Shri Gurudev Mahendranath
ALL Occult Sciences are interlinked, even if only by their ultimate objective whereby the microcosm unites in oneness with the macrocosm. In this sense and in spite of mere material appearance, the attainment of Ultimate Reality is the aim of all Occult wisdom.
In some segments of Occult Sciences such as astrology, palmistry, numerology and many methods of divination, the general theme appears to have only mundane values but no spiritual value. This would be wrong. Advanced knowledge which helps us over the hurdles of life also helps to fulfill the worldly life which is also the ground for all spiritual effort. One cannot succeed in a life of misery, unhappiness and frustrations as easily as one can when these obstacles are removed or overcome. To its essence, this was the basic teaching of Gautama the Buddha in the codified Four Noble Truths. No yoga is possible when we are out of harmony with natural law and the ethereal patterns of the cosmos. To know these patterns as well as our own cosmic potential we turn to astrology, palmistry, numerology, divination and many other Occult paths of wisdom and equipoise.
It is a blunder when we confuse spirituality and the yogas of attaining it with religion. It is equally a blunder to reject the Occult as worthless superstition. Today there is a strong and admirable tendency for the world to show a renewed and proper appreciation of Occultism.
Occult is a world which both means and implies the secret, mysterious, and something hidden from view. Occultism means the study of the supernatural or that natural law and manifestation which is on a higher, less obvious or even less visible level. It can include all knowledge relating to other worlds or planes of existence other than the material plane of the earth (Sanskrit bhu). The root meaning of the Occult is related to occultation, meaning an eclipse, to occlude or shut out. It can also imply a happening. The minds of people also tend to color the Occult as black or white; that is, good or bad. This distinction not known in Occultism itself, exists only in the minds of people who relate it to opposites which do not actually exist.
Occult Sciences appear to be as diverse as man himself. This remains so even though Occultism does not accept the Darwin theory of evolution and the pseudo-scientific estimate of man suddenly appearing about a million years ago. In general, yet without being emphatic ourselves; Occultism tends to accept a number of ideas relating to mankind having come from another planet or location in space. Apart from this there is also the general acceptance of mankind existing on continents now gone. It is also possible that many of the lands where people live today, had no existence then. Names have even been given to those previous civilizations such as Mu, Atlantis and Lumeria. Very recent is the scientific wake up that mankind could have been more advanced in previous cultures and civilizations even though reading and writing were unknown. Also, to stretch the word to its extreme limits, and to use it in its broadest sense, “mankind was more occult.”
Some of the loveliest things about the past were not the stones, bricks and pots but the living beings and the rhythm of life which they expressed. This we can only wonder about and conjure in our cosmic imagination, for beauty and intelligence leave no permanent records. We have been conditioned to think, not of lovely people and supermen and superwomen, but brute base animal-like creatures to fit in with evolution theories. We now know that the Neanderthal Man, the earliest European known and whose skeletons have been found, were not brute beasts at all. The average were taller than the average European today and had a larger brain. He was probably more intelligent also. No links or fossils of any stages between man and animals have ever been discovered and none can ever be expected. To classify man as an animal is an insult to the human race and to the Creator. The gulf between the most stupid man and the cleverest of animals is so vast that nothing can bridge it.
It must now be very obvious that a vast quantity of occult knowledge has been lost. Two thousand years of Christianity made most Occult Sciences illegal or dangerous to study. It was only during the Second World War (1939-1945) that the law prohibiting and inflicting dire punishment on divinations by astrology, palmistry etc., was repealed. It had to have a man of Winston Churchill’s caliber for Britain to see the stupidity of persecuting a woman for telling fortunes in the capitol which was being reduced to ruins by enemy bombers. While the nation was fighting with its back to the wall, police and legal machinery were diverted to track down and punish a lady for practicing palmistry.
It is wrong to imagine that Occult Science only means “fortune telling” in the usual mundane meaning of the phrase. Unfortunately, many do give Occultism this solitary and sordid interpretation. Yet even fortune telling in its most popular form is nothing more than the endeavor of ordinary people to utilize Occult Science to help them to pass difficult barriers and climb more easily over prickly fences. Not the least is the warning or the message of hope to encourage one. On Spiritual levels these are not good things, but on worldly levels and for the vast majority of people, they have relative values and can be helpful.
It is thought that the science of palmistry originated in India but astrology and numerology have been so universal and widespread from early times that one must hesitate before associating it with any one nation. Both India and Chaldea have equal early claims but many anthropologists suspect that considerable astrological knowledge was known to mankind even before he began to build cities. It is highly probable that vanished civilizations utilized astrology and developed it to a considerable degree. Astrology is unique among the Occult Sciences because it was related to many aspects of life. It was valuable in agriculture, human relationships, partnerships and marriages and not least the role it played in religion. It was more vital to ancient peoples than a written language. It gave mankind its first concept of time, the divisions of the day, week, month and year. Last, and by no means least it gave to mankind an inspiration of man’s place in the divine cosmic plan. A tiny segment of this ancient Science became known and developed as astrology and embraced a vast collection of facts and figures as well as considerable speculation. Little if any, of this affects the lives of ordinary human beings. It is more important to know that one’s natal sun, when in conjunction with the progressed sun gives a powerful period for personal undertakings and enterprises than to know that the sun is 93 million miles away. Now you will have to convert this into kilometers as most of the astronomy books have not caught up yet with the metric trend.
It would not be inconsistent with present day needs for a series of articles related to the Occult Sciences and the discussion of points and angles not always presented in general occult literature. A rehash of what has already been said is of no value to the sincere student. Personal experiences can often be of infinite value in laying down a practical basis for others to develop. The Occult world still needs experimenters.
Frank and open discussion is most essential on occult subjects like the higher yogas and the school of Tantrika. Both have been so shamefully subject to distortion to suit the interests of writers that most writing on these subjects remains but a rehash of what has already been written by others. Too often this includes mistakes being repeated.
The English language is spoken as a mother tongue by a wide variety of nations in different areas of the world. What binds the English speaking peoples together is their remarkable capacity to distort, mutilate, corrupt and change the words and names of other languages. This terrible foul process is known as “Anglicizing.” It is the remarkable twist of speech which turned Varanasi into Benaras, and Kali Ghat into Calcutta. God alone knows where they dug up the word Bombay. The beautiful rhythmical Krunthep Nakorn Ratinakosindras became Anglicized into Bangkok and Thailand became Siam. Remarkable was the transition of Sinhalese into Ceylonese and made possible the change from Lanka into Ceylon.
One of the oldest Occult Sciences and also a religion or way of live is known as Tantrika. This has been Anglicized into Tantra. The origin of this error is not possible to trace but the word Tantra means a treatise and can also mean an injunction or a regulation. Certain, but not all books relating to Tantrika are known as Tantras. Texts dealing with numerous subjects are called Tantras, and in astrology we have several astrological Tantras. A famous book of moral ethics related as animal stories is known as the Panchatantra. It is therefore improper, inconsistent or meaningless to say, “I believe in Tantra” or “I am studying Tantra”. Also it is incorrect to speak of Tantra Yoga or Tantra Art. We can say Tantrika or Tantrika Yoga. None of the Tantras contain any artwork or illustration related to the study of Tantrika. Most pictures printed or reproduced belong to Hinduism and not specifically to the literature called Tantras.
In the pre Aryan way of life of ancient India it is doubtful if the word Tantrika was much used. When the teachings of the original early Agamas were re-told they appeared as Tantras, but this was not always so. Thus the teachings related to the Tantras was shown as Tantrika (colloquial “Tantrik”). The most common expression describing the pre-Aryan way of life was Kaula which meant and expressed the teaching and way of life of the Kulas (Family folk). This gives us a clue, not only to its antiquity but to its simple and natural origin. Kaula became the religion and cult of the Kulas, the community, the family, the home. Kaula, in a general sense can embrace the worship of either the God or the Goddess or both. This gives us three sub-divisions. One of the greatest sects of Tantrika was the Uttara Kaulas (Northern Tantriks) which was mainly a Shiva-Shakti cult, but the stress in worship was mostly on the Mother Goddess. Therefore, as worshipers of Shakti, they were known as Shaktas. There are still many sects of Shaktas in India today, but a Shakta means a devotee of the Mother Goddess or Shakti and does not always mean one who is a Tantrik also.
For the purpose of these articles the words Tantrik or Tantrika, Kaula or Shakta will be used as synonyms. This is because I can only write of that particular Tantrik Cult in which I have personal knowledge and experience. In order that this can be done with the greatest effect and to demonstrate the basis of my knowledge, experience and initiation, I must open the exposition with some personal matter without which other details will not be understood.
Western writers and a few of their modern Indian disciples, present Tantra or the Tantras in an exclusive meaning of their own. Exploiting Tantrika as a medium to express their own interests in eroticism or to relieve their own frustrations, they stress only sex and sex relationship. Their perversion is not without some element of amusement for Tantrika is actually more erotic than they ever dreamed. The sexual element of Tantrika occurs only because Kaulas or Shaktas, whether men or women, are natural people, following a natural way of life, and have natural desires which they share and satisfy with the God and Goddess. The relationship of Shiva or Mahadev with Parvati or Uma is not only that of a God and Goddess on celestial levels but also that of a husband and wife and the sexual enjoyments they experience. One can therefore not talk or think of being one with God or Goddess and live a celibate life. Kaula sees all men as Gods and all women as Goddesses. Who, therefore, can separate these things? The puritanizing we see in India today belongs neither to Tantrik or Vedik tradition. It is basically Christian ideas which have been adopted in comparatively recent times. So well established are these Christian puritanical ideas and so complete is the conditioning that very few Indians would ever truly embrace Shakta, Kaula or Tantrika. In the West it might be possible, but in India it has little prospects. Male Chauvanism predominates Indian life and women are not only regarded as inferior but untrustworthy. Shakta recognizes complete equality of the sexes. That is, equality of right. It recognizes that there are some provinces of life and aspects in human relationships which are male or female. In Vedik tradition a woman cannot have a guru other than her husband. She is not supposed to seek spiritual instruction from anyone, not even from her husband’s guru. She must look only to her husband in all things. Vedik lore also regarded liberation for a woman as impossible and discouraged women renouncing the worldly life. The Bhagavad Gita did not uphold these Vedik views.
Tantrika, on the other hand, not only thinks a woman should be free to choose her own guru but a woman can herself become a guru. So important is this that many male gurus who have taken several important initiations will also take diksha from a woman guru if one is available.
For the guidance of people outside India it is necessary to stress that there are no actual Tantrik communities existing in India today. On the other hand it must be remembered that Hinduism as seen in India today is actually ninety percent Tantrik. No Vedik gods are worshiped in India today. Vedik religion was mostly, if not entirely, the Yagnya Fire Sacrifice. It is not unknown today, but very rare, nevertheless all other aspects of Hinduism, including sannyasa, all yogas, all rituals; all temple worship and pilgrimage to holy places, all ritual bathing, all mantras and yantras and all important festivals are actually and purely Tantrik.
Shri Dattatreya, Shri Krishna as greatest among historical gods or avatars were both Tantriks. Both flourished in India before a single Aryan had set foot in this land. This, of course, is the Vrindavan Krishna. The Dwarka Krishna came later in history. Of Rama I make no comment, as all indications tend to suggest him as a fictitious figure created by Valmiki. It is estimated that the Aryans entered India in the middle of the second millennium B.C. Therefore we must see every aspect of Indian spiritual and religious life before that time as being quite free from any Aryan influence. As in the case of the Harrapa, cities and the archaeological remains, no trace of Aryanism was found. It also means that all trends after 1500 B.C. must be watched carefully so that we can detect what is obviously Tantrik, what is Aryan and what is a mixture of both.
Students of the Tantrik path are not always aware of this situation. We have a blatant example in the Mahanirvana Tantra which was translated into English by sir John Woodroffe. This Tantra was of fairly recent origin and cannot be more than a few hundred years old. It is not a Tantra in the sense that the Shaktas would understand it, because it is a most obvious mixture of Tantrika and the Aryan cult and contrary to Kaula Dharma; recognizes and accepts evil aspects of the caste system and a real Tantrik cannot be a Brahmin or claim membership of any caste. No doubt, during the era of Aryan domination, the Tantriks were forced to accept caste distinctions imposed by the Aryans, but this does not mean approval. Here we must remind ourselves that the period of Aryan separateness was probably a very short one. Nor did they ever Aryanise India. Some time after entry they began slowly to accept and adopt much or most of the earlier customs and beliefs. That is why the merger of Kaula Dharma and Aryanism became Hinduism and also why Hinduism remained more than ninety percent Tantrik.
In subsequent articles, it is intended to deal more fully with aspects of yoga, Occultism in general and Tantrik Dharma. This will be done in a way which will be of practical value to all students so that the material can be utilized as part of their way of life. Such guidance is intended for those who wish to utilize and develop the practical aspects. We cannot help those who only desire theory and wish to collect only more confused ideas. In the next article I will refer to and explain my initiation into Kaula Dharma and explain the attitude and knowledge which is essential for Tantrika or Kaula as a way of life.
As a personal note and as a Shastra of long standing, I feel that if mankind can revert to its earlier universal acceptance of the Mother Goddess, the world can become a better place to live in. Thus the Goddess by her Grace will soften the arrogance and aggressive nature of man to think of life not in terms of nations and races, but as a vast happy hearth and home of one people.
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