ŚAKTI who is in Herself pure blissful Consciousness (Cidrūpiṇī) is also the Mother of Nature and is Nature itself born of the creative play of Her thought. The Śākta faith, or worship of Śakti is, I belive, in some of its essential features one of the oldest and most widespread religions in the world. Though very ancient, it is yet, in its essentials, and in the developed form in which we know it to-day, harmonious with some of the teachings of modern philosophy and science; not that this is necessarily a test of its truth. It may be here noted that in the West, and in particular in America and England, a large number of books are now being published on “New Thought,” “Will Power,” “Vitalism,” “Creative Thought,” “Right Thought,” “Self Unfoldment,” “Secret of Achievement,” “Mental Therapeutics” and the like, the principles of which are essentially those of some forms of Śakti Sāhanā both higher and lower. There are books of disguised magic as how to control others (Vaśīkaraṇa) by making them buy what they do not want, how to secure “affection” and so forth which, notwithstanding some hypocrisies, are in certain respects on the same level as the Tāntrik Śavata as a low class of books on magic are called. Śavara or Chaṇḍāla are ainongst the lowest of men. The ancient and at the same time distinguishing character of the faith is instanced by temple worship (the old Vaidik worship was generally in the home or in the open by the river), the cult of images, of Liṅga and yoni (neither of which, it is said, were part of the original Vaidik practice), the worship of Devīs and of the Magna Mater (the great Vaidik Devatā was the male Indra) and other matters of both doctrine and practice.
Many years ago Edward Sellon, with the aid of a learned Orientalist of the Madras Civil Service, attemted to learn its mysteries, but for reasom, which I need not here discuss, did not view them from the right standpoint. He, however, compared the Shiiktas with the Greek Telestica or Dynamica, the Mysteries of Dionysus “Fire born in the cave of initiation” with the Śakti Pūjā, the Śakti Śodhana with the purification shown in d’Hancarville’s “Antique Greek Vases”; and after referring to the frequent mention of this ritual in the writings of the Jews and other ancient authors, concluded that it was evident that we had still surviving in India in the Śākta worship a very ancient, if not the most ancient, form of Mysticism in the whole world. Whatever be the value to be given to any particular piece of evidence, he was right in his general conclusion. For, when we throw our minds back upon the history of this worship we see stretching away into the remote and fading past the figure of the Mighty Mother of Nature, most ancient among the ancients; the Ādyā Śakti, the dusk Divinity, many breasted crowned with towers whose veil is never lifted, Isis, “the one who is all that has been, is and will be,” Kālī, Hathor, Cybele, the Cowmother Goddess Ida, Tripurasundarī, the Ionic Mother, Tef the spouse of Shu by whom He effects the birth of all things, Aphroditē, Astarte in whose groves the Baalim were set, Babylonian Mylitta, Buddhist Tārā, the Mexican lsh, Hellenic Osia, the consecrated, the free and pure, African Salambo who like Pārvatīroamed the Mountains, Roman Juno, Egyptian Bast the flaming Mistress of Life, of Thought, of Love, whose festival was celebrated with wanton joy, the Assyrian Mother Succoth Benoth, Northern Freia, Mūlaprakṛti, Semele, Māyā, Ishtar, Saitic Neith Mother of the Gods, eternal deepest ground of all things, Kuṇḍalī, Guhyamahāhairavīand all the rest.
And yet there are people who allege that the “Tāntrik” cult is modern. To deny this is not to say that there has been or will be no change or development in it. As man changes, so do the forms of his beliefs. An ancient feature of this faith and one belonging to the ancient Mysteries is the distinction which it draws between the initiate whose Śakti is awake (Prabuddha) and the Paśu the unillumined or “animal” and, as the Gnostics called him, “material” man. The Natural, which is the manifestation of the Mother of Nature, and the Spiritual or the Mother as She is in and by Herself are one, but the initiate alone truly recognizes this unity. He knows himself in all his natural functions as the one Consciousness whether in enjoyment (Bhukti), or Liberation (Mukti). It is an essential principle of Tāntrik Sādhanā that man in general must rise through and by means of Nature, and not by an ascetic rejection of Her. A profoundly true principle is here involved whatever has been said of certain applications of it. When Orpheus transformed the old Bacchic cult, it was the purified who in the beautiful words of Euripides “went dancing over the hills with the daughters of Iacchos.” I cannot, however, go into this matter in this paper which is concerned with some general subjects and the ordinary ritual. But the evidence is not limited to mysteries of the Śakti Pūjā. There are features in the ordinary outer worship which are very old and widespread, as are also other parts of the esoteric teaching. In this connection, a curious instance of the existence, beyond India, of Tāntrik doctrine and practice is here given. The American Indian Maya Scripture of the Zunis called the Popul Vuh speaks of Hurakan or Lightning, that is (I am told) Kuṇḍalīśaktiof the “air tube” or “White-cord” or the Suṣumnā Nā ḍi; of the “two-fold air tube” that is Iḍā and Piṅgalā; and of various bodily centres which are marked by animal glyphs.
Perhaps the Pañcatattva Ritual followed by some of the adherents of the Tantras is one of the main causes which have operated in some quarters against acceptance of the authority of these Scriptures and as such responsible for the notion that the worship is modern. On the contrary, the usage of wine, meat, and so forth is itself very old. There are people who talk of these rites as though they were some entirely new and comparatively modern invention of the “Tantra,” wholly alien to the spirit and practice of the early times. If the subject be studied it will, I think, be found that in this matter those worshippers who practise these rites are (except possibly as to Maithuna) the continuators of very ancient practices which had their counterparts in the earlier Vaidikācāra, but were subsequently abandoned, possibly under the influence of Jainism and Buddhism. I say “counterpart,” for I do not mean to suggest that in every respect the rites were the same. In details and as regards, I think, some objects in view, they differed. Thus we find in this Pañcatattva Ritual a counterpart to the Vaidik usage of wine and animal food. As regards wine, we have the partaking of Soma; meat was offered in Māṃsāṣṭaka Śrāddha; fish in the Ashtakaśrābddha and Pretaśrāddhaand Maithuna as a recognized rite will be found in the Vāmadevya Vrata and Mahāvrata of universally recognized Vaidik texts, apart from the alleged, and generally unknown, Saubhāgyakāṇḍa of the Atharvaveda to which the Kālikopaniṣad and other “Tāntrik” Upaniṣads are said to belong. Possibly, however, this element of Maithuna may be foreign and imported by Chīnācāra (see Ch. VIII). So again, as that distinguished scholar Professor Ramendra Sundara Trivedi has pointed out in his Vicitraprasaṅga, the Mudrā of the Pañcatattva corresponds with the Purodāśa cake of the Soma and other Yāgas. The present rule of abstinence from wine, and in some cases, meat is due, I believe, to the original Buddhism. It is so-called “Tāntriks,” who follow (in and for their ritual only) the earlier practice. It is true that the Saṃhitā of Ushnāh says, “Wine is not to be drunk, given or taken (Madyam apeyam adeyam agrāhyam)” but the yet greater Manu states, “There is no wrong in the eating of meat or the drinking of wine (Na māṃsabakśane dosho na madye)” though he rightly adds, as many now do, that abstention therefrom is productive of great fruit (Nivṛttistu mahāphalā). The Tāntrik practice does not allow extra-ritual or “useless” drinking (Vrithāpāna).
Further, it is a common error to confound two distinct things, namely, belief and practice and the written records of it. These latter may be comparatively recent, whilst that of which they speak may be most ancient. When I speak of the ancient past of this faith I am not referring merely to the writings which exist to-day which are called Tantras. These are composed generally in a simple Sanskrit by men whose object it was to be understood rather than to show skill in literary ornament. This simplicity is a sign of age. But at the same time it is Laukika and not Ārsha Sanskrit. Moreover, there are statements in them which (unless interpolations) fix the limits of their age. I am not speaking of the writings themselves but of what they say. The faith that they embody, or at least its earlier forms, may have existed for many ages before it was reduced to writing amongst the Kulas or family folk, who received it as handed down by tradition (Pāramparyya) just as did the Vaidik Gotras. That such beliefs and practices, like all other things, have had their development in course of time is also a likely hypothesis.
A vast number of Tantras have disappeared probably for ever. Of those which survive a large number are unknown. Most of those which are available are of a fragmentary character. Even if these did appear later than some other Śāstras, this would not, on Indian principles, affect their authority. According to such principles the authority of a Scripture is not determined by its date; and this is sense. Why, it is asked, should something said 1000 years ago be on that account only truer than what was said 100 years ago? It is held that whilst the teaching of the Āgama is ever existent, particular Tantras are constantly being revealed and withdrawn. There is no objection againat a Tantra merely because it was revealed to-day. When it is said that Śiva spoke the Tantras, or Brahmāwrote the celebrated Vaiṣ̣ ṇava poem called the BrahmaSaṃhitā, it is not meant that Śiva and Brahmāmaterialised and took a reed and wrote on birch bark or leaf, but that the Divine Consciousness to which men gave these and other names inspired a particular man to teach, or to write, a particular doctrine or work touching the eternally existing truth. This again does, not mean that there was any one whispering in his ear, but that these things arose in his consciousness. What is done in this world is done through man. There is a profounder wisdom than is generally acknowledged in the saying “God helps those who help themselves.” Inspiration too never ceases. But how, it may be asked, are we to know that what is said is right and true? The answer is “by its fruits.” The authority of a Śrāstra is determined by the question whether Siddhi is gained through its provisions or not. It is not enough that “Śiva uvācha"(Shiva says) is writ in it. The test is that of Āyurveda. A medicine is a true one if it cures. The Indian test for everything is actual experience. It is from Samādhi that the ultimate proof of Advaitavāda is sought. How is the existence of Kalpas known? It is said they have been remembered, as by the Buddha who is recorded as having called to mind 91 past Kalpas. There are arguments in favour of rebirth but that which is tendered as real proof is both the facts of ordinary daily experience which can, it is said, be explained only on the hypothesis of pre-existence; as also actual recollection by self-developed individuals of their previous lives. Modern Western methods operate through magnetic sleep producing “regression of memory.” (See A. de Rochas “Les Vies Successives” and Lancelin “La Vie posthume.”) Age, however, is not wholly without its uses: because one of the things to which men look to see in a Śāstra is whether it has been accepted or quoted in works of recognized authority. Such a test of authenticity can, of course, only be afforded after the lapse of considerable time. But it does not follow that a statement is in fact without value because, owing to its having been made recently, it is not possible to subject it to such a test. This is the way in which this question of age and authority is looked at on Indian principles.
A wide survey of what is called orthodox “Hinduism” to-day (whatever be its origins) will disclose the following results:—Vedānta in the sense of Upaniṣad as its common doctrinal basis, though variously interpreted, and a great number of differing disciplines or modes of practice by which the Vedānta doctrines are realized in actual fact. We must carefully distinguish these two. Thus the Vedānta says “So’ham”; which is Haṃsa. “Hakāra is one wingSakāra is the other. When stripped of both wings She Tāra is Kāmakalā.” (Tantrarāja Tantra.) The Ācāras set forth the means by which “So’ham” is to be translated into actual fact for the particular Sādhaka. Sādhanā comes from the root “Sādh” which means effort or striving or accomplishment. Effort for and towards what? The answer for those who desire it is liberation from every form in the hierarchy of forms, which exist as such, because consciousness has so limited itself as to obscure the Reality which it is, and which “So’ham” or “Śivo’ham” affirm. And why should man liberate himself from material forms? Because it is said, that way only lasting happiness lies: though a passing yet, fruitful bliss may be had here by those who identify themselves with the active Brahman (Śakti). It is the actual experience of this declaration of “So’ham” which in its fundamental aspect is Veda:— knowledge (Vid) or actual Spiritual Experience, for in the monistic sense to truly know anything is to be that thing. This Veda or experience is not to be had sitting down thinking vaguely on the Great Ether and doing nothing. Man must transform himself, that is, act in order to know. Therefore, the watchword of the Tantras is Kriyā or action.
The next question is what Kriyāshould be adopted towards this end of Jñāna. “Tanyate, vistāryate jñānam anena iti Tantram.” According to this derivation of the word Tantra from the root “Tan” “to spread,” it is defined as the Śāstra by which knowledge (Jñāna) is spread. Mark the word Jñāna. The end of the practical methods which these Śāstras employ is to spread Vedāntic Jñāna. It is here we find that variety which is so puzzling to those who have not gone to the root of the religious life of India. The end is substantially one. The means to that end necessarily vary according to knowledge, capacity, and temperament. But here again we may analyse the means into two main divisions, namely, Vaidik and Tāntrik, to which may be added a third or the mixed (Miśra). The one body of Hinduism reveals as it were, a double framework represented by the Vaidik and Tāntrik Ācāras, which have in certain instances been mingled.
The word “Tantra” by itself simply means as I have already said “treatise” and not necessarily a religious scripture. When it has the latter significance, it may mean the Scripture of several divisions of worshippers who vary in doctrine and practice. Thus there are Tantras of Śaivas, Vaiṣṇavas, and Śāktas and of various subdivisions of these. So amongst the Śaivas there are the Śaivas of the Śaiva Siddhānta, the Advaita Śaiva of the Kashmir School, Pāshupatas and a nzultitude of other sects which have their Tantras. If “Tāntric” be used as meaning an adherent of the Tantra ŚātrA, then the word, in any particular case, is .without definite meaning. A man to whom the application is given may be a worshipper of any of the Five Devatās (Sūrya, Ganeṣa, Viṣṇnu, Śiva, Śakti) and of any of the various Sampradāyas worshipping that Devatāwith their varying doctiine and practice. The term is a confusing one, though common practice compels its use. So far as I know, those who are named “Tāntrics” do not themselves generally use the term but call themselves Śāktas, Śaivas and the like, of whatever Sampradāya they happsn to be.
Again Tantra is the name of only one class of Scripture followed by “Tāntrics.” There are others, namely, Nigamas, Āgamas, Yāmalas, Dāmaras, Uddīśas, Kakṣapūtas and so forth. None of these names are used to describe the adherents of these Śāstras except, so far as I am aware, Āgama in the use of the term Āgamsvādin, and Āgamānta in the descriptive name of Āgamānta Śaiva. I give later a list of these Scriptures as eonbined in the various Āgamas. If we summarise them shortly under the term Tantra Śāstra, or preferably Āgama, then we have four main classes of Indian Scripture, namely, Veda (Saṃhitā, Brāhmaṇa, Upaniṣad), Āgama or Tantra Śāstra, Puraṇa, Smṛti. Of these Śāstras the authority of the Āgama or Tantra Śāstra has been denied in modern times. This view may be shown to be erroneous by reference to Śāstras of admitted authority. It is spoken of as the Fifth Veda. Kulluka Bhatta, the celebrated commentator on Man, says: “Śruti is twofold, Vaidik and Tāntrik (Vaidikī tāntrikī chaiva dvividhā śrutih kīrtitā).” This refers to the Mantra portion of the Āgamas. In the Great Vaiṣṇava Śāstra, the Śrimad Bhāgavata, Bhagavān says: “My worship is of the three kinds—Vaidik, Tāntrik and Mixed (Miśra)” and that, in Kaliyuga, “Keshnva is to be worshipped according to the injunction of Tantra.” The Devībhāgavata speaks of the Tantra Śāstra as a Vedāṅga. It is cited as authority in the Aṣṭaviṃśti Tattva of Raghunandana who prescribe for the worship of Durgā as before him had done Śrīdatta, Harinātha, Vidyādhara and many others. Some of these and other references are given in Mahāmahopādhyaya Yādaveśvara Tarkaratna’s Tantrer Prāchīnatva in the Sāhitya Saṃhitāof Aswin 1317. The Tārāpradīpa, and other Tāntrik works say that in the Kaliyuga the Tāntrika and not the Vaidika Dharma is to be followed. This objection about the late character and therefore unauthoritativeness of the Tantra Śāstras generally (I do not speak of any particular form of it) has been taken by Indians from their European Gurus.
According to the Śākta Scriptures, Veda in its wide sense does not only mean Ṛk, Yajus, Sama, Atharva as now published but comprises these together with the generally unknown and unpublished Uttara Kāṇḍa of the Atharva Veda, called Saubhāgya, with the Upaniṣads attached to this. Sāyena’s Commentary is written on the Pūrva Kāṇḍa. These are said (though I have not yet verified the fact) to be 64 in number. Some of these, such as Advaitabhāva, Kaula, Kālikā, Tripura, Tārā, AruṇāUpaniṣads and Bahvrichopaniṣad, Bhāvanopaniṣad, I have published as the XI volume of Tāntrik Texts. Aruṇā means “She who is red.” Redness (Lauhityam) is Vimarśa. (See Vol. XI, Tāntrik Texts. Ed. A. Avalon.) I may also here refer my reader to the Kaulācārya Sadhanda’s Commentary on the great Iṣa Upaniṣad. Included also in “Veda” (according to the same view) are the Nigamas, Āgamas, Yāmalas and Tantras. From these all other Śāstras which explain the meaning (Artha) of Veda such as Purāṇa and Smṛti, also Itihāsa and so forth are derived. All these Śāstras constitute what is called a “Many millioned” (Śatakoṭi) Saṃhitā which are developed, the one from the other as it were an unfolding series. In the Tāntrik Saṃgraha called Sarvollāsa by the Sarvavidyāsiddha Sarvānandanātha the latter cites authority (Nārāya ṇi Tantra) to show that from Nigama came Āgama. Here I pause to note that the Sammohana says that Kerda Sampradāya is Dakṣiṇa and follows Veda (Vedamārgastha), whilst Gauda (to which Sarvānandanātha belonged) is Vāma and follow Nigama. Hence apparently the pre-eminence given to Nigama. He then says from Āgama came Yāmala, from Yāmala the four Vedas, from Veda the Purāṇas, from Purāṇas Smṛti, and from Smṛti all other Śāstras. There are, he says, five Nigamas and 64 Āgamas. Four Yāmalas are mentioned, which are said to give the gross form (Sthūlarūpa). As some may be surprised to learn that the four Vedas came from the Yāmalas (i.e., were Antargata of the Yāmalas) which literally means what is uniting or comprehensive, I subjoin the Sanskrit verse from Nārāyaṇī Tantra.
Brahmayāmalasaṃbhūtam sāmaveda-matam śive
Rudrayāmalasamjāta ṛgvedo paramo mahān
Viṣṇuyāmalasaṃbhūto yajurvedah kuleśvari
Śāktiyāmalasaṃbhūtam atharva pramam mahat.
Some Tantras are called by opposing sects Vedaviruddhāni (opposed to Veda), which of course those who accept them deny, just as the Commentary of the Nityāśodaśikārnava speaks of the Pañcarātrin as Vedabhraṣṭa. That some secta were originally Avaidika is probable, but in process of time various amalgamations of scriptural authority, belief and practice took place.
Whether we accept or not this theory, according to which the Āgamas and kindred Śāstras are given authority with the four Vedas we have to accept the facts. What are these?
As I have said, on examination the one body of Hinduism reveals as it were a double framework. I am now looking at the matter from an outside point of view which is not that of the Śākta worshipper. We find on the one hand the four Vedas with their Saṃhitās, Brāhmaṇas, and Upaniṣads and on the other what has been called the “Fifth Veda,” that is Nigama, Āgama and kindred Śāstras and certain especially “Tāntrik” Upaniṣads attached to the Saubhāgya Kāṇḍa of the Atharvaveda. There are Vaidik and Tāntrik Kalpa Sūtras and Sūktas such as the Tāntrika Devī and Mastya Sūktas. As a counterpart of the Brahmasūtras, we have the Śakti Sūtras of Agastya. Then there is both Vaidik and “Tāntrik” ritual such as the teri Vaidik Saṃskāras and the Tāntrik Saṃskāras, such as Abhiṣeka; Vaidik and Tāntrik initiation (Upanayana and Dīkṣa); Vaidik and Tāntrik Gāyatrī; the Vaidik Oṃ, the so-called “Tāntrik” Bījas such as Hrīṃ; Vaidika Guru and Deśika Guru and so forth. This dualism may be found carried into other matters as well, such as medicine, law, writing. So, whilst the Vaidik Ayurveda employed generally vegetable drugs, the “Tāntriks” used metallic substances. A counterpart of the Vaidika Dharmapatnī was the Śaiva wife, that is, she who is given by desire (Kāma). I have already pointed out the counterparts of the Pañcatattva in the Vedas. Some allege a special form of Tāntrik script at any rate in Gauda Deśa and so forth.
What is the meaning of all this? It is not at present possible to give a certain answer. The subject has been so neglected and is so little known. Before tendering any conclusions with any certainty of their correctness, we must examine the Tāntrik Texts which time has spared. It will be readily perceived, however, that if there be such a double frame as I suggest, it indicates that there were originally two sources of religion one of which (possibly in some respects the older) incorporated parts of, and in time largely superseded the other. And this is what the “Tāntriks” impliedly allege in their views as to the relation of the four Vedas and Āgamas. If they are not both of authority, why should such reverence be given to the Deśika Gurus and to Tāntrik Dīkṣa?
Probably, there were many Avaidika cults, not without a deep and ancient wisdom of their own, that is, cults outside the Vaidik religion (Vedabāhya) which in the course of time adopted certain Vaidik rites such as Homa: the Vaidikas, in their own turn, taking up some of the Avaidika practices. It may be that some Brāhmanas joined these so-called Anārya Sampradāyas just as we find to-day Brāhmanas officiating for low castes and being called by their name. At length the Śāstras of the two cults were given at least equal authority. The Vaidik practice then largely disappeared, surviving chiefly both in the Smārta rites of to-day and as embedded in the ritual of the Āgamas. These are speculations to which I do not definitely commit myself. They are merely suggestions which may be worth consideration when search is made for the origin of the Āgamas. If they be correct, then in this, as in other cases, the, beliefs and practices of the Soil have been upheld until to-day against the incoming cults of those “Āryas” who followed the Vaidik rites and who in their turn influenced the various religious communities without the Vaidik fold.
The Smārtas of to-day represent what is generally called the Śrauta side, though in these rites there are mingled many Pauranic ingredients. The Ārya Samāja is another present-day representative of the old Vaidika Ācāra, mingled as it seems to me with a modernism, which is puritan and otherwise. The other, or Tāntrik side, is represented by the general body of present-day Hinduism, and in particular by the various sectarian divisions of Śaivas, Śāktas, Vaiṣṇavas and so forth which go to its making.
Each sect of worshippers has its own Tantras. In a previous Chapter I have shortly referred. to the Tantras of the Śaivasiddhānta, of the Pañcarātra Āgama, and of the Northern Śaivaism of which the Mālinīvijaya Tantra sets the type. The old fivefold division of worshippers was, according to the Pañchopāsana, Saura, Gānapatya, Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva, and Śākta whose Mūls Devatās were Sūrya, Ganapati, Viṣṇnu, Śiva and Śakti respectively. At the present time the threefold division, Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva, Śākta, is of more practical importance, as the other two survive only to a limited extent to-day. In parts of Western India the worship of Ganeśa is still popular and I believe some Sauras or traces of Sauras here and there exist, especially in Sind.
Six Āmnāyas are mentioned in the Tantras. (Ṣadāmnāyāh). These are the six Faces of Śiva, looking East (Pūrvāmnāya), South (Dakṣināmnāya), West (Paśohimāmnāya), North (Uttarāmnāya), Upper (Urddhvāmnāya) Lower and concealed (Adhāmnāya): The six Āmnāyas are thus so called according to the order of their origin. They are thus described in the Devyāgama cited in the Tantrarahasya (see also, with some variation probably due to corrupt text, Patala II of Samayācāra Tantra):—
“(1) The face in the East (that is in front) is of pearl-like lustre with three eyes and crowned by the crescent moon. By this face I (Shiva) revealed (the Devīs) Śrī Bhuvaneśvarī, Triputā, Lalitā, Padmā, Śūlinī, Sarasvatī, Tvaritā, Nityā, Vajraprastārinī, Annapūrna, Mahālakṣmī, Lakṣmi, Vagvādinī with all their rites and Mantras.
(2) The Southern face is of a yellow colour with three eyes. By this face I revealed Prasādasadāśiva, Mahāprāsadamantra, Dakṣināmurti, Vatuka, Manjughośa, Bhairava, Mṛtasanjīvānividyā, Mṛtyuṇjayā with their rites and Mantras.
(3) The face in the West (that is at the back) is of the colour of a freshly formed cloud. By this face I revealed Gopāla, Kṛṣṇa, Nārāyana, Vāsudeva, Nṛsiṃha, Vāmana, Varāha, Rāmachandra, Viṣṇu, Harihara, Ganeśa, Agni, Yama, Sūrya, Vidhu (Chandra) and other planets, Garuda, Dikpālas, Hanumān and other Suras, their rites and Mantras.
(4) The face in the North is blue in colour and with three eyes. By this face, I revealed the Devīs, Dakṣinakālikā, Māhākālī, Guhyakālī, Smaśanakālikā, Bhadrakālī, Ekajatā, Ugratārā, Tārinī, Kātyāyanī, Chhinnamastā, Nīlasarasvatī, Durgā, Jayadurgā, Navadurgā, Vāshulī, Dhūmāvāyī, Viśālākṣī, Gaurī, Bagalāmukhī, Pratyangirā, Mātanggī, Mahīśamardinī, their. rites and Mantras.
(5) The Upper face is white. By this face I revealed Śrīmattripurasundarī, Tripureśī, Bhairavī, Tripurabhairavī, Smaśānabhairavī, Bhuvaneśībhairavī, Śatkutabhairavī, Annapūrnābhairavī, Pañcamī, Śodaśī, Mālinī, Valāvalā, with their rites and Mantras.
(6) The sixth face (Below) is lustrous, of many colours and concealed. It is by this mouth that I spoke of Devatāsthaṇa, Āsana, Yantra, Mālā, Naivedya, Validāna, Sādhanā, Puraṣcharana, Mantrasiddhi. It is called īśānāmnāya.”
The Samayācāra Tantra (Ch. 2) says that whilst the first four Āmnāyas are for the Chaturvarga or Dharma, Artha, Kāma, Mokṣa, the upper (Urddhvāmnāya) and lower (Adhāmnāya) are for liberation only. The Sammohana Tantra (Ch. V) first explains Pūrvāmnāya, Dakṣināmnāya, Paścimāmnāya, Uttarāmnāya, Urddhvāmnāya according to what is called Deshaparyyāya. I am informed that no Pūjā of Adhāmnāya is generally done but that Śadanvaya Śāmbhavas, very high Sādhakas, at the door of Liberation do Nyāsa with this sixth concealed Face. It is said that Pātāla Āmnāya is Sambhogayoga. The Niṣkala aspect in Śaktikrama is for Pūrva, Tripurā; for Dakṣina, Saura, Gānapatya and Vaiṣṇava; for Paścima Raudra, Bhairava; for Uttara, Ugrā, Āpattārinī. In Śaivakarma the same aspect is for the firut, Sampatpradā and Maheśa; for the second, Aghora, Kālikā and Vaiṣṇnava Darśana; for the third, Raudra, Bhairava, Śaiva; for the fourth, Kuvera, Bhairava, Saudarśaka; and for Urddhvāmnāya, Ārddhanāriśa and Pranava. Niruttara Tantra says that the first two Āmnāyas contain rites for the Paśu Sādhaka (see as to the meaning of this and the other classes of Sādhakas, the Chapter on Pañcatattva ritual Pūrvāmnāyoditam karma pāśavam kathitam priye, and so with the next). The third or Paścimāmnāya is a combination of Paśu and Vīra (Paścimāmnāyojam karma paśu-vīrasamāśritam). Uttarāmnāya is for Vīra and Divya (Uttarāmnāyajam karma divya-vīrāśritam priye). The upper Āmnāya is for the Divya (Urddhvāmnāyoditam karma divyabhāvāśritam priye). It adds that even the Divya does Sādhanā in the cremation ground in Vīrabhāva (that is, heroic frame of mind and disposition) but he does such worship without Vīrāsana.
The Sammohana also gives a classification of Tantras according to the Āmnāyas as also special classifications, such as the Tantras of the six Āmnāyas according to Vatukāmnāya. As only one Text of the Sammohana is available whilst I write, it is not possible to speak with certainty of accuracy as regards all these details.
Each of these divisions of worshippers have their own Tantras, as also had the Jainas and Bauddhas. Different sects had their own particular subdivisions and Tantras of which there are various classifications according to Krāntās, Deśaparyhya, Kālaparyāya and so forth.
The Sammohana Tantra mentions 22 different Āgamas including Chināgama (a Śākta form), Pāśupata (a Śaiva form), Pañcarātra (a Vaiṣṇava form), Kāpālika, a Bhairava, Aghora, Jeina, Bauddha; each of which is said there to contain a certain number of Tantras and Upatantras.
According to the Sammohana Tantra, the Tantras according to Kālaparyāya are the 64 Śākta Tantras, with 327 Upatantras, 8 Yāmalas, 4 Dāmaras, 2 Kalpalās and several Saṃhitās, Chūdāmaṇis (100) Arnavas, Purāṇas, Upavedas, Kakṣapūtas, Vimarśinī and Chināmaṇis. The Śaiva class contains 32 Tantras with its own Yāmalas, Dāmaras and so forth. The Vaiṣṇava class contains 76 Tantras with the same, including Kelpas and other Śāstras. The Saura class has Tantras with its own Yāmalas, Uddīśas and other works. And the Gānapatya class contains 30 Tantras with Upatantras, Kalpas and other Śāstras, inluding one Dāmara and one Yāmala. The Bauddha class contains Kalpadrumas, Kāmadhmus, Sūktas, Kramas, Ambaras, Purāṇas and other Śāstras.
According to the Kulārṇava and Jñānadīpa Tantras there are seven Ācāras of which the first four, Veda, Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva and Dakṣina belong to Paśvācāras then comes Vāma, followed by Siddhāta, in which gradual approach is made to Kaulācāra the reputed highest. Elsewhere six and nine Ācāras are spoken of and different kind of Bhāvas, Sabhāva, Vibhāva and Dehabhāva and so forth which are referred to in Bhāvacūdāmaṇi.
Vedācāra is the lowest and Kaulācāra the highest. (Kulārṇava Tantra II). Their characteristics are given in the 24th Patala of Viśvasāra Tantra. The first four belong to Paśvācāra (see Chapter on Śākta Sādhanā) and the last three are for Vīra and Divya Sādhakas. Summarising the points of the Viśvasāra:—a Sādhaka in Vedācāra should carry out the prescriptions of the Veda, should not cohabit with his wife except in the period following the courses. He should not eat fish and meat on the Parva days. He should not worship the Deva at night. In Vaiṣṇavācāra he follows the injunctions (Niyama) of Vedācāra. He must give up eating of flesh (Nityā Tantra says he must not kill animals), avoid sexual intercourse and even the talk of it. This doubtless means a negation of the Vīra ritual. He should worship Viṣṇu. This Ācāra is distinguished from the last by the great endurance of Tapas and the contemplation of the Supreme everywhere. In Śaivācāra, Vedācāra is prescribed with this difference that there must be no slaughter of animals and meditation is on Śiva. Dakṣinācāra is said to have been practised by Ṛṣi Dakṣināmurti and is therefore so called. This Ācāra is preparatory for the Vira and Divya Bhāvas. Meditation is on the Supreme Īśvarīafter taking Vijayā (Hemp). Japa of Mantrs is done at night. Siddhi is attained by using a rosary of human bone (Mahāśaṅkha) at certain places including a Śaktipītha. Vāmācāra is approved of Vīras and Divyas. One should be continent (Brahmachārī) at day and worship with the Pañcatattva at night (“Pañcatattvākramenaiva rātrau devīm prapūjayet”). The statement of Nityā (Pañcatattvānukalpena ratrau devīng prapūjayet), is, if correctly reported, I think, incorrect. This is Vīra Sādhanā and the Vīra should generally only use substitutes when the real Tattvas cannot be found. Cakra worship is done. Siddhi is destroyed by revelation thereof; therefore the Vāma path is hidden. The Siddhāntācarī is superior to the last by his knowledge “hidden in the Vedas, Śāstras and Purāṇas like fire in wood, by his freedom from fear of the Paśu, by his adherence to the truth, and by his open performance of the Pañcatattva ritual. Open and frank, he cares not what is said.” He offers the Pañcatattvas openly. Then follows a notable passage. “Just as it is not blameable to drink openly in the Sautrāmani Yajña (Vaidik rite), so in Siddhāntācāra wine is drunk openly. As it is not blameable to kill horses in the Aśvamedha Yajña (Vaidik rite), so no offence is committed in killing animals in this Dharma.” NityāTantra says that an article, be it pure or impure, becomes pure by purification. Holding a cup made of human skull, and wearing the Rudrākṣa, the Siddhāntācāri moves on earth in the form of Bhairava Himself. The knowledge of the last Ācārā, that of the Kaula, makes one Śiva. Just as the footprint of every animal disappears in that of the elephant, so every Dharma is lost in the greatness of Kuladharma. Here there are no injunctions or prohibitions, no restriction as to time or place, in fact no rule at all. A Kaula is himself Guru and Sadāśhiva and none are superior to him. Kaulas are of three classes, inferior (the ordinary or Prākṛta Kaula), who is ever engaged in ritual such as Japa, Homa, Pūja, follows Vīrācāra (with Pañcatattva) and strives to attain the highland of knowledge; middling is the Kaula who does Sādhanā with the Pañcatattva, is deeply immersed in meditation (Dhyāna) and Samādhisuperior, the Kaula who “Oh Mistress of the Kaulas sees the imperishable, and all-pervading Self in all things and all things in the Self.” He is a good Kaula who makes no distinction between mud and sandal-paste, gold and straw, a home and the cremation ground. He is a superior Kaula who meditates on the Self with the self, who has equally regard for all, who is full of contentment, forgiveness and compassion, Nityā Tantra (Patala III) says that Kaulas move about in various shapes, now as an ordinary man of the world adhering to social rules (Śiṣṭa), at other times one who has fallen therefrom (Bhraṣṭa). At other times he seems to be as weird and unearthly as a ghost, (Bhūta). Kaulācāra is, it says, the essence which is obtained from the ocean of Veda and Āgama after churning it with the staff of knowledge.
In a modern account of the Ācāras (see Sanātanasādhana-Tattva or Tantra-rahasya by Saccidānanda Svāmī) it is said that some speak of Āghorācāra and Yogācāra as two further divisions between the last but one and last. However this may be, the Aghoras of to-day are a separate sect who, it is alleged, have degenerated into mere eaters of corpses, though Aghora is said to only mean one who is liberated from the terrible (Ghora) Saṃsāra. In Yogācāra was learnt the upper heights of Sādhanā and the mysteries of Yoga such as the movements of the Vāyu in the bodily microcosm (Kṣudrabrahmāṇḍa), the regulation of which controls the inclinations and propensities (Vṛtti). Yogācāra is entered by Yoga-dīkṣā and achievement in Aṣṭāṅgayoga qualifies for Kaulācāra. Whether there were such further divisions I cannot at present say. I prefer for the time being to follow the Kulārṇava. The Svāmī’s account of these is as follows:—Vedācāra which consists in the daily practice of the Vaidik rites (with, I may add, some Tāntrik observances) is the gross body (Sthūladeha) which comprises within it all the other Ācāras, which are as it were its subtle body (Sūkṣma-deha) of various degrees. The worship is largely of an external character, the object of which is to strengthen Dharma. This is the path of action (Kriyāmārga). This and some other observations may be a modern reading of the old facts but are on the whole, I think, justified. The second stage of Vaiṣṇavācāra is the path of devotion (Bhaktimārga) and the aim is union of devotion with faith previously acquired. The worshipper passes from blind faith to an understanding of the supreme protecting Energy of the Brahman, towards which his devotion goes forth. With an increasing determination to uphold Dharma and to destroy Adharma, the Sādhaka passes into the third stage or Śaivācāra which the author cited calls the militant (Kṣattriya) stage, wherein to love and mercy are added strenuous striving and the cultivation of power. There is union of faith, devotion, and inward determination (Antarlakṣa). Entrance is here made upon the path of knowledge (Jñānamārga). Following this is the fourth stage or Dakṣinācāra, which originally and in Tantra Śāstra does not mean “right-hand worship” but according to the author cited is the Ācāra “favourable” to the accomplishment of the higher Sādhanā of which Dakṣina-Kālikāis Devī. (The Viśvasāra already cited derives the word from Dakṣināmurti muni, but Dakṣina in either case has the same meaning. Dakṣinakālī is a Devi of Uttarāmnāya and approach is here made to Vīrā rituals.) This stage commences when the worshipper can make Dhyāna and Dhārāṇa of the threefold Śakti of the Brahman (Iccha, Kriyā, Jñāna), and understands the mutual connection of the three and of their expression as the Gu ṇas, and until he receives the rite of initiation called Pūrnābhiṣekha. At this stage the Sādhaka is Śākta and qdalified for the worship of the threefold Śakti of Brahman (Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Maheśvara). He worships the Adya-Śakti as Dakṣina-Kālikāin whom are united the three Śaktis. The aim of this stage is the union of faith, devotion, and determination with a knowledge of the threefold energies. (Passage is thus made from the Deva-aspect to the Deva-whole). Up to this stage the Sādhaka has followed Pravṛtti Mārga, or the outgoing path, the path of worldly enjoyment, albeit curbed by Dharma. The Sādhaka now, upon the exhaustion of the forces of the outward current, makes entry on the path of return (Nivṛttimārga). As this change is one of primary importance, some have divided the Ācāras into the two broad divisions of Dakṣinācāra (including the first four) and Vāmācāra (including the last three). Strictly, however, the first three can only be thus included in the sense that they are preparatory to Dakṣinācāra proper and are all in the Pravṛtti Mārga and are not Vāmācāra. It is thus said that men are born into Dakṣinācāra but are received by initiation into Vāmācāra. As Dakṣinācāra does not mean “right-hand worship” so Vāmācāra does not mean, as is vulgarly supposed, “left-hand worship.” “Left-hand” in English has a bad sense and it is not sense to suppose that the Śāstra, which prescribes this Ācāra, itself gives it a bad name. Vāma is variously interpreted. Some say it is the worship in which woman (Vāmā) enters, that is Latāsādhanā. Vāma, this author says, means “adverse” that is the stage adverse to the Pravṛtti, which governs in varying degrees the previous Ācāras. For, entry is here made on the Nivṛtti path of return to the Source of outgoing. (In this Ācāra also there is worship of the Vāmā Devī.) In Vamācāra the Sādhaka commences to directly destroy Pravṛtti and, with the help of the Guru, to cultivate Nivṛtti. The help of the Guru throughout is necessary. It is comparatively easy to lay down rules for the Pravṛtti Mārga but nothing can be achieved in Vāmācāra without the Guru’s help. Some of the disciplines are admittedly dangerous and, if entered upon without authority and discretion, will probably lead to abuse. The method of the Guru at this stage is to use the forces of Pravṛtti in such a way as to render them self-destructive. The passions which bind (notably the fundamental instincts for food, drink, and sexual satisfaction) may be it is said so employed as to act as forces whereby the particular life, of which they are the strongest physical manifestation, is raised to the universal life. Passion which has hitherto run downward and outwards (often to waste) is directed inwards and upwards and transformed to power. But it is not only the lower physical desires of eating, drinking, and sexual intercourse which must be subjugated. The Sādhaka must at this stage commence (the process continues until the fruit of Kaulā chāra is obtained) to cut off all the eight bonds (Pāśa) which have made him a Paśu, for up to and including Dakṣinācāra is Paśu worship. These Pāśa, bonds or “afflictions” are variously enumerated but the more numerous classifications are merely elaborations of the smaller divisions. Thus, according to the Devī-bhāgavata, Moha is ignorance or bewilderment, and Mahāmoha is the desire for worldly pleasure which flows from it. The Kulārṇava Tantra mentions eight primary bonds, Dayā (that is pity as the feeling which binds as opposed to divine compassion or Karuṇā), Moha (ignorance), Lajjā (shame, which does not mean that a man is to be a shameless sinner but weak worldly shame of being looked down upon, of infringing conventions and so forth), family (Kula, which ceases to be a tie), Śīla (here usage, convention) and Varṇa (caste; for the enlightened is beyond all its distinctions). When, to take the Svāmī’s example, Śrī Kṛṣṇa stole the clothes of the bathing Gopīs or milkmaids and cowherds and made them approach Him naked, He removed the artificial coverings which are imposed on man in the Saṃsāra. The Gopīs were eight, as are the Bonds, and the errors by which the Jīva is misled are the clothes which Kṛṣṇa stole. Freed of these the Jīva is liberated from all bonds arising from his desires, family and society. Formerly it was sufficient to live in worldly fashion according to the morality governing life in the world. Now the Sādhaka must go further and transcend the world, or rather seek to do so. He rises by those things which are commonly the cause of fall. When he has completely achieved his purpose and liberated himself from all bonds, he reaches the stage of Śiva (Śivatva). It is the aim of the Nivṛtti Sādhanā to liberate man from the bonds which bind him to the Saṃsāra and to qualify the Vīra Sādhaka, through Rājasika Uphsanā(see Chapter on Pañcatattva) for the highest grades of Sādhanā in which the Sāttvika Guṇa predominates. He is then Divya or divine. To the truly Sāttvik there is neither attachment, fear or disgust (Ghrinā). What is thus commenced in Vāmācāra, is gradually completed by the rituals of Siddhātācāra and Kaulācāra. In the last three Ācāras the Sādhaka becomes more and more freed from the darkness of Saṃsāra and is attached to nothing, hates nothing, is ashamed of nothing (really shameful acts being ex hypothesi below his acquired stage), and has freed himself of the artificial bonds of family, caste, and society. He becomes an Avadhāta, that is, one who has “washed off” everything and has relinquished the world. Of these, as stated later, there are several classes. For him there is no rule of time or place. He becomes, like Śiva himself, a dweller in the cremation ground (Smaśāna). He attains Brahmajñāna or the Gnosis in perfect form. On receiving Mahāpūrnadīkṣ̣ ā, he performs his own funeral ritcs and is dead to the Saṃsāra. Seated alone in some quiet place, he reniains in constant Samādhi (ecstasy), and attains it in its highest or Nirvikalpa form. The Great Mother the Supreme Prakṛti Mahāśakti dwells in his heart which is now the inner cremation ground wherein all passions have been burnt away. He becomes a Paramahaṃsa who is liberated whilst yet living (Jīvanmukta).
From the above it will he seen that the Ācāras are not various sects in the European sense, but stages in a continuous process through which the Sādhaka must pass before he reaches the supreme state of the highest Kaula (for the Kaulas are of differing degrees). Passing from the gross outer body of Vedācāra, he learns its innermost core of doctrine, not expressed but latent in it. These stages need not be and are not ordinarily passed through by each Jīva in the course of a single life. On the contrary they are as a rule traversed in the course of a multitude of births, in which case the weaving of the spiritual garment is recommenced where, in a previous birth, it was dropped on death. In one life the Sādhaka may commence at, any stage. If he is a true Kaula now it is because in previous births he has by Sādhanā in the preliminary stages won his entrance into it. Knowledge of Śākti is, as the Niruttara Tantra says, acquired after many births; and according to the Mahānirvāṇa Tantra it is by merit acquired in previous births that the mind is inclined to Kaulācāra.
Kauladharma in in no wise sectarian but on the contrary claims to be the head of all sects. It is said “at heart a Śakta, outwardly a Śaiva, in gatherings a Vaiṣṇava (who are wont to gather together for worship in praise of Hari) in thus many a guise the Kaulas wander on earth.”
Antah-śāktah vahih-śaivāh sabhāyām vaiṣṇavāmatāh
Nānā-rūpadharāh Kaulāh vicharanti mahitāle.
The saying has been said to be an expression of this claim which is I think involved in it. It does however also I think indicate secrecy, and adaptability to sectarian form, of him who has pierced to the core of that which all sects in varying, though partial, ways present. A Kaula is one who has passed through these and other stages, which have as their own inmost doctrine (whether these worshippers know it or not) that of Kaulācāra. It is indifferent what the Kaula’s apparent sect may be. The form is nothing and everything. It is nothing in the sense that it has no power to narrow the Kaula’s inner life. It is everything in the sense that knowledge may infuse its apparent limitations with an universal meaning. A man may thus live in all sects, without their form being ever to him a bond.
In Vaidik times there were four Āśramas, that is, states and stages in the life of the Ārya, namely (in their order) that of the chaste student (Brahmacharya), secular life as a married house-holder (Gṛhastha), the life of the forest recluse with his wife in retirement frum the world (Vānaprastha), lastly that of the beggar (Bhikṣu or Avadhūta), wholly detached from the world, spending his time in meditation on the Supreme Brahman in preparation for shortly coming death. All these four were for the Brāhmana caste, the first three for the Kṣattriya, the first two for the Vaiśya and for the Śūdra the second only (Yogiyājñavalkya, Ch. I). As neither the conditions of life nor the character, capacity and powers of the people of this age allow of the first and third Āśrama, the Mahānirvāṇa Tantra states (VIII. 8) that in the Kali age there are only two Āśramas, namely, the second and last, and these are open to all castes indiscriminately (ib. 12). The same Tantra (XIV. 141 et seq.) speaks of four classes of Kulayogīs or Avadhūtas namely the Śaivāvadhūta and Brahmāvadhūta, which are each of two kinds, imperfect (Apūrna) and perfect (Pūrna). The first three have enjoyment and practise Yoga. The fourth or Paramahaṃsa should be absolutely chaste and should not touch metal. He is beyond all household duties and caste, and ritual, such as the offering of food and drink to Devatā. The Bhairavadāmara classes the Avadhūtas into (a) Kulāvadhūta, (b) Śaivāvadhūta, (c) Brahmāvadhūta, (d) Haṃsāvadhata. Some speak of three divisions of each of the classes Śaivāvadhūta and Brahmāvadhūta (see pp. XLIII, XLIV of Introduction to A. Avalon's Ecl. of Mahānirvāṇa). The Śaivāvadhūtas are not, either, from a Western or Śāstric standpoint, as high as the Brahmāvadhūta. The lowest of the last class can have intercourse only with the own wife (Svakīya Śākti as opposed to the Śaiva Śakti); the middling has ordinarily nothing to do with any Śakti, and the highest must under no circumstance touch a woman or metal, nor does he practise any rites or keep my observances.
The main divisions here are Vedācāra, Dakṣinācāra and Vāmācāra. Vedācāra, is not Vaidikāhāra, that is, in the Śrauta sense, for the Śrauta Vaidikācāra appears to be outside this sevenfold Tāntrik division of which Vedācāra in the Tāntrik counterpart. For it is Tāntrik Upāsanā with Vaidik rites and mantras, with (I have been told) Agni as Devatā. As a speculation we may suggest that this Ācāra was for those not Adhikārīfor what is called the Śrauta Vaidikācāra. The second and third belong and lead up to the completed Dakṣinācāra. This is Paśvacāra. Vāmācāra commences the other mode of worship, leading up to the completed Kaula the Kaulāvadhūta, Avadhūta, and Divya. Here, with the attainment of Brahmajñāna, we reach the region which is beyond all Ācāras which is known as Svecchācāra. All that those belonging to this state do or touch is pure. In and after Vāmācāra there is eating and drinking in, and as part of, worship and Maithuna. After the Paśu there is the Vīra and then the Divya. Paśu is the starting point, Vīra is on the way and Divya is the goal. Each of the sects has a Dakṣina and Vāmā division. It is commonly thought that this is peculiar to Śāktas: but this is not so. Thus there are Vāmā Gānapatyas and Vaiṣṇavas and so forth. Again Vāmācāra is itself divided again into a right and left side. In the former wine is taken in a cup of stone or other substance, and worship is with the Svakiya Śakti or Sādhaka’s own wife; in the latter and more advanced stage drinking is done from a skull and worship may be with Parastrī, that is, some other Śakti. In the case however of some sects which belong to the Vāmācāra division, whilst there is meat and wine, there is, I am told, no Śakti for the memhnrs are chaste (Brahmachārī). So far as I can ascertain these sects which are mentioned later seem to helong to the Śaiva as opposed to the Śhākta group.
The Tāntrik Saṅgraha called Śāktānanda-Taranginī by Brahmānda Svāmī says (Ch. 2) that Āgama is both Sadāgama and Asadāgma and that the former alone is Āgama according to the primary meaning of the word (Sadāgama eva āgamaśabdasya mukhyatvāt). He then says that Śiva in the Āgama Saṃhitā condemns the Asadāgama saying “Oh Deveshi, men in the Kali age are generally of a Rājasik and Tāmasik disposition and being addicted to forbidden ways deceive many others. Oh Sureśvarī, those who in disregard of their Varn āśrama Dharma offer to us flesh, blood and wine become Bhūtas, Pretas, and Brahmarākshasas,” that is, various forms of evil spirits. This prohibits such worship as is opposed to Varnāśramadharma. It is said, however, by the Vāmācārīs, who take consecrated wine and flesh as a Yajña, not to cover their case.
It is not uncommonly thought that Vāmācāra is that Ācāra into which Vāmā or woman enters. This is true only to a certain extent: that is, it is a true definition of those Sādhakas who do worship with Śakti according to Vāmācāra rites. But it seems to be incorrect, in so far as there are, I am told, worshippers of the Vāmācāra division who are chaste (Brahmachārī). Vāmācāra means literally “left” way, not “left-handed” in the English sense which means what is bad. As the name is given to these Sādhakas by themselves it is not likely that they would adopt a title which condemns them. What they mean is that this Ācāra is the opposite of Dakṣinācāra. Philosophically it is more monistic. It is said that even in the highest Siddhi of a Dakṣinācarī “there is always some One above him”; but the fruit of Vāmācāra and its subsequent and highest stages is that the Sādhaka “becomes the Emperor Himself.” The Bhāva differs, and the power of its method compared with Dakṣinācāra is said to be that between milk and wine.
Moreover it is to be noted that the Devīwhom they worship is on the left of Śiva. In Vāmācāra we find Kāpālikas, Kālamukhas, Pāśupatas, Bhāndikeras, Digambaras, Aghoras, followers of Cinācāra and Kaulas genereally who are initiated. In some cases, as in that of the advanced division of Kaulas, worship is with all five Tattvas (Pañcatattva). In some cases there is Brahmacarya as in the case of Aghora and Pāśupata, though these drink wine and eat flesh food. Some Vāmācārīs, I am informed, never cease to be chaste (Brahmacārī), such as Oghada Sadhus, worshippers of Batuka Bhairava, Kanthadhāri and followers of Gorakshanātha, Sitanātha and Matsyendranātha. In Nīlakrama there is no Maithuna. In some sects there are differing practices. Thus, I am told, amongst the Kālamukhas the Kālavīras only worship Kumārīs up to the age of nine, whereas the Kāmamohanas worship with adult Śaktis.
Some advanced members of this (in its general sense) Vāmācāra division do not, I am informed, even take wine and meat. It is said that the great Vāmācarī Sādhaka Rājā Kṛṣṇachandra of Nadia, Upāsaku of the Chinnamastā Mūrti, did not take wine. Such and similar Sādhakas have passed beyond the preliminary stage of Vāmācāra, and indeed (in its special sense) Vāmācāra itself. They may be Brāhma Kaulas. As regards Sādhakas generally it is well to remember what the Māhākāla Saṃhitā, the great Śāstra of the Madhyastha Kaulas, says in the 11th Ullāsa called Sharīra-yoga-kathanam:—“Some Kaulas there are who seek the good of this world (Aihikārthadhritātmānah). So also the Vaidikas enjoy what is here (Aihikārtham kāmayante; as do, I may interpose, the vast bulk of present humanity) and are not seekers of liberation (Amrite ratim na kurvanti). Only by Niṣkāmasādhanāis liberation attained.”
The Pañcatattva are either real (Pratyaksh. “Idealising” statements to the contrary are, when not due to ignorance, false), substitutional (Anukalpa) and esoteric (Divyatattva). As regards the second, even a vegetarian would not object to “meat” which is in fact ginger, nor the abstainer to “wine” which is cocoanut water in a bell-metal vessel. As for the Esoteric Tattva they are not material articles or practices, but the symbols for Yogic processes. Again some notions and practicea are more moderate and others extreme. The account given in the Mahānirvāṇa of the Bhairavi and Tattva Cakras may be compared with some more unrestrained practice; and the former again may be contrasted with a modern Cakra described in the 13th Chapter of the Life of Bejoy Kṛṣṇa Gosvāmīby Jagadbandu Maitra. There a Tāntrika Siddha formed a Cakra at which the Gosvāmī was present. The latter says that all who were there, felt as if the Śakti was their own Mother who had borne them, and the Devatās whom the Cakreśvara invoked appeared in the circle to accept the offerings. Whether this is accepted as a fact or not, it is obvious that it was intended to describe a Cakra of a different kind from that of which we have more commonly heard. There are some practices which are not correctly understood; there are some principles which the bulk of men will not understand; for to so understand there must be besides knowledge that undefinable Bhāva, the possession of which carries with it the explanation which no words can give. I have dealt with this subject in the Chapter on the Pañcatattva. There are expressions which do not bear their surface meaning. Gomāngsa-bhakṣana is not “beef-eating,” but putting the tongue in the root of the throat. What Home translate as “Ravishing the widow” refers not to a woman but to a process in Kuṇḍali Yoga and so forth. Lastly and this is important; a distinction is seldom, if ever, made between Śāstric principles and actual practice, nor is count taken of the conditions properly governing the worship and its abuse. It is easy to understand that if Hinduism has in general degenerated, there has been a fall here. It is, however, a mistake to suppose that the sole object of these rites is enjoyment. It is not necessary to be a “Tāntrik” for that. The moral of all this is, that it is better to know the facts than to make erroneous generalizations.
There are said to be three Krāntās or geographical divisions of India, of which roughly speaking the North-Eastern portion is Viṣṇukrāntā, the North-Western Rathakrāntā and the remaining and Southern portion is Aśvakrāntā. According to the Śāktamaṅgala and Mahāsiddhisāra Tantras, Viṣṇukrāntā(which includes Bengal) extends from the Vindhya range to Chattala or Chittagong. From Vindhya to Thibet and China is Rathakrāntā. There is then some difference between these two Tantras as to the position of Aśvakrāntā. According to the first this last Krāntā extends from the Vindhya to the sea which perhaps includes the rest of India. According to the Mahāsiddhisāra Tantra it extends from the Karatoyā River to a point which cannot be identified with certainty in the text cited, but which may be Java. To each of these 64 Tantras have been assigned. One of the questions awaiting solution is whether the Tantras of thew three geographical divisions are marked by both doctrinal and ritual peculiarities and if so what they are. This subject has been referred to in the first volume of the “Principles of Tantra” wherein a list of Tantras is given.
In the Śākta division there are four Sampradāyas, namely, Kerala, Kāśmira, Gauda and Vilāsa, in each of which there is both outer and inner worship. The Sammohana Tantra gives these four Sampradāyas, also the number of Tantras, not only in the first three Sampradāyas, but in Chīna and Drāvida. I have been informed that out of 56 Deśas (which included beside Hunas, places outside India, such as Chīna, Mahāchīna, Bhota, siṃhala), 18 follow Gauda extending from Nepāla to Kaliṅga and 19 follow Kerala extending from Vindhyāchala to the Southern Sea, the remaining countries forming part of the Kāśmīr Deśa; and that in each Sampradāya there are Paddhatis such as Śuddha, Gupta, Ugta. There is variance in Devatā and Rituals some of which are explained in the Tārasukta and Śaktisaṅgama Tantra.
There are also various Matas such as Kādi Mata, called Virādanuttara of which the Devatiā is Kālī(see Introduction to Vol. 8. (Tantrarāja) Tāntrik Texts); Hādi Mata called Haṃsarāja of which Tripurasundarī is Devatāand Kahādi Mata the combination of the two of which Tārā is Devatā that is Nīlasarasvatī. Certain Deśas are called Kādi, Hādi, Ka-hādi Deśas and each Mata has several Āmnāyas. It is said that the Haṃsatārā Mahāvidyāis the Sovereign Lady of Yoga whom Jainas call Padmāvatī, Śāktas Śakti, Bauddhas Tārā, Chīna Sādhakas Mahogrā, and Kaulas Cakreśvarī. The Kādis call her Kālī, the Hādis Śrīsundarī and the Kādi-Hādis Haṃsa ḥ. Volumes VIII and XII of “Tāntrik Texts” contain that portion of the Tantrarāja which belongs to Kādi Mata and in the English Introduction I have dealt with this subject.
Gauda Sampradāya considers Kādi the highest Mata, whilst Kāśmīra and Kerala worship Tripurāand Tārā. Possibly there may have been originally Deśas which were the exclusive seats of specific schools of Tantra, but later and at present, so far as they exist, this cannot be said. In each of the Deśas different Sampradāyas may be found, though doubtless at particular places, as in Bengal, particular sects may be predominant.
In my opinion it is not yet possible to present, with both accuracy and completeness, the doctrine and practice of any particular Tāntrik School, and to indicate wherein it differs from other Schools. It is not possible at present to say fully and precisely who the original Śāktas were, the nature of their sub-divisions and of their relation to, or distinction from, some of the Śaiva group. Thus the Kaulas are generally in Bengal included in the Brahmajñānī Śākta group but the Sammohana in one passage already cited mentions Kaula and Śākta separately. Possibly it is there meant to distinguish ordinary Śāktas from the special group called Kaula Śāktas. In Kashmir some Kaulas, I believe, call themselves Śaivas. For an answer to these and other questions we must await a further examination of the texts. At present I am doing clearing of mud (Paṅkoddhara) from the tank, not in the expectation that I can wholly clear away the mud and weeds, but with a desire to make a beginning which others may complete.
He who has not understood Tantra Śāstra has not understood what “Hinduism” is as it exists to-day. The subject is an important part of Indian culture and therefore worth study by the duly qualified. What I have said should be sufficient to warn the ignorant from making rash generalizations. At present we can say that he who worships the Mantra and Yantra of Śakti is a Śākta, and that there were several Sampradāyas of these worshippers. What we can, and should first, do is to study the Śākta Darśana as it exists to-day, working back from the known to the unknown. What I am about to describe is the Śākta faith as it exists to-day, that is Śaktivāda, not as something entirely new but as the development and amalgamation of the various cults which were its ancestors.
Summarising Śākta doctrine we may first affirm that it is Advaitavāda or Monism. This we might expect seeing that it flourished in Bengal which, as the old Gauda Deśa, is the Guru both of Advaitavāda and of Tantra Śāstra. From Gauda came Gaudapādācārya, Madhusūdana Sarasvatī, author of the great Advaitasiddhi, Rāmacandratīrthabhāratī, Citsukhācārya and others. There seems to me to be a strong disposition in the Brahmaparāyana Bengali temperament towards Advaitavāda. For all Advaitins the Śākta Āgama and Advaita Śaivāgama must be the highest form of worship. A detailed account of the Advaita teachings of the Śāktas is a matter of great complexity and of a highly esoteric character, beyond the scope of this paper. I may here note that the Śākta Tantras speak of 94 Tattvas made up of 10, 12 and 16 Kalās of Fire, Sun and Moon constituting the Kāmakalārespectively; and 19 of Sadāśiva, 6 of Īśvara, 10 each of Rudra, Viṣṇu and Brahmā. The 51 Kalās or Mātṛkās which are the Sūkṣmarūpa of the 51 letters (Varṇa) are a portion of these 94. These are the 51 coils of Kuṇḍalf from Bindu to Śrīmātṛkotpatti-Sundarīmentioned in my “Garland of Letters” or Studies on the Mantra Śāstra. These are all worshipped in the wine jar by those Śāktas who take wine. The Śāstras also set out the 36 Tattvas which are common of Śāktas and Śaivas; the five Kalās which are Sāmānya to the Tattvas, namely, Nivṛtti, Pratiśtha, Vidyā, Śāntā, Śāntyatītā, and the Ṣadadhvā, namely, Varṇa, Pada, and Mantra, Kalā, Tattva, Bhuvana, which represent the Artha aspect and the Śabda aspect respectively. (See “Garland of Letters.”)
To pass to more popular matters, a beautiful and tender concept of the Śāktas is the Motherhood of God, that is, God as Śakti or the Power which produces, maintains and withdraws the universe. This is the thought of a worshipper. Though the Sammohana Tantra gives high place to Śaṅkara as conqueror of Buddhism (speaking of him as a manifestation of Śiva and identifying his four disciples and himself, with the five Mah āpretas), the Āgamas as Śāstras of worship do not teach Māyāvāda as set forth according to Śaṅkara’s transcendental method. Māyā to the Śākta worshipper is not an unconscious something, not real, not unreal, not real-unreal, which is associated with Brahman in its Īśvara aspect, though it is not Brahman. Brahman is never associated with anything but Itself. Māyāto the Śākta is Śakti; Śakti veiling Herself as Consciousness, but which, as being Śakti, is Consciousness. To the Śākta all that he sees is the Mother. All is Consciousness. This is the standpoint of Sādhanā. The Advaitins of Śaṅkara’s School claim. that their doctrine is given from the standpoint of Siddhi. I will not argue this question here. When Siddhi is obtained there will be no argument. Until that event Man is, it is admitted, subject to Māyā and must think and act .according to the forms which it imposes on him. It is more important after all to realize in fact the universal presence of the Divine Consciousness, than to attempt to explain it. in philosophical terms.
The Divine Mother first appears in and as Her worshipper’s earthly mother, then as his wife; thirdly as Kālilā, She reveals Herself in old age, disease and deabh. It is She who manifests, and not without a purpose, in the vast outpouring of Saṃhāra Śakti which, was witnessed in the great world-conflict of our time. The terrible beauty of such forms is not understood. And so we get the recent utterance of a Missionary Profeasor at Madras who being moved to horror at the sight of (I think) the Chāmundāmūrti called the Devī a “She-Devil.” Lastly She takes to Herself the dead body in the fierce tongues of flame which light the funeral pyre.
The Monist is naturally unsectarian and so the Śākta faith, as held by those who understand it, is free from a narrow sectarian spirit.
Nextly it, like the other Āgamas, makes provision for all castes and both sexes. Whatever be the true doctrine of the Vaidikas, their practice is in fact marked by exclusiveness. Thus they exclude woman and Śūdras. It is easy to understand why the so-called Anārya Samyradāyas did not do so. A glorious feature of the Śākta faith is the honour which it pays to woman. And this is natural for those who worship the Great Mother, whose representative (Vigraha) all earthly women are. Striyo devāh striyah prānāh. “Women are Devas; women are life itself,” as an old Hymn in the Sarvollasa has it. It is because Woman is a Vigraha of the Ambā Devī, Her likeness in flesh and blood, that the Śākta Tantras enjoin the honour and worship of women and girls (Kumārīs), and forbade all harm to them such as the Sati rite, enjoining that not even a female animal is to ne sacrificed. With the same solicitude for women, the Mahānirvāṇa prescribes that even if a man speaks rudely (Durvvachyang kathayan) to his wife, he must fast for a whole day, and enjoins the education of daughters before their marriage. The Moslem Author of the Dabistan (ii. 154. Ed. 1843) says “The Āgams favours both sexes equally. Men and women equally compose mankind. This sect hold women in great esteem and call them Śaktis and to ill-treat a Śakti that is a woman is a crime.” The Śākta Tantras again allow of women being Guru, or Spiritual Director, a reverence which the West has not (with rare exceptions) yet given them. Initiation by a Mother bears eightfold fruit. Indeed to the enlightened Śākta the whole universe is Strī or Śakti. “Ahaṃ strī" as the Advaitabhāva Upaniṣad says. A high worship therefore which can be offered to the Mother to-day consists in getting rid of abuses which have neither the anthoritp of ancient Śāstra, nor of modern social science, and to honour, cherish, educate and advance women (Śakti). Striyo devāh striyah prānāh. Gautamīya Tantra saya Sarvavarnādhikāraścha nārīnām yogya eva cha; that is, the Tāntra Śāstra is for all castes and for women: and the Mahānirvāṇa says that the low Kaula who refuses to initiate a Chaṇḍāla or Yavana or a woman out of disrespect goes the downward path. No one is excluded from anything except on the grounds of a real and not artificial or imagined incompetency.
An American Orientalist critic, in speaking of “the worthlessness of Tāntric philosophy,” said that it was “Religious Feminism run mad,” adding “What is all this but the feminisation of orthodox Vedānta? It is a doctrine for suffragette Monists: the dogma unsupported by any evidence that the female principle antedates and includes the male principle, and that this female principle is supreme Divinity.” The “worthlessness” of the Tāntrik philosophy is a personal opinion on which nothing need be said, the more particularly that Orientalists who, with insufficient knowledge, have already committed themselves to this view were not likely to easily abandon it. The present criticism, however, in disclosing the grounds on which it is based, has shown that they are without worth. Were it not for such ignorant notions, it would be unnecessary to say that the Śākta Sādhaka does not believe that there is a Woman, Suffragette or otherwise, in the sky, surrounded by the members of some celestial feminist association who rules the male members of the universe. As the Yāmala says for the benefit of the ignorant “neyam yoshit na cha pumān na shando na jadah smṛtah.” That is, God is neither female, male, hermaphrodite or uiiconscious thing. Nor is this doctrine concerned with the theories of the American Professor Lester Ward and othem as to the alleged preeminence of the female principle. We are uot here dealing with questions of science or sociology. It is a common fault of western criticism that it gives material interpretations of Indian Scriptures and so misunderstands it. The Śātka doctrine is concerned with those Spiritual Principles which exist before, and are the origin of, both men and women. Whether, in the appearance of the animal species, the female “antedates” the male is a question with which it is not concerned. Nor does it say that the “female principle” is the supreme Divinity. Śiva the “male” is co-equal with Śivā the "female," for both are one and the same. An Orientalist might have remembered that in the Sāṅkhya, Prakṛti is spoken of as “female,” and Puruṣa as “male.” And in Vedāntra, Māyā and Devī are of the feminine gender. Śakti is not a male nor a female “person,” nor a male nor a female “principle,” in the sense in which sociology, which is concerned with gross matter, uses those terms. Śakti is symbolically “female” because it is the productive principle. Śiva, in so far as he represents the Cit or consciouncss aspect, is actionless (Nishkriya), though the two are inseparably associated even in creation. The Supreme is the attributeless (Nirguqa) Shivit, or the neuter Brahman which is neither “male” nor “female.” With such mistaken general views of the doctrine, it was not likely that its more subtle aspects by way of relation to Shaṅkara’s Māyāvāda, or the Sāṅkhya Darśana should be appreciated. The doctrine of Śakti has no more to do with “Feminism” than it has to do with “old age pensions” or any other sociological movement of the day. This is a good instance of those apparently “smart” and cocksure judgments which Orientalists and others pass on things Indian. The errors would be less ridiculous if thay were on occasions more modest as regards their claims to know and understand. What is still more important, they would not probably in such case give unnecessary ground for offence.
The characteristic features of Śākta-dharma are thus its Monism; its concept of the Motherhood of God; its unsectarian spirit and provision for Śūdras and women, to the latter of whom it renders high honour, recognizing that thsy may be even Gurus; and lastly its Sādhanāskilfully designed to realize its teachings.
As I have pointed out on many an occasion this question of Sādhanā is of the highest importance, and has been in recent times much overlooked. It is that which more than anything else gives value to the Āgama or Tantra Śāstra. Mere talk about religion is only an intellectual exercise. Of what, use are grand phrases about Ātmā on the lips of those who hate and injure one another and will not help the poor. Religion is kindness. Religion again is a practical activity. Mind and body nlust be trained. There is a spiritual as well as a mental and physical gymnastic. According to Śākta doctrine each man and woman contains within himself and herself a vast latent magazine of Power or Śakti, a term which comes from the root “Śak” to be able, to have force to do, to act. They are each Śakti and nothing but Śakti, for the Svarūpa of Śakti that is Śakti as it is jn itself is Consciousness, and mind and body are Śakti. The problem then is how to raise and vivify Śakti. This is the work of Sādhanā in the Religion of Power. The Āgama is a practical philosophy, and as the Bengali friend and collaborator of mine, Professor Pramathanātha Mukhyopādhyāya, whom I cite again, has well put it, what the intellectual world wants to-day is the sort of philosophy which not merely argues but experiments. This is Kriyā. The form which Sādhanā takes necessarily varies according to faith, temperament and capacity. Thus, amongst Christians, the Catholic Church, like Hinduism, has a full and potent Sādhanāin its sacraments Saṃskāra, temple (Church) and private worship (Pūjā, Upāsanā) with Upachāra “bell, light and incense” (Ghantā, Dīpa, Dhūpa), Images or Pratimā (hence it has been called idolatrous), devotional rites such as Novenas and the like, (Vrata) the threefold “Angelus” at morn, noon and evening (Sandhyā), rosary (Japa), the wearing of Kavachas (Scapdcars, Medals, Agnus Dei), pilgrimage (Tīrtha), fasting, abstinence and mortification (Tapas), monastic renunciation (Sannyāsa), meditation (Dhyāna), ending in the union of mystical theology (Samādhi) and so forth. There are other smaller details such for instance as Śānti-abhiṣeka (ksperges) into which I need not enter here. I may, however, mention the Spiritual Director who occupies the place of the Guru; the worship (Hyperdulia) of the Virgin-Mother which made SvāmīVivekānanda call the Italian Catholics, Śāktas; and use use of wine (Madya) and bread (corresponding to Mudrā) in the Eucharist or Communion Service. Whilst however the Blessed Virgin evokes devotion as warm as that which is here paid to Devī, she is not Devī for she is not God but a creature selected as the vehicle of His incarnation (Avatāra). In the Eucharist the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ appearing under the form or “accidents” of those material substances; so also Tārāis Dravamtryī, that is, the “Saviour in liquid form.” (Mahānirvāṇa Tr. xi. 105-107.) In the Catholic Church (though the early practice was otherwise) the laity no longer take wine but bread only, the officiating priest consuming both. Whilst however the outward forms in this case are similar, the inner meaning is different. Those however who contend that. eating and drinking are inconsistent with the “dignity” of worship may be reminded of Tertullian’s saying that Christ instituted His great sacrament at a meal. These notions are those of the dualist with all his distinctions. For the Advaitin every function and act may be made a Yajña. Agapē or “Love Feasts,” a kind of Cakra, were held in early times, and discontinued as orthodox practice, on account of abuses to which they led; though they are said still to exist in some of the smaller Christian sects of the day. There are other points of ritual which are peculiar to the Tāntra Śāstra and of which there is no counterpart in the Catholic ritual such as Nyāsa and Yantra. Mantra exists in the form of prayer and as formulæ of consecration, but otherwise the subject is conceived of differently here. There are certain gestures (Mudrā) made in the ritual, as when consecrating, blessing, and so forth, but they are not so numerous or prominent as they are here. I may some day more fully develop these interesting analogies, but what I have said is for the present sdiicient to establish the numerous sirnilarities which exist between the Catholic and Indian Tāntrik ritual. Because of these facts the “reformed” Christian sects have charged the Catholic Church with “Paganism.” It is in fact the inheritor of very ancient practices but, is not necessarily the worse for that. The Hindu finds his Sādhanā in the Tantras of the Āgama in forms which his race has evolved. In the abstract there is no reason why his race should not modify these forms of Sādhanāor evolve new ones. But the point is that it must have some form of Sādhanā. Any system to be fruitful must, experiment to gain experience. It is because of its powerful sacraments and disciplines that in the West the Catholic Church has survived to this day, holding firm upon its “Rock” amid the dissolving sects, born of what is called the “Reform.” It is likely to exist when these, as presently existing sects, will have disappeared. All things survive by virtue of the truth in them. The particular truth to which I here refer is that a faith cannot be maintained by mere hymn-singing end pious addresses. For this reason too Hinduism has survived.
This is not necessary to say that either of these will, as presently existing forms, continue until the end of time. The so-called Reformed or Protestant sects, whether of West or East, are, when viewed in relation to man in general, the imperfect expression of a truth misunderstood and misapplied, namely that the higher man spiritually ascends the less dependent is he on form. The mistake which such Sects make is to look at the matter from one side only, and to suppose that all men are alike in their requirement. The Āgama is guilty of no such error. It offers form in all its fullness and richness to those below the stage of Yoga, at which point man reaches what the Kulārṇava Tantra calls the Varna and Āśrama of Light (Jyotirvarnāśramā), and gradually releases himself from all form that he may unite his self with the Formless One. I do not know which most to admire—the colossal affirmations of Indian doctrine, or the wondrous variety of the differing disciplines which it prescribes for their realization in fact.
The Buddhists called Brāhmanism Śīkavrataparāmarsha, that is, a system believing in the efficacy of ritual acts. And so it is, and so at length was Buddhism, when passing though Mahāyāna it ended up with the full Tāntrik Sādhanā of the Vajrayāna School. There are human tendencies which cannot be suppressed. Hinduism will, however, disappear, if and when Sādhanā(whatever be its form) ceases; for that will be the day on which it will no longer be something real, but the mere subject of philosophical and historical talk. Apart from its great doctrine of Śakti, the nmin significance of the Śākta Tantra Śāstra lies in this, that it affirms the principle of the necessity of Sādhanā and claims to afford a means available to all of whatever caste and of either sex whereby the teachings of Vedānta may be practically realized.
But let no one take any statement from any one, myself included, blindly, without examining and testing it. I am only concerned to state the facts as I know them. It is man’s prerogative to think. The Sanskrit word for “man” comes from the root man “to think.” Those who are Śāktas may be pleased at what I have said about their faith. It must not, however, be supposed that a doctrine is necessarily true simply because it is old. There are some hoary errors. As for science, its conclusions shift from year to year. Recent discoveries have so abated its pride that it has considerably ceased to give itself those pontifical aim which formerly annoyed some of us. Most will feel that if they are to bow to any Master it should be to a spiritual one. A few will think that they can safely walk alone. Philosophy again is one of the noblest of life’s pursuits, but here too we must examine to see whether what is proposed for our acceptance is well-founded. The maxim is current that there is nothing so absurd but that it has been held by some philosopher or another. We must each ourselves judge and choose, and if honest, none can blame our choice. We must put all to the test. We may here recollect the words of Śruti—“Śrotavyah, Mantavyah, Nididhyāsitavyah”—“listen, reason and ponder”; for as Manu says “Yastarkenānusandhatte sa dharmam veda, netarah”—“He who by discussion investigates, he knows Dharma and none other.” Ultimately there is experience alone which in Śākta speech is Sāham—“She I am.”
NOTE TO CHAPTER VI.
I have referred to the Vaidik and Āgamic strands in Indian Dharma. I wish to add some weighty remarks made by the well-known Vedāntic Monthly the Prabuddha Bhārata (Māyāvati, U. P., July 1914, 1916). They were elicited by the publication of Arthur Avalon’s “Principles of Tantra.” After pointing out that a vindication of the Tantras rebounds directly to the benefit of Hinduism as a whole, for Tāntrikism in its real sense is nothing but the Vedic religion struggling with wonderful success to reassert itself amidst all those new problems of religious life and discipline which historical events and developments thrust upon it, and after referring to the Introduction to that work, the author of the review wrote as follows:—
“In this new publication (Messrs. Luzac & Co. of London) the most noteworthy feature of this new Introduction he has written for the Tantratattva is his appreciative presentation of the orthodox views about the antiquity and the importance of the Tantras, and it is impossible to over-estimate the value of this presentation.
“For hitherto all theories about the origin and the importance of the Tantras have been more or lees prejudiced by a wrong bias against Tāntrikism which some of its own later sinister developments were calculated to create. This bias has made almost every such theory read either like a condemnation or an apology. All investigation being thus disqualified, the true history of Tāntrikism has not yet been written; and we find cultured people mostly inclined either to the view that Tāntrikism originally branched off from the Buddhistic Mahāyāna or Vajrayāna as a cult of some corrupted and self-deluded monastics, or to the view that it was the inevitable dowry which some barbarous non-Aryan races brought along with them. into the fold of Hinduism. According to both these views, however, the form which this Tāntrikism—either a Buddhistic development or a barbarous importation—has subsequently assunled in the literature of Hinduism, is its improved edition as issuing from the crucibles of Vedic or Vedāntic transformation. But this theory of the curious co-mingling of the Vedas and Vedānta with Buddhistic corruption or with non-Aryan barbarity is perfectly inadequate to explain the all-pervading influence which the Tantras exert on our present-day religious life. Here it is not any hesitating compromise that we have got before us to explain, but a bold organic synthesis, a legitimate restatement of the Vedic culture for the solution of new problems and new difficulties which signalized the dawn of a new age.
“In tracing the evolution of Hinduism, modern historians take a blind leap from Vedic ritualism direct to Buddhism, as if to conclude that all those newly formed communities, with which Inclia had been swarming all over since the close of the fateful era of the Kurukṣetra war and to which was denied the right of Vedic sacrifices, the monopoly of the higher threefold castes of pure orthodox descent, were going all the time without any religious ministrations. These Aryanised communities, we must remember, were actually swamping the Vedic orthodoxy, which was already gradually dwindling down to a helpless minority in all its scattered centres of influence, and was just awaiting the final blow to be dealt by the rise of Buddhism. Thus the growth of these new communities and the occupation of the whole land constituted a mighty event that had been silently taking place in India on the outskirts of the daily shrinking orthodoxy of Vedic ritualism, long before Buddhism appeared on the field, and this momentous event our modern historians fail to take due notice of either, it may be because, of a curious blindness of self-complacency or because of the dazzle which the sudden triumuph of Buddhism and the overwhelming mass of historical evidences left by it, create before their eyes. The traditional Kali Yuga dates from the rise of these communities and the Vedic religious culture of the preceding Yuga underwent a wonderful transformation along with a wonderful attempt it made to Aryanise these rising communities.
“History, as hitherto understood and read, speaks of the Brahmins of the pre-Buddhistic age,—their growing alienation from the Jñāna-kāṇḍa or the Upaniṣadic wisdom, their impotency to save the orthodox Vedic communities from the encroachments of the non-Vedic hordes and races, their ever-deepening religious formalism and social exclusiveness. But this history is silent on the marvellous feats which the Upaniṣadic sects of anchorites were silently performing on the outskirts of the strictly Vedic community with the object of Aryanising the new India that was rising over the ashes of the Kurukṣetra conflagration. This new India was not strictly Vedic like the India of the bygone ages, for it could not claim the religious ministrations of the orthodox Vedic Brahmins and could not, therefore, perform Yajñas like the latter. The question, therefore, is as to how this new India became gradually Aryanised, for Aryanisation is essentially a spiritual process, consisting in absorbing new communities of men into the fold of the Vedic religion. The Vedic ritualism that prevailed in those days was powerless, we have seen, to do anything for these new communities springing up all over the country. Therefore, we are obliged to turn to the only other factor in Vedic religion besides the Karma-kāṇḍa for an explanation of those change, which the Vedic religion wrought in the rising communities in order to Aryanise them. The Upaniṣads represent the Jñāna-kāṇḍa of the Vedic religion and if we study all of them, we find that not only the earliest ritualism of Yajñas was philosophised upon the earlier Upaniṣads, but the foundation for a new, and no less elaborate, ritualism was fully laid in many of the later Upaniṣads. For example, we study in these Upaniṣads how the philosophy of Pañcaupāsana (fivefold worship, viz., the worship of Śiva, Devī, Sun, Ganeśa and Viṣṇu) was developed out ot the mystery of the Praṇava (“Oṃ”). This philosophy cannot be dismissed as a post-Buddhistic interpolation, seeing that some features of the same philosophy can be clearly traced even in the Brahmaṇas (e.g., the discourse about the conception of Śiva).
“Here, therefore, in some of the later Upaniṣads we find recorded the attempts of the pre-Buddhistic recluses of the forest to elaborate a post-Vedic ritualism out of the doctrine of the Praṇava and the Vedic theory of Yogic practices. Here in these Upaniṣads we find how the Bīja-mantras and the Ṣaṭcakra of the Tantras were being originally developed, for on the Praṇava or Udgītha had been founded a special learning end a school of philosophy from the very earliest ages and some of the “spinal” centres of Yogic meditation had been dwelt upon in the earliest Upaniṣads and corresponding Brahmaṇas. The Upakaranas of Tāntrik worship, namely, such material adjuncts as grass, leaves, water and so on, were most apparently adopted from Vedic worship along with their appropriate incantations. So even from the Brahmaṇas and the Upaniṣads stands out a clear relief a system of spiritual discipline, which we would unhesitatingly classify as Tāntrik—having at its core the Pañca-upāsana and around it a fair round of rituals and rites consisting of Bīja-mantras and Vedic incantations, proper meditative processes and proper manipulation of sacred adjuncts of worship adopted from the Vedic rites. This may be regarded as the earliest configuration which Tāntrikism lad on the eve of those silent but mighty social upheavals through which the Aryanisation of vast and increasing multitudes of new races proceeded in pre-Buddhistic India and which had their culmination in the eventful centuries of the Buddhistic coup de grace.
“Now this pre-Buddhistic Tāntrikism, perhaps, then recognized as the Vedic Pañca-upāsana, could not have contributed at all to the creation of a new India, had it remained confined completely within the limits of monastic sects. But like Jainism, this Pañca-upāsana went forth all over the country to bring ultra-Vedic communities under its spiritual ministrations. Even if we enquire carefully into the social conditions obtaining in the strictly Vedic ages, we find that there was always an extended wing of the Aryanised society where the purely Vedic Karma-kāṇḍa could not be promulgated, but where the moulding influence of Vedic ideals worked through the development of suitable spiritual activities. It is always to the Jñāna-kāṇḍa and the monastic votaries thereof, that the Vedic religion owed its wonderful expansiveness and its progressive self-adaptability, and every religious development within the Vedic fold, but outside, the ritualism of Homa sacrifices, is traceable to the spiritual wisdom of the all-renouncing forest recluses. This ‘forest’ wisdom was most forcibly brought into requisition when after the Kurukṣetra a new age was dawning with the onrush and upheaval of non-Aryan and semiAryan races all over India—an echo of which may be found in that story of the Mahābhārata where Arjuna fails to use his Gāndiva to save his protegés from the robbery of the non-Aryan hordes.
“The greatest problem of the pre-Buddhistic ages was the Aryanisation of the new India that rose and surged furiously from every side against the fast-dwindling centres of the old Vedic orthodoxy struggling hard, but in vain, by social enactments to guard its perilous insulation. But for those religious movements, such as those of the Bhāgavatas, Śāktas, Sauyas, Śaivas, Gānapatyas and Jainas, that tackled this problem of Aryanisation most suacessfully, all that the Vedic orthodoxy stood for in the real sense would have. gradually pershed without trace. These movements, specially the five cults of Vedic worship, took up many of the non-Aryan races and cast their life in the mould of the Vedic spiritual ideal, minimizing in this way the gulf that existed between them and tthe Vedic orthodoxy and thereby rendering possible their gradual amalgamation. And where this task remained unfulfilled owing to the mould proving too narrow still to fit into the sort of life which some non-Aryan races or communities lived, there it remained for Buddhism to solve the problem of Aryanisation in due time. But still we must remember that by the time Buddhism made its appearance, the pre-Buddhistic phase of Tāntrik worship. had already established itself in India so widely and so firmly that instead of dislodging it by its impetuous onset—all the force of which, bye the bye, was mainly spent on the tottering orthodoxy of Vedic ritualism— Buddhism was itself swallowed up within three or four centuries by its perhaps least suspected opponent of this Tāntrik worship and then wonderfully transformed and ejected on the arena as the Mahāyāna.
“The publication of these two volumes is an event of great interest and importance. The religious beliefs of the modern Hindus have been represented to English readers from various points of view, but the peculiar mould into which they have been sought to he cast in comparatively modern centuries has not received adequate attention. The exponents of the religion of modern Hindus take cognizance more of the matter and source of their beliefs than of the change of form they have been undergoing through the many centuries. The volumes under review, as well as other publications brought out by Arthnr Avalon, serve to carry this important question of form to such a prominence as almost makes it obligatory for every exhaustive exposition of Hindu doctrines in future to acknowledge and discriminate in them the formative influences of the Tāntrik restatement. In the Tantratattva, the presentation and vindication of the Hindu religious beliefs and practices avowedly and closely follow the methodology of the Tantras, and the learned pundit has fully succeeded in establishing the fact that what lies behind these beliefs and practices is not mere prejudice or superstition but a system of profound philosophy based on the Vedas. Every student of modern Hinduism should acquaint himself with this, namely, its immediate background of Tāntrik philosophy and ritualism.
“The Hindu religious consciousness is like a mighty Ganges emerging from the Himalayas of Vedic wisdom, receiving tributaries and sending out branch streams at many points in its course. And though the nature of the current, its colour, velocity or uses may vary at different places, the Ganges is the same Ganges whether at Hardwar, Allahabad or Calcutta. The stream is not only one but it has also its one main channel in spite of all the many tributaries and branches. And the whole of the stream is sacred, though different sects may choose special points and confluences as of special sanctity to themselves, deriving inspiration thence for their special sectarian developments. Now, though the rise of Tāntrik philosophy and ritualism created in former times new currents and backwaters along the stream of Hinduism, it was essentially an important occurrence in the main stream and channel; and instead of producing a permanent bifurcation in that stream, it coalesced with it, colouring and renovating, more or less, the whole tenour of the Hindu religious consciousness. As a result, we find Tāntrik thought and sentiment equally operative in the extreme metaphysical wing of Hinduism as well as in its lower matter-of-fact phases.
“This actual permeation of Hindu religious consciousness by Tāntrik thought and sentiment should receive the fullest, recognition at the hands of every up-to-date exponent. His predecessors of former generations might have to strengthen their advocacy of Tāntrik doctrines by joining issue with the advocates of particular phases of Hindu religion and philosophy. But the present epoch in the history of our religious consciousness is pre-eminently an epoch of wonderful synthetic mood of thought and sentiment, which is gradually pervading the Hindu religious consciousness ever since Srī Rāmakrishna Paramahaṃsa embodied in himself its immediate possibilities, to find in the literature that, is being so admirably provided for English readers by Arthur Avalon an occasional tendency to use Tāntrik doctrines as weapons for combating certain phases of Hindu belief and practice. This tendency seems to betray quite a wrong standpoint in the study of the Tantras, their relation to other Scriptures and their real historical significance.”