The Misunderstood Tradition – M.S.Srinivasan

The  Tantras are of two types: higher and lower.  The lower tantra  is  a form  of Magic of various colours and hues : white, black, grey.  The  higher tantra  is a path of yoga, that too an integral yoga, like that of the  Gita, which  forges a synthesis of all the extant yogic systems of Indian like  the hatha  yoga, raja yoga, and the triune path of works, knowledge and  devotion of  the  Gita.   So  the higher Tantra is  a  path  towards  self-transformation  and  also  a  great  daring  attempt  towards  the   spiritual transformation of human life as a whole, inner and outer.  But  popular  conceptions  of  Tantra  are  very  much  confined  to  the activities of the lower tantra, or at its best to a superficial  understanding of  some aspects of the higher tantra like for example kundalini yoga.   As  a result,  in popular language the word “tantric” in India is  mostly  associated with  someone  who  practices  occultism  and  magic  of  various  kinds,  like excercising  evil  powers or witch-craft, or rituals for  worldly  success  and doing petty “miracles” like materialising things etc.

We  are  making this distinction between higher and lower  tantra  for  a practical  purpose in order to distinguish between the popular conceptions  of Tantra and the yogic or spiritual dimension of Tantra.  But from the point  of view  of  the  yogic  vision of Tantra this distinction  looses  much  of  its validity.   For  in this integral vision of Tantras, the  “lower”  worldly interests and motives are not antagonistic to the “higher” spiritual  motives; the  “lower”  is only a partial or distorted expression of some truth  of  the “higher”.  One of the aims of the Tantra yoga is to remove this distortion and make  the “lower” worldly life a perfect expression of the “higher”  spiritual consciousness.   But  still  the distinction we are  making  has  a  practical validity  because it help us to clear our perceptions from the popular  errors associated with the word “tantric”.

The series of essays we are presenting here is exclusively on the  higher Tantra  that is on the Tantra as Yoga, with an emphasis on  the  psychological dimensions of Tantra Yoga.  In these essays the word “tantric” is used in  the sense of “pertaining to Tantra”.

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