Tantra is often misunderstood. Generally, only a small part of it is somehow heard off in the Western world. Though, its practice is very common in Hindu and Buddhist religions.
The Sanskrit word Tantra means “loom, weave, system”. In Vedic literature, it is described as that which is principal, essential, model, framework, or feature. It refers to rituals, spiritual practices, symbols, and spells.
Among Hindus and Buddhists traditions, all rites and temples show tantric influences. When a person acts with consideration of the divine aspect of his/her actions, and is selfless, acting for the benefit of the divine, or for serving many instead of him-/herself, that is known as Tantra. Using any method or any “external” item like incense, flowers, singing, musical instruments, physical exercises like yoga, for worshipping the sacred, that is known as tantric. Silent meditation is the only means to communicate with the Divine which is not.
Yantras, Mantras, Mandalas
Tantra further emphasizes the use and potency of Yantras (geometric diagrams), Mantras (holy syllable), and Mandalas (ritual diagrams). The diagrams help to understand the connection and interrelation of the different aspects of the holy divine. The repetition of Mantras aims to calm the mind and convey the ultimate truth and divinity. The magic of Mantras using the sacred language Sanskrit gives special powers and the protection of the specific aspect of God/energy addressed in the Mantra.
Beside of ritual worship, Tantra deals with the awakening of the Kundalini. The female energy is identified with the Kundalini, an energy that lies coiled at the base of the spine. The Shakta-Tantras emphasize the Goddess Shakti as the female aspect of the creative power or the Energy of Shiva. To its extreme, it regards that Shiva without his Shakti is just a corpse. It is a force or vitality that when cultivated and awakened leads to divine liberation. The practice of Yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda aims to awaken this power to gain spiritual insight and enlightenment.
The most known facts about Tantra is that it consists of magic, sorcery, techniques of bodily and mental purification; as well as it deals with the nature of enlightenment; and most of all, sacred sexuality. Among the Shakta-Tantras are the “left hand” methods called Aghora. Aghora is the opposite of White; Ghora in Sanskrit means “White”, i.e. A-Ghora describes “Not-white”. But, it neither can be called “Black”. Aghori uses magic, sorcery, severe penances, and ritual copulation to reach the final goal of liberation. By overcoming fear, disgust, comfort, conformity, and through practice of eremetic lives and renunciations they seek to reach liberation from the wheel of incarnation. It is a huge and mystical field of seekers of realization of the ultimate truth and liberation. Some people incorrectly minimize Tantra to sexual practices to seek an ecstatic experience of the supernatural. This is far from its diverse and complex meaning.
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