A few thousand years ago the inhabitants of India and many countries around the world practiced a science of living designed to develop man's innermost being. This system formed a vast body of practical methods known as tantra which, when utilized correctly, had the power to take man into the deeper layers of his own mind. The practitioners of this science found that through the process of 'diving deep' the potential power present in every man was transmuted into active energy which could give man the capacity for creative harmonious living.
Today this science is slowly being revived. Unfortunately, the speed of this revival is somewhat inhibited by past misuse and abuse of the system, by those who used its techniques for their own self indulgence. For this reason, tantra is now spoken of as being a group of misleading practices. Also yoga, the science of right living, has somehow come to be accepted as being separate from tantra. Today it is still taken to mean an austere celibate life of renunciation, unsuitable for most. Tantra and yoga are part of each other. True understanding of the nature of tantra yoga reveals a system of personal evolution, totally applicable to any individual today.
Many forms of religion are functioning at present: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, etc. All offer something to their devotees; all give varying degrees of spiritual sustenance for survival within today's world. Survival in its true sense is a state of bare clinging to life with the minimum amount of sustenance. One can survive in the world with a body of skin and bones, but if that body is to function efficiently one must feed it correct amounts of nourishment. If one is just managing to get through the day, every day, or barely hanging on to his sanity, it follows that his attitude towards life will be warped rather than balanced. Mere survival is not enough. Under survival conditions the mind is generally too fettered to burst forth with creativity. Allowing for individual exceptions, very few, perhaps none of today's religions takes folly into account man's natural tendencies, mankind's individual ways of experiencing the world through his own mind. While people carry out the instructions and guidance of religious or secular institutions, very few are able to have absolute confidence born from direct proof that what they are doing will be efficacious.
Tantra steps in here. It accepts man as he is today, a constantly fluctuating mind full of desires and shortcomings. Tantra makes us aware of the tremendous potential power and knowledge inherent in every man. Tantra takes into account the existence of both the potential and presently active aspects of man's mind and utilizes them in the world.
In the Tantra Shastras the mind is called antah karana which is the basic equivalent of the western term ego. Antah karana also means 'doing inside'. Without the senses i.e. sight, touch, smell, taste, hearing, the mind has no contact with the external world. It cannot perceive anything outside of itself. If the eye is incapable of seeing, the ear incapable of hearing, and all other senses similarly functionless, then the mind is incapable of perception.
A particular sense operates by directing itself towards an object. The mind thereby perceives that object and also judges whether it is good or bad according to whatever attitude it holds at that particular time. What determines the inner attitude at any time is the presence of three properties called gunas. These three gunas, namely sattva, rajas and tamas, are in a continual state of change, one being dominant for some time then another taking its place. For example, sattva may have dominance over rajas and tamas, then tamas may rise to the surface covering the effects of the others with its own particular properties. Hence the different moods and states of mind are constantly arising.
When sattva guna is in predominance, one tends towards harmonious and virtuous action. Rajo guna influences towards acts of emotion and passion such as anger, greed and striving. Tamo guna's influence breeds sloth, sleep, dullness and lethargy; this is the state in which one wastes time.
Along with this, the mind as we experience it, possesses four functions which act on what is perceived and which are formed from the presence of mental conditionings. These are doubt, certainty, egoism and memory. For example, if an object is perceived as having various properties, one may experience doubts about these properties or through familiarity with the object due to remembrance of it, experience certainty of the existence of those properties. Through egoism one will either entertain like, dislike or neutral feelings towards the object. The manner in which these four functions plus the actions of the gunas can combine and perform is infinite. Tantra utilizes these aspects of mind which at present are out of control, causing pain and confusion. By teaching correct ways to channel and increase understanding of the gunas and factors associated with them, tantra gradually transforms life from confused survival into an expression of acceptance and creativity.
As man exists today, alone and unaided with his untrained mind, he has not the capacity to penetrate into himself. If perception of the external world with the physical senses taxes man's strength, how can he hope to survive inner experience? The power possessed by the unobstructed mind freed from the limitations of conditioning is far beyond the capacity of an untrained mind. Hence the need for gradual increase in the working capacity of mind.
There is only one way to change the mind into an unclouded perceptive instrument. One must unearth and examine the deeper aspects of that mind. Once those things that cloud perception are revealed and understood, dissolution of the clouds takes place and problems can no longer arise.
Tantra blasts cloud roots from the mind by sound power, revealing vast stores of latent or blocked energy. Even on mundane levels, sound has a strong effect on man. An obvious example is music. From the aboriginal rhythms of the world to classical civilized music, sound tones are used to excite listeners or to enfold them in emotion. By way of the senses, sound is able to penetrate into the mind, conjure up mental images, raise and lower the emotions and generally cause psycho-physical effects. For example, music may cause a previous association with an object of emotion so that the egoistic and remembrance faculties of mind send previously experienced emotions flooding onto the perceptive plane. Music causes many effects like this and is only one manifestation of sound.
Sound used by tantra is called mantra meaning 'inner contemplation leading to liberation'. Certain forms known as bija mantras (seed mantras), hold the power of lucid, uninhibited consciousness. Bija mantras are the power behind tantra. When used correctly, they have an effect on the perception of the practitioner, from the gross to the most subtle levels. Although they have no literal meaning, they release their power on man and his environment when pronounced correctly, either mentally or verbally. It is interesting to note here the meaning of pronunciation in Sanskrit according to the Tantra Shastras. Uccarana is a Sanskrit equivalent of 'pronunciation'. It comes from ut meaning 'above' and charana meaning 'to cause to move'. To put the meaning more simply uccarana means to move letters, which were moving below on a subtle level, above on a level conducive to perception. The letters are the symbolic visual representation of the bijas. They are called vama in Sanskrit meaning 'indestructible'. There are fifty letters which combine in diverse ways to form many bija mantras. One bija mantra gives rise to many other mantras, resulting in a vast array of power sounds, each of which is intended for different equipments of mind, different aims in life. With such equipment a tantric preceptor is able to give to the seeker a means to develop himself, without having to change what he is at present.
By giving access to his own personality, mantra reveals to the seeker his hidden desires and creativity blocks. Because a mantra exists on all levels of perception at once, it reveals to one who wishes it, the actual sources from which desires and problems spring. Once the source is recognized, the problem no longer exists and the mind becomes unfettered. As mantra clears the mind of problems, so it fills that space with new perception. It works its way down into the mind and unearths deeply entrenched perception blocks, then presents them to the mind in an understandable form. Gradually the mind understands its own nature.
Every individual has a personal mantra. This mantra represents all the aspects of that individual's mind. When the individual realizes the meaning of the mantra, he simultaneously receives self understanding. At the point of mantra revelation, the power behind the mantra is able to flow freely through the individual. Then he becomes harmonized with his inner aspects and has the energy to perform creative works externally.
The starting and finishing points of mantra sadhana lie with the guru. A mantra used without the blessing of guru has no power. In fact it can even be harmful. Mantra can only be fully utilized when set in motion by one who has complete knowledge of all aspects of the science of mantra. Such a one is guru.
Tantra does not expect a seeker to accept these theories blindly. It is always in favour of direct perception as proof of efficacy. As long as all the provisions governing the use of mantra have been adhered to, every step in tantra will produce visible results and success will be achieved very quickly.
Through mantra, the impossible becomes possible.