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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An Overview of Tantra Sadhana

An Overview of Tantra Sadhana
By Arun Naik
Tantra is perhaps the most talked about, but the least
understood of Indian philosophies. Its paths and
practices are believed to be mysterious, and any attempt
to understand it becomes difficulty due to the difficult
nature of the subject itself, and the secrecy over the keys
to its terminology and methods.
A proper definition of Tantra is critical to understand the
subject. The word ‘Tantra’ is formed from the Sanskrit
root tn! which means ‘to spread, to widen, to expand, to
elongate, to cover, to fill, to create’. Therefore the
meaning of Tantra may be interpreted as i) Knowledge
which encompasses all that is to know, and which itself
is expansive in nature, and ii) a system which leads to
growth of one’s intellect and awareness, resulting in
sharper intelligence and other mental faculties, higher
faculty of reasoning and intuitive power,very high mental
creativity, and a speedy progress on the path of selfrealization.
In practice Tantra is a dynamic philosophy
which supports life, action, aspiration, knowledge, quest
for truth, a path which unshackles the infinite potential of
the human mind and helps one be One with the Divine.
Tantra view the Universe as a playground of Form and
Energy. Shiv is the Form and Shakti is the Energy,
though; both are inseparable and hence the same. Shiv
is Shakti and Shakti is Shiv. . Without Shakti Shiv is
dead, a corpse, incapable of action, and without Shiv
Shakti is unable to manifest and incapable of action
either. This is best seen in the image of Mahakali who
stands upright over the corpse form of Shiv.
izv - $ = zv
$ + kal = kalI
In Tantric terminology $ is Shakti. When Shakti leaves
Shiv and stands separate, Shiv turns into a corpse and
falls down. But to be Kali, Shakti also needs a union with
Kaal, and Kaal is none other than Shiv. This male-female
form is inseparable and is depicted as Ardhanarishwara,
where half the form is of Shiv and the other half is
Parvati. Shvetashvaropanishad says the Divine is Male
and also a Female: Tv< ôI Tv< pmu anis Tv< km… ar %t va km… air.
From a worldly point of view, however, Shiv is Purush,
the unchanging Consciousness, the Silent Witness.
Shakti is Nature - Prakriti, the changing supreme Power
which creates, sustains and destroys. And yet, Prakriti
can do nothing till Shiv wills it.
Tantra expressly differentiates itself from the Vedic
methods of Yoga. In the Vedantic tradition the Purush is
Divine, the Creator who runs the world, and Prakriti is the
Maya, the power of Illusion who creates a world of
mirage and casts a veil of ignorance. The god of a
Vedanti sadhak is essentially Purush, the saviour from
the clutches of Maya.
But in Tantra the prime force is Prakriti, the Energy, the
Nature, the Divine Mother, Aditi who reigns supreme. In
essence She is Formless, She is Maya who manifests
herself in infinitesimal forms to create the Universe, and
nothing is away from her. She is Mahakali,
Mahasaraswati, and Mahalaxmi, but beyond the
description of any known language. Yogis says that her
seat is in the Self-Illuminated Chidakash where she rests
on a throne whose legs are none else than Bramha,
Vishnu, Rudra and Ishwar, and the plank is Sadashiv
The ultimate aim of Tantra Sadhana is to realize the
Truth, reach a higher state of consciousness, change
mortal imperfection into a divine perfection, realize the
Divinity within and attain godhood - all this while staying
in the world and performing the worldly duties. Unlike
the Vedic philosophy which treats the World as an
illusion and a cobweb created by Maya, the Tantra Yogi
looks upon the world as a manifestation of Nature,
admires and respects it, lives in it and works towards
Higher Consciousness, and Mantra becomes his most
essential too.
Sound is the source of all manifestation...the knower
of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the
whole universe (Hazrat Inayat Khan)
Naad, Matrika and Mantra
Bramha has infinite aspects, and each of them is seen
as an independent deity. Each deity has unique
attributes of form and behaviour and represents a unique
set of Cosmic. A Mantra is the phonetic expression of its
Deity, just as a Yantra may be taken to be a geometric
expression of the deity. Sri Aurobindo explains a mantra
as a set of phonetic sounds which create vibrations in
the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the
realisation of what the mantra symbolizes.
Before the manifestation of the Creation all knowledge
rests in Para-Vak, which itself rests in the Nishkal-Shiv,
or Shiv who has no kalã or form. It is the state of being
and nothingness. Nasadiya Sukta portrays the condition
before dawn of Creation:
There was no Existence, nor Non-Existence. There was
no air and no sky beyond it. There was neither Death,
nor Immortality, There was no sign of the Divider of Day
and Night. There was Darkness, concealed in Darkness.
All around was an indiscriminate chaos.
Creation begins to manifest when Nishkal-Shiv decides
to become Sakal i.e. manifest into various forms or
kalãs. With his decision to manifest, the Para-Vak
begins to acquire a sort of semi-independent entity and
flows out of Sakal Shiv as Naad - the Primordeal
Unstruck Sound of the Divine. Naad flows in five
directions, and this phenomenon is recorded in Tantra as
the formation of five Amnayas - Purvamnaya,
Dakshimnaya, Pashchimamnaya, Uttaramnaya and
Urdhwamnaya – by the five faces of Shiv: Sadhyojat,
Vamdev, Aghor, Tatpurush and Ishan. (Kularnava
Para-Vak is the seat of all knowledge, all vibrations,
therefore not only the seat of all languages and
communications, but in a way also of all gross
substances and matter. With the manifestation of Naad it
first manifests as Pashyanti, a state of abstract
knowledge, like an idea which has not yet been
expressed in words.Here Knowledge is a Thought and a
distinct entity, unlike Para-Vak. This is the playground
where Shiv acquires the dual form of The Divine Teacher
and the Student. Where one part of him questions and
the other part dispenses Knowledge. This is the ground
where we look for answers to our problems and queries,
where the Divine within us plays the role of the Disciple
when we have a question to ask, and then the Divine
becomes the Teacher and reveals the answer. The
ground of Madhyama is the terrain of Mantras, because
it is here that the aspoirant is able to purify himself and
begin his spiritual ascention. This is the ground where
the Mantra works.
When Vak descends to the level of physical
manifestation, it loses its subtle powers and turns gross.
This is the level of Vaikhari, the level of manifested
Naad, or Sound as heard by the human ears and uttered
by the human throat. This is the interesting field of Naad
where Vaikhari expresses Thought in various languages
and forms, written or spoken. Each syllable is called a
Matrika. These Matrikas are extremely powerful and
shroud the intellect, creating level of Ignorance. At
Vaikhari level the Being is more close to the lower levels
of human intellect and existence, to grosser elements, to
lower human nature. Tantra turns it around: it uses
these Matrikas to formulate Mantras. Mantra is the
instrument by which the aspirant scales Vaikhari and
ascends to Madhyama, eventually to transcend the
Pashyanti and realaize his godhood.
Thus we see that Para-Vak manifests itself as the
physical world by turning from subtle to gross through
the following stages:
Para-Pashyanti > Pashyanti > Madhyama > Vaikhari
Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari are the three sounds
of `.
sxu a Tvm]r e inTy e iÇxa maÇaiTmka iSwta, AxmR aÇa iSwta inTya
yan½u ayaiR vze;t>.
The fourth sound of Om is the Chandrabindu which
belongs to the higher realm of Madhyama and cannot be
spoken by the human throat. A yogi or a sadhak can
only hear it.
These three levels of Naad later develop into the Cosmic
Trinity,three dimensions of Time, three dimensions of
Space, the three Vedas, and their ultimate ascention can
be seen as the formation of the Divine Triangle .
These are the three stages of Shrishti, Stithi and
Samhara - Creation, Maintenance and destruction. The
triangle also represents the three manifestations of
Shakti as Ichha, Gyan and Kriya, as the three
Goddesses: Gauri, Brahmi, and Vaishnavi, This Triangle
and the Bindu represents the Cosmic Union of Shiv and
Shakti, and is the source of all manifestations. Naad,
therefore, is the source of all Knowledge. All the
Knowledge which is available, all which has been lost,
and all which is yet to manifest in present in the Naad.
This is the highest stage of Tantra, and also the original
form of Tantra.
Arun Naik
February 2004
© Arun Naik. This article may not be reproduced in any form without
the permission of the author.