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Tantra

Tantra

A science or sadhana (spiritual practice) based on a vast collection of religious and occult Hindu scriptures that emphasize the shakti (energy of the deity), usually called kundalini, which comes from the goddess. The scriptures are generally in the form of a dialogue between the god Shiva and his wife Parvati. In treatises where Shiva answers the questions, they are called agama; where Parvati answers it is a nigama.

The tantra scriptures represent a cumulation of knowledge dating to ancient times. The majority of texts are written in Sanskrit, but are also found in Pali, Prakit, Tibetan, Hindi, and Bengali. They are considered encyclopedias of esoteric wisdom, covering topics such as creation and destruction of the universe, worship of the gods, spiritual disciplines, rituals, occult powers, and meditations. The tantras also discuss the subtle anatomy of the body including the chakras (spiritual centers) and the connection paths between them through which the kundalini energy travels. The tantras are also supposed to be specially relevant to Kali Yuga (the present age of devolution).

As vast and varied as the scriptures appear, however, they all have one characteristic in common: "an integrative approach to sadhana, with the objective of making the best use of all available resources within and without." Tantra can be considered the holistic approach to spiritual practice.

In opposition to traditional Judeo-Christian and aesthetic Eastern practices, Tantra does not seek to sublimate the flesh to the spirit, the physical to the metaphysical. Instead, tantra seeks to reintegrate all aspects of life, to "dissolve boundaries we've created, the separateness, the diconnectedness and become more connected with all of life."

Since the tantra's purpose is to integrate all aspects of life, it is a practice where numerous varieties of sciences can blend: hatha yoga, pranayama, medras, rituals, kundalini yoga, nada yoga, mantra, yantra, mandala, visualization of deities, alchemy, Aryurveda, and astrology can all comfortably fit within the realm of tantra. But because so many intricate sciences and techniques can be employed, it is usually advised that the tantra is studied under a competent master, who can lead the student through the complex weave of ideas and procedures.

In the West, tantra is often identified with sexuality and sexual practices. Tantric ideas are often used to help individuals and couples transform love making into a more satisfying experience, on the physical, emotional, and spiritual realm. By integrating the male and female aspect of the individual and the couple, tantra is used to raise the sexual union to a reflection of the mystical union between the shiva and shakti aspects of the divine.

A popular knowledge of tantric anatomy came to the West through Theosophy. Western scholar Sir John Woodroffe (1865-1936) wrote several pioneering books on tantra and translated tantric scriptures under a pseudonym, Arthur Avalon. The various systems of tantric yoga based on the tantras have spread in the West through the twentieth century.

Sources:

Avalon, Arthur. The Serpent Power. London: Luzac & Co., 1919.

. Shakti and Shakta. 3d ed. Madras, India: Ganesh, 1929.

. Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra). London: Luzac, 1913. Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1972.

Chakravarti, Chintaharan. Tantras: Studies on Their Religion and Literature. Calcutta, India: Punthi Pustak, 1963.

Feuerstein, Georg. The Shambala Guide to Yoga. Boston & London: Shambala, 1996.

Greenwell, Bonnie, Ph.D. Energies of Transformation. Valencia, Calif.: Shakti River Press, 1990.

Mookerjee, Ajit. Tantra Art. New York: Random House, 1971.

Mookerjee, Ajit, and M. Khanna. The Tantric Way: Art, Science, Ritual. New York: Graphic, 1977.

Rawson, Philip. Tantra: The Indian Cult of Ecstasy. London: Thames & Hudson, 1974.

Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani "The Living Science of Tantra," Yoga International (May 1998): 22-29.

Williams, Stephen. "Tantra: An Introductory Dialogue with Raymont Powers C.T.T." Gentleman's Quarterly, August 1997, http://home.earthlink.net/-raypows/INTERVIEW.HTM.

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Tantra

Tantra (tŭn´trə), in both Hinduism and Buddhism, esoteric tradition of ritual and yoga known for elaborate use of mantra, or symbolic speech, and mandala, or symbolic diagrams; the importance of female deities, or Shakti; cremation-ground practices such as meditation on corpses; and, more so in Hindu than in Buddhist tantra, the ritual use of wine, meat, and sexual intercourse. Tantric practices use both ritual and meditation to unify the devotee with the chosen deity. In Hindu Tantra, practice is graded into three types, corresponding to three classes of devotees: the animal, i.e., those in whom the guna, or quality, of tamas (darkness) predominates; the heroic, those in whom the guna of rajas (activity) predominates; and the divine, those in whom sattva (goodness) predominates (see Hindu philosophy). The practice of the heroic devotee entails actual use of the five elements, called the five m's: fish (matsya), meat (mamsa), wine (madya), aphrodisiac cereals (mudra), and sexual intercourse (maithuna). The animal devotee, not yet ready for the heroic practice, performs the rituals with material symbols; for the divine devotee the rituals are purely internal and symbolic. The object of the rituals, attainable only by the divine devotee, is to awaken kundalini energy, which is identified with Shakti, and merge with the Godhead. In Buddhist Tantra, or Vajrayana, in contrast to the Hindu, the female principle of "wisdom" (prajna) is seen as static, whereas the male, or "means" (upaya), is active. In Buddhism, rituals that appear to break basic moral precepts have for the most part been dropped, but the complex meditation practices have been retained.

See Y. Hakeda, Kukai (1972); A. Wayman, The Buddhist Tantras (1973); A. Bharati, The Tantric Tradition (1975); F. D. Lessing and A. Wayman, Introduction to the Buddhist Tantric Systems (2d ed. 1980); T. Goudriaan and S. Gupta, Hindu Tantric and Shakta Literature (1981); D. Brooks, The Secret of the Three Cities (1990).

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Tantra

Tantra (Skt., ‘extension’, ‘warp on a loom’). A text of Tantrism. The word is also sometimes used as a synonym for āgama and in a general sense for Tantric doctrine. Tantra denotes specifically Śaiva and especially Śākta texts, though a clear distinction is often difficult to make. Some Vaiṣṇava texts are also called Tantras, such as the Lakṣmi Tantra of the Pañcarātra. The teachings of the Tantras are esoteric, concerning macro-microcosmic correspondence, phonic evolution (see MANTRA), esoteric anatomy, and Kuṇḍalinī yoga. Central place is given to the transformation of desire (kāma) to a spiritual end; the metaphor used is of removing a thorn by a thorn.

Tantras take the form of a dialogue between Śiva and the Goddess (Devī). Either the Goddess asks questions and Śiva replies (āgama), or vice versa (nigama). The distinction between āgama and nigama can also refer to that between Tantra and Veda. The most important Śākta Tantras are the Nityaṣodaśikārṇava, the Yoginīhṛdaya, the Tantrarāja, the Kulārṇava, all written between 1000 and 1400 CE, and the 18th-cent. Mahānirvāṇa Tantra. See also TANTRIKA; TANTRISM.

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Tantra

Tan·tra / ˈtəntrə; ˈtan-/ • n. a Hindu or Buddhist mystical or ritual text, dating from the 6th to the 13th centuries. ∎  adherence to the doctrines or principles of the tantras, involving mantras, meditation, yoga, and ritual. DERIVATIVES: tan·tric / -trik/ adj. tan·trism / -ˌtrizəm/ n. tan·trist / -trist/ n.

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tantra

tantra a Hindu or Buddhist mystical or magical text, dating from the 7th century or earlier. The word is Sanskrit, and means literally ‘loom, groundwork, doctrine’, from tan ‘stretch’.

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Tantra

Tantra (beliefs, practices, etc.): see TANTRISM.

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tantra

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