Tantra – Spiritual Knowledge of Practical Nature

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This article by Manisha Sarade

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                                                                                           Tantra – Spiritual Knowledge of Practical Nature


Tantra is not a unitary system like the Vedas or any of the Hindu philosophies. It is an accumulation of practices and ideas of the Hindus, since prehistoric times. Its birth is rooted in the Vedas; its development proceeded through the Upanishads, Itihasas, Puranas, and Smritis; and its luxuriant growth has been fostered by Buddhism, various minor Hindu sects, and also foreign influences.”

Swami Samarpanananda

Mahakala Iron Tantric Phurpa from Nepal - Tibetan Buddhist

Tantra (loom, weave, system) denotes the esoteric traditions of Hinduism that developed most likely about the middle of the first millennium AD. The Tantra in the Indian traditions means any systematic  broadly  applicable  “text, theory, system, method,  instrument, technique or practice”.  Beginning in the  early centuries, newly  revealed Tantras centring on VishnuShiva  or  Shakti  emerged.  Specific modes  of non-Vedic  worship  (Puja)  are considered  tantric  in  their  apprehension  and  ceremonies. Hindu temple building generally adapts to the iconography of  Tantra.  The Hindu text  that  describe  these  topics  are  called Tantras, Āgamas or Samhitās. The worship in  the Hindu Tantric practice  differs  from the  Vedic  form.  While the Vedic practice of yajñá, there are no icons and shrines, icons and symbolic icons with Puja are the means of  worship. Temples, symbolism, icons that prompt the follower of attributes and values are an essential part of the Āgamic practice, while non-theistic paths are one of alternative in the Vedic practice.

Kumari, The Tantric Goddess

However, it does not necessarily mean that Tantra-Āgamas and Vedas according to medieval era Hindu theologians.  Tirumular explained their link as, “the Vedas are the path, and the Āgamas are the horse”. Each Tantra Āgama text consists of four parts:

1. Jñana pada or Vidya pada comprises of doctrine, the esoteric spiritual knowledge, and knowledge of reality and liberation.

2. Yoga pada is precepts on yoga, the physical and mental discipline.

3. Kriyā pada  comprise  of  rules  for  rituals,  the  building  of  temples  (Mandir),  design principles  for  sculpting,  carving, and  consecration  of  icons of  deities  for  worship  in temples; for different forms of initiations  or Diksha.

4. Charya pada  is  laying  down  rules  of  conduct,  of  worship  (Puja),  observances  of religious  rites, rituals,  festivals and prayaschittas.      


शिव-तंत्र रहस्य: Shiva Tantra Rehesya

Tantra exist concerns Vaisnava, Shaiva, and Shakta forms, surrounded by others which eulogized as  self-realization  and  spiritual  enlightenment  by  some.  Left-hand tantric ceremonies are often  rejected  as  dangerous  by  most  orthodox  Hindus.  The perception of Tantra among Hindus espoused in Indian journalism  equates it with black magic. This instant association between Tantra and all things ‘immoral’, depraved and wicked has become ingrained in the Hindu as well as the non-Hindu psyche, and Tantra has come to be associated with black-magic, animal sacrifices, and other objectionable practices. Most of these notions about Tantra are, of course, grossly incorrect and are demeaning to Hinduism. However, tantra is much more than these restricted definitions and these are in fact rare and exceptional forms practiced by a few practitioners under special circumstances. In the words of the noted Tantra scholar P. C. Bagchi, “It cannot be denied that in some texts there is what may be called black magic, and there are also a few texts full of obscenities; but these do not form the main bulk of the Tantric literature”. Often, the focus on these esoteric practices misses the substance for the shock-value. Relentless focus on self-purification and spiritual development are integral to Tantra Shastra, which includes subtle metaphysics, and advanced yogic practices.

Shiva-Shakti with Shri Yantra

Some  tantric  aspirants  feel  the  union  is  accomplished  internally  and  with  spiritual entities of various kinds. The union means the actual act  of copulation, ritual uniting of ideas through praying and  sacrifice, or realization  of one is the true  self in the  universe joining  of the divine  principles  of Shiva and Shakti in Para Shiva. While  Hinduism  typically  views  as  being  Vedic,  the  Tantras  consider  part  of  the orthodox  Hindu/Vedic  scriptures. They  said  to  run  alongside  each  other,  the  Vedas  of orthodox Hinduism  on one  side  and  the  Āgamas  of Tantra  on the  other.  Many Tantra  texts cite  the  Atharva  Veda as  a  source of  excellent knowledge.  It is remarkable throughout  the Tantras as the Mahanirvana  Tantra, and they arrange themselves being natural advancement of  the  Vedas. 

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Tantra existed for  spiritual  seekers  in  the  period  of  Kaliyuga  when  Vedic practices  no  longer  apply  to the  tendency state  of  morality, and  Tantra  is  the  most  direct means to realization. Tantra  takes  the  form  of  a  conversation  among  the  Hindu  gods  Shiva  and Shakti/Parvati. Shiva is known in Hinduism as Yogiraj or Yogeshwara or The King of Yoga or God of Yoga while his consort considers his perfect feminine identical. Each explanations are the other a particular group of techniques or philosophies for attaining moksha (liberation/ enlightenment), or for attaining a  particular practical  result. (Āgamas are  Shiva to Shakti,  and Nigamas are Shakti to Shiva.)  Because of the full range of groups covered by the term “tantra”,  it is hard to describe tantric  practices  definitively.  The primary  practice,  the  Hindu  image-worship  is  known  as “puja” may include  any  of the  elements below.  As in all  of  Hindu  yogas,  mantras  play an essential part in Tantra for  spotlighting the mind, through the  channel of definite Hindu gods like  Shiva,  Ma  Kali  (mother  Kali)  and  Ganesh  (Ganesha  Upanishad).  Similarly, Puja  will involve  concentrating on a yantra or mandala.

Veda Upanishad and Tantra (In Modern Context)

Tantra  is  a  development  of  early  Hindu-Vedic  thought  held  the  Hindu  gods  and goddesses,  especially  Shiva  and  Shakti,  along  with  the  Advaita  (nondualist  Vedic) philosophy that each symbolizes an appearance of the ultimate Para Shiva or Brahman. These deities  may  be  worshipped  externally  with  flowers,  incense  and  others.  However,  more importantly, used objects  of meditation, where  the practitioner imagines  himself or herself  to be experiencing  the  darshan  or vision of the  deity. The  ancient devadasi  tradition of  sacred temple-dance, visualized in the  contemporary Bharata  Natyam is  a meditation  in movement. The divine  love expresses in Sringara and Bhakti.

Chakras the Psychic Centres of Yoga & Tantra (DVD Video)

Tantrikas explain the body as the microcosm is in the Kaulajñana-nirnaya which the practitioner meditates on the head is the moon, the heart is the sun, and the genitals are fire. Many groups hold the body which contains a series of energy centres (chakra – “wheel”). The chakra may connect with elements, planets or occult powers (siddhi).  The phenomenon of kundalini flow the energy through the chakras, while others regard it as unimportant or as abreaction.  However, the flow of the central Sushumna Nadi, a spiritual current when moving, opening chakras and is fundamental  to  the  siddhi  concept that  forms a  part  of  all Tantra, including  hatha yoga.   Finally, rituals are the main focus of the Tantras rather than one coherent system, and Tantra is an accumulation of practices and ideas. Because of the full range of communities covered by the term, it is problematic to describe tantric practices definitively.

हिन्दू तन्त्र शास्त्र: Hindu Tantra Shastra

As far as Buddhist tantra is concerned, it developed independently of Hindu for many centuries, however, and they are barely related now in spite of a surface resemblance. Even if we limit our study to Buddhist tantra, we are still looking at a vast range of practices and multiple definitions. Very broadly, most Buddhist tantra is a means to enlightenment through identity with tantric deities. It is sometimes also called "deity-yoga." It's important to understand that these deities are not "believed in" as external spirits to be worshiped. Rather, they are archetypes representing the tantric practitioner's own deepest nature. As with many other aspects of Buddhism, myth, and history don't always find their way to the same source.

(Tibetan Buddhist Deity) Vajradhara – The Protector of Vajrayana


say tantric practices were expounded by the historical Buddha. A king approached the Buddha and explained that his responsibilities did not allow him to abandon his people and become a monk. Yet, in his privileged position, he was surrounded by temptations and pleasures. How could he realize enlightenment? The Buddha responded by teaching the king tantric practices that would transform pleasures into transcendent realization. Historians speculate that tantra was developed by Mahayana teachers in India very early in the first millennia CE. It is possible that this was a way to reach those who weren't responding to teachings from the sutras. Wherever it came from, by the 7th century CE tantric Buddhism was fully systemized in northern India. This was significant to the development of Tibetan Buddhism. The first Buddhist teachers in Tibet, beginning in the 8th century with the arrival of Padmasambhava, were tantric teachers from northern India. By contrast, Buddhism reached China about the year Mahayana Buddhist sects that emerged in China, such as Pure Land and Zen, also incorporate tantric practices, but these are not nearly as elaborate as in Tibetan tantra.

The Tibetan Tantric Vision

Vajrayana teachers compare what they call the gradual, causal, or sutra path of Buddhism to the speedier tantra path. By "sutra" path, they mean following the Precepts, developing meditative concentration, and studying sutras to develop seeds, or causes, of enlightenment. In this way, enlightenment will be realized in the future. Tantra, on the other hand, is a means to bring this future result into the present moment by realizing oneself as an enlightened being.

Overview of Buddhist Tantra: General Presentation of the Classes of Tantra, Captivating the Minds of the Fortunate Ones

Hence, It is a fascinating science of maintaining material bodies at the peak of health and well being and the achievement of liberation through it. If you look at the material modes, the triguna, that all entities in the universe derive from matter, prakriti, tantra is the texts of practices for the tamoguna. Unfortunately, most understand tamas only from the perspective of the motivation to acquire brahma vidya and so it is often characterized as “darkness or inertia”, or even “lazy stupor”. In reality, it is merely an indifference or a lack of interest for intellectual pursuits (sattva) or the symbols of power and success (rajas). Those with tamoguna can achieve moksha through their own intrinsic facility or skills. They have a high degree of achievement orientation through their skills. So, musicians, painters, artists, sportsmen and so on are good examples of the dharma for those imbued with tamoguna. And tantra is the compilation of the body of knowledge associated with design and development of “bodies”.


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