Are tantric forces real
Next I will try to shed some light on the philosophical background of the Tantra scriptures. This undertaking is quite demanding because, on the one hand, the tantras are so closely connected with the rest of the Indian spiritual world that one cannot avoid dealing with them, and on the other hand, the different tantra systems sometimes differ considerably from one another.
If you are less interested in abstract philosophy, you should simply skip this chapter.
The basic drive of Indian spirituality, and this includes Buddhism and Hinduism, is to move from an ephemeral, impermanent and often painful and fearful state of being into a liberated, timeless being.
In the great dualistic systems of India such as the Raja-Yoga of Patanjali or the Samkhya, the goal of spiritual striving is to escape the material world, which has no real reality, and to get into a purely spiritual realm, which is our true essence.
The most influential Indian school of Vedanta, on the other hand, which calls the whole Brahman and its presence in us atman, is of a non-dual view: matter is not separate from Brahman.
In early Buddhism, a distinction was made between the relative level of samsara and the absolute level of nirvana, two separate worlds between which there is no connection. Through an existential leap it is possible to get out of the cycle of karma and rebirth, as is inherent in samsara, to the level of nirvana and to find liberation there.
In later Mahayana Buddhism the identity of the two worlds is postulated, both lack the essence, only the world of appearances is of relative existence. Here the equation samsara = nirvana appears for the first time, the identity of the material and the spiritual world. It just depends on the viewer's point of view. Whoever has realized the path will no longer recognize the difference. This formula is important and decisive for the whole tantric tradition.
Enlightenment no longer means giving up the world and killing off one's life impulses, but rather integrating these lower realities into a higher vision and allowing them to emerge.
Mahayana Buddhism and Vedanta had a profound influence on Tantra philosophy. In Hindu Tantra it now says: the world is not unreal, but the "garment of God". The world is the appearance of the real and thus real. But things are not autonomous as they seem, but rather woven into a deeper context. The universe is reality that appears to be shattered by our minds. The path of tantra leads back to unity.
Man is also divine, not just a manifestation, but the divine power itself.
Tantra has become a great synthesis between different Indian schools of thought. It unites the monism of Advaita with the dualism of Samkhya. It has a mediating position between the jnana path of knowledge and the emotional worship path of the bhakti, and integrates the masculine-transcendent principle with the feminine pole of matter and energy.
Tantra can be seen as an eclectic current with a strong religious and ritual tendency. However, the tantric universe is so complex that it also had room for the current of the Sahajayana, which in turn was skeptical of every ritual.
The Indians do not see the world as a struggle between good and evil, between virtue and sin, but as a decision between the bright consciousness or the dazzling power of the Maya, the deception of the subconscious. Objectively, Maya is the force that darkens consciousness; if you look deeper, it also arises from the power of consciousness.
In Shivaism it is described as follows: if the place of intuition based on the Maya is a state of intellect, the samkochas appear, the self-limitations of God, and as a result the limited world that we can experience. The soul, which practically falls asleep, believes that it is limited awareness of being in time and space as an individual separated from others.
In the teaching of Vedanta it is the five armor or body shells that limit and reduce us; in a process of liberation, the aspirant has to work his way out of the clutches of Maya from the inside to the outside.
The spiritual Indian striving is to "heroically" free oneself from the web of deception. It is not hoped for grace from the outside, but one becomes actively active and struggles to free oneself, so to speak. When gods are asked for assistance, it is only to support, strengthen, or bless one's own endeavors. Therefore in most Indian cults there is no “redeemer figure” that comes from outside, but the necessity of knowledge of true nature, of practice and initiation. God has to be developed and awakened in man in this slow, laborious ascent.
The absolute consciousness to be achieved is always associated with light. In meditation it can be experienced as an inner, colorless glow. In Buddhism this light becomes apparent when everything else has dissolved after death: if it is possible to recognize this light as absolute consciousness, the cycle of rebirths is ended, otherwise it continues.
Polarity symbolism in tantra
The supreme being is a non-duality, but it cannot be communicated or grasped. Brahman the Absolute, the formless unity, also called Paramashiva in Shivaitic schools, differentiates itself into a consciousness aspect, called Shiva, and an energy aspect, and Shakti.
Tantra has chosen the pole male-female to explain the polarity that pervades all levels of consciousness. This is a kind of duality and non-duality at the same time, designates consciousness on the one hand and the object of knowledge on the other. In the experience of the absolute, these poles merge again.
The Shiva-Shakti polarity is strongly influenced by the ancient Indian teaching of Samkhya. Samkhya says that the absolute is divided into a spiritual and a material aspect. The spiritual is of a male nature and is called Purusha, the material-energetic is of a female nature and is called Prakriti.
The deities Shiva and Shakti correspond exactly to these principles. Although distinguishable in their qualities, they are inseparable as two aspects of the one.
Maya appears in a cascade of further differentiations, the illusion, under whose “magic” we humans stand and believe in a trickery picture and are attached to it.
In truth, however, the whole world of sense experience is Shiva-Shakti, Purusha, and Prakriti. The aim of Tantra is to realize this integral wholeness through immersion; this releases great joy because everything in the world is happy to return to the origin.
Shiva and Shakti are represented in tantric iconography as an intertwined pair, as two sides of one being that cannot be separated. The union of Shiva and Shakti stands for the unity and indifference of things that pervade all of creation. Sexuality is a widely used symbolism for this.
The goddess cult of tantras arose in India from a mixture of the Samkhya philosophy (Purusha and Prakriti) and the renewed older indigenous tendencies of women and goddess worship.
The Shakti embodies the original energy. Tantric sadhana is aimed at awakening and increasing energy.
The aim of Sadhana is to activate Kundalini, which is nothing other than the working of the cosmic Shakti in our body.
In Buddhist Tantra the polarities are distributed differently: the male principle (upaya) is active, the female (prajna) passive. Agehananda Bharati, who is highly valued in specialist circles, believes that it seems arbitrary which gender is assigned to which pole, and that this may be due to regional or historical peculiarities.
Both schools, however, emphasize the principle of duality in non-duality and see perfection in the union of both.
The term Shakti does not exist in Tantric Buddhism. The idea of a dynamic and vital female has also been given space here through the figures of the Dakinis. There are two types of goddesses, dynamic fire goddesses such as Vajravarahi, but also goddesses who embody the pure static yum and are clearly assigned to the wisdom aspect, such as Prajnaparamita.
Philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism
The most differentiated philosophical school of Hindu Tantra is the Kashmiri Trika school.
The highest principle according to Trika is Paramashiva, it embodies the underlying, pervasive and transcendent being. His creative power, inseparable from him, manifests itself in stages of the universe.
Shakti awakens - the universe arises. Shakti falls asleep - and the universe disappears.
From their vibration, called spanda, being manifests itself in 36 so-called tattvas.
In Kashmiri-Shivaitic Tantra, every creature possesses absolute essentiality, so there is nothing to add or to take away from it. Beyond morality and retreats, immediately immersing yourself in the grace of being is viewed as the highest path (or non-path, anupaya), which, however, is very rare and can only be walked on by very few people. The others have to devote themselves to a yogic stepped path.
On the step path of the trika, the student tries to step up this sloping cascade of the tattvas again by perceiving everything more and more comprehensively with his consciousness without despising or disregarding the lower steps.
The master, the guru or the gurvi will now try to teach the disciple suitable methods that can lead to his / her liberation.
The realization of the last four tattvas are no longer possible with meditative means; it requires the grace of Shiva or his Shakti.
The meaning of the feminine in tantra
Tantra is a religious rediscovery of the mystery of women: every woman becomes an incarnation of the Shakti.
A man's attitude towards women reflects his attitude towards life. Therefore every man should make sure to respect and honor the Shakti principle in his partner and in all women, also in himself. Accordingly, women should also discover and ignite this principle within themselves and try to embody the goddess. The worship of the feminine is a central element of Hindu, and with certain restrictions also of Buddhist Tantra.
In Hindu Tantra, the feminine principle transcends the masculine, although connected with it. Shakti is thus endowed with all aspects of life: generating as well as dissolving, sensual as well as sublime, benevolent to terrible. In tantric scriptures it is emphasized again and again that every woman is an embodiment of the Shakti, who is to be worshiped and not to abuse or hit. She is not a sexual object, but a goddess and as such remains respected, undisturbed and free. The woman is considered to be the initiation of the man. If he wants to prove himself worthy of the woman, he must first build his life anew on the ideals of femininity. Realizing the female universe as a man within is part of the tantric path.
In the context of the patriarchal culture in which this teaching was able to develop, this is initially revolutionary. These passages seem to indicate that tantra did indeed evolve under the influence of ancient matriarchal cults that had survived on the Indian fringes.
The constant emphasis on the veneration of women should not close our eyes to the fact that the tantric path nevertheless developed in a patriarchal culture in which most of the religious activities were shaped by men. Some authors have dealt critically with the question of whether Tantra was and is really that glorifying of women.
At least most of the tantras are written from the male perspective, and the tantric sadhanas are almost always designed for men. The female perspective is either not perceived at all or not greatly reduced.
The concept of worship also has its downside, the higher the worship of a principle, the greater the contempt for real people.
In large parts of historical tantra, the woman appears as a pleasure helper or projection surface for the man. She is included in the path, but seems to only participate in the process on a secondary basis. Sadhanas especially for women are not or only rudimentarily handed down.
In the modern reception of tantra there is a controversy about the meaning of women in Buddhist tantra, on which the spirits differ. While Miranda Shaw tries to prove that tantra is a gynocentric path in which the worship of women is central, other authors argue that women are only a marginal phenomenon in Buddhist practice. Other authors, e.g. June Campbell, stress that the tantra path opens the door to sexual abuse and warn of the dangers. The religious critics Victor and Victoria Trimondi even try to prove in a study that the central cult of Buddhist tantra is an appropriation of power by the priest who, through ritual intercourse, deprives women of the essence they need to become a perfect androgynous magician, and that the central cults of Buddhist tantra revolve around a symbolic sacrifice of women.
Of the great gurus and masters known to us by name, women are in the clear minority, e.g. of the 84 Mahasiddhas of Tantric Buddhism only four of them are women. After all, that's more rights and participation than women in other traditions could expect.
Doctrine of Kali-Yuga
Kali-Yuga, in German Age of Strife, is the name for the last of four ages, the so-called Yugas in Hindu cosmology. It is considered the age of decay and perdition. The others are Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga.
When rolling the dice, Kali denotes the losing side with a point and, as is often assumed, has nothing to do with the goddess Kali, which is spelled the same in German and English, but different in Sanskrit.
Most Hindus assume that we are now living in Kali-Yuga. Opinions vary widely over the time spans of the ages.
Man no longer possesses spontaneity and strength and is no longer capable of direct access to the truth. Classical Hinduism recommends repeating the names of God as a method suitable for Kali-Yuga.
Tantra emphasizes another possibility, namely to be extremely active and to leave no stone unturned in order to achieve liberation. The human being must be picked up where he stands, starting from the sources of his life - hence the living rite in the flesh with “heart” and sexuality.
Where there is already no difference between the relative and the absolute world, according to the tantrics, unconventional paths can also be taken to achieve the goal. Tantra knows a whole range of methods which until then were quite alien to spiritual India, e.g. the strong worship of the feminine, the emphasis on the physical body and ritual sexuality.
Tantric practice is thus justified as self-assertion in the dark ages.
Some authors like Bharati are skeptical of the doctrine of Kali-Yuga and consider it to be a later development, when the tantrics came under increasing pressure to justify their left-handed practices, because it relativizes the superiority of Vedic, non-tantric practices as out of date , but is still recognized in principle.
Summary of this chapter:
Hindu and Buddhist tantra differ more in philosophy than in practice. In Hindu Tantra, the universe is reality that appears to be shattered by our minds. The path of tantra leads back to unity.
In Buddhism, things came into being “empty” and conditionally, thus actually insubstantial, but in the relative world they appear to be real.
The Indians do not see the world as a struggle between good and evil, between virtue and sin, but as a decision between the bright consciousness or the dazzling power of the Maya, the deception of the subconscious. Objectively, Maya is the force that darkens consciousness; if you look deeper, it also arises from the power of consciousness. The tantric striving is to "heroically" free oneself from the web of deception. It is not hoped for grace from outside, but one becomes actively active and struggles to free oneself, so to speak. God has to be developed and awakened in man in this slow, laborious ascent.
The original unity splintered into an apparent duality of an active and a passive pole. In Hindu Tantra, the pole of consciousness is male (Shiva) and the pole of energy is female (Shakti). In a series of further differentiations and profanizations, the world finally appears as it presents itself to us. The tantric yogi now strives to go back to the source. This is a path that can also be viewed as integration or individuation.
The feminine is highly valued and honored in Tantra. Opinions are divided about whether that is also real or only in principle.
Tantra can also be seen as a way that can fill the gap between Eros and religion.
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