Tantra has been derived from the combination of two Sanskrit words: tanoti or expansion and trayatz’ or liberation. This implies that tantra is the method to expand our mind and liberate the dormant potential energy present in us. In order to understand tantra we have to comprehend exactly what is meant by expansion of mind and liberation of energy.Shiva and Shakti play a major part in tantra.
The range of our experience related to the inner and outer world is usually limited. We can only see, hear, feel, taste and smell through the use of our physical senses. If one of our senses is impaired, our experience and knowledge related to that sense, is restricted and gets hampered. Therefore, perception and cognition are totally and mercilessly dependent on our senses. This is the limiting adjunct in our lives because knowledge derived through the senses is restricted by the boundaries of time, space and object.
Time, space and objects exist only as categories of our individual mind. If there is no individual mind, there is no time, space or object, and vice versa. These three categories of mind are finite and cannot be regarded as the source of infinite or imperishable knowledge. As long as we function through the realm of our senses and mind, we cannot cross these finite and restricting boundaries.
For example, to see the lustrous beauty of a flower, it is necessary to have the flower in front of your open eyes; to smell the fragrance of sandal or lavender, it is necessary to have it in close proximity to the nose; to taste the sweetness of chocolate or the pungency of chilies, they have to be eaten.
This type of experiences are called objective experiences because they dependent on the presence of an object and our senses.Our mind is connected to both of them.
However, there are some experiences which you can see with your eyes closed.When you wish to eat something you can feel its taste even in the absence of food.You can sometimes hear the sound of music without any instrument to cause it. All this is a purely subjective experience and it is unbound by the categories of our finite mind. Knowledge gained through a subjective experience is far more accurate and precise than that gained through an objective experience, because it is the consequence of an expanded mind. Expansion of mind is that phenomena which allows an individual to experience beyond the realm of his senses, time, space and matter. In this realm, you are not bound by any distance and time. You can travel into the past or future and know the happenings at places where you are not physically present. This is known as expansion of mind but it is unattainable as long as you are bound by your senses. Mind operating through your senses and ego categorizes all experiences according to raga and dwesha or likes and dislikes, which it has inculcated. This imposition of the mind creates a distortion of the knowledge received from any experience and does not allow for growth of the pure, refined knowledge.
Knowledge gained through an expanded mind, gradually evolves and finally culminates into intuitive knowledge, which has been declared as eternal, absolute and the true knowledge. But the expansion of mind does not happen overnight. One goes through a long range of experiences, some mild, some intense, some pleasant, some unpleasant. It is a gradual growth which finally culminates in absolute knowledge or brahma jmma.
A child does not grow into an adult overnight. The transformation is gradual. The line of demarcation between child and adult is so subtle that one can never point out where one ended and the other began, in his life span. Similarly, man’s consciousness is evolving all the time. Mind is expanding and crossing new boundaries. Transformation is taking place but the pace is gradual and the change is subtle. In order to accelerate the evolution of mind and direct your own transformation, you will have to turn to the practice of tantra and yoga. These practices are designed to accelerate the liberation of energy from matter and manifest pure innate consciousness which is the source of all knowledge.
Aim of Tantra
The mind which we use in day to day life for perception and cognition ordinarily acts through the senses. But if we can channel our senses and turn our mind inwards, it manifests itself through inner experience and an expanded mind. Thus matter is separated from energy, thereby liberating the energy or shakti principle, which then unites with shiva or consciousness, creating homogeneous awareness.
Just as a river expanding into the ocean loses its limitations and restrictions and take up the shape of the new ocean, similarly the finite mind expands into the cosmic or infinite mind and thus becomes a receptor and transmitter of the truth. When this happens, there is an explosion of energy and the inherent consciousness is freed from matter. This can be linked to the kundaliniexperience and this has always been the aim of tantra.
Other philosophies also reach out towards the same goal, although the paths may differ. In Vedanta philosophy, there is the concept of Brahman or the indivisible, homogeneous, all-pervading reality or consciousness. The word Brahman is derived from the root “I”, which means to expand, and can therefore be thought of as expanding consciousness. It is this brahmic awareness, present in each one of us, which is responsible for the highest knowledge. It exists as one or the whole, towards which we are constantly striving to unite. In tantra, this concept is interpreted as shiva or unconditioned consciousness, which exists as a silent witness
Worship of Shakti
One practicing tantra will soon come to know that although the science of tantra confesses to an all-pervading reality, it also pays homage to, and maintains strict faith in the presence of the dual aspect of shiva (consciousness) and shakti (energy). Shiva is the static principle which exists as pure unconditioned consciousness, but it is only at the behest of shakti, the kinetic principle, that shiva, who otherwise remains inert, is motivated into action.
This is symbolized in the Tandava Nritya of Shiva, the dance of Shiva, after which he has been named ‘Nataraja. For every reference of shiva, there is a corresponding reference of shakti. If shiva is Shambhu, then shakti is Shambhavi; if shiva is Maheshwara, shakti is Maheshwari; if shiva is Bhairava, shakti is Bhairavi; if shiva is Rudra, shakti is Raudri. Shiva and shakti are complementary at every level.
From this concept arose a sect known as Shaktas, i.e. followers of the philosophy of shakti, who consider shakti as the all-pervading reality. In fact, in the Shakta Puranas, the question arises whether the ultimate reality is male or female. Shaktas unanimously assert that the creator of the universe could only be a female, for creation is an inherent principle of the female and not the male. The worship of shakti reached its zenith only under the influence of tantra. Vedic theology was male orientated and the goddesses or shaktis received only peripheral roles. This is not so in tantra.
All tantric practices are designed to awaken the inherent shakti or energy, which is a female or negative principle. Without awakening this energy, consciousness can never manifest. This is the claim of tantra and today science is even verifying the tantric claim.
According to modern physics,matter and energy are inter-convertible. Tantra goes one step further and says matter, energy and consciousness are inter-convertible. But matter cannot be transformed into pure consciousness without the medium of energy. Therefore, in tantra, shakti stands at par with shiva.Manifestation of shiva/shakti in the body
Tantra claims that these aspects of shakti and shiva (energy/consciousness) are not abstractions, but a tangible reality existing within the framework of the body/mind structure. Tantra states that shakti, which represents the subtlest manifestation of energy, lies coiled like a serpent at the root of the spine and is known as kundalini, whereas shiva or consciousness, is located in the region of sahasram rhakm, the highest evolutionary center in man, which is situated at the crown of the head.
However, due to the grossness of the body/mind which is governed by sense of experience, these two powers remain dormant in the majority of people. In order to awaken the latent force of kundalini, it is necessary to intensify the quantity and quality of pram, the vital energy force in the region where it is situated.
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Once awakened, kundalini has to be directed upwards to unite with shiva or consciousness in the region of sahasrara. During her ascent the kundalini shakti passes six energy circuits or chakras, which are the storehouses of energy, and thus supercharges each chakra. These chakras are the junction points of nadis or energy channels and vibrate with varying frequencies, ranging from gross to subtle. Inherent within the chakras are dormant creative powers which partially manifest in daily life. Their full potential can only be awakened when kundalini shakti pierces through them on her journey to unite with shiva.