TANTRA :TANTRA & AAGAM
The Sanskrit word TANTRA literally means "warp (on a loom)", or "extension". It comes from the verbal roots TAN - "to stretch, expound", and TRA - "to save", which gives further hints upon the other meanings of the word TANTRA.
This name is applied both for a certain category of texts of Oriental spirituality, and for the doctrine and teachings which they contain. However, the Tantric texts, the TANTRA-s - of which there are several hundred: proper TANTRA-s, SHIVA AGAMA -s, VISHNU SAMHITA -s, SHAKTA NIGAMA-s, etc. - are written in a kind of "code language", so that without an oral explanation from a competent GURU a lot of passages are bound to remain unclear. Furthermore, there are still many un-translated and secret Tantric texts under the dust of forgotten or private libraries. All these, plus the extremely varied and complex nature ofTantra means that it is almost impossible to formulate a single definition. That is why, it is important to sketch some of the main features of the Tantric system in a detailed manner .
CHARACTERISTICS OF TANTRISM
1. TANTRA YOGA offers an alternative and practical individual road to salvation, called a SADHANA, beside the Vedic one which is often deemed to be antiquated. It is important to note that the true Tantric SADHANA is accessible for people of any caste, social status, age, for women as well as men, householders and ascetics.
2. The TANTRA-s are presented as the best form of teaching for people living in KALI YUGA "the dark age", people of the present day. KALI YUGA is often connected with the "iron age" of the Greek mythology and with the "age of the wolf", of the Northern Edda, deemed to have exactly the same meaning. Therefore, nowadays, when spirituality is declining and man is desperately trying to reintegrate himself into a spiritual reality, it is stated that TANTRA is the last and best way to reach salvation.
3. TANTRA has a rigorous metaphysical basis, of a very non-dualist nature. However, according to Tantra an intellectual knowledge is not enough, there also exists a need for direct, personal experience, which becomes possible only through the agency of SHAKTI, power and intense energy. The concept of SHAKTI, the feminine energy is the specific shade of the entire Tantric system.
4. TANTRA recognizes, and expounds mundane aims besides spiritual emancipation, as a lawful goal for practitioners. Its aim is to transform the adept into kind of super-man, who not only has liberated himself of the Universe, reaching Enlightment, but also - alike the Supreme Lord Himself - is able to rule over it and control its secret forces. This means that Tantric methods are applicable for various sorts of practical accomplishments, including astrology, medicine, parapsychology, alchemy and magic. A number of written sources are pre-occupied with describing these supernatural abilities (SIDDHI -s), and the ways to attain them. However, there will always remain a connecting thread between magical and spiritual.
5. The eminent place given to energy involves a thorough reevaluation of the body. This is not meant with the sense of object of idolatry, like in the contemporary world, but as necessary instrument, the unavoidable premises of the spiritual realization. This is due to the frequently used analogy between the macro cosmos and the micro cosmos, which is the human body: "What is here is everywhere, what is not here is nowhere". A consequence of this fact is the appearance of the HATHA YOGA system in Tantric schools; a system which has neither "health" or "well-being" as its goal as is commonly believed.
6. TANTRA teaches the practice of a special variety of YOGA, designed to transform the animal instincts and functions by creating an upward movement in the body, along energy-channels called NADI-s, and through centres of force CHAKRA-s. The process is most commonly expressed as "rising KUNDALINI ". YOGA is the elaboration of a subtle physiology, in which the micro cosmos of the body is homologized with the macro cosmos and the world of The Gods.
7. TANTRA emphasizes the metaphysical and operative importance of the feminine principle. For TANTRIKA-s, the Female Goddess SHAKTI represents universal power, which is the energy of bondage, and Liberation, who veils and reveals, blinds and illuminates, the world is her toy, and her mirror. Here we encounter a genuine reevaluation of the woman, thus being the only spiritual path that acknowledges a total equality between the two sexes, at all levels. The importance of female manifestation extends to all levels of experience, from daily life to metaphysics.
8. Important also are speculations upon the mysterious nature of speech, and its constituents; the existence of a phonic creation is assumed in parallel to material phenomena. These revelations are connected with the sounds from the Sanskrit alphabet.
9. Generally short, unintelligible formulas, called MANTRA-s and BIJA-s have been developed and frequently used which correlate to various supernatural powers and levels of consciousness by means of definite Yogic procedures which explore cosmic symbolism. MANTRA, according to TANTRA, is one of the most efficient instruments for reaching higher levels of consciousness and therefore the overwhelming majority of Tantric texts deal to some extent with this topic and its secrets.
10. TANTRA uses other concrete tools such as geometrical designs called YANTRA-s, symbolical representations (MANDALA-s) and gestures (MUDRA-s), for practically accomplishing or expressing metaphysical principles. Supernatural worlds are approached by specific methods of meditation (DHYANA), visualization, worship, etc.
11. Tantric teachings are structured on several levels, depending on whom they address; the traditional texts assert the existence of three different types of human beings: 1) the "divine" human (DIVYA), who in our age practically no longer exists. 2) The "heroic" human (VIRA), who though rare is best suited for initiation in Tantra. 3) The "animal" or "herd of the Gods" (PASHU) who thrives in our dark age. Tantric texts say that only the VIRA-s, heroes liberated from fear, hate, and absurd shame are qualified to receive in full Tantric revelations, while others must first receive an adequate SADHANA , which will gradually bring them to heroic condition.
12. When discussing heroic beings, TANTRA is not so very concerned with theology, or common morals. It is not a trite anarchism that we are talking about, but the need for transcending some of the appearances of the illusonary world, for reaching the strongest awakening. Very often Tantric texts themselves over-emphasize this idea in order to banish narrow-minded aspirants. Therefore they use a symbolical language which seems crude but is loaded with deeper and hidden meanings; for example "to pet the breasts of your sister" actually means to arouse the SHAKTI in ANAHATA CHAKRA or, "to put the LINGAM (penis) in the maternal cavity" actually means to pierce the root-CHAKRA, also known as Muladhara and so on.
13. Most Tantric lines are SHIVA-ite, because of the exceptional aspects of SHIVA, which are known as: Benefactor, Terrible, Healer, Destroyer of evil, Supreme Androgen and so forth.
14. TANTRA emphasizes the absolute necessity of initiation from a qualified spiritual guide or teacher (GURU) whose directions for spiritual practice must be consistently followed. That is why Tantric texts use a special set of terminology, inaccessible to outsiders, and whose "key" is handed over orally, by the GURU.
15. In TANTRA there often appears ambivalence between divine and human existence, as complementary aspects of the same awesome, grandiose reality.
16. There is also a far-fetched categorization of reality, especially in the symbolism of the numbers and speech, which leads to the mysterious science of breath and to TATTVA-s. It has connections with the ancient alchemical processes of SIDDHA -s and the body culture of the HATHA YOGIN-s.