Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tantra vis-a-vis Vedanta

Many Hindus have a very few understanding of Tantra... worse still they have lot of misunderstandings. This post of mine are my views about the Tantra.

To start with there are, the Hindu thought can be divided into two main approaches:
1. The Vedantic view
2. The Tantric view

The present day Hinduism is based more on Vedantic view, but there are also some elements of Tantra in it. Before we look at where these approaches differ, I request ppl to first uncondition themselves that Tantra is all about sex(I will come back to this point later)

Some of the main difference in approaches are:

1. The Vedantic view of the reality is that it is a single aspect (whether having attributes or not). Energy may have many aspects to it, but it essentially exists alone and not in a pair. The Tantric view is that everything in nature occurs in pairs – symbolically represented as the purusha and prakriti.

2. The Vedantic approach at reality is based in the principle of neti, neti “not this, not this”. ie. we try to discriminate we the real from the unreal and real and go on negating each thing as “this is not the complete reality; this is not the complete reality”

The tantra on the other hand is based on the idea of iti, iti “also this; also this”. You go on adding each thing as “this is also part of reality; this is also part of reality”

3. Theoretically there are two ways to get rid of attachment. If I am too much attached to laddus, one method is to abstain myself from eating laddus; the other method is to too much laddus that I get fed up of them.

Vedanta does not agree to this possibility (as explained in the story of yeyati). But I don’t think I can totally deny the process. In some cases it may do work. For example, in the book “An Autobiography of a Yogi”, Paramahsa Yogananda narrates how he once had a small desire to live in a big palace and how his guru before giving him diksha had created an illusory palace, only to show him by experience that it is nothing.

4. One characteristic of Hinduism is that it usually does not denounce anything, but rather tries to give it a higher direction. If Bhakti can be termed as the method in which the human emotions are given a divine direction, Tantra in my view is a method in which human passions are given divine direction.

One may agree or disagree with the truth in the above thoughts, but one thing to note is that tantra is not just a do-anything-you-want, but has a deeper thought in it.

It is true that tantra has been greatly distorted by many people, but we cannot negate the whole of tantra just by seeing only at the distortions. To scorn at tantra for its ‘prominence’ some tantra ‘scriptures’ gives to sex, meat etc is just similar to scorn at Hinduism seeing some ‘scriptures’ talk about caste discrimination (ie., its unfounded)

@Origins of Tantra
If the concept of purusha and prakriti are referred by Tantra, then the reference of the same are found in the early Vedic age itself.

But the present form of Tantra is more a development in the later stages of Buddhism. Even the degeneration is mainly in that period and is also one of the reason for the fall of Buddhism (free intermingling of Buddhist monks and nuns)

Also Tantra can be hardly said to be a ‘rebel’ child of Buddhism. Actually Vajrayana Buddhism, which is sect of Buddhism common in Tibet is also called “Tantric Buddhism”. Similarly the Shiava and Viashnava tantra are popular in Bengal, Assam and the other eastern areas.

How valid is Tantra path
Many Saints in Hinduism, have discouraged people from following tantra. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who also practiced all the sects of Hinduism and realized that all of them will essentially lead to the same goal did also practice Tantra (the fact that he was a complete celibate both physically and mentally throughout his life also disproves the idea that sex is central to tantra). Though he practiced Tantra he always used to emphasize the fact that following it is dangerous in the present age and that Bhakti yoga is best for kali yuga. (I am not quoting anything, just writing down what I understood)

Why then bother about tantra
One may wonder if I agree to the point that tantra is not an advisable path to follow in the present age, why then am I am trying to explain it.

This is coz I disagree with the reason for rejection. Tantra is not advisable not coz it is wrong in itself, but coz it is not suitable from the present day circumstances. There is a saying in telugu that in a village where all ppl roam nude, the person who wears clothes is a seen as mad. There is nothing holy-than-thou in just the way we dress, but the present social circumstances make it right/wrong. In the same way there is nothing inherently evil in tantra but the present social circumstances makes it unwise to follow.

We have to remember that we should not judge other by our standards, we should always judge others by their own standards.

PS: If one wants to know more about Tantra, I suggest reading the books of Sir John Woodroffe. I have not read this book, but many have suggested this to me as one of the most respected books about tantra.


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