The Shakta tradition is another of the three major traditions of the Vedic culture. The power or energy of Shiva is Shakti, the embodiment of power. She is the power and support of the entire universe. Thus, she is the Universal Mother. He who worships Shakti or the divine feminine energy is a Shakta. Shiva represents the eternal consciousness, while Shakti represents mind and mater. The Shaktas are those who believe that the original active and creative principle of existence is the divine energy called shakti. Shakti is the feminine energy inherent in everything throughout the universe and is considered the companion of Lord Shiva in her personified form.

       The original ideas of the Shakta belief can be traced back to the Rig-veda and other later works. However, the Vedanta-sutras (2.2.42-45) point out some essential faults with the Shakta philosophy. For example, to consider that Shakti or energy alone can be the independent cause of the world is not a complete understanding. The reason is that energy alone cannot create without the cooperation, direction, and facility from the energetic, which, in this case, is the Creator or Supreme Being. Energy must have a source, meaning the energetic. Thus, as we have explained in the previous section, this Shakti is ultimately the energy of the Supreme Lord. She is not nor can be the sole cause of the world. She works most closely with the energy of the Lord in the form of Lord Shiva.

       The Supreme is the energetic or source and controller of the energy, just as the powerhouse is the source of the electrical energy that is controlled to illuminate so many light bulbs. Thus, energy cannot exist without the energetic. Therefore, the followers of the Shakti cult who have imagined that energy is the cause of the world are not supported by conclusive Vedic authority. It is not possible that merely by energy alone all the elements of the universe can be produced. In the same manner, we do not see a woman produce children without the contact of a man. Only through the energy given by the seed of a man can there be conception in a woman. Similarly, only if Shakti or nature is controlled and directed by the contact of the purusha, God, can there be the organized formation of the material elements. In this way, everything proceeds from the Supreme Being, as explained elsewhere in Vedic literature, and Shakti is not independent.

       The Shaktas are divided into two groups, one called the Right-hand, the other called the Left-hand group. The Right-hand or dakshinachara are the ascetic group, while the Left-hand or vamachara are those who combine their yogic exercises with practices that are often considered more unorthodox, called the panchamakara, or the five Ms. These are madya (wine drinking), mamsa (meat-eating), matsya (fish), mudra (parched grain), maithuna (ritual sex), and also ceremonial songs. In most cases, the drinking of wine, eating meat, and sexual activities are meant to be used as part of a sacrificial rite used in the worship of goddess Kali or Durga.

        Tantraism is linked with yoga and the magical formulas of the Atharva-veda. The ascetic process of the Tantric path is very similar to the raja-yoga and kundalini-yoga systems. But before going on to the advanced stages, one must perfect the basics, such as simplicity, kindness, devotion, prayer, and self-analysis, along with the yama and niyama principles as described in raja-yoga.




    Tantra is a path meant to utilize all the sciences to develop psychic power, understand reality, and expand one?s awareness in all states of consciousness. In this way, all levels of consciousness are to be explored by performing various kinds of exercises and techniques. However, the training and procedures that some Tantric yogis may have to do as a sign of advancement can be a dreadful experience for one who is psychologically unprepared. Detachment from the body and advancement on the path is attained by the performance of what most people would consider unusual if not bizarre practices. In Tantrism, particularly the Left-hand path, progress and liberation are achieved primarily through direct experience rather than through meditation. The ingredients and experiences in the rituals are to induce different levels of consciousness.

       Once the Tantric yogi has mastered all the basic requisites of yoga, such as the sitting postures, controlling the external and internal organs, and keeping the mind from all material attractions and repulsions, then he can continue with more arduous austerities. He may be instructed to go to the cremation grounds and search through the ashes to find and eat particular parts of a corpse which do not burn. He must do this without the slightest disgust. These more extreme practices were mostly for the adepts who were experienced in the Left Hand path. These would induce a deep level of detachment from praise, pride, or even shame or disgust, and all that might keep one from entering the Supreme bliss. These practices are metaphorically called ?removing a thorn with a thorn?. It is to break social norms in order to transcend limitations of body consciousness and attain Shiva. The path of the Right Hand Tantric is not as extreme and uses tamer or more harmless symbolism in rituals, or ignores the severe rituals altogether.

       Some of the Tantric followers also practice magic and alchemy in their techniques. It is well known that Tantrics who know the art of magic can possess amazing but dark powers. The apparel of such sorcerers usually include items like flayed animal or human skin as coverings, necklaces of teeth or bone, a girdle of snake skin, and they sometimes cover themselves with the ashes of cremated bodies or the dirt from an exhumed corpse. Elements used in their rituals may consist of charred bones, eyeballs, fat, marrow, and even excrement from corpses, along with mantras used to call or address the dead or even demons and ghouls. The Tantric may also make a human skull into his eating bowl, or the top of a monkey skull as a drinking cup. The human thigh bone is also used among some as a horn for calling spirits. With these kinds of items they perform ceremonies such as the black ritual that is a secret and dangerous short path to attaining occult power. One ritual in Tibetan is called the chod, in which the Tantric practitioner goes to the crematorium and invites spirits to feast on his body, which symbolizes destruction of ego, pride, selfishness, fear, etc. The Tantric should be so focused on this that he can actually hear the ghouls masticating as they devour his flesh. After the spirits have dined and departed, the Tantric, recovering from the ordeal, mentally reassembles his bones and organs until he is whole again. Another aspect of this black ritual is known in Tibet as rolangs, in which the Tantric, through occult powers, animates a dead corpse by calling spirits to possess it and then asks it questions or uses it for magical purposes.   If the yogi remains sane and continues on the Left-hand Shakta or Tantric path, he may also try to perform the sex ritual. In this case, the Tantric yogi worships the woman as a representation of Shakti and accepts the role as Shiva and has intercourse with her, but does not ejaculate any semen. The Tantric controls his mind and senses, and during intercourse constricts his stomach muscles in particular ways so that he takes in the fluid and energy released by the woman. Thus, he keeps the combination of his male energy and the female energy at the base of his spine. By combining the male and female energy in such a way, the practitioner is said to get special power and enlightenment. This is also supposed to help awaken the kundalini at the base of the spine when it is time for the yogi to begin meditation. However, some descriptions of these sex practices are very strange, and the texts that describe them are quite graphic. It has also been said that even Marco Polo, while witnessing these Tantric practices and acts of sorcery during his explorations of the world, did not consider it fit to give a full account of what he saw. This, however, is only one aspect of the Tantric cult. Other more prominent techniques include mantra, pranayama, meditation, etc, as has already been described.

       These days in the West people use certain Tantric practices as an excuse to simply engage in sex in the name of so-called spiritual exercises, religion, or yoga. Although they hardly know anything about the real Tantric practices or bother to reach any of the initial yogic qualifications one must attain, they are very eager to engage in so-called Tantric sex with the hopes of increasing the duration of their orgasm. This, however, was the exact opposite of the real purpose of the ritual. Extended orgasm is considered to deplete the yogi of his mystic powers and mental and psychic capacity. Even Buddhist texts mention that keeping the seed (semen) is life, while the falling of the seed is death. In this way, by retaining one?s semen, a man can become very powerful.


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