What Tantra is NOT

  • By Dr. Subhasis Chattopadhyay
  • February 18, 2023
  • In five question and answers know what Tantra is not.


In earlier articles I covered What is Tantra FAQ, Elements of Tantra in modern day Hinduism, Tantra Demystified Q&A, How to become a Tantric One way of understanding a concept is to know what it is not.    


Q1. Are Shamanism, Voodoo, Witchcraft the same as Tantra?

Tantra in all its branches, that is, Kashmiri Shaivism, Sri Vidya and Shakta Tantra is finally an assertion of monism (Advaita Vedanta). Tantra has only one goal --- which is the same as found in Advaita Vedanta: to realize that there is no second. I am That. 


Shamanism, Voodoo are methods to heal illnesses and other psychic disorders. Some consider Voodoo to be a religion practised in the Caribbean islands, but it is generally associated with the occult. Similarly, Shamanism is associated with Native American Indian healing practises and with the Bon religion.


Tantra, on the other hand, is not primarily meant for healing anyone or changing anything. Its one goal is to change the practitioner so that the sadhaka realises that she or he is Brahman or Shaktih. It is to be noted that Brahman is Shaktih, or Power. The latter is not an attribute of Brahman. Tantra in its original, purest form has nothing to do with the world or, samsara. It is therefore called Anuttara or the highest form of Yoga. Tantra, therefore, is Yoga. There is no difference between the two.


Witchcraft, this author has no idea about. There are feminist movements throughout the world who think of witchcraft as non-black magic and see it as an empowering tool for women. Our Dharma has nothing to do with it. And Tantra certainly has nothing to do with either good or bad magic. Tantra is the most ancient way to attain Mukti. Tantra is the negation of this passing world. It is otherwise known as the philosophy of re-cognition. Sri Utpaladeva and then Sri Abhinavagupta are two of the main philosophers of this Anuttara philosophy of re-cognition.


Q2. Where is Tantra practised? 

In one’s heart. Tantra, contrary to popular belief is not practised only in crematoria or deserted places. The adept practises this discipline in her heart. By performing the yajna/sacrifice of mental restraint (withdrawal of the senses from the world) in her heart, one attains moksha in this life itself. One does not have to go anywhere to practise Tantra. It is all about restraining the sense organs so that one perfectly practises the niyamas of the Yoga Sutras to begin with. Tantric rituals are first and foremost rituals aimed at shunning samsara. 


They are not external rituals. All Tantric rituals are internal. For example, one might feel anger at someone; Tantra teaches us to consciously give up that anger and force the mind to erase the differences between the adept and the person against whom one feels anger. Because that other person is also I. There is no second. This is the philosophy of re-cognition. I re-cognise myself as divine and re-cognise others as equally divine. Tantra is the path of being in the world without the world touching/staining the adept.


Q3. Who can be a Tantric?

One who hates none. One who feels happy and one who practises the disciplines found in the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali. The ideal candidate for Tantra is not given to anger, to revengeful thoughts and one who has no interest in the occult. The ideal candidate for practising Tantra should be free from arrogance and will have no external marks of being a follower of the Holy Mother of this universe and other universes.


Nobody can be a Tantric who defrauds others or uses Tantra to gain name and fame. Further, nobody has the right to be a Tantric unless the right Guru initiates the sadhaka. It is a grace freely given --- Guru Kripa. No amount of reading or meditating or self-effort can make one a Tantric. Even if one has the gift of healing, of performing miracles or has supernatural experiences, nobody becomes a Tantric unless the right Guru initiates the practitioner. Without Guru Kripa, everything is arrogance and pride.


Q4. How does one find the right Guru?

There is no right or wrong Guru. The Holy Mother, if She wants you to worship Her as a Tantric, will put you and your Master in touch. You have to do nothing. Everything will fall into place at the right time. You have to totally trust in Divine Providence. Your duty is to seek the Holy Mother. It is up to Her to send you the Guru. There is no other way.


Q5. Who should not even think of following the Tantric Path/Marga?

Those who feel anger towards others should not dream of following the Tantric path. Anger, greed, and unchaste thoughts disqualify a person from following this Marga. Someone who is attracted to the occult should stay away from this path.


In short, someone who does not want to practise meditation and tell the beads (japa) or, someone who is interested in name and fame should keep a distance from this path. Someone who is even remotely interested in harming others should not even read anything on Tantra. If your only aim is divinising yourself, that is, living as a detached person in this world, then this is your path irrespective of gender, caste, nationality, and language.


If you are swayed by worldly concerns, then best to stick to traditional paths of our Dharma. If you find Deities speaking to you or you find demonic beings in your life; you need to consult a mental healthcare professional. Tantra has nothing to do with psychosis or even the supernatural as is wrongly portrayed everywhere.


Western scholars keep writing that Tantra is esoteric and antinomian (perverted). Nothing can be further from the truth. Tantra is Sanatana Dharma. Not part of our Dharma. Tantra is the main mode of our worship and even our temples are built following Tantric injunctions. There is a huge business online and offline peddling Tantra and sex in the name of Tantra. So, there is big money involved in slandering Tantra. Much evil is done in the name of Tantra. Much evil is also done by sincere scholars in their eagerness to write on Tantra which they have never practised. They see the erotic everywhere. Whereas Tantra prohibits the erotic. The time has come for us to clean up Tantra. And understand that it has nothing to do with evil of any sort.  


Author Subhasis Chattopadhyay has a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Calcutta. His reviews from 2010 to 2021 in Prabuddha Bharata have been showcased by Ivy League Presses. He has qualifications in Christian Theology and Hindu Studies and currently teaches English Literature in the PG and UG Department of a College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He also has qualifications in Behavioural Sciences

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