The word tantra (Sanskrit : Tissue, continuum, context; liberation by desire (Tanha) ) is a common term in Shivaism and Vajrayana.
The actually secret tantra system came into a twilight, especially through the Yab-Yum representations and the Vama and Kaula-Acharas.
Most of the western so-called tantric groups offer therefore a confusing mix of erotic practices and pseudo-spirituality.
Tantra has in common that its representation is held in a deliberately misleading secret language, which also applies similarly to the allegories of Puranas.
In Hinduism is Tantra a religious style of rituals (Vamamarga, Acharas) and meditation. The name was first mentioned in the Rigveda (X.71.9). The Agamas contain tantric scriptures.
The tantric traditions are in the Shaiva Siddhanta and the Mantrapīṭha (Bhairava-oriented) as well as in the shaktistic Vidyāpīṭha and the Kulamārga traditions. Sri Vidya is a tantric shakta tradition with Lalitā Tripurasundarī ("Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities"), a tantric version of Lakshmi.
A group of Tantras designated as Candrakalāṣṭakaa contains Candrakalā, Jyotsnāvatī, Kalānidhi, Kulārṇava, Kuleśvarī, Bhuvaneśvarī, Bārhaspatya and Durvasamatha.
Sometimes is also distinguished between right (white) tantra, yellow tantra (wealth), red tantra (sexual practices) and black tantra (destructive negative forces and alternatively abuse of occult forces, black masters).
In Shivaism includes Tantrism the esoteric secrets (rahasya-sampradayā).
The shivaistic tantric scriptures are usually arranged in the form of a dialogue between a form of Shiva and a consort as Parvati.
In the Agamas, Shiva is the listener and Parvati the teacher.
The shivaist Hindu-Tantra classes contain 92 scriptures.
- the 64 Bhairava - Tantras or kashmir-shivaist Tantras are purely monistic (Abheda: without distinction) and are divided into 8 groups.
- The 18 Rudra - Tantras are Bhedābheda ('with distinction and without distinction') or 'monistic and dualistic'.
- The remaining 10 Śiva tantras are Bheda ('differentiated') or dualistic.
The Rudra Tantras and the Śiva Tantras are used by the Śaiva Siddhāntins and are therefore known as Shaiva Siddhanta Tantras or Śaiva Siddhānta Āgamas. But the Kulanarva Tantra from Kashmiri Shivaism is a tantric and often misinterpreted, secret doctrine.
The tantric main gods in the Hinduism have a female counterpart(Shakti).
Therefore, there is also a tantric sadhana(Achara):
- Vedacara(Vedic commandments, vedic Mantras, Agni as Ishta-Deva)
- Vaishnavacara (Vishnu - Tantra, Vishnu is the Ishta-Deva)
- Shaivacara (Shiva-Tantra, Shiva is the Ishta-Deva)
- Shaktacara : Dakshinacara (right way, religious commandments)
- Vamacara (Left path, breaks religious taboos and consciously reverses everything) (pañca-makăra) : Fish, flesh, madya, dried grains, Maithuna (ritualisized sex-act of the so-called Viryas) - but the Panchamakaras are actually more symbolic to understand
The relevant Ācāras are classified accordingly : Veda, Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva, Dakṣiṇa, Vāma, Siddhāṇta and Kaula.
They are additionally divided up in the two categories Dakṇiṇa (right) and Vāma(left). The tantric Brahma Yamala distinguishes dakshina, madhyama and vama according to the three gunas.
Application in the Sadhana find :
- Yoga - (breath-exercises, Asanas) with will - control
- Mantras or Syllables, words and phrases
- Nyasa - Visualisation of meditation-godesses
- Mandala - Visualisation
The scriptures are deliberately formulated in a secret language or twilight language (Sandhabhasa), so that the uninitiated understands little or misunderstands as intended.
Tantra (rgyud, Kontinuum) is in Buddhism a complicated system, which in the Vajrayana in the Anuttarayoga-Tantra is described with a twilight language.
The expression is first mentioned in the Guhyasamāja : 'Tantra is called continuity, and the tantra is divided into three aspects: ground together with its nature and indispensability. Nature is the fundamental cause, the soil is the method, and the result is indispensable. The meaning of tantra is contained in these three.'
The teachings of tantra have here an external, an inner and a secret meaning. The qualities which are overcome by a particular divinity often appear symbolically as Yidam-attributes of this deity. (Srī-guhyasarvacchinda-tantrarāja)
Traditionally, higher tantras require an empowerment and transmission from a qualified Guru or Lama before they are studied and practiced.
The tantric yoga techniques of Mahayoga, Anuyoga and of Atiyoga(Dzogchen) build on each other.
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