(Last Updated on : 31/12/2010)
Tantrism has persisted and thrived throughout Asian history since the middle of the first millennium. It deals with spiritual practices and ritual forms of worship aiming at liberation from ignorance and rebirth. The universe is regarded as the godly play of Shakti and Shiva. Tantrism developed into a tradition by the end of the Gupta reign. However it has influenced major religions like Hinduism
. Tantrism is characterized by the use of rituals thereby identifying macrocosm and microcosm. In Tantrism one uses the heavenly power that flows through the universe to achieve certain goals.
Origin of Tantrism
Origin of Tantrism is a debatable issue. There are diverse views - some say that the Pre-Aryan Indians could have been the discoverers; others consider it as the tradition of ancient people. Historically it dates back to the time of the rise of the religion of Buddhism
as the later Buddhists adopted some of the Tantric symbols.
Relation to Vedic Tradition
The tradition of Tantrism may be considered as intertwined with the Vedic tradition. The sources of written Tantric tradition are the agama which consists of four parts describing jnana, yoga, kriya and charya. Elements of Tantrism exist in Shaiva, Vaishnava, Ganapatya, Shaurya and Shakta forms. The basic ideas of Tantra as a philosophy are found in the Rig Veda. Tantrism is a build-up of various resources to change mundane into super mundane. There are some hymns and use of mystic words during the Rig Vedic period which proves the origin of Tantra.
Relation to Yoga
Yoga and Tantrism are contrary they intersect as some philosophies and goals are common. Osho during his discourse on Vijnana Bhairava Tantra differentiate between Yoga and Tantrism by saying, "Yoga is suppression with awareness; tantra is indulgence with awareness.
Relation to Indian Puranas
In the early stage, we find some of the puranas rejecting Tantra as a practice as it was non Vedic. The Indian Puranas like Agni, Garuda and Padma have Tantric elements initially. The Narada Purana has recorded Tantrism in detail. The portion related to that is called Bhagavata Tantra. It gives a description of Tantric deities and procedures to be followed for the fulfilment of people`s desires and a number of mantras pertaining to those deities. It comprises a direct contact with the Tantric deities and their energies as living powers, both within and around everybody. Tantric practice requires working with the forces of Nature as powers of consciousness, discovering the Shakti or spiritual energy in life behind all that one perceives and experiences.
Doctrines of Tantrism
Aim of Tantrism is inspirational rather than wiping out the relative reality. The process of sublimation consists of purification, elevation, and the "reaffirmation of identity on the plane of pure consciousness". Dakshinachara methods are different from that of Vamachara. Moreover, Shakti sadhana in Tantric practice implies a whole-hearted veneration of the prowess of Shakti in everyday life. Tantra directs Shakti sadhana in three levels, signifying Dakshinachara, Vamachara and Samayachara. Shakti on the other hand is the manifestation of divine power in one`s body: physical, subtle and casual. Hence the sadhana of Shakti demands absolute belief and perseverance.
Purpose of Tantrism
Tantrism is a pursuit for those who want to attain spiritual perfection and magical control. One can achieve complete control of oneself, all the forces of nature to attain union with the cosmos and the divine. One has to go through rigorous training to master these methods. Yoga, Mudras, mantras, words and phrases; Mandalas and yantras, which are symbolic diagrams of the forces at work in the universe, are methods for meditation.
The principles of Tantra initiate new form of application based on Vedas
and Bhakti Marg of the Hindu texts. It is a synthesized doctrine approved by all sects. Tantrism is a quest for spiritual perfection and magical power. Prakriti and Purusha is the foundation of Tantrism. Buddhist, Hindu and Jain are the three schools of Tantrism. This classification is done on basis of deities worshipped and rites followed. In Narad Purana seven kinds of Tantras have been mentioned.
Tantra is about arousing energy at a higher level, frequency and velocity. It is about balance; not as an invalidating out of forces, but as a profound union that brings about a higher life, meaning and way of expression. In this Tantric process, different goddesses have their authoritative roles. `Kali unfolds the transformative forces of time and space, time as the creative flow of transformation and space as the womb or matrix of new energies. The goddess sets one`s sadhana in motion and keeps it going with Her relentless force that is at times almost overmastering.
Tantra discovers the Divinity in life, in the rasas or essences of beauty and feeling that all experiences are seeking.