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Shiva Shakti Shakta, Hindu Religion and Tantra

Tantra and the Tantrik Hindu religion: Shakti and Shakta

by Arthur Avalon, $19.95 large size paperback, $10.60 ebook


This book is a profound assimilation of Arthur Avalon's essays on the mystic spiritual tradition of Goddess worship in Hinduism. An essential book for any era, the subtle, eternal truths offered within the covers of this book take the reader into the holistic realm of divine inner union. Originally published in 1918, this incredible work of scholarship, mysticism, and wisdom has been resurrected by Iconoclast Press so as to keep the treasures of understandings found within this book available to the world.  

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Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapter Four: Tantra Shastra and Veda

In writing this Chapter I have in mind the dispute which some have raised upon the question whether the Agamas, or some of them, are Vaidik or non-Vaidik.

I do not here deal with the nature and schools of Tantra or Agama nor with their historical origin. Something has been said on these points in the Introductions to the English translations of Pandit Shiva Chandra Vidyarnava's Tantra-tattva. I have also dealt with this subject in the two Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapters, "What are the Tantras and their significance?" and "Shakti and Shakta". I wish to avoid repetitions, except so far as is absolutely necessary for the elucidation of the particular subject in hand. On the disputed question whether the Agamas are Vaidik or non-Vaidik I desire to point out that an answer cannot be given unless we keep apart two distinct matters, viz., (1) what was the origin of the Agamas and (2) what they are now. I am not here, however, dealing with the first or historical question, but with the second so far as the Shakta Agama is concerned. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that (to take a specific example) worship of Kali and other Devis by the Shaktas indicates the existence of non-Aryan elements in their Agama. The question of real importance here, as always, is not as to what were the facts in remote past ages, but what they are now. The answer then is -- let it be as you will regarding the origin of the Shakta Agama; but at present Shakta worship is an integral part of the Hinduism and as such admits the authority of Veda, accepting, as later explained, every other belief held by the general body of the Hindu people.

In a recent prosecution under Sections 292, 293 of the Indian Penal Code against an accused who had published a Tantra (but who was rightly acquitted), an Indian Deputy Magistrate who had advised the prosecution, and who claimed to be an orthodox Hindu, stated (I am informed) in the witness box, that he could not define what the Tantra Shastra was, or state whether it was a Hindu scripture of the Kali age, or whether a well-known particular Shastra shown to him was one of the Tantras. Such ignorance is typical of many at the present time and is a legacy from a vanishing age. How is it that a Shastra which has had its followers throughout India from the Himalayas (the abode of Shiva and of Parvati Devi) to Cape Comorin (a corruption of Kumart Devi) which ruled for centuries, so that we may speak of a Tantrik epoch; which even to-day governs the household and temple ritual of every Hindu; how is it that such a Shastra has fallen into complete neglect and disrepute amongst the larger body of the English-educated community'? I remember a time when mention of the Shastra was only made (I speak of course of the same class) with bated breath; and when any one who concerned himself therewith became thereby liable to the charge of giving licentious sway to drink and women. The answer is both a general and particular one. In the first place the English-educated people of this country were formerly almost exclusively, and later to a considerable extent, under the sway of their English educators. In fact they were in a sense their creation. They were, and some of them still are, the Manasaputra of the English. For them what was English and Western was the mode. Hindu religion, philosophy and art were only, it was supposed, for the so-called "uneducated" women and peasants and for native Pandits who, though learned in their futile way, had not received the illuminating advantages of a Western training. In my own time an objection was (I am informed) taken by Indian Fellows of the Calcutta University to the appointment of the learned Pandit Candrakanta Tarkalamkara to a chair of Indian philosophy on the ground that he was a mere native Pandit. In this case English Fellows and the then Vice-Chancellor opposed this absurd and snobbish objection. When the authority of the English teachers was at its highest, what they taught was law, even though their judgments were, in respect of Indian subjects of which they had but a scant and imperfect knowledge, defective. If they said with, or in anticipation of, one Professor, that the Vedas were "the babbling of a child humanity" and the Brahmanas "the drivel of madmen," or with another that the thought of the Upanishads was so "low" that it could not be correctly rendered in the high English language; that in "treating of Indian philosophy a writer has to deal with thoughts of a lower order than the thoughts of the every-day life of Europe"; that Smriti was mere priestly tyranny, the Puranas idle legends and the Tantras mere wickedness and debauchery; that Hindu philosophy was (to borrow another English Professor's language concerning the Samkhya) "with all its folly and fanaticism little better than a chaotic impertinence"; and that Yoga was, according to the same man of learning, "the fanatical vagaries of theocracy"; that Indian ritual was nothing but superstition, mummery, and idolatry, and (Indian) art, inelegant, monstrous, and grotesque -- all this was with readiness accepted as high learning and wisdom, with perhaps here and there an occasional faint, and even apologetic, demur. I recollect in this connection a rather halting, and shamefaced, protest by the late Rajendra Lal Mitra. I do not say that none of these or other adverse criticisms had any ground whatever. There has been imperfection, folly, superstition, wickedness, here as elsewhere. There has been much of it, for example, in the countries, whence these critics of India came. It is, however, obvious that such criticisms are so excessive as to be absurd.

Even when giving an account of Eastern thought the Western is apt to take up a "superior" attitude because he believes himself to be superior. The Bishop of Durham very clearly reveals this sense of superiority (Christian Aspects of Life, by B. F. Westcott, 175) when after stating that the duty of the Christian missionary was to substitute for "the sterile theism of Islam and the shadowy vagueness of Hindu Philosophy a belief in a living and speaking God" he goes on to point out that "our very advantages" by way of "the consciousness of social and intellectual superiority with which we are filled" and "the national force which sets us as conquerors where we come as evangelists" constitute a danger in the mission field. It is this notion of "superiority" also which prevents a right understanding, and which notwithstanding the facts, insists on charges which, if established, would maintain the reputation for inferiority of the colored races. It is this reiterated claim to superiority that has hypnotized many persons amongst Eastern races into the belief that the European is, amongst other things, always a safe and learned critic even of their own beliefs and practices.

Raja Rammohan Roy was the first to take up the cause of his faith, divorcing it from the superstitious accretions which gather around all religions in the course of the ages. The same defense was made in recent times by that man of upstanding courage, Svami Vivekananda. Foreign criticism on Indian religion now tends in some quarters to greater comprehension. I say in some quarters; for even in quite recent years English books have been published which would be amazing, were one not aware of the deep ignorance and prejudice which exist on the subject. In one of these books the Hindu religion is described as "a mixture of nightmare nonsense and time-wasting rubbish fulfilling no useful purpose whatever: only adding to the general burden of existence borne by Humanity in its struggle for existence." In another it is said to be "a weltering chaos of terror, darkness, and uncertainty". It is a religion without the apprehension of a moral evolution, without definite commandments, without a religious sanction in the sphere of morals, without a moral code and without a God: such so-called God, as there is, being "a mixture of Beaches, Don Juan and Dick Turin." It is there further described as the most material and childishly superstitious animalism that ever masqueraded as idealism; not another path to God but a pit of abomination as far set from God as the mind of man can go; staggering the brain of a rational man; filling his mind with wild contempt for his species and which has only endured "because it has failed." Except for the purpose of fanatical polemic, one would assume that the endurance of a faith was in some measure the justification of it. It is still more wonderful to learn from this work (The Light of India written by Mr. Harold Begbie and published by the Christian Literature Society for India) that out of this weltering chaos of all that is ignominious, immoral and crassly superstitious, come forth men who (in the words of the author) "standing at prayer startle you by their likeness to the pictures of Christ -- eyes large, luminous and tranquil -- the whole face exquisite with meekness and majestic with spirit." One marvels how these perfect men arise from such a worthless and indeed putrescent source. This absurd picture was highly colored in a journalistic spirit and with a purpose. In other cases, faulty criticism is due to supercilious ignorance. As another writer says (the italics are mine) "For an Englishman to get a plain statement of what Brahmanism really means is far from easy. The only wonder is that people who have to live on nine pence a week, who marry when they are ten years old, are prevented by caste life from rising out of what is often, if not always, a degraded state, have any religion at all." As the Bishop of Peterborough has recently said it is difficult for some to estimate worth in any other terms than g. s. d. It is to be hoped that all such snobbish materialism will be hindered from entrance into this country. These quotations reveal the depths of ignorance and prejudice which still exist. As we are however aware, all English criticism is not as ignorant and prejudiced as these, even though it be often marred by essential error. On the contrary there are an increasing number who appreciate and adopt, or appreciate if they cannot accept, Indian beliefs. Further than this, Eastern thought is having a marked influence on that of the West, though it is not often acknowledged. Many have still the notion that they have nothing to learn in any domain from this hemisphere. After all, what any one else says should not affect the independence of our own judgment. Let others say what they will. We should ourselves determine matters which concern us. The Indian people will do so when they free themselves from that hypnotic magic, which makes them often place blind reliance on the authority of foreigners, who, even when claiming to be scholars, are not always free from bias, religious or racial. Such counsel, though by no means unnecessary to-day, is happily becoming less needed than in the past.

There are, however, still many Indians, particularly those of my own generation, whose English Gurus and their teaching have made them captives. Their mind has been so dominated and molded to a Western manner of thinking (philosophical, religious, artistic, social and political) that they have scarcely any greater capacity to appreciate their own cultural inheritance than their teachers, be that capacity in any particular case more or less. Some of them care nothing for their Shastra. Others do not understand it. The class of whom I speak are, in fact, as I have said, the Manasaputra of the English in a strict sense of the term. The Indian who has lost his Indian soul must regain it if he would retain that independence in his thought and in the ordering of his life which is the mark of a man, that is of one who seeks Svarajya-siddhi. How can an imitator be on the same level as his original? Rather he must sit as a Cela at the latter's feet. Whilst we can all learn something from one another, yet some in this land have yet to learn that their cultural inheritance with all its defects (and none is without such) is yet a noble one; an equal in rank, (to say the least), with those great past civilizations which have molded the life and thought of the West. All this has been admitted by Indians who have discernment. Such value as my own remarks possess, is due to the fact that I can see and judge from without as an outsider, though (I will admit in one sense) interested observer -- interested because I have at heart Indian welfare and that of all others which, as the world now stands, is bound up with it.

As regards the Tantra Shastra in particular, greater ignorance prevailed and still exists. Its Vamacara practice however, seemed so peculiar, and its abuses were so talked of, that they captured attention to the exclusion of every thing else; the more particularly that this and the rest of the Shastra is hard to understand. Whilst the Shastra provides by its Acaras for all types from the lowest to the most advanced, its essential concepts, under whatever aspect they are manifested, and into whatever pattern they are woven, are (as Professor De La Vallee Poussion says of the Buddhist Tantra) of a metaphysical and subtle character. Indeed it is largely because of the subtlety of its principles, together with the difficulties which attend ritual exposition, that the study of the Tantras, notwithstanding the comparative simplicity of their Sanskrit, has been hitherto neglected by Western scholars. Possibly it was thought that the practices mentioned rendered any study of a system, in which they occurred, unnecessary. There was and still is some ground for the adverse criticism which has been passed on it. Nevertheless it was not a just appreciation of the Shastra as a whole, nor even an accurate judgment in respect of the particular ritual thus singled out for condemnation. Let those condemn this Shastra who will. That is their affair. But let them first study and understand it.

I have dealt with the subject of the Tantras in several papers. It is only necessary here to say that "the Tantra" as it is called was wrongly considered to be synonymous with the Shakta Tantras; that in respect of the latter the whole attention was given to the Vamacara ritual and to magic (Shatkarma); that this ritual, whatever may in truth be said against it, was not understood; that it was completely ignored that the Tantras contained a remarkable philosophic presentment of religious teaching, profoundly applied in a ritual of psychological worth; and that the Shastras were also a repertory of the alchemy, medicine, law, religion, art and so forth of their time. It was sufficient to mention the word "Tantra" and there was supposed to be the end of the matter.

I have often been asked why I had undertaken the study of the Tantra Shastra, and in some English (as opposed to Continental) quarters it has been suggested that my time and labor might be more worthily employed. One answer is this: Following the track of unmeasured abuse I have always found something good. The present case is no exception. I protest and have always protested against unjust aspersions upon the Civilization of India and its peoples. If there be what is blameworthy, accuracy requires that criticism should be reduced to its true proportions. Having been all my life a student of the world's religions and philosophies, I entered upon a particular study of this Shastra to discover for myself what it taught, and whether it was, as represented, a complete reversal of all other Hindu teaching with which I was acquainted. For it was said to be the cultivation or practice of gluttony, lust, and malevolence ("ferocity, lust, and mummery" as Brian Hodgson called it), which I knew the Indian Shastra, like all the other religious Scriptures of the world, strictly forbids.

I found that the Shastra was of high importance in the history of Indian religion. The Tantra Shastra or Agama is not, as some seem to suppose, a petty Shastra of no account; one, and an unimportant sample, of the multitudinous manifestations of religion in a country which swarms with every form of religious sect. It is on the contrary with Veda, Smriti and Purana one of the foremost important Shastras in India, governing, in various degrees and ways, the temple and household ritual of the whole of India to-day and for centuries past. Those who are so strenuously averse to it, by that very fact recognize and fear its influence. From a historical point of view alone, it is worthy of study as an important part of Indian Culture, whatever be its intrinsic worth. History cannot be written if we exclude from it what we do not personally like. As Terence grandly said: "We are men and nothing which man has done is alien to us". There are some things in some of the Tantras and a spirit which they manifest of which their student may not personally approve. But the cause of history is not to be influenced by personal predilections. It is so influenced in fact. There are some who have found in the Shastra a useful weapon of attack against Indian religion and its tendencies. Should one speak of the heights which Indian spiritual experience has reached, one might be told that the infamous depths to which it had descended in Tantra Shastra, the Pushtimarga, the Vaishnava Sahajiya and so forth were more certainly established. Did one praise the high morality to be found in Indian Shastra, it might be admitted that India was not altogether destitute of the light of goodness; but it might be asked, what of the darkness of the Tantra? And so on and so forth. Let us then grapple with and not elude the objection. There was of course something in all this. But such objectors and others had not the will (even if they had the capacity to understand) to give a true presentment of the teachings of the Shastra. But the interests of fairness require both. Over and above the fact that the Shastra is an historical fact, it possesses, in some respects, an intrinsic value which justifies its study. Thus it is the storehouse of Indian occultism. This occult side of the Tantras is of scientific importance, the more particularly having regard to the present revived interest in occultist study in the West. "New thought" as it is called and kindred movements are a form of Mantravidya. Vasikaranam is hypnotism, fascination. There is "Spiritualism" and "Powers" in the Tantras and so forth. For myself, however, the philosophical and religious aspect of the Scripture is more important still. The main question for the generality of men is not "Powers" (Siddhi). Indeed the study of occultism and its practice has its dangers; and the pursuit of these powers is considered an obstacle to the attainment of that true Siddhi which is the end of every Shastra. A subject of greater interest and value is the remarkable presentation of Vedantic knowledge which the Shakta Tantra in particular gives (I never properly understood the Vedanta until after I had studied the Tantras) as also the ritual by which it is sought to gain realization (Aparokshajnana). The importance of the Shakta Tantra may be summed up by the statement that it is a Sadhana Shastra of Advaitavada. I will develop this last matter in a future paper. I will only say now that the main question of the day everywhere is how to realize practically the truths of religion, whatever they be. This applies to all, whether Hindu, Mohammed or Christian. Mere philosophical speculation and talk will avail nothing beyond a clarification of intellect. But, that, we all know, is not enough. It is not what we speculate about but what we are, which counts. The fundamental question is, how to realize (Sakshatkara) religious teaching. This is the fruit of Sadhana alone, whether the form of that Sadhana be Christian, Hindu, Mohammed, Buddhist or what else. The chief Sadhana-Shastra for the orthodox Hindu is the Tantra Shastra or Agama in its varying schools. In this fact lies its chief significance, and for Hindus its practical importance. This and the Advaitavada on which the Shakta ritual rests is in my opinion the main reason why Shakta Darshana or doctrine is worthy of study.

The opinion which I had formed of the Shastra has been corroborated by several to whom I had introduced the matter. I should like to quote here the last letter I had only a month ago from an Indian friend, both Sanskritist and philosopher (a combination too rare). He says "they (the Tantras) have really thrown before me a flood of new light. So much so, that I really feel as if I have discovered a new world. Much of the mist and haziness has now been cleared away and I find in the Tantras not only a great and subtle philosophy but many of the missing links in the development of the different systems of Hindu philosophy which I could not discover before but which I have been seeking for, for some years past." These statements might perhaps lead some to think that the Shastra teaches something entirely, that is in every respect, new. As regards fundamental doctrines, the Tantra Shastra (for convenience I confine myself to the Shakta form) teaches much which is to be found in the Advaita Vedanta. Therefore those who think that they will find in the Shastra some fundamental truths concerning the world which are entirely new will be disillusioned. The observation does not apply to some doctrinal teaching, presentment, methods, and details, to which doubtless my friend's letter referred. He who has truly understood Indian Shastra as a whole will recognize, under variety of form and degree of spiritual advancement, the same substance by way of doctrine.

Whilst the Shakta Tantra recognizes, with the four Vedas, the Agamas and Nigaimas, it is now based, as are all other truly Indian Shastras on Veda. Veda, in the sense of Knowledge, is ultimately Spiritual Experience, namely Cit which Brahman is, and in the one partless infinite Ocean of Which the world, as a limited stress in Consciousness arises. So it is said of the Devi in the Commentary on the Trishati:



She is Brahman-knowledge (Brahmavidya) in the form of direct realization produced by the Vedantic great saying (Mahavakya) -- that is "Tat tvam asi" ("That thou art") and all kindred sayings, So'ham, ("He I am"), Brahmasmi ("I am Brahman") and so forth. In other words, Self-knowledge is self-luminous and fundamental and the basis of all other knowledge. Owing to its transcendency it is beyond both prover and proof. It is self-realized (Svanubhava). But Shruti is the source from which this knowledge arises, as Samkara says, by removing (as also to some extent reason may do) false notions concerning it. It reveals by removing the superincumbent mass of human error. Again, Veda in a primary sense is the world as Idea in the Cosmic Mind of the creating Brahman and includes all forms of knowledge. Thus it is eternal, arising with and as the Samskaras at the beginning of every creation. This is the Vedamurtibrahman. Veda in the secondary sense is the various partial revelations relating to Tattva, Brahman or God, and Dharma, morality, made at different times and places to the several Rishis which are embodied in the four Vedas, Rig, Yajus, Sama and Atharva. Veda is not coextensive therefore with the four Vedas. But are these, even if they be regarded as the "earliest," the only (to use an English term) revelations? Revelation (Akasha-vani) never ceases. When and wherever there is a true Rishi or Seer there is Revelation. And in this sense the Tantra Shastra or Agama claims to be a Revelation. The Shabdabrahmamurti is Nigamadishastramaya: it being said that Agama is the Paramatma of that Murti, the four Vedas with their Angas are its Jivatma; the six philosophies its Indriyas; the Puranas and Upapuranas its gross body; Smriti its hands and other limbs and all, "other Shastras are the hairs of its body. In the Heart-lotus are the fifty Tejomayi Matrika. In the pericarp are the Agamas glittering like millions of suns and moons which are Sarvadharmamaya, Brahmajnanamaya, Sarvasiddhimaya, and Murtiman. These were revealed to the Rishis. In fact all Shastras are said to constitute one great many-millioned collection (Shatakoti Samhita) each being particular manifestations to man of the one, essential Veda. From this follows the belief that they do not contradict, but are in agreement with, one another; for Truth is one whatever be the degree in which it is received, or the form in which the Seers (Rishis) promulgated it to those whose spiritual sight has not strength enough to discern it directly and for themselves. But how, according to Indian notions, can that which is put forward as a Revelation be shown to be such? The answer is that of Ayurveda. A medicine is a good one if it cures. In the same way a Shastra is truly such if the Siddhi which it claims to give is gained as the fruit of the practice of its injunctions, according to the competency and under the conditions prescribed. The principle is a practical and widely adopted one. The tree must be judged by its fruit. This principle may, if applied to the general life of to-day, lead to an adverse judgment on some Tantrik practices. If so, let it be. It is, however, an error to suppose that even such practices as have been condemned, claim to rest on any other basis than Veda. It is by the learned in Tantra Shastra said to be ignorance (Avidya) to see a difference between Agama and Veda.

Ignorant notions prevail on the subject of the relation of the Tantras to Veda and the Vedas. I read some years ago in a Bengali book by a Brahmo author that "the difference was that between Hell and Heaven". Now on what is such a condemnatory comparison based? It is safe to challenge production of the proof of such an assertion. Let us examine what the Shakta Tantra (to which allusion was made) teaches.

In the first place "Hell" recognizes "Heaven," for the Shakta Tantra, as I have said, acknowledges the authority of Veda. All Indian Shastras do that. If they did not, they would not be Indian Shastra. The passages on this point are so numerous, and the point itself is so plain that I will only cite a few.

Kularnava Tantra says (II. 85,140,141) that Kuladharma is based on and inspired by the Truth of Veda. Tasmat vedatmakam shastram viddhi kaulatmakam priye. In the same place Shiva cites passages from Shruti in support of His doctrine. The Prapancasara and other Tantras cite Vaidika Mahavakya and Mantras; and as Mantras are a part of Veda, therefore, Meru Tantra says that Tantra is part of Veda (Pranatoshini 70). Niruttara Tantra calls Tantra the Fifth Veda and Kulacara is named the fifth Ashrama (ib.); that is it follows all others. Matsyauktamahatantra (XIII) says that the disciple must be pure of soul (Shuddhatma) and a knower of Veda. He who is devoid of Vaidika-kriya (Vedakriya-vivarjita) is disqualified (Maharudrayamala, I Khanda, Ch. 15; II Khanda, Ch. 2; Pranatoshini 108). Gandharva Tantra (Ch. 2, Pranatoshini 6) says that the Tantrik Sadhaka must be a believer in Veda (Astika), ever attached to Brahman, ever speaking of Brahman, living in Brahman and taking shelter with Brahman; which, by the way, is a queer demand to make of those, the supposed object of whose rites is mere debauchery. The Kularnava says that there is no knowledge higher than that of Veda and no doctrine equal to Kaula (III. 113, Nahivedadhika vidya na kaula-samadarshanam). Here a distinction is drawn between Veda which is Vidya and the Kaula teaching which he calls Darshana. See also Mahanirvana Tantra (I. 18, 19; II. 8-15). In Mahanirvana Tantra (III. 72) the Mantra Om Saccidekam Brahma is given and in the Prapancasara (Ch. XXIX) this (what it calls) "Secret of the Vedas" is explained.

That the Shakta Tantra claims to be based on Veda admits of no doubt. In fact Kulluka Bhatta, the celebrated commentator on Manu, says that Shruti is of two kinds, Vaidik and Tantrik.

Vaidiki tantrums caviar dvividha shrutih kirtita

It is of course the fact that different sects bandy words upon the point whether they in fact truly interpret Shruti and follow practice conformable to it. Statements are made by opposing schools that certain Shastras are contrary to Shruti even though they profess to be based thereon. So a citation by Bhaskararaya in the Commentary to V. 76 of the Lalita sahasranama speaks of some Tantras as "opposed to Veda" (Vedaviruddhani). The Vayu Samhita says: "Shaivagama is twofold, that which is based on Shruti and that which is not. The former is composed of the essence of Shruti. Shrauta is Svatantra and Itara" (v. ante, p. 19). Shaivagamo'pi dvividhah, shrauto' shrautash ca samsmritah Srutisaramayah shrautah svantrastvitaro matah.

So again the Bhagavata or Pancaratra Agama has been said to be non-Vaidik. This matter has been discussed by Samkaracarya and Ramanuja following Yamunacarya.

We must in all cases distinguish between what a school says of itself and what others say of it. In Christianity both Catholicism and Protestantism claim to be based on the Bible and each alleges that the other is a wrong interpretation of it. Each again of the numerous Protestant sects says the same thing of the others.

But is Shakta Tantra contrary to Veda in fact? Let us shortly survey the main points in its doctrine. It teaches that Paramatma Nirguna Shiva is Saccidananda (Prapancasara, Ch. XXIX: Kularnava, Ch. I. vv. 6-7). Kularnava says "Shiva is the impartite Supreme Brahman, the All-knowing (Sarvajna) Creator of all. He is the Stainless One and the Lord of all. He is One without a second (Advaya). He is Light itself. He changes not, and is without beginning or end. He is attributeless and above the highest. He is Saccidananda" (I. 6-7. And see the Dhyana and Pancaratnastotra in Mahanirvana Tantra III. 50, 59-63). Brahman is Saccidananda, Eternal (Nitya), Changeless (Nirvikara), Partless (Nishkala), Untouched by Maya (Nirmala), Attributeless (Nirguna), Formless (Arupa), Imperishable (Akshara), All-spreading like space (Vyomasannibha), Self-illuminating (Svyamjyotih), Reality (Tattva) which is beyond mind and speech and is to be approached through spiritual feeling alone (Bhavanagamya). Kularnava I, 6-8; III. 92, 93; IX. 7). (Mahanirvana III. 50, 59-63, 67-68, 74; III. 12). In His aspect as the Lord (Ishvara) of all, He is the All-knower (Sarvajna), Lord of all: whose Body is pure Sattva (Shuddhasattvamaya), the Soul of the universe (Vishvatma). (Mahanirvana I. 61, III. 68). Such definitions simply re-affirm the teaching of Veda. Brahman is That which pervades without limit the Universe (Prapancasara XXIX; Mahanirvana III. 33-35) as oil the sesamum seed (Sharada Tilaka I, Shaktanandatarangini I, Pranatoshini 13). This Brahman has twofold aspect as Parabrahman (Nirguna, Nishkala) and Shabda-brahman (Saguna, Sakala). Sammohana, a highly interesting Tantra, says (Ch. I) that Kubjika is of twofold aspect, namely, Nishkala when She is Candra-vaktra, and Sakala when called Paramukhi. So too is Guhyakali who as the first is Ekavaktra mahapashupatishi advaitabhavasampanna and as the second Dashavaktra. So the Kularnava says Shabda-brahmaparamabrahmabhedena Brahmano dvaividyam uktam (Khanda V, Ullasa 1). The same Tantra says that Sadashiva is without the bonds (of Maya) and Jiva is with them (Pashabadho bhavej jivah pashamuktah Sadashivahi, IX. 42) upon which the author of the Pranatoshini, citing this passage says "thus the identity of Jiva and Shiva is shown (iti Shivajivayoraikyam uktam). The Shakta Tantra is thus Advaitavada: for it proclaims that Paramatma and Jivatma are one. So it affirms the "grand words" (Mahavakya) of Veda -- "Tat tvam asi," "So'ham," "Brahmasmi" (Mahanirvana VIII. 264-265, V. 105); Prapancasara II; identifying Hrim with Kundali and Hangsah and then with So'ham. Yah Suksmah So'ham ib. XXIV, Jnanarnava Tantra XXI. 10). As to Brahmasmi, see Kularnava IX. 32 and ib. 41. So'hambhavena pujayet. The Mantra "all this is surely Brahman (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma)" is according to the Mahanirvana (VII. 98) the end and aim of Tantrika Kulacara, the realization of which saying the Prapancasara Tantra describes as the fifth or Supreme State (Ch. XIX); for the identity of Jivatma and Paramatma is Liberation which the Vedantasara defines to be Jivabrahmanoraikyam). Kularnava refers to the Advaita of which Shiva speaks (Advaitantu shivenoktam I. 108. See also Mahanirvana II. 33-34; I II. 33-35; 50-64; Prapancasara II, XI X, XXIX). Gandharva Tantra says that the Sadhaka must be a nondualist (Dvaitahina). (See Ch. II. ib. Pranatoshini 108; Maharudrapamala I Khanda, Ch. 15; II Khanda, Ch. 2). It is useless to multiply quotations on this point of which there is no end. In fact that particular form of worship which has earned the Shakta Tantras ill-fame claims to be a practical application of Advaitavada. The Sammohana Tantra (Ch. VIII) gives high praise to the philosopher Samkaracarya saying that He was an incarnation of Shiva for the destruction of Buddhism. Kaulacarya is said to properly follow a full knowledge of Vedantic doctrine. Shiva in the Kularnava (I. 110) says "some desire dualism (Dvaita), others nondualism (Advaita) but my truth is beyond both (Dvaitadvaitavivarjita)".

Advaitavedanta is the whole day and life of the Shakta Sadhaka. On waking at dawn (Brahmamuhurta) he sits on his bed and meditates "I am the Devi and none other. I am Brahman who is beyond all grief. I am a form of Saccidananda whose true nature is eternal Liberation."

Aham Devi na canpo'smi, Brahmaivaham na sokabhak,

Saccidanandarupo'ham nitpamuktasvabhavavan.

At noon again seated in Pujasana at time of Bhutasuddhi he meditates on the dissolution of the Tattvas in Paramatma. Seeing no difference between Paramatma and Jivatma he affirms Sa'ham "I am She". Again in the evening after ritual duties he affirms himself to be the Akhilatma and Saccidananda, and having so thought he sleeps. Similarly (I may here interpose) in the Buddhist Tantra -- the Sadhaka on rising in the state of Devadeha (hLayi-sku) imagines that the double drums are sounding in the heavens proclaiming the Mantras of the 24 Viras (dPahvo), and regards all things around him as constituting the Mandala of himself as Buddha Vajrasattva. When about to sleep he again imagines his body to be that of Buddha Vajrasattva and then merges himself into the tranquil state of the Void (Shunyata).

Gandharva Tantra says: "Having saluted the Guru as directed and thought 'So'ham' the wise Sadhaka, the performer of the rite should ponder the unity of Jiva and Brahman."

Gurun natva vidhanena so'ham iti porudhasah

Aikyam sambhavayed dhiman jivasya Brahmano'pi ca.

Kali Tantra says: "Having meditated in this way, a Sadhaka should worship Devi as his own Atma, thinking I am Brahman." Kubjika Tantra says (Devi is called Kubjika because She is Kundali): "A Sadhaka should meditate on his own Self as one and the same with Her (Taya sahitam atmanam ekibhutam vicintayet)" and so on.

The cardinal doctrine of these Shakta Tantras is that of Shakti whether in its Svarupa (that is, as It is in Itself) as Cidrupini, the Paraprakriti of Paramatma (Mahanirvana IV. 10) or as Maya and Prakriti (see as to the latter the great Hymn to Prakriti in Prapancasara, Ch. XI). Shakti as the Kubjika Tantra says (Ch. I) is Consciousness (Caitanyarupini) and Bliss (Anandarupini). She is at the same time support of (Gunashraya) and composed of the Gunas (Gunamayi). Maya is however explained from the standpoint of Sadhana, the Tantra Shastra being a Sadhana Shastra, and not according to the Mayavada, that is, transcendental standpoint, of Samkara.

What is there in the great Devi Sukta of the Rigveda (Mandala X, Sukta 125) which the Shakta Tantra does not teach? The Rishi of this revelation was a woman, the daughter of Rishi Ambhrina. It was fitting that a woman should proclaim the Divine Motherhood. Her Hymn says: "I am the Sovereign Queen the Treasury of all treasures; the chief of all objects of worship whose all-pervading Self all Devatas manifest; whose birthplace is in the midst of the causal waters; who breathing forth gives form to all created worlds and yet extends beyond them, so vast am I in greatness." (The full Hymn is translated in the French Edition of A. and E. Avalon's Hymns to the Goddess, Bossard, Paris.)

It is useless to cite quotations to show that the Shakta Tantra accepts the doctrine of Karma which as the Kularnava (IX. 125) says Jiva cannot give up until he renounces the fruit of it; an infinite number of universes, and their transitoriness (Mahanirvana III. 7), the plurality of worlds, Heaven and Hell, the seven Lokas, the Devas and Devis, who as the Kulacudamani Nigama (following the Devi-Sukta) says (Ch. I) are but parts of the great Shakti (Shaktanandatarangim III). Being Advaitavada, Moksha the state of Liberation and so forth is Paramatma. It accepts Smriti and Puranas; the Mahanirvana and other Tantras saying that they are the governing Shastras of the Treta and Dvapara ages respectively, as Tantra is that of the Kaliyuga. So the Tarapradipa (Ch. I) says that in the Kaliyuga, the Tantrika and not the Vaidika Dharma is to be followed. It is said that in Satya, Veda was undivided. In Dvapara, Krishnadvaipayana separated it into four parts. In Satya, Vaidika Upasana was Pradhana, that is, prevailed; Sadhakas worshipping Indra for wealth, children and the like; though Nishkama Rishis adored the Sarvashaktiman (Devisukta is Advaitasiddhipurna). In Treta, worship according to Smriti prevailed. It was then, that Vashishtha is said to have done Sadhana of Brahmavidya according to Cinacarakrama. Though in the Dvapara there was both Smriti and Purana, rites were generally performed according to the Puranas. There was also then, as always, worshippers of the Purnashaktimahavidya. At the end of Dvapara and beginning of the Kali age the Tantra Shastra was taught to men. Then the ten Samskaras, Shraddha and Antyeshtikriya were, as they are now, performed according to the Vaidikadharma: Ashramacara according to Dayabhaga and other Smriti Texts; Vratas according to Purana; Disha and Upasana of Brahman with Shakti, and various kinds of Yoga Sadhana, according to the Agama which is divided into three parts Tantra (Sattvaguna), Yamala (Rajoguna), and Damara (Tamoguna). There were 64 Tantras for each of the three divisions Ashvakranta, Rathakranta, Vishnukranta.

Such is the Tantrik tradition concerning the Ages and their appropriate Scriptures. Whether this tradition has any historical basis still awaits inquiry, which is rendered difficult by the fact that many Tantras have been lost and others destroyed by those inimical to them. It is sufficient for my purpose to merely state what is the belief: that purpose being to show that the Tantra Shastra recognizes, and claims not to be in conflict with Veda or any other recognized Shastra. It accepts the six Philosophies (Darshana) which Shiva says are the six limbs of Kula and parts of his body, saying that he who severs them severs His limbs (Kularnava II. 84, 84-85). The meaning of this is that the Six Philosophies and the Six Minds, as all else, are parts of His body. It accepts the Shabda doctrine of Mimamsa subject to certain modifications to meet its doctrine of Shakti. It, in common with the Shaiva Tantra, accepts the doctrine of the 36 Tattvas, and Shadadhva (Tattva, Kala, Bhuvana, Varna, Pada, Mantra; see my Garland of Letters). This is an elaboration in detail which explains the origin of the Purusha and Prakriti Tattvas of the Samkhya. These are shown to be twin facets of the One, and the "development" of Shakti into Purusha-Prakriti Tattva is shown. These Tattvas include the ordinary 24 Prakriti with it, Gunas to Prithivi. It accepts the doctrine of three bodies (causal, subtle, gross) and the three states (Jagrat, Svapna Sushupti) in their individual and collective aspects. It follows the mode of evolution (Parinama) of Samkhya in so far as the development of Jiva is concerned, as also an Abhasa, in the nature of Vivartta, "from Fire to Fire" in the Pure Creation. Its exposition of the body includes the five Pranas, the seven Dhatus, the Doshas (Vayu, Pitta, Kapha) and so forth (Prapancasara II). On the ritual side it contains the commonly accepted ritual of present-day Hinduism; Mantra, Yantra, Pratima, Linga, Shalagrama, Nyasa, Japa, Puja, Stotra, Kavaca, Dhyana and so forth, as well 'as the Vaidik rites which are the ten Samskaras, Homa and the like. Most of the commonly accepted ritual of the day is Tantrik. It accepts Yoga in all its forms Mantra, Hatha, Laya, Jnana; and is in particular distinguished by its practice of Laya or Kundali-yoga and other Hatha processes.

Therefore not only is the authority of the Veda acknowledged along with the Agamas, Nigamas and Tantras but there is not a single doctrine or practice, amongst those hitherto mentioned, which is either not generally held, or which has not the adherence of large numbers of Indian worshippers. It accepts all the notions common to Hinduism as a whole. Nor is there a single doctrine previously mentioned which is contrary to Veda, that is on the assumption of the truth of Advaitavada. For of course it is open to Dualists and Vishishtadvaitins to say that its Monistic interpretation of Vedanta is not a true exposition of Vaidik truth. No Shakta will however say that. Subject to this, I do not know of anything which it omits and should have included, or states contrary to the tenor of Vaidik doctrine. If there be anything I shall be obliged, as a student of the Shastra, to any one who will call my attention to it. The Shastra has not, therefore, up to this point shown itself as a "Hell" in opposition to the Vaidik "Heaven."

But it may said that I have omitted the main thing which gives it its bad and un-Vaidik character, namely the ill-famed Pancatattva or worship with meat, wine, fish, grain and woman. I have also omitted the magic to be found in some of the Shastras.

The latter may be first shortly dealt with. Magic is not peculiar to the Tantras. It is to be found in plenty in the Atharvaveda. In fact the definition of Abhicara is "the Karma described in the Tantras and Atharvaveda." Abhicara is magical process with intent to destroy or injure. It is Himsa-karma, or act injurious to others. There is nothing anti-Vaidik then in Magic. I may, however, here also point out that there is nothing wrong in Magic (Shatkarma) per se. As with so many other things it is the use or abuse of it which makes it right or wrong. If a man kills, by Marana Karma, a rival in his business to get rid of competition and to succeed to his clients' custom, he commits a very grave sin -- one of the most grievous of sins. Suppose, however, that a man saw a tiger stalking a child, or a dacoit about to slay it for its golden ornament; his killing of the tiger or dacoit would, if necessary for the safety of the child, be a justifiable act. Magic is, however, likely to be abused and has in fact been abused by some of the Tantriks. I think this is the most serious charge established against them. For evil magic which proceeds from malevolence is a greater crime than any abuse of natural appetite. But in this, as in other matters, we must distinguish between what the Shastra says and the practices of its followers. The injunction laid upon the Sadhaka is that he "should do good to other beings as if they were his own self". Atmavat sarvabhutebhyo hitam kuryat kuleshvari (Kularnava Tantra XII. 63). In the Kularnava Samhita (a different and far inferior work to the Tantra of that name) Shiva recites some horrible rites with the flesh of rat and bat; with the soiled linen of a Candala woman, with the shroud of a corpse, and so forth; and then he says, "My heart trembles (hridayam kampate mama), my limbs tremble (gatrani mama kampante), my mouth is dry, Oh Parvati! (mukham shushyate Parvati!) Oh gentle one, my mind is all disturbed (kshobho me jayate bhadre). What more shall I say? Conceal it (Na vaktavyam) conceal it, conceal it." He then says: "In the Kali age Sadhakas are generally greedy of money. Having done greatly sinful acts they destroy living beings. For them there is neither Guru nor Rudra, nor Thee nor Sadhika. My dear life! they are ready to do acts for the destruction of men. Therefore it is wrong to reveal these matters, oh Devi. I have told Thee out of affection for Thee, being greatly pleased by Thy kisses and embrace. But it should be as carefully concealed by Thee, as thine own secret body. Oh Parvati! all this is greatly sinful and a very bad Yoga. (Mahapatakayuktam tat kuyogo'yam udahritah.)"

Kalikale sadhakastu prapasho dhanalolupah

Mahakrityam vidhayaiva praninam badhabhaginah

Na gurur napi Rudro va naiva tvam naiva sadhika

Mahapranivinashaya samarthah pranavallabhe

Etat prakashanam devi dosaya parikalpyate

Snehena tava deveshi chumbanalinganaistatha

Santusyaiva maya devi sarvam etat prakashitam

Tvapa gopyam prayatnena svayoniriva Parvati

Mahapataka-yuktam tat kuyogo'yam udahritah.

"None of these things are ever to be done by Thee, Oh Daughter of the Mountain (Sarvatha naiva kartavyastvaya Parvatanandini). Whoever does so, incurs the sin of destroying Me. I destroy all such, as does fire, dry grass. Of a surety such incur the sin of slaying a Brahmana. All such incur the sin of slaying a Brahmana."

Sarvatha naiva kartavya stvaya Parvatanandini

Badhabhak mama deveshi krityamimam samacaret

Tasya sarvam haramyashu vahnih shuskatrinam yatha

Avyartham brahmahatyanca brahmahatyam savindati.

When therefore we condemn the sin of evil magic it is necessary to remember both such teaching as is contained in this quotation, and the practice of those of good life who follow the Shastra. To do so is to be both fair and accurate. There is nothing, in any event, in the point that the magical contents of the Tantra Shastra make it contrary to Veda. Those who bring such a charge must also prefer it against the Atharvaveda.

As a matter of fact Magic is common to all early religions. It has been practiced, though condemned, in Christian Europe. It is not necessary to go back to the old witchcraft trials. There are some who protest against its recrudescence to-day. It has been well observed that there are two significant facts about occultism, namely its catholicity (it is to be found in all lands and ages) and its amazing power of recuperation after it has been supposed to have been disproved as mere "superstition". Even some quarter of a century ago (I am quoting from the same author) there were probably not a score of people in London (and those kept their preoccupation to themselves) who had any interest at all in the subject except from a purely antiquarian standpoint. Magic was dismissed by practically all educated men as something too evidently foolish and nonsensical to deserve attention or inquiry. In recent years the position has been reversed in the West, and complaint is again made of the revival of witchcraft and occultism to-day. The reason of this is that modern scientific investigation has established the objectivity of some leading phenomena of occultism. For instance a little more than a century or so ago, it was still believed that a person could inflict physical injury on another by means other than physical. And this is what is to be found in that portion of the Tantra Shastras which deal with the Shatkarma. Witches confessed to having committed this crime and were punished therefor. At a later date the witchcraft trials were held to be evidence of the superstition both of the accused and accusers. Yet psychology now allows the principle that Thought is itself a Force, and that by Thought alone, properly directed, without any known physical means the thought of another, and hence his whole condition, can be affected. By physical means I mean direct physical means, for occultism may, and does avail itself of physical means to stimulate and intensify the force and direction of thought. This is the meaning of the magic rituals which have been so much ridiculed. Why is black the color of Marana Karma? Because that color incites and maintains and emphasizes the will to kill. So Hypnotism (Vashikaranam), as an instance of the exercise of the Power of Thought, makes use of gestures, rotatory instruments and so forth.

The Magician having a firm faith in his (or her) power (for faith in occultism as in Religion is essential) surrounds himself with every incentive to concentrated, prolonged and (in malevolent magic), malevolent thought. A figure or other object such as part of the clothing, hair, nails and so forth of the victim represents the person to be attacked by magic. This serves as the 'immediate object' on which the magical thought is expended. The Magician is helped by this and similar aids to a state of fixed and malignant attention which is rendered intense by action taken on the substituted object. It is not of course the injuries done to this object which are the direct cause of injury to the person attacked, but the thought of the magician of which these injuries are a materialization. There is thus present the circumstances which a modern psychologist would demand for success in a telepathic experiment. As the witchcraft trials show, the victim is first affected in thought and then in body by the malignant thought thus focused upon him. Sometimes no apparent means are employed, as in a case reported to me by a friend of mine as occurring in a Bombay Hotel when a man well-known in India for his "Powers" (Siddhi) drove away, by the power of his thought only, a party of persons sitting at a neighboring table whose presence was greatly distasteful to one of his companions. This, if the effect of' magical power, was an instance of what the Tantras call Ucchatana. In all cases the general principle is the same, namely the setting in motion and direction of powerful thought by appropriate means.

This is the view of those who give what may be called a psychological explanation of these phenomena. These would hold that the magical symbolisms are without inherent force but work according to race and individual characteristics on the mind which does the rest. Others believe that there is an inherent power in Symbolism itself, that the "Symbol" is not merely such but an actual expression of, and instrument by which, certain occult laws are brought into play. In other words the power of "Symbolism" derives not merely from the effect which it may have on particular minds likely to be affected by it but from itself as a law external to human thought. Some again (and Indian magicians amongst others) believe in the presence and aid of discarnate personalities (such as the unclean Pishacas) given in the carrying out of occult operations. Similarly it is commonly held by some that where so-called "spiritualistic" phenomena are real and not fraudulent (as they sometimes are) the action is not that of the dead but of Infernal Spirits simulating them and misleading men to their ruin. Occultism in the sense of a belief in, and claim to be able to use, a certain range of forces which may be called preternatural, has the adherence not only of savage and barbarous people (who always believe in it) but also of an increasing number of "civilized" Londoners, Berliners, Americans, Parisians and other Western peoples. They differ in all else but they are united in this. Even what most would regard as downright superstition still abundantly flourishes in the West. Witness the hundreds of thousands of "touch-wood" figures and the like sent to the troops in the recent war, the horror of' sitting 13 to a table, and so on. In fact, from the earliest ages, magic has gone hand-in-hand with religion, and if for short periods the former has been thought to be dead it always rises again. Is this, as some say, the mark of the inherent silly credulity of mankind, or does the fact show that there is something in the claims which occultism has made in all ages P India (I do not speak of the English-educated community which shares in the rise and fall of English opinion) has always believed in occultism and some of the Tantra Shastras are repertories of its ritual. Magic and superstition proper, exist in this country but are also to be found in the West. The same remark applies to every depreciatory criticism passed upon the Indian people. Some have thought that occultism is the sign both of savagery and barbarism on the one hand and of decadent civilization on the other. In India it has always existed and still exists. It has been well said that there is but one mental attitude impossible to the educated man, namely blank incredulity with regard to the whole subject. There has been, and is, a change of attitude due to an increase of psychological knowledge and scientific investigation into objective facts. Certain reconciliations have been suggested, bringing together the ancient beliefs, which sometimes exist in crude and ignorant forms. These reconciliations may be regarded as insufficiently borne out by the evidence. On the other hand a proposed reconciliation may be accepted as one that on the whole seems to meet the claims made by the occultist on one side and the scientific psychologist on the other. But in the present state of knowledge it is no longer possible to reject both claims as evidently absurd. Men of approved scientific position have, notwithstanding the ridicule and scientific bigotry to which they have been exposed, considered the facts to be worthy of their investigation. And on the psychological side successive and continuous discoveries are being made which corroborate ancient beliefs in substance, though they are not always in consonance with the mode in which those beliefs were expressed. We must face the fact that (with Religion) Occultism is in some form or another a widely diffused belief of humanity. All however will be agreed in holding that malevolent Magic is a great Sin. In leaving the subject of Magic I may here add that modern psychology and its data afford remarkable corroboration of some other Indian beliefs such as that Thought is a Force, and that its operation is in a field of Consciousness which is wider than that of which the mind is ordinarily aware. We may note also the aid which is derived from the establishment of dual and multiple personalities in understanding how it may be possible that in one unity there may be yet varying aspects.

The second charge is the alleged Avaidik character of the secret Pancatattva Sadhana, with wine, flesh and women, its alleged immorality of principle, and the evil lives of those who practice it. I am not in the present paper dealing in full with this subject; not that I intend by any means to shirk it; but it is more appropriately the subject of consideration in future Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapters on the subject of Shakta Tantrik Sadhana of which it forms a part. What I wish to say now is only this: We must distinguish in the first place between a principle and its application. A principle may be perfectly right and sound and yet a supposed application may not be an application in fact; or if there be an application, the latter may violate some other moral or physical law, or be dangerous and inexpedient as leading to abuse. I will show later that the principle involved is one which is claimed to be in conformity with Vaidik truth, and to be in fact recognized in varying forms by all classes of Hindus. Some do so dualistically. The Sadhana of the Shakta Tantra is, whether right or wrong, an application of the principles of Advaitavada and in its full form should not, it is said, be entered upon until after Vedantic principles have been mastered. For this reason Kauladharma has been called the fifth Ashrama. Secondly I wish to point out that this ritual with wine and meat is not as some suppose a new thing, something introduced by the Shakta Tantriks. On the contrary it is very old and has sanction in Vaidik practice as will appear from the authorities cited in the Appendix to this Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapter. So much is this so, that a Tantrik Sadhu discussing the matter with a Bengali friend of mine said of himself, as a follower of this ritual, that he was a Hindu and that those who were opposed to it were Jainas. What he meant, and what seems to be the fact, is that the present-day general prohibition against the use of wine, and the generally prevalent avoidance, or limitation of an animal diet, are due to the influence of Jainism and Buddhism which arose after, and in opposition to, Vaidik usage. Their influence is most marked of course in Vaishnavism but has not been without effect elsewhere. When we examine ancient Vaidik usage we find that meat, fish and Mudra (the latter in the form of Purodasha) were consumed, and intoxicating liquor (in the form of Soma) was drunk, in the Vaidik Yajnas. We also discover some Vaidik rites in which there was Maithuna. This I have dealt with in my article on "Shakti and Shakta".

The above-mentioned facts show in my opinion that there is ground for the doctrine of the Tantrikas that it is a mark of ignorance (Avidya) to sever Veda and Tantra. My conclusion is not however a counsel to follow this or any other particular form of ritual. I am only concerned to state the facts. I may, however, here add two observations.

From an outside point of view (for I do not here deal with the subject otherwise) we must consider the age in which a particular Shastra was produced and consequently the conditions of the time, the then state of society, its moral and spiritual development and so forth. To understand some rites in the past history of this and other countries one must seek, in lieu of surface explanations, their occult significance in the history of the human race; and the mind must cast itself back into the ages whence it has emerged, by the aid of those traces it still bears in the depths of its being of that which outwardly expressed itself in ancient custom.

Take for instance the rite of human sacrifice which the Kalikalpalata says that the Raja alone may perform (Raja naravalim dadayenna yo'pi parameshvari) but in which, as the Tantrasara states, no Brahmana may participate (Brahmananam naravalidane nadhikarah). Such an animal sacrifice is not peculiarly "Tantrik" but an instance of the survival of a rite widely spread in the ancient world; older than the day when Jehovah bade Abraham sacrifice his son (Gen. XXII) and that on which Sunasshepa (Aitareya Brahmana VII, 3) like Isaac was released. Reference, it is true, is made to this sacrifice in the Shastras, but save as some rare exception (I myself judged a case in Court some years ago) it does not exist to-day and the vast mass of men do not wish to see it revived. The Cakra ritual similarly is either disappearing or becoming in spirit transformed where there had been abuse.

What is of primary value in the Tantra Shastra are certain principles with which I have dealt elsewhere, and with which I deal again in part in this and the following lectures. The application of these principles in ritual is a question of form. All form is a passing thing. In the shape of ritual its validity is limited to place and time. As so limited, it will continue so long as it serves a useful purpose and meets the needs of the age, and the degree of its spiritual advancement, or that of any particular body of men who practice it; otherwise it will disappear, whilst the foundations of Vedanta on which it rests may remain. In the same way it is said that we ourselves come and go with our merits and demerits, but that the Spirit ever abides beyond both good and evil.

NOTE TO Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapter IV

The following note as to Tantra Shastra and Veda was kindly prepared for me at my request by Sj. Braja Lal Mukherji, M.A.:

My purpose in this paper is not to give to the public any pre-conceived opinion, but is simply to put together certain facts which will enable it to form a correct opinion on the subject.

These facts have been collected from sources as to the authenticity of which there is no doubt. There is no dispute that most of these works disclose the state of Vaidik society prior to the 6th century s.c. and that at the time when the said works were composed the Vaidik rituals were being observed and performed. Certain elements which have been assumed to be non-Vaidik, appear in the said works or at least in many of them, and they have been summarily disposed of by some scholars as supplementary (Parishishta), or interpolations (Prakshipta). The theory that these portions are interpolations is based on the assumption that the said elements are non-Vaidik or post-Vaidik and also on the assumption that at the times when the said works were composed, the Anushtupchhandah was not known; and that therefore, those portions of the said works which appear in Anushtub, must be later interpolations. We need not go into the propriety of these assumptions in this paper; but suffice it to say, that the first assumption simply begs the question, and the second one is not of any importance in connection with the subject of this paper; inasmuch as, the statements made in the Anushtub portions are corroborated by earlier authorities as to whose antiquity there is no question, and in any case, the fact that the statements have been made are proof of earlier usage or custom.

Vaidik sacrifices are divided into three classes: (1) Pakayajnas, (2) Haviryajnas and (3) Soma sacrifices; and there are sub-divisions under each of the said classes. The Soma sacrifices are classed under three heads according to the number of days required for performance, viz., Ekaha, Ahina and Satra. Ekaha sacrifices are those which are performed in one day by three Savanas, exactly as in the Jagaddhatri Puja; Ahina sacrifices are performed from two to eleven days and Satras are performed during a long period, the minimum number of days required being thirteen and the maximum being a thousand years. The twelve-day sacrifices are arranged as a separate class. The principal Somayajnas are (1) Agnishtoma, (2) Atyagnishtoma, (3) Ukthyah, (4) Shodashi, (5) Vajapeyah, (6) Atiratrah, (7) Aptoryama. The Ishtis or Haviryajnas are also principally seven in number, namely, (1) Agnyadheyam, (2) Agnihotram, (3) Darsha-paurnamasa, (4) Caturmasyam, (5) Agrayaneshti, (6) Nirudhapashubandha, and (7) Sautramani. The Pakayajnas are also seven in number, namely, (1) Astaka, (2) Parvanam, (3) Shraddham, (4) Shravani, (5) Agrahayani, (6) Caitri, and (7) Ashvayuji. The last seven. are to be performed with the help of the Grihya fire and are described in the Grihya works. The others are described in the Shrauta works.

Whatever be the differences among these Yajnas in regard to the number of stomas or stotras and the Samans to be sung and the Kapalas, Grahas, or the number and nature of sacrifices or as to other particulars, there are some ideas which prevail in all of them. All Yajnas are based on the idea that Mithunikarana leads to spiritual happiness. Sexual intercourse is Agnihotra (S.B. XI. 6. 2. 10). Maithunikarana is consecration (S.B. III. 2. l. 2, etc.) They enclose the Sadas secretly, for enclosing is Mithunikarana and therefore it must be done secretly (S.B. IV. 6, 7, 9 and 10). Bricks (Vishvajyotis) are made because the making of the bricks causes generation (S.B. VI. 5. 3. 5.) Two Padas or Caranas of an Anushtub verse are read in a detached manner and the two remaining are read together to imitate the manner of sexual union (A.B. II.5.3.); they do not worship a female Devata, unless she is coupled with a male Deva (A.B. III. 5. 4); they use a couple of Chandas distinguishing the one as male from the other as female and the two are taken together and believed to be the symbol of Maithuna, and by such Maithuna the desired result of ritual is achieved (A.B. V. 3. 1); they believe that the reading of the Ahanasya mantra (S.S.S. XII. 24. 1-10; A.U. XX. 136) will confer bliss (A.B. VI. 5. 10); they say that the highest and best form of Maithuna is that of Shraddha and Satya, Piety and Truth (A.B. VII. 2. 9) and this kind of Maithuna in the abstract is directed for Agnihotris who have purified themselves by actual performances and observances in a religious spirit.

They direct the observance and performance of Maithuna as a religious rite or part of a religious rite (L.S.S. IV. 3. 17; K.S.S. XIII. 42; 7.A. IV. 7. 50; X 62, 7; A.A. I. 2. 4. 10; V. 1. 5. 13; G.G.S. II. 5. 6. 9. 10; S.G.S: I. 19. 2-6; K.G.S. l. 4. 15; H.G.S. I. 24. 3; Ap. G.S. III.8. 10; P.G.S. I. 11. 7; Ap. V. 25. 11; Tan. Br. VIII. 7. 12; Chh. Up. II. 13. 1-2) and they direct that Mantras are to be uttered during the observance of this rite (Br. D. V. 90; VIII. 82; A.V. V. 82. 4; R. V. X 85. 37; R.V. Kh. 30 1; Rik P. II. 15. 1-8; As. S.S. VIII. 3. 28; G.B. VI. 15). One of the articles of faith of the Vaidik people therefore was, that sexual union led the way to bliss hereafter and must be performed in a true religious spirit to ensure spiritual welfare; wanton indulgence being severely deprecated. Ida (a woman) said: "If thou wilt make use of me at the sacrifice, then whatever blessing thou shalt invoke through me, shall be granted to thee." (S.B. I. 8 -- 1. 9, etc.)

The Vaidik people performed their Somayajnas and Haviryajnas which included the Sautramani, with libations and drinks of intoxicating liquor (L.S.S. V. 4, 11; K.S.S. XIX, 1, etc.; S.S.S. XV. 15; XIV. 13. 4.; S.B. V. 1. 2. 12; V. 1. 5. 28; XII. 7. 3. 14, etc.; XII. 8. 1, etc.; XII. 8. 2. 21, 22; V. 5. 4. 19, etc.; XII. 7. 3. 8; Ap. S.S. XVIII. l. 9.) Sura purifies the sacrificer whilst itself is purified (S.B. XII. 8. 1. 16). Rishi Kakshivan sings the praises of Sura (R.V. I. 116. 7). It is said to be a desirable thing (R.V.. X. 107. 9; VIII. 2. 12). They prefer Soma, the sweet drink. Soma is Paramahutih (S.B. VI. 6. 3. 7); it is the nectar of immortality (S.B. IX. 4. 4. 8.) They deprecate and punish the wanton use of intoxicating liquor (Ap. Dh. S. I. 25. 3.; Ga. Dh. S. XXIII. 10; Va. Dh. S. XX. 19; Ba. Dh. S. II. l. 18, etc.; S.V.B. I. 5). They direct the use of Sura and Soma for attainment of happiness and prescribe the manner and purpose of drinking the same; they prescribe the measure and number of drinks to be offered or taken at a sacrifice (S.B. V. l. 2. 9, etc., V. 5. 4), and they add that a breach of these rules destroys the efficacy of the rite. They offer libations of Sura to the Fathers (A.B. III. l. 5; S.B. V. 5. 4. 27, etc.) They offer Sura to the Ashvins (R. V.B. I. 44). They offer Sura to Vinayak's mother ( Yag. I. 2. 88). During the performance of a sacrifice, the priests and the householder sit together; they all touch their cups, and raise them to their mouths, all the while reciting proper Mantras addressed to Devas (A.B. VI. 3. 1) and then they drink (A.B. VII. 5. 7). The Vaidik people used to offer to their Devatas at their sacrifices animal and vegetable food. The vegetable substances are Tandula, Pishtaka, Phalikarana, Purodasha, Odana, Yavaguh, Prithuka, Laja, Dhanah and Saktu, and the animal food was Payah, Dadhi, Ajyam, Amiksa Vajinam, Vapa, Mamsam, Lohitam, Pashurasah; the principal of these being Dhanah, Karambha, Paribaha, Purodasha and Payasya (A.B. II. 3.6). Indeed it would not be incorrect to say that no Vaidik rite can be performed without these offerings; the forms and the mode of preparation and the number of cakes to be offered, differing in each case (A.B. I. 1. 1.; II. 1-9; II. 3. 5; II. 3-6; S.B. I. 2. 2; L.S.S. V. 4. 1, etc.; Ap. S.S. XII. 3. 12; XII. 4, 9. 14; K.S.S. V. 309; Tait. Br. III. 2. 6, etc.) They offer animal sacrifices (Kat. S.S. Chap. VI; S.B. III. 6. 4; III. 8. 1; V. 1. 3. 2. 14; V. 3. 1. 10; VI. 2. 2. 15. Kanda XIII; As. G.S. I. 11; P.G.S. III. 11; G.G.S. III. 10. 18; Kh. G.S. III. 4; H.G.S. II. 15), which include the horse, goats, sheep, oxen (Tait. Br. II. 8. 1, etc.) and human beings (Tait. Br. III. 4. 1). They believe that by performing animal sacrifices, the sacrificer ransoms himself (S.B. XI. 7. 1. 3; A.B. II. l. 3). or wins all these worlds (Ap. S.S. VII. 1. 1). The animal is the sacrificer himself (A.B. II. 2.1). They direct by special rules, in what manner the animal should be killed, cut and offered (A.B. II. 6; S.B. III. 8. l. 15). They were aware that wanton killing of animals was wrong (A.B. II. l. 7) and believed that offering animal sacrifices to the Devatas, was one of the means whereby bliss hereafter could be attained (Ba. Dh. S. II. 4. 23). And it was only for certain Yajnas that animals could be slain (Va. Dh. S. IV. 5-8; S.G.S. II. 16; 1 Ba. S.S. IV). Wanton killing of animals was very severely punished (Ap. Dh. S. I. 25. 13-26; Ga. Dh. S. XXII. 18, etc.; Va. Dh. S. 18. 23, etc.; Ba. Dh. S. I. 19. 6).

The Vaidik people from the time of the earliest Yajnas severely deprecated lust of any kind whatsoever; and they allowed Maithuna, Mamsa, Madya and Mudra for religious purposes only and as offerings to the Devas. The Cakra sittings of the Tantriks (M.N.T. Ch. VI) have unmistakable similarities with the Vajapeya and Sautramani (S.B. V; K.S.S. XIV; A.B. III. 4. 3; S.B. XII. 7.1, etc.; K.S.S. XIX) and even the manner of drinking in company has been preserved as will appear from the references given above.

When performing Yajna in company, the members of the company become Brahmanas and there is no distinction of caste (3.B. VIII. 4. 1).

The worship in both Vaidik and Tantrik rites begins with Acamana, which is a form of ablution, in which certain parts of the body are touched with water. In this respect, the Vaidik and the Tantrik practices are exactly similar (G.G.S. l. 2. 5; Tait. A. II. 11; M.N.T.; Chap. V). They purify themselves by uttering some mantras as Bijas while contemplating the Deities of certain parts of their bodies and touching such parts with their fingers (A.A. III. 2. l. 2; III. 2. 5. 2; R.V.B. II. 16). They contemplate each Deva through his or her particular Mantras (R.V. III. 62. 10) which will be found collected in the Parishishta to the Taittirya Aranyaka. They make use of certain sounds for removing unclean spirits, e.g., "Khat. Phat. Hum." (7.A. IV. 27; S.V. St. I. 2. 1; I. l. 3; Aranyagana VI. 1-8; IV. 2. 19; S.B. I 5. 2. 18; I. 3. 3. 14; I. 7. 2. 11-14; I. 7. 2. 21; XI. 2. 2. 3 and 5; M.N.T. Chap. III) and for other purposes (A.B. II. 3. 6.). They attribute a Deity to each letter in a Mantra (A.B. II.5.5)

They make gestures with their fingers as part of their religious rites (S.B. III. l. 3. 25; III. 4. 3. 2) and locate the Devatas of particular sounds in particular parts of their bodies (P.S. 54, 56; K.S.S. VII. 71, 73). They perform their baths as a means of and with the view of pleasing their Devas (G. Sn. S. and M.N.T.) and in performing the Acamana they sacrifice unto themselves conceiving that they are part and parcel of the Great Brahma (T.A. X. i). They worship the Great Brahma thrice daily, such worship being called Sandhyavandan or Ahnika-kriya, twilight prayers or daily rites. How and when the forms of Vaidik Sandhya now practiced by Vaidikas commenced has not yet been ascertained but, there is no doubt that prior to the time when the Taittirya Aranyaka was composed the practice existed in its present form. It will be remembered that it is only in that work that we find the Sandhya-mantras recorded. The practice of Pranayama and Tarpana to Rishis, Fathers, and Devas also existed before Baudhayana. This practice of Vaidik Sandhya worship should be compared with the Tantrik mode, to gain an insight into the relationship of the Vedas and the Tantras.

In the Yajnas, the Vaidik people principally worshipped (1) Sarasvati (S.B. II. 5. 4. 6; III. 1. 4. 9; III. 9. 1. 7; V. 2. 2. 14; V. 3. 5. 8; V. 4. 5. 7; V. 5. 2. 7) to whom animals are sacrificed (S.B. III. 9. l. 7; V. 5. 4. 1; XII. 7. 2. 3) and who is the same as Vak or Vagdevi who became a lioness and went over to the Devatas, on their undertaking that to her offerings should be made before they were made to Agni (S.B. III. 5. 1. 21) and who bestows food (S.B. XII. 8. 2. 16); (2) Mahadeva or Mahesa, another form of Agni, in all his eight forms (S.B. VI. l. 3. 10 et seq.); (3) Rudra, (4) Vishnu, (5) Vinayaka (Ganesha), (6) Skanda (Kartikeya) (S.V.B. I. 4. 31 et seq.); (7) the Lingam or Phallus (7.A. X. 17) on whom they meditated during the daily Sandhya worship and who is the same as Shambhu riding on a bull, (8) Shiva (S.V.B. I. 2. 2). They also worshipped (9) the cow whom they called Bhagavati (A.B. V. 5. 2) and also (10) Indra, Varuna, Agni, Soma, Rudra, Pushan, the Ashvins, Surya and some other Deities. For purposes of attaining eternal bliss they worshipped Ratridevi (S.V.B. III. 8) and this Ratridevi is described as a girl growing into womanhood who bestows happiness. She has long and flowing hair, has in her hand a noose. If she is pleased, then all other Devas are pleased. She being pleased, offers boons, but the worshipper must reject the same and then he will gain freedom from rebirth. This is the worship of Ratri; it requires no fasting and must be performed at night. The Mantras to be recited is the Ratri Sukta which commences with Ratri vakhyad (Rig Veda X. 127. 1) to be followed by aratri parthivam rajas.

The Rig-Vidhana-Brahmana (IV. 19) which follows the Sama-Vidhana-Brahmana declares that the Ratri Sukta must be recited; the worship; the worship must be performed as a Sthalipaka-Yajna. Ratri is substantially the same with, but in form different from, Vagdevi; and they are sometimes worshipped as one and the same (Tait. Br. II. 4. 6. 10 et seq.). The Ratri Sukta describes her as black (R.V. X. 127. 2-3). The portion of the Ratri Sukta which is included in the Khila portion of the Rig-Veda (R.V. Kh. 25) calls Ratri Devi by the name of Durga and this Mantra appears in Taittiriya Aranyaka (X. 1). She is described here, as the bearer of oblations; therefore, she is the same as Agni and as such she has tongues which are named as follows: (1) Kali, (2) Karali, (3) Manojava., (4) Sulohita, (5) Sudhumravarna, (6) Sphulingini, (7) Shucismita and these tongues loll out and by these tongues offerings are received (Grihya-Sangraha I. 13. 14). The Brihaddevata mentions that Aditi, Vak, Sarasvati and Durga are the same (II. 79).

In conformity with the Vaidik system the Tantrik system of worship acknowledges that Om is the supreme Bija (A.B. VII. 3. 6; II. l. 2; V. 5. 7; A.A. II. 3. 8; Chh. Up. I. l. 1 et seq.; 7.A. VII. 8; X. 63. 21 et seq.; Shakatayana, p. 106 (Op-pert); Panini VIII. 2. 87; Br. D. II. 127. 133; G.B. IX. l. 24; I. l. 17. 19; M.N.T.; II. 32) and they also acknowledge and use the Hinkara of the Vedas pronounced Hum (S.B. I. 4. 1. 2; IX. 1. 2. 3. 4; A.B. III. 2. 12; L.S.S. I. 10. 25; I. 1. 27; II. 1. 4; IV. 3. 22). The rules and practice of Acamana, and the bath are exactly the same as will be found on a comparison of Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapter V of the Mahanirvana Tantra with the Snanasutra of Gobhila. The Tantras prefer to use single compounds instead of long sentences to express an idea and form one letter Mantras very much according to the Vaidik method. We also find the practice of Nyasa and Shuddhi foreshadowed in the Vedas as has been already mentioned. (See also S.B. VII. 5. 2. 12). The principal Devi of the Veda is Sarasvati, who is called Nagna in the Nighantu, expressing nudeness, and also referring to that age of a woman when womanhood has not expressed itself. If we again take these ideas with that of the Sama-Vidhana-Brahmana, we have the almost complete form of a Devi who is called at the present day by the name of Kali. Another Devi whose worship is very popular at the present day is Durga, who has a lion for her carrier. It will have been observed that Vach turned herself into a lion, and after earnest solicitations went over to the Devas; and therefore, Vach and the lion are identically the same. We have already given references which show that Vach and Durga were the same; and these facts explain how Durga has a lion to carry her. The worship of Ratri is to be performed at night and therefore the worship of Kali must be a night performance; and therefore, must partake of all the features of a night performance; and these elements must be sought for in the Vaidik Atiratra. The Atiratra is a performance of three Paryyayas or rounds of four Stotras and Shastras in each and at the end of each libations are offered, followed by drinking of Soma. The same rules and practices as in the Atiratra are substantially followed in the worship of the Devi Kali, bhang being very largely used under the name of Vijaya and Amrita. It will be remembered that the Devi of the Atiratra is Sarasvati. The principal male Devata of the Tantras is Mahadeva named also Shiva, Mahesa, Shambhu, Soma and also in a different aspect Rudra. Rudra and Mahadeva are admittedly Vaidik gods. Rudra is described as having bows and arrows and has hundred heads and thousand eyes (S.B. IV. l. l. 6.; Yajur Veda III. 27). Mahadeva is Maham devah, the great God (S.B. VI. l. 3. 16). It appears that the Mantras of the different aspects of Mahadeva, which are even now used by Tantriks, were known and used by the Vaidik people. I cannot, however, trace the name Mahesa in Vaidik literature. Shiva can be identified with Rudra Susheva, who is a kind god (S.B. V. 4. 4. 12). Mahadeva (Soma) is clad in a tiger skin which can be traced in Vaidik literature (S.B. V. 3. 5. 3; V. 4. 1. 11). Rudra is black, in the Tantras as well as in the Vedas. He is the same as Manyu with a Devi on each side of him (S.B. IX. l. 1. 6; XI. 6. 1. 12 and 13). In this connection, we must not fail to note some of the attributes of Vaidik Nirriti. Nirriti is black and is a terrible Devi and punishes those who do not offer Soma to her. She is the Devi of misfortunes and removes all misfortunes. She is the genetrix and she is fond of the cremation ground (S.B. VII. 2. 1; A.B. IV. 2. 4.)

The Tantras direct the worship also of Ganesha, Kartika and Vishnu, for whose worship the Sama-Vidhana-Brahmana prescribes the singing of certain Samans, known as the Vinayaka Samhita (S. V. 4. 5. 3. 3), Skanda-Samhita (S. V. 3. 2. l. 4) and the Vishnu-Samhita (S. U. 3. l. 3. 9) respectively.

The Tantras also direct the use of certain figures which are called Yantras. These may be of various kinds and forms and may be used for various purposes. One of these which is constantly used, is a triangle within a square (M.N.T. Chap. V) and this can traced to the rules for the preparation of the Agnikshetra, or the Fire Altar of the Vaidik people (S.B. VI. l. l. 6). Another curious circumstance in connection with the altar, is, that both in the Vaidik and the Tantrik ritual, the heads of five animals are used in its preparation (S.B. VI. 2. l. 5-8). The worship of the Lingam is foreshadowed by the Vaidik Deity Vishnu Shipivishta (R.V. VII. 1001, etc., Nirukta V. 2. 2) and the serpent which twines round Devas or Devis is foreshadowed by the Sarparajni, the Serpent Queen (S.B. IV. 6. 9. 17) who is the same as Vach.

The facts collected here will, it is hoped, enable impartial readers to come to a definite conclusion as to the relationship of the Vaidik to the Tantrik ritual.

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