for all those who, due to ignorance for the laws of harmony and balance imagine that they can elude spiritual evolution. The Great Goddess has three all-seeing eyes, "supervising" the universes from the past, present and future.In her other hand she holds a skull, whose significance id double: on one hand it is the receiver of the universal mysterious teaching, and on the other hand it is a reminder of what endures after the dissolution of the universe.
THROUGH HER INFINITE GRACE, ALL UNIVERSE DISOLVES IN YOU
In another hand, Kali holds a sword (khadga), whose role is to cut all worldly connections and attachments, so that the worshipper is prepared for the ultimate spiritual freedom.
It is also interesting to mention that her hair is long and dishevelled, standing for the power of this great cosmic power's all-pervading grace.Her benevolence and compassion are underlined by two of her hands that perform the gesture of casting away the fear and that of offering spiritual gifts and powers.
Around her neck there is a necklace made of skulls belonging to various demons and other malefic entities, symbolizing her complete victory over the evil.Her naked body is splashed with the blood of these entities, and her earrings are in fact two decapitated human bodies.
This is Kali's complex representation in her terrible form, known also as Dakshina Kali or Shyamakali.In the Hindu iconography, Kali appears under a number of other forms, with minor differences as regards the number of the arms, face, of symbolic objects she holds.Thus, Shamasana Kali, Siddha Kali, Maha Kali, Guhyakali represent just as many aspects of the Goddess, worshipped in different areas of India.
Among these forms, remarkable is the form of Bhadra Kali, described in Tantasara as a hungry deity, ready to devour any illusory aspect of the universe, having three eyes, four hands holding a skull, a drum, an ax and a trident.
A variant of Bhadra Kali is Chamunda Kali, who although pleasant to the eye has terrible teeth and holds a long human bone with a skull at one end, a sword, a chain and a human head. Unlike the other representations of Kali, Chamunda Kali wears a tiger's fur and sits on a body.
Acharya Shree Vijay Kumar
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The consonant Ka, of all the letters of the alphabet, is the form of Mulaprakriti. Therefore, by every effort, one should worship the letter Ka, dearest - Kamadhenutantra XVII The Netra Tantra is attributed to the school of Kashmir Shaivism and is usually printed with a commentary by Kshemaraja. Here is chapter one, translated for the first time into English. Chapter Ten of this tantra, also translated, can be viewed here.The work, divided into 22 adhikaras of uneven length, centres around Mrityunjaya , here described as Amritesha, and his cluster of shaktis. Chapter one is below. In chapter two, there is discussion of the three shaktis Iccha, Jnana and Kriya. Chapter three is concerned with the puja (yaga) of Mrityunjaya, while chapter five discusses initiation (diksha). In chapter six, the rules of abhisheka are given, while chapter seven deals with Amritesha, or Shiva as god of amrita or nectar. This has gross, subtle and supreme meanings, the text says. Chapter seven is interesting because it is close in nature to the Siddhasiddhantapadhati, enumerating the six chakras, the sixteen adharas, the three lakshyas and the five vyomas (aethers), as well as the granthis and the nadis within the body. Chapter eight deals with yoga of the tantras, while chapter nine begins to discuss the different tantrik divisions known as vama, dakshina, siddhanta, Saura and Vaishnava, and how they relate to the Vedas. Amritesha, says Bhairava in the text, is pure, like crystal and extends everywhere, giving the fruit of all agamas (sacred tets). The chapter gives different meditation images of Shiva. Chapter ten is translated elsewhere on this site. Chapter eleven, devoted to the Uttaramnaya, starts with a dhyana of Tumburu, who is of the colour of dazzling white snow, or the kunda flower. Shaktis mentioned in this chapter include Jambhani, Mohani, Subhaga and Durbhaga. Chapter twelve concerns the Kulamnaya, and outlines the mandala of Bhairava and different shaktis and worship conducted there. More meditation images are contained in chapter thirteen, which also contains a rare dhyana of Brahma. This teaching is open to all, be they female, male and of whatever caste and hue. Brahma is described as having four arms, handsome, red in colour, effulgent, seated on Hamsa (a swan, but here meaning the mantra). He holds a staff, a rosary of akshas, a jewelled water pot and the four vedas. In chapter fourteen, the role of this mantra and Iccha, Jnana and Kriya Shaktis are discussed, and the supremacy of the mantra. Chapter fifteen describes how Amritesha's mantra is all protective, while the next chapter describes different siddhis obtained from the worship. That topic is continued in chapter seventeen, which also covers the kavacha. Chapter eighteen is devoted to Amriteshvari, or the shakti of Amrita, as well as describing the purifications that mantras must receive to become successful. Chapter nineteen is long, with 226 shlokas (verses). It starts with the Devi asking Shiva to describe afflictions caused by bhutas, pretas, yakshas, pishachas, rakshas and the like, and how they can be prevented. Chapter twenty deals with the yoginis, such as Shakini and others of the bodily dhatus. Chapter twenty one discusses the nature of mantra, while the last chapter concludes with the great merit of Amritesha (Mrtyunjaya's) mantra. Chapter One
Hail to the ordainer of destiny, the being who manifests three ways in the three worlds, the possessor of Shakti who creates, maintains and destroys in the cosmos, the being whose nature is amrita, Shiva, the supreme essence of Brahma, Vishnu and Isha.Seated on Kailasha Peak is the god of gods, Maheshvara, Hara, the altar of dalliance, with his hosts and his spouse Parvati. Having seen the happy god, and with the desire of benefiting living beings, suddenly Parvati left his side, and grasping his feet, questioned the contented Parameshvara in a very devoted way.
Shri Devi said: Lord god of gods, Lokanatha, lord of the cosmos, you have accomplished a great miracle, a cause of astonishment. You are god of all that exists, but my supreme master.
This secret, hard to distinguish and difficult to accomplish, is unknown to Kartikeya, to me, to the gods or to the ganas. It is certainly unknown to lords of yoga, to the Matrikas, to the rishis and to the yogis.Lord of creation, speak now of this, if you are kindly disposed towards me! O Lord, I entreat you by your obligation to speak fully.Thus having heard the words of Devi, the one with the smiling face spoke: Ask anything you wish, O one with beautiful hips. The secret is in your heart. I will certainly speak fully. You please me, O pure one!Devi said: Bhagavan, lord god of gods, cause of various miracles, beautiful one of miraculous appearance, I wish to hear of that not already revealed. Handsome lord, I want to hear about the cause of the utmost bliss, to be related to me by you.The all-seeing eye is made of water, Deva. How, then, may it become fiery and wrathful, flaming and burning up time? Saturn was reduced to ashes by the power of this eye. Deva, how is such wrath produced, that fire which desires to burn time? It consumes all creation, destroying Brahma and all that is permanent.In a similar way, Parameshvara, Kama was burned up by its play. What is this cruel, fiery eye, O Natha, which is always invisible yet is the cause of great miracles? How does fire come to be within this eye? Who does it see? How may an eye be made of fire? Why is it invisible? O cosmic lord, how comes it that this eye, the essence of immortality, augmenting the whole cosmos, has given birth to the cosmos?Deva, these graceful nectar-like eyes are the cause of my bliss and behind the process of creation. How may this fire known as the fire of time come to create? Bhagavan, I want you to answer all this.Shri Bhagavan said: I am moved by the great eagerness of your questions. Listen, dearest, I will speak of all relating to the fire and ultimate nectar which is within my eye and of its yoga.
Its real nature is without origin, pure, pervading all and omnipresent. It is within all living creatures and present in the hearts of all things, attained by yoga, difficult to accomplish, hard to attain for all beings.It is like my own semen, self-knowledge, my supreme part. It is the essence of all semen, the strongest of the strong. Certainly, and without any doubt, it is the quintessence of all ojas, eternity itself.From me came she known as supreme Iccha Shakti, one with Shakti, born from my own nature. Just as fire and heat and the sun and its rays are inseparable, so also Shakti herself, the cause of creation, is inseparable from the cosmos.Within her is that which is both manifest and unmanifest. She is all-knowing, with all qualities, manifested as Iccha, Jnana and Kriya and so forth, and in her, knowledge, the six qualities and everything else are situated. All light dwells in her.She is the essence of Mahakriya, the unified mother of action. She both creates and destroys and is the very self of Anima and the rest of the eight siddhis. Thus, these three Shaktis of mine are called Iccha, Jnana and Kriya, it is said. In me dwell the three playful abodes of Sun, Moon and Fire. In the play of my magnificent three eyes is the substance of these three. I create, sustain and destroy the universe.I am the dwelling place of the three bodies and of creation, maintenance and dissolution. My effulgent and life-giving semen pervades all. With my forms of Iccha, Jnana and Kriya I am the ultimate eye nectar.This semen is the supreme realm, the highest form of nectar, supreme bliss, the quintessence, complete knowledge, pure, the core of the three eyes. This is called the Mrityunjaya (conqueror of death) and gives success to all. He (Mrityunjaya Shiva) is the giver of success, the supreme divinity, liberating from all sorrows, the god destroying all ailments, removing all delusions, Shiva, the alleviator of poverty, eternal, conqueror of death, permeating all, infallible, without stain, peaceful, all-giving, all-liberating.His brightness is equal to 1,000 million suns and 1,000 million fires, liberating from the sixteen kalas, effulgence itself, unassailable by gods or demons. With my fiery eye I burn everything in an instant and I may also create and maintain. There is nothing greater than this certain semen- like thing seen everywhere, the essence of vajra, taking one to the state of Rudra, like a renowned sword which is death to all enemies and stops all elementals, weapons and arms.This one semen becomes multifold, diffusing itself limitelessly with many variations. The magnificence of this great Pashupata is that it is like Vishnu's discus or Brahma's staff and is the very essence of all weapons. Appearing in various forms, this weapon spreads in many ways. My semen creates the different gods themselves.I, the lord of yoga, through my own Shakti, manifested the entire cosmos. She is the supreme protectress from fears and anxieties, allaying fear, destroying enemies and the supreme giver of liberation, most certainly. O Beautiful One, even great poetry could not describe the greatness of this!This great thing, the giver of grace, the most excellent boon giver, causes manifestation, maintenance and the great intensity of Rudra. It should be regarded as immeasurable, knowledge itself, the great power of mantra, the protector of all the elements. Very hidden, you should always conceal it. Devi, it has now been revealed to you. What else do you wish to ask?
Acharya Shree Vijay Kumar
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In writing this Chapter I have in mind the dispute which some have raised upon the question whether the Agamas, or some of them, are Vaidik or non-Vaidik. I do not here deal with the nature and schools of Tantra or Agama nor with their historical origin. Something has been said on these points in the Introductions to the English translations of Pandit Shiva Chandra Vidyarnava's Tantra-tattva. I have also dealt with this subject in the two Chapters, "What are the Tantras and their significance?" and "Shakti and Shakta". I wish to avoid repetitions, except so far as is absolutely necessary for the elucidation of the particular subject in hand. On the disputed question whether the Agamas are Vaidik or non-Vaidik I desire to point out that an answer cannot be given unless we keep apart two distinct matters, viz., (1) what was the origin of the Agamas and (2) what they are now. I am not here, however, dealing with the first or historical question, but with the second so far as the Shakta Agama is concerned. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that (to take a specific example) worship of Kali and other Devis by the Shaktas indicates the existence of non-Aryan elements in their Agama. The question of real importance here, as always, is not as to what were the facts in remote past ages, but what they are now. The answer then is -- let it be as you will regarding the origin of the Shakta Agama; but at present Shakta worship is an integral part of the Hinduism and as such admits the authority of Veda, accepting, as later explained, every other belief held by the general body of the Hindu people.In a recent prosecution under Sections 292, 293 of the Indian Penal Code against an accused who had published a Tantra (but who was rightly acquitted), an Indian Deputy Magistrate who had advised the prosecution, and who claimed to be an orthodox Hindu, stated (I am informed) in the witness box, that he could not define what the Tantra Shastra was, or state whether it was a Hindu scripture of the Kali age, or whether a well-known particular Shastra shown to him was one of the Tantras. Such ignorance is typical of many at the present time and is a legacy from a vanishing age. How is it that a Shastra which has had its followers throughout India from the Himalayas (the abode of Shiva and of Parvati Devi) to Cape Comorin (a corruption of Kumart Devi) which ruled for centuries, so that we may speak of a Tantrik epoch; which even to-day governs the household and temple ritual of every Hindu; how is it that such a Shastra has fallen into complete neglect and disrepute amongst the larger body of the English-educated community'? I remember a time when mention of the Shastra was only made (I speak of course of the same class) with bated breath; and when any one who concerned himself therewith became thereby liable to the charge of giving licentious sway to drink and women. The answer is both a general and particular one. In the first place the English-educated people of this country were formerly almost exclusively, and later to a considerable extent, under the sway of their English educators. In fact they were in a sense their creation. They were, and some of them still are, the Manasaputra of the English. For them what was English and Western was the mode. Hindu religion, philosophy and art were only, it was supposed, for the so-called "uneducated" women and peasants and for native Pandits who, though learned in their futile way, had not received the illuminating advantages of a Western training. In my own time an objection was (I am informed) taken by Indian Fellows of the Calcutta University to the appointment of the learned Pandit Candrakanta Tarkalamkara to a chair of Indian philosophy on the ground that he was a mere native Pandit. In this case English Fellows and the then Vice-Chancellor opposed this absurd and snobbish objection. When the authority of the English teachers was at its highest, what they taught was law, even though their judgments were, in respect of Indian subjects of which they had but a scant and imperfect knowledge, defective. If they said with, or in anticipation of, one Professor, that the Vedas were "the babbling of a child humanity" and the Brahmanas "the drivel of madmen," or with another that the thought of the Upanishads was so "low" that it could not be correctly rendered in the high English language; that in "treating of Indian philosophy a writer has to deal with thoughts of a lower order than the thoughts of the every-day life of Europe"; that Smriti was mere priestly tyranny, the Puranas idle legends and the Tantras mere wickedness and debauchery; that Hindu philosophy was (to borrow another English Professor's language concerning the Samkhya) "with all its folly and fanaticism little better than a chaotic impertinence"; and that Yoga was, according to the same man of learning, "the fanatical vagaries of theocracy"; that Indian ritual was nothing but superstition, mummery, and idolatry, and (Indian) art, inelegant, monstrous, and grotesque -- all this was with readiness accepted as high learning and wisdom, with perhaps here and there an occasional faint, and even apologetic, demur. I recollect in this connection a rather halting, and shamefaced, protest by the late Rajendra Lal Mitra. I do not say that none of these or other adverse criticisms had any ground whatever. There has been imperfection, folly, superstition, wickedness, here as elsewhere. There has been much of it, for example, in the countries, whence these critics of India came. It is, however, obvious that such criticisms are so excessive as to be absurd.Even when giving an account of Eastern thought the Western is apt to take up a "superior" attitude because he believes himself to be superior. The Bishop of Durham very clearly reveals this sense of superiority (Christian Aspects of Life, by B. F. Westcott, 175) when after stating that the duty of the Christian missionary was to substitute for "the sterile theism of Islam and the shadowy vagueness of Hindu Philosophy a belief in a living and speaking God" he goes on to point out that "our very advantages" by way of "the consciousness of social and intellectual superiority with which we are filled" and "the national force which sets us as conquerors where we come as evangelists" constitute a danger in the mission field. It is this notion of "superiority" also which prevents a right understanding, and which notwithstanding the facts, insists on charges which, if established, would maintain the reputation for inferiority of the colored races. It is this reiterated claim to superiority that has hypnotized many persons amongst Eastern races into the belief that the European is, amongst other things, always a safe and learned critic even of their own beliefs and practices.Raja Rammohan Roy was the first to take up the cause of his faith, divorcing it from the superstitious accretions which gather around all religions in the course of the ages. The same defense was made in recent times by that man of upstanding courage, Svami Vivekananda. Foreign criticism on Indian religion now tends in some quarters to greater comprehension. I say in some quarters; for even in quite recent years English books have been published which would be amazing, were one not aware of the deep ignorance and prejudice which exist on the subject. In one of these books the Hindu religion is described as "a mixture of nightmare nonsense and time-wasting rubbish fulfilling no useful purpose whatever: only adding to the general burden of existence borne by Humanity in its struggle for existence." In another it is said to be "a weltering chaos of terror, darkness, and uncertainty". It is a religion without the apprehension of a moral evolution, without definite commandments, without a religious sanction in the sphere of morals, without a moral code and without a God: such so-called God, as there is, being "a mixture of Beaches, Don Juan and Dick Turin." It is there further described as the most material and childishly superstitious animalism that ever masqueraded as idealism; not another path to God but a pit of abomination as far set from God as the mind of man can go; staggering the brain of a rational man; filling his mind with wild contempt for his species and which has only endured "because it has failed." Except for the purpose of fanatical polemic, one would assume that the endurance of a faith was in some measure the justification of it. It is still more wonderful to learn from this work (The Light of India written by Mr. Harold Begbie and published by the Christian Literature Society for India) that out of this weltering chaos of all that is ignominious, immoral and crassly superstitious, come forth men who (in the words of the author) "standing at prayer startle you by their likeness to the pictures of Christ -- eyes large, luminous and tranquil -- the whole face exquisite with meekness and majestic with spirit." One marvels how these perfect men arise from such a worthless and indeed putrescent source. This absurd picture was highly colored in a journalistic spirit and with a purpose. In other cases, faulty criticism is due to supercilious ignorance. As another writer says (the italics are mine) "For an Englishman to get a plain statement of what Brahmanism really means is far from easy. The only wonder is that people who have to live on nine pence a week, who marry when they are ten years old, are prevented by caste life from rising out of what is often, if not always, a degraded state, have any religion at all." As the Bishop of Peterborough has recently said it is difficult for some to estimate worth in any other terms than g. s. d. It is to be hoped that all such snobbish materialism will be hindered from entrance into this country. These quotations reveal the depths of ignorance and prejudice which still exist. As we are however aware, all English criticism is not as ignorant and prejudiced as these, even though it be often marred by essential error. On the contrary there are an increasing number who appreciate and adopt, or appreciate if they cannot accept, Indian beliefs. Further than this, Eastern thought is having a marked influence on that of the West, though it is not often acknowledged. Many have still the notion that they have nothing to learn in any domain from this hemisphere. After all, what any one else says should not affect the independence of our own judgment. Let others say what they will. We should ourselves determine matters which concern us. The Indian people will do so when they free themselves from that hypnotic magic, which makes them often place blind reliance on the authority of foreigners, who, even when claiming to be scholars, are not always free from bias, religious or racial. Such counsel, though by no means unnecessary to-day, is happily becoming less needed than in the past.There are, however, still many Indians, particularly those of my own generation, whose English Gurus and their teaching have made them captives. Their mind has been so dominated and molded to a Western manner of thinking (philosophical, religious, artistic, social and political) that they have scarcely any greater capacity to appreciate their own cultural inheritance than their teachers, be that capacity in any particular case more or less. Some of them care nothing for their Shastra. Others do not understand it. The class of whom I speak are, in fact, as I have said, the Manasaputra of the English in a strict sense of the term. The Indian who has lost his Indian soul must regain it if he would retain that independence in his thought and in the ordering of his life which is the mark of a man, that is of one who seeks Svarajya-siddhi. How can an imitator be on the same level as his original? Rather he must sit as a Cela at the latter's feet. Whilst we can all learn something from one another, yet some in this land have yet to learn that their cultural inheritance with all its defects (and none is without such) is yet a noble one; an equal in rank, (to say the least), with those great past civilizations which have molded the life and thought of the West. All this has been admitted by Indians who have discernment. Such value as my own remarks possess, is due to the fact that I can see and judge from without as an outsider, though (I will admit in one sense) interested observer -- interested because I have at heart Indian welfare and that of all others which, as the world now stands, is bound up with it.As regards the Tantra Shastra in particular, greater ignorance prevailed and still exists. Its Vamacara practice however, seemed so peculiar, and its abuses were so talked of, that they captured attention to the exclusion of every thing else; the more particularly that this and the rest of the Shastra is hard to understand. Whilst the Shastra provides by its Acaras for all types from the lowest to the most advanced, its essential concepts, under whatever aspect they are manifested, and into whatever pattern they are woven, are (as Professor De La Vallee Poussion says of the Buddhist Tantra) of a metaphysical and subtle character. Indeed it is largely because of the subtlety of its principles, together with the difficulties which attend ritual exposition, that the study of the Tantras, notwithstanding the comparative simplicity of their Sanskrit, has been hitherto neglected by Western scholars. Possibly it was thought that the practices mentioned rendered any study of a system, in which they occurred, unnecessary. There was and still is some ground for the adverse criticism which has been passed on it. Nevertheless it was not a just appreciation of the Shastra as a whole, nor even an accurate judgment in respect of the particular ritual thus singled out for condemnation. Let those condemn this Shastra who will. That is their affair. But let them first study and understand it.I have dealt with the subject of the Tantras in several papers. It is only necessary here to say that "the Tantra" as it is called was wrongly considered to be synonymous with the Shakta Tantras; that in respect of the latter the whole attention was given to the Vamacara ritual and to magic (Shatkarma); that this ritual, whatever may in truth be said against it, was not understood; that it was completely ignored that the Tantras contained a remarkable philosophic presentment of religious teaching, profoundly applied in a ritual of psychological worth; and that the Shastras were also a repertory of the alchemy, medicine, law, religion, art and so forth of their time. It was sufficient to mention the word "Tantra" and there was supposed to be the end of the matter.I have often been asked why I had undertaken the study of the Tantra Shastra, and in some English (as opposed to Continental) quarters it has been suggested that my time and labor might be more worthily employed. One answer is this: Following the track of unmeasured abuse I have always found something good. The present case is no exception. I protest and have always protested against unjust aspersions upon the Civilization of India and its peoples. If there be what is blameworthy, accuracy requires that criticism should be reduced to its true proportions. Having been all my life a student of the world's religions and philosophies, I entered upon a particular study of this Shastra to discover for myself what it taught, and whether it was, as represented, a complete reversal of all other Hindu teaching with which I was acquainted. For it was said to be the cultivation or practice of gluttony, lust, and malevolence ("ferocity, lust, and mummery" as Brian Hodgson called it), which I knew the Indian Shastra, like all the other religious Scriptures of the world, strictly forbids.I found that the Shastra was of high importance in the history of Indian religion. The Tantra Shastra or Agama is not, as some seem to suppose, a petty Shastra of no account; one, and an unimportant sample, of the multitudinous manifestations of religion in a country which swarms with every form of religious sect. It is on the contrary with Veda, Smriti and Purana one of the foremost important Shastras in India, governing, in various degrees and ways, the temple and household ritual of the whole of India to-day and for centuries past. Those who are so strenuously averse to it, by that very fact recognize and fear its influence. From a historical point of view alone, it is worthy of study as an important part of Indian Culture, whatever be its intrinsic worth. History cannot be written if we exclude from it what we do not personally like. As Terence grandly said: "We are men and nothing which man has done is alien to us". There are some things in some of the Tantras and a spirit which they manifest of which their student may not personally approve. But the cause of history is not to be influenced by personal predilections. It is so influenced in fact. There are some who have found in the Shastra a useful weapon of attack against Indian religion and its tendencies. Should one speak of the heights which Indian spiritual experience has reached, one might be told that the infamous depths to which it had descended in Tantra Shastra, the Pushtimarga, the Vaishnava Sahajiya and so forth were more certainly established. Did one praise the high morality to be found in Indian Shastra, it might be admitted that India was not altogether destitute of the light of goodness; but it might be asked, what of the darkness of the Tantra? And so on and so forth. Let us then grapple with and not elude the objection. There was of course something in all this. But such objectors and others had not the will (even if they had the capacity to understand) to give a true presentment of the teachings of the Shastra. But the interests of fairness require both. Over and above the fact that the Shastra is an historical fact, it possesses, in some respects, an intrinsic value which justifies its study. Thus it is the storehouse of Indian occultism. This occult side of the Tantras is of scientific importance, the more particularly having regard to the present revived interest in occultist study in the West. "New thought" as it is called and kindred movements are a form of Mantravidya. Vasikaranam is hypnotism, fascination. There is "Spiritualism" and "Powers" in the Tantras and so forth. For myself, however, the philosophical and religious aspect of the Scripture is more important still. The main question for the generality of men is not "Powers" (Siddhi). Indeed the study of occultism and its practice has its dangers; and the pursuit of these powers is considered an obstacle to the attainment of that true Siddhi which is the end of every Shastra. A subject of greater interest and value is the remarkable presentation of Vedantic knowledge which the Shakta Tantra in particular gives (I never properly understood the Vedanta until after I had studied the Tantras) as also the ritual by which it is sought to gain realization (Aparokshajñana). The importance of the Shakta Tantra may be summed up by the statement that it is a Sadhana Shastra of Advaitavada. I will develop this last matter in a future paper. I will only say now that the main question of the day everywhere is how to realize practically the truths of religion, whatever they be. This applies to all, whether Hindu, Mohammed or Christian. Mere philosophical speculation and talk will avail nothing beyond a clarification of intellect. But, that, we all know, is not enough. It is not what we speculate about but what we are, which counts. The fundamental question is, how to realize (Sakshatkara) religious teaching. This is the fruit of Sadhana alone, whether the form of that Sadhana be Christian, Hindu, Mohammed, Buddhist or what else. The chief Sadhana-Shastra for the orthodox Hindu is the Tantra Shastra or Agama in its varying schools. In this fact lies its chief significance, and for Hindus its practical importance. This and the Advaitavada on which the Shakta ritual rests is in my opinion the main reason why Shakta Darshana or doctrine is worthy of study.The opinion which I had formed of the Shastra has been corroborated by several to whom I had introduced the matter. I should like to quote here the last letter I had only a month ago from an Indian friend, both Sanskritist and philosopher (a combination too rare). He says "they (the Tantras) have really thrown before me a flood of new light. So much so, that I really feel as if I have discovered a new world. Much of the mist and haziness has now been cleared away and I find in the Tantras not only a great and subtle philosophy but many of the missing links in the development of the different systems of Hindu philosophy which I could not discover before but which I have been seeking for, for some years past." These statements might perhaps lead some to think that the Shastra teaches something entirely, that is in every respect, new. As regards fundamental doctrines, the Tantra Shastra (for convenience I confine myself to the Shakta form) teaches much which is to be found in the Advaita Vedanta. Therefore those who think that they will find in the Shastra some fundamental truths concerning the world which are entirely new will be disillusioned. The observation does not apply to some doctrinal teaching, presentment, methods, and details, to which doubtless my friend's letter referred. He who has truly understood Indian Shastra as a whole will recognize, under variety of form and degree of spiritual advancement, the same substance by way of doctrine.
Whilst the Shakta Tantra recognizes, with the four Vedas, the Agamas and Nigaimas, it is now based, as are all other truly Indian Shastras on Veda. Veda, in the sense of Knowledge, is ultimately Spiritual Experience, namely Cit which Brahman is, and in the one partless infinite Ocean of Which the world, as a limited stress in Consciousness arises. So it is said of the Devi in the Commentary on the Trishati:Vedantamahavakya-janya
sakshatkara-rupa-brahmavidyaShe is Brahman-knowledge (Brahmavidya) in the form of direct realization produced by the Vedantic great saying (Mahavakya) -- that is "Tat tvam asi" ("That thou art") and all kindred sayings, So'ham, ("He I am"), Brahmasmi ("I am Brahman") and so forth. In other words, Self-knowledge is self-luminous and fundamental and the basis of all other knowledge. Owing to its transcendency it is beyond both prover and proof. It is self-realized (Svanubhava). But Shruti is the source from which this knowledge arises, as Samkara says, by removing (as also to some extent reason may do) false notions concerning it. It reveals by removing the superincumbent mass of human error. Again, Veda in a primary sense is the world as Idea in the Cosmic Mind of the creating Brahman and includes all forms of knowledge. Thus it is eternal, arising with and as the Samskaras at the beginning of every creation. This is the Vedamurtibrahman. Veda in the secondary sense is the various partial revelations relating to Tattva, Brahman or God, and Dharma, morality, made at different times and places to the several Rishis which are embodied in the four Vedas, Rig, Yajus, Sama and Atharva. Veda is not coextensive therefore with the four Vedas. But are these, even if they be regarded as the "earliest," the only (to use an English term) revelations? Revelation (Akasha-vani) never ceases. When and wherever there is a true Rishi or Seer there is Revelation. And in this sense the Tantra Shastra or Agama claims to be a Revelation. The Shabdabrahmamurti is Nigamadishastramaya: it being said that Agama is the Paramatma of that Murti, the four Vedas with their Angas are its Jivatma; the six philosophies its Indriyas; the Puranas and Upapuranas its gross body; Smriti its hands and other limbs and all, "other Shastras are the hairs of its body. In the Heart-lotus are the fifty Tejomayi Matrika. In the pericarp are the Agamas glittering like millions of suns and moons which are Sarvadharmamaya, Brahmajñanamaya, Sarvasiddhimaya, and Murtiman. These were revealed to the Rishis. In fact all Shastras are said to constitute one great many-millioned collection (Shatakoti Samhita) each being particular manifestations to man of the one, essential Veda. From this follows the belief that they do not contradict, but are in agreement with, one another; for Truth is one whatever be the degree in which it is received, or the form in which the Seers (Rishis) promulgated it to those whose spiritual sight has not strength enough to discern it directly and for themselves. But how, according to Indian notions, can that which is put forward as a Revelation be shown to be such? The answer is that of Ayurveda. A medicine is a good one if it cures. In the same way a Shastra is truly such if the Siddhi which it claims to give is gained as the fruit of the practice of its injunctions, according to the competency and under the conditions prescribed. The principle is a practical and widely adopted one. The tree must be judged by its fruit. This principle may, if applied to the general life of to-day, lead to an adverse judgment on some Tantrik practices. If so, let it be. It is, however, an error to suppose that even such practices as have been condemned, claim to rest on any other basis than Veda. It is by the learned in Tantra Shastra said to be ignorance (Avidya) to see a difference between Agama and Veda.Ignorant notions prevail on the subject of the relation of the Tantras to Veda and the Vedas. I read some years ago in a Bengali book by a Brahmo author that "the difference was that between Hell and Heaven". Now on what is such a condemnatory comparison based? It is safe to challenge production of the proof of such an assertion. Let us examine what the Shakta Tantra (to which allusion was made) teaches.In the first place "Hell" recognizes "Heaven," for the Shakta Tantra, as I have said, acknowledges the authority of Veda. All Indian Shastras do that. If they did not, they would not be Indian Shastra. The passages on this point are so numerous, and the point itself is so plain that I will only cite a few.Kularnava Tantra says (II. 85,140,141) that Kuladharma is based on and inspired by the Truth of Veda. Tasmat vedatmakam shastram viddhi kaulatmakam priye. In the same place Shiva cites passages from Shruti in support of His doctrine. The Prapañcasara and other Tantras cite Vaidika Mahavakya and Mantras; and as Mantras are a part of Veda, therefore, Meru Tantra says that Tantra is part of Veda (Pranatoshini 70). Niruttara Tantra calls Tantra the Fifth Veda and Kulacara is named the fifth Ashrama (ib.); that is it follows all others. Matsyauktamahatantra (XIII) says that the disciple must be pure of soul (Shuddhatma) and a knower of Veda. He who is devoid of Vaidika-kriya (Vedakriya-vivarjita) is disqualified (Maharudrayamala, I Khanda, Ch. 15; II Khanda, Ch. 2; Pranatoshini 108). Gandharva Tantra (Ch. 2, Pranatoshini 6) says that the Tantrik Sadhaka must be a believer in Veda (Astika), ever attached to Brahman, ever speaking of Brahman, living in Brahman and taking shelter with Brahman; which, by the way, is a queer demand to make of those, the supposed object of whose rites is mere debauchery. The Kularnava says that there is no knowledge higher than that of Veda and no doctrine equal to Kaula (III. 113, Nahivedadhika vidya na kaula-samadarshanam). Here a distinction is drawn between Veda which is Vidya and the Kaula teaching which he calls Darshana. See also Mahanirvana Tantra (I. 18, 19; II. 8-15). In Mahanirvana Tantra (III. 72) the Mantra Om Saccidekam Brahma is given and in the Prapañcasara (Ch. XXIX) this (what it calls) "Secret of the Vedas" is explained.
That the Shakta Tantra claims to be based on Veda admits of no doubt. In fact Kulluka Bhatta, the celebrated commentator on Manu, says that Shruti is of two kinds, Vaidik and Tantrik.Vaidiki tantrums caviar dvividha shrutih kirtitaIt is of course the fact that different sects bandy words upon the point whether they in fact truly interpret Shruti and follow practice conformable to it. Statements are made by opposing schools that certain Shastras are contrary to Shruti even though they profess to be based thereon. So a citation by Bhaskararaya in the Commentary to V. 76 of the Lalita sahasranama speaks of some Tantras as "opposed to Veda" (Vedaviruddhani). The Vayu Samhita says: "Shaivagama is twofold, that which is based on Shruti and that which is not. The former is composed of the essence of Shruti. Shrauta is Svatantra and Itara" (v. ante, p. 19). Shaivagamo'pi dvividhah, shrauto' shrautash ca samsmritah Srutisaramayah shrautah svantrastvitaro matah.So again the Bhagavata or Pancaratra Agama has been said to be non-Vaidik. This matter has been discussed by Samkaracarya and Ramanuja following Yamunacarya.We must in all cases distinguish between what a school says of itself and what others say of it. In Christianity both Catholicism and Protestantism claim to be based on the Bible and each alleges that the other is a wrong interpretation of it. Each again of the numerous Protestant sects says the same thing of the others.
But is Shakta Tantra contrary to Veda in fact? Let us shortly survey the main points in its doctrine. It teaches that Paramatma Nirguna Shiva is Saccidananda (Prapañcasara, Ch. XXIX: Kularnava, Ch. I. vv. 6-7). Kularnava says "Shiva is the impartite Supreme Brahman, the All-knowing (Sarvajña) Creator of all. He is the Stainless One and the Lord of all. He is One without a second (Advaya). He is Light itself. He changes not, and is without beginning or end. He is attributeless and above the highest. He is Saccidananda" (I. 6-7. And see the Dhyana and Pañcaratnastotra in Mahanirvana Tantra III. 50, 59-63). Brahman is Saccidananda, Eternal (Nitya), Changeless (Nirvikara), Partless (Nishkala), Untouched by Maya (Nirmala), Attributeless (Nirguna), Formless (Arupa), Imperishable (Akshara), All-spreading like space (Vyomasannibha), Self-illuminating (Svyamjyotih), Reality (Tattva) which is beyond mind and speech and is to be approached through spiritual feeling alone (Bhavanagamya). Kularnava I, 6-8; III. 92, 93; IX. 7). (Mahanirvana III. 50, 59-63, 67-68, 74; III. 12). In His aspect as the Lord (Ishvara) of all, He is the All-knower (Sarvajña), Lord of all: whose Body is pure Sattva (Shuddhasattvamaya), the Soul of the universe (Vishvatma). (Mahanirvana I. 61, III. 68). Such definitions simply re-affirm the teaching of Veda. Brahman is That which pervades without limit the Universe (Prapañcasara XXIX; Mahanirvana III. 33-35) as oil the sesamum seed (Sharada Tilaka I, Shaktanandatarangini I, Pranatoshini 13). This Brahman has twofold aspect as Parabrahman (Nirguna, Nishkala) and Shabda-brahman (Saguna, Sakala). Sammohana, a highly interesting Tantra, says (Ch. I) that Kubjika is of twofold aspect, namely, Nishkala when She is Candra-vaktra, and Sakala when called Paramukhi. So too is Guhyakali who as the first is Ekavaktra mahapashupatishi advaitabhavasampanna and as the second Dashavaktra. So the Kularnava says Shabda-brahmaparamabrahmabhedena Brahmano dvaividyam uktam (Khanda V, Ullasa 1). The same Tantra says that Sadashiva is without the bonds (of Maya) and Jiva is with them (Pashabadho bhavej jivah pashamuktah Sadashivahi, IX. 42) upon which the author of the Pranatoshini, citing this passage says "thus the identity of Jiva and Shiva is shown (iti Shivajivayoraikyam uktam). The Shakta Tantra is thus Advaitavada: for it proclaims that Paramatma and Jivatma are one. So it affirms the "grand words" (Mahavakya) of Veda -- "Tat tvam asi," "So'ham," "Brahmasmi" (Mahanirvana VIII. 264-265, V. 105); Prapañcasara II; identifying Hrim with Kundali and Hangsah and then with So'ham. Yah Suksmah So'ham ib. XXIV, Jñanarnava Tantra XXI. 10). As to Brahmasmi, see Kularnava IX. 32 and ib. 41. So'hambhavena pujayet. The Mantra "all this is surely Brahman (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma)" is according to the Mahanirvana (VII. 98) the end and aim of Tantrika Kulacara, the realization of which saying the Prapañcasara Tantra describes as the fifth or Supreme State (Ch. XIX); for the identity of Jivatma and Paramatma is Liberation which the Vedantasara defines to be Jivabrahmanoraikyam). Kularnava refers to the Advaita of which Shiva speaks (Advaitantu shivenoktam I. 108. See also Mahanirvana II. 33-34; I II. 33-35; 50-64; Prapañcasara II, XI X, XXIX). Gandharva Tantra says that the Sadhaka must be a nondualist (Dvaitahina). (See Ch. II. ib. Pranatoshini 108; Maharudrapamala I Khanda, Ch. 15; II Khanda, Ch. 2). It is useless to multiply quotations on this point of which there is no end. In fact that particular form of worship which has earned the Shakta Tantras ill-fame claims to be a practical application of Advaitavada. The Sammohana Tantra (Ch. VIII) gives high praise to the philosopher Samkaracarya saying that He was an incarnation of Shiva for the destruction of Buddhism. Kaulacarya is said to properly follow a full knowledge of Vedantic doctrine. Shiva in the Kularnava (I. 110) says "some desire dualism (Dvaita), others nondualism (Advaita) but my truth is beyond both (Dvaitadvaitavivarjita)".Advaitavedanta is the whole day and life of the Shakta Sadhaka. On waking at dawn (Brahmamuhurta) he sits on his bed and meditates "I am the Devi and none other. I am Brahman who is beyond all grief. I am a form of Saccidananda whose true nature is eternal Liberation."Aham Devi na canpo'smi,Brahmaivaham na sokabhak,
Saccidanandarupo'hamnitpamuktasvabhavavanAt noon again seated in Pujasana at time of Bhutasuddhi he meditates on the dissolution of the Tattvas in Paramatma. Seeing no difference between Paramatma and Jivatma he affirms Sa'ham "I am She". Again in the evening after ritual duties he affirms himself to be the Akhilatma and Saccidananda, and having so thought he sleeps. Similarly (I may here interpose) in the Buddhist Tantra -- the Sadhaka on rising in the state of Devadeha (hLayi-sku) imagines that the double drums are sounding in the heavens proclaiming the Mantras of the 24 Viras (dPahvo), and regards all things around him as constituting the Mandala of himself as Buddha Vajrasattva. When about to sleep he again imagines his body to be that of Buddha Vajrasattva and then merges himself into the tranquil state of the Void (Shunyata).
Gandharva Tantra says: "Having saluted the Guru as directed and thought 'So'ham' the wise Sadhaka, the performer of the rite should ponder the unity of Jiva and Brahman."Gurun natva vidhanena so'ham iti porudhasah
Aikyam sambhavayed dhiman jivasya Brahmano'pi ca.Kali Tantra says: "Having meditated in this way, a Sadhaka should worship Devi as his own Atma, thinking I am Brahman." Kubjika Tantra says (Devi is called Kubjika because She is Kundali): "A Sadhaka should meditate on his own Self as one and the same with Her (Taya sahitam atmanam ekibhutam vicintayet)" and so on.
The cardinal doctrine of these Shakta Tantras is that of Shakti whether in its Svarupa (that is, as It is in Itself) as Cidrupini, the Paraprakriti of Paramatma (Mahanirvana IV. 10) or as Maya and Prakriti (see as to the latter the great Hymn to Prakriti in Prapañcasara, Ch. XI). Shakti as the Kubjika Tantra says (Ch. I) is Consciousness (Caitanyarupini) and Bliss (Anandarupini). She is at the same time support of (Gunashraya) and composed of the Gunas (Gunamayi). Maya is however explained from the standpoint of Sadhana, the Tantra Shastra being a Sadhana Shastra, and not according to the Mayavada, that is, transcendental standpoint, of Samkara.What is there in the great Devi Sukta of the Rigveda (Mandala X, Sukta 125) which the Shakta Tantra does not teach? The Rishi of this revelation was a woman, the daughter of Rishi Ambhrina. It was fitting that a woman should proclaim the Divine Motherhood. Her Hymn says: "I am the Sovereign Queen the Treasury of all treasures; the chief of all objects of worship whose all-pervading Self all Devatas manifest; whose birthplace is in the midst of the causal waters; who breathing forth gives form to all created worlds and yet extends beyond them, so vast am I in greatness." (The full Hymn is translated in the French Edition of A. and E. Avalon's Hymns to the Goddess, Bossard, Paris.)
It is useless to cite quotations to show that the Shakta Tantra accepts the doctrine of Karma which as the Kularnava (IX. 125) says Jiva cannot give up until he renounces the fruit of it; an infinite number of universes, and their transitoriness (Mahanirvana III. 7), the plurality of worlds, Heaven and Hell, the seven Lokas, the Devas and Devis, who as the Kulacudamani Nigama (following the Devi-Sukta) says (Ch. I) are but parts of the great Shakti (Shaktanandatarangim III). Being Advaitavada, Moksha the state of Liberation and so forth is Paramatma. It accepts Smriti and Puranas; the Mahanirvana and other Tantras saying that they are the governing Shastras of the Treta and Dvapara ages respectively, as Tantra is that of the Kaliyuga. So the Tarapradipa (Ch. I) says that in the Kaliyuga, the Tantrika and not the Vaidika Dharma is to be followed. It is said that in Satya, Veda was undivided. In Dvapara, Krishnadvaipayana separated it into four parts. In Satya, Vaidika Upasana was Pradhana, that is, prevailed; Sadhakas worshipping Indra for wealth, children and the like; though Nishkama Rishis adored the Sarvashaktiman (Devisukta is Advaitasiddhipurna). In Treta, worship according to Smriti prevailed. It was then, that Vashishtha is said to have done Sadhana of Brahmavidya according to Cinacarakrama. Though in the Dvapara there was both Smriti and Purana, rites were generally performed according to the Puranas. There was also then, as always, worshippers of the Purnashaktimahavidya. At the end of Dvapara and beginning of the Kali age the Tantra Shastra was taught to men. Then the ten Samskaras, Shraddha and Antyeshtikriya were, as they are now, performed according to the Vaidikadharma: Ashramacara according to Dayabhaga and other Smriti Texts; Vratas according to Purana; Disha and Upasana of Brahman with Shakti, and various kinds of Yoga Sadhana, according to the Agama which is divided into three parts Tantra (Sattvaguna), Yamala (Rajoguna), and Damara (Tamoguna). There were 64 Tantras for each of the three divisions Ashvakranta, Rathakranta, Vishnukranta.Such is the Tantrik tradition concerning the Ages and their appropriate Scriptures. Whether this tradition has any historical basis still awaits inquiry, which is rendered difficult by the fact that many Tantras have been lost and others destroyed by those inimical to them. It is sufficient for my purpose to merely state what is the belief: that purpose being to show that the Tantra Shastra recognizes, and claims not to be in conflict with Veda or any other recognized Shastra. It accepts the six Philosophies (Darshana) which Shiva says are the six limbs of Kula and parts of his body, saying that he who severs them severs His limbs (Kularnava II. 84, 84-85). The meaning of this is that the Six Philosophies and the Six Minds, as all else, are parts of His body. It accepts the Shabda doctrine of Mimamsa subject to certain modifications to meet its doctrine of Shakti. It, in common with the Shaiva Tantra, accepts the doctrine of the 36 Tattvas, and Shadadhva (Tattva, Kala, Bhuvana, Varna, Pada, Mantra; see my Garland of Letters). This is an elaboration in detail which explains the origin of the Purusha and Prakriti Tattvas of the Samkhya. These are shown to be twin facets of the One, and the "development" of Shakti into Purusha-Prakriti Tattva is shown. These Tattvas include the ordinary 24 Prakriti with it, Gunas to Prithivi. It accepts the doctrine of three bodies (causal, subtle, gross) and the three states (Jagrat, Svapna Sushupti) in their individual and collective aspects. It follows the mode of evolution (Parinama) of Samkhya in so far as the development of Jiva is concerned, as also an Abhasa, in the nature of Vivartta, "from Fire to Fire" in the Pure Creation. Its exposition of the body includes the five Pranas, the seven Dhatus, the Doshas (Vayu, Pitta, Kapha) and so forth (Prapañcasara II). On the ritual side it contains the commonly accepted ritual of present-day Hinduism; Mantra, Yantra, Pratima, Linga, Shalagrama, Nyasa, Japa, Puja, Stotra, Kavaca, Dhyana and so forth, as well 'as the Vaidik rites which are the ten Samskaras, Homa and the like. Most of the commonly accepted ritual of the day is Tantrik. It accepts Yoga in all its forms Mantra, Hatha, Laya, Jñana; and is in particular distinguished by its practice of Laya or Kundali-yoga and other Hatha processes.Therefore not only is the authority of the Veda acknowledged along with the Agamas, Nigamas and Tantras but there is not a single doctrine or practice, amongst those hitherto mentioned, which is either not generally held, or which has not the adherence of large numbers of Indian worshippers. It accepts all the notions common to Hinduism as a whole. Nor is there a single doctrine previously mentioned which is contrary to Veda, that is on the assumption of the truth of Advaitavada. For of course it is open to Dualists and Vishishtadvaitins to say that its Monistic interpretation of Vedanta is not a true exposition of Vaidik truth. No Shakta will however say that. Subject to this, I do not know of anything which it omits and should have included, or states contrary to the tenor of Vaidik doctrine. If there be anything I shall be obliged, as a student of the Shastra, to any one who will call my attention to it. The Shastra has not, therefore, up to this point shown itself as a "Hell" in opposition to the Vaidik "Heaven."But it may said that I have omitted the main thing which gives it its bad and un-Vaidik character, namely the ill-famed Pañcatattva or worship with meat, wine, fish, grain and woman. I have also omitted the magic to be found in some of the Shastras.
The latter may be first shortly dealt with. Magic is not peculiar to the Tantras. It is to be found in plenty in the Atharvaveda. In fact the definition of Abhicara is "the Karma described in the Tantras and Atharvaveda." Abhicara is magical process with intent to destroy or injure. It is Himsa-karma, or act injurious to others. There is nothing anti-Vaidik then in Magic. I may, however, here also point out that there is nothing wrong in Magic (Shatkarma) per se. As with so many other things it is the use or abuse of it which makes it right or wrong. If a man kills, by Marana Karma, a rival in his business to get rid of competition and to succeed to his clients' custom, he commits a very grave sin -- one of the most grievous of sins. Suppose, however, that a man saw a tiger stalking a child, or a dacoit about to slay it for its golden ornament; his killing of the tiger or dacoit would, if necessary for the safety of the child, be a justifiable act. Magic is, however, likely to be abused and has in fact been abused by some of the Tantriks. I think this is the most serious charge established against them. For evil magic which proceeds from malevolence is a greater crime than any abuse of natural appetite. But in this, as in other matters, we must distinguish between what the Shastra says and the practices of its followers. The injunction laid upon the Sadhaka is that he "should do good to other beings as if they were his own self". Atmavat sarvabhutebhyo hitam kuryat kuleshvari (Kularnava Tantra XII. 63). In the Kularnava Samhita (a different and far inferior work to the Tantra of that name) Shiva recites some horrible rites with the flesh of rat and bat; with the soiled linen of a Candala woman, with the shroud of a corpse, and so forth; and then he says, "My heart trembles (hridayam kampate mama), my limbs tremble (gatrani mama kampante), my mouth is dry, Oh Parvati! (mukham shushyate Parvati!) Oh gentle one, my mind is all disturbed (kshobho me jayate bhadre). What more shall I say? Conceal it (Na vaktavyam) conceal it, conceal it." He then says: "In the Kali age Sadhakas are generally greedy of money. Having done greatly sinful acts they destroy living beings. For them there is neither Guru nor Rudra, nor Thee nor Sadhika. My dear life! they are ready to do acts for the destruction of men. Therefore it is wrong to reveal these matters, oh Devi. I have told Thee out of affection for Thee, being greatly pleased by Thy kisses and embrace. But it should be as carefully concealed by Thee, as thine own secret body. Oh Parvati! all this is greatly sinful and a very bad Yoga. (Mahapatakayuktam tat kuyogo'yam udahritah.)"Kalikale sadhakastu prapasho dhanalolupah
Mahakrityam vidhayaiva praninam badhabhaginah
Na gurur napi Rudro va naiva tvam naiva sadhika
Mahapranivinashaya samarthah pranavallabhe
Etat prakashanam devi dosaya parikalpyate
Snehena tava deveshi chumbanalinganaistatha
Santusyaiva maya devi sarvam etat prakashitam
Tvapa gopyam prayatnena svayoniriva Parvati
Mahapataka-yuktam tat kuyogo'yam udahritah."None of these things are ever to be done by Thee, Oh Daughter of the Mountain (Sarvatha naiva kartavyastvaya Parvatanandini). Whoever does so, incurs the sin of destroying Me. I destroy all such, as does fire, dry grass. Of a surety such incur the sin of slaying a Brahmana. All such incur the sin of slaying a Brahmana."Sarvatha naiva kartavya stvaya Parvatanandini
Badhabhak mama deveshi krityamimam samacaret
Tasya sarvam haramyashu vahnih shuskatrinam yatha
Avyartham brahmahatyanca brahmahatyam savindati.When therefore we condemn the sin of evil magic it is necessary to remember both such teaching as is contained in this quotation, and the practice of those of good life who follow the Shastra. To do so is to be both fair and accurate. There is nothing, in any event, in the point that the magical contents of the Tantra Shastra make it contrary to Veda. Those who bring such a charge must also prefer it against the Atharvaveda.
As a matter of fact Magic is common to all early religions. It has been practiced, though condemned, in Christian Europe. It is not necessary to go back to the old witchcraft trials. There are some who protest against its recrudescence to-day. It has been well observed that there are two significant facts about occultism, namely its catholicity (it is to be found in all lands and ages) and its amazing power of recuperation after it has been supposed to have been disproved as mere "superstition". Even some quarter of a century ago (I am quoting from the same author) there were probably not a score of people in London (and those kept their preoccupation to themselves) who had any interest at all in the subject except from a purely antiquarian standpoint. Magic was dismissed by practically all educated men as something too evidently foolish and nonsensical to deserve attention or inquiry. In recent years the position has been reversed in the West, and complaint is again made of the revival of witchcraft and occultism to-day. The reason of this is that modern scientific investigation has established the objectivity of some leading phenomena of occultism. For instance a little more than a century or so ago, it was still believed that a person could inflict physical injury on another by means other than physical. And this is what is to be found in that portion of the Tantra Shastras which deal with the Shatkarma. Witches confessed to having committed this crime and were punished therefor. At a later date the witchcraft trials were held to be evidence of the superstition both of the accused and accusers. Yet psychology now allows the principle that Thought is itself a Force, and that by Thought alone, properly directed, without any known physical means the thought of another, and hence his whole condition, can be affected. By physical means I mean direct physical means, for occultism may, and does avail itself of physical means to stimulate and intensify the force and direction of thought. This is the meaning of the magic rituals which have been so much ridiculed. Why is black the color of Marana Karma? Because that color incites and maintains and emphasizes the will to kill. So Hypnotism (Vashikaranam), as an instance of the exercise of the Power of Thought, makes use of gestures, rotatory instruments and so forth.
The Magician having a firm faith in his (or her) power (for faith in occultism as in Religion is essential) surrounds himself with every incentive to concentrated, prolonged and (in malevolent magic), malevolent thought. A figure or other object such as part of the clothing, hair, nails and so forth of the victim represents the person to be attacked by magic. This serves as the 'immediate object' on which the magical thought is expended. The Magician is helped by this and similar aids to a state of fixed and malignant attention which is rendered intense by action taken on the substituted object. It is not of course the injuries done to this object which are the direct cause of injury to the person attacked, but the thought of the magician of which these injuries are a materialization. There is thus present the circumstances which a modern psychologist would demand for success in a telepathic experiment. As the witchcraft trials show, the victim is first affected in thought and then in body by the malignant thought thus focused upon him. Sometimes no apparent means are employed, as in a case reported to me by a friend of mine as occurring in a Bombay Hotel when a man well-known in India for his "Powers" (Siddhi) drove away, by the power of his thought only, a party of persons sitting at a neighboring table whose presence was greatly distasteful to one of his companions. This, if the effect of' magical power, was an instance of what the Tantras call Ucchatana. In all cases the general principle is the same, namely the setting in motion and direction of powerful thought by appropriate means.
This is the view of those who give what may be called a psychological explanation of these phenomena. These would hold that the magical symbolisms are without inherent force but work according to race and individual characteristics on the mind which does the rest. Others believe that there is an inherent power in Symbolism itself, that the "Symbol" is not merely such but an actual expression of, and instrument by which, certain occult laws are brought into play. In other words the power of "Symbolism" derives not merely from the effect which it may have on particular minds likely to be affected by it but from itself as a law external to human thought. Some again (and Indian magicians amongst others) believe in the presence and aid of discarnate personalities (such as the unclean Pishacas) given in the carrying out of occult operations. Similarly it is commonly held by some that where so-called "spiritualistic" phenomena are real and not fraudulent (as they sometimes are) the action is not that of the dead but of Infernal Spirits simulating them and misleading men to their ruin. Occultism in the sense of a belief in, and claim to be able to use, a certain range of forces which may be called preternatural, has the adherence not only of savage and barbarous people (who always believe in it) but also of an increasing number of "civilized" Londoners, Berliners, Americans, Parisians and other Western peoples. They differ in all else but they are united in this. Even what most would regard as downright superstition still abundantly flourishes in the West. Witness the hundreds of thousands of "touch-wood" figures and the like sent to the troops in the recent war, the horror of' sitting 13 to a table, and so on. In fact, from the earliest ages, magic has gone hand-in-hand with religion, and if for short periods the former has been thought to be dead it always rises again. Is this, as some say, the mark of the inherent silly credulity of mankind, or does the fact show that there is something in the claims which occultism has made in all ages P India (I do not speak of the English-educated community which shares in the rise and fall of English opinion) has always believed in occultism and some of the Tantra Shastras are repertories of its ritual. Magic and superstition proper, exist in this country but are also to be found in the West. The same remark applies to every depreciatory criticism passed upon the Indian people. Some have thought that occultism is the sign both of savagery and barbarism on the one hand and of decadent civilization on the other. In India it has always existed and still exists. It has been well said that there is but one mental attitude impossible to the educated man, namely blank incredulity with regard to the whole subject. There has been, and is, a change of attitude due to an increase of psychological knowledge and scientific investigation into objective facts. Certain reconciliations have been suggested, bringing together the ancient beliefs, which sometimes exist in crude and ignorant forms. These reconciliations may be regarded as insufficiently borne out by the evidence. On the other hand a proposed reconciliation may be accepted as one that on the whole seems to meet the claims made by the occultist on one side and the scientific psychologist on the other. But in the present state of knowledge it is no longer possible to reject both claims as evidently absurd. Men of approved scientific position have, notwithstanding the ridicule and scientific bigotry to which they have been exposed, considered the facts to be worthy of their investigation. And on the psychological side successive and continuous discoveries are being made which corroborate ancient beliefs in substance, though they are not always in consonance with the mode in which those beliefs were expressed. We must face the fact that (with Religion) Occultism is in some form or another a widely diffused belief of humanity. All however will be agreed in holding that malevolent Magic is a great Sin. In leaving the subject of Magic I may here add that modern psychology and its data afford remarkable corroboration of some other Indian beliefs such as that Thought is a Force, and that its operation is in a field of Consciousness which is wider than that of which the mind is ordinarily aware. We may note also the aid which is derived from the establishment of dual and multiple personalities in understanding how it may be possible that in one unity there may be yet varying aspects.The second charge is the alleged Avaidik character of the secret Pañcatattva Sadhana, with wine, flesh and women, its alleged immorality of principle, and the evil lives of those who practice it. I am not in the present paper dealing in full with this subject; not that I intend by any means to shirk it; but it is more appropriately the subject of consideration in future Chapters on the subject of Shakta Tantrik Sadhana of which it forms a part. What I wish to say now is only this: We must distinguish in the first place between a principle and its application. A principle may be perfectly right and sound and yet a supposed application may not be an application in fact; or if there be an application, the latter may violate some other moral or physical law, or be dangerous and inexpedient as leading to abuse. I will show later that the principle involved is one which is claimed to be in conformity with Vaidik truth, and to be in fact recognized in varying forms by all classes of Hindus. Some do so dualistically. The Sadhana of the Shakta Tantra is, whether right or wrong, an application of the principles of Advaitavada and in its full form should not, it is said, be entered upon until after Vedantic principles have been mastered. For this reason Kauladharma has been called the fifth Ashrama. Secondly I wish to point out that this ritual with wine and meat is not as some suppose a new thing, something introduced by the Shakta Tantriks. On the contrary it is very old and has sanction in Vaidik practice as will appear from the authorities cited in the Appendix to this Chapter. So much is this so, that a Tantrik Sadhu discussing the matter with a Bengali friend of mine said of himself, as a follower of this ritual, that he was a Hindu and that those who were opposed to it were Jainas. What he meant, and what seems to be the fact, is that the present-day general prohibition against the use of wine, and the generally prevalent avoidance, or limitation of an animal diet, are due to the influence of Jainism and Buddhism which arose after, and in opposition to, Vaidik usage. Their influence is most marked of course in Vaishnavism but has not been without effect elsewhere. When we examine ancient Vaidik usage we find that meat, fish and Mudra (the latter in the form of Purodasha) were consumed, and intoxicating liquor (in the form of Soma) was drunk, in the Vaidik Yajñas. We also discover some Vaidik rites in which there was Maithuna. This I have dealt with in my article on "Shakti and Shakta".The above-mentioned facts show in my opinion that there is ground for the doctrine of the Tantrikas that it is a mark of ignorance (Avidya) to sever Veda and Tantra. My conclusion is not however a counsel to follow this or any other particular form of ritual. I am only concerned to state the facts. I may, however, here add two observations.
From an outside point of view (for I do not here deal with the subject otherwise) we must consider the age in which a particular Shastra was produced and consequently the conditions of the time, the then state of society, its moral and spiritual development and so forth. To understand some rites in the past history of this and other countries one must seek, in lieu of surface explanations, their occult significance in the history of the human race; and the mind must cast itself back into the ages whence it has emerged, by the aid of those traces it still bears in the depths of its being of that which outwardly expressed itself in ancient custom.Take for instance the rite of human sacrifice which the Kalikalpalata says that the Raja alone may perform (Raja naravalim dadayenna yo'pi parameshvari) but in which, as the Tantrasara states, no Brahmana may participate (Brahmananam naravalidane nadhikarah). Such an animal sacrifice is not peculiarly "Tantrik" but an instance of the survival of a rite widely spread in the ancient world; older than the day when Jehovah bade Abraham sacrifice his son (Gen. XXII) and that on which Sunasshepa (Aitareya Brahmana VII, 3) like Isaac was released. Reference, it is true, is made to this sacrifice in the Shastras, but save as some rare exception (I myself judged a case in Court some years ago) it does not exist to-day and the vast mass of men do not wish to see it revived. The Cakra ritual similarly is either disappearing or becoming in spirit transformed where there had been abuse.What is of primary value in the Tantra Shastra are certain principles with which I have dealt elsewhere, and with which I deal again in part in this and the following lectures. The application of these principles in ritual is a question of form. All form is a passing thing. In the shape of ritual its validity is limited to place and time. As so limited, it will continue so long as it serves a useful purpose and meets the needs of the age, and the degree of its spiritual advancement, or that of any particular body of men who practice it; otherwise it will disappear, whilst the foundations of Vedanta on which it rests may remain. In the same way it is said that we ourselves come and go with our merits and demerits, but that the Spirit ever abides beyond both good and evil.
Tantra has been the target of a lot of misconceptions in the last century. Imported from India into the western world, it was quite difficult to be presented in its true spirit because of the cultural differences and also because of its somehow confusing exterior aspects. Many believe that Tantra has to do with group sex and magic; to many Tantra represents just another weird sexual practice and nothing more.In fact they couldn't be further from the truth and they have no idea what they are missing. It is true that some Tantric practices involve sex but sex is not an object of Tantra and not its finality. In fact in Tantra, love is much more important than sex and sex without love has nothing to do with its ways.An ancient Tantric maxim says that "What made many others to fall because of their lack of self control, in turn makes the Tantric advance on his spiritual path. What is for some people a vice, the Tantric can turn into a virtue". Sex was banished by many religions because they considered it is impure and incompatible with the pursuit of spiritual life. On the other hand, Tantra takes a different, more nuanced position here : it says that uncontrolled sex is a cause of decay BUT the use of sexuality in a controlled manner, in accord with the golden rule of SEXUAL CONTINENCE is a cause for great spiritual progress.Yes, not any kind of sexuality is damaging for the spiritual evolution, only sex followed by ejaculation and respectively explosive discharge in the case of the women. This is a radical attitude because it turns sex form an enemy of spiritual life into a friend. Instead of running from it, Tantra embraces it.As you know, by seeing sex as impure many religions created a state of unnecessary tension. Sex is a natural instinct, it is a basic need of any human being; the role of sexual continence and Tantra is to remedy this situation by showing how both sexuality and spirituality can coexist and enhance one another.In Tantra the sexual potential (i.e. sperm and sexual secretions) are considered the source of a vast energy. This energy is clearly perceived by anyone when he/she is sexually aroused, this is the sensation of sexual pleasure. The transformation of this sexual potential in energy is called transmutation.When transmutation of sexual fluids takes place, the matter is converted into energy. We all know that basically all matter is energy (Einstein said that E=mc^2, remember ?).A huge amount of energy is compressed in each atom, each electron and photon - but Tantra says that humans can tap into this extraordinary source at will if they follow a correct and constant practice.The practice of sexual continence is not that easy but we all know that no valuable achievement in life is easy to come by. Tantra is a pleasure but still, you have to work for it and this is a demanding undertaking. The end results are beyond any imagination.Imagine a nuclear plant. In the reactors, the matter is converted into energy, then transformers are used to convert this energy and wires are used to transport it to anywhere you need to use it. The same process, analogically, happens in the human body. The SEXUAL FLUIDS are the source, the so called NADIS are the path of energy through the subtle body, and the destinations are the seven plans of the human being : vital, sexual, will-related, emotional, creative, mental and spiritual, as described by the yoga system.When you practice SEXUAL CONTINENCE consequently for at least a month you will start perceiving great positive effects in your body. The health is improved and your vitality is at its peak. You are full of a radiant force and have a very good disposition. All your complexes and fears related to sexuality are banished and you feel completely free. When having sex, you can make it last many hours on end without ever being exhausted. After making love you won't feel tired and drained of energy any more but you will experience exactly the opposite - a great force. After having sex you will not be less affectionate to your lover but you will feel a deep state of love that deepens with each Tantric sexual encounter.Practicing sexual continence you will make very happy your loved one, even if she does not practice sexual continence herself (and this is true for both sexes).You will quickly find again your lost happiness that you had in the beginning of your relation and any feelings of boredom and lost of interest will disappear.But the biggest advantage of sexual continence is the use of sexual energy as a power that will amplify your feelings of love, your mental power, your will, and ultimately, your spiritual force. This is why Tantra uses sexual energy instead of letting it be wasted, turning an obstacle into a great help.Everybody wants to be happy - this is the ultimate wish of any human being, but the problems appear when people try to define happiness. What is happiness for some is indifference or even suffering for others. Even if all seems relative, the spiritual paths found out that some types of happiness are more enduring and profound that others. With regard to sexuality, Tantra found that sexual continence is the way to achieve the deepest most enduring happiness in couple.The relation between Tantra and sex is not one of sweet comfortable abandon but one of hard work and the end result is worth every effort.
ALL TYPES OF YANTRA
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