Tantra: Path of Ecstasyby Georg Feuerstein
Tantra—often associated with Kundalini Yoga—is a fundamental dimension of Hinduism, emphasizing the cultivation of "divine power" (shakti) as a path to infinite bliss. Tantra has been widely misunderstood in the West, however, where its practices are often confused with eroticism and licentious morality. Tantra: The Path of Ecstasy dispels many common misconceptions, providing an accessible introduction to the history, philosophy, and practice of this extraordinary spiritual tradition.
The Tantric teachings are geared toward the attainment of enlightenment as well as spiritual power and are present not only in Hinduism but also Jainism and Vajrayana Buddhism. In this book, Georg Feuerstein offers readers a clear understanding of authentic Tantra, as well as appropriate guidance for spiritual practice and the attainment of higher consciousness.
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the Great Spiritual Synthesis of India
thousands of evils arising from one's
can be removed by means of practice.
a Sanskrit word that, like the term
many distinct but basically related meanings. At the most mundane level, it
denotes "web" or "woof." It derives from the verbal root
"to expand." This root also yields the word
or cord). Whereas a thread is something that is extensive, a web suggests
also stand for "system," "ritual," "doctrine,"
and "compendium." According to esoteric explanations,
that which expands
can mean either "knowledge" or "wisdom." The late
Agehananda Bharati, an Austrian-born professor of anthropology at Syracuse
University and a monk of the Dashanami order, argued that only knowledge can be
expanded, not the immutable wisdom.
this is not entirely correct. Wisdom, though coessential with Reality and
therefore perennial, can be expanded in the sense of informing the spiritual
practitioner more and more. This process is like placing a sponge in a shallow
pool of water. It gradually soaks up the water and becomes completely suffused
with moisture. Thus while wisdom is always the same, it can also,
paradoxically, grow inside a person. Or, to put it differently, a person can
grow to reflect more and more of the eternal wisdom.
also the "expansive," all-encompassing Reality revealed by wisdom. As
such it stands for "continuum," the seamless whole that comprises
both transcendence and immanence, Reality and reality, Being and becoming,
Consciousness and mental consciousness, Infinity and finitude, Spirit and
matter, Transcendence and immanence, or, in Sanskrit terminology,
for the familiar world of flux that we experience through our senses.
a particular style or genre of spiritual teachings beginning to achieve
prominence in India about fifteen hundred years ago—teachings that affirm the
continuity between Spirit and matter. The word also signifies a scripture in
which such teachings are revealed. By extension, the term is often applied to
texthooks or manuals in general. Tradition speaks of 64
as with the 108
is an ideal figure that does not reflect historical reality. We know of many
few of them have survived the ravages of time.
practitioner of Tantra is called a
male) or a
female). Other expressions are
female). An adept of the Tantric path is typically known as a
"to be accomplished" or "to attain") or
accomplished one," that is, a great adept). The female adept is called
"limb" or "part"). The Tantric path itself is frequently
referred to as
the same verbal root as
the spiritual achievement of this path is called
the dual meaning of "perfection" and "powerful
refer either to the spiritual attainment of liberation, or enlightenment, or to
the extraordinary powers or paranormal abilities ascribed to Tantric masters as
a result of enlightenment or by virtue of mastery of the advanced stages of
concentration. A Tantric preceptor, whether he or she is enlightened or not, is
called either an
which is related to
of life") or a
A Teaching for the Dark Age
understands itself as a gospel for the "new age" of darkness, the
to the Hindu worldview, history unfolds in a cyclical pattern that proceeds
from a golden age to world ages of progressive spiritual decline, and then back
to an era of light and plenty. These ages are called
presumably because they fasten beings to the wheel of time
flux of conditioned existence. There are four such
repeat themselves over and over again, all the while maturing all beings, but
especially human beings. The scriptures speak of this developmental process as
"cooking." The four world ages, in order, are:
supreme, and which is also known as
everything in it is well made
which truth and virtue are somewhat diminished
which truth and virtue are further diminished
is marked by ignorance, delusion, and greed
correspond to the four ages known in classical Greece and ancient Persia.
Significantly, the Sanskrit names of the four world ages derive from dice
playing, a favorite pastime of Indic humanity ever since Vedic times. The
is at least five thousand years old, has a hymn (10.34) that has been dubbed
"Gambler's Lament" because its composer talks poetically of his
addiction to gambling. Of the dice he says that "handless, they master him
who has hands," causing loss, shame, and grief. The Bharata war,
chronicled in the
was the ill-gotten fruit of gambling, for Yudhishthira lost his entire kingdom
to his wicked cousin Duryodhana with the throw of a die.
the lucky or "well-made" throw,
a throw of two points,
a throw of three points, and
the verbal root
impel") the total loss, indicated by a single point on the die. The word
not, as is often thought, the same as the name of the well-known goddess Kali.
since Kali symbolizes both time and destruction, it does not seem farfetched to
connect her specifically with the
of course she is deemed to govern all spans and modes of time.
the first, golden age as an era of material and spiritual plenty. According to
people were wise and virtuous and pleased the deities and forefathers by their
practice of Yoga and sacrificial rituals. By means of their study of the
austerities, mastery of the senses, and charitable deeds, they acquired great
fortitude and power. Even though mortal, they were like the deities
rulers were high minded and ever concerned with protecting the people entrusted
to them, while among the ordinary people there were no thieves, liars, fools,
or gluttons. Nobody was selfish, envious, or lustful. The favorable psychology
of the people was reflected outwardly in land producing all kinds of grain in
plenty, cows yielding abundant milk, trees laden with fruits, and ample
seasonable rains fertilizing all vegetation. There was neither famine nor
sickness, nor untimely death. People were good-hearted, happy, beautiful, and
prosperous. Society was well ordered and peaceful.
the next world age, the
lost their inner peace and became incapable of applying the Vedic rituals
properly, yet clung to them anxiously. Out of pity, the god Shiva brought
the world, by which the ancient teachings could be better understood and
humanity was set on a worsening course, which became obvious in the third world
age. People abandoned the methods prescribed in the
thereby only magnified their perplexity and suffering. Their physical and
emotional illnesses increased, and as the
they lost half of the divinely appointed law
Shiva intervened by making the teachings of the
other religious scriptures available.
the rise of the fourth world age, the
of the divinely appointed law was lost. Many Hindus believe that the
ushered in at the time of the death of the god-man Krishna, who is said to have
left this earth in 3102 BCE at the end of the famous Bharata war. There is no
archaeological evidence for this date, and it is probable that Krishna lived
much later, but this is relatively unimportant for the present consideration.
matters, however, is that most traditional authorities consider the
be still very much in progress.
fact, according to Hindu computations, we are only in the opening phase of this
dark world age, which is believed to have a total span of 360,000 years.
from a Hindu perspective, the current talk in certain Western circles of a
promising new age—the Age of Aquarius—is misguided. At best, this is a
mini-cycle of self-deception leading to false optimism and complacency,
followed by worsening conditions. This is in fact what some Western critics of
the New Age movement have suggested as well. Other critics have argued,
conversely, that the Hindu model of cyclical time is unrealistic and outdated.
the truth of this matter may be, the
that their teachings are designed for spiritual seekers trapped in the dark
age, which is in effect today. This is how the
in the prophetic words of the Goddess, describes the current world age:
progress, in which all law is destroyed and which abounds with evil ways and
evil phenomena, and gives rise to evil activities,
inefficient, to say nothing of remembering the
various stories and showing the many ways [to liberation]
be destroyed, O Lord. Then people will turn away from virtuous action
become habitually unrestrained, mad with pride, fond of evil deeds, lustful,
confused, cruel, rude, scurrilous, deceitful,
dull-witted, troubled by sickness and grief, ugly, weak, vile, attached to vile
of vile company, and stealers of other's money. They become rogues who are
intent on blaming, slandering, and injuring others
who feel no reluctance, sin, or fear in seducing the wife of another. They
become destitute, filthy, wretched beggars who are sick from their vagrancy.
its description of the dreariness of the
saying that even the brahmins become degenerate and perform their religious
practices mainly to dupe the people. Thus the custodians of the law
contribute to the destruction of the sacred tradition and the moral order. The
reiterates that Shiva revealed the Tantric teachings to stem the tide of
history and correct this tragic situation. The masters of Tantra are profoundly
Meet the Author
Georg Feuerstein, PhD, (1947–2012) is internationally respected for his work on Yoga and is the author of over fifty books. He designed and taught several distance-learning courses on Yoga philosophy for Traditional Yoga Studies. For more information, go to www.traditionalyogastudies.com.
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