Since this book was first published (in 1952) much material concerning Tantric forms of philosophy
and religion has become available. D. L. Snellgrove (London) edited and translated the Hevajratantra,
Agehananda Bharati (Syracuse) assessed the Tantric implications in the wider field of cultural
anthropology, and I myself translated the biography and the specific teachings of Naropa, one of the
most influential Tantrics. In this revised edited I have, as far as possible, incorporated the new findings
without, however, destroying the initial scope of challenging preconceived and archaic opinions, be
they of India or Western provenence. Changes, mostly in the terminology have been made for the sake
of greater clarity, and a few minor errors have been corrected.
The Tantras-there is hardly any other kind of literature that has met with so much abuse, particularly by
those who never read or seriously studied a single line of it; or that has so much fascinated those who
on the testimony of misinformed and uninformed people thought the Tantras to be a most powerful, and
hence strictly guarded means for the gratification of purely biological urges. Only very few people
tried to form an opinion of the Tantras by their own. It is true the Tantras are nothing for those who are
so pure in mind and, alas ! so poor-minded that they are unable to see that actual life is different from
the fantastic and mutually contradictory theories and ideas they have about it; nor are the Tantras meant
for those who consider life to be nothing else but a chronique scandaleuse. But since it is easier to
follow extremes than to weight the evidence and to decide upon a middle path, there an be no doubt that
these extremists have done great harm to the study and understanding of what the Tantras have to tell.
For it is by their verdict-unjustified abuse based upon willful ignorance and misconceptions about the
aim of the Tantras engendered by this ignorance-that the Tantras are nowadays held in contempt and
considered to be some thing depraved and mean. Yet the fact is that the Tantras contain a very sound
and healthy view of life. But just as it is impossible to understand the function of the kidney, for
instance, without regarding its place in the whole of the living organism, so also the Tantras cannot be
understood without taking into account the rich display of human life.
First of all, the Tantras are not a philosophy. They are an experience of life, of life just as it
is, and in this way they are the basic foundation of many a philosophy that has developed at a later stage.
Moreover, philosophy, understood in the sense of the present day and not in the sense of its
etymology, side particularly, and by overstressing it philosophy easily explodes in torrents of learned
scurrility against the alleged enemies of what the particular brand of ideology stands for. Philosophies
of late have tended more to consumate the work of self-destruction and of the annihilation of human
values than to enrich human life, because all of them lack the sustaining emotional warmth of feeling
and participation. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that the Tantras come as the necessary
corrective for the one-sidedness of philosophical reasoning which either views man from and in the
drab garb of materialism or looks at him through the tainted glass of an equally insipid,
romantic-sentimentalistic idealism, to mention only two of the most prominent and verbose "-isms"
which have been at feud with each other ever since philosophical thought arose. The Tantras, on the
other hand, try to restore man and to grasp life in its entireness, which is neither an indulgence in
passions, a succumbing to all sorts of distractions, nor a rejection and escape, but a complete
reconciliation to the hard facts of life by seeing them just as they are, that is, neither as the one or as
the other but as both together and a little more. Therefore also the Tantras do not take the examples for
illustrating their aims from any particular philosophical system-in fact, they are thoroughly outspoken
against every definite system, whether it be Brahmanical or Buddhistic, which plainly shows their
unbiasedness and integrity of thought-but from everyday life where men and women meet and part,
where emotions govern, lifting man up to dizzy heights or dragging him down into abysmal depths.
The most powerful emotions are linked up with the sex drive, which according to the
Buddhists, sets in not at puberty but is operating already prenatally, determining the selection of the
future parents and of the actual sex in embryonic development. This acknowledgment of sex as a most
powerful motive as well as the unmistakably sexual language of the Tantras might easily mislead-and it
actually has done so-a casual reader into a one-sided interpretation. That it is not merely a question of
sexuality, is borne out by the many other injunctions given in the Tantras. Ever and again we are warned
against the irresolute yielding to biological temptation. Therefore, a correct understanding can only be
achieved if, on the one hand, we take the "sexual" language as a well-meaning guide for a mind,
optimistically setting out on high philosophical flight, but coming to a tragic and untimely end as soon
as an attractive female being crosses its path; and, on the other, as a symbol for human relationship in
the most liberal sense. Thus, the Tantras are not at all speculative, but pre-eminently practical and up to
the actual problems of life.
Human relationship is a problem both of the within and the without, and hence so aptly
illustrated in the Tantras by the symbols of masculinity and femininity. For just as in the outer world we
meet men and women and come into contact with them, so also within the human psyche there are the
tender feminine traits in the soul of the male and the hard masculine traits in the soul of the female.
But a lasting relationship between these two is not established by suppressing the one or the other.
Only when both elements are lived together, when both elements have attained the same level and are in
a state of complete interpenetration and not of a mere side-by-side, a lasting relationship, liberating
man from the fatally dangerous one-sidedness and the barbarism it entails, can be established. This
establishment is a most hard task. No amount of self-deception will prevent man from facing the real
facts. He may imagine to have achieved internally the most harmonious arrangement between
masculinity and femininity, only to find out that his outward marriage breaks up before a divorce court.
Or he may even be convinced to lead the most perfect marriage according to the accepted standard of
society, only to suffer internally the hellish pains of obsessions, haunting fears, and other "nervous"
diseases. The fact is that in all these cases there has never been achieved a listing relationship but that
there has lingered on only some sort of patch-work that breaks down at the slightest provocation,
spreading disaster instead of radiating happiness and contentment. It is a far way to the state of
Yuganaddha which symbolizes the harmonious union of the opposites as well as their transcendence.
The insistence on the interplay between the within and the without makes the Tantras important works
and valuable contributions both to the psychological and social aspects of human life, thought the
social aspect cannot be understood in the sense of political despotism and desperadoism but only in the
sense of the relationship between the members of mankind in general. Not that the Tantras try to
impose a new social order; on the contrary, they do not even say a word about it and their aim seems to
be absolutely other-worldly.
But this other-worldliness is the necessary corrective against a too much stressed
worldliness to which the "sexual" language and aspect might give rise, though as I have pointed out
above, this sexual aspect is but the corrective against the one-side intellectualism and rationalism of
mere philosophy which is unable to cope with problems of everyday life. History ash shown that all the
existing philosophies have revealed their inadequacies and have broken down, just as the social orders
based upon them either have already broken down or are giving way to new forms. It is at this point that
the Buddhist Tantras, particularly because of their unbiasedness and their going a middle path avoiding
the extremes, come in as valuable guides to a new orientation of man's outlook. They do away with the
artificially set up fences that separate man from man both mentally and socially. But this does not mean
that the Tantras are advocates of social promiscuity-a freedom that is supposed to cover up the hideous
mental inhibitions that go side by side with it, as many of the western societies with their intolerant and
aggressive mentality show day by day. The Buddhist sages who were better psychologist than our
professionals and socially more valuable members than our law-givers, knew too well that man cannot
be split up into social, mental, and moral parts as independent, autonomous units which leave man with
no basis whatever for relating one part to any other. Therefore the Tantras are no handbook for
revolutionaries or other well-meaning reformers of society. What the Tantras have to say must be lived
in order to be understood. But to live and to understand needs courage and perseverance like everything
that is great. The way, avoiding the easy and cheap extremes, is hard and beset with difficulties, for
there is nothing to which we may cling, no outer conventions, no soothing beliefs. The way the Tantras
point out and ask man to go is for the bold who "fearless like lions" venture upon new paths.
Tho symbol of Yuganaddha which points to the unique harmony and interpenetration of
masculinity and feminity, of "blunt" truth and "symbolic" truth, of intelligence and emotionality, points
to the solution the problem that concerns each of us-the problem of how to solve the conflict that is
raging within us and is fundamentally based upon the split between intellect and emotions, as well as
between thought and action. For while the intellect tells us one thing and pushes us one way, our
emotions attached to outmoded scientific, philosophical, and theological doctrines push us another
way, making us frustrated men, divided against ourselves. The symbol of Yuganaddha is therefore of
utmost practical importance, for as a living entity born out of the conjunctio oppositorum it is within
the reach of immediate apprehension and unlike a dead sign it does not refer to what only syntactically
and postulationally formulated theory can designate. Thus the symbolism of the Buddhist Tantras
accomplishes in a practical way what the Buddhist Sutras and Sastras attempted to do theoretically, to
lead man to lasting peace and bliss.
Original Tantric Texts (18)
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