Tag Archives: Tantra

samkhya

Samkhya (Sanskrit: सांख्य, IAST: sāṃkhya) is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy and classical Indian philosophy. Sage Kapila is traditionally credited as a founder of the Samkhya school. It is regarded as one of the oldest philosophical systems in India.

The major text of this Vedic school is the extant Samkhya Karika circa 200 CE. This text (in karika 70) identifies Sāmkhya as a Tantra and its philosophy was one of the main influences both on the rise of the Tantras as a body of literature, as well as Tantra sadhana.

Sāmkhya is an enumerationist philosophy that is strongly dualist. Sāṃkhya denies the final cause of Ishvara (God). Sāmkhya philosophy regards the universe as consisting of two realities; Puruṣa (consciousness) and prakriti (phenomenal realm of matter). Jiva is that state in which puruṣa is bonded to prakriti through the glue of desire, and the end of this bondage is moksha. Samkhya does not describe what happens after moksha and does not mention anything about Ishwara or God, because after liberation there is no essential distinction of individual and universal puruṣa.

Excerpt from Wikipedia Article Samkhya

The Samkhya Kārikā : Iśvara Kṛṣṇa’s Memorable Verses on Sāmkhya Philosophy with the Commentary of Gaudapādācārya As Translated By Vidyāsudhākara Dr. Har Dutt Sharma, M.A., Ph.D.

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tantric art

The tradition of Himalayan tantric art evolved over more than a thousand years into a form notable for its iconographic complexity and stunning beauty. In December, Tricycle visited New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art, home of one of the West’s richest collections of Himalayan art. In this interview RMA curator Jeff Watt pulls back the curtain on this potent Buddhist art form.

What role can art play in conveying the Buddhist teachings? Buddhists are always talking about tools to use on the path to liberation. Often we are accused of living in our heads, of being too abstract. Buddhist art—and more specifically, tantric art—gives us the opportunity to come down to earth and look at how Buddhism represents itself visually. How is the Buddha represented? How are his teachings and followers represented?

Collection of the Rubin Museum Art
Can you say something about tantra itself, and tantric art?
 Tantra is simply a method to reach enlightenment quickly, in one lifetime. It belongs to Northern Buddhism, the Mahayana school, although it once pervaded much of Buddhist Asia, including Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. Tantric paintings are the visual representations of tantric texts, which outline expedient practices. The texts themselves are primarily understood as revelation, and are said to be the words of the Buddha in his divine or transcendent aspect. Most tantric texts were written down between the fourth and tenth centuries C.E., and tantric art developed alongside of the texts.

And how does tantric art represent the teachings in tantric texts? The deities in the paintings are personifications of the texts and the systems of practice they teach. Tantric art actually compresses all of the important points of the Buddhist teachings into a very tight visual package of symbols.

Excerpt From Tricycle Article, Tantric Art: Maps of Enlightenment, by Jeff Watt


yoga and tantra

Tantrika of Kashmir Shaivism

One night Vasugupta, a great sage believed to have lived during the latter half of the eighth century, had a dream in which Lord Shiva appeared. Shiva instructed the sage to visit a nearby mountain called Mahadevgiri, where he would find 77 sutras(verses) under a rock. When he awoke, Vasagupta did as he was told. He found the sutras—they revealed a path to samadhi (spiritual liberation) through a philosophy and a powerful practice of meditation that, together, were known as Tantra—and began to teach them to others.

According to a branch of Tantra called Kashmir Shaivism, that is how one of their central texts, the Shiva Sutras, came about. But great debate surrounds the origins, history, and practice of the complex and at times controversial body of knowledge known as Tantra. “There are widely different Tantric texts,” says meditation teacher Sally Kempton, “and different philosophical positions taken by Tantrikas,” or practitioners of Tantra. One core aspect of Tantric philosophy that’s taught in the West, however, remains consistent: That aspect is nondualism, or the idea that one’s true essence (alternatively known as the transcendental Self, pure awareness, or the Divine) exists in every particle of the universe.

This idea is radically different from those of the other two schools of Indian philosophy that you might hear about in yoga class: Patanjali’s classical yoga (also known as ashtanga yoga, or the eight limbs of yoga), and Advaita Vedanta. Most scholars agree that Patanjali was dualist and therefore believed that the divine, spiritual realm was separate from the everyday world. Vedantists, like Tantrikas, are nondualist, but they perceive the world as an illusion.

If you hear about Tantra in your yoga class, you’re probably learning about Hindu Tantra. (There is also a Buddhist stream, known as Vajrayana Buddhism). Within Hindu Tantra, there are hundreds of branches, schools, and lineages. Some of the better known are Kashmir Shaivism, an umbrella term for several schools that originated in South India; the Kaula School, which views the body as a vehicle for liberation; Shakta traditions that worship the feminine; and radical “left-handed” schools like the modern-day Neo-Tantra School, which has given Tantra its reputation for sex-enhancing rituals.

At the heart of most of these schools lies the idea of awakening kundalini, thought to be a feminine, dynamic energy in the form of a serpent lying dormant at the base of the spine. Many of the ancient Tantric practices focused on bringing that dormant energy to life by moving it upward, through the seven chakra (energy centers) in the body. The majority of students today focus less on a full kundalini awakening and instead concentrate on bringing the subtle body (also known as the “energy body”) into a state of balance.

Like much else in yoga’s history, Tantra’s origins are still debated. Some scholars believe that it began in the Indus Valley (Pakistan and northwestern India) between 3,000 and 5,000 years ago, when the earliest yoga texts, the Vedas, were written. But Tantra did not come into common practice until the fourth century, after Patanjali’s classical yoga flourished.

Excerpts from Yoga Journal Article, Tantra Rising, By Nora Isaacs