The name tantra is derived from two sanskrit words tanoti which means ‘to expand’ and trayati which means ‘to liberate’. It is an ancient hindu science of expanding human consciousness and liberating the soul.
Unfortunately this sacred science has earned a bad reputation because of some self styled and ignorant Tantrics who project it as a sort of witchcraft. Because of this wrong projection a Tantric nowadays is looked upon as a practitioner of gruesome rituals for self gain.
Practice of certain spiritual methods gives occult powers like intuition, telepathy, clairvoyance etc. At that point if the practitioner has not attained certain level of purity then he or she can get astray and misuse those powers for self gain. As they resort to wrong practices gradually their powers are lost but in the meantime such people degrade the name of sacred sciences like Tantra.
Sri Ramakrishna Parmahansa the great guru of Swami Vivekananda used certain Tantric techniques to control the senses and rise above the selfish mundane plane to attain greater spiritual heights.
A Power Network …
The word ‘Tantra’ also means a circuit, a system or a network. An example is its use in the word, ‘Nadi Tantra’ which signifies a network of nerves or nervous system.
In this context also we can say that Tantra is a macro system or a circuit to tap the universal power. Due to the duality principle applicable to all three dimensional things there are two extremes such a negative (-) and a positive (+) as in a battery. There have to be both these terminals in order that a current flows and power is delivered. Under this philosophy we can say that a human releases negative (–) energy whereas the Sun releases positive (+) energy and this works as a circuit to harness the great source of positive energy inherent in the Sun.
Agamas-the source of Tantra …
There are six orthodox headings under which all Sanskrit literature falls, (i) Sruti, (ii) Smriti, (iii) Itihasa, (iv) Purana, (v) Agama, and (vi) Darsana
The Agamas are theological treatises and practical manuals relating to divine worship and include Tantras, Mantras and Yantras.
There are three main sects of Hinduism (1) Vaishnavism, (2) Saivism and (3) Shaktism, these three base all their philosophy on the Agamas falling under Vaishnava, Saiva and Shakta categories respectively.
The Vaishnava Agamas glorify the supreme divine power as Lord Vishnu. The Saiva glorifies that power as Lord Shiva whereas the Shakta Agamas or Tantras glorify the same power as the Divine Mother (Devi) known by many names.
The Tantra Agamas as we mentioned above belong to the Shakta cult. They glorify Shakti as the Divine-Mother. They dwell on the Shakti or Energy aspect of God and prescribe various ritualistic worships of the Divine Mother in different forms. The Agamas are very much like the Puranas in some respects. The texts are usually in the form of dialogues between Shiva and Parvati. In some of these, Shiva answers the questions put by Parvati and in others Parvati answers while Shiva puts questions.
The Tantra Agamas give some occult practices, some of which confer powers, while the others bestow knowledge and freedom. Among the existing books the Mahanirvana Tantra is the most famous.
Tantra is an art of channelling the power of the universe in a constructive way. This sacred science evolved thousands of years ago in India. The main objective of Tantra is to gain power and because of that reason it is also called Shakti Sadhna.
There are three distinct divisions of Tantra and these are: Vaishnav Tantra or Brahma Tantra, Maya Tantra or Bhamini Tantra and lastly Rudra Tantra or Bhairavee Tantra. But the basic idea behind all forms of Tantra is to gain power from the universe.
Balanced life …
The science and art of Tantra puts emphasis on the principles of living a meaningful life and not just live in ignorance. But at the same time it also gives importance to enjoyment in life thereby advocating a balanced life. Only with a balanced approach one can carry all the responsibilities in life and still enjoy life in a Satvic or righteous way.
Freedom from the eight bondages …
The sacred Tantra scriptures reveal that there are eight bonds in human life and these are: Lajja (shyness), Ghrina (hatred), Bhai (fear), Sheel (nature or character), Moha (ignorance or delusion) , Kula (family at large), Varna (caste) and wrong type of Daya (Feeling of pity, which is bonding in nature. It is not divine compassion which is good)
These eight bonds keep us earth bound which means these act as an anchor for us to stay here and not achieve liberation. In fact this truth was revealed by Lord Krishna also in the legend where He stole clothes of eight Gopis who were bathing and asked them to come to Him naked. In fact their clothes represent the artificial coverings or bonds with which they had imposed bondage on themselves. The Gopis were eight in number which represented these eight bonds of humans.
Only a complete and sacred science like Tantra is capable of freeing us from such bonds.
Tantra, Mantra and Yantra …
Tantara as we have described is a sacred science meant to draw power of the universe in order to expand ones consciousness and thereby achieve the final goal of liberation from physical bondage.
This science of Tantra uses potent tools like Mantra and Yantra for achieving its above mentioned goals.
Mantra: Mantra is a Sanskrit syllable or group of syllables which when repeated concentrate cosmic as well as psychic energies in order to awaken certain centres in the body. The first mantra is ‘OM’ the primordial sound inherent in the atoms of the matter.
There are many potent mantras which when recited with devotion and concentrations have the power to transform a person into a dynamic personality.
All the beej mantras have come from Tantra. A beej or a seed may be very tiny and insignificant but when it is sowed in soil in due course it turns into a huge and useful tree. Similarly a beej mantra is full of power (shakti). There is ‘one word beej mantra’ such as ‘Shree’ which is a beej mantra for Laxmi the goddess of wealth by recitation of this potent mantra with concentration and devotion one can prosper.
Yantra: A Yantra is basically a diagrammatic figure for a field of energy. A yantra does in the visible spectrum what a mantra does in the sound spectrum. There are many types of Yantras available for different desired results.
The Hindu Shastras give topmost importance to the ‘Shri Yantra’
In south India this Yantra is worshiped in temples and houses and is known as ‘Shri Chakra’. This Yantra bestows power, authority and financial success. The beej mantra for this yantra is:
‘Om Shreeng, Hareeng, Kaleeng, Hareeng, Shri Mahalakshamaiya Namha’
Role of Tantra in overcoming suffering …
Tantric literature refers to three types of troubles in life viz. Daivik (Divine), Daihik (related to body) and Bhautik (Physical). Daivik troubles are not created by individuals rather by nature for example earthquakes, floods etc. The Daihik troubles are related to diseases and accidents whereas the Bhautik troubles relate to all the troubles and suffering due to materialistic approach to life. The Bhautik troubles lead to mental suffering. All these troubles and suffering make life insecure. Our great wise ancient Rishis and sages thought about this and developed the great science of Tantra which can relieve humans from all these troubles.