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The various implications of the Vedic/Sanskrit term 'tantra' in the Indian sub-continent and origins of 'tantra' in Central Asia .

Article Submitted By: GeorgeFarrow
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 Time: 8:29 AM

The various implications of the Vedic/Sanskrit term 'tantra' in the Indian sub-continent and origins of 'tantra' in Central Asia  .


                 (a.) The inferences that can be drawn from the Vedic/Sanskrit term 'tantra'.


              ' Tantra is a treatise...'.

                                      The yoga-ratra-mala commenting on hevajra-tantra 1.1.7.


          In purely linguistic terms the Vedic/Sanskrit word 'tantra' is generally understood to be derived from the root verb 'tan' meaning to 'extend', 'extend towards', 'increase', 'spread' or even 'envelop'. Here within the very early Vedic context the term 'tantra' generally refers to the craft of 'weaving' or 'spreading a design' etc. Historically within the earliest Veda, the rg-veda (RV.,) as well as in the early Brahmana treatises, like the taittirıya-brahmana, 'tantra' is normally encountered in connection with the craft of 'weaving' or the basic wooden machine for 'weaving', the weaver's 'loom'.

        Certainly the term ‘tantra’ has clear initial connections with ancient tribal society or with unsophisticated rural communities. This is so because as mentioned this term is initially encountered within the early Vedic tradition in connection with the ancient tribal and rural craft of weaving. This connection with 'weaving' adds weight to the definition of 'tantra' as the framework for a 'future design' etc.  But only later did the Vedic/Sanskrit word ‘tantra’ eventually come to be applied as a means to typify and characterize ancient, indigenous Indo-Dravidian 'applied' religious system of emanation and radical yoga.

        Certainly from building upon the metaphorical connotations, originally derived from the process of 'weaving', the treatises of the late Vedic tradition utilize the term ‘tantra’ in a much broader and different sense. These treatises indicate that the term ‘tantra’ came to mean the ‘essential principle’ of something and some later texts even imply the ‘essential principle’ of the physical ‘temple’ etc.

        Initially derived from the context of a folk craft that ‘spreads’ or manifests the 'essence'  within a fixed framework, the broader interpretations of the term ‘tantra’ can be readily related both with indigenous tribal social origins as well as to 'folk magic' and even an unorthodox approach of a radical system of emanation and yoga. But for the ultra-orthodox their 'spin' on the term 'tantra' can only offer an alternative means of negatively defining the tribal social orientation of the indigenous and non-orthodox systems of 'folk magic'as well as  the Indo-Dravidian systems of unorthodox emanation and yoga.

        However, from a positive metaphorical connection with ‘weaving’, from this metaphor the term 'tantra' infers that the applied tantric systems to inner knowledge are ‘woven’ within the field of the body. Thereby contrary to the negative impression that ultra-orthodox tradition were trying to convey with the term 'tantra', the applied unorthodox, tantric systems are nevertheless capable of making apparent the full consciousness potentiality of the body/mind.

           For 'worthy' practitioners unlocking this potential can possibly  occur from internally 'weaving' or rather ‘enveloping’, ‘sealing’ the consciousness within the ‘essence’. Clearly therefore after appropriate degrees of consecration by the adept, tantric lineage master, 'worthy' disciples, from any and all castes, apply the processes of the unorthodox, radical yoga system within the confines of the finite physical ‘temple’. In a nut shell this sums up the deha-vada, the historic tantric Doctrine of the (divine) Body.

         Thereby historically and in a positive sense the term ‘tantra’ came to define the radical ‘systemic means’ to ascertain the uncreated ‘essence’ of the body/mind. The 'essence' was made apparent from optimizing the radiance/resonance present within the finite body/mind. In that way the radical, unorthodox approach of 'tantra' was attained by success in the bipolar yoga method of the breath etc., etc., leading to the awakening and harnessing of the energy/capability of the finite body/mind.

        The culminating and radical tantric yoga method was/is by way of harnessing the female, energy/capability together with the male linga, the 'characteristic' of the resonating primeval mantra, while at the same time enjoying the five sense-based sacraments, thereby 'burning off' all attachments to relative, senory cause abd effect. From the 'burning off' of relative attachments can possibly leading to the unfolding or the realization of the uncreated innate non-dual microcosmic/macrocosmic quantum field.

       In this connection some lexicons suggest that the term ‘tantra’ is derived from the term tanu, ‘body’. This definition infers that the application of ‘tantra’ as a 'system' of emanation and yoga, brings the body to the possible perception of the undifferentiated, abstract nature of the concentrated mind stream and leading to the ultimate peak of the non-duality of ‘radiance/resonance’.

       Some other lexicons indicate the term ‘tantra’ is derived from the root verb trai, to ‘save’. These lexicons suggest the tantric system of yoga can ‘save’ devotees by allowing them to harness the body and mind as the means to safely cross the ocean of transitory existence and relative suffering. Here in this context the goal of ‘tantra’ can thereby be also positively defined as the way towards the inner 'divine principle' or 'native, inherent principle'.

      This aim is achieved by means of the tantric method of purifying and harmonizing the bipolar breath etc., through emanation and yoga techniques. Upon the attainment of the necessary degree of efficiency, these methods potentially enable the spontaneous release of the female, coiled-up energy/capability or the the Mother's 'secret fire' within the central nerve. This further allows the complimentary resonance of the male, linga, the mantra of the uncreated quantum field to be fully active. This possibly allows the ‘radiance/resonance’ of the native, inherent principle' or rather the uncreated 'divine principle' to become apparent.

       Therefore other sectarian lexicons suggest that the term ‘tantra’ is actually derived from the root verb tantri, to ‘explain’ or tatri, to ‘understand’. In the Shaiva tantric context these connotations of the term ‘tantra’ are used to denote ‘treatises/systems’ that expound on the six, sometime radical, systemic categories of unorthodox Shaivism beginning with the system suited to the devotee, who is pashu, bound to the vira, the hero etc.

        From the broader definitions offered for this term, ‘tantra’ can clearly refer to inner ‘weaving’ or rather to the intuitive ‘sealing’ the mind within divine ‘knowledge’. This means the releasing of consciousness from the 'unnatural' thrall of delusive, dualistic, relative/ sensory ignorance. By success in these efficient but radical means such intuitive understanding confirms that divine knowledge is uncreated and is the sahaja, the ‘natural state’, is the transcendent factor that is innate and always permeating the living but finite body/mind.

        Hence the well-known aphorism, tanyate vist›ryate jñ›nam anena, ‘the vista of knowledge is increased by it [the systemic approach of tantra, inner sealing]’. Therefore within a variety of unorthodox, esoteric sectarian contexts, the term ‘tantra’ clearly has a variety of uses and definitions that can be used to characterize radical ‘systems’ of applied emanation and yoga as well as the goals of these systems. Further, as will be seen later, within various sectarian contexts the term 'tantra' can also be used to characterize types of treatises and even to categorize compositional facets used to systematically grade and define the applied contents of mula-tantra-s, root treatises.


                 (b.) A view on the origins of the usage of the Vedic/Sanskrit term ‘tantra’.


                ‘That which is not in the body is not in the universe.’

                                                              N.N. Bhattacarya, History of the Tantric Religion.


             During the 5th ., millennium BC., while living on the steppes of Central Asia, the proto-Scythia/Aryan tribes practiced and performed various shamanistic regimes including the regime of austerities etc. Also among these regimes was the regime of psychotropic 'mental medicines'.

          However the proto-Scythia/Aryan lineage practicing the shamanistic psychotropic regime was possibly divided into a more orthodox section of shamans /priests and a unorthodox section of 'wild' shamans. As a whole the two kinds of the proto-Scythia/Aryan shamans were a part of the wider, arcane lineage of Eurasian tribal shamans who had ingested a wide variety of psychotropic 'mental medicines' and/or natural stimulants derived from wild plants etc. This wide ranging, arcane shamanistic lineage had possible existed well before the 'great flood' that occurred after the end of the last Ice Age about c.15,000 years ago.

         In the main, the more orthodox, proto-Scythia/Aryan shaman/priests performed tribal passage rites and ritual worship etc., for the chiefs and kings of the proto-Scythia/Aryan tribes. The rites performed by the orthodox proto-Scythia/ Aryan shaman/priests etc., included the rites of ancestor worship; the rituals of 'fire sacrifice' and before battle, the rites involved in the imbibing of the liquor made from Soma plant by both shaman/priests and warriors etc. In the oldest sections of the rg-veda (RV.,) this text often refers the more orthodox shaman/priests who performed the rituals for imbibing the liquor made from the Soma plant.

        But the Central Asian, Soma plant and the 'mental medicine' used by the orthodox, proto-Scythia/Aryan shamanistic lineage, is the now unknown. But inferences from the RV., point to the Soma plant as containing a natural stimulant rather than a psychotropic substance. The RV., 1.91.16., indicates let 'Soma wax great. From everyside may vigorous power unite in thee. Be in the gathering place of strength'. From the RV., Soma was used in a diluted form to give warriors going into battle fearless courage. In this diluted form Soma seemed to act as a stimulant for fighting rather than a true psychotropic substance.

         The RV., infers that  both the orthodox and the unothodox, 'wild' shaman/ priests were not only imbibing natural stimulant Soma but the 'wild' section also used a variety of other psychotropic substances as well. In other, later composed portions of the RV., the unorthodox shamans of this section of the total Scythia/Aryan and later Iranian-Aryan shamanistic lineage were sometimes known as yeti-s and even as gandharva-s. These unorthodox, 'wild' shamans certainly used the  various types of psychotropic 'mental medicines'.

       Known varieties of psychotropic plants native to Central Asia and Eurasia, included mushrooms, datura etc., were true psychotropic 'mental medicines'. These were possibly known and used by the unorthodox, 'wild' Scythia/Aryan shamans. But apparantly by using these types of the natural psychotropic substances the approach and conduct of the 'wild' section of the Scythia/Aryan psychotropic shamans was very different from the mainstream, even staid, orthodox shaman/ priests.

         From the probable use of these true psychotropic substances, the 'wild' shamans were certainly labeled as being very different in conduct and duty etc., from the orthodox shaman/priests. The shamanistic adepts from the social unorthodox, psychotropic lineage sought to attain psychic powers from the stabilized mental states induced over the long term by the use of 'mental medicines'. From the psychotropic sessions these psychic powers came from concentrating on 'power songs' and/or mantra-s, that adept psychedelic shamans had first received during dreams or from visions featuring astral entities etc.

          The unorthodox shamans were also itinerants. These itinerants wandered on the steppes alone or in groups. In their wanderings, the lone psychedelic adepts were able to have protracted meditations in lonely power spots, much like the stoic proto-Scythia/Aryan ascetics who practiced and applied the regimes of austerities. Also they were able to gather medicinal herbs; gather other shamanistic knowledge relating to useful rites etc., and also the means of other applied shamanistic methods including the proto-yoga techniques of breath control etc.

       The groups of itinerant shamans traveled from one nomadic tribe to another, including non-Iranian-Aryan tribes. Further, these itinerant bands, headed by psychedelic adepts, performed dance and musical 'shows' for the entertainment of the members of the various visited nomadic tribes. Here the psychedelic adepts performed spontaneous 'folk magic', especially for the benefit of the tribe's women folk.

          This air of ill-discipline and laxity gave the adept psychedelic shamans and their 'wild' itinerant bands an dubious reputation among the more orthodox, staid shaman/priestly class. Later, when the Iranian-Aryan tribes invaded and conquered the northwestern region of the sub-continent of India, the dubious reputation of this unorthodox section of the Iranian-Aryan/Indo-Aryan psychotropic shamans also followed them to India.

         The later atharva-veda (AV.,) composed in northern India during the early centuries of the 1st., millennium BC., describes these often rowdy 'shows' and infers the licentious attention given to the women of a visited tribal clan by these 'wild' itinerants. In fact these 'wild' itinerants headed by adept psychotropic shamans were perhaps the first gypsies or even the first 'carnies'.

         From this orally handed-down dubious reputation these psychotropic shamans became more and more concretely connected to the Vedic/Sanskrit term 'tantra' in terms of 'tantra' being defined as 'folk magic' etc. Already within Iranian-Aryan/Indo-Aryan tribal culture the pejorative nature of the terms 'tantra' and 'tantrika' can be inferred by this definition.

         In this way, from this era, the Vedic/Sanskrit term 'tantra' gradually came to be applied as a means to typify and characterize the activities of the 'wild' unorthodox shamans and their activities involving the 'weaving' of 'folk magic' However, even in the later Indo-Aryan cultural tradition of the late 2nd.,   millennium BC., the term 'tantra' was still only used to describe the 'wild' aspect of their shamanistic tradition.

         The later treatises of the Vedic tradition, like the shatapatha-br›hmana and the tandya-brahmana were originally orally composed in northwestern and northern India from c.1200 BC. The treatises certainly utilize the term ‘tantra’ in a much broader and different sense. From this different sense, these texts adapted and build upon the metaphorical connotations derived from the process of the folk craft of 'weaving' into the 'weaving' of 'folk magic' etc.

           From this definition the terms ‘tantra’ and 'tantrika' were also later readily adapted and used by the orthodox Indo-Aryan shaman/priests as pejorative descriptive terms for the indigenous Indo-Dravidian shamanistic milieu and even proto-tantic yoga tradition etc. Thereby only at the beginning of the 1st.,  millennium BC., did the Vedic/Sanskrit terms 'tantra' etc., became more and more used within the late Vedic tradition in connection with the indigenous Indo-Dravidian shamanistic and yoga milieu rather than just pointing to the unorthodox, Indo-Aryan 'wild' psychedelic shamans who performed 'folk magic'.

        Thereby within the northern regions of the sub-continent of India the pejorative term 'tantra' became more used in other contexts. The term 'tantra' was used because the Indo-Dravidian religious milieu somewhat reminded the shaman/priests of the orthodox Vedic tradition of the 'wild' psychedelic aspect their own shamanistic tradition. By their giving the name 'tantra' to the Indo-Dravidian shamanistic and yoga milieu the Indo-Aryan priests labeled this whole tradition with an equally dubious reputation. Indo-Dravidian 'tantra' possessed a dubious  reputation from being derived from an indigenous and gross tribal shamanistic tradition.

          This initially occurred because a basic ritual method of the indigenous Indo-Dravidian religious tradition included the worship of the linga and yoni, the phallus and the womb, then so openly disliked by the early, staid Iranian-Aryan priests of that era. In this respect the pejorative term 'tantra' was coined by the Indo-Aryan shaman/priests to just define the indigenous Indo-Dravidian proto-Shiva/Shakti yoga systems.

        Here these yoga systems etc., were just described as merely being 'folk' ritual and 'folk magic'. Here the term 'tantrika', was used for the indigenous adepts of mantra and yoga as just 'practitioners of folk magic'. Later the icons of the unified yoni/lingam became essential within the ritual worship of the Shiva aspect of the Brahminical Hindu Trinity and shows how the indigenous Indo-Dravidian religions was incorporated within Brahminism.

       By choosing the term 'tantra' to describe Indo-Aryan priests inferred that the Indo-Dravidian 'folk magic' rites and the so-called gross eroticism of the Indo-Dravidian ritual practices and the tantric yoga method, surrounding the linga and yoni, negatively opposed their own cultural, social and shamanistic values. Here Indo-Dravidian shamanism etc., was contrary to the so-called upright milieu and code of conduct applied by the staid orthodox Iranian-Aryan/Indo-Aryan shamanistic/priestly traditions. Also the more free, unorthodox, non-casteist mode of Indo- Dravidian shamanism etc., were contrary to the aims of the regimes of austerities, sacrificies etc., as still practiced by Indo-Aryan ascetics/priests handed down from the proto-Scythia/Aryan seers of Central Asia etc.

           But during the 1st., millennium BC., the pejorative terms 'tantra' and 'tantrika'  became mainly used by later the orthodox Vedic/Brahmincal tradition to describe the wider Indo-Dravidian traditions. The term 'tantra' was  gradually became less used for their unorthodox, 'wild' Indo-Aryan shamanistic tradition and more used to describe the various indigenous streams of Indo-Dravidian shamanism and tantric yoga.  

      From the late Vedic period, starting from 1200 BC., the ultra-orthodox Vedic/Brahmincal tradition used the term 'tantra' to describe the indigenous Indo-Dravidian  'applied' yoga tradition together with their aspect of indigenous shamanistic 'folk magic'. The terms of ‘tantra’ and 'tantrika' became solely used in connection with the methods of the Indo-Dravidian lineage rather than the unorthodox Iranian-Aryan/Indo-Aryan psychedelic shamanistic lineage of earlier eras.

         In this way the indigenous Indo-Dravidian practitioners of the rites of mantra and of radical tantric yoga were gradually known as 'tantrika-s', the 'practitioners of the 'applied' various methods of tantra'. But these tribal and Indo-Dravidian traditions became known in the orthodox, Indo-Aryan tradition as arising and being transmitted by tribal and/or a low caste tradition.

         However the 'applied' Indo-Dravidian esoteric milieu certainly originated during the arcane era of Indian pre-history prior to arrival of the Iranian-Aryan-s within the Indian sub-continent. Also from the later part of the 2nd.,  millennium BC., and into the 1st.,  millennium BC., the indigenous Indo-Dravidian tantric yoga and 'folk' traditions of the different regions of the sub-continent of India began in general to influence the 'applied 'methods of the Indo-Aryan ascetic/priestly traditions.

         The ancient tribal proto-Shaiva/Shakta yoga tradition most probably emerged in a crystallized form from the influence of Magi priest/yogı-s during the era of the Indus Valley Civilization prior to the arrival of the Iranian/Aryan tribes in the northwestern region.  From the influence of the Indo-Dravidian yoga tradition, during the second half of the last millennium BC.,  the focus of the applied milieu of some of the Indo-Aryan ascetic traditions gradually changed from regimes of austerities towards a yoga-based regime.

          Also and perhaps more importantly, the Indo-Dravidian tantric traditions influenced the arising of the indigenous deity cycles within the fold of the popular Vedic/Brahminical religion. These indigenous deities included Shiva and the aspects of the Great Goddess. From that time and up till the present day the srota-s or the various 'streams' of tantra have certainly played a continuing influence on the ways to express esoteric/cosmic religion both within India and Tibet etc.

           For the staid, caste-based, Indo-Aryan priests these terms were certainly already available and seemed to be convenient terms because of the pejorative meaning of the 'weaving' of folk magic' that was already attached to term ‘tantra’ etc. Later during the first half of the 1st., millennium BC., these Vedic/Sanskrit terms were further historically employed to negatively describe the manner of the indigenous Indo-Dravidian ritual practices and the esoteric yoga approach etc.

         But even so and despite the negative meaning attached to this term, the original Vedic/Sanskrit term for external/internal 'weaving' is actually quite a suitable term to allude to esoteric/cosmic methods this ancient indigenous Indian yoga tradition etc. Therefore despite pejorative implications emanating from the ultra-orthodox Vedic/Brahminical tradition this term has sufficed within the context of this multi-sectarian, unorthodox yoga tradition.

         Thereby within the historic context, the Vedic/Sanskrit term ‘tantra’, has become more associated with the further esoteric/cosmic implications of this term rather than the orginal simple meaning of this term as the folk craft of 'weaving'. From here on the pejorative term 'tantra' typifies the so-called tribal or lower caste and indigenous origins of the unorthodox of 'folk magic' and the radical system of emanation and yoga for the ultra-orthodox tradition.

        Today, because the script of Indo-Dravidian, Indus Valley Civilization has not been satisfactorily deciphered, the actual indigenous Indo-Dravidian term used to describe or characterize their ancient indigenous systemic approach to emanation and radical yoga remains unknown. But already within the Indo-Aryan social/religious culture the pejorative terms 'tantra' and 'tantrika' had became negatively used for a section within their shamanistic tradition who practiced a raw form of 'folk magic' etc.

          From the addition of the metaphorical implications relating to inner 'weaving' there arises a faint suggestion that the indigenous, orally transmitted Indo-Dravidian tantric yoga tradition could have already used this county folk craft in a metaphorical manner. Here a metaphorical meaning of inner 'weaving' can also express the systematic approach to 'folk magic' by way of the rites and activities of mantra as well as more meanifully, the stages of emanation and radical yoga.


          In the Indo-Aryan Vedic textural tradition the indigenous non-Aryan Indo-Dravidian culture was known in Sanskrit as the culture of the damila, the ‘subdued’. The negative Indo-Aryan derived term ‘dravidian’ can be used in this way to describe the ancient, warrior/merchants, the Sumerians.

        Previously during the 4th., millennium BC., the Sumerians gradually explored, occupied and controlled the natural ports and the coastal areas of northwestern, western and southern regions of India well before the arrival of the Iranian-Aryan-s. Ethnic Sumerians migrated into these regions of the Indian sub-continent by way of ship-borne trading explorations etc. But the name 'dravidian' was used to describe the then mixed Sumerians/tribal people of the Indus Valley Civilization.

        The philosophical outlook of the Indo-Dravidians is known as the dramida, or the philosophical schools ‘opposed’ to or in contradiction to the ancient Iranian-Aryan shamanistic approach based upon sacrifices to sanctified fire, austerities etc. The indigenous, non-Indo-Aryan communities of South India were historically known as the dravida those people speaking Indo-Dravidian derived languages.

       The later Brahminic epic, the Ramayana, recounts the kidnapping of Sıta, the wife of Indo-Aryan crown prince of Ayudhya R›m› by Ravana, a devotee of the actually indigenous deity, Shiva. Ravana was the independent Indo-Dravidian king of the island of Shrı La˚ka. This epic certainly infers the continuing existence of powerful, unbowed Indo-Dravidian dynasties south of the Narmada river worshipping Shiva and the Great Goddess.

     These kingdoms existed prior to and even after the complete conquest of the Indus Valley Civilization and and even after the later conquest of the 'middle country' of northern region of India by the then Indo-Aryan-s. The Noble Domain of which Rama's father's kingdom as a part was only conquered from the Indo-Dravidian kings during the latter part of the 2nd., millennium BC.

      But apparantly even from the early colonial, Indo-Aryan, Vedic era of c.1700-1500 BC., then only centered in the northwestern region of the Indian sub-continent, its seems that the Indo-Aryan shaman/priests already feared the competition of the indigenous, religious/social culture of the conquered Indo-Dravidian city states of that region.

   Certainly the fear of further cultural/religious competition came from unconquered Indo-Dravidian city states still existed within the central and eastern portions of the greater northern region. Even up the 2nd., millennium AD., Indo-Dravidian kingdoms flourished within the central and south regions of the Indian sub-continent.

    From these fears and according to long term ultra-orthodox 'spin', the totality of the Indo-Dravidian religious system was the creation of indigenous so-called anti-deities. This 'spin' was applied because of the gradual re-arising of popular indigenous deity cults, such as Shiva, coupled with an unorthodox Indo-Dravidian approach to ritual and more importantly to the more free Indo-Dravidian attitude to caste etc. Thereby the indigenous social/religious traditions were branded overall with the pejorative term 'tantra'.

       From the 1st., millennium BC., by way of the negative characterizations, signaled by the term 'tantra' etc., the indigenous Indo-Dravidian religious lineage tradition was said to have only originated from uncouth tribal deity lineage cycles and was always transmitted by so-called low caste/tribal adept practitioners. The ultra-orthodox tradition used this negative characterization to warn high castes members that the Indo-Dravidian 'tantric' religious milieu and their so-called esoteric approach would only act to delude such caste-orientated practitioners and would further act to break their elite colonial, caste traditions.

         Within the early seminal texts of the classic Upansad-s, dating from the c.800 BC., the warrior king/yogı-s of the eastern Middle Country of the greater northern region were apparently of mixed Indo-Dravidian/ Indo-Aryan stock. These householder yogi kings, who held the various tantric householder yoga lineages, were the first to transmit the view and the methods of the Indo-Dravidian yoga lineage to the Indo-Aryan priests of the Noble Domain. Further, and despite the somewhat unconventional manner even dishonest manner in obtaining the 'applied' doctrine of yoga from householder yogı kings, the staid priests of the ultra-orthodox tradition then went on to place a biased, misleading historic ‘spin’ on the Indo-Dravidian yoga lineage tradition with the negative term 'tantra'.

           For ultra-orthodox Brahminical tradition such 'spin' of the term 'tantra' has always contained connotations of 'tantra' being associated with anti-deities; with gross eroticism or the anti-caste nature of this tradition etc. Over the millennia these negative pejorative implications have negatively colored the view of the ultra-orthodox tradition towards the 'streams' of the radical unorthodox yoga lineage tradition. These negative impressions, transmitted from the early Indo-Aryan colonial period, still exist in some quarters even today.

          However, despise the pejorative implications applied to the tantric tradition, from the 1st.,  millennium AD., some members of high-caste Brahmins did received consecrations from adept lineage holding tantric yogı-s and did practice the various regional systems of tantra. Further, down the centuries Brahmins have contributed much input into the tantric textual tradition from the authorship of many tantric texts and tantric commentaries.

            (c.) Basic characterizations of the types of tantric texts and a simple listing of the major sectarian texts of the tantric textural tradition.


               ‘All systems and sciences allude to bhava, ‘being/degree of sensibility’...’.

                                                     Chapter six of Sarvananda Natha’s sarvollasa-tantra.


             Under the guidance of his various masters of Shaiva/Shakta tantra the author has come to appreciate that siddhi, 'success' in the accomplishment of non-dual consciousness, the goal of tantric yoga, does not lie with inimical sacrifices, bizarre rites. Nor does the complete accomplishment necessarily arise from the mastery of the satkarma-s, the ‘six activities’ of mantra or by the performance of tantric fire sacrifices.

          But this view and approach towards this non-dual goal was not derived from and does not simply accord with the author’s cultural background; his own admitted disinclination towards elaborate and complex ritual and his enduring preference for direct and ‘universal’ inner means deemed necessary to realize the non-dual nature of consciousness inherent to all humanity.

        Rather this clear view on the vista and goals of tantra was engendered and gained from the basic approach offered by his Shaiva/Shakta masters. The author's vista was especially derived from their given instructions and from the manner in which his masters' conceived the utility of the tantric system, the various seed mantra-s and the processes of tantric yoga.

          Certainly from the direct manner of instruction under these masters and from the spontaneous tantric ‘happenings’ in their company, over the years the author came to further appreciate that attaining the full purpose of tantricism clearly does not rely upon the fastidious conventions of casteism etc., or on the orthodox religious view as well as historical religious/cultural baggage. The relatively simple and spontaneous approach to daily ritual, consecration and yoga instruction offered by the author’s own masters was in marked contrast with the line taken within many of the historic treatises of the sectarian Hindu tantric traditions often written by Brahmin authors.

         But here the manner of guidance under my lineage masters does accord with the graduated approach suggested in the authoritative tantric text of the Yogini Kula tradition, the KAT. Here the main prime task of tantric yoga is to clearly awaken, harness the normally latent coiled-up energy/capability of the life force present in all human bodies. Here the task of bringing the life force into optimum efficiency by means of tantric emanation and yoga does not rest upon caste convention, historical caste baggage or upon elaborate modes of orthodox ritual/propitiation.

        Rather in keeping with the historic tantric view, as found in treatises such as the KAT, the Kashmir Shaiva paratrisika or Sarvanandanatha’s sarvollasa-tantra, this prime yoga task hinges upon being instructed in accord with the individual practitioner’s bhava, degree of ‘being’ or ‘sensibility’.

      ‘Being/sensibility’ is linked to their appropriate degree of kriya, ‘activity’ within the appropriate acara, ‘style’. Here the appropriate 'style' includes the various kinds of 'being/sensibility' present within the various tantric practitioners and the 'style' rules what type of application to the stages of tantric method they should perform.  

       Initially 'bound' practitioners are orientated more towards ritual, recitation and emanation of mantra etc.; then in addition to this 'heroic' practitioners are more aimed towards the tantric yoga of the 'winds' and the finally the 'divine' practitioner are orientated to the 5Ms., when the coiled-up energy/capability of the life force is released within the 'middle' nerve . Success in these modes of practice can allow the individual to eventually become a sadhaka, an ‘efficient practitioner’ of tantric system.

      However all too often early and later works discussing what are now often arcane deity cycles are weighted down with extravagant and elaborate approaches to theism, cosmology and ritual/propitiation only suited to ‘bound’ practitioners. These works also appear to reflect the predilections, bombast and contradictory influences of the Brahmin literary tradition that stem from this caste’s attempts to modify the tantric tradition as a vehicle for their own social purposes.

     Further in these textural contexts attention paid to the minutiae required for the exact performance of complex/elaborate modes of ritual/propitiation and sacrifice within the modus-operandi of mantra recitation for control of purely for external fruits, clearly appears to be more related to gross aims of ‘black magic’. Certainly the delusions of ‘black magic’ can characterize at least two thirds of the classic ‘six activities’ of mantra and the exact minutiae necessary to outwardly perform these gross, inimical activities has nothing to do with the inner, sophisticated aims of the benign and positive 'middle' tantric system of emanation and yoga.

      Any inner approach to wrathful mantra-s should only be applied with visualization and emanation techniques as a means to resolve the tendencies caused by negative ‘arising’ manifestations of the sensory mind stream. Here these negative ‘arising’ manifestations are resolved by making ‘non-substantial’ the impure resonance of the spinal centers that normally lead to mental trends and actions. Clearly the wrathful of the negative mantra-s should only be directed inwardly without further adding to and incurring a greater negative accumulation of cause and effect, leading to a further cementing of mental obstacles.

        Clearly bombast and the consequent extravagance, elaboration of external rites and rituals, on the nature of mantra formulas, and even on the form and utility of mandala-s etc., that forms much of the discourse within historic tantric texts, was historically most probably in part forwarded as a means to impress regal patrons. Initially this extravagant manner of forwarding and approaching complex ritual apparently formed part of the yogi tradition’s desire for ‘authority’ to gain and justify regal patronage.

     Subsequently the continuing need to maintain textural and social/religious ‘authority’ probably also formed part of an overall attempt by the Brahmin caste to prize regal patronage away from the grasp of the yogi lineage. Later this kind of over-elaborate, extravagant ritualized approach formed a body of religious and cultural baggage and certainly came to be considered as solely offering the necessary social/ cultural authority and basis for all twice-born ‘bound’ devotees to enter tantric deity cycles and become tantric practitioners.

      However from the author’s experience yogi-s were/are generally more concerned with intuitive insight than with ritual/propitiation. Whereas from personal experience fastidious caste orientated twice-born householders seem to remain fearful and even disdainful of the direct inner means to intuitive experience that could render their pride in caste status, maintained from attachment to the mores of the orthodox social/ religious milieu, redundant.

     As in the author’s experience, pertinent definitive instructions on basic ritual, emanation and yoga can in a relatively unstructured manner be orally transmitted by lineage holding masters who are established in the awakened and harnessed energy/capability. Apparently the composition of texts had little or nothing to do with yogi-s who sought to efficiently apply techniques of emanation and yoga handed down from their lineage masters. This is so because oral instructions on these matters can be quite readily conferred in an appropriate metaphorical manner directly from the lineage holding master.

       Clearly from the manner of approach offered by the author’s lineage masters the fact should be borne in mind and emphasized again and again that during the classic and later eras of tantricism, tantra-s were mainly not composed for the benefit of yogi-s applying the modes of emanation and yoga. Apparently such texts were compiled/composed by the members of Brahmin literati class for their own purposes and as a means for offering caste continuity and security for ‘bound’ devotees of the twice-born castes who had entered into tantric deity cycles.

      In fact the creeping Brahminization and partial take over of the tradition to receive patronage probably actually served to further antagonized so-called low caste practitioners and even further encouraged the anti-caste, anti-literati and anti-intellectual tendencies already inherent within the non-twice born wings within the overall tantric tradition.

        But the approach of creeping Brahminization of the tantric tradition certainly fitted their long-term process of coupling and dovetailing the tantric approach together with the orthodox milieu. Further the composition of texts created a textural base that sufficiently satisfied curiosity and promoted the authority of their regal patrons while also creating textural precedents for required elaborate passage/propitiation rites and rituals that obviously could only be performed by priests grounded in the lineage lore.


        Therefore a simplified possibly even less than deferential approach to the utility of elaborate ritual found in the tantric textural tradition has been taken here. This line has been taken because extant tantric works are prone to extravagance and to hairsplitting even to the point of offering views on similar subjects in mutually contradictory terms.

       Such difficulties can even occur within comprehensive encyclopedic works. Here relatively simple matters such as definitions of the pre-eminence or hierarchy of particular allied traditions from the same region, to definitions of the nature of various types of treatises or obscure, contradictory approaches to defining exotic/esoteric systems can contradict other supposedly authoritative works etc.

     Further the origins of particular lineage streams are often characterized in mythological terms of seminal masters existing in the four eons forming the life span of Brahma. Similarly other means of extravagant embellishment and over-elaboration enable linkage with Brahminic myth and thereby establishing a degree of Brahminic authority over a regional tantric tradition.

      Further many traditions, textural traditions, deity cycles and streams have actually long disappeared and are now often only known from quotations within other extant works. Thereby mere lists of lost traditions, lists of their texts, arcane deities, the partial make-up of their mandala-s, theories on theism, associated cosmology, speculations offered without the guide of the broader systemic intent clearly appears to be irrelevant and redundant.

      However for some contemporary researchers the incidence of redundant ritual tendencies created to cater to ‘bound’ devotees and the consequences of over-embellishment on the part of Brahmin authors, has served to divert attention away from appreciating the prime intent of the tantric lineage tradition. Here research often becomes complicated and confused by following an obscure and arcane lineage picture created by self-serving Brahminic propaganda.

      This lead simply encourages entry into cul-de-sacs of ritual lore and the repetition of what are essentially facsimiles of tantric ideals and applied aims. Such cul-de-sacs in the research of the tantric textural tradition as well as some researcher’s obsessions with bizarre rites of sacrifice, inimical mantra activities, also false, gross contemporary views on tantric sacraments and the utility of eroticism, tend to deflect attention away from the main purpose and inner tasks of tantricism.

       Despite contrary views proposed by the historic Brahmin tradition and by gross tantric approaches this purpose is clearly aimed at awakening and channeling the normally latent coiled-up energy/capability. Therefore within the context of this discussion offereing a reasoned, balance view, the author has attempted to adopted a middle way between the extremes of oral transmission by yogi-s and the over-elaborate approach to ritual often discussed in tantric treatises. This middle way has been forged from appreciating the direct oral approach and simple but direct instructional example offered by the author’s own masters’ while also approaching the textural tantric tradition in an equally reasoned manner by bearing in mind the actual prime aim of the tantric yoga lineage tradition.

      While avoiding a ‘shopping list’ manner of unsystematically reeling off Sanskrit doctrinal and applied terminology without reference to an overall systemic view a simplified approach will be based upon the foundation of the seven stages of devotion and applied practice from Vedic to Kaula, that the tantric devotee/practitioner may have to ascend. This graduated approach that includes systems capable of incorporating the devotional/applied capabilities of bound, heroic and divine practitioners that has already been suggested .

        Under this approach all the textural traditions of the overall tantric tradition can be taken into consideration, critically discussed and not disregarded. Also by this means the solid work in the field of investigating tantric lineage origins and the Hindu textural canon made by the very few competent contemporary researchers within this field can be appreciated. Here their work can also be further and systematically applied to clarify the view of the textural tradition.

       Thereby at this time the author must certainly recognize and be thankful to pioneer and contemporary researchers in this field. These researchers who put in an enormous amount of work to clarify the tantric vista include Sir John Woodroffe, Hara Prasad Shastri, Cintaharan Cakravati, Indu Menon, Dr., Mark Dyczkowski, Teun Goudriaan, Sanjukta Gupta, Jan Gonda and others.


         The authorship of the earliest source/root treatises of now extinct as well as extant deity cycles is generally unknown and with some exceptions these works are often composed in an inferior or at best a mediocre form of Sanskrit. Here the presentation of material is in many instances not systematic and is sometimes repetitive even confused. This confused presentation has been caused in some instances by Brahmin editors editing out portions that possibly offered views that were critical or contradicted the mores of orthodoxy or even by both removing/ adding portions relating to propitiation and ritual.

       The manner of composition and presentation also in some instances suggests treatises were created or built upon over a period of time by unsystematically gathering together and recording oral lineage strands previously developed by a variety of early lineage holding masters. Because some treatises remain in an off balanced and even in a confused, unsystematic form further suggests the deliberate limitation imposed upon recording and in detail exposing views on applying esoteric tantric systems of emanation and yoga.

         Certainly traditionally a comprehensive approach to a given sectarian system was a well-guarded secret only to be appropriately revealed and applied within the confines of the guru/disciple relationship. The disciple was expected to maintain vows of secrecy. Unlike the contemporary context there were no introductory, popular works or copies of root tantra-s in general circulation and the only means to gain introduction to applied tantric systems was by way of one on one contact with lineage masters. Copies of root tantra-s were only released to disciples after an appropriate degree of consecration.

        In the historic context and in contrast to today’s circus-like milieu adept lineage masters of esoteric emanation and yoga had not a care for public approval or disapproval and apparently had no particular desire for mass followings. There are numerous instances within the hagiographies of adept masters where upon attaining accomplishment these accomplished masters sought a cover from being constantly bothered and importuned by the general mass of devotees.

      In these hagiographies some masters assumed the garb of unsavory looking yogi-s or extremely ugly yogini-s who constantly performed impure acts in public or even acted in the manner of madmen. There are certainly many instances where the determination of potential disciples from the upper castes is severely tested by the unconventional and socially unsavory acts of such ‘selfless’ adept masters.

       Thereby adept masters sought to move freely through society while seeking out only those potential disciples who possessed a suitable discipline and sensibility and who had the inclination towards the degree of protracted effort required for the tantric system etc. Thereby by this reasoning, written tantric works were often at best simply guides to the basis of an overall system and to the applied topics that had to be certainly and subsequently fully discussed and exposed by the adept lineage holding master to his personally chosen, worthy disciples.

        In contrast to root/source treatises many authoritative commentaries and digests etc., are accredited to particular authors and adept practitioners. Many of these works were composed by Brahmin adepts and intellectuals such as Abhinavagupta and the Great Adepts Saraha and Krishna-acarya. Kings and ministers such as the Great Adept and raja Indrabhuti of Uddiyana, from the warrior caste, also composed other significant commentaries. In some instances within the Hindu context but not in the Buddhist context, these works acted as a means to offset the anti-establishment tone of some source tantric treatises and also acted as a means to insinuate upper caste social/religious conventions into the Hindu tantric fold.

      Within the Hindu context and despite these drawbacks many of the extant commentaries and digests can be considered to be of greater use to student/researchers than the often obscure or unclear views of the source works. This is because the quality of the exposition and because the coherent manner in the presentation of material, sometimes by way of clarifying quotations from various authoritative root sources, is able to clear up confusions as to the doctrinal intent and applied style within an overall system.

        Further, in the Buddhist tantric context a principle commentary tradition of the 6 th ., century AD., guhya-samaja-tantra, the earliest and premier treatise of the principal ‘five’ Buddhist root tantra-s, clearly indicates that Buddhist tantric treatises should not be composed in an elegant or refined style or even in a grammatical form of Sanskrit.

      This approach, often disregarded by modern academics, emphasized that these texts are first and foremost working manuals/ guides whose systems are aimed towards attaining intuitive knowledge and that a deliberate anti-literati approach was required to curb any lingering pride of the literati class within the Buddhist Assembly. In order to further this anti-literati compositional approach as well as to further positively acknowledge a doctrinal/lineage background derived from tribal and humble social contexts Buddhist tantra-s sometimes use of a vernacular dialect to express the view of the most profound applied aspects of their system.

      This is especially the case with the carya-giti, the Songs of the Application of the Vow. Here these songs, also often composed in the Apabhramsa and other dialects by Great Adepts, are devoted to metaphors and allusions on the efficient manner of applying the Buddhist system of three Processes. These allusions to the modes in the application of the system of Processes can only be understood by penetrating the coded meaning applied to ordinary workaday situations as well as to vulgar language and even erotic situations found within these songs.

       Remarkably in some instances the actual systemic meaning of vulgar and erotic coded passages from root tantra-s and songs has completely eluded some modern academics, especially some Japanese scholars. Apparently these particular scholars had not bothered to study commentaries and explanatory works allied to root tantra cycles etc.

      Had they done so they would have penetrated the code and would have had a greater appreciation of this radical compositional approach and thereby would not have made fools of themselves in published works by precipitously railing against the disgusting even so-called degenerate approach of the Buddhist tantric tradition. Clearly careful study of commentaries and explanatory texts that discuss such compositional features is essential to any meaningful appreciation of the language and contents of tantric Buddhist root treatises.


          (d.) Basic characterizations of the various types and classes of tantric treatises.


            ‘ the Shakti systems this [being/sensibility] is of foremost importance...’

                                                Chapter six of Sarvnånanda Nåtha’s sarvollasa-tantra.


         Within the textural canons of the various, geographically defined Hindu tantric traditions three types or categories of treatises were composed to discuss the sectarian approaches of their particular exoteric/esoteric tantric systems. These types of treatise include the samhita, literally ‘put together’, collection; agama, literally ‘coming near’, [the means to] acquire knowledge or ‘instruction’ in addition to tantra, [root] treatise, [root] system or manual.

       However because of historical, geographical and sectarian considerations these three designations for the various types of source/root ‘tantric’ treatises utilized within the overall tantric tradition do not necessarily always readily fall into such easy or convenient classifications. Certainly definitions offered by various regional tantric textural traditions on what constitutes the characteristics essential to each of these designations of treatise are sometimes contradictory, sometimes overlap and are confused by not mutually adhering to a particular or basic definition.

        In some early textural contexts such as in the early orthodox, dualistic, Shaiva agama, the NTS., ‘tantra’ simply refers to a particular ‘approach’ within the broader Shaiva/Shakta system. Here a composite word like mata-tantra, ‘mother tantra’ refers to the approach or system of observances and rules that govern the worship of the Mother Goddess. Similarly the composite word bhuta-tantra simply refers to the system or ‘approach of subduing sprites/ghosts’ etc.

      Further, while the term ‘tantra’ is used to describe a particular ‘approach’ to worship, this type of ‘approach’ does not necessarily imply a radical or even unorthodox systemic mode. In fact the overall Shaiva and Shakta traditions are often broadly and mistakenly labeled as being purely tantric in approach. Actually many lineage streams and related treatises within these traditions propose an orthodox doctrinal and applied form and despite these treatises being labeled as agama-s, ‘instructions’ or samhita-s, ‘collections’ in many instances such works cannot really be classed as tantric treatises at all.

        The use of the term ‘tantra’, as a ‘manual’ or as a ‘system’, has also historically extended beyond the realm of sectarian tantric yoga. In this manner the term ‘tantra’ has apparently been added to the titles of non- tantric texts to simply emphasis that a particular text/manual broadly deals with the exposition of a particular ‘system’ or approach. In this sense the term ‘tantra’ is not simply limited to the tantric yoga tradition or broader religious field and can clearly be found in other aspects of the overall Indian literary tradition.

      This literary device was also used to emphasize the systematic disciplines of philosophy, medicine and empirical sciences. In terms of philosophical system ‘tantra’ was linked to the philosophical approaches underpinning the various sectarian Hindu traditions such as the Samkhya and Nyaya philosophical systems. Here these philosophical systems are known as kapila-tantra, the Kapila system and gotama-tantra, the Gotama system after the names of the founders of these philosophical schools.

       The empirical sciences pursued by literate so-called low caste professionals, craftsmen and artisans etc., during the latter centuries BC., and early centuries AD., included the fields of surgery, medicine, metallurgy and primitive chemistry. Tantra-s, manuals, were composed to record the knowledge accumulated by these professionals, craftsmen and artisans.

     Therefore ‘tantra’ was used in these fields as a general term describing their ‘manuals’ or to describe texts containing ‘expositions’ of findings, discoveries and for broadly discussing particular disciplines. The term tantra, as ‘system’ is also thereby applied to treatises within the Ayurvedic system of medicine and the Ayurvedic treatise composed by Agnivesha is known as the agnivesha-tantra, the Agnivesha system.


          A basic definition of ‘tantra’ as ‘treatise’, in connection with the composite word mula-tantra, root treatise or ‘source’ manual, is therefore often used to characterize the principal works that broadly discuss the systemic approaches of sectarian traditions forming the overall tantric textural tradition. In the context of a particular root treatise or root system within a given deity cycle, other supplementary treatises sometimes designated as nirbandha-s, digests or commentaries, were composed in order to discuss detailed aspects relating to the system of a particular given cycle.

    In order to define the relationship of source/root tantra-s with other supplementary treatises these two types of treatise are characterized in some orthodox sectarian contexts as nirdesha, or treatises of ‘certain ascertainment’ and their nirbandha-s, commentaries or ‘digests’ as laghu-tantra, shorter or compact manuals. These compact treatises can be further characterized as uddesha treatises or works that give ‘explanations leading to certain ascertainment’.

        In the Buddhist Mantrayåna tradition supplementary treatises can also be known as vyakhya-tantra, 'explanatory treatise', uttara-tantra, 'continuation treatise' and uttarottara-tantra, 'continuation of the continuation treatise'. Various types of commentaries are associated with all the types root treatise and supplementary, explanatory treatises.

       Within the Mantrayana tradition as well as in the Hindu tantric traditions these include pañjika, tika and tippani style commentaries. In general pañjika style commentaries offer continuous commentary verse by verse, chapter by chapter on words and phrases of a given text. Tika style commentaries offer more detailed comments upon the broader implications of particular words and phrases within particular verses of particular chapters. Whereas tippani style commentaries do not necessarily relate to the ordering of subjects within chapters of a treatise but in a systemic manner offer detailed discussions upon the principal subjects broached within a particular treatise.


      However even such basic designations or titles for classifications of treatises on tantric ritual and yoga can as suggested often be purely regional or can be sectarian and do not necessarily accord with another regional approach to definition or general classification. Thereby within some of these contexts the term tantra as ‘treatise’ is often hardly distinguishable from the term agama, ‘instruction’.

      Certainly from the orthodox point of view some treatises of the Puranic tradition hold that exoteric treatises from the orthodox Agama tradition can only introduce and commence explanation of the tantric system. Here confusions arise where it appears that exoteric agama-s were transmitted as supplementary ‘tantra-s’, treatises in North Indian Shaiva tradition while the same treatises simply remain as exoteric ‘instructions’ in the later South IndianShaiva tradition. Similarly even the treatises designated as samhita, ‘collections’, of the western Vaisnava Pañcaratra, ‘five nights’ tradition, were also confusingly characterized as agama-s, ‘instructions’.

      However in terms of their contents these three classes of treatises can have more realistic definitions and fixed designations. Here the samhita ‘collection’ class and more especially the exposition of the contents of the treatises of the western Indian pañcaratra-samhita tradition are defined as being comprised of four pada-s, or ‘pillars’.

      Within a generally dualistic devotional approach these ‘pillars’ are comprised of carya, observation of the vow, mental conduct, kriyå, devotional, ritual and mantra activities, yoga, the means to union with the microcosmic/ macrocosmic nature of the deity and jñåna, intuitive knowledge of the nature of the deity.

      According to the varahi-tantra the basic topics discussed in agama-s, ‘instructions’ are shrti, cosmic creation, pralaya, cosmic dissolution, devapuja, worship of the deities, purashcarana, the complete mode/activity of ritual propitiation and satkarma, the six activities of mantra.

      In addition to cosmological theories, eulogies to the supreme being, Shiva and His creative/destructive roles the eighteen orthodox South Indian Shaiva agama-s, ‘instructions’ generally tend to concentrate on the subjects of carya, observation of the vow, mental conduct and kriya, devotional, ritual and mantra activities. These treatises are certainly further defined by and geared to the exoteric ritual tasks of the priestly class, external rites of mantra rather than to the esoteric approach to tantric yoga applied by yogi-s and yogini-s.

     Thereby these two basic subjects also broadly include ‘instructions’ on the ritual manner required in building of temples, in the installation of images, the modes of ritual worship in temples as well as ritual purification by bathing and the modes of conduct in annual and periodic festivals etc.

      In contrast ‘tantra-s’, ‘treatises’ dealing with required ritual and the applied tantric yoga system are often non-dual or monistic in approach with their inward looking esoteric system broadly aimed at union with the divine nature of the supreme being and liberation from the cycle of cause an effect, transmigration and re-birth.

       However even these types of treatises also certainly deal with a broad variety of externalized subjects including the methods of creating and using mandala-s as well as subjects like cosmology. Other outer/inner subjects include the complex approach in daily and periodic rituals and rites required for the worship, propitiation and mantra activities of tantric deities.

       Further important subjects include the means to analyze coded language used in the composition of tantra-s as well as the nature of the master, consecration the master/disciple relationship. Significantly tantra-s discuss the microcosmic/ macrocosmic nature of the body, the establishment of pristine mantra resonance in the body, the modes of emanation, the system of kundalini-yoga and the nature of union with the chosen deity attained by awakening and channeling the ‘secret fire’. Such works also discuss the correct approach and use of radical sacraments, such as the notorious ritual ingredients, the ‘5Ms’ used in the advanced Rite of the Circle.

        Further in most tantra-s and especially the tantra-s from the Middle Ages era, much emphasis is placed upon discussions on the modes of the ‘six’ activities of mantra-s and the need to apply mantra recitation with and without the yoni-mudrå, the Seal of the Source within this context


        Certainly the treatises comprising the textural traditions of the various sectarian tantric traditions were not only classed in terms of their sectarian designation or even simply classed in terms of being a ‘collection’, ‘instruction’ or ‘[root] treatise’. Treatises were also additionally further classified according to their exoteric/ esoteric/cosmic degree of doctrinal content as well even to their geographical designation.

       Thereby treatises of the Shaiva, Shaiva/Shakta, Yogini Kula and Kaula tantric traditions were also divided into srota-s, lit. streams, ‘currents’, pitha, group, or ‘seat’ [related to a particular seat of a deity] in addition to amnaya, ‘handed-down’, regional lineage, classes of treatises.

       The adaptations and further clarifications to the meaning of the term 'tantra' as ‘system’ or ‘current’ indicate and suggest the historic gathering of a variety of ancient tribal and sedentary approaches towards performing rites, propitiation, ritual devotion to ancient deity cycles. Additionally these classifications suggest the regional lineage traditions of adept masters who developed particular systemic styles and modes governing the application of emanation and yoga.

      According to the pre-10th., century AD., jayadratha-yamala, in a broad sense the term ‘currents’ certainly classifies treatises and characterizes the style of transmission lineage emanating via a santana, a particular ancient master/disciple lineage stream within a particular mathika, monastic base or school. Thereby such treatises certainly discuss the particular ‘streams’ or ‘currents’ within a sectarian lineage approach of instruction that essentially relate to aspects or specialties of emanation and yoga and other ritual topics.

       The purified and gathered five winds, as intuitive knowledge of ‘union’, are symbolized by the five-faced icon of Sadashiva. According to the Shaiva and Shaiva/Shakta tradition the various ‘currents’ of treatises relating to the purification and gathering of these five winds initially ‘descended’ as the amnaya-s’, the ‘orally handed down’ traditions from particular mouths of the five mouths of these five faces.

       According to the srota-nirnaya, the ‘classification of the currents’ or basic systemic orientation, certain groups of tantric treatise were classified and formed into particular groups according to a specific approach to purifying a particular ‘current’ allowing the potentiality for mantra activities. These ‘currents’ coloring the orientation of the various applied tantric systems were characterized as daksina, ‘southern/right’ or benign mantra system, vama, ‘northern/left’ or malevolent mantra system and madhyama-marga, the ‘middle way’. These approaches are related to the ‘currents’ coursing within the central nerve and two outer nerves that ‘ride’ upon fluctuations within the prime spinal centers.

   Of the three nerves the 'middle' or central nerve is the most important to any attempt to actualize the state of yoga, union. The other principal nerves are situated on the left and right sides of the central nerve. These nerves are also significant because the impure activity of the winds within these nerves maintains the desire-based cycle of sensory cause and effect as well as the emotional impulses of the functioning relative states of consciousness stimulated by sensory input and inter-play.

     The two outer nerves carry the ‘currents’ of the winds that energize the habitual relative tendencies of the mind and by yoga must be purified and harnessed in order to re-direct the activity of the winds and subsequently enter all five winds into the central nerve. Therefore the various classes of tantric treatise in general relate to the purification and harnessing of the secondary nerves and prime yoga nerve towards attaining the undifferentiated state of union.

      However within the context of benign, gross and subtle mantra rites the systems of ‘currents’ were characterized as having both inner and outer utility. Internally, systems of the initial two ‘currents’ can be characterized as systems applied to purify the two prime secondary nerves and harness the electromagnetic energy of the winds coursing within these nerves. As suggested these winds are the active ‘currents’ circulating the secondary nerves of the physical form that in accord with impure spinal resonance and cause and effect normally impelling thought, sensory inter-play and physical activity. On purification these nerves and winds are available to be used in the performance of the ‘six’ mantra activities.

     According to other orthodox textural sources the systems of ‘currents’ can be related to the approaches required to purify the tri-guna, the Three Qualities forming part of the theistic Samkhya system, that in some circumstances governs the application of yoga. Here under the inner view the ‘right’ current or benign system, the ‘left’ current or malevolent system and the ‘middle’ are related to approaches seeking to manifest the purified energy/qualities of clarity, activity and inertia respectively.

      These approaches are related to the basic natures of devotees and under this view each approach possesses a utility for purifying the mind streams of the particular groupings of devotees.

      Further the pitha-s, ‘seats’, ‘benches’ in the classification of treatises can refer to the applied styles and to the modes of application of the vow suited to the degree of efficient practitioner. Here these degrees again relate to practitioners whose minds are colored by particular guna-s, qualities and who further possess or have attained various degrees of purity and sensibility within and beyond the qualities.

      Despite the correlation of some of the pitha class of works with particular ‘seats’ of deities essentially this class of treatises is rather related to the purification of the internally located yoga nerves through which the ‘currents’ or energy of the winds circulate. Here purification can be by propitiating male or female deities. Therefore some texts are characterized as relating to male and female systems emanating from particular types of ‘seat’.

     Authoritative texts, such as the influential brahma-yamala dating from the pre-10th ., century AD., also discuss the utility of the ‘seats’ in a somewhat similar manner to the ‘currents’. Therefore there is clearly no fixed, overall designation for these various designations for system and treatise because it is apparent that regional traditions place a particular utility in these types of text that can contradict each other’s modes of characterization and differentiation. This lack of continuity and definition is clearly potentially very confusing for the unwary student/ researcher.


       As suggested earlier, a differentiation of textural tradition can be made according to the particular mouth of the five mouths of the five-faced form of Shiva, from which tantra-s of a particular Shaiva and Shaiva/Shakta ‘orally handed down’ tradition were initially promulgated.

       According to Dr. Mark Dyczkowski: ‘...the term ‘amnaya’ is used to denote distinct groups of scriptures within the kulagama, [the Kula Instructional Canon], each consisting of tantra-s that share a common affiliation to a single [particular] tradition and said to have originated from a fixed [or particular geographical] direction’. Dyczkowski further suggests that this is a later post-10th., century mode of classification and in works such as the siddhanta-agama, was used to denote and differentiate all the treatises forming the Kulashastra, the Kula Canon.

     Those works of the Yogini Kula/Kaula tradition, characterized as ‘orally handed down’ treatises are therefore further classified according to the compass point location derived from the direction of the mouth of the particular face of the five-faced Shiva from where they are said to have first ‘descended’. In this connection well known ‘orally-handed down’ treatises are especially linked to the western direction, to which the kubjikamata-tantra (KMT.,) belongs as well as to the northern direction to which the early treatises of the Goddess Kali belong and to the urdhva, uppermost direction to which the KAT., belongs.

        These works especially discuss the graduated kadi and hadi approaches and stages leading to culminating approach of the overall Yogini Kula/Kaula system where the central nerve and the cakra-s, the spinal centers, are fully purified, harnessed and unified by awakening the coiled-up energy/capability. This culminating system includes the now notorious cakra-puja, the Circle Rite where the sacraments of the pañca-makara, the ‘5Ms’, the five sacraments whose names in Sanskrit begin with the letter ‘m’, are employed and enjoyed within the 'middle nerve'.

    However, there is some confusion regarding the Kaula, ‘accomplished Family’ aspect of the Kula, ‘Family’ tradition as an independent tradition in its own right. Some commentators ignore the approach suggested by KAT., and suggest that the systemic approach of the Kaula-s is clearly an independent ‘stream’ of the Shaiva/Shakta system or is a ‘stream’ of the purely Shakta lineage.

      Others mistakenly suggest that this system is Buddhist due to the lineage link with the Buddhist/Shaiva Great Adept Maccendra/Matsyendranatha who is understood to have found the Yogini Kula/Kaula tradition. The approach of the Yogini Kula/Kaula tradition is not so much in terms of a separate sectarian approach but rather in terms of the culminating esoteric approach of the overall tantric system towards igniting, awakening and channeling the coiled-up energy/ capability.

       Historically this lineage approach was applied both in the unorthodox and tantric Shaiva as well as Shaiva/Shakta sectarian contexts. Echoing Patañjali’s view the former context emphasizes the attainment of the Shiva/Shakti nature via the union of the spinal centers in conjunction with the awakened energy/capability and latter emphasizes establishment within the fully awakened/harnessed energy/ capability of the Goddess.

      The Great Adept Maccendra/Matsyendranatha composed the pre-10th., century AD., kaulajñana-nirnaya (KJN.) one of the earliest, definitive extant treatises of the Yogini Kula tradition that in part discusses the distinct doctrinal approach of the Kula/Kaula system. However despite the KJN., using the term sahaja, innate [nature] to characterize the culmination of the early Kaula system, remarks made in Mantrayana commentaries, such as the YM., clearly indicate that the Shaiva/Shakta orientated Kaula tradition was doctrinally in opposition to the atheistic outlook proposed by the Mantrayana tradition because of personified theism.


      Texts such as the YM., commentary of the HT., state that the Buddhist Mantrayana tradition was not an ‘amnaya’, orally handed-down tradition allied with the Shaiva tradition hailing from the northwest region of the Indian sub-continent. In the context of Mantrayana tradition ‘root treatises’ in general discuss the emanation and yoga system of the krama, Processes, within a particular elemental, emotionally colored deity cycle as well as related ritual, rites and activities of mantra etc.

      In this manner the composite term mula-tantra can also be translated as 'root system' of a particular deity cycle. Under this mode of definition hevajra-tantra, a principal Female Yoga Practitioner root treatise of the wrath family within the Unsurpassable Yoga class can initially be simply translated as the Hevajra Treatise.

      A further analysis of the name hevajra indicates that the syllable ‘he’ refers to Wisdom and the word ‘vajra’ to Means and in a subsequent more precise translation, hevajra-tantra can be translated as the Wisdom and Means System. The applied approach of the process of the Wisdom and Means System is founded upon the unique theory of emotional counteraction.

      Clearly within the tantric Buddhist context, under this definition of 'tantra' as an overall system, the formation of further composite words that include the term ‘tantra’ also indicate facets within and forming this overall system. In this manner a 'tantra' acts as a treatise whose compositional 'framework' and essential compositional 'threads' or facets can characterize, outline and describe the phases of the processes and the goals of the processes that comprise a deity cycle system of emanation and yoga.

      These three facets are hetu-tantra, the source compositional facet of the system, upaya-tantra, the [applied] means compositional facet of the system and phala-tantra, the fruit [of the applied means] facet of the system. The basic system of a particular root tantra can be afforded by highlighting these applied elements that are classified within these three applied compositional facets.

      Thereby an appreciation of these three facets of composition can be used to grade, analyze and appreciate whether or not a coherent exposition of the Mantrayana system of emanation and yoga is actually exposed within a given root treatise. In order to fully assess the exposition offered by a particular tantric treatise created by 'weaving' such compositional facets a particular treatise can be further judged under the criteria of the various lineage interpretive modes.

     Further lineage interpretative modes include the System of [analyzing] the Meaning [of a root treatise] as well as the System of [analyzing] the Words [or dialogue of a root treatise] and the Seven Ornaments [or criteria] of the [Mantrayana compositional] System.

      Under the outlook of these interpretive modes the contents of particular treatises can be assessed to determine whether or not a given treatise possesses to a greater or lesser degree of prabandha, 'systemic continuity'. Once, after applying the various lineage interpretative modes, the exposition of the tantric system within a particular root treatise is demonstrated to be coherent and comprehensive such a root treatise can be declared to be authoritative and as possessing ‘prabandha’, overall systemic continuity.

      In common with the term 'tantra’, 'prabandha' actually has a variety of definitions. These definitions include 'connection', 'uninterrupted connection', a 'continuous series', 'uninterrupted', 'continuance', 'a composition', or 'a [specific type of] commentary'. Within the area of interpreting and assessing the contents of a Buddhist tantra the term 'prabandha' has a utility in suggesting the integrated and graduated nature of the overall system of tantric epistemology.

     In line with this definition the term prabandha is also confirmed as a type of commentary that offers further insight into the systemic continuity of the tantric system of emanation and yoga. However despite a fairly straightforward prime definition for the term prabandha remarkably this word has posed problems, both for modern scholars and even for earlier Tibetan scholars, in terms of the context for offering an interpretive translation for this Sanskrit term.

      This term has a utility in suggesting the coherent, graduated nature of the themes that govern the exposition of the contents within a root treatise. In connection with the term 'tantra' as a system that contains distinct processes and stages the term 'prabandha' can be translated as 'uninterrupted connection' in order to suggest the integration of phases within an exposition of a comprehensive system aimed towards attaining the ultimate goal of the ‘intrinsic nature’.

       In terms of the compositional quality of a treatise discussing such an integrated and graduated system the term 'prabandha' could also be translated as 'continuity' in order to indicate a clear exposition of such a graduated system towards this ultimate goal. However rather than appropriately translating the term 'prabandha' as 'uninterrupted connection' or 'continuity' some modern scholars following the lead set by earlier Tibetan scholars, have adopted a blanket translation for this term as 'continuous series' in order to define this term.

      This translation of the term 'prabandha' as 'continuous series’ does not really suggest a sense of integration and systemic connection of graduated applied epistemology or a sense of textural and applied continuity. This translation of the word ‘prabandha’ bridges neither of these contexts and rather suggests in English a repetitious process or of a work comprised of a continuous series of repetitious statements.

    Under this ill-defined characterization as 'continuous series', the term 'prabandha' is rendered incapable of clearly and coherently characterizing either the integrated nature of the applied system of emanation and yoga or the degree of systemic continuity afforded within the exposition of a root treatise.


[This essay is copyrighted by George W. Farrow]





About the Author

       The author was raised in the UK., had a loving family and thanks to the efforts of my parents I received a good education. Also allied with these facts I was also born and brought up in the freest era of human social history etc. But thanks to the rise of the fascist US., Empire, occurring after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, that unique era is now well and truly finished. 

         Apart from the normal interests of youth etc., I was interested in literature, psychics, history, jazz, art as well as travel and even eastern philosophy etc. Since the '60’s I had the opportunity to travel in North Africa, the Middle East as well as South and Southeast Asia. I first traveled overland to India in '70 and made further visits there etc., in order to explore South Asian ‘applied’ yoga doctrines and the various sectarian systems of emanation and yoga.

    I went to India in order to make further sense of my personal explorations of consciousness aimed towards the 'now moment' and the innate 'one' nature. Then and still today, I was really only interested in the applied esoteric and cosmic yoga doctrines of the South Asian masters of emanation and yoga rather than in the popular, theistic devotional doctrines of the Hindu religion or any other theistic religion. I sought and still seek direct, intuitive experience of the non-dual 'divine birthright' inherent to humanity rather than 'belief' and 'faith' in a personified deity or the doctrinal concepts, the myths etc., of popular theistic religion.

    While still living in Europe I sought and received some yoga techniques. After receiving these efficient yoga techniques I was very quickly forced to distance myself and detach myself from the idiotic and fascist personality cult surrounding the Indian 'master' of this avenue for inner application.

     Even so my explorations of consciousness became more directed and more efficient from receiving and appying thsee techniques. This efficiency came from concentrating upon the inner bipolar nature of the breath together with the inner yoga components such as the 'winds', the 'nerves' and the spinal 'centers' etc.

    Since then, on good, auspicious days, from concentrated practice with these and other yoga techniques, mantra-s etc., my finite body/mind could reach surprising (at least for me!) levels of internal energy. Once attaining an 'overdrive' of this internal energy or the energy of the life force, a true dawning of natural, undifferentiated consciousness occurred. For me the advent of undifferentiated consciousness was/is marked by degrees of bliss and by love and compassion felt for all beings etc.

    But even so, from one day to the next, my ongoing inner quest is not stabilized or complete. I am in a position similar to the words drawn from an old Grateful Dead song: '...sometimes the light is shining on me but other times I can hardly see...'.

    I came to see that my habits of mind or rather my personal process of past and present cause and effect, could aid me or bar me from reaching the stabilized aims of my personal inner quest. So I decided to first travel to India and then later to eventually stay in South Asia etc., to further my studies of Indian yoga philosophy and further my inner explorations under the direction of the adept masters, both Hindu and Buddhist, who I was very fortune to meet there.

     So I have lived in South and Southeast Asia for more than forty years and have been quite busy with my studies, my translations projects and meditations.

     Despite having a stroke four years ago, leading to a difficult period involving the rehabilitation of my body and the recovery of my mind, to this day I still continue with the my life long quest for the 'one' consciousness, the 'now moment'. I still follow an efficient atheistic regime of emanation, yoga and meditation etc.

All hail to the kundalini-shakti, the normally coiled-up Energy/Capability of the optimum life force, the 'secret fire' of the cosmic Mother!


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