by guest author Swami Muktidharma
There is a huge misunderstanding about the great science of Tantra, especially in our western society.
Some confuse it with witchery or black magic and a lot more think that Tantra is only related to sexual practices. As with many things imported from the East to the West, this is a gross misrepresentation of Tantra and a very limited way to understand an ancient and deep science.
Tantra relates to each and every aspect of our lives, and therefore must also include sexuality as this is one of the important aspects of human life. Tantra is a path to health, healing and profound connections that encompasses all levels of perception.
The word Tantra comes from two Sanskrit roots tanoti and trayati; tanoti means expansion of awareness or consciousness and trayati means liberation of energy. The real meaning of Tantra is the expansion of mind or consciousness and liberation of energy.
Tantra is the most ancient system for human evolution; even more ancient than the Vedas or yogic scriptures, which are believed to be the oldest scriptures in the world. In fact there are references about Tantra in the Vedic scriptures. Yoga is the daughter of tantra; the yoga practices are the tools of tantra; they are the technical aspect of the tantric philosophy.
The Tantric view of creation relates to two forces called Shiva and Shakti. These two aspects are ultimately one, but are separated in the manifest or physical universe. Shiva also called Purusha is the masculine force and is pure ‘consciousness’. Shakti or Prakriti is the feminine force that is pure ‘energy’.
These forces are not just a man and a woman who need to come together as has been misunderstood, but are rather aspects that exist within each and every person. We all contain both the masculine and feminine principles within us and the spiritual journey is an individual journey to reunite these energies.
In the physical existence in which we all operate, the pure universal consciousness of Shiva has been limited and becomes the “I” or individual consciousness. This is the ego principle, in which we relate to the world as individuals and not as universal beings. In this way we feel that “I am this” or “I am that” and remain separated from our true eternal identity.
The feminine energy is also limited in the manifest physical world and is sleeping in a dormant state. As long as the ego or individual nature continues to exist, the Shakti or feminine energy will stay dormant under the clutches of our physical body.
One can also understand this “sleeping” energy as the “sleeping” state in which we exist. We continue to relate to the world through the ego, thus, we perceive reality according to “I”, but this is a dream. We are actually “asleep” in the spiritual sense. As long as we only relate to the external world of illusion, we continue to “sleep” to our real eternal nature.
The sleeping feminine energy is what people call kundalini. Many misunderstand this energy or think that they have awakened it when they feel a little bit of tingling in the spine. Before one can awaken kundalini shakti, a big cleansing process of the physical body, the nervous system, the mental and energy bodies must take place.
We have to leave the individual consciousness in order to awaken kundalini. While many claim to have done this, it is not that easy and also not desirable without proper preparation.
The work of yoga and tantra is to GRADUALLY and SYSTEMATICALLY cleanse and awaken the energy centres and its pathways so that the sleeping shakti energy can arise and reunite with the Shiva consciousness.
The systems of tantra and yoga provide tools to deal with the mind, body and energy, gradually allowing for the individual consciousness to expand to a state of universality, thus liberating the dormant energy or kundalini shakti from our material existence and rising it to the top chakra for the final re-union with Shiva or supreme consciousness.
Shiva and Shakti principles underline not only human beings, but also every thing that exists in the manifest world. By boiling water, the particles of hydrogen and oxygen are expanded and liberated from the gross form of water and become subtle vapour. In the same way, by expanding the awareness, tantra liberates the energy that is locked up in the body and mind. Energy is the link between matter and consciousness. Once it is released from the clutches of matter, it unites with consciousness and a resulting awakening occurs.
One of the main characteristics of the tantric system as compared to others is that it does not create conflicts or repressions within the mind. Tantra accepts everything as it is and uses any situation or life circumstances as a stepping-stone to go beyond the mind. Tantra does not reject anything.
As Swami Satsangi says in Tattwa Shuddhi:
The tantric believes that every act, however mundane, if offered to the higher force within oneself or abounding in the universe, becomes meaningful and a medium through which he can transform his awareness.
While many philosophies talk about high ideals, that seem hard to reach, but lack a solid system to attain the goal, tantra is both a philosophy and also a practical system.
However, many of the tantric practices are too powerful and can release deep fears and emotions very quickly. It is said to be the fast track in spiritual life. Thus, it is important to prepare the body and mind adequately. In the same way that a light bulb will blow, if a high voltage of electricity powers it, beyond capacity; the human body can also be fused if it is not properly prepared for the high voltage of energy that awakens when kundalini shakti awakes from the dormant state.
All the techniques of hatha yoga, pranayama and meditation are preparatory practices for tantra. They begin the purification process of the body and mind. They also begin to generate energy or prana. Only when the body is purified and there is an abundance of prana can one seriously begin to think about awakening kundalini shakti.
One powerful and safe tool of tantra is that of mantra, or the use of particular powerful sounds. Mantras operate directly on the deep mind by creating vibrations, which stir the roots, so that they are pulled out gradually from the deep mind.
Many mantras are based on the Sanskrit language, which is composed of 52 sounds that are said to make up matter. When these letters are combined, it produces a mantra. Mantras interrelate with our physical body and mind, which are also made of energy. As a mantra is repeated it begins to explode these knots held in the unconscious mind and free the energy to move and expand.
The other tools of tantra are yantras and mandalas. Yantras are geometrical figures that are related to the archetypes that are hiding in the depths of our mind. They are used in a particular way with concentration in order to remove deep mental patterns. Mandalas are forms or shapes that have an influence on our personality and they are used in order to create or increase positive feelings. For example, the image or statue of a saint that we like very much, if we concentrate on it, can produce certain types of inner experiences.
There are also some tantric meditation techniques that are safe, simple and powerful.
Yoga Nidra or psychic sleep is based on the tantric practice of ‘Nyasa’. In the practice of ‘Nyasa’, mantras were chanted in a particular order on different points of the body. Swami Satyananda has recreated this practice for modern times, and a mental body rotation follows the order of ‘Nyasa’.
As these physical areas are mentally stimulated, a deep relaxation occurs and allows for blocked energy to be released, so that it can be used for higher spiritual purposes. Yoga Nidra also makes use of visualizing opposites, such as “hot” and “cold”. By using the opposites, the mind becomes more flexible and accepting of any situation arising. In tantra there is no rejection of situations, rather a gradual development of acceptance and awareness.
Antar Mouna or Inner Silence is another safe and clear tantric practice. It consists of five progressive stages that are practiced in a systematic way in order to de-condition and de-programme our minds from negative acquired patterns without the need of fighting it.
There is no quarrel with the mind. The mind is accepted as it is without guilt. It is seen in an objective way without judgments or identifications. This brings in the role of the witness, in which one can accept everything that comes and see it with dispassion rather than rejecting or attracting and judging, just observation, which is the clue.
Chakra shuddhi is another preliminary practice that begins the process of purifying the energy centres. It uses visualization, mantra and breath, which is a consistent theme in tantric practices.
There are many other deeper tantric practices, but only a qualified teacher should teach them. Many of the practices are not even known, except by certain masters. They have been obscured in the tantric texts in a plethora of symbols, so that only the initiated have access to these potent practices.
Tantra is a liberal path to free the mind. Tantra is a precise, slow, steady and systematic form of yoga, which should begin with the correct purification processes. Everyone cannot walk the same path, so tantra offers a variety of ways to explode the powerful energy forces within in order to reunite shakti with shiva.
When we expand our consciousness enough to go beyond the ego and the dream of ”individual consciousness”, the great mother kundalini who is trapped within the body, will awaken and rise up so that “pure energy” and “pure consciousness” can again reunite.
Swami Muktidharma is an inspiring speaker and teacher who has dedicated his life to yoga. He shares a deeply experiential and practical understanding of yoga, having spent 16 years in India living directly with Yoga Master Paramahamsa Satyananda Saraswati. He lectures throughout the world and imparts more than 35 years of yoga practice. His main purpose is to inspire and uplift humanity.
Swami Muktidharma approaches yoga from a scientific point of view to bring it into the 21st century in a valid way. He postulates bringing yoga into daily life. People who take his courses and spend time at Anahata Yoga Retreat receive inspiration and techniques to transform their daily lives into a yogic life.