How many different paths are there for the liberation of man?
There are seven ways for the liberation of man. The first way is the path of Karma. This is the discipline for the man of ordinary mettle. The second is the Vaishnava path in which devotion to the Lord (bhakti) plays a greater role than work, and is meant for a higher competence. The third is the Shaiva path which is more a path of meditation and gyana (knowledge). These three orders or successive stages of discipline are meant for the ordinary category of seeker without any special qualification, the 'pashu' sadhaka, a creature who is bound by the bonds of existence.
The fourth path is the Dakshina path where karma, bhakti and gyana are skilfully harmonised and synthesised. Here the fruits of the first three are organised and conserved. Then we have the Vama path or the reverse path where the natural turn outward (pavritti), is turned inward (nivritti), to the source of all, and everything in creation is looked upon and used as the means for the return to the one consciousness that bases all and governs all. The process is one of inner identification of oneself with divinity, not only in its state of self-existence, but also in its movement of manifestation.
The Dakshina and Vama paths are for the aspirant who has evolved into higher competence, the one heroic enough, who can struggle and fight the nether forces of ignorance. This type of sadhaka is known as the 'vira' sadhaka.
Then we have the Siddhanta, the stage or path where things are finally determined as to the real nature and direction of one's goal, and one is prepared to have the knowledge embodied in all the parts of one's being and consciousness, This stage and that which succeeds it are for the highest type of sadhaka, the 'divya' sadhaka, who is fit to tread the highest path of inner consciousness that is rapidly nearing transcendental consciousness.
The last is the Kaula path. It is one of the most secret traditions of Tantra and the most pre-eminent. According to Tantra there is nothing higher than the Kaula which is the essence of all essences. There are certain conditions to be fulfilled before the truth of the Kaula path can he revealed. One must have matured in mind and nature as a result of study and discipline undergone in the previous stages. Only to such a person does the knowledge dawn without being taught and explained by others, for one's mind and inclination depend entirely upon previous preparation. One is ready according to one's stage of evolution.
The second factor is the degree of purification of consciousness that one has undergone at it result of japa from the Shaivite, Vaishnavite, Shakta, Ganapatya and Saura traditions. Third is the extent to which one has been freed from the deforming elements of ignorance and ego as a combined result of previous austerity, self-giving, sacrifice, repetition of mantras, observances of niyamas and similar acts aimed at ridding oneself of instinctive and lower tendencies. Here also one must have devotion and faith in the deity or guru.
Thus, to one of purified consciousness, calm, active in the ways of the spirit, of high faith, humility, cheerfulness, dedicated to truth and obedient to the commands of the guru, does the Kaula knowledge reveal itself.
How many types of guru exist in Tantra?
There are many types of gurus but according to Tantra there are gurus of six kinds:
There is a tradition which speaks of twelve different kinds of guru:
How can we attain the goal of awakening the kundalini?
Kundalini may be awakened by intensity of work or by deep concentration. There are many practices in Yoga and in Tantra for awakening the kundalini, but we have to remember that any practice of Yoga or Tantra will awaken only one aspect of kundalini. The methods which have been outlined in Yoga and Tantra represent the techniques which are relevant to a particular personality type.
According to modern psychology, the human personality is divided into four categories - dynamic, intellectual, emotional and psychic, and we all tend to become creative in one of these aspects. An intellectual will tend to develop his intellectual creativity, while an emotional type of personality will be inclined to develop his emotional faculties and creativity. Kundalini represents an awakening of the inner self which does not fall into any of these categories.
Some of the methods prescribed for awakening are:
What is tantric initiation and can you talk about the different forms of initiation in Tantra?
In Sanskrit the word for initiation is 'diksha' which comes from the root 'diksh', to dedicate oneself. Initiation implies that the disciple dedicates himself to the service of the guru and accepting his guidance. It also means that the disciple dedicates himself to something that was previously beyond his perception and understanding. Whether formal or subtle, initiation has been known and utilised throughout the world. In ancient Greece the word for initiation was 'musierion' which means 'dedication and knowledge that cannot be divulged'. Initiation was an essential part of the ancient mystical societies - 'The Mysteries'.
In Latin the word for initiation is 'sacramentum', that which binds. Initiation binds the disciple to his guru and also binds him to a deeper identification with his own being. Further, initiation has the same type of implications as the word 'Yoga'. 'Yoga' means 'the process whereby one gradually binds or yokes oneself' to one's deeper nature or being' . We can say that the path of Yoga is a process of progressively more subtle initiations. One gains a deeper insight into life and oneself. Such is the meaning of initiation.
Initiation in Tantra is to awaken the Shakti that is dormant in us and, through a series of initiations into different practices and techniques, a tantric seeks to unite this dormant Shakti with the ever-wakeful Shiva. In Tantra there are the following types of diksha or initiation:
What is the difference between the moral viewpoints of Yoga and Tantra? Tantra says you have to accept yourself as you are, but religions tell us that things are 'good' and 'bad'. It means you have to restrain yourself. However, Tantra says, 'Don't restrain, don't regret, just accept, but be aware and you will transcend'.
Both ways are acceptable. The father is Tantra, the son is Yoga. They may be two different manifestations but the genesis is the same. All the concepts of Yoga, whether of following the desires and not allowing any suppression to take place, or of maintaining brahmacharya and the yamas and niyamas, are derived from Tantra. How?
In Tantra the bane philosophy is that you do not repress yourself. You accept yourself as you are, whether you are a criminal or a saint, because that is the expression of your life, of your consciousness in its natural course of evolution. Maybe in this life you are a criminal. So, you must evolve through this criminal mind, and as you transcend, in the course of one or two lives, you allow nature to unfold within you. Then you will leave the criminal mind behind and transcend it. The same mind will transform itself into a saintly mind.
Within us we have both aspects, 'good' and 'bad', creative and destructive. Usually, philosophies and religions tell us to accept 'good' and reject 'bad' or negative aspects of our personality. Up to that point they are right, but we, with our limited power of understanding tend to mess things up. We read, 'Do not develop negative qualities, but develop positive qualities', so we try to create a change in the pattern of our behaviour and thinking. This enforced change within the personality is suppression - suppression of the normal expression which applies to all levels of our consciousness both 'good' and 'bad', positive and negative.
Let us consider the example of Tantra where they talk about the union of Shiva and Shakti. If you read the Mahanirvana Tantra or any other tantra then you will find that Shakti has nearly always been defined as kundalini, and Shiva, the male aspect, has always been defined as chetana or consciousness. In our ignorance we think that a physical relationship is being referred to, but Tantra is not really referring to a physical relationship. Although it accepts it, it says that in order to experience the internal union you first experience the external union; in order to experience the internal bliss you experience the external bliss. The difference is, external bliss is momentary; internal bliss is continuous.
If you achieve internal orgasm it will continue for life. How will you control that? For that the process of sadhana is explained in Tantra - meditation, dealing with the mind; pratyahara, dharana, laya yoga, mantra, yantra and mandala. The word 'mantra' literally means 'expansion and liberation' - expansion of consciousness and liberation of energy. The word 'mantra'- 'manas' meaning 'mind' and 'trayati' meaning 'liberation' - a power through which one can liberate the mind. And 'yantra' - 'yana' means 'vehicle' and 'trayati' means 'liberation' - vehicle of liberation. Yantra meditation expands the awareness and this awareness then merges into the ocean of consciousness. Mandala- 'man' means 'mind' and 'dala' means 'movement' - movement of the mind.
In normal life we are aware of the mind in a very limited way, but according to Yoga and Tantra, within the mind lie many dimensions of experience which are happening in the form of sound or vibration, some which are known, some which are unknown. The experiences of the whole universe, the cosmos, exist within the mind, To bring this out we have to tap certain aspects of the mind. We have to 'explode' that experience, and for that purpose there is mandala meditation.
Then there are initiations, awakening of Shakti, which take place in many ways. The practice of asana is an initiation for the body. Initiation happens on many levels of our personality, not only on the psychic or mental plain, Pranayama is initiation of the pranas- The yamas and niyamas are initiation into the positive aspect of life-There is no difference between yogic and tantric theory. The only difference between Tantra and Yoga is that Yoga is more outgoing; it deals more with the world, with the body, mind, personality, emotions, actions and environment, whereas tantric philosophy or practice has more of a meditative nature. You have to have desires in order to have a progressive mind. You require desire because, for the evolution of consciousness, conflict is necessary. When your body is diseased, through research and investigation you develop various forms of treatment. That is a means for awakening part of the consciousness. If' there were no disease, it there were no conflicts, there would be no evolution - there would be a stagnant state of consciousness.
Regarding our desires - we must accept them. If I desire to give you a slap, I should give you a slap, but at the same time I should think of the repercussions it can have, either positive or negative. You will hit me back and that is a negative repercussion. If I simply follow my emotions like an animal there will be a big fight between us. This is where you have to learn to detach yourself. Both processes happen together. You allow the emotions to flourish; you observe them, but at the same time you team how to control them. You come to know when it is the right time for action and then let that energy manifest. Then this manifestation will be positive and creative, rather than haphazard. You wait for the right time; you follow that desire through - so there will be no conflict.
There should be no conflict in the mind because where there is conflict there is a breakdown of natural tendencies. Then you are not a yogi, you are not a tantric. You are a bhogi.
Does yogic philosophy consider that men and women have different spiritual roles or attributes?
Yoga is an offshoot of Tantra, and as Tantra believes that, there is no distinction of thought between Yoga and Tantra. Tantra believes that women or the feminine energy is much more refined and is of a higher quality than the masculine energy. In Tantra the female principle has the position of guru, and the male principle has that of a disciple.
What is the difference between the male and female aspects? And why has the feminine aspect been considered as something superior in the tantras? The only reply that we get after a lot of searching and discussion is: because of a woman's ability to flow without any kind of intellectual barrier, which binds one to the gross material level. Women have this ability more than men; intuitive ability - they have more, and picking up the vibratory field is more predominant in the female principle, because it is a psychically active and not a passive energy, Male energy is passive and it seems that malt energy tends towards tunnel-vision. Men only see straight, whereas the feminine energy has a very broad vision. Women are able to perceive things which the male energy generally cannot perceive. This is the theory of the tantras.
In Tantra the role of the female has been that of a teacher: one must learn to flow with sensitivity; one must learn to flow with higher awareness. This does not mean higher awareness. It means just the subtle or sukshma awareness. Awakening of the subtle awareness is an important aspect in the life of a yogi.
Is celibacy necessary? Can a sannyasin really experience the union of Shiva and Shakti without physical contact? And what role does the guru play in this process?
Let us divide people into three categories. One, the 'real' sannyasin; two, the 'real' householder; three, halfway house. A 'real' householder does not just mean one having a happy family. By using this term I mean to imply that two people understand, support and encourage each other in their respective growth. Tantra is for such householders who do not simply seek company for the sake of pleasure, but who can encourage each other's growth in all spheres of life, both mundane and spiritual. By 'real' sannyasins I mean those who have renounced and who are celibates. They do not require any relationship with the opposite sex because through sadhana they can invert the energy process.
The problem comes when we fall in between the two. If we are an 'in-between' sannyasin out mind will be swayed and then we shall find excuses: 'the mind is willing but the flesh is weak'. And if we are a 'halfway' householder a similar thing will happen. You may decide to convert the sexual tendency into a spiritual tendency but the urge for pleasure is so powerful that it is impossible to change it. The majority of us fall in the 'in-between' category, because there are very few 'real' sannyasins and very few 'real' householders who can systematically and seriously follow the path of Tantra.
If we deal with the middle majority group then we have to consider many things. What is the state of their mind? Is it pulled towards the tamasic, rajasic or sattvic nature? Even a sannyasin can be very tamasic or rajasic. A 'real' householder who follows the path of Tantra sincerely, may not need the constant guidance of the guru - just one meeting is enough. A 'real' sannyasin who follows the path of tantric sadhana may also not need constant guidance; 'You go and do that': 'Alright'. Then nothing can shake me from what I have decided to do. But for the 'in-between' the constant guidance of the guru is necessary. He can observe the disciple's growth and say 'Now, this is what you need to do!
If the tamasic or rajasic nature of the sannyasin does not allow the practitioner to follow in the path outlined for sannyasins, then the guru can also say 'Alright, it is not for you, so leave aside your guru robes. Go and marry and raise a family. Forget about sannyasa'. However, if the guru sees that there is even a five or ten per cent chance that the person can come out of his tamasic or rajasic tendency then despite every difficulty he will try to encourage that growth. It may of course be possible that the sannyasin 'slips up' without the knowledge of the guru but in the case of the householder it is a. different matter, for they have an outlet for that surplus mental, sexual or spiritual energy.
Tantra says that, even though you may need the help of a companion initially, in the later stages of evolution you will not, because you have to experience the aspect of Shakti within yourself. And this Shakti aspect is not a physical, emotional or rational aspect.
It is an experiential aspect. The realisation that I am a combination of energy and consciousness, that I am the combination of Shiva and Shakti, is the ultimate aim of Tantra. So we can achieve this as a householder or as a sannyasin by following a sadhana which involves practical sexual experience and interaction, or just a meditative conversion of Shakti from gross to spiritual.
This has been further clarified in the chakra philosophy. The chakras in the body are manifestations of Shakti and Shiva representing different experiences, stages or states of consciousness. If a chakra awakens in the body then that experience of Shiva and Shakti will also be there, and as we evolve we experience the manifestation of Shiva and Shakti in different chakras. The theory is that we have to raise the Shakti from mooladhara and merge it with Shiva at sahasrara chakra. The Shakti is raised from the level of the earth element to that of water, from there to the fire element, from fire to air, air to ether, ether to mind, and finally mind to pure consciousness. This is the meditative conversion of energy in Tantra.
Is it possible to have power over another's mind through the practices of tantric mantra?
It is possible because Tantra usually works with energy fields. I will give you one small example. During the time of British rule there was a judge by the name of Sir John Woodroffe. He became interested in Tantra after the following incident happened to him. When he sat down to pass his judgement on a particular case he found that he could not do so. One day he would be attracted towards the plaintiff and the next day he would be in favour of the other party. The judgement was very simple and he could not figure out why his decision was wavering from day to day. Everything was over. The jury had given their verdict and only the final judgement was to be given.
Later on he made enquiries and found that both parties were independently employing tantrics to influence the judgement. So one day he would decide in favour of the criminal; the nest day he would favour the plaintiff. He became interested as to how his mind was being influenced and started studying the tantras. He has written many good books on Tantra: "The Serpent Power", "A Garland of Letters". All these boots deal with mantras, chakras, kundalini, and the aspects of Shiva and Shakti. To date they are considered to be the best authoritative English translations of the tantras; nobody has done so much thorough research as Sir John Woodroffe.
The final conclusion he reached was that Tantra deals with energy fields. A person who is tamasic and using the tantras for tamasic attainments will influence the energy fields in a tamasic or negative way, while a person counteracting that will influence the energy field positively. It is now an accepted fact that we can project our thoughts and that those thoughts go into the environment in the form of energy waves.
How can you stop someone influencing your mind?
Everybody influences each other directly or indirectly because of their weak will. You just have to be strong within yourself. If I am trying to influence you negatively, how will you stop that ? You cannot influence me, but you can be strong and committed within yourself so that, if I try to do something positive for you, then you accept it; if I try to do something negative against you, you reject it-Why can we not learn to stand on our own two feet ? That is the biggest siddhi. Swamiji was once asked by a reporter, 'Your disciples say that you have many powers; can you describe them to us?' Swamiji said, 'You start asking me and I will answer 'yes' or 'no'. So the reporter started, 'Can you read, peoples' minds?' Swamiji said 'No.' 'Can you walk on water?' 'No.' 'Can you fly in the air?' 'No.'.........etc. After about ten minutes of questioning the reporter gave up and asked. 'What can you do then? I have asked you everything under the sun and you have denied everything. Tell me what power you 'have.' Swamiji simply replied, 'I can stand on my own two feet That is my biggest siddhi!'