Tantra is the practical side of Yoga Theory. Yoga, as found in scriptures like Patanjali’s Astanga Yoga Sutras, Shiva Samhita, Goraksha Samhita, Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati of Gorakhnath, Gheranda Samhita, Hathayoga Pradipika of Svatmaram, etc give us the ideas of what can be achieved by the performing Yoga, what is the philosophy of Yoga. Just like in Veda, there are 2 sides like the Samhita for mantras, fire-rituals and Upanishads for theoretical meanings. But the actual practical side of yoga is found among the Tantrik Yogis. The Lotuses, or, Chakras in the central channel (Sushumna), the various other channels (nadi-s), Kundalini energy, Kula and Akula points, Kama-Kala, these things have been extensively discussed in the Tantras. But this knowledge is lying scattered among many Tantra and Yoga scriptures. The Tantra-practitioners for ages were the prominent heads of Shiva (Shaiva, Nath, Siddha, Pashupata) schools (who were either householders or, recluse yogi monks), or, Shakti (Kalikula, Yamala, Kaula, Kapalika, Sri-kula) clans (who were mostly householder yogis). They held the secrets of the innermost esoteric yogic practices, which were only handed down from the Guru (master / adept yogi) to the chosen disciples. Often the Guru-s gave this secret only to their sons/daughters, to keep the family in a position of esteem and power. The students who received these verbal instructions were venerated and begged from for revelations by multitudes of Tantriks.
Gradually, due to slackness and ignorance, deformed practices began to creep in among the lineages. Tantra is supposed to be the art and science of living in direct communion with God. But as the path of tantra began to lead away from the highest ideal of spirituality, the sincere Yogi Masters felt the need to put down their knowledge into codified text, or, Tantrik scriptures, for fear of the original knowledge getting lost with time. The main form of Tantra is almost always, the Supreme Yogi Shiva answering the questions of the Mother Goddess Parvati. Devi Parvati asks the various intricate hidden secrets of Tantric lore, from many angles, the yoga behind it, the secret syllables, or, Bija Mantras, Nyasa-s for sanctifying the human body, Kavachas (armors) to bind and protect it from malefic forces. In this way numerous Tantras came into being, containing in them the esoteric lore of the masters, in the traditional form of Shiva-Parvati dialog.
The main purpose of Tantra is to weave spirituality with chores and activities of daily life. Tantra doesn’t command the yogi to throw away his needs and yearnings of mundane life and go to the forest alone as a recluse. On the contrary, Tantra understands the daily human needs and sympathizes with people with lesser control over their senses. Everyone has a right to ascend the spiritual ladder, but not everyone is destined to lead a monk’s life. Tantra is more inclusive than exclusive. It envelopes a very wide range of human traits and mental structures. Hence Tantra allows one to lead a normal life and slowly include the subtleties of yogic discipline into their lives, in stages.
It should also be noted that Tantrik Masters codified the secrets with multiple layers of meaning. It means a different thing for the Yogi of a higher level, and something else for a Beginner Yogi and something crude or, unintelligible for the layman. This was done intentionally to ward off onlookers and keep the delicate things hidden. The other purpose of writing Tantra in a cryptic language was to avoid persecution and abuse of the system by unbelievers. If you don’t understand something, you cannot pin-point a technique or, call it a profanation. Tantrik yogis were severely criticized in the past centuries and sometimes punished due to their creepy behavior, or, abhorrent practices. There are several scriptural verses supporting this secretive trend. There are other verses banning, prohibiting or, cursing some Tantrik texts that were considered “not so good”.
In modern times, all kinds of ritual worship of most gods/ deities in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism are performed by following the edicts of Tantrik discipline. Some Purana-s (Myths, Legends and ancient Hindu history) admit the efficacy and validity of Tantra. It is surprising to note that the earliest masters of Yoga were also the earliest originators of Tantra. (Like Shiva, Nandinath, Parashurama, Dattatreya, Matsyendranath/ Machchendra-Nath, Goraksha/ Gorakhnath, Rishi Durvasa, Rishi Vishwamitra, Rishi Agastya, Rishi-Vyasa, Adi-Shankaracharya, etc.) As the Shiva-Shakti structure of Tantra took hold of the Hindu world of spiritual practices, and as Tantra began to yield astounding results in a very little time, it began to be copied among other clans. In this way, five principal of deities of Hindu faith had their own Tantra scriptures. Thus we have Tantras for Shiva, Shakti, Sun, Ganesha and Vishnu. Tantras created around more than 2000 years ago are lost now. The oldest among the Hindu Tantras are Bhairava and Yogini Tantras. Many of the original Hindu Tantras have been copied verse by verse into Vajrayana Buddhist pantheon. Before that, during the later Vedic stages, the Tantras were called Prayoga Shastra-s, meaning Practical Scriptures.
To be continued.(30/09/2014)