The most positive and striking feature of Tantric path is a total, sincere and uncompromising acceptance of the world and life as the expression of the Divine, not merely in thought but in practice, in sadhana. The tantric texts are replete with striking verses which emphasise the divinity of world and life. Here are a few examples “There is nothing whatsoever that is not the divine Shiva and Sakthi”; “This Divinity dwells in all the principles of Existence”; “The seen is His Body”; “In the Life-force is the Divine”.
But the assertion of the divinity of world and life in thought has not much impact on life if it is not lived in practice in a way of living which makes right use of life as a means to discover the divine in life. This is the great attempt of the Tantras. The Tanthric seers had the clear vision and plan for making the individual and communal life into a conscious growth into the Divinity. The form and nature of the attempt is not very important because it depends on the historical, social and cultural environment of the period. How for the attempt succeeded is still less important because in all such pioneering endeavours failures, deviations or even distortions are inevitable. What is important for us here is to discover the essential psychological and spiritual perceptions which inspired the attempt.
The Two Movement of Life
The spiritual perception behind the great attempt of the Tanthras is that Man and the Universe are the equal self-expressions of divine Energy of the Spirit and the entire life of Man and his activities are a subconscious or conscious, ignorant or illumined journey towards the discovery of the Divinity which is his own highest Self. The tantric thought posted two movements of the divine power which governs this evolution of the cosmos and the human life. First is the movement from the divine centre radiating within outwards which is called pravrithi and the other is the movement towards the divine centre from without inwards called nivrithi. In a cosmic-metaphysical perspective pravrithi is the process of involution of supreme consciousness-force chit-sakthi of the spirit through different stages and cosmic principles into the dense unconsciousness of Matter; nivrithi is the process of evolution bywhich the chit-shakthi involved in matter evolves from matter to life, from life to mind and mind to reunite herself with the supreme spirit Parama Siva. In a psychological perspective,pravrithi is all those urges or activities of the body and mind of man which due to the domination of the rajasic activity or tamasic inertia or both moves outwards from the divine centre within man; nivrithi are all those urges or activities of man, due to the predominance of the sattwic luminosity tends inward towards the divine centre in him.
We must note here that in the divine and cosmic level pravrithi and nivrithi are not two contradictory movements; they are the integral and inseparable notes of the cosmic rhythms. In this higher cosmic and spiritual plane every act of pravrithi is followed by an act nivrithi which links it back to the divine source and prevents it from straying too far away from the divine centre. So it is the balanced and harmonious movement of pravrithi and nivrithi which sustains the cosmic order and rhythm. But in human life conditioned by the limitations of the ego, dualities and ignorance these two movements of the cosmic energy appears to be opposite or contradictory movements, nivrithi leading towards liberation and perfection in the Divine, the other pravrithi leading to bondage and sorrow. But even in human life, this opposition between pravrithi and nivrithi, when we look at them from a deeper perspective, is only a practical, relative and partial truth and not the entire truth.
For the cosmic rhythms of Nivrithi and Pravrithi pervades and sustains whole creation. In the human-terrestial life the movement of nivrithi expresses itself as the upward evolutionary current or nisus which drives all life subconsciously or consciously towards the divine source. This nivrithic impetus is there in every human being and in every activity of human life, even in the physical man, pasu, governed predominantly by the tamasic quality of Nature; it manifests itself or shall we say it becomes conscious in man as the ethical, religious and spiritual aspiration with the gradual development of the sattwic quality in him. For the quality of sattwa through which the nivrithic impulse can manifest is there in every human being, even in the Pasu. In some like the Divya-type it is dominant and consciously active; in others like the Pasu or Vira who are dominated by the qualities of Rajas the sattwic quality is dormant or less consciously active. The purpose of sadhana is to increase the sattwic quality in man by making it more and more consciously active and thereby make him more and more capable of attuning himself consciously to the returning upward current of nivrithi in life. This can be done in any stage of human evolution. It is not necessary to be predominantly sattwic to enter into the path of yoga. Even the physical man dominated by tamas or the kinetic vital man dominated by Rahas can enter into the upward stream if they can be provided with appropriate inner and outer discipline which can give an ethical religious and spiritual direction to their entire life – individual and collective. This is the great attempt of the Tanthras.
We can find the broad outline of this attempt sketched out in Mahanirvana Tanthra. In this profound tantric text human life is viewed in its totality, in its indivisible, integrated and interconnected wholeness; without making any rigid distinction between the “secular” and “spiritual” life, every aspects of life, the individual and the collective, the economic, social, political and religious is put under a comprehensive inner and outer discipline with a view on the moral, psychological and spiritual evolution of the individual and the collectivity. We will discuss briefly the nature and form of this discipline in the next article. But the point to be noted here is that the entire human life is organised with a clear moral and spiritual aim.