The Occult World of a Tantrik Guru
4. The New Tantrik Age
Shri Gurudev Mahendranath
The entire Tantra Shastra has been built up on a simple natural way of life with certain occult sciences to help mankind in their progress through worldly life and on-wards to liberation. Kaula does not distinguish between the world, life, spiritual life and liberation. A popular idiomatic expression for Tantrika in Sanskrit is Bhuktimuktikaranika – the Path or Method of Enjoyment and Liberation. It is this which makes Shakta or Kaula unique. Perhaps Enjoyment could be interpreted more as experience since it means not only pleasure and joy but misery and suffering also. Thus, enjoyment to a Shakta, and as it is thought also to concern God, means experience of world, spirituality and liberation on all levels. This brings the Western occultist back to the Emerald Table of Hermes which teaches “as above, so below”; Microcosm and Macrocosm, Atman is Paramatman, the world and God are one. It is impossible to progress on spiritual levels until this is known and understood. Those who see otherwise see only duality and are enveloped in ignorance.
The records of Agamas and Tantras, etc., make it quite clear that the Kaula movement in mankind has not only been very, very ancient but constantly changing and represents a teaching which is in flux for a way of life which is in flux also.
Like many other ancient peoples the Shakta regards the Golden Age of mankind as having occurred and passed long ago. Since mankind is not a static feature there will be other Golden Ages in the distant future. Today we are in a period known as the Kali Yuga or Age of Darkness. A glance at the headlines of any daily newspaper will convince any one that this is not the best or most brilliant period for mankind. All existence must proceed in spirals and never in circles. History can never occur again a second time, but similar events and circumstances can appear again but always on a different level. Indians estimate that the Kali Yuga began in February 3201 B.C. For this detail we are indebted to India’s astrologer – scientists. In other matters relating to the Kali Yuga, we are less certain. Texts differ considerably as to the length or duration of the Age and therefore would consider different periods of rise, peak and fall. The general tendency of Hindu writers has been to think always in astronomical figures which are often so vast that they cease to have any real meaning. The Tantriks did keep down to more practical levels without attempting to define fixed dates or specific periods. We have to merge into cosmic time where time has no real meaning.
To put this into simple and practical expressions, as personal conclusions from the study of Kaula texts, it would imply that the Kali Yuga would grow or develop for a period (approximately 5000 years) and reach its peak. This peak could last two or even three hundred years and be followed by a decline for another period of about 5000 years. Roughly, this would give the entire Kali Yuga a period of life of about ten thousand years. The acceptance of this detail is not vital to an understanding of Shakta. However, Tantras written or appearing over the last few centuries have all indicated a belief that mankind was nearing the peak period of the Kali Yuga. No dates were hinted or quoted. Instead the Tantras give numerous signs which were put into the mouth of Lord Shiva in reply to questions by the Goddess. When the Devi asked her Spouse about the signs which indicate the opening of the peak period, the Lord Shiva gave some very unusual answers. Today most of these signs are full of meaning, but they would have meant very little and perhaps thought impossible when they were first written. One of the most significant is where Shiva says, that when the Ganges is cut and its water diverted, then we will know the Kali Age is reaching its peak. Other references were to a period when kings, rulers and poor men wore the same kind of clothes and all would use footwear. Simple, yet probably unbelievable one or two hundred years ago. In these days of Women’s Liberation and the drive for sexual equalities we recall the voice of Shiva telling us that when women become troublesome and begin to demand equal rights with men, then would we know the Kali Yuga was reaching its peak.
It is also important to note that these indications which imply we are on the threshold of the peak period of Kali Yuga, also coincide with the approaching Aquarian Age of Western astrology and occultism. The term Kali Yuga or Dark Age is misleading if we think of it only as a terrible or horrible period for mankind. Although less favorable than previous ages it is not to be considered a hopeless period. We are in error always if we think of these ages in terms of the physical body which can at its very best last only a fleeting moment. It is the soul which is tempered in the fires of living and diversity of experience is vital for its ultimate attainment. From a purely worldly standpoint the next one or two hundred years can be a period of vast cosmic expansion. The space ventures, moon walks and orbiting satellites and laboratories were impossible only twenty-five years ago and speak much for a more expansive age. The political dragons and powerful war-mongers too seem to be getting their teeth drawn.
The Tantrik texts which make Shiva speak about these things, do so for a very special purpose and which the Lord explains, that when the Kali Yuga has reached its peak, then the secret teachings of Kaula, normally withheld from all who are not initiated, may be freely published.
We have opened this section with a reference to the basis of Tantra Shastra as a way of life but we should also mention that the Tantriks made use of wonderful knowledge to help them to achieve their purpose. Some of this knowledge has been lost but much we have retained. We still have the triple sciences of astrology, numerology and Palmistry which were born in the ancient days of primordial Tantrika. Herbs and minerals and their medical properties was another heritage from Tantrika. The word Kaula has little use today, perhaps because the incorrect and ungrammatical use of the word Tantra has taken its place. Yet Kaula has more meaning, for it expresses words like home, family, community as well as the way of life. It is synonymous with simplicity and naturalness and the freedom of natural people to be just themselves. Thus it would be the complete antithesis of brainwashing, conditioning and pressure to conform. Kaula is a word of non-involvement, of do your own thing, mind your own business, but don’t tread on other people’s toes. Kaula expresses all the simplicity and harmony of a natural commune of natural happy people. It is not a religion, but if we want to think of it as such, where would we find a better?
A man who worships Shakti is called a Shakta, but a woman is called a Shakti. In Kaula every woman is thought of as a manifestation of the Goddess. No man may raise his hand, strike or threaten a woman. When she is naked, men must kneel and worship her as the Goddess. She has equal rights with men on all levels. There are spheres of activity which are masculine and those which are feminine. Apart from these considerations the sexes are equal. Women may also become gurus in all Tantrik sects and in Shakta a woman guru is considered as most auspicious. Kaula does not recognize differences based on caste, race or color. Though there are many divisions and sub-divisions in human society, in spiritual life all are equal in rights and differ only on the basis of their ability. Disciples suitable for some persons may not be suitable for others.
Although Kaula or Shakta has basic and fundamental ideas, it has no dogmas. It has no fixed ideas so there is nothing which must be accepted. Kaula knows that human beings differ so much in needs and understanding that a wide variety of practices are necessary to fulfill all needs. Unlike many dogmatic world religions, there cannot be a fixed body of belief which must be acceptable and followed by everyone. True spirituality cannot flourish in such an atmosphere.
In the prophecy of the Lord Shiva, indicating that the Ganges will be cut and its waters diverted we have an excellent example of occult language. The prophecy, and many others, will be found in different Tantras and Kaula texts. None of them can be less than three hundred years old. If we try to put ourselves in the same position as an Indian of three hundred years ago we would have to realize that some of these prophecies could appear meaningless and others impossible. Certainly nobody living a hundred years ago in India could conceive of the Ganges being cut or any purpose in its waters being diverted. The strength of religious protests would have overcome any such idea, while irrigation was almost unknown in most parts of India. Thus these things can in themselves help us to understand and think in terms of occult values. We have to learn the art of spontaneous natural thinking even if and when it is unrelated to scientific theories, facts and figures etc. The weakness of the scientific approach to astrology, numerology, etc, has always been the demand for proof, formulas and “black and white.” In real life and the art of living these things do not always occur and are not always valid when they do. Thus the high values of Kaula Tantrika run side by side with those of other far out schools of thought.
To accept and live again this way of life is not without some difficulties and yet it is not impossible. For Western people who have more positively learned the hollow hypocrisy of society, its lack of true values, denial of any security, the transformation to a Shakta way of life could be easy. For Indians, closer in theory and nearer by tradition, but deficient in judgment and fearful of opposing their more modern morals and customs, the task would be more difficult if not impossible. They could easily assemble in millions to proclaim the Goddess as the Mother of the world, but they would shrink back in fear and horror at the thought of giving equality and freedom to their wives and daughters. The Indian male operates as he has done for centuries in a pattern of thought based on mistrust, possessiveness, attachment and male mastery. Oddly enough, all of these things are contrary to the teachings of his Hindu religion.
We are much lacking in intelligence if we imagine that customs must remain permanent. The only true measure of their utility is their own reality. When they no longer have meaning we must abandon them. If we look back on Tantra Shastra and the Kaula texts we can detect a strong desire for fertility and fecundity. This is seldom absent in nearly all religions, even Pagan cults. There was a time when numbers and populations were important factors in the development and defense of every community. Bodies are needed on all levels to defend and feed the family. It was most natural that sexual relations which did not lead to pregnancy were frowned upon and the fertility of men and women became the highest social standard. At first glance this would appear to be a sound and reasonable basis for morality. Actually it is not so and Kaula has long recognized that many and most elements of sexual indulgence are not related to fertility at all. Most Pagan societies practiced both polyandry and polygamy. The idea of marriage as an insoluble civil contract was unknown in the free ancient world.
There was only one dynamic feature which controlled sexual relations and that was the element of pregnancy. In many societies and among many people this may never have been so important. Nevertheless it became the terrible ghost and fearful specter of Western society dominated by Christian dogmas. It was the terrible fear of pregnancy and ultimate social disgrace and stigma which took much of the joy of living away from the people and only the pathetic ghost of the pale, anemic, celibate Jesus was theirs to embrace in moments of passion.
In recent years a transformation has taken place in society which has proved to be, as it had to be, a devastating blow to a Hebrew-Christian moral suppression. The discovery of several drugs and chemical compounds now sold as pills, tablets and insert-able substances has removed the chances of pregnancy almost to a minimum. With the removal of the fear, new standards and relationships have appeared. Thus efficient contraceptive methods have suddenly rendered our traditional approach to sex as being completely obsolete. The great dangers of pregnancy and on a national and international scale of over-population now do not have to be faced without a solution. The danger now is not normal sexual freedom but unnatural and abnormal promiscuity. Now there is the need for greater love and deeper understanding between partners. In this way the ancient Kaula of ancient people can become a new standard for modern people. Thus, even more so if partners observe the ancient Tantrik practice of worshiping the opposite partner as a God or Goddess. Most certainly, on all levels there never was a more desperate need than now for mankind, not only to realize their true divinity, but also reveal it in their daily lives.
We are not living in a period which is probably unique in centuries of modern history. Whether it is to be good or bad depends on ourselves, for it is not the world which makes unhappiness for man, but his attitude towards it. The problem becomes solved not by physical changes so much as by the mental outlook which can make physical changes possible. As the natural resources of the earth are wasted away and life and health becomes endangered by greater and thicker pollution, it is not a new way of life which the circumstances will demand but a return to a more ancient and simpler pattern. It is not the poor of the cities or the poverty stricken people of the villages who will then suffer most. Luxury living and incredible wastage has been among only the minority of the world’s population. The majority have always had to go without or make do with very little. It is only the resignation of a guiding philosophy in life which has made it possible to endure. It was not a mere coincidence that the spiritual giants of East and West were those who lived in poverty and produced nothing worldly.
Tantrika is a way of life for all ordinary people. If it sees a revival and spreads in the West we can only hope it does not attract wealthy people who will soon corrupt it. Shaktas need no temples to worship a deity which is everywhere, nor do they need to travel to foreign lands in search of that deity. Worship is based on the simple things of life. Most Tantrik sadhus worship completely naked so costly vestments are not required. The things which are offered to the deity are the normal simple things and foods of life and those easy to obtain. At the conclusion of worship they can be eaten or used by the worshiper or his family. Since Shakta Kaula was never plagued with priest-craft, religious worship was based on voluntary offering and no charges were made. Rites can be performed by anyone and a special priesthood is superfluous. Usually in group activity the elder Shakta has the obligation to officiate but if he is unable to do so he can delegate the duty to another. Simple, is it not, yet simplicity and natural poverty is the real dynamic factor to preserve a way of live. Once money economy licks open wounds with its sharp foul tongue then decay is not far away. The great defect of commercial guru-hood, the mania to collect disciples, to ride the airplanes or bath chairs, all belong to the false values of the money economy.
Soon after the Second World War we saw renewed interest in the Occult Sciences. Terrible wars which put many in premature graves also tend to make the living more spiritual. The interesting and very significant feature of the years which followed the war was widespread rejection of Christianity, its organizations and its churches. The renewed interest in the occult world left the churches empty. Some of the aspects of new searching brought up many odd and strange ideas. Generally it was in essence a determination to try out something completely new rather than revive outworn pulpits and dogmas. Soon we were to see widespread and almost universal interest in occult subjects, spiritualism, divination, astrology, numerology, the I-Ching, Palmistry, Tarot, etc., etc. In the higher spiritual fields Zen took the lead among Buddhist cults and Taoism, Confucianism and even the Koran came in for inspection. The interest was part of a search for new patterns and new ideas and did not in itself give qualification or sanction to any of them. Due to the repealing of antiquated Witchcraft Acts in Britain we saw the appearance of new witch cults, covens and horned deities. Most of the witch covens claimed to worship a goddess whose name they revealed only to initiates. There was something sham and hollow about people who wanted to keep secret a deity which they claimed was the Supreme Reality. Keeping pace with a determination not to share the Supreme with other people was the love of secret hole-in-the corner meetings, complete with the theatrical passwords and locked doors. Many, if not most of such groups, have died a natural death for they completely lacked any capacity to become a way of live and remained a once-a-week amusement. Hardly the substance to construct for the masses a way of live by which they could live. Christianity has failed and faces decay. It is only its vast financial resources which keeps it from completely tottering. This is not a point of argument or opposition theory. It is just plain historical fact. Now that this has occurred, something real and vital must take its place. Those who are sincerely interested in the welfare of the people should help to find the new alternative way of life. Certainly, witch cults and secret societies will never occupy such a place.
As the Tantras proclaim a new era which is called the peak period of the Kali Yuga, Western tradition claims that we are entering the Aquarian Age. There is no contradiction in this. Here again we must stress the need to get away from the ideas of clocks and calendars. It is mankind which will make a new age and mankind alone who can destroy it. It is better to have a quite determination to herald in a better period for ourselves than speculate on a new super scientific age of more gadgets, machines, robots and space adventures. The arts of super-science and super-productivity are already being experienced and their projection and extension into the future is no longer desirable. Warfare has so far been the greatest stimulant to scientific progress. Even medicine must be included in this statement. Before we dream of a greater scientific age we would do well to decide who is going to own and control the new discoveries and weapons of the new age.
Could Kaula become a way of life for the world’s millions? It served well in the days of smaller populations and new practical standards will have to be adopted if mankind is not going to eat itself into the grave. It is very odd and amusing to note that the Christian teachings and promises of a beautiful heavenly paradise have also developed the greatest fear of death. Social improvements and science itself has been greatly geared to making people live longer and keep them out of heaven as long as possible. This is surely something of a contradiction when the heavenly realm is presented as being so attractive and desirable. Fear of death is not only a weakness but an indicator of backwardness. Kaula tells us that everybody has a certain life span and it cannot be lengthened or shortened without some unpleasant results to the spiritual progress of the soul. If Nature is left to decide all matters there will never be over-population anywhere in the world. Kaula does not ignore the physical needs of mankind, but it constantly reminds us that whatever we do or do not do, the body will still have only a limited life-span. And the gentle reminder, too, that the soul, the real, does not die, because it is eternal. However much people may love their bodies, someday, without fail they will have to surrender them. Clinging or attachment to life is the fifth evil of the five-fold pentagon of the pain-bearing obstructions. The complete pentacle is as follows:
The five pain-bearing obstructions,
The root cause of sorrow and strife –
Ego, ignorance, attachment,
Aversion and clinging to life.
In Kauladharma they are drawn as a yantra composed of a five-pointed star, sometimes contained within a circle and the circle contained in a square. The five-pointed star of the pentacle can also be used alone, placed on the shrine for worship or used for meditation. The five obstacles are very ancient in Indian teaching and they are found in numerous texts, including the Bhagavata Purana and even the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. For utter simplicity there are few spiritual instructions to equal them. Tantrika is constantly reminding disciples that liberation and the supreme attainment is spontaneous, it comes of itself. The reason why it is so rare in most people is because its manifestation is blocked by these five obstacles. They cause much of the sorrow and strife in worldly life and liberation comes automatically when they are removed. Most Tantrik sadhana while it appears to aim at praise, worship and oneness with the Devi, is also a medium which helps disciples to overcome these five gyves.
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