A core idea of tantric psychology is the classification of seekers into three categories. This article presents a brief review of this classification, which will be discussed in greater detail in our subsequent articles.
Adhikari Beda: The Principle of Graded Idealism
One of the dominant features of the Tantric psychology is that it very clearly perceived with an unsentimental practicality the inequality of human life created by the large variation in capacity, temperament and evolutionary status of human being. This ideal or intuition, called as Adhikari Beda, is not something special to tantric thought but one of the unique features of ancient Indian thought in general. But in Tantric yoga this idea comes to the front prominently and consciously as an important and integral part of the sadhana.
The central perception behind this principle of Adhikari Beda is that mental, moral and spiritual capacity of individuals are not the same but differ according to their stage of evolution. Even those who are among the same stage of evolution, all are not of the same temperament; natural temperament of individuals also differ according to their psychological disposition. In other words all are not capable of understanding, living or realising the highest ideal. So to prescribe a uniform discipline for all irrespective of their capacities, natural temperament and evolutionary conditions is to disregard the laws of human nature. Each individual has to be gradually lifted to the highest; taking him as he is in his present condition of evolution; giving him the ideal and discipline which he can understand and practice, which is in harmony with his natural temperament and capacities; which will help him to raise to a higher level of consciousness and life. This ideal and discipline should be sufficiently high and difficult to evoke in the individual a strong aspiration to raise beyond his present condition to a higher level of life governed by a higher system of values. But at the same time the ideal and the discipline should not be too remote to his understanding and capacities or out of tune with his natural temperament. When there is such a big gap between the ideal and the actual there is either no positive response from the individual to the ideal or there is only a hypocritic response with a wide gap between profession and practice.
The tantric sadhana, bases itself firmly on this principle of Adhikari beda. Each individual type or category of seekers were given a system of discipline which is appropriate to their nature and stage of evolution and by which they can raise progressively, according to their inborn natural propensities and developing capacities, to the spiritual consciousness. The central principle or purpose of the Tantric sadhana is to quicken and accelerate this natural evolution of individuals by a conscious and controlled intensification and sublimation of the natural impulses and liberate them from their ego-bound natural limits into the freedom and vastness of the universal. This does not mean, as it is popularly misunderstood, that tantric yoga allows free reign to all and every natural impulses. The tantric yoga prescribes a rigorous discipline to every category of seekers. The tantric texts repeatedly warn the seekers that a discipline prescribed for one type of seekers, if it is practiced by someone who doesn’t belong to this type, will lead to disastrous consequences like for example as one of the text puts it, “madness in this birth and hell after death.”
This is the principle of Adhikari Beda which forms one of the pillars of Tantric sadhana. Based on this principle, Tantras classified human seekers into three distinct types or categories: They are literally translated Pasu, the animal man, Vira, the heroic man and Divya, the divine man. A clear understanding of this classification is of utmost importance in understanding the psychology of the tantric sadhana. Here we give only a brief outline of the rationale behind this classification: The nature of the path of each type of seekers will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent articles.
The Pasu: Animal Man
This tantric classification of seekers corresponds to three stages of human evolution which are represented in humanity by three types of human being. A human being begins his evolutionary journey as a physical man whose consciousness and vision doesn’t go beyond the instinctive needs of his body and sensations and his immediate and instinctive relations with the environment. This physical man whose consciousness is dominated by his physical being is called as Pasu. He is the type of personality whose emotional, kinetic and mental being are not yet well-developed and therefore he is not capable of deep and subtle thought or feeling or meditation or any uplifting tapasya of the will. So his further psychological and spiritual evolution has to be affected mainly through his physical being and a culture and discipline of his physical consciousness.
The Vira: Heroic Man
As the human being grows in the course of his natural evolution, he develops his vital being which is a being of desire, emotions, action, creation, power, enjoyment. He becomes the kinetic man of action with his higher needs of power, success, achievement expansion, adventure, exploration, battle, conquest and mastery. This higher stage of evolution of the vital being of man culminates in the type and temperament of the hero, warrior, leader, Vira. So, Vira is not the ordinary rajasic man of action but the highly developed vital man who has reached the highest point in the evolution of his vital being. He has developed fully all the powers and qualities of his vital being and when he turns to yoga he can bring all these powers into his sadhana. The Vira-type of personality has a more awakened mind and much stronger vital force and will-power then the pasu and therefore a greater power of self-control and tapasya. He has also the innate spirit of courage and adventure in him to undertake unorthodox and risky yogic experiments. The tantric yogis believed that this vira-type of personality, under able spiritual guidance, can bring about in himself rapid and accelerated spiritual transformations if he can pass through a radical and risky discipline of his vital being. This is the controversial vira sadhana of the tantras which will be discussed in greater detail elsewhere.
The Divya: The Divine Man
The third and the highest type of human being is the Divya, the divya or the saintly type of human being. Divya is the fully awakened mental man who is at the summit of his natural evolution. He is someone who lives in the higher plateaus of the mind with a well – developed intellectual, emotional, ethical and aesthetic being. He is capable of deep and subtle thought, fine emotions and refined sensitivity. When he turns to spiritual life he can bring all these powers and faculties of the awakened mind to the sadhana. For this highest type of personality, Tantras assign the path of Dakshina marga, the path of right discrimination and knowledge.