The Sanskrit word
literally means "warp (on a loom)", or "extension".
It proceeds from the verbal roots TAN - "to stretch, expound",
and TRA - "to save", which give further hints upon the
other eanings of the word TANTRA.
This name is applied both for
a certain category of texts of the Oriental spirituality, and for
the doctrine, and teachings which they contain. However, the
texts, the TANTRA-s - and there are several hundreds of them: proper
AGAMA-s, VISHNU SAMHITA-s,
NIGAMA-s, etc. - are written in a kind of "code language",
so that without an oral explanation from a competent
, a lot of passages are bound to remain unclear.
Moreover, there are still many
untranslated, and secret Tantric texts under the dust of forgotten,
or private libraries. All these, plus the extremely varied, and
complicated nature of
renders the manipulation of a single definition almost impossible.
That is why, it has been found useful to sketch some of the main
features of the Tantric system in a detailed manner.
CHARACTERISTICS OF TANTRISM
offers an alternative, and practical individual road to salvation,
, beside the Vedic one which is often deemed to be antiquated. It
is important to remark here that the true Tantric SADHANA is accessible
to people of any caste, social status, age, women as well as men,
householders as well as ascetics.
2. The TANTRA-s are presented as the most fit form of teaching for
the men of KALI YUGA, that is for the people of the "dark age",
in which we live today. KALI YUGA is often connected with the "iron
age" of the Greek mythology, and with the "age of the
wolf", of the Northern Edda, deemed to have exactly the same
meaning. Therefore, nowadays, when the spirituality is declining
while man is desperately trying to reintegrate himself in a spiritual
reality, it is stated that TANTRA is the last, and best way of salvation.
3. TANTRA has a rigorous metaphysical basis, of a very non-dualist
nature. However, according to its opinion an intellectual knowledge
is not enough, but there is need of direct, personal experience,
which becomes possible only through the agency of
, the power, the intense energy. The concept of SHAKTI, the feminine
energy is the specific colour of the entire Tantric system.
4. TANTRA recognizes, and expounds mundane aims besides spiritual
emancipation, as a lawful goal for a practiser. Its aim is to transform
the adept in a kind of super-man, who not only has liberated himself
of the Universe, reaching Enlightment, but also - alike the Supreme
Lord Himself - is able to rule over it, and control its secret forces.
This involves that Tantric methods are applicable for various sorts
of practical accomplishments, including astrology, medicine, parapsychology,
alchemy, and magic. Many written sources are pre-occupied with the
description of supernatural abilities (
-s), and the ways to attain them. There remains however, always
a connecting thread between the magical, and the spiritual.
5. The eminent place given to the energy entails a brilliant revalorisation
of the body. This is not meant with the sense of object of idolatry,
like in the contemporary world, but as necessary instrument, unavoidable
premises of the spiritual realization. This is due to the perpetually
reminded analogy between the
, and the
, which is the human body: "What is here is everywhere, what
is not here is nowhere". A consequence of this fact is the
appearance of the HATHA YOGA system in the Tantric schools; system
which has as goal neither the "health", nor the "well-being",
as it is commonly believed.
6. TANTRA teaches the practice of a special variety of YOGA, destined
to transform the animal instincts and functions, by creating an
upward movement in the body, along the energy- channels, NADI-s,
and through the centre-s of force,
-s. The process is most commonly expressed as "raising the
". Connected with this YOGA is the elaboration of a subtle
physiology, in which the microcosm of the body is homologized with
the macrocosm, and the world of the gods.
7. TANTRA emphasizes the metaphysical, and operative importance
of the feminine principle. The Woman, the Goddess, SHAKTI represents
-s the universal Power, the energy of bondage and Liberation, who
veils and reveals, blinds and illuminates; the world is her toy,
and her mirror. Therefore we encounter here a genuine revalorisation
of the woman, and perhaps the only spiritual path that acknowledges
a total equality between the two sexes, at all levels. The importance
of the female manifestations extends on all the levels of the experience,
from daily life, till metaphysics.
8. Important are also the speculations
upon the mystic nature of speech, and its constituents; the existence
is assumed of a phonic creation, parallel to the material phenomena.
These revelations are connected with the sounds of the Sanskrit
9. This has been developed concretely in the very frequent use of
generally short, unintelligible formulas, called
-s and BIJA-s, correlated with various supernormal powers, and levels
of consciousness by means of definite Yogic procedures, and which
make the object of cosmic symbolism. Actually, the MANTRA-s are
the most efficient instruments, according to
, and therefore the overwhelming majority of the
texts deals to some extent upon this topic, and its secrets.
The general use of other concrete devices, like geometrical designs
(YANTRA-s), symbolical representations (MANDALA-s), gestures (MUDRA-s),
for the practical accomplishment or expression of metaphysical principles.
The supernatural worlds are approached by specific methods of meditation
), visualization, worship, etc.
11. The Tantric teachings are structured on several levels, depending
on those to whom they address; the traditional texts assert the
existence of three different human types: the "divine"
), that practically doesn't exist any more in our age, the "heroic"
one (VIRA), which is the best for the Tantric initiation, though
, "the herd of the Gods", the "animal", that
swarms in our dark age. Only the VIRA-s, say the tantric texts,
the heros liberated of fear, hate, and absurd shame are qualified
for receiving the full of the Tantric revelations, while the others
receive an adequate
, which will first gradually bring them to the heroical condition.
12. Addressing to heroic beings, TANTRA is not so very concerned
with theology, or common moral. It is not a trite anarchism that
we are talking about, but the need for transcending some of the
appearances of the illusory world, for reaching the strongest awakening.
Very often the Tantric texts themselves over-emphasize this side,
for banishing the narrow-minded aspirants, by the use of a symbolical
language: "to pet the breasts of your sister" means to
, "to put the
(penis) in the maternal cavity" means to pierce the root-CHAKRA,
and so on.
13. Most of the Tantric lines are
-ite, because of the exceptional aspects of SHIVA: Benefactor, and
Terrible, Healer and Destroyer of the evil, Supreme
14. TANTRA emphasizes the absolute necessity of initiation by a
qualified spiritual guide, or teacher (
), and on constantly following his (or her) directions for spiritual
practice. That is why, the Tantric texts use a special set of terminology,
inaccessible for the outsiders, and whose "key" is handed
over orally by the GURU.
15. In TANTRA there often appears an ambivalence of the divine and
human existence, as complementary aspects of the same awesome, grandiose
16. There is also a far-fetched categorization of the reality, especially
in the symbolism of the numbers, and speech, which leads to the
mysterious science of the breath, and
-s, and to connections with the ancient alchemical processes of
the SIDDHA-s, and the body culture of the HATHA YOGIN-s.