An introduction to Tantra Yoga. The Sanskrit word Tantra 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 meanings 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 Tantric texts, the TANTRA-s – and there are several hundreds of them: proper TANTRA-s, SHIVA AGAMA-s, VISHNU SAMHITA-s, SHAKTA NIGAMA-s, etc. – are written in a kind of “code language”, so that without an oral explanation from a competent GURU, 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 Tantrism 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 Tantra Yoga
1. Tantra Yoga offers an alternative, and practical individual road to salvation, called a SADHANA, (Spiritual discipline and practice) 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 Yoga 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 SHAKTI, 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 (SIDDHI-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 macrocosm, and the microcosm, 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, CHAKRA-s. The process is most commonly expressed as “raising the KUNDALINI“. 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 Yoga emphasizes the metaphysical, and operative importance of the feminine principle. The Woman, the Goddess, SHAKTI represents for the TANTRIKA-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.