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Table of contents

Sinister Yogis David Gordon White. Shakti Rising Kavitha Chinnaiyan. The Bhagavad Gita Stephen Mitchell. The Bhagavad Gita Eknath Easwaran. Paths To God Ram Dass. Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali B. The Shiva Samhita James Mallinson. The Tree of Yoga B. Song of the Free Dattatreya. Crest-Jewel of Discrimination Sankaracarya. The Book of Secrets Osho. Shakti Mantras Thomas Ashley-Farrand. Kundalini and the Chakras Genevieve Lewis Paulson.

Lemurian Scrolls Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. Oracle of Rama David Frawley. The Oracle of Rama: India's Renowned Oracle David Frawley. The Upanishads Eknath Easwaran. It combines excellent scholarship with an initiate's firsthand knowledge of the subject. Through many colorful anecdotes of his own encounters with Tantric adepts, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait affords his readers a unique glimpse into the living heart of real Tantra.

The book contains both wonderful stories and powerful teachings on many levels that gives it a special appeal. It shows the magic of Tantra as a living tradition, a current of blissful shakti that can renew and revitalize our lives. Pandit Tigunait clarifies these and other misconceptions in Tantra Unveiled The book is chock full of detailed information Tantra Unveiled is a riveting narrative Herein lies the quest and a read par excellence.

A regular contributor to Yoga International magazine, Pandit Tigunait is also the author of ten books, among them Shakti: The power in Tantra and From Death to Birth: Understanding Karma and Reincarnation. Based on your browsing history. Secrets of Yantra, Mantra and Tantra. Self Realization in Kashmir Shaivism: The Hidden Life in Freemasonry. At the corner known as Kalikhoh, Kali is worshipped in a left-hand fashion; Sarasvati is worshipped in a right-hand fashion in the spot known as Astabhuja; and Lakshmi is worshipped in a way that com- bines both paths at the temple known as Vindhya Vasani.

The area adjoining Astabhuja on the banks of the Ganga is where you will find the practitioners of "forbidden" tantra. But if you travel into the mountains toward Gerua Talub and Moltia Talab you will encounter tantrics of such a mysterious nature that they cannot be put in any category.

As you recall, this is where we met Bhuta Baba. A group of scriptures known as the Puranas describe the spiritual significance of this area and explain why shakti sadhana undertaken at these sites bears remarkable fruit. Although the mountains in this vicin- ity are rocky and almost barren, the indescribable fragrance of the air transports you to a dimension never before experi- enced.

And you can clearly feel the presence of the living masters as you approach the little monuments built in honor of the adepts who have here taken bhumi samadhi the practice of voluntarily casting off the body underground with the determination to undertake a prolonged meditation.

If you have read genuine tantric texts and visit this place you feel compelled to know more about these masters and the advanced tantric practices they have undertaken there. If you move further south in the Vindhya range you will come upon Chitrakut, where the ashram of Sage Atri and Mother Anasuya, situated on a bank of the Mandakini River, is as vibrant today as it was thousands of years ago.

Tantra Unveiled Seducing The Forces of Matter and Spirit

Among the group of sadhus, called vairagi, who dominate this locale you will find tantric adepts practicing the disci- plines associated with the tradition of Dattatreya, the master of masters. The nature of their sadhana is such that through the millennia this mountain has become an embodiment of love, compassion, kindness, and complete surrender. In fact through their practice these adepts have so charged a hill in the Chitrakut region that it is known as Kamada Giri, You can clearly sense divinity manifesting through every aspect of nature, granting the grace and guidance necessary for a successful sadhana.

But if a practice undertaken here is not in conformity with these characteristics, the practitioner will feel uncomfortable. Up to the late s, before a well-known saint named Bhole Prabhu moved the manuscripts to Allahabad, the monasteries in this region were significant repositories of tantric scriptures.

Still further south in the Vindhya mountains lies a shakti shrine known as Maihar, where the flavor of tantric practices is totally different from those you find in Chitrakut. This is a site of miracles. Faithful pilgrims flock here to receive the healing grace of the goddess Matangi, known locally as Maihar Ki Devi, and tantrics intent on cultivating healing power and creativity in the arts find this shrine most suitable to their practice.

People believe that Alha, a great warrior and the permanent attendant of the goddess, became immortal through her grace, and visits this shrine every night. Every now and then seekers in this area report that they have received guidance from him. Although it is not well-known, one of the most mystical tantric shrines lies in Datia, a small town near Jhansi in cen- tral India.

This site is associated with Bagalamukhi, one of the ten great goddesses. The queen of forbidden tantra, she embodies the power of immobilization. Her tantric name, Brahmastra literally "the supreme weapon" , is an indication of the unimaginable power contained in this particular sadhana. There is no higher tantric practice for cutting asun- der the snares of ignorance and taming the inner beast the ego. However, undertaking this sadhana is so demanding that it is like setting out to reclaim a precious gem from the jaws of a shark. Khajuraho, another tantric site in central India, is dramatically different from all the places mentioned so far - it consists of more than a dozen temples, whose walls are covered with erotic statues of yogis and yoginis performing various tantric mudras.

Due to its sensual appeal Khajuraho has been overrun by tourists from India and abroad, so you may not encounter tantrics at this site today. But if you have a basic background in tantrism you will find that the walls picture tantric practices that incorporate the use of liquor and sex. A tour through Khajuraho will leave you either with the impression that tantrism is a path of sexual insanity or with the understanding that it is a way of transforming this natural urge into a spiritual means. Like Banaras, the city of Ujjain in central India is a hub of many tantric traditions and the practices associated with them.

Mahakala, the devourer of time, or the destroyer of death, presides over all other deities residing here, but prac- tices from many traditions are often found in the same ritual. The central focus of the early morning worship of Mahakala, for example, involves smearing the shiva lingam with ash from the cremation ground, as well as elements from astrology, alchemy, rituals, and purely meditative yogic techniques. Nowhere else will you find such a perfect blend of so many disparate elements.

For ages Ujjain was the center of astronomical research, where tantric sadhakas studied the nature and movement of the stars and planets and discovered the connecting links between the celestial realm and the human body.

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The walls and ceiling of the Hara Siddha Gauri temple in Ujjain are like a living library. Here you will find an elaborate Sri Chakra with hundreds of deities depicted in their personified form. To a student of tantra familiar with the basic scriptures of Sri Chakra an hour-long visit to this temple is equivalent to several years of study in a conven- tional library. A visit to the Kala Bhairava temple nearby will change your belief system if you happen to witness the statue of Kala Bhairava apparently drinking liquor - a phenomenon that occurs frequently.

The liquor actually disappears from the chalice. After seeing this your curiosity regarding left-hand tantra will turn into a burning desire to practice and unveil the mystery for yourself. Five hundred yards from this temple, at the cremation ground on the riverbank, is the shrine of Vikranta Bhairava, a place famous for the quick acquisition of startling siddhis, or supernatural powers.

Here, in the dead of night, tantrics who are lovers of the destructive force celebrate the eternal sport of the creator. And if you are persistent you will meet tan trie adepts like Dabral Baba, a spiritual figure noted for his clair- voyance. Far to the west in the hills of Girnar in the state of Gujarat the tantric masters are hidden in monasteries or living in ashrams.

By and large they belong to the tradition of Dattatreya and Gorakhnatha, and they are unique in their ability to combine alchemy with tantric practices. On the other hand, the tantrics living in the hills of Malabar in South India are characterized by their knowledge of shakti sadhana, especially Sri Vidya. The majority of them are householders who adhere strictly to the puritan values of Where Tantra Still Thrives. Here right-hand tantra is practiced in its purest form. And finally, if you go to the Himalayan region in North India you will find the full spectrum of tantra.

Every village has a shrine, a guardian deity, and a set of practices to propiti- ate this deity, who, according to their faith, gives them protection and nourishment. Whether they know it or not, the way in which these villagers connect their hearts with the deity is purely tan trie.

Uneducated, they lack access to the scriptures, but they follow family traditions which have been passed down for untold generations. To them the deity resid- ing in the local shrine is a part of their family, and they grow up with the belief that they themselves are an integral part of nature's family, like the plants, animals, rivers, and mountains. This is the fundamental philosophy of tantra, and the practices of the Himalayan villagers are molded by it.

They are pure and innocent - nature has taught them honesty and simplicity. Content with life, they continue their spiritual pur- suits in the manner they have learned from their elders and teachers. They believe that the deity at the local shrine is part of them and they are part of Her; they come from Her, live under Her protection, and after death they go back to Her.

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The villagers who know the scriptures consider the same deity to be the manifestation of the highest truth. And by following more systematic and comprehensive tantric practices than those done by the uneducated villagers, they attempt to expe- rience universal consciousness by merging with Her. These different levels of understanding both the Divinity and the purpose of life have led to different approaches for gaining Her grace and guidance.

This is how the tantric practices have become so diverse. To express their love and devotion to the Divinity some offer vegetarian food, while others sacrifice a goat. Still others surrender their ego to the Divine. Some connect their hearts with the Divine by means of simple tantric practices like offering incense, flowers, water, and fruit to the fire, along with the recitation of prayers and mantras. Others, who are familiar with the symbolic meaning of yantras, have developed more elaborate rituals. They know that different components of the yantras represent the invisible forces of individual and collective consciousness, so they incorporate the visualization and worship of yantra into their practices.

And in the same village there may be someone endowed with the understanding that the human body is a miniature universe - a perfect yantra for meditating on the highest reality. Such a one has a purely meditative approach to tantra and aims to experience oneness with the primordial Divinity without any ritual involvement at all. Not only does the method of worship vary from villager to villager, the practices themselves can change. For example approximately one hundred kilometers northeast of Rishikesh there is a town called Sri Nagar "Sri Nagar" means "Sri Vidya, city of the tantric goddess" , because long ago hundreds of tantric adepts and aspirants, especially those belonging to the tradition of Sri Vidya, did their practices there.

The most significant shrine in this area is not a temple or statue of the goddess, but a huge boulder lying in the riverbed on the outskirts of town. It is regarded as a living Sri Yantra also known as Sri Chakra , the most complex of all yantras. Here in this yantra, tantrics propitiated the Divine Mother in the form of Sri Vidya. Where Tantra Still Thrives.

As the legend goes, Shankaracharya, after performing an elab- orate ritual worship, turned the boulder upside down, hiding the yantra from view. And since that time the Sri Chakra has not been worshipped in a left-hand fashion at Sri Nagar. Shankaracharya was an influential master and a propo- nent of only those aspects of tantric wisdom that did not contradict the social, moral, and ethical values upheld in the Vedic scriptures. Wherever he went he lifted human con- sciousness by teaching that there is only one reality, which manifests in all names and forms, and that there is a definite way to gain the experience of the oneness that runs through- out diversity.

As this experience matures we spontaneously come to love all and exclude none, and the higher virtues of non-violence, love, compassion, and kindness manifest from the experience of unitary consciousness. Rituals can serve as a stepping-stone to gain this experience, he taught, and if rituals abide with the principle of non-violence, the Divinity within and without is pleased.

By introducing this concept in Sri Nagar and other places Shankaracharya influenced the prevailing belief system, and this in turn brought modifications in spiritual practices. But by no means did he completely wipe out the system of left-hand practices. Today in Sri Nagar and its sunounding area as well as nearby Kali Matha and Chandra Vadani there are tantric prac- titioners who still follow both the left- and right-hand paths. Another shrine, Purna Giri in the Almora district of the Himalayas, is famous for tantric practices of the samaya school. These tantrics do not employ any external means to awaken the primordial Shakti within; their method is purely Where Tantra Still Thrives.

The mountaintop itself is the shrine, and pilgrims who need a focus for their devotion pay homage to an ancient tree growing on the mountaintop. Purna Giri is one of the main pilgrimage sites for tantric adepts of the Shankaracharya order, and the practices undertaken here do not involve ritu- als. The goal of the practices, as described in the scriptures, is pure spiritual illumination without the slightest trace of worldliness.

In fact the literal meaning of "Puma Giri" is "the mountain leading to perfection" or "the mountain that embodies perfect fulfillment. Just as the brain witnesses the actions it initiates without being involved in them, so must aspirants who undertake practices at this shrine help others without becoming involved with them. In order to see and understand itself the brain does not need help from outside; similarly, in order to gain a direct experience of the reality that resides at the crown center there is no need for external rituals at the Purna Giri shrine.

In contrast, rituals are a necessary component of the prac- tices undertaken at the Kamakhya shrine in Assam, for that shrine is associated with the first and second chakras. Witnessing alone does not help in resolving and satisfying the issues related to the first and second chakras: Those urges have to be dealt with more directly, in a manner that actually involves the senses, so transforming them into a spiritual means is the inner purpose of the rituals performed at Kamakhya. If this has not yet been accomplished there is no point in doing sadhana at Purna Giri.

All of the shrines discussed in this chapter are centers of tantric practice and discipline. Their role is central. That is also true of tantric studies. If you wish to acquire authentic knowledge, grounded in direct experience, you cannot overlook these shrines. Asking why these shrines are found only in India is like asking why Oxford is in England and Harvard is in Massachusetts.

The site is appropriate to the practice. Academic institutions require buildings, labs, and libraries, but in the case of tantric institutions none of this external paraphernalia is required. The energy of these shrines is not confined to a particular physical structure, either natural or man-made. Rather, the space in the vicinity of a shrine is itself so charged with energy that it serves as an ever-present and fully furnished library and laboratory. Tantric practitioners who know how to tap into this energy can connect it with the corresponding energy within their own body and mind.

And because space is indestructible, it makes no difference if tem- ples and monasteries are constructed or destroyed. Nor does it make any difference if the physical characteristics of the site are completely altered. One of the names for Banaras, which is now one of the most congested cities in India, is still Ananda Vana the forest of bliss. The collective consciousness of this holy place does not register bricks and mortar, noise and pollution: Seekers and adepts associate with that eternal Banaras - Kashi, the City of Light. For them experiencing this divinity in every aspect of life is liberation, and anything less is bondage.

That is why to them worldly success is not an obstacle to spiritual growth; on the contrary it is the ground for spiritual success, because those who are without worldly means and resources have little time and energy for spiritual endeavors. Most of our problems, tantrics maintain, are not caused because we do not know God; rather, we suffer because we do not know this world. But once we know what this mate- rial world is all about and can regulate the subtle forces that govern it, we can overcome all suffering. It is up to us, the tantrics say, to choose the nature and scope of the practices we undertake.

These concerns run the gamut of human experience, from the base to the lofty. In the vast tantric literature there are practices that can be regarded as a form of black magic. For example Dattatreya Tantra describes a practice for driving an enemy insane. It involves concentrating the negative forces of the mind on feathers from two natural enemies an owl and a crow , and further charging these feathers with rituals consisting of ingredients which reinforce the animosity, such as the fruit of the nux plant, red chilies, salt, and the paste and smoke created by bitter objects such as neem Azadirachta indicia.

The practice is done on the night of the new moon and is concluded by burying the feathers along with the other ritual ingredients in mud, preferably under a neem tree. The entire procedure is accompanied by the recitation of a specific mantra. If we have not seen the effect of such practices through our own eyes we can dismiss them as superstition.

But once we understand that plants, minerals, animals, and humans are all the locus for nature's subtle forces we can find a scientific explanation for why these practices work. Homeopathic medicines, which are diluted to the point at which no physical trace remains of the original substance, work at the level of energy. In the same way the feathers of an owl and a crow contain the subtle impression of animosity.

And once this animosity is awakened with the use of rituals and the energy polarized in a certain direction with the power of sound mantra and mind, it can affect a person with a weak will. At the other end of the spectrum there are practices that expedite our meditation and bring us closer to the inner light. Finding the Way In. Like the negative tan trie practices, these positive practices greatly intensify whatever is undertaken.

For example according to the scriptures the gayatri mantra helps us wash off karmic impurities, and it is therefore one of the most powerful mantras for purifying the mind and heart. As this process begins we gain clarity of mind, our thoughts become organized, and our concentration improves, enabling us to intuitively distinguish good from bad and right from wrong. Ordinarily, however, when people meditate on the gayatri mantra it takes years before they notice any effect.

The tantric method of practicing gayatri accelerates this process. It includes rituals, meditation on a specific yantra, meditation on the chakras, the recitation of auxiliary mantras, pranayama practices, and, ultimately, the making of a fire offering. In tantra the gayatri mantra can be used in several ways to achieve worldly goals, to overcome specific obstacles, or to advance spiritually.

Offering a mixture of sugar, honey, coconut, ghee, and kaner Nerium indicum into the fire while repeating the gayatri mantra cures physical and psychoso- matic problems. Offering the flower of a lotus while reciting the gayatri mantra brings prosperity. Offering the fruit, leaves, and sticks from a bilva tree Aegle marmelos brings both peace and prosperity.

Offering karanja fruit Pongamia pinnata is a tantric cure for phobia and schizophrenia. An offering of sticks from a palash tree Butea monosperma grants retentive power memory and clarity of mind. Similarly, chapter 6 of Netra Tantra describes six ways to use the maha mrityunjaya mantra for healing oneself or others. Other scriptures, such as Swacchanda Tantra and Sri Vidyarnava, describe practices that can be undertaken at the cremation ground, or in a banyan tree, or under it.

They are usually accompanied by meditation on the corresponding yantra, during which a wide variety of materi- als - ranging from incense, flowers, water, herbs, and fruits, to cooked food, meat, and liquor - are offered to the divinity invoked in the yantra. The goal of the practice determines what ritual ingredi- ents are used. They can include water, flowers, milk, yogurt, ghee clarified butter , fruit, cooked food, honey, turmeric, rice, black sesame seeds, raw sugar, sandalwood powder, saffron, and, in some cases, liquor, meat, and fish.

And because it is necessary for the practitioner to maintain a mood that is compatible with the force being invoked, the goal of the practice also dictates what that mood should be - tense, relaxed, passive, aggressive, etc. To engender the most auspicious atmosphere, the practi- tioner eats food that is compatible with the practice, selects a compatible set of mala beads, wears clothes of a compatible color, and chooses a compatible material on which to sit while doing the practice.

For example if the goal of your practice is to subdue an enemy, to destroy the animosity in an enemy's mind, or to subdue the enemies within yourself the negative tendencies of the mind, such as ego, attachment, desire, and anger , your diet preceding the practice should consist of yellow food - dishes containing turmeric, saffron, or yellow legumes such as toor dahl and mung dahl.

Rice pudding with saffron or a pudding of cream of wheat, puffed lotus seeds, and saffron is ideal. A mala made of rudraksha beads, turmeric root, coral, or topaz will be conducive to engendering the proper mood, as will wearing yellow clothes preferably silk and sitting on a woolen blanket.

These practices are purely meditative; rituals are replaced by internal, contemplative techniques. For example because tantrics consider the human body to be a microcosm of the entire universe, tantrics who use medi- tative practices instead of rituals invoke the forces of nature within their own body instead of those same forces in external objects.

Tantra Unveiled: Seducing the Forces of Matter & Spirit

The goal is the same: Their ritual consists mainly of reciting mantras while concentrating on certain parts of their body. They do not use external yantras: Nor do they use fire rituals to propitiate the life-force: With their powers of con- centration they visualize the mind as a garden where all kinds of desires grow in the form of flowers - they can gather a flower of any color and fragrance for any particular practice. They offer their own ego into the fire at the solar plexus in place of clarified butter.

The scriptures that describe this kind of practice make a comprehensive and minutely detailed equation between the forces of the cosmos and the forces in the body. For example they pinpoint nine minerals, nine gems, and nine groups of herbs that correspond to the nine planets; ultimately these groups of nine correspond to the nine constituents of the human body: There is a third category of tantric practice that combines both ritual and meditation.

Some tantrics may undertake the practice of the gayatri mantra, for example, in a purely ritualistic fashion. Then they go on to the next stage of the practice, which involves doing half of the daily gayatri practice while employing exter- nal ritualistic objects and the other half while meditating on the third chakra the navel center. At this stage surrendering the ego to the fire element at the navel center replaces the offering of sesame seeds and ghee into the external ritual fire.

At the third stage of practice they do not incorporate external rituals at all - the practice has become completely internal. So the adepts made an attempt to categorize them, using as a guide the journey from gross to subtle, from the external to the internal realm. And on the basis of this simple reasoning they divided all tantric practices and techniques into three major categories: This is the basis for the three major schools of tantra.

Most humans operate at the level of body consciousness: So all the tantric practices requiring the involvement of our bodies, senses, and material objects were organized into one group called kaula - literally, "that which is related to kula the family. Practices accompanied by rituals, the recitation of scripture, pilgrimage to holy shrines, and fire offerings belong to the kaula path. The goal of tantric practices at this level is to organize life in Finding the Way In.

Another category of practices is used to internalize the rituals. Those who aim at complete independence from exter- nal objects but who have not yet gained access to the inner realm of consciousness undertake this set of practices, which are partly ritualistic and partly meditative.

Because they combine both techniques they are called mishra, literally "mixture" or "combination. This school of tantra is called samaya, which means "one with Her. It is only after gaining access to this channel, called the brahma nadi, that practitioners can achieve their goal of meditating at the crown chakra and experience their oneness with the Divine Mother. All tantric practices, from the lowest end of the spectrum to the highest, fit into one of these three categories: There is no strict rule holding an aspirant to this sequence, but adepts usually initiate students into kaula practices first.

Even before this, however, students are led through a preliminary series of practices, beginning with standard mantra meditation and followed by the tantric way of meditating on that mantra. Only then is the corresponding yantra introduced, along with the practice of rituals. Unfortunately the majority of students stop their quest at this point and start to experiment with tantric techniques that aim at cultivating the power to perform miracles. That is why such practices are called "forbidden tantra.

The first step is to become familiar with the kaula theory and practice, including the distinction between the right- and left-hand paths within the path of kaula. Everything - all forms of matter and energy - emerge from Her. It is not that the universe as a distinct entity evolves from Her; rather, She becomes the universe, She is the universe. She is both inside the universe and beyond it. Considering anything to be different from Her is ignorance, and experiencing anything as other than Her is bondage. Liberation is experiencing Her alone, within and without.

Becoming one with Her in every respect is the highest achievement. Kaula tantrics practice this philosophy in every aspect of their daily lives. First they cultivate a positive attitude toward their relationships with their family, environment, society, and, ultimately, the entire world. The process of self -transfor- mation they undertake is guided by this philosophy - they see their spouse, children, friends, and even enemies as the man- ifestation of the Divine Mother.

And because they have dismantled the wall that ordinarily stands between right and wrong, good and evil, auspicious and inauspicious, they do Finding the Way In. They see the Divine Mother in everything, so they see no need to renounce the world in order to find Her. Tannics commit themselves to sadhana in order to bring this philosophy into the realm of direct experience.

To accom- plish this the first and most important step is to analyze our own consciousness to find out how effortlessly we are able to live with the philosophy. On the practical level few of us experience our oneness with the Divine Mother, and even if we do the experience is momentary. Instead we experience a sense of separateness and a longing to be connected with Her.

According to the adepts this is the root cause of all loneliness and fear, and it cannot be overcome until we are established in non-dualistic consciousness. In most of us, however, the perception of duality is so strong that not only do we experience ourselves as totally different from the all-pervading Divine Force, we also feel that this separation is intrinsic to our existence. We identify with the physical realm so strongly that we experience our self-existence only in terms of our bodies. In other words, because we do not see ourselves as having any existence beyond the physical, our experience of pleasure and pain, loss and gain is totally body-centered.

We find ourselves driven by the four primitive urges - food, sex, sleep, and self-preserva- tion - from which spring emotions such as desire, anger, hatred, jealousy, and greed. And until we find a way to establish ourselves in non-dual unitary consciousness these negative emotions constantly flood our mind and nervous system with anxiety, fear, and a pervasive sense of insecurity. This is the level on which animals operate. Unlike animals, however, our thoughts, feelings, and actions are not always motivated by the need for food, sex, sleep, and self-preservation, and our consciousness is not As our awareness becomes more refined we attain a degree of freedom from these urges, even though we are at their mercy to some extent as long as we identify with the body.

There is no question, however, that staying alive requires maintaining some degree of body con- sciousness - the association of consciousness with the body is what keeps us here, and that is why kaula practitioners insist that there is no point in condemning the primitive urges. Instead we must learn the techniques for managing and using them wisely. Followers of the right-hand path believe that the less active these urges are, the less distraction they will create. Their sadhana, therefore, is to practice self-restraint and subdue the basic-urges until these urges have no power to distract them from their spiritual focus.

Followers of the left-hand path maintain that these urges are intrinsic and that restraining them cripples our body, mind, and senses. They believe that it is better to follow the law of nature and let the biological urges express themselves in a healthy manner, but without indulging them.

Tantra Unveiled Seducing The Forces of Matter and Spirit

According to these tantrics the key is learning to channel these powerful drives in a spiritual direction. The right-hand kaula tantrics have developed a com- plex system of rituals to create a bridge between themselves and the Divine. They follow the principles of asceticism. They draw a clear distinction between "pure" and "impure" ritual objects and observe this distinc- tion in their daily lives.

Their ascetic observances may make them physically weak for a time, but the observances are spiritually strengthening. Left-hand kaula tantrics are not ascetics. Their rituals do not suppress the biological needs, because to consider anything impure or inauspicious, they feel, is to condemn the Divine Mother. And because She is the only reality, any sense of duality, including all aspects of body consciousness, is Her manifestation.

The Divine Mother is the embodiment of supreme beauty, bliss, auspiciousness, and goodness, and so it follows that these characteristics are inher- ent in everything that exists. The body is Her manifestation, as are the senses, the primitive urges, and all of our thoughts and feelings. The perceptual world evolving from the Most Auspicious One cannot be inauspicious. According to the left- hand kaula tantrics, repressing the biological urges and impos- ing restraints that weaken the body and senses means that we are condemning them as well as the life -force that animates them.

This is the hallmark not of spirituality but of ignorance. It is this group of left-hand kaula tantrics that employs liquor, meat, fish, mudras, and physical union in their rituals. Scholars tell us that right- and left-hand tantra are mutu- ally exclusive. In actual practice, initiation into left-hand disciplines constitutes the final stage of sadhana within the kaula school. Left-hand techniques are far more advanced than right-hand techniques, and only those who have first disciplined themselves by practicing right-hand kaula tantra are qualified to follow the left-hand path.

In short, right- and left-hand disciplines do not constitute two distinct traditions; they are two different sets of discipline within the same school.

The Invisible Reality: The Wonderful Weirdness of the Quantum World

The scriptures speak with one voice: The slightest carelessness on this path can lead to indulgence. It is easy for the mind to justify acts of sense gratification. They may practice left-hand tantra in private, but they generally teach only the techniques of the right-hand path. And before they do reveal themselves they lead their students through a series of arduous tests while they are still involved in the prac- tices of right-hand tantra.

The masters want to make sure the aspirant has no craving for sense gratification and will uphold the sacredness of this path. Each consists of a specific kind of practice, and to get that practice directly from a master a student goes through a formal process of initiation. There are three levels of initia- tion. The first two help the aspirant unveil the mystery of the right-hand path of the kaula school. The third and final initiation allows the aspirant to gain access to left-hand kaula tantra. And it is only after going through these three levels of initiation and doing the practices that accompany them that we can systematically unveil the dynamics of matter and spirit, attain mastery over the forces governing life within and without, and take charge of our destiny.

MANTRA We saw in chapter 3 that tantric practice begins with kaula tantra, and kaula tantra, in turn, begins with doing mantra japa in a right-hand or purely meditative manner. Then, after a student has practiced this standard form of mantra meditation for a while, he or she is initiated into the tantric method which includes many additional elements. In the tantric tradition the mantra is not simply an object for focusing the mind: It is the body of the Divine Force in the form of sound. It is the living Divinity, and in the first level of practice the mind, body, and senses are employed to serve it.

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