Hindu Tantra as practiced by Hindu Yogis

Hindu Tantra, as practiced by Hindus Yogis

Mother Parvati offer puja to lord Shiva -TantraThe Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga and, as such, are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox “Hinduism.” The Tantra Shastra is, in fact, whatever its historical origin, a development of the Vaidika Karmakanda promulgated to meet the needs of that age. Shiva says: “For the benefit of men of the Kali age, men bereft of energy and dependent for existence on the food they eat, the Kaula doctrine, O auspicious one! is given.” To the Tantra, we must therefore look if we would understand aright both ritual, yoga, and sadhana of all kinds, as also the general principles of which these practices are but the objective expression.

Shiva, Shakti, and Tantra

The unconditioned Absolute is the eternal immutable existence that transcends the turiya and all other states. The supreme Brahman or Para-brahman, without Prakriti (nishkala) or Her attributes (nir-guna).  Being the inner self and knowing subject can never be the object of cognition and is to be apprehended only through yoga by realizing the Self (atmajñana), which It is. For as it is said, “Spirit can alone know Spirit.” Being beyond mind, speech, and without a name. The Brahman was called “Tat,” “That,” and then “Tat Sat,” “That which is.” For the sun, moon, stars, and all visible things, what are they but a glimpse of light caught from “That” (Tat)?

Brahman is both nishkala and sakala. Kala is Prakriti.

The nishkala Brahman or Para- brahman is the Tat when thought of as without Prakriti (prakriteranya). It is called Sakala when with Prakriti. The substance of Prakriti is the three gunas. It is then su-guna, as in the previous state, It was nir-guna. Though in the latter state, It is thought of as without Shakti, yet (making accommodation to human speech) in It potentially exists Shakti, Its power, and the whole universe produced by It.

To say, however, that Shakti exists in the Brahman is but a form of speech since It and Shakti are, in fact, one. Shakti is eternal (Anadi-rupa). She is Brahma-rupa and both vi-guna (nir-guna) and sa- guna, the Chaitanya-rapini-Devi, who manifests all bhuta. She is the Ananda-rapini- Devi, by whom the Brahman manifests Itself, and who, to use the words of the Sarada, pervades the universe as does oil the sesamum seed.

In the beginning, the Nishkala Brahman alone existed.

In the beginning, there was the One. It willed and became many. Ahab bahu syam – “may I be many.” In such manifestation of Shakti, the Brahman is known as the lower (apara) or manifested Brahman, who, as the subject of worship, is meditated upon with attributes. And, in fact, to the mind and sense of the embodied spirit (jiva), the Brahman has body and form. It is embodied in the forms of all Devas and Devils and the worshipper themselves. Its form is that of the universe and all things and beings therein.

As Shruti says: “He saw” (Sa aikshata, aham bahu syam prajayeya). “He thought to Himself may I be many.” “Sa Akshaya” was itself a manifestation of Shakti, the Para- mapurva-nirvana Shakti, or Brahman as Shakti. From the Brahman, with Shakti (Para- shakti-maya) issued Nada (Shiva-Shakti as the “Word” or “Sound” ), and from Nada, Vindu appeared. Kalicharana, in his commentary on the Shatchakra-nirupana says that Shiva and Nirvana Shakti, bound by a mayik bond and covering, should be considered to exist in the form of Parang Vindu.

From Shakti came Nada, and from Nada was born Bindu.

The Sarada says: Sachchidananda vibhavat sakalat parameshvarat asichchhaktistato nado, nadad vindu-samudbhavah (“From Parameshvara vested with the wealth of sachchidananda and with Prakriti (Sakala) issued Shakti; from Shakti came Nada and from Nada was born Bindu” ). The state of the subtle body, which is known as Kama-kala, is the mula of the mantra. The term mula-mantratmika, when applied to the Devi, refers to this subtle body of Hers known as the Kama-kala. The Tantra also speaks of three Bindus: Shiva-Maya, Shakti-Maya, and Shiva-Shakti-Maya.

The Parang-Bindu is represented as a circle, the center of which is the Brahma-pada, or place of Brahman, wherein are Prakriti-Purusha, the circumference of which is encircling maya. It is on the crescent of nirvana-kala, the seventeenth, which is again in that of ama-kala, the sixteenth digit (referred to in the text) of the moon-circle (Chandramandala), which circle is situated above the Sun-Circle (Suryyamandala), the Guru and the hangsah, which are in the pericarp of the thousand-petalled lotus (sahasrarapadma).

Next to the Bindu is the fiery Bodhini, or Nibodhika.

The Bindu, with the Nirvana-kala, Nibodhika, and Ama-kala, is situated in the lightning-like inverted triangle known as “A, Ka, Tha,” and which is so called because at its apex is A; at its right base is Ka; and at its left base Tha. It comprises forty-eight letters (matrika): the sixteen vowels running from A to Ka; sixteen consonants of the ka-Varga and other groups running from A to Ka; and the remaining sixteen from Ka to Tha.

Inside are the remaining letters (matrika), ha, la(second), and ksha. As the substance of Devi is matrika (Matrika-mayi), the triangle represents the “Word” of all that exists. The Chandra mandala encircles the triangle. The Bindu is symbolically described as a grain of gram (chanaka), which contains a divided seed under its encircling sheath. This Parang-vindu is Prakriti-Purusha, Shiva-Shakti. It is known as the Shabda-Brahman (the Sound Brahman) or Aparabrahman.

Polarization of the Shiva and Shakti Tattvas occurs in Parashaktimaya.

The Devi becomes Unmukhi. Her face turns towards Shiva. There is an unfolding which bursts the encircling shell of Maya, and creation then takes place by division of Shiva and Shakti or of “Hang” and “Sah.”

The Sarada says: “The Devataparashaktimaya is again Itself divided, such divisions being known as Bindu, Vaja, and Nada. Bindu is of the nature of Nada or Shiva, and Vaja of Shakti.  Nada has been said to be the relation of these two by those who are versed in all the Agamas.”

The Sarada says that an indistinct sound arose before the shell burst, enclosing the Brahma-pada, which, together with its defining circumference, constitutes the Shabda- Brahman. This avyaktanada is both the first and the last state of Nada, according to it is viewed from the standpoint of evolution or involution.

For Nada, as Raghava-Bhatta says, exists in three states.

In Nada are the guna (sattva, rajas, and tamas), which form the substance of Prakriti with Shiva It is. When tamo-guna predominates, Nada is merely an indistinct or unmanifested (dhvanyat – makovykta-nadah) sound like dhvani. In this state, in which is a phase of Avyaktanada is called Nibodhika or Bodhini.

It is Nada when rajoguna is in the ascendant when there is a sound in which there is something like a connected or combined disposition of the letters. When the sattva-guna preponderates, Nada assumes the form of Bindu. The action of rajas on tamas is to veil. Its own independent action affects an arrangement that is only perfected by the emergence of the essentially manifesting sattvika guna set into play by it.

Nada, Bindu, and Nibodhika, and the Shakti, of which they are the specific manifestation, are said to be in the form of the Sun, Moon, and Fire, respectively. Jñana (spiritual wisdom) is spoken of as fire as it burns up all actions, and the tamoguna is associated with it. When the effect of cause and effect of action is really known, then action ceases.

Ichchha is the Moon.

The Moon contains the sixteenth digit, the Ama-kala, with its nectar, which neither increases nor decays, and Ichchha, or will, is the eternal precursor of creation. Kriya is like the Sun, for as the Sun by its light makes all things visible, without action and striving, there cannot be realization or manifestation. As the Gita says: “As one Sun makes manifest all the loka.”

The Shabda-Brahman manifests Itself in a triad of energies – knowledge (jñanashakti), will (ichchha-shakti), and action (kriya-shakti), associated with the three gunas of Prakriti tamas, sattva, and rajas. From the Parang-Vindu, who is both vindvat-maka and kalatma i.e., Shakti–issued Raudri, Rudra, and His Shakti, whose forms are fire (vahni), and whose activity is knowledge (jñana); Vama, and Vishnu and His Shakti, whose form is the sun, and whose activity is kriya (action): and Jyeshtha and Brahma and His Shakti, whose form is the Moon and whose activity is desire.

The Vamakeshvara Tantra says that Tripura is threefold, as Brahma, Vishnu, and Isha.

The energies of desire, wisdom, and action, and the energy of will. When Brahman would create the energy of wisdom when She reminds Him, saying, “Let this be thus,”; and when thus knowing, He acts, She becomes the energy of action. The Devi is thus Ichchha-shakti-jñana-shakti- kriya-shakti-svaru-pini.

Para-shiva exists as a septenary under the form, firstly, of Shambhu, who is the associate of time (kala-bandhu). From Him issues Sada-shiva, Who pervades and manifests all things, and then come Ishana and the triad, Rudra, Vishnu, and Brahma. Each with their respective Shakti (without whom they avail nothing) separately and particularly associated with the gunas, tamas, sattva, and rajas.

Ishana and Sada-Shiva

Of these Devas, the last triad, Ishana and Sada-shiva, are the five Shivas collectively known as the Maha-preta, whose vija is “Hsauh.” Of the Maha-preta, it is said that the last four form the support, and the fifth the seat, of the bed on which the Devi is united with Parama-shiva. In the room of Chintamani stone, on the jeweled island clad with clumps of kadamba and heavenly trees set in the ocean of Ambrosia.

Shiva is variously addressed in this work as Shambhu, Sada-shiva, Shankara, Maheshvara, etc., names that indicate particular states, qualities, and manifestations of the One.  In its descent towards the many; for there are many Rudras. Thus Sada-shiva indicates the predominance of the sattva-guna. His names are many, 1,008 being given in the sixty-ninth chapter of the Shiva Purana, the seventeenth chapter of the Anushasana Parvan of the Mahabharata.

Shakti is both maya that by which Brahman created the universe.

Can make Itself appear to be different from what It really is, and mula-prakriti, or the unmanifested (avyakta) state of that which, when manifest, is the universe of name and form. It is the primary so-called “material cause,” consisting of the equipoise of the triad of guna or “qualities.” They are sattva (that which manifests), rajas (that which acts), and tamas (that which veils and produces inertia). The three gunas represent Nature as the revelation of spirit. Nature is the passage of descent from spirit to matter or of ascent from matter to spirit. Nature is the dense veil of spirit.

According to Tantra, Devi is thus Guna-Nidhi (“treasure-house of guna”).

Mula-Prakriti is the womb into which Brahman casts the seed from which all things are born. The womb thrills to the movement of the essential active raja-guna.

The equilibrium of the triad is destroyed, and the guna, now in varied combinations, evolve under the illumination of Shiva (chit), the universe which Maheshvara and Maheshvari rule. The dual principles of Shiva and Shakti, which are in such dual form the product of the polarity manifested in Parashakti-maya. Pervading the whole universe and are present in man in the Svayambhu-Linga of the Muladhara and the Devi Kundalini, who, in serpent form, encircles it.


The Shabda-Brahman assumes in the body of man the form of the Devi Kundalini, and as such, is in all prani (breathing creatures) and in the shape of letters appears in prose and verse. Kundala means coiled. Hence Kundalini, whose form is that of a coiled serpent, means that which is coiled. She is the luminous vital energy (jiva-shakti) which manifests as prana. She sleeps in the Muladhara and has three and a half coils corresponding in number with the three-a-half Bindus of which the Kubjika Tantra speaks. When after closing the ears, the sound of Her hissing is not heard, death approaches.

From the first avyakta creation issued the second mahat, with its three gunas distinctly manifested. Thence sprung the third creation ahangkara (selfhood), which is of threefold form – vaikarika, or pure sattvika ahangkara; the taijasa, or rajasika ahangkara; and the tamasika, or bhutadika ahangkara. The latter is the origin of the subtle essences (tan- matra) of the Tattvas, ether, air, fire, water, and earth, associated with sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell, and with the colors – pure transparency, Shyama, red, white, and yellow.

There is some difference in the schools as to that which each of the three forms produces, but from such threefold form of Ahang-kara issue the indriya (“senses”), and the Devas Dik, Vata, Arka, Prachetas, Vahni, Indra, Upendra, Mitra, and the Ashvins. The vaikarika, taijasa, and bhutadika are the fourth, fifth, and sixth creations known as prakrita, or appertaining to Prakriti. The rest, which are products of these, such as the vegetable world with its upward life current, animals with horizontal life current, and bhuta, preta, and the like, whose life current tends downward, constitute the vaikrita creation, the two being known as the kaumara creation.

The Goddess (Devi) is the grand Shakti.

She is Maya, for of Her the maya which produces the sangsara is. As Lord of Maya, She is Mahamaya. Devi is a-vidya (nescience) because She binds and vidya (knowledge) because She liberates and destroys the sangsara. She is Prakriti, and as existing before creation, is the Adya (primordial) Shakti. Devi is the Vachaka-Shakti, the manifestation of chit in Prakriti, and the Vachya-Shakti, or Chit itself.

The Atma should be contemplated as Devi.

Shakti or Devi is thus the Brahman revealed in Its mother aspect (shri-mata) as the Creatrix and Nourisher of the worlds. Kali says of Herself in Yogini Tantra “Sachchidananda-rupaham brahmaivaham sphurat-prab-ham.” So the Devi is described with attributes both of the qualified Brahman and (since that Brahman is but the manifestation of the Absolute) She is also addressed with epithets, which denote the unconditioned Brahman.

She is the great Mother (Ambika) sprung from the sacrificial hearth of the fire of the Grand Consciousness (chit); decked with the Sun and Moon, Lalita. “She who plays”; whose play is world-play. Her eyes play like fish in the beauteous waters of Her Divine face, open and shut with the appearance and disappearance of countless worlds now illuminated by Her light now wrapped in Her terrible darkness.

The Tantra Says that Devi, as Para-brahman, is beyond all form and guna.

The forms of the Mother of the Universe are threefold. There is first the Supreme (para) form, of which, as the Vishnu- Yamala says, “none know.” Next is Her subtle (sukshma) form, which consists of mantras. But as the mind cannot easily settle itself upon that which is formless. She appears as the subject of contemplation in Her third, or gross (sthula), or physical form, with hands, feet, and the like as celebrated in the Devi-stotra of the Puranas and Tantras.

Devi, who, as Prakriti, is the source of Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshvara, has both male and female forms. But it is in Her female forms that She is chiefly contemplated. For though existing in all things, in a peculiar sense, female beings are parts of Her. The Great Mother, who exists in the form of all Tantras and all Yantras, is, as the Lalita says, the “unsullied treasure-house of beauty.” The Sapphire Devi, whose slender waist, bending beneath the burden of the ripe fruit of Her breasts, swells into jeweled hips heavy with the promise of infinite maternities.

The Tantra Says that Mahadevi exists in all forms, as Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Gayatri, Durga, Tripura- Sundari, Annapurna, and all the Devi who are avatars of the Brahman.

Devi, as Sati, Uma, Parvati, and Gauri, is the spouse of Shiva. It was as Sati before Daksha’s sacrifice (Daksha-yajna) that the Devi manifested Herself to Shiva in the ten celebrated forms known as the dasha-mahavidya referred to in the text – Kali, Tara, and Bhairavi, Bagala, Chhinnamasta, Bhuvaneshvari, Dhumavati, Tripura-Sundari,  Matangini, Shodashi.

When at the Daksha-yajna, She yielded up Her life in shame and sorrow at the treatment accorded by Her father to Her Husband. Shiva took away the body and, everbearing it with Him, remained wholly distraught and spent with grief. To save the world from the forces of evil which arose and grew with the withdrawal of His Divine control. Vishnu, with His discus (chakra), cut the dead body of Sati, which Shiva bore, into fifty-one fragments, which fell to earth at the places thereafter known as the fifty-one maha-pitha-sthana, where Devi, with Her Bhairava, is worshipped under various names.

The Tantra Says that besides the forms of the Devi in the brahmanda, there is Her subtle form called Kundalini in the body (pindanda).

These are but some only of Her endless forms. She is seen as one and as many, as it were, but one moon reflected in countless waters. She exists, too, in all animals and inorganic things, since the universe with all its beauties is, as the Devi Purana says, but a part of Her.

All this diversity of form is but the infinite manifestations of the flowering beauty of the One Supreme Life. A doctrine that is nowhere else taught with a greater wealth of illustration than in the Shakta Shastras and Tantras. The great Bharga in the bright Sun, all Devatas, and all life and being are wonderful and worshipful, but only as Her manifestations. And those who worship them otherwise are, in the words of the great Devi-Bhagavata, “like unto a person who, with the light of a clear lamp in his hands, yet falls into some waterless and terrible well.”

The Tantra says that the highest worship for which the sadhaka is qualified (Adhikari) is only after external worship and that internal form, known as sadhara, is described as niradhara.

Therein Pure Intelligence is the Supreme Shakti, who is worshipped as the Very Self. The Witness is freed of the glamour of the manifold Universe. By one’s own direct experience of Maheshvari as the Self, She is, with reverence, made the object of that worship that leads to liberation.

Yet of all the forms of Hindu Shastra, the Tantra is that which is least known and understood. A circumstance is partly due to the difficulties of its subject matter and the fact that the key to much of its terminology and method rests with the initiate.

Nothing can be more mistaken than such belief, even though it be the fact that “for him who has faith in the toot, of what use are the branches and leaves.”

In Tantra, the purified heart is the knowledge of Brahman grows.

It is true that “In the purified heart knowledge of Brahman grows,” and Brahmajnane samutpanne krityakrityang na vidyate. But the statement assumes the attainment of Brahmajñana, which the Shastra says can be attained.  It is not so by Vedantic discussions nor mere prayer, after the manner of Protestant systems of Christian worship, but by the Sadhana, which is its main subject matter. I have referred to Protestant systems, for the Catholic Church possesses an elaborate ritual and a sadhana of its own which is, in many points, strikingly analogous to the Hindu system.

Parvati says (Chap. I., verse 67, Mahanirvana Tantra):

“I fear, 0 Lord! that even that which Thou hast ordained for the good of humanity will, through them, turn out for evil.” Hitaya yane, karmani kathitani tvaya prabho Manyetani mahadeva viparitani manave. In connection with these observations, it is significant to note that this particular Tantra was chosen as the subject of commentary by Shrimad Hariharananda Bharati, the Guru of the celebrated Hindu “reformer,” Raja Ram Mohun Roy.

There are some to whom the Tantra, though they may not have read a line of it, is “nothing but black magic,” and all its followers are “black magicians.” This is, of course, absurd. In this connection, I cannot avoid interposing the observation that certain practices are described in Tantra which, though they are alleged to have the results described therein, yet exist “for delusion.

An hour of vocalization is worth more than reading a million books on pseudo-spirituality. A daily vocalization is worth more than reading a million books on pseudo-spirituality.

“Each center in the body has its own note, which responds when we sound it. Those who sound the proper vowels—the seven vowels of Nature—harmonize these centers. To evoke the activity of our latent atomic centers, we use the seven vowels of Nature, called mantras.”

Tantra is the special Sastra for the Kaliyuga, our present period.

Mother Center
Mahavidya Temple
1/244 Killankulam village, Periayur Taluk, Madurai district,  Tamil Nadu, India   625703

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