General Introduction to Tantra Yoga

 

 

 

The Sanskrit word TANTRA literally means “warp (on a loom)”, or “extension”. It proceeds
from the verbal roots TAN – “to stretch, expound”, and TRA – “to save”, which give further hints
upon the other meanings of the word TANTRA.
This name is applied both for a certain category of texts of the Oriental spirituality, and for
the doctrine, and teachings which they contain. However, the Tantric texts, the TANTRA-s – and
there are several hundreds of them: proper TANTRA-s, SHIVA AGAMA-s, VISHNU SAMHITA-s,
SHAKTA NIGAMA-s, etc. – are written in a kind of “code language”, so that without an oral
explanation from a competent GURU, a lot of passages are bound to remain unclear. Moreover,
there are still many untranslated, and secret Tantric texts under the dust of forgotten, or
private libraries. All these, plus the extremely varied, and complicated nature of Tantrism
renders the manipulation of a single definition almost impossible. That is why, it has been found
useful to sketch some of the main features of the Tantric system in a detailed manner.

CHARACTERISTICS OF TANTRISM

1. TANTRA YOGA offers an alternative, and practical individual road to salvation, called a
SADHANA, beside the Vedic one which is often deemed to be antiquated. It is important to remark
here that the true Tantric SADHANA is accessible to people of any caste, social status, age,
women as well as men, householders as well as ascetics.

2. The TANTRA-s are presented as the most fit form of teaching for the men of KALI YUGA,
that is for the people of the “dark age”, in which we live today. KALI YUGA is often connected
with the “iron age” of the Greek mythology, and with the “age of the wolf”, of the Northern Edda,
deemed to have exactly the same meaning. Therefore, nowadays, when the spirituality is declining
while man is desperately trying to reintegrate himself in a spiritual reality, it is stated that
TANTRA is the last, and best way of salvation.

3. TANTRA has a rigorous metaphysical basis, of a very non-dualist nature. However,
according to its opinion an intellectual knowledge is not enough, but there is need of direct,
personal experience, which becomes possible only through the agency of SHAKTI, the power, the
intense energy. The concept of SHAKTI, the feminine energy is the specific colour of the entire
Tantric system.

4. TANTRA recognizes, and expounds mundane aims besides spiritual emancipation, as a lawful
goal for a practiser. Its aim is to transform the adept in a kind of super-man, who not only has
liberated himself of the Universe, reaching Enlightment, but also – alike the Supreme Lord
Himself – is able to rule over it, and control its secret forces. This involves that Tantric
methods are applicable for various sorts of practical accomplishments, including astrology,
medicine, parapsychology, alchemy, and magic. Many written sources are pre-occupied with the
description of supernatural abilities (SIDDHI-s), and the ways to attain them. There remains
however, always a connecting thread between the magical, and the spiritual.

5. The eminent place given to the energy entails a brilliant revalorisation of the body.
This is not meant with the sense of object of idolatry, like in the contemporary world, but as
necessary instrument, unavoidable premises of the spiritual realization. This is due to the
perpetually reminded analogy between the macrocosm, and the microcosm, which is the human body:
“What is here is everywhere, what is not here is nowhere”. A consequence of this fact is the
appearance of the HATHA YOGA system in the Tantric schools; system which has as goal neither
the “health”, nor the “well-being”, as it is commonly believed.

6. TANTRA teaches the practice of a special variety of YOGA, destined to transform the
animal instincts and functions, by creating an upward movement in the body, along the energy-
channels, NADI-s, and through the centre-s of force, CHAKRA-s. The process is most commonly
expressed as “raising the KUNDALINI“. Connected with this YOGA is the elaboration of a subtle
physiology, in which the microcosm of the body is homologized with the macrocosm, and the world
of the gods.

7. TANTRA emphasizes the metaphysical, and operative importance of the feminine principle.
The Woman, the Goddess, SHAKTI represents for the TANTRIKA-s the universal Power, the energy of
bondage and Liberation, who veils and reveals, blinds and illuminates; the world is her toy, and
her mirror. Therefore we encounter here a genuine revalorisation of the woman, and perhaps the
only spiritual path that acknowledges a total equality between the two sexes, at all levels.
The importance of the female manifestations extends on all the levels of the experience, from
daily life, till metaphysics.

8. Important are also the speculations upon the mystic nature of speech, and its constituents; the existence is assumed of a phonic creation, parallel to the material phenomena. These revelations are connected with the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet.

9. This has been developed concretely in the very frequent use of generally short, unintelligible formulas, called MANTRA-s and BIJA-s, correlated with various supernormal powers, and levels of consciousness by means of definite Yogic procedures, and which make the object of cosmic symbolism. Actually, the MANTRA-s are the most efficient instruments, according to TANTRA, and therefore the overwhelming majority of the Tantric texts deals to some extent upon this topic, and its secrets.

10. The general use of other concrete devices, like geometrical designs (YANTRA-s), symbolical representations (MANDALA-s), gestures (MUDRA-s), for the practical accomplishment or expression of metaphysical principles. The supernatural worlds are approached by specific methods of meditation (DHYANA), visualization, worship, etc.

11. The Tantric teachings are structured on several levels, depending on those to whom they address; the traditional texts assert the existence of three different human types: the “divine” one (DIVYA), that practically doesn’t exist any more in our age, the “heroic” one (VIRA), which is the best for the Tantric initiation, though rare, and PASHU, “the herd of the Gods”, the “animal”, that swarms in our dark age. Only the VIRA-s, say the tantric texts, the heros liberated of fear, hate, and absurd shame are qualified for receiving the full of the Tantric revelations, while the others receive an adequate SADHANA, which will first gradually bring them to the heroical condition.

12. Addressing to heroic beings, TANTRA is not so very concerned with theology, or common moral. It is not a trite anarchism that we are talking about, but the need for transcending some of the appearances of the illusory world, for reaching the strongest awakening. Very often the Tantric texts themselves over-emphasize this side, for banishing the narrow-minded aspirants, by the use of a symbolical language: “to pet the breasts of your sister” means to arouse the SHAKTI in ANAHATA CHAKRA, “to put the LINGAM (penis) in the maternal cavity” means to pierce the root-CHAKRA, and so on.

13. Most of the Tantric lines are SHIVA-ite, because of the exceptional aspects of SHIVA: Benefactor, and Terrible, Healer and Destroyer of the evil, Supreme Androgyne.

14. TANTRA emphasizes the absolute necessity of initiation by a qualified spiritual guide, or teacher (GURU), and on constantly following his (or her) directions for spiritual practice. That is why, the Tantric texts use a special set of terminology, inaccessible for the outsiders, and whose “key” is handed over orally by the GURU.

15. In TANTRA there often appears an ambivalence of the divine and human existence, as complementary aspects of the same awesome, grandiose reality.

16. There is also a far-fetched categorization of the reality, especially in the symbolism of the numbers, and speech, which leads to the mysterious science of the breath, and TATTVA-s, and to connections with the ancient alchemical processes of the SIDDHA-s, and the body culture of the HATHA YOGIN-s.

Shiva, the Masculine Principle in Tantra

 

 

In the Hindu pantheon, Shiva is one of gods in the Divine trinity composed of Brahma, Vishnu and Himself, each representing one of the three aspects of the Divine, that is The Creator, The Sustainer and respectively The Destroyer of the Universe. Shiva is said to live in Svarloka, the realm of gods and demi-gods ruled by Indra, the greatest among them.

Shiva, as distinguished from Parama-Shiva, corresponds to that aspect of the ultimate Reality which is pure consciousness, pure subject, pure I, without even the slightest notion of “I am” or “I am this” or “I am here”.

In his Tantra-Loka, Abhinava Gupta refers to Shiva as “the Mother and the Father of the Universe”. Shiva is the seed, or origin of the multidimensional universe, giving rise to all other ontological categories. Yet, there is no duality in Shiva because he is still completely immersed in blissful union with Shakti.

However, in order to understand properly this fundamental concept of Tantrism, which is the masculine principle – Shiva, we should look back towards the roots of Tantra.

Tantrism enjoys suddenly an immense popularity among philosophers and teologicians as well as among “practitioners” (yogis, ascetics, etc.), its prestige reaching the folk strata. All great Hindu religions have thus assimilated Tantra in one form or another. This process had actually begun thousands of years beforehand, during the Aryan civilization and during the blending of the different co-existing traditions (Dravidian, etc).

The legend says that during these inflaming times a great man was born, named Sadashiva. His name means “the one who dedicated his life to the well-being of his fellows”. Sadashiva, known as Shiva, was an outstanding spiritual teacher or Guru. He was the one who first offered humanity a systematic presentation of a sheer spiritual thought. As the legend goes, he is the one to set the basis of spiritual dance and music in India and is therefore known also as NATARAJA, The God of Cosmic Dance.

Moreover, the real founder of Hindu traditional medicine and also the provider of a system and knowledge in this field (bearing the name Vadyak Shastra) is nonetheless Shiva.

Shiva played an extremely important role in the social area as well. He is the creator of the system of marriage, in which both partners accept equal responsibilities, disregarding caste or community. Shiva himself came from a mixed family and through his marriage to an Aryan princess helped a lot in unifying the warring fractions in India at that time. The Hindu sage Sri Shankar, expert in studies and research on Tantrism, considers Shiva as a real father of human civilization.

However, Shiva’s most important contribution to the development of a truly spiritual civilization represents the concept of DHARMA. DHARMA is a Sanskrit word translated literally as “innate characteristic”. Which may be the innate characteristic of a human being? Shiva explained that human beings seek and yearn for happiness placed beyond that originated in the satisfaction of the senses. The indisputable aim of all human beings, whether aware of this or not, is to obtain absolute peace and freedom, infinite knowledge and spiritual beatitude.

Shiva’s ideas were transmitted orally at first, then in written form. Parvati, his wife used to ask him questions on topics raised by the spiritual practice he taught.

The tantra-s (texts, writings which present the tantric philosophy and practice) are in fact the dialogues between Shiva and his wife Parvati, dialogues in which Parvati asks questions on spiritual matters and Shiva gives divine answers.

The tantra-s are divided into two great categories:

1. The theoretic principles of the tantric system. Tantric philosophy and conceptions on different matters are to be found in the writings named NIGAMA.

2. The practices through which the proposed aims may be attained; the different methods, techniques and procedures are to be found in the texts named AGAMA.

Many of these antique manuscripts were lost for good, others are damaged by time, and others still are unreadable by the mundane because of their coded text meant to hide the tantric secrets from the eyes of the unknowledgeable. This is also one reason for which the conceptions and fundaments of Tantra have not been completely decoded up to our days.

Part of Shiva’s original teachings were lost, other parts were spread on large areas, being assimilated in different ways and under different forms in the traditions and local schools.

Each Hindu believer followed his own path, according to their inner aspirations, choosing one spiritual current which implied the adoration of one of these three gods.

Thus, Tantrism and Yoga are specially oriented towards the adoration of Shiva and are therefore called Shaivites, and this spiritual current is named Shaiva. Others have turned towards the cult of Vishnu, named Vaishnava.

We should nonetheless carefully distinguish between different spiritual currents and opposing spiritual currents, which is not the case of Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Some Western studies have committed the error of sustaining the idea that there were
antithesis, competitions and even fighting between the two spiritual currents. The Western searcher should properly understand that for the Hindu, Shiva and Vishnu represent two complementary aspects of Brahma, The Creator. The first of these two gods, Shiva represents the destructive, transforming and reiterating principle of the infinite Creation, while the latter – the animating, conservative principle, which maintains the creation in its whole.

Unfortunately, nowadays Tantra appears to most people as a tenebrous, unbreakable and controversial mystery owing to a multitude of misunderstandings and misconceptions that occured in the minds of some of the “reputed” Western researchers of Tantra.

The Tantrics (that is the practitioners of Tantra) and the Yoghis (the practitioners of Yoga) belong to the Shaivite current. The aspect of the Ultimate Reality in the form of the Transformer, the renewer of an eternally vivacious, effervescent Creation suited best to their spiritual quest and ardor.

Shaivism presents Shiva as endowed with all the attributes of the Supreme Divinity, and therefore He is the Supreme Creator. His symbolic representation while performing the magic dance of creation is an iconographic theme quite rich in symbolism and offers us an idea about the rhythm of life of the whole creation, and as well of its destruction. We will discuss these aspects in detail further on.

The name Shiva signifies “the good and the kind”. Paradoxically, He is the designated God of destruction, but this must not be understood as the destroyer of human being, but the destroyer of ignorance and corruption in the human nature. Thus, He is an infinitely benevolent force as He rapidly casts away the restraining ignorance and allows human beings to contemplate His magnificence.


Shaiva Siddhanta

 

 

PART 2
In central India, the Shaiva Siddhanta of the Sanskrit tradition was institutionalized for the first time by Guhavasi Siddha (approx. 675 A.D.). The third successor on this lineage, Rudrashambhu, also known as Amardaka Tirthanatha, founded the monastic order Amardaka (approx. 775 A.D. in the Andhra Pradesh province).

Ever since, three monastic orders that were essential in the spreading of the Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy all throughout India. Besides the Amardaka order, (identified with one the the holy cities of the shaivism, Ujjain), there were also the Mattamayura order, in the capital of the Calukya dynasty, near Punjab, and the Madhumateya order, in central India.

Each of these developed numerous sub-order with a missionary spirit and they have used the influence of their royal protectors in order to spread their teachings in the neighboring areas, especially in the southern India. The Mattamayura order established monasteries in the areas Maharashtra, Kainataka, Andhra and Kerala (approx. 800 A.D.).

Of many guru-s and spiritual teachers, (acarya) who followed and spread the Shaiva Siddhanta throughout India, two siddha-s Sadyojyoti and Brihaspati from the central India are said to have systematized the theology in the Sanskrit language.

Sadyojyoti, initiated by the Cashmere guru Ugrajyoti, preached the Siddhanta as they were specified in Raurava Agama. His successors were Ramakantha I, Srikantha, Narayanakantha, and Ramakantha II, each of the writing many texts on the Shiva Siddhanta.

Later on, the king Bhoja Paramara from Gujarat (approx. 1018) summarized the massive corpus of scriptural texts Siddhanta that preceded him in a concise metaphysical treatise named Tattva Prakasha, considered as the most important Sanskrit scripture of the Shaiva Siddhanta lineage.

Asserting the monist vision of the Shaiva Siddhanta, Shrikumara (approx 1056 A.D.) indicated in his commentary, Tatparyadipika on Bhija Paramaras works the fact that pati, pashu and pasha (God, the being and the bonds) are in the end one, the essence of everything. Shrikumara kept the idea that Shiva is simultaneously the material and effective cause of the universe.

Shaiva Siddhanta was quickly accepted wherever it spread in India, and continued to blossom until the Islamic invasions which virtually annihilated any trace of the Shaiva Siddhanta in the northern and central India, limiting its unhindered practice to the southern areas of the subcontinent.

In the XIIth century, Aghorashiva had the mission of unifying the northern Siddhanta Sanskrit tradition with the Tamil southern one. As the leader of a monastic branch of the Amardaka order of Cidambaram, Aghorashiva gave an unique direction to the Shaiva Siddhanta tradition, preparing the path for a new pluralist school.

Refusing any monist interpretation of the Siddhanta, Aghorashiva brought a dramatic change in the understanding of God, classifying the first five principles (tattva or nada, bindu, saddashiva, ishvara and shuddhavidya) in the category of pasha (bonds), indicating that they were the effects of a cause and that inherently they were elements with no consciousness.

This was clearly a deviation from the traditional path, which presented the five elements mentioned above as being part of Shiva. Aghorashiva laid thus the foundation for a new Siddhanta, independent from the original Shaiva Siddhanta, which was monist and originar from Himalaya.

Despite his pluralist vision of Siddhanta, Aghorashiva was very successful in preserving the priceless Sanskrit rituals of the ancient agama-ic tradition in his writings.

Until today, the Siddhanta philosophy of Aghorashiva was followed by almost all the priests of the temples belonging to this lineage, and his texts, paddhati, on the agama-s have become the standard ritual manuals.

His work Kriyakramadyotika is a wide work, covering almost all the aspects of the Shaiva Siddhanta rituals, including the traditional puja-s diksha, samskara, atmartha and the installment of the deities.

In the XIIIth century, appeared another important achievement in the Shaiva Siddhanta, when Meykandar wrote the 12 Shivajnabodham verses.

This work, as those written after it, formed the theoretical basis of the Meykandar Sampradaya group, preaching a pluralist realism, where God, individual souls and the universe co-exist from the very beginning of things.

They saw the individual soul uniting itself with Shiva, as the salt dissolving into the water, an eternal unity, which is in the same time also duality. This school dominated through its literature the research that followed to such an extent that Shaiva Siddhanta is often identified with an exclusively pluralist school, which is of course wrong.

Actually there are two interpretations, one dualist and one monist, of which the first is the originar philosophical premise, found also in the scriptures preceding Meykandar, the Upanishads included.

Shaiva Siddhanta is rich in its traditions related to the temples, religious festivals, sacred arts, spiritual culture, priesthood, monastic orders, and spiritual lineages. All these are still in flower.

Today, the Shaiva Siddhanta is the most prominent spiritual path amongst the 60 billion Tamil Shaivites who live mostly in the southern India and Sri Lanka. Here, as anywhere, the societies, temples and monasteries are numerous.

Pashupata Shaivism

 

 

The Pashupata group is the oldest known Shaivist group, made of ascetic monks. Their name derives from Pashupati, a name of Shiva, meaning the “lord of animals”, in fact of all creatures.

The members of the Pashupata Shaivism were said to have wandered across the country, making the dust of the roads rise, having with them their iron tridents or solid cans, their hair oiled and wild, or kept in a loop, their faces burning with intense devotion, and having keen eyes that see Shiva more than the surrounding world. They wore deer leather or bark on their hips.

The Pashupata were devout (bhakta-s) and Shivas white magicians, estranged from a Vedic society dominated by priests.

The religious unrest from India intensified with the coming over the Gangas field of the two waves of agama-ic Shaivist and Buddhist theism.

The Pashupatas evolution and way of life were described by several historians of the time, who sometimes were hostile and left an ambiguous impression on their life and philosophy.

Initially, the Pashupatas would allow anyone to follow their path, disregarding of the caste and social status.

However, once the Pashupatas popularity increased, a great number of Brahmins joined this movement in order to worship Shiva in unconditional abandon.

Nonetheless, in many cases it was preferable for a Pashupata to come from the Brahmin caste. The relationship between these Pashupata monks and the sadhu-s covered in ashes is uncertain. They may be the same or they may be different.

The Pashupata sadhu-s imposed a religious respect wherever they would go. Their path was tough, a path of ruining the ego, designed to infuse the seeker with the karunya (Shivas compassionate grace).

Their austerity was combined with rites (puja) of worship devoted to Shiva, with a profound awareness of the Cosmos as being the perpetual becoming of Shiva, and with a playful spirit of love for Him.

The sadhana (spiritual practice) usually begun with the deepening of an ethical code (yama and niyama), the accent being laid on brahmacharya (abstinence, continence), ahimsa (nonviolence) and tapas (austerity).

As it was detailed in their scriptures, the discipline was practiced on stages. For the beginning they would assume various vows, and would practice various techniques for the release of the blockages.

These techniques included laughing, singing, dancing, all impregnated with the shaivic spirit.

In the next stage, they disappeared into the society and lived incognito. Here, they would practice various shocking actions, with the purpose of attracting the public disapproval and condemnation, gossiping, making strange sounds while in public, snoring, walking about as if they had been crippled, and so on.

This sadhana was a means of self-purification, of annihilation of the ego, of elimination of the instinctual need of being accepted in a group and society, and to implant into the subconscious the idea that liked or disliked, good or bad, all the opposites are equivalent if ones love for Shiva is truly powerful.

This stage of the practice was designed to break the ties with the society and even with ones own attachment for the human situation in which they appeared in this world.

Coming back to their sadhana, the Pashupatas were said to perform various austerities, them abandon any other action to practice kundalini yoga, so that they would come ever closer to Shiva.

When this union with Shiva grew in maturity, they would obtain super-natural powers (siddhi), such as omniscience and others.

The Pashupatas believed that when a person was firm in his or her virtue, and that person is capable to take serenely any abuse and insult, this person is well-established on the path of ascesis.

Shri Kaundinya wrote in his commentary from the 6th century, Pancartha Bhashya on the Pashupata Sutra that the Pashupata yogi “must appear as lunatic, beggar, with the body dirty, grown beard, long hair and nails, with no care whatsoever to the body. Thus, the devotee cuts off his or her access to fortunes (varna) and possessions (ashrama), and only thus the power of detachment is genuinely produced”.

The Pashupata-ism is first of all an ascetic path that does not value the dialectic logic and values instead sadhana as a means of obtaining Shivas grace.

The seekers on this path embrace strict vows regarding the observance of the ethical code yama and niyama, their sadhana ranging from “action” to “non-action”.

The devotional action included puja, penitences, Namah Shivaya japa, wearing the sacred ashes, and the proof of their infinite love for Shiva.

A Few Words about Kashmir Shaivism

 

 

KASHMIR SCHOOLS
There are several important schools of the Kashmir Shaivism, of which the most elevated belong to the Trika system.

The word “trika” is the Sanskrit for “trinity”, suggesting the essential idea that everything in the universe has a threefold nature. We can express this trinity as: Shiva (God), Shakti (His fundamental creative energy) and Anu (the individual, the limited projection of the divinity).

Trika includes several spiritual schools:
1. Krama – in Sanskrit “process”, “order”, “controlled succession”.
2. Kaula (Kula) – in Sanskrit “community”, “family”, “totality”.
3. Spanda – term denoting the Supreme Divine, Creative Vibration.
4. Pratyabhijna – term referring to the direct recognition of the Divine Essence.

These branches of the Shaivite tradition were brilliantly synthesized and unifies by the most illustrious personality and the greatest spiritual accomplished person of this system, the sage Abhinavagupta.

The most important work he wrote Tantraloka, in verse, unifies all the apparent differences between the Shaivite branches or schools of Kashmir Shaivism until that moment, offering a coherent and complete vision of the system.

Realizing the difficulty of such a task, Abhinavagupta wrote also a summary in prose, entitled Tantrasara (“The Supreme Essence of the Tantra“).

PARALLELS WITH OTHER TRADITIONS
“The metaphor of Shivas cosmic dance unifies mythology, religious art, and modern physics. It is indeed as Coomaraswamy said, poetry, but not less science” (Jacques Bergier)

Among the numerous authentic religions and spiritual paths, the shaivism is remarked through the universality of its conceptual model.

In other words, the initiatic vision and understanding offered by the shaivism is so comprising that in it one can find correspondences and similitudes with almost all authentic spiritual paths of the world.

In this respect, the resemblance and similitude with Christianity are outstanding: the trinity – fundamental concept both in Shaivism and in Christianity; the stages of getting close and then united to God are almost identical both in the practice of the meditation – as modality related to the Path of the Individual Being (Anavopaya) from Shaivism, and in the Prayer of the Heart – a spiritual method characteristic to the orthodox Christianity; the overwhelming love and ardor towards God are characteristics of both Christian mystic people and of the Shaivite ones.

In Shaivism we find, integrated in a unitary vision, techniques and methods that are also found in yoga, tantra and the Zen Buddhism.

In this respect, it is significant the fact that Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a Shaivite treatise is also one of the fundamental treatises of Zen Buddhism (Japan) and Chan Buddhism (China).

The universality of the vision of Kashmir Shaivism must not surprise us, considering the fact that Shiva represents that aspect of the divinity that is manifested as Great Initiate or Great Savior of the creatures chained by ignorance and suffering.

We can rightfully say that any sincere and frenetic call upon the Divinity is in fact addressed to this aspect of Savior; this hypostasis is known in India as Shiva (“the good and kind”) and any manifestation of the divine grace is closely related to Shiva. Thus, even if the human being does not know it, in any illuminating process Shivas grace plays an essential part.

The comprising vision of the Shaivism is not reduced to correspondences and similarities with other spiritual traditions.

What is truly amazing, even more today when the science knows such unbelievable progress, gaining ground in front of all religions and spiritual paths is the fact that the most modern theories of the contemporary science find obvious correspondences in the vast spiritual tradition of Kashmir Shaivism: the holographic pattern of the universe, the theory of the morphogenetical fields, the theory of the strings, the quantum mechanics, etc.

THE VISION ON ART
Authentic art – an instrument for the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism
In the entire tradition of Kashmir Shaivism there are present numerous artists who manifested their talents in parallel with the sages and the masters belonging to the Trika school, who had themselves powerful artistic senses.

Thus, the great sage and liberated soul Abhinavagupta composed several poems in the glory of the Lord and wrote almost his entire work in verse, just as the other Shaivite sages.

Authentic art can be a spiritual path, but unlike the “traditional” yoga, this path is not accessible to everybody, but it becomes a true spiritual path only when the person who perceives it is endowed with a certain type of sensitivity.

Initiatic art is accessible when our soul can vibrate, rejoice, and be filled with delight, happiness or charm while contemplating a certain artistic work. This is a state related to the awakening of the soul.

Essentially, the artistic emotion awakened by art in the receivers soul has, according to the Shaivite tradition, of an ineffable and ecstatic savor, bearing the Sanskrit name of rasa.

The most important aesthetician of India is unanimously accepted as being Abhinavagupta, who has two fundamental works on this area, Abhinava Bharati and Dhavanyabaratloka locana.

From Abhinavaguptas point of view, art is a manifestation that is both exterior, and interior in nature, a deeply spiritual manifestation.

Abhinavagupta indicates that the role of art is to awaken a certain ineffable savor, a sublime feeling, completely and definitely different from all other common human perceptions.

It has a general character, and it is a cosmic perception. On the basis on this intense emotion (anger, joy, fear, amazement, etc.), experienced in a fully aware manner, art determines the passage from individual (ego) to universal.

In art, the whole objective world is first of all reduced to the essential, then purified and transfigured; it is presented in a pure form, without any individual, limited contingencies. Authentic art transposes us almost instantaneously in a divine plan, generating in our consciousness a state of universality and union.

Chinnamasta

In the Tantric pantheon, the sixth Great Cosmic Wisdom is Chinnamasta, the goddess without head.

This particularity suggests her capacity of transcending the mind and its functions, so that in the end she achieves the ecstatic reabsorption in the Supreme Void of the Absolute Divine Consciousness.

The headless image of Chinnamasta caused along the centuries, many adverse reactions and erroneous interpretations even amongst the specialists in Hinduism, as she is associated with the obscure magical practices and traditions of Tibet and India.

In fact, these hasty considerations are only limited attempts from certain westerners to understand the deeply esoteric sense of certain aspects from the Tantric spiritual tradition, those aspects that go beyond the modern people’s conventionalism and patterns built on preconceived ideas.

Consequently, the relatively natural tendency of the researchers of Hinduism, when facing representations of Chinnamasta was to see in the images of the headless goddess the manifestation of some macabre aspects and psychic deviations.

Therefore, it was impossible for these researchers to accept the idea of a spiritual symbolism with deep esoteric significations.

WISDOM TRANSCENDS MIND
From a psychological point of view, what really causes the feeling of fear and rejection at the idea of a headless entity is the idea of lack of identity, which people immediately associate with their own being.

Or, we know that identity is the key element of “support” in the manifestation, the basis of understanding and of the conception about the world. Once this idea or support was eliminated, people feel confused, with no point of reference, lost in a tenebrous unknown.

Thus, people will unconsciously or consciously try to protect themselves not only against losing their identity, but also from the idea or exterior suggestions implying this separation of identity or ego.

The modern man, whose behaviour and way of thinking is mainly reasonable and logical, considers that “losing one’s head” equals losing touch with the regular sense of reality, which is nonetheless true from certain points of view.

However, from a spiritual point of view, these aspects have completely different significances.

For the initiate yogis, being without head is one of the known subtle metaphors referring to the transcendence of one’s identification with the bodily consciousness or to the overcoming the attachment towards thoughts and desires.

Practically, we do not observe our head more than we notice the back of our body, and the experience of the inside of the skull is basically the experience of an empty space because nobody can say they “feel” their brain and the annex glands.

Consequently, at a lucid and detached analysis, from the symbolic perspective of these aspects, we can say that we “have no head” until the moment when we look at our body in the mirror.

From the yogic spiritual tradition, the condition of the headless state represents in fact our true inner nature, of the divine and perfectly detached witness.

Implicitly, this condition proves that our present “location” in this body is not more than an illusory appearance and not a fundamental reality of our being.

If, in fact the powerful and constant thought “I am the body” would no longer be sustained by the mind, the individual consciousness would gradually go back to its originar condition, that which is not dependant on either form or thought.

Moreover, this idea of the absence of the head is frequently used as a spiritual metaphor in the spiritual tradition of Jnana yoga, Advaita Vedanta and Zen.

WHO DIES BEFORE DYING, DOES NOT DIE AFTER DYING
Consequently, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Chinnamasta whose representation is headless, is the Great Cosmic Wisdom who helps the sincere and devoted yogi to dissolve his or her mind, including all the ideas, attachments, habits, preconceived ideas into the Pure Divine Consciousness, helping him or her to transcend the mind and to merge with the supra-mental state (unmana) of the Divine Beatific Void.

This is why we need not fear the loss of our head or of time, because sooner or later death takes us all through the great passage, regardless whether we want it or not.

In fact, the only path to the spiritual awakening is the so-called “sacrifice of the mind”, implying the renunciation at the complicated mechanism of attachment and possession thoughts, of which the most persistent is the idea “I am the body”.

In the spiritual tradition this sacrifice is symbolized by the cutting off of the head, suggestively indicating the separation of the mind from the body, that is the freedom of the consciousness from the material outfit of the physical body.

On the other hand, it helps the release of the potential subtle energies present in the practitioner’s being.

We can still ask ourselves: why does this concept need to be pictured in the terrible image of Chinnamasta when it could be explained and analyzed theoretically in less “shattering” conditions?

The answer is that usually the visual images have greater and more dramatic impact on the subconscious determining faster and more forceful changes in one’s conceptions and actions, and achieving more effective breaks to the essential nature than a theoretical lecture.

Generally speaking, the mind can accept the points of view presented in a theoretical lecture, and still avoid the reality of these teachings, while the impact of the image cannot be avoided as easily, because the image “communicates” more intensely and more directly with the spiritual heart of the being.

The suffering caused by the sacrifice of the ego represents for many people a tough experience, whom many try to avoid, although they admit its spiritual importance.

This type of experience usually causes a complete re-orientation of the energies towards deeply spiritual purposes and therefore it is assimilated, in the initiatic tradition to a “second birth”.

The terrible image of Chinnamasta, the headless goddess, is the most expressive way to suggest the fundamental transformation of the human being, meaning the renunciation at the limited and ephemeral individuality of the ego, so as to be absorbed ecstatically in the plenitude of God’s Universal Consciousness.

The iconographical representations of Chinnamasta show her holding her own head, whom she cut herself, in her right hand, and drinking the blood springing from open throat.

Even so, her face does not indicate suffering, or pain, but it shows the beatific feeling of contentment and beatitude.

The significance of this aspect is that of the joy of transcending the earthly condition and of the suffering caused by its loss.

At the same time, Chinnamasta’s image represents maybe the most energic form of manifestation of the goddess Shakti eloquently indicating the power of transformation in full action.

As a result of this fact, the cut head does not appear as lifeless, but it is even more alive than previously. The consciousness is not limited at the dimensions and functions of the body, but it exists separately from it.

Only when it is freed from the “prison” of the body the consciousness can express itself plenary, acquiring the profound divine freedom and knowledge.

Even if the idea of transcending the corporal consciousness can be frightening for certain people, the idea of remaining confined to the bodily consciousness and being subject to the influence of the body and death appears as even more frightful.

 

 

The human being experiments only a small fraction of the infinite game of the divine light in the manifestation and precisely this fragment can be reflected and most of the times distorted through the limited capacities of perception of his or her senses.

Therefore, the pleasure offered by the body and its senses is most times smaller than the pain, the suffering and the illness the people have to face during a lifetime.

From this point of view, in which the yogi feels incarcerated in the prison of the senses and bodily desires, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Chinnamasta appears as the Saviour from the slavery of the gross matter.

In the ecstasy of the happiness she experiments all the time, Chinnamasta can drink all the blood that here expresses the joys and sufferings, the pain and the hopes of the earthly life, absorbing and sublimating the whole fragmented experience of time, with its disappointments and illusions.

Chinnamasta does this extraordinary process of absorption and transformation of all that is ultimately ephemeral and illusory without forgetting her essentially divine nature, which is the very immuable and eternal nature of the Supreme Self Atman.

Although the form under she appears to the mortals is terrible and frightening, Chinnamasta represents one of the beneficial and deeply transforming energies of the Macrocosm, and of the microcosm.

THE GREAT COSMIC WISDOM CHINNAMASTA OFFERS US PERFECT DISCERNMENT
There is a close correlation between Chinnamasta and Kali, in the sense that Chinnamasta represents from a certain perspective the concretisation of Kali’s energy.

She is also oriented towards the spiritual transformation of the sincere devotee at perfection. In this aspect of hers, Chinnamasta is name also Prachanda Chandika, identifying herself with the most terrible form of Kali, which is Chandi.

On the other hand, her terrible aspect can also be correlated with the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Bhairavi as Chinnamasta is, just as Tripura Bhairavi a great fighter.

Nonetheless, while Tripura Bhairavi resonates more with the tellurian fundamental energies, as her location is Muladhara Chakra, Chinnamasta resonates more with the dynamic subtle energies of air.

From this point of view, we can say that Chinnamasta acts mainly in what we call the intermediary world, in that world that connects the transcendent aspect of the manifestation with the material one.

Thus she represents the lightning that unifies the sky and the earth, which are analogically associated with the mind and the body of the human being.

Her fundamental goal is to free the people from the limitations inherent to their condition of incarnate spirits.

If Chandi (Kali’s most terrific aspect) destroys the demons and satanic entities, the aspect of Prachanda Chandi of Chinnamasta destroys the last and most important enemy of spirituality – the ego.

From another perspective, Chinnamasta is identified with Indrani, the feminine counterpart of the great Vedic god Indra and the greatest and most important of all goddesses.

Indrani is also named Vairochani, “the very brilliant”, “the one who radiates powerfully”, just as Durga the terrible goddess who is described in the same manner.

Chinnamasta is particularly named Vajra Vairochani, meaning “the who that is brilliant and holds the thunder in her arm”.

As we already know, the thunder is Indra’s weapon and is the very reason for which Indra is considered the diamante god, personification of the instantaneous spiritual enlightening.

 

THE GREAT COSMIC WISDOM CHINNAMASTA – THE THUNDER OF THE INSTANTANEOUS SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT
As force or terrible power of the great god Indra, Chinnamasta represents the electrifying energy of our subconscious depths (Vidyut Shakti), energy that acts on all levels of the creation.

In the physical material world, the electric energy, electricity, represents only one of the forms of this colossal transforming power that is Chinnamasta.

On a mental level, she acts as energy determining the correct understanding of the essential reality, determining also the instantaneous spiritual enlightenment.

As we mentioned in our previous articles on this topic, Kali acts generally in the direction of the devotee’s spiritual transformation.

Chinnamasta represents the same force, which is nonetheless directed towards the immediate, “thundering” transformation of the yogi.

Consequently, Chinnamasta is in a way the bright lightning of the instantaneous spiritual intuition that destroys and casts away for good the veil of ignorance, opening up the path towards the supreme spiritual freedom.

This attribute that Chinnamasta manifests as a distinctive note of her terrible “divine personality” represents in fact the capacity of direct perception, pure vision that goes beyond any veil of ignorance and limited perception revealing the uniqueness of the infinite divine consciousness that is beyond name and form.

THE GREAT COSMIC WISDOM CHINNAMASTA GRANTS THE PURE VISION OF THE REALITY
Consequently, Chinnamasta is the colossal power of the spiritual inner vision, which sacrifices in the fire of the pure knowledge all objects belonging to the manifested world, including the body of the person performing this act of perfect knowledge.

Therefore, in the tradition of the Hindu spirituality, Chinnamasta represents Atma-yajna, meaning the self-sacrifice, manifested when someone offers one’s own being with great honesty to the Divine, through an act called “the sacrifice of the mind”, in order to life fully in the unity of the divine consciousness.

This fundamental characteristic of Chinnamasta represents also, through extrapolation, the very aspect of pralaya, the destruction or resorbtion of the world and the entire creation in the Holy Heart of the Absolute.

Metaphorically speaking, Chinnamasta is the head that chews on the entire body, being thus the power of destruction and transformation of the manifested reality into the non-manifested, original reality.

In the yogic spiritual tradition it is said that Chinnamasta achieves this remarkable “transformation of the state” through the piercing of the subtle blockage from the level of Ajna charka, allowing the yogi to transcend simultaneously his or her mind and body-awareness.

This characteristic action is at the same time a direct indication of the fact that Chinnamasta represents also the unobstructed flux of the subtle energy circulating through Sushumna Nadi, the central energetic channel of the human being.

Thus, Chinnamasta is associated with the awakening and ascension of the gigantic cosmic force, Kundalini Shakti through Sushumna Nadi, from the base of the spine, from Muladhara Chakra, up to Sahasrara Chakra representing in this hypostasis the Divine Path of the Vedic gods, or Vedayana.

This divine path refers practically at the movement and circulation of the subtle prana through Sushumna Nadi, towards the realm of “pure transcendence“, symbolized by the sun.

The yogic spiritual tradition asserts that in order to evolve spiritually and to avoid the karma-ic accumulation, it is imperative that the yogi focuses his or her energy on Sushumna Nadi, as this nadi is correlated with the the reality of the transcendent void, which is formless.

This condition cannot be achieved unless the yogi obtains the pure and correct vision of the fundamental reality of things.

 

 

At the time of death, the individual consciousness of the people who know all these things and who have practiced assiduously during their lifetime will come out of their body through Brahmarandra, the crown of the head, dissolving thus in the Supreme Source, which is God’s universal consciousness.

However, if this knowledge and ability to focus on Sushumna nadi was not gained until the moment of death, then the consciousness of this person will come out of the body through a different nadi, and it will be integrated in one of the countless worlds of the manifestation, according to the level of vibration and spiritual evolution.

Therefore, the yogis worship with great frenzy Chinnamasta as the sacred goddess of transformation, acting mainly on the level of the third eye, determining thus the transcendence of the hidden vision of the world.

THE EGOLESS IN LOVE YOGINI
Chinnamasta is also considered to be yoga shakti, meaning the terrible force of action of the yogic power, which made possible the association with Vajra Yogini and Para Dakini – the first and most important dakini – of the Tibetan tradition, the goddess that offers the sincere and devoted practitioner the greatest paranormal capacities.

At the level of the energetic structure, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Chinnamasta acts mainly on Ajna Chakra, opening the third eye and symbolizing the light that offers the essential direct perception of the surrounding reality, that casts away the ignorance inherent to duality.

Due to her association with the ascendant prana-ic flux of energy through sushumna Nadi, Chinnamasta is also correlated with udana vayu, the subtle energy causing the ascension of Kundalini Shakti and the deep transformation of the human being.

Nonetheless, Chinnamasta manifests at all levels when the yogi achieves an act of perception that goes beyond the normal condition.

From the point of view of the iconographical representations, Chinnamasta is represented as nude, and headless.

In her two hands she holds her own head and a sword. The decapitated head drinks from the blood coming out of her open throat. Traditionally, the head is held in the right hand, and the sword in the left.

Her body is that of a 16 years old girl. She wears a necklace made of human bones and a garland of human skulls.

Chinnamasta wears the sacred belt around her hips, and her breasts have the shape of lightning, being adorned with flowers and a single jewel attached to a snake in the area of the crown of the head. The goddess has three open eyes that radiate plenty of light.

On her sides there are two other goddesses, whose names are Dakini and Varini. Chinnamasta dances over the bodies of Kama, the god of love and his wife, Rati.

In some traditional representations, in their places are Krishna and Radha. This iconographical representation of Chinnamasta from the Hindu tradition is practically identical with thtat of the great goddess Vajra Dakini from the tradition of the Tibetan Tantric Buddhism.

There are in fact three streams of blood coming out from Chinnamasta’s throat: a central stream that she herself drinks, and two other placed on the left and on the right sides of this central stream, signifying the subtle energies from ida nadi and pingala nadi, and which are drunk by the two goddesses Dakini and Varini.

The couple of gods lying at her feet symbolizes the union of the masculine and the feminine energies of the human psychic.

Chinnamasta’s cut head represents the consciousness that was freed from the various limitations of the body and of the mind, while her lightning-shaped hair and radiant eyes are symbols of the direct perception of God’s Absolute Consciousness.

On the other hand, the sword she holds in her left hand signifies the discernment (viveka) and the goddess’s tongue symbolizes the colossal power of the divine logos, or of the mantra-s. as her representation is difficult to be rendered as a sculpture, Chinnamasta is most often represented as we described her in drawing or paintings.

Vira Shaivism, Part 1

 

 

The Vira Shaivism is one of the most dynamic Shaivite Schools of the modern times. It was spread by the remarkable Brahmin Sri Basavanna(1105-1157). The practitioners of this tradition drew the roots of their belief beginning with the sages (risi) of the ancient times.

The Vira Shaivites (“heroic”) are also known as the lingayat, the bearers of the linga (phallus). According to the canons of this tradition, all the members should wear a small linga, symbol of the Supreme Shiva, locked in a pandant they have on a necklace around their necks.

A contemporary practitioner stated for us “worshiping the Vira Shaiva style is the best form of worship because the shivalinga is wore on our body and unites our soul with the Omnipresence. This way, we are in close contact with Shiva all the time, without even a second of pause.”

As in the case of the protestant rebellion in the XVI-th century against the Catholic authority, the lingayat movement won the cause of the rebellion against the brahmanic system that promoted social inequality through a hierarchic system of casts, system that condemned an entire social class as being impure.

Being against the current of “spirituality” of their times, the lingayats have rejected the Veda-ic authority, the casts hierarchy, the system of the four dwellings, the multiplicity of gods, the religious service, the animal sacrifice, the karma-ic bounds, the existence of the inner universes, the duality BrahmanAtman (God – individual Self), the worship in the temple and the ritualistic tradition of the type: purification – impurification.

The Vira Shaivism tradition says that Basavanna was a meditative young man, also a fighter, who rejected largely Vira Shaivism practiced during his days. He broke the sacred belt (yajnopavita) when he was only 16 and ran to Sangama, Karnataka.

He received here shelter and encouragement from Isanya Guru, a Shaivite Brahmin from the predominant kalamukha group and he studied here the teachings in the monastery complex and in the temple, for 12 years.

Here he developed a deep devotion for Shiva in His aspect of “Lord of the rivers confluence” – Kudalasangama. At the age of 28, Basavanna reached the conclusion that humankind is mostly based on the doctrine of a personal God, an individual God, in the form of istalinga – chosen exterior divine phallus.

This spiritual realization is the very core of the central belief Vira Shaiva, according with which the human body should be regarded as a living temple of God, which should be perpetually be kept in a state of purity and sublime.

When Basavanna was almost at the end of his studies, he had a bright dream, in which Shiva Kudalasangama gently touched his body, saying: “Basavanna, my son, your time to leave this place has come. Continue your work of building a just society.”

Receiving these inner signals, Basavanna traveled to Mangalavede, and joined the services of the king of those times, Bijjala. Concomitantly with a rapid climbing on the social stairs, (chief officer of the royal treasury, minister) in this Shaivite country tested by the Buddhist and Jainist intrusions, Basavanna promoted his revolutionary message about a new religious and visionary society.

Basavanna had two wives, underlying in his teachings the fact that all practitioners can lead a holy life, not only those who renounce to the pleasures of life.

He would have speeches every night, denouncing the hierarchy of the casts, the magic practices, astrology, building of temples and many other things, stimulating increased numbers of listeners to come and begin to think rationally and worshipping Shiva as the Divine within themselves.

Here, Basavanna lived and preached for 20 years, developing a powerful religious movement. This action of gathering the people together for spiritual speeches became known as Shivambhava Mandapa (“the house of the Siva-ic experience”).

At the age of 48, he moved together with the king Bijjala to Kalyana where his fame continued to grow during the next 14 years. The man who would succeed him in the development of this movement, Allam Prabhu, accompanied him.

Adepts of various paths have gathered from throughout India to meet Basavanna. However, along the years, the opposition to his egalitarian community grew stronger within the ordinary citizens.

The tensions reached a peak in 1167, when a Brahman and a sudra (woman from an inferior cast, considered impure), both lingayat (adepts of the phallic cult of Shiva), got married.

The citizens, disgusted, went to King Bijjala, who had to give order for the execution of the two people, in order to quiet the crowds. However, this proved to be a thoughtless gesture, which only made the situation worse.

The social situation, already unstable, worsened, and lead to the killing of Bijjala by a group of political opponents, or even by radical lingayat. Basavanna died also at the age of 62, in Sangama, in self-seclusion.

Despite the persecutions, the successful spiritual ruling left behind a cherished heritage, including a great number of holy women. If Basavanna was the social architect and the head of this belief, Allama Prabhu was the engine of mysticism and austerity.

The teachings of these two founders are contained in their lyrical prose, (vacana). The spiritual authority of Vira Shaiva derives from the lives and writings of these two remarkable people, as well as from the lives of other shivasarana (people who have abandoned themselves to Shiva).

Their writings have all a common note: they reject the Veda-s, the ritual, the legends about gods and goddesses, considering all formal religions as an “institution” in which spontaneity, dynamism, and the joy of living can never find a place.

As he often underlines, “doing rightfully” – promoted by most of the religions of the day is not a reason good-enough for reaching the ultimate freedom. Allama writes in this sense: “feed the sacred, tell the truth, dig wells for the thirsty and build reservoirs for the city. You can go to heaven after death, but you will never be next to the truth of our God.”

Vira Shaivism, Part 2

 

 

PART 2
The Vacana-s are incandescent poems, full of humor, ridiculing the stupidity and vanity of people, and filled with the ardor of the search of Truth. Rising from all these, as an essence, is a monotheist path recommending the adepts to enter the terrible realm of personal, inner spirituality.

Here are a few examples: Ganacara wrote: “they say I was born, but I have no birth. O, Lord! They say I have died, but I have no death! O, Lord!”

Allama Prabhu, in his turn says: “when there was no beginning and no end, when there was no peace, no no-peace, when there was nothing, no no-nothing, when everything was un-created and un-ripen, You, Guheshvara (Shiva, as master of Mysteries), were alone, just with yourself, present on the same realm and in the same time not present.”

Ironically, during the centuries that followed, the Vira Shaivism absorbed many of the things that Basavanna rejected.

Thus, the worship in the temple reappeared, the rituals, the institutionalization of the crucial guru-disciple relationship, in an exterior way. There were great efforts to derive the Vira Shaiva technology from the Hindu traditional scriptures.

Until those times, the lingayats, rejecting the Veda-s, have placed themselves outside the main Hindu stream, but through the acceptance of several Shaiva Agama – Shaivite writings considered as having been revealed, they aligned themselves to other Shaivite groups.

The Vira Shaivits regard their belief as a distinct, independent religion. The original ideals remain however included in the lingayat scripture, which also contains the vacanas, the historic stories and the verse biographies.

Among the most important texts we may mention here the vacanas of Basavanna, “Mantragopya” by Allama Prabhu, “Karana Hasuge” by Cennabasavanna and the corpus of writings “Sunya sampadana”.

The monist teist doctrine of the Vira Shaivism is named Shaktivisistadvaita, and is a version of modified non-dualism, also accepting the difference and the non-difference between the individual Self and the Divine, through the comparaison with the beams of the sun.

In short, Shiva or the cosmic force are one, (Shiva is you, and so you must come back, you must return to Shiva, to yourself – as the lingayat writings indicate).

However, Shiva is also beyond His creation, which is real not illusory. God is the effective cause as well as the material cause. The individual Self, in its liberated state attains the undifferentiated union with Shiva.

The Vira Shaiva saint Ranukacariya said: “just the water put in water, and the fire in fire, the individual Self that becomes one with Brahman, is not seen as being distinct from Him.”

The true unity and identity between Shiva (Linga) and the individual Self (anga) is the goal of life described as sunya (the void), which is not an empty void, but a creative void, full of potentialities.

The adept becomes united with Shiva through satsthala, a progressive path, with six steps of devotion and abandon: bhakti (devotion), mahesa (disinterested service), prasada (honest search of Shivas grace), pranalinga (the experience of the Whole as being Shiva), sarana (refuge in Shiva) and aikya (uniqueness in Shiva).

Each phase brings the seeker closer and closer to the final goal, until the individual Self and God are unified into one final state of perpetual Shivaic consciousness, just as the rivers flow into the ocean.

The Vira Shaivism has the means to attain this purpose and these means depend on pancacara (five codes of conduit) si asavarana (eight shields to protect the body as the abode of the Divine).

The five codes of conduit are: lingacara (the daily worship of shivalinga), sadacara (the attention towards vacation and duty), shivacara (the knowledge and acceptance of Shiva as unique God and equality among adepts), bhrityacara (humbleness in front of all creatures), and ganacara (the defense of the community and of the faith).

The eight shields are: guru, linga, jangama (the identification with the wandering monk, one having no possessions), paduka (the water from the ritualic bath of the gurus linga or feet), prasada (the consecrated offering), vibhuti (the holly ashes), rudraksa (the holly seed) and mantra (Namah Shivaya).

Anyone can adopt the Vira Shaiva religion through a formal initiation, named linga diksa, a rite that replaces the traditional ceremony of the sacred belt, consenting in the same time to the daily wear and worship of a shivalinga.

The lingayat-s place a great deal of stress on this life, the equality of all the members, regardless of cast, education, sex, etc., on an intense social implication, and the service brought to the community. Their faith underlines the free will, asserts a determined world and confesses a pure monotheism.

Today, The Vira Shaivism is a vibrant belief, particularly powerful in its origin area, Karnataka, in Central and Southern India. Almost 40 million people live here, out of which approximately one fourth are lingayat-s.

One can hardly find a village in India without a jangama (lingayat monk) and a matha (monastery).
On the occasion of a birth taking place in a lingayat family, the child is brought to their religion this very day, by a jangama, who offers the child a sivalinga in a pandant, attached to a belt. This is the linga the child will wear throughout his or her entire life.

Shiva Advaita

Shiva Advaita is the philosophy of the sage Shrikantha as it was exposed in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya, a Shaivite comment on the work Brahma Sutra (500 – 200 B.C.).

Brahma Sutra contains 50 lapidary verses wrote by Badarayana, resuming the Upanishads. Brahma Sutra, Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads are the three central scriptures of the various interpretations of the Vedantic scriptures.

The sages Shankara, Ramanuja and Madhva wrote commentaries on these books, deriving from here three philosophies almost different from one another: the non-dualism, the limited non-dualism, and the dualism, all based on the same texts.

Each pretended that theirs is the correct interpretation of the Veda-s and rejected vigorously the others. Shankara was a monist and granted a lower value to the worship of a personal God.

On the other hand, Ramanuja and Madhva, developed their philosophies in which the devotion towards God in His aspect of Vishnu was considered the highest path. At that time there was no Vedantic school established, at least there was no school that would bring the devotion to similar heights.

Yet, Srikantha filled in the gaps. The resulting philosophy was named Shiva Vishishtadvaita and as appearance it is not very different from Ramanujas limited non-dualism.

In his commentary, Shrikantha transferred the Shaiva philosophy in a Vedantic terminology. Shrikantha lived in the XI-th century, our era. We know almost nothing about his personal life, so this aspect will remain a mystery forever.

Moreover, the fact that he catalyzed or not a social movement that could have rivaled with the Vira Shaivism or with the Shaiva Siddhantha; still, from his writings one thing is clear: he was a brilliant orator and a master in debates, and maybe the most important, he was a devoted worshipper of Shiva.

His influence was greater due to another commentator of the texts, Appaya Dikshita, who wrote a detailed commentary on the work of Shrikantha in the XVI-th century, as part of a serious attempt to defend Shaivism from the proselyte intrusions of the Vishnuism from the Southern India.

According to Shrikanthas philosophy, Shiva created the world with no other purpose than a divine game. Shiva is the effective cause of creation, as His Shakti; He is also its material cause.

Shiva takes on the form of the universe, He transforms Himself into it (the universe) but not directly, but through His Shakti.

Thus, He is transcendent, glorious and unaffected by His creation. Shiva has a spiritual body and lives in a paradise that is more luminous than a thousand suns, paradise that can be attained only by the liberated souls.

Shrikantha, in his work Brahma Sutra Bhasya, said: “In the moment of the creation, preceded by the first vibrations of His energies, through a simple impulse of His will, independent from any material cause, and from His own substance, He creates all the conscious and unconscious creatures and things.”

The purification, devotion, and meditation on Shiva as the Self from the void of the spiritual heart (daharakasha) define the path. The meditation is directed towards the Supreme Self, Shiva, the only existence that has evolved through all the manifested forms.

The freedom appears only after a few preliminary realizations, including inner peace, unbending faith, and detachment. The bonds that keep the soul in chains can be broken in the torrent of the continual contemplation and identification with Shiva. The liberation depends on the grace, not on the facts.

 

According to the same philosophy, after death the liberated soul goes to Shiva the path of the gods, with no possible return to the terrestrial life.

The individual soul continues to exist in the spiritual level, enjoying the ecstasy of knowing God, enjoying all experiences and powers, except that of creating the universe.

Finally, the individual self does not become one with Brahman, or Shiva, but shares all His qualities and attributes.

The human being is responsible, free to act at ones own free will, and Shiva fulfills ones needs in accordance with ones karma.

Shrikantha wrote in Brahma Sutra Bhasya: “Shiva associates His three energies (iccha – will, jnana – knowledge, kriya – action), enter in the conglomerate of effects and comes out as Universe, comprising the triad of the deities (Brahma -creation, Vishnu – preservation, Rudra – resorbtion). Who can understand Shivas greatness, the Almighty, the All-knowing?”

Appaya Dikshita (1554-1626) remains one of the most unusual persons in the history of the Hindu philosophy. Appaya Dikshitas commentaries on the various philosophical schools were so deep and profound, that these schools claimed his commentaries, even if Appaya Dikshita never adhered to these philosophies.

Ardent devoted of Shiva, he compiled manuals of ritual worship (puja) that are still being used to this day by the Shivait priests.

Moreover, he was an excellent devotional poet. From a philosophical point of view, he adhered to the Advaita school of the sage Adi Shankara. In his debates to re-establish the worship of Shiva against the Vishnuism of those times, he had his life threatened on countless occasions.

The Shaivism had been constricted in the XVI-th century Southern India, due to the “generous” patronship of Ramaraja , king of the Vijayanagar, and continued after his death.

However, Appaya Dikshita managed to gain the grace of the vassal king, then independently Chinna Bomman from Velore, influencing thus the state doctrine.

Appaya Dikshita has perfected the composition of certain commentaries on the various philosophies of the time, including that of Shrikantha. The adepts of this spiritual line claim Appayas commentaries on the writings of the dualist Madhva to this very day.

Through his 104 books, Appaya Dikshita has created many harmonious relationships with the other systems of thinking, has promoted the Shaivism among other philosophical approaches and has contributed to the re-establishment of the norms of devotional worship of Shiva.

The leadership of the king Chinna Bomman of Velore ensured the wide spreading of Appayas ideas through conferences especially prepared to which took part up to 500 students, and great travels for Appaya and his followers, who served as Shaiva missionaries.

Appaya Dikshita wrote in one of his texts: “since the torrid heat of the malevolent critics against Shiva and His worship waits to destroy and burn the offsprings of Shiva-bhakti, (devotion for Shiva) that might appear in the minds of the devotes (for whom the existing seed is the merit accumulated during their previous births), this work, Shivakarnamrita, with its verse created as if from nectar, is written precisely to help the salvation of these offsprings.”

Appaya Dikshita concluded that Shrikantha’s philosophies, as well as those of other dualists, or monist-dualists were necessary steps in order to recognize the truth of monism, advaita.

He argued that Shrikantha’s accent on Saguna Brahman (God with qualities) more than on Nirguna Brahman (God beyond any quality) was meant to create for the time being the faith and devotion within the Shaivite adepts, because such devotion is a prior element to the knowledge of the Transcendent Absolute, ParamaShiva, Nirgua Brahman.

Appaya Dikshita said in his work Shivarkamanidipika: “Even if Advaita was the accepted religion, impressed on us by great teachers of the past, such as Shri Shankara (and in many other scriptures as well), the spiritual bend towards monism (Advaita) is produced only by Shiva’s grace.”

Shiva Advaita appears to have no community of adepts or any formal association these days. However, historically, it can be understood as a profound reconciliation between the Vedanta and Siddhanta. Its major importance lies in the promotion and revigoration of the Shaivism in the XVI-th century, century of great ideological turmoil.

Siddha Siddhanta

Siddha Siddhanta, or the Gorakshanatha Shaivism was generally considered as belonging to the lineage of the first ascetic orders of India.

The sage Gorakshanatha was a disciple of Matsyendranatha, the holly protector of Nepal, claimed by both certain esoteric Buddhist schools and by Hindu as well. Apparently, Gorakshanatha lived in the X-th century and wrote in Hindi.

The historians connect Gorakshanatha lineage with that of Pashupata (already described in one of our previous articles. The Divine in the form of Shiva is considered here as the Shepherd of all creatures), late successors, as well as siddha yoga (the yoga of perfection) and the Agama-ic traditions.

The Gorakshanatha’s adepts themselves consider that Matsyendranatha has learned the secret Shivaic truths from Shiva himself, in the form of Adinatha, and then in his turn he transmitted them directly and identically to Gorakshanatha.

The school synthesized and developed the Hatha Yoga practice to a remarkable degree, so today we may say that this spiritual lineage has provided all the things we know about Hatha Yoga.

Gorakshanatha, prominent guru and author of the work Siddhanta Paddhati (“Considerations on the doctrine of the adepts”) was a man of a tremendous spiritual force, and remarkable discernment.

As a man who renounced the worldly life, his youth is not known to us, yet there are reasons to believe that he was born in the Hindu province Punjab.

After studying for 12 years in the school of his famous guru, Matsyendranatha, Gorakshanatha became a master in the Natha secret knowledge of the yoga, traveling throughout the northern India, from Assam to Cashmere, he worshiped Shiva in the temples, realizing Him in the most profound states of mystic ecstasy, samadhi, and awakening many of the paranormal capacities of a shivait adept.

Creating 12 monastic orders with complexes of temples and monasteries all over northern India, Gorakshanatha popularized his school and in the same time he isolated powerful Shaivism isles apart from the Muslim influence.

Matsyendranatha had already established this school in Nepal, country in which even to this day he is glorified as the holly protector of the country.

The modern researchers and scientists consider that Gorakshanatha’s yoga represents a development from the Pashupata early lineage and from the related ascetic orders, as there are many philosophical and practical similarities.

For the outer society, Gorakshanatha’s yogis were people of great renunciation, remarkable and troubling, dressed in saffron-robes, with their long black hair, and the foreheads whitened by the holy ashes, big, round earrings, rudrashkas, and a whistle around their neck, signifying the primordial vibration, AUM.

The Muslims named the Gorakshanatha adepts kauphati, meaning “the thorn ears” referring to the rite practiced by Goraksanatha’s adepts in order to insert in their earlobes big earrings, sometimes huge ones.

Some Muslims even associated themselves with these kauphati, and several leaders of Goraksanatha monasteries were known at that time as sacred parents of the Muslim tradition, designating the respect with which they were treated.

These Natha perceived their inner and outer universe as being Shiva’s cosmic body, (mahasakara pinda), as a continuous blossoming outside Him as Shakti (energy), in an infinity of individual souls, universes and forces. Earth and life, human weaknesses and human divinity, these are all manifestations of Shiva.

Thus, these people expressed their spiritual exultation in a humane and joyous devotion in worshiping in the temple and pilgrimages. Nonetheless, their inner focus is on the inner practice and kundalini yoga. They would perform inner Parasamvid, the supreme state of transcendence of Shiva.