What is "Tantra"?

iBrian

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I've seen the term used in various instances about the board.

But what is Tantra? What does the word mean, and what is the history and theology behind the word?
 
I said:
I've seen the term used in various instances about the board.

But what is Tantra? What does the word mean, and what is the history and theology behind the word?
Great question, Brian, and one I wonder about myself. I imagine there will be several different answers. Here's a link to the Ananda Marga take on Tantra:

http://www.room23.de/927.html

A quick excerpt from that link will give one interpretation as to what the word means:
"Tantra literally means 'that which liberates from dullness or darkness,'"
although, again, I think others will have other "literal" translations.

As far as the "theology" of the word, I don't think I'm prepared to tackle that one. Also, I'm not sure "theology" is the correct word to use with Tantra, although I'm not sure what would be more suitable.
 
Namaskar,

I agree with Pathless that you can't use the word "theology" in relation to a Sanskrit word. According to Ananda Marga philosophy there are two explanations for the word.
I will quote from "Discourses on Tantra" Volume Two Pg 36 & 37:

"There is no reliable evidence to suggest that in the Vedic period spiritual knowledge was handed down from preceptor to disciple. As far as we know from the history of spiritual sadhana, Lord Shiva was the first to propound it, and He gave this spiritual cult the name of Tantra. Tantra is the secret behind spiritual progress.

The scriptural definition of tantra is Tam jaadyaat taarayet yastu sah tantrah parikiirttitah ["Tantra is that which liberates a person from the bondages of staticity"]. Tam is the acoustic root of staticity.

Tantra has another meaning as well. The Sanskrit root verb tan means "to expand". So the practical process that leads to one's expansion and consequent emancipation is called tantra. Thus sadhana and Tantra are inseparable.

[From "Tantra and sadhana" Subhasita Samgraha Part 8; 25 May 1960 DMC, Saharsa]
 
Thanks for the answers. :)

So, therefore, Tantra is specially a non-partisan reference to a process of enlightenment of sorts?

However, I gather from your posts, Avinash, that there is a organised philsophy of Tantra, that is seen to have been rooted thousands of years ago, and that the knowledge of this philosophy effectively comes down to us as a form of "underground movement" - meaning, somethng hidden or forgotten by those religions that developed over it's initial followers/following??
 
I said:
So, therefore, Tantra is specially a non-partisan reference to a process of enlightenment of sorts?

However, I gather from your posts, Avinash, that there is an organised philosophy of Tantra, that is seen to have been rooted thousands of years ago, and that the knowledge of this philosophy effectively comes down to us as a form of "underground movement" - meaning, somethng hidden or forgotten by those religions that developed over it's initial followers/following??

Namaskar,

Tantra has since Lord Shiva been passed down through the guru-disciple system and the teachings were always kept very secret. It used to be very hard to be accepted as a disciple. So you could indeed say that it was a kind of "underground movement" that was never as clearly visible as most religious practices. In the past, religion was mostly involved with external rituals anyway. If you did what the priests told you to do, that would be sufficient for an ordinary person.

In more recent times however, modern movements have sprung up that teach more introspective spiritual practices. Ananda Marga is unusual in that it has brought Tantra into an organisation that caters not only for the celibate tantric disciple but for family people who lead productive lives in society as well. The celibate disciple has to take on the role of the missionary worker who helps support family people and society rather than turn away from them.

It is my personal belief that the mission of Jesus was in essence also a tantric mission and not initially meant to spread into family life or become a religion formed and dominated by religious priests. In other religions also the teachings borrowed from Tantra. In the case of Hinduism this happened over thousands of years rather than in a short timespan. Hinduism is the result of the clash and fusion between Tantra and the Vedic religion which originally came from outside India.
 
Thanks for that, Avinash. :)

Is there an actual documented process of Tantra being recorded through history? I'm simply not aware of the discipline, but a thought comes to me as to whether there's a parallel between Ananda Marga with Tantra, to Wicca and Witchcraft - that of a modern re-invention of an apparently older set of practices.
 
Re: What is Tantra?

I said:
Is there an actual documented process of Tantra being recorded through history? I'm simply not aware of the discipline, but a thought comes to me as to whether there's a parallel between Ananda Marga with Tantra, to Wicca and Witchcraft - that of a modern re-invention of an apparently older set of practices.

Namaskar,

I know too little of Wicca and Witchcraft to be precise about any parallels but there is of course also so-called "Black Tantra", where the main objective is to acquire and use occult or magic powers for selfish reasons rather than to gain spiritual emancipation (I'm not saying that in Wicca or Witchcraft this is also the case).

The Ananda Marga Tantra is not so much a re-invention (Tantra never disappeared) but more a modernization of Tantra. Five different types of Tantra are combined and as said earlier elsewhere, Tantra is also made acceptable for family people and made beneficial for society as a whole. Although some parts of the practices still remain secret on a personal level, the philosophy itself is no longer secret.

In the Ananda Marga Gurukula in Ananda Nagar in Upper West-Bengal (http://www.gurukul.edu/) , they are creating a collection of Tantric scriptures and philosophies and making translations of these into different languages.
 
Avinash said:
The celibate disciple has to take on the role of the missionary worker who helps support family people and society rather than turn away from them.

This is quite true. I, myself am a Margii. Most of our acharyas (lit. "one who teaches by example" our spiritual teachers) are the celibate disciples you speak of. But a family person can also become an acharya, just not a renunciate. Once they've gained their full training, this family person can teach all the lessons of meditaiton to others.

That's actually a huge difference between Ananda Marga and some other spiritual communities. Usually, one must be a renunciate (sannyasi) to initiate others into meditation lessons.

A lovely couple I know (who have three kids), recently this training and will be family acharyas.
 
Here is something that I received regarding The Hidden Meaning of Tantra" "Tantra comes from the Samskrta (Sanskrit) words "tan" meaning "dullness" and "trayet" meaning "to liberate". So Tantra means, "that which liberates the mind from dullness". Tantric practices were normally handed down secretly from Master to Disciple. However,due to shortage of compentent teachers these eventually had to be written down. In order that the practices could not be misused by the uninitiated they were often hidden incodes and images. The most famous are the "five M's) (Mamsa - meat, Matsya - fish, Madhya - wine, Mudra - posture,and Maethuna - sexual union) which appear at first glance to endores the indulgence inphysical pleasures as a form of spiritual practices. As a result Tantra has been much misunderstood. The ancient Tantrics realised that not everyone was ready to undergo strong spiritual disciplines and so they devised a set of practices for people which taught themhow to use these things in a conrolled way with spiritual ideation. Once reaching a higher state the Five Ms took on a different meaning altogether. Mamsa (meat) was the symbol for the tongue and meant control of speech and other expressions. Matsya (fish) was the symbol for the two intertwining psychic channels which are controlled by the breath and means breath control. Madhya (wine) was the symbol for the harmone secreted by the pineal gland (in the center of the brain) melatonin and the techniques for bringing it under control, Mudra (posture) was the symbol for spiritual company and the importance of contact with good people, while Maethuna (sexual union) was the symbol for joining the Kundalinii energy (female) to the seat of consciousness (male) in the Sahasrara Cakra at the crown of the Head." I've been a subscriber to a web site called tantric-gems and this is some of the information they put out. he hawai'i au, fay
 
Namaste all,


interesting question, Brian. i guess you missed our discussion on this topic earlier :)


http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=904


here are two different Tantric Buddhist teachings which the interested reader can check out:

http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2240

http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1534

a snippet from the first link to further the conversation:

Tantra
Tantra means thread in Sanskrit, specifically the warp thread that dresses the loom and gives support to the fabric formed by the moving shuttle or, in a rug, the individual knots. Without it, there can be no cloth. It can also refer to the cord used for stringing beads to make a necklace, a rosary, mala, or garland. Tantric or more rarely, tantrik, is the adjective.


The word "tantra" refers to an "oral practice tradition," where there is a direct link from teacher to student. It is important to understand that a tantric connection is more than a lineage association, or an affiliation to a tradition. To belong to a certain tantric lineage means that the skills themselves are learned, practiced, mastered, and handed on with a special kind of permission.

Esoteric
Tantrism refers to an esoteric system in which exercises, practices and rituals are handed down directly from teacher to student by word of mouth, though often with the aid of teaching materials in the form of pamphlets and pictures. Such a manual can also be called a tantra. Any tantra is usually part of a system that was discovered, developed, or established, to explain, teach and initiate people into a radically different way of looking at, and acting in, the world.

The esoteric, concealed, or secret part, is often misunderstood as a reference to the intentional concealment of ancient practices. And it is true that some of these tried and true techniques sometimes rely heavily on symbolic or "twilight" language.

Also, there is little doubt that some teachers wanted to keep certain things from their competitors, and that there were times and political situations during which it was not wise to meet privately in small groups for any reason.

However, the word "esoteric" in relation to tantric information, systems, and practices, has more to so with the fact that they operate at a subconscious or subliminal level -- below the threshold of everyday awareness. Without proper explanation and careful guidance, an impatient and unprepared person could really get into trouble with some of these methods.

Attention was drawn to tantrism when some sexual aspects of it became known in the West. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, this has led to a great deal of confusion on the subject. People incorrectly tend to assume that "tantric" means something like, "about dynamic sexual technique."

metta,

~v
 
Hello Brian,

Tantra in its original meaning is a very wide-spread definition and includes quite a wide variety of different practical, mystical and philosophical schools of thoughts.
Originally, the Agama Sastra, this means the compendium of scriptures regarding Tantra, was revealed by Lord Siva to his Goddess Sakti. Agama therefor means a secret teaching from God in form of Siva to Goddess in form of Sakti, and the content of those scriptures was mostly of practical approach.
But as with so many belief "systems", Tantra has gone through an evolution in itself regarding its fundamental and essential teachings.
The summit of Tantric knowledge was reached in the region of Kashmir from around 900 AD to 1200 AD. It was at this time, that the various Agama Shastras mentioned above, which were "contradictive" towards eachother in the sense that some taught pluraslism / polytheism, some monism, some were purely occult, etc. came to be joined together and were turned into a highly-interesting, philosophical and yet mystical Tantric system called "Trika Shaivism", also called "Shavisim of Kashmir" eventhough latter expression is not really appropriate since the system isn't bound specifically to the region of Kashmir.
Tantra in historic and systematized sense can be split up in 4 sects or schools of thought, this is Krama, Kula, Spanda and Pratyabhijna (in order of historic appearance).
The first two are oriented towards worshipping God in his female aspect viz. in his power aspect and are more esoteric and cult-like in their nature (eventhough all Tantric systems share some esoteric fundamentals), also called Saktism since it is the Sakti-aspect that is the main focuss of those 2 schools. Spanda is also about the power-aspect of God, eventhough the Spanda Yogi more focusses on his awareness of existence and certain moments within the act of perception in which the totality of one's own nature, viz. Shiva as pure, universal consciousness, can be experienced. Pratyabhijna is the philosophical, abstract doctrine, in which the philosophical extracts from the different Agama Shastras, are put together to a highly mystical, philosophical, yet practical theology of awareness. Such are the four main schools, that had been developped throughout the 3rd AD up to the 12th AD. Eventhough those are four "schools" as such, they are in their doctrine, their teaching, and their practical aspects interwoven and cannot clearly be seperated. "Trika Shaivism" as such is the summit in the sense that it combines the fundamentals of all those 4 schools and turns them into one non-dual system of thought and of mystical practice. Great philosophers and yogins such as Uptaleva, Abhinavagupta or Kshemaraja brought the system to a level of mystical insight which, in my eyes, can hardly be compared to any other mystical school of thought.
As at the time of the foundation of Trika in Kashmir, Kashmir was also an important place for Buddhists and Vedantists, the Trika Shaivism is also influenced by Buddhist and Vedantic thought and therefor is like a complex combination of all the important systems at that time, without losing its original foundation which is laid in the Agama Shastras viz. the Tantric scriptures.

As regards the philosophy behind Tantra, Tantra is a non-dual philosophy, meaning that God or Reality is one. While Vedanta claims Brahman to be a passive, divine reality on which our universe is superimposed on and therefor is "less than real" (viz. the universe), the Tantric considers the universe to be a real expression of God, and hence God as the "dancing Shiva" is in constant action, constant movement, experiencing consciously every coginition he is aware of within himself, through himself. He as universal, absolutely free consciousness is therefor the true essence of all being, and through his goddess Shakti, viz. his power which is self-awareness, he is able to emanate the universe through himself within himself and reflect on himself. The universe is therefor a reflection within God, and yet it is not illusory in nature. It is the way God expresses himself, is aware of himself and experiences/perceives himself.
Hence in order for that universal consciousness to manifest itself in itself, in needs to contract viz. limit itself into mental and material shapes. Only in this way God can actually manifest himself. The individual is therefor a contracted form of God-consciousness viz. Siva and the cause of this is the ignorance the individual has about his real nature.
Consciousness in terms of God's universal consciousness has therefor 2 aspects: the inner aspect of an undivided awareness, an "all-in-one-unity"-awareness it has of its own, and an outer aspect, where it manifests itself, and by manifesting itself, its undivided awareness gets divided through the different cognitions through which it recognizes itself.
Hence God in his static, transcendental Siva-aspect is the pure, all-pervasive light of undivided and universal consciousness, while in his immanent, dynamic Sakti-aspect, he is self-awareness or "power" in the sense that through being aware of himself and therefor recognizing and reflecting on himself, the universe is emanated viz. manifested in himself by his reflection.

I could write for hours and yet not be able to describe the processes of manifestation and self-awareness in all their detail as well as all the other apsects of this doctrine, so I recommend you to go find some information about it in books or on the web. :)

Considering the "westernized" Neo-Tantra of today, or the watered-down forms of Tantra in the west, I want to emphasize the clear difference between the original thought of Tantra in India, and the "neo-Tantra" hocus-pocus which is now available in the West.
If you clearly want to explore the nature of Tantra, you should focuss your attention on the original scriptures and philosophers.

Greetings Raffis
 
Tantra exists in both hinduism and buddhism. It's a school that focusses on meditation by using sex. If you have sex in the correct way, it will bring you in contact with the goddess Shakti. It's a kind of spiritual eroticism, or erotic spirituality.
 
redindica said:
Why is this not in Hinduism?? Tantra is a brance of it.

It definitely started in Hinduism but was embraced by other spiritual paths as well. Personally I think this topic is perfect for the "Mysticism" section as it's very much a mystical path that is practiced in a variety of religions.
 
bgruagach said:
It definitely started in Hinduism but was embraced by other spiritual paths as well. Personally I think this topic is perfect for the "Mysticism" section as it's very much a mystical path that is practiced in a variety of religions.

I have to admit that once I'd actually thought about it, it does belong here too...Hinduism is a wide church and (in my opinion) is Pagan in nature.

I know very little of Tantra apart from lovely mandala's and Sting(!). So I look forward to the replies.

Peace :)
 
Tantra has Shiva as the diety. It utilizes everything to raise one's consciousness, it is not just about sex.
 
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