Significance of Tantra in Shakti Upasana

The Chakras
Categories : Spirituality

Tantrism is an extensive subject. It has a large volume of literature. Its development can be traced from the period of composition of Atharva Veda which contains mantras for removing ailments, insects, ghosts etc. Due to this, it came to be referred to as a book of black magic.

The development of Tantrism in its modern form probably began after the Maha Nirvan of Buddha. The tantric system was extensively adopted in Buddhism. It was also adopted in the Hindu Upasana system because it was free from degeneration. It came to be associated with negativity due to the wrong utilization of the concept and heavy tilt towards Tamasic Pantha. It is not possible to do justice to the intricacies of the system and arguments for and against Vaampanthi Sadhna in this article. Extensive study of materials is required. However, some broad features of the Tantric system can be outlined in this article.

The concept of Tantra:

  • The concepts of gods/goddesses and details of rituals concerned with them in book form are called Tantra.
  • In Tantra the attributes, merits, functions qualities capabilities, and powers of gods/goddesses are described in detail.
  • Mantra formulation and the effectiveness of Mantra are described.
  • The construction of the yantra and the arrangement of the mantra on the yantra are described in detail.
  • All rituals to be followed one after another are also described in detail.

Foundations of Tantrism:

The concept of Tantric Sadhana is closely related to mantra and yantra. For mantra formulation, the following system has been adopted.

The power of Alphabets:

The Devanagari script of Sanskrit has 51 alphabets consisting of vowels and consonants. They are called Matrikas –and all of them are identified with particular body parts. Groups of Matrikas (syllables) reside in selected sections of six chakras found in the body. For producing the sound of the syllable, one particular part of the body gets activated.

Zero is a signifier of power. Its smallest form is Anusvara (dot). If a dot is placed over a vowel or a consonant its tone, sound and length changes. If a dot is placed over “Ka” it becomes ‘Kan.” It becomes nasal, longer and more effective. Groups of vowels and consonants are carefully selected for linking with names of gods/goddesses to formulate the Tantric mantra. Groups of syllables in the form of words (Padas) are also carefully and meaningfully devised.

Association of Sentiment (attitude):

There may be different objectives behind Tantric Upasana. The prime objective, however, remains personal safety, prosperity and protection. It may have stronger motives directed against adversaries and enemies. Therefore, using the mantra is first for personal strength and simultaneously for weakening the adversary. Words for showing the sentiments are Namah, Svaha, Vashat, Hum and Phat. Anga-Nyas, Kara-Nyas, and Hridyadi-Nyas are rituals which are performed with the help of these Tantric signifying words. Short explanations for them are given below.

Namah: It is a word that signifies complete surrender to divine powers Who are invincible, malicious and harmful. A devotee with a peaceful heart simply bows and surrenders. The word signifies salutation with all ego dissolved which is expected to please the powers.

Svaha: Svaha is a word which has been extensively utilized. During sacrifices, this word keeps recurring till the completion of the yagya. Svaha is the name of Shakti who is identified also as Durga. In Tantric tradition, the word signifies complete dissolution of Self for the welfare of others. The word stands for self-immolation for the cause of others.

Vashat: This word stands for an attitude in which inflicting harm to the adversary or his relatives, supporters and friends remain associated. This remains the heartfelt desire of the Upasak. The attitude may be for the complete elimination of those who are causing trouble.

Vaushat: This word stands for the destruction of unity between adversaries. The seeds of disunity have to be sown between enemies themselves so that they become weaker and thus could be destroyed easily.

Hum: Hum denotes anger and readiness for a battle with adversaries. This readiness may culminate in the complete dethronement of the enemy.

Phat: Phat indicates the utilization of a weapon against the adversary. It is the sound of falling stone pieces after an explosion.

The rituals associated with this Tantric system are found in Sri Durga Saptashati also. This shows that Sri Durga Upasana contains the teachings of Veda, stories from Puran and rituals from Tantra Shastra. This made the Upasana more powerful.

The same Tantric rituals are found in Vishnav, Shaiva, Shakta and Ganpatya Upasana. Various Upanishads are full of Tantric Mantra and rituals. Nrisinmha Tapini Upanishad shows the methods employed by Tantric traditions regarding Mantra and Yantra. However, the inclusion of the Tantric system in Shakti Upasana became a matter of concern. The Tantric Sadhana has been classified into three types – Vedic, Rajasic and Tamasic. The Vedic one was followed by those who knew something about spiritual Upasana. The Rajasic method was followed by Kings and landlords in which large-scale animal sacrifices were the norm.  

The Tamasic Sadhana culminated in the development of Vaam Marga. The emphasis on meat eating, wining and womanizing was an exhibition of objectionable religious traits. The temples constructed during the maximum sway of Vaam Marga like those at Konark and Khajuraho have become things of the past.

The Present Condition:

Those who know about tantra have divided the Upasana system into seven types based on the increasing effect of Tamasic contents. The seven systems are (1). Vedic, (2) Vaishnav, (3) Shaiva, (4) Dakshin, (5) Vaam, (6) Siddhanta and (7) Kaula. In this classification, the maximum Tamasic content is found in the Kaula system in which 5M’s are necessary. Even the Vaam Marga is not like them.

What we find at present is that Kaula is an absolute minority. Their rituals are clandestine and they cannot preach about their beliefs openly. Complete secrecy is maintained in this respect. Most of us participate in open Puja festivals like Durga Puja, Ganapati Puja, Holi, and Dipavali where no secrecy about rituals is maintained. Tantrik methods are inseparable parts and have contributed to strengthening the Hindu Puja system. We do not find anywhere the effects of that type of Tantra about which some historians talk.

Temples are being constructed even now. In the last 200 years, several temples have been constructed. In none of them, do we find the same type of art which we find in the temples of Konark and Khajuraho. Sensuous features found on the exteriors and interiors of those temples do not get repeated. Modern temples do not exhibit the contents of the Tamasic tantra.

We can conclude by stating that:

  • Tantra has strengthened the Puja system found in Hinduism. It is not separable. Vedic rishis were founders.
  • Tantra does not mean adhering to the 5M’s about which people talk. Such Tantrics may induce devotees to do human sacrifice also. For them, the Jail is the best place.