There is a popular belief that tantra is some sort of magic manipulation and the people who practise it, called tantrics, are feared. A lot of superstition is attached to these practices. Could you please clarify?
It will be very difficult for me to plead on behalf of tantra in this meeting, but I must make it clear that tantra, according to the ancient shastras, is definitely not magic. Kundalini yoga is a science which does not particularly belong to tantra, but the science of tantra has been successful in helping many people to awaken their kundalini.
Kundalini can be awakened by bhakti yoga, karma yoga, raja yoga, jnana yoga and hatha yoga as well. However, it is not certain that these paths will be able to awaken kundalini in people because the practices and experiences of kundalini are not properly charted in these systems of yoga. Like there are railway and other timetables, similarly in all these yogas, the experiences, methods and other details are not properly graded and charted whereas in tantra they are. In these forms of yoga, which are very great, there is an element of puritanism which most people cannot always practise.
In tantra they have realized practical difficulties. The first practical difficulty is that everybody wants to awaken this inner force. He does not care that he drinks, eats meat, is an ordinary fellow and not ethically or morally perfect. He does not care about all these things, yet he wants to awaken this force! In other forms of yoga, they have not indicated any possibility, but in tantra they have said, ‘Yes, it is possible’. A person who follows their instincts or one with proper reasoning or someone who has divine intuition, everyone can awaken their kundalini.
Tantra is a universal sect. Prior to the colonization of various countries in Africa, Latin America, North and South America, the Chipcas, Aztecs, Hopi Indians and those people who are called Red Indians did practise tantric rituals. In fact, one of the last temples of tantric rituals was destroyed about six to eight hundred years ago. It was a temple where girls used to live and practise tantric sadhanas known as Saurya Tantra. There are different tantras like Saurya Tantra, Shakta Tantra, Vaishnava Tantra and various other sects of tantra. Saurya tantra was practised by Latin American people, not the people who are there today but the people who were destroyed, massacred and killed. These girls were priestesses, although the word is not accurate let us say so for the time being. When the invaders raided the temple, they killed everyone and destroyed everything.
In the same way, on the African continent, kundalini tantra was practised with the aid of music, dancing, and some sort of drink. You can call it aushadi or vanaspati, medicinal herbs. The pre-Christian culture, the primitive mother culture of Europeans is the Celtic culture. Christianity is an imported religion in Europe, just as we have imported technology into India. Christianity is not the old or original religion of Europeans, Americans, South Americans or Indians. It is an imported religion. This old Celtic religion was practised by Celts in Europe, Slavs in Russia and other Slavonic countries like Czechoslovakia, Albania, Romania and other places.
They used to practise tantric rituals in the same way as we Indians practise in our villages. It is called tola totka, the ‘disgraceful’ form of tantra. It has been misused in various countries, including India, in the form of magic spells. For example, if someone is angry with you, they do some tola totka with the help of a few things and your cow or buffalo dies or stops giving milk. In reality, these kinds of ‘magic’ practices are the performance of kriyas which were later developed in tantra.
Of course, kundalini yoga is a very important sadhana in tantra and tantra intends to free or liberate energy from matter. That is the literal meaning of tantra – Tanoti trayati iti tantraha. What is tantra? It is a set of practices which can expand consciousness and liberate energy. Just as you liberate the energy from matter like uranium and plutonium or you release energy from water or chemicals, in the same way the mind and body is matter and from this matter the energy has to be released. This process of liberation of energy from matter is called tantra.
Is it essential that one has to practise all the techniques of kundalini yoga? Can bhakti alone not awaken kundalini?
I have made it clear many times that the ultimate aim of yoga is to separate energy from matter and in a homage paid to Patanjali, the great exponent of yoga, it is said, ‘Oh, Patanjali, I pay homage to you because throughout your book you have taught us how to separate matter and energy but you have named it yoga.’ Yoga means union; viyoga means separation. All through the yogic texts, whether it be karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga or any yoga, the purpose or the ultimate object is to extract the dormant energy from matter.
Just as you churn milk and extract butter and ghee, as you extract oil from the sesame seed or by rubbing two pieces of wood you let the fire manifest, or in modern physics as you extract nuclear energy from matter, in the same way, this gross body and this gross mind, the sthula sharira, is made up of the pancha tattwas, five elements, full of desires, passions, thoughts, limitations, which is nashwar, perishable or mortal and not immortal. However, this frame, this body, has a nucleus. In this universe there is no object, there is no matter, there is nothing which does not have a nucleus. This is the scientific fact. Even when a strand of hair is removed, it has a nucleus of its own. A diamond or any other piece of stone has a nucleus, but you cannot see it.
It is through the process of yoga or through a process of science that the nucleus can be known and experienced. Bhakti yoga, or any yoga for that matter, helps us to separate shakti, energy from matter. How do they do it? It is a very big science. It would take months for me to explain. The nature of matter and the nature of energy are contradictory to each other. There is no parallel, no similarity, no uniformity, no likeness between the qualities of matter and energy but still they are together. What binds them?
There is a third force called maya which binds them. Let us understand this maya in the form of the mind filled with desires for action and the passion to live. Let us use the word ‘mind’ because that is something which we can understand. The mind, which is filled with all sorts of unnecessary or necessary desires, is the binding force which binds Shakti and Shiva together. Once that binding force of the mind is withdrawn, they are separated and this separation can take place regardless of the practice.
Whichever practice you do can help you to withdraw the mind – any practice! If you go on singing ‘Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Hare Rama’ with music for one hour or half an hour, the mind is withdrawn and an awakening will take place. If you do japa or if you do tapasya, penance, or fasting, it can help you to merge the indriyas into the mind and the mind into buddhi and buddhi into atma. It can be through karma yoga or bhakti yoga.
What is love? Love is prem. When it is directed towards matter for passion, enjoyment and indulgence with a selfish motive, it is called vasana. When it is directed to your people, children, wife, husband, it is called prem or mohabbat. When it is directed to a higher self, the atma, the guru or God, it is called bhakti.
Love is known as ‘ishk’. This ishk is of two types. The Sufi saints have said, ‘Ishk Hakiki’ and ‘Ishk Mijazi’. When your love is directed to a point which is not permanent, when your love is directed to a person who is mortal, when your love is directed towards an object which will not be there after some time, that is called ‘Ishk Mijazi’, it is worldly love, fleeting love, nashawar, perishable.
When you begin to direct all your channels of emotion towards ‘Hak’, Reality, which in Sanskrit we call Sat and in Persian ‘Hak’. ‘Hakiki’ means ‘That which concerns Reality’. Sat is that which remains today, tomorrow and the day after and is not subject to time, space or any particular category. It is the self or the atma which is ever-present in everything, in every speck. It was, is, shall be. The destruction of matter, the destruction of form, the destruction of shape does not destroy it. That is called ‘Ishk Hakiki’ or Divine Love.
Examples of this divine love are too many for us to quote here. Mirabai is one such example. She loved the self or atma or parameshwara, whatever it is, as her husband. Mirabai considered Krishna to be her husband. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu had Radhabhava. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had the bhava of a son, he considered Kali as his mother. You have to understand how these emotions can be channelled through bhakti. Of course, the bhakti shastra is quite a big shastra in India. It is talked of a lot in India: What is ritualistic bhakti in a temple? What is real bhakti within one’s own self? In the same way, it is not only through bhakti, even with karma or raja yoga and even by pranayama, you can annihilate the mind. You can bypass the mind and the moment you are able to bypass the mind; you remove that binding substance.
Therefore, you must remember that the purpose and ultimate aim is to extract Shakti. We don’t use the word ‘extract.’ We call it trayati, liberation. In religious terminology, Christians use the word ‘salvation’, Hindus use the word ‘moksha’ and Buddhists use the word ‘nirvana’. What does it mean?
People think that ‘moksha’ means that everything is finished. No, no, no! Salvation, moksha, nirvana or any other name which you may have is only this – when energy is liberated from matter, when energy is emancipated from matter, when energy is released from matter, when energy escapes from the fold of matter, that is called ‘moksha’. That that is why it is said, ‘Oh, he has attained moksha’, meaning that he has been able to release that energy.
That energy in our country is known as ‘devi’. It is always considered to be feminine – Shakti, Devi, Durga, Bhawani, Mata Kali. Those feminine forms which have been given to Shakti symbolize the nature of Shakti. What is the nature of the atom bomb? In scientific language, in the language of physics, you can define it. If I am supposed to draw a picture of the atom bomb, it is not going to be a masculine form. It is going to be a feminine form more or less like Durga and Bhavani. All the qualities of Shakti have to be symbolized through a particular form. Shakti is the ultimate aim of kundalini yoga and the ultimate aim of tantra.
28 October 1985, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, Maharashtra