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The Philosophical Content of Tantra

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 10:58 PM
Tantric series I shall keep cautioning readers about the use of 'philosophy' and 'philosophical' in our context. Historians of western philosophy beginning with Erdmann and uberweg in the last century, and continuing with virtually all academically philosophers of the western world up to date have denied Indian thought the title 'philosophy'. Enologists and oriental scholars, however, have been using the term for Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain thought quite indiscriminately and this did not matter too much because there was and there is the assumption that the twain, professional orient lists and professional philosophers do not meet. I think this is wrong. It is extremely difficult to make them meet, because a lot of cross disciplinary studies are needed for both the philosophers will have to read some original tracts of Indian thought and its paraphrase in other Asian languages; and the orient lists will have to acquire sonic knowledge of contemporary philosophy, especially on the terminological side. This has not been done: scholars who wrote and write on Indian ' philosophers ' Stcherbatsky , Raju, Glasenapp, Edgerton, Radhakrishnan, to mention but a few did not seriously attempt to read modern philosophy and use its accurate terminology. All of them somehow assume that western philosophy had reached its climax with Kant, Hegel, or Bradley, and hence they do not feel the need to improve on their archaic terminology. I Think they are mistaken. Terminologies previous to that of the analytical schools of twentieth century philosophy are deficient.' It could be objected that contemporary occidental philosophy may be unequal to the task of providing adequate terminology for Indian thought patterns; this may be so, but pre twentieth century occidental philosophy is even less adequate; modern philosophy uses all the tools of the classical philosophical tradition, plus the considerably sharper and more sophisticated tools of multi value logic, logical empiricism, and linguistic analysis.

Offering wine
However, with some very few exceptions, authors on Indian thought, both western and Indian, have not tried to acquire and use these better tools they have so far been satisfied to carry on with the philosophically outdated tools of the European traditions of the last two centuries, especially of the Fichte Kant Hegel tradition, widened in size, but not in quality, by additions of such British philosophers as Bradley and Bosanquet. Exceptions so far have been few: Professor Ingalls at Harvard, and his student Professor K. Potter, are known to this author to avail themselves of contemporary philosophical terminology when dealing with Indian material; and Professor H. V. Guenther, formerly at Banaras, who consciously and determinedly capitalizes on the work of such thinkers as C. D. Broad, Ayer, Russell, Wisdom, Veatch, Straw son, Ullmann, and a large number of less known British and American teachers of philosophy.

If I may venture a guess as to why writers on Indian philosophy refused to acquire and use more up to date tools, I believe the main reason is not so much inertia but the idea that Kant, Hegel, and Bradley, etc., were spirits more kindred to the Indians; that their idealistic or at least metaphysical predilections qualified them better for the providing of interpretative concepts than the twentieth century anti metaphysical, anti systematic, anti 'idealistic' philosophers (idealistic' in the popular, non philosophical sense, and emotive equivalent of 'truth seeking' as opposed to Tact seeking'). Here again they err; in the first place, the great philosophers of the European eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were no more favorably inclined towards Indian philosophy.

The tantric manifestation of hanuman Than are modern analytical thinkers; but more importantly, the fact of a system of thought being closer in emotive tone to another system of thought does not guarantee that the former is a competent arbiter of the latter. This wrong assumption goes back to an even older historical phenomenon the great attraction, largely sentimental, which nineteenth century German classical scholars and poets felt for things Indian in the belief of a 'kindred sour; this is being echoed in India by the majority of pandits and holy men: it is very hard to convince pandits and monks in India that Sanskrit is not taught and spoken in high schools in Germany, and that Germans are not the only Sanskrit scholars outside India.

I therefore submit that students of Indian philosophy should learn to use the more precise terminology of contemporary western philosophy when they attempt to translate and define Indian philosophical texts. From this standpoint it might have been wise to substitute 'philosophy by some such word as 'ideology' or 'speculative patterns' fur the bulk of Indian (and hence Tibetan) scholastic lore; in fact, short of logic (nyaya, tarka), Indian philosophy has been ideology. Yielding to the majority, however, we shall continue to refer to these patterns including tantric patterns   as 'philosophy', bearing the said strictures in mind. Indian thought does not contain much of what modern philosophers would call 'philosophy'  but they would not object to tantric thought being added as a new branch of investigation: as 'psycho experimental speculation. I recommend this lengthy phrase, because it summarizes tantric 'philosophy'; but I shall not use it unless it proves acceptable to scholars at some later date; I shall use 'philosophy' in this book, but whenever I speak about tantric 'philosophy' it is to be understood as shorthand for 'psycho experimental speculation'.

A tantric diagram
If the old philosophical terminology is used the contents of most Indian systems can indeed be told in very few words, but I am convinced that this succinctness is as deceptive and vague as the terminology of classical philosophy. It is this deceptiveness to which an Indian scholar like S. B. Dasgupta succumbed when he wrote about tantric literature, that it was:

An independent religious literature, which utilized relevant philosophical doctrines, but whose origin may not be traced to any system or systems of philosophy; it consists essentially of religious methods and practices which have been current in India from a very old time. The subject matter of the tantras may include esoteric yoga, hymns, rites, rituals, doctrines and even law, medicine, magic and so forth

The same scholar quotes a Buddhist tantric definition of tantrism, 'tanyate vistriyate panamanerta its tantrain'. Now the ideologist who uses classical occidental terminology would render this' that by which knowledge (or wisdom, intuition, etc.) is extended or elaborated, is tantras. The vagueness of this translation  unnoticed by ideologists because they are so used to it rests on an inadequate rendition of ‘pawl’; without going into an elaborate analysis of 'pond , let me say that `wisdom' or 'intuitive wisdom' arc too vague, and for Buddhist tantras incorrect. Professor Guenther translates judna 'analytical appreciative understanding', and this is borne out by the Sanskrit definition; for if jiidna were the immutable wisdom, say, of the Vedantic variety, it could neither be extended nor elaborated. The Brahmanical or at least the Vedanta monist's jficita is a state of being, not one of knowing; the rootpa, in its Vedantic sense, does not connote cognition, but the irrefutable intuition of a single, all including entity, other than which nothing persists; vet, even the term 'intuition' is not really adequate here, because it still implies an intuiting subject and an intuited object, whereas the Vedantic jiicina does not tolerate any such dichotomy.


Purusha and prakriti
We must now show what philosophy is common to all Indian schools of religious thought; and then, what philosophy is common between Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism of the tantric variety; we can omit Theravada Buddhism and Jainism from the survey, because their axiomatic differences are too great on all levels from the subject matter of this study. It is not advisable to try to list here the differences between tantric and non tantric forms of Hinduism and Buddhism, simply because they are not of a philosophical order. In other words, there is nothing in Buddhist and Hindu tantric philosophy which is not wholly contained in some non tantric school of either.

Or to put it differently, tantrism has not added any philosophical novelty to Hinduism and Buddhism; I do not even think that it emphasizes certain aspects of Mahayana or Hindu philosophy more than do the respective non tantric doctrines preceding it. To give an illustration: The Madhyamikas teach and emphasize the complete identity of nirvana and samsara, i.e. of the absolute and the phenomenal modes of existence; the Vajrayana Buddhists take this notion for granted it is on the ritualistic or contemplatively methodical side that differences arise, and these are indeed fund a mental. In a similar fashion the non tantric monists or Sivites (Samkaracarya and his school, or the Southern Siva Agama teachers), pronounce and emphasize the oneness of Siva and Sakti, and so do the Hindu tantric of the Sakta schools they do not add any philosophical or speculative innovation to their non tantric antecedents but they do different things and practice different sadhana (contemplative exercises). There is thus no difference between tantric and non tantric philosophy, as speculative eclecticism is pervasive; there is all the difference in the practical, the sad hand part of tantrism.

There are perhaps just two elements common to all Indian philosophy: first, the axiom of inevitable metempsychosis (this is shared with all religious systems indigenous in India) and the notion of possible emancipation connected with the former as the apodosis of a single proposition, the axiom of metempsychosis being its protasis.

Yantra of lord vishnu with twentyfour avataras
The second common clement is the notion of some absolute which underlies the phenomenal universe. Indian scholars and other votaries of the oneness of all religions have postulated that the Vedantic Brahman and the Mahayanist s'anya are the same concept, the difference being merely terminological. I shall with hold my judgment on this point at present. If sunya and the brahtnan are concepts which lean on the same proclivity to absolutize the permanent as experienced or inferred. Beneath or alongside with the ephemeral, this would not suffice to establish the identity of sunyata and the Brahman. The Mahayana Buddhist Would certainly reject this identification, and the possible re joinder that he does so because he has to insist on being fund a mentally different from the Brahmin tradition is not justified until there is a precise analytical formulation of Brahman and sunyata juxtaposed. No such formulation has come forth so far.

The element common to Hindu and Mahayana philosophy is what Indian scholastic methodology calls samanvaya, i.e. The institutionalized attitude of reconciling discursively contrary notions by raising them to a level of discourse where these contra dictions are thought to have no validity. It is due to samanvaya that the gap between the phenomenal (samvrti, vyavahara) and the absolute (paramartha) truths spares the Hindu or Mahayana thinker the philosophical embarrassment the outsider feels when he views paramartha and vyavahara philosophy side by side, in Indian religious literature.

What distinguishes tantric from other Hindu and Buddhist teaching is its systematic emphasis on the identity of the absolute (paramartha) and the phenomenal (vyavahara) world when filtered through the experience of sadhanc. Tantric literature is not of the philosophical genre; the stress is on sadhana. But it seems to me that one philosophical doctrine inherent in esoteric Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism  especially of the Madhyamikas school  the identity of the phenomenal and the absolute world  was singled out by all tantric teachers as the nucleus around which all their speculation was to revolve; I also believe that the dictionary discrepancies between the various schools of speculative thought are really resolved in tantric sadhana: all scholastic teachers in India declare that there is samanvaya, but the tantric actually experiences it; I have tried to elaborate a model of this phenomenon, which had been suggested to me by my own preceptor, the late Visvananda Bharati.

 Surya namaskara tada asana
The other philosophical doctrine common to Hindu and Buddhist tantra is probably due to some sort of dictionary diffusion. It is of the type of a universe model: reality is one, but it is to be grasped through a process of conceptual and intuitive polarization. The poles are activity and passivity, and the universe

'Work' through their interaction. The universe ceases to 'work'   i.e. its state of absolute oneness and quiescence is realized when these two poles merge. They are merged doctrinarily by the repeated declaration of their fundamental oneness, and are experienced by the tantric reliving of this merger through his integrating scidhanci or spiritual disciplines.

Only this much is really common between Hindu and Buddhist tantric doctrines, for their respective ascriptions to the two poles are obverse to each other. The Hindu assigned the male symbol apparatus to the passive, the female to the active pole; the Buddhist did the opposite; the Hindu assigned the knowledge principle to the passive male pole, and the dynamic principle to the active female pole; the Vajrayana Buddhist did it the other way round.

All tantric philosophy sets forth the power of a conceptual decision, notwithstanding the fact that the execution of ritualistic contemplation is carried out in minute detail. It appears that conceptual decision leading to permanent enstasis (piano, bodhi) has higher prestige than other procedures. Thus we find this statement in the account of a Tibetan teacher:

By a doctrine which is similar to the application of fat to a wound when an arrow piece remains inside, nothing can be reached; by a doctrine which is similar to tracing the footsteps of a thief to a monastery when he had escaped to the forest and mountain, nothing can be gained, so also having declared one's own mind to be non substantial (by its nature), the fetters of the outside world will fall off by themselves, because all is sunyata.

trikona asana
I have no scriptural evidence for this surmise, but I feel that the tendency to supersede the necessity of minute exertion by a basically intellectual act is a typical tantric element of speculation. We find an important analogy in orthodox Brahmanical thought: Samkaracarya declared that the cognitive understanding of the meaning of the four great Upanisadic dicta, 'this atma is brahma',`I am Brahma', `thou art that', and `the conscious self is Brahma, results in immediate liberation. Most of his contemporaries and particularly his later opponents (especially Ramanuja in the Eleventh century, and his school) opposed this notion vehemently, insisting on prolonged observance and discipline. Samkaracarya’s attitude towards tantra is ambivalent, but there is reason to believe that he was profoundly influenced by tantric notions.

Romanticizing German ideology was highly enthusiastic about Indian thought, and this is one of the reasons why Hindu pandits are full of praise for German ideology. Thus, H. V. Glasenapp wrote the notion that the whole universe with the totality of its phenomena forms one single whole, in which even the smallest element has an effect upon the largest, because secret threads connect the smallest item with the eternal ground of the world, this is the proper foundation of all tantric philosophy.

There is decidedly such a thing as a common Hindu and Buddhist tantric ideology, and I believe that the real difference between tantric and non tantric traditions is methodological: tantra is the psycho experimental interpretation of non tantric lore. As such, it is more value free than non tantric traditions; moralizing, and other be good clich├ęs are set aside to a far greater extent in tantrism than in other doctrine. By 'psycho-exper- mental' I mean given to experimenting with one's own mind', not in the manner of the speculative philosopher or the poet, but rather in the fashion of a would be psychoanalyst who is himself being analyzed by some senior man in the trade. This, I think, is the most appropriate analogue in the modern world: the junior psychoanalyst would be the disciple, the senior one the guru. The tantric adept cares for liberation, like all other practicing Hindus or Buddhists; but his method is different, because it is purely experi-mental in other words, it does not confer ontological or existential status upon the objects of his meditations. This is the reason why tantric are not in the least perturbed by the proliferation of gods and goddesses, minor demons and demo nesses, and other creatures of various density and efficacy  they do not attempt to reduce their number, for these are necessary anthropomorphic ways of finding out 'what is inside the mind'. The tantric entertains one or two axioms, no doubt the absolutistic and the.

 Birjhadra asana
Phenomenal nominal identity axioms, but they are not really important. Except as speculative constructs Similarly, the psychologist entertains a few axioms, as for instance the one identifying sanity with adjustment to the cultural milieu of his environment which he shares with the anthropologists interested in `culture and personality', or the axiom that there is such a thing as mental illness but the practicing analyst is not really interested in these axioms as he carries on his work  in fact, these axiomatic notions arc quite irrelevant to the execution of his work. They are 'at the back of his mind', but he can leave them there when he works.

To sum up the rambling question whether or not we should make a distinction between what is specifically tantric and what is not. On the theological and speculative level the answer is decidedly yes. All tantric flout traditional, exoteric orthodoxy, all put experiment above conventional morality denying ultimate importance to moralistic considerations which is not contradicted by the fact that most tantric texts pay initial homage to con ventional conceptions of morality; and all agree that their specific method is dangerous, and radical, and all claim that it is a shortcut to liberation.

I do not believe that either the Hindus or the Buddhists were consciously working out a similar psycho experimental pattern, and I do not think that they were making a conscious effort to unite Hindus and Buddhists, even though they may well have been aware of great similarities between their practices. But B. Bliattacharya's statement the kjilacokra or Circle of Time" as the highest god was set up by a particular section which wanted that the Hindus should unite with the Buddhists under the common nonsectarian banner of the Time God Kalacakra in order to present a united front against the cultural penetration of Semitic peoples which had already invaded Central Asia and Iran.

Hardly deserves attention except as a statement a la mode.

Hindu scholars, with no exception to my knowledge, believe in a virtual dictionary identity of Advaita monism and Madhya mika absolutism, and this is detrimental to the study of Indian.

Yantra of parashurama
Absolutistic philosophy, art irrelevant to any tantric study. B.Bhattacharya describes sunya and the contemplation of it exactly like the Brahman of the Aviate monist; he refers to the meditative process of the Madhyamikas as 'securing oneness with the sunya or Infinite Spirit’s I think the similarity of diction and style is a trap into which Indian scholars readily fall because there is no tradition of textual criticism in India. Advayavajra, a famous Buddhist tantric teacher, says: pratibhasa (i.e. apparent reality) is (like) the bridegroom, the beloved one, conditioned only (i.e. subject to the chain of dependent origination, pratitya samutpada, Tibetan brel), and sunyata, if She were corpse like, would not be (likened to) the bride."Now one of India's authorities on Buddhist tantrism, the late Pandit Haraprasad Sastri, misunderstood this singularly important passage, when he paraphrased it.

Here.47, sunyata is the bride and its reflection is the bridegroom. Without the bridegroom the bride is dead. If the bride is separated, the bride groom is in bondage.  

H. P. Sastri was probably aware of the fact that the main doctrine of Vajrayaria theology is essencelessness in the true Buddhist sense. Yet he was misled by the powerful modern Indian scholastic trend to see Advaita monistic doctrine in Mahayana Buddhism.18 'Without the bridegroom the bride is dead'  this is the exact inverse analogy of the Hindu tantric dictum `Siva is a corpse without Sakti' (Siivah ,Saktivihinah ,Savah), which provides an important rule for Hindu tantric iconography." H. P. Sastri was obviously under the spell of this pervasive tantric proposition, else it is hard to see why one of the most eminent old time Bengali Sanskritists should have misinterpreted this important passage.

There is also a subtler reason for the tendency to identify Buddhist and Hindu tantric doctrine. Buddhist tantrism has borrowed many of its lesser deities from Hinduism, or at least from the large stock of deities present in areas which nurtured Hindu, Buddhist, and aboriginal Indian mythology. With the Indian love for enumeration and classification, mythological groups of 3, 4, 5, etc., items abound just as they do in doctrinary groups  and it is quite irrelevant which came first, Hindu or Buddhist tantric, in the application of these charismatic group numbers; thus, for example, an old Hindu tantric text2 explains the five faces of Siva as representing his five aspects as Vamadeva, Tatpurusa, Aghora, Sadyojata, and Lana, each of which is a frequent epithet of Siva, with slightly varying modes of meditation prescribed for each of them in Sivites literature. To these aspects, different colures, different directional controls, etc., are ascribed. The five dhydni Buddha’s also have different colures, directions, etc., ascribed to them, control over which being the domain of each of the Buddha’s.

Vaun midget yantra
These arrangements in numeric ally identical groups prompt many scholars to equate the two mythologies. This is a perfectly permissible procedure if we study diffusion of concepts as anthropologists; but the moment we extend diffusion patterns from mythology to philosophy we are tempted to reason fallaciously, according to the invalid model 'in mythology, Buddhist and Hindu, 3 (4, 5, 7, etc.) tokens within one theme, therefore in philosophy, Buddhist and Hindu, 3 (4, 5, 7, etc.) tokens within one theme'. We tend to forget that philosophical concepts, even when they are numbered according to a traditional pattern, develop and change much more independently than do mythological concepts, for the simple reason that Indian mythological icons, once created, are hardly ever modified, because there is no impetus to modbify them  on the contrary, the contemplatives feel more successful if they succeed in visualizing the object in accordance with the prescribed icon.* There is a lot of impetus, however, to amplify philosophical doctrines  the teaching or the commentary of a revered preceptor is never as un ambiguous a thing as an icon: in the mind of the pious scholar, an icon cannot be improved upon, a commentary must be constantly clarified and amended, due to its inevitable complexity. This dichotomy in the Hindu and Buddhist scholar's attitude no Modification of icons, but constant elaboration of philosophical concepts is not shared, say, by the Roman or Greek Catholic scholar: there are no canons about how Christ's body or face should be modelled or painted. Hindu and Buddhist iconography prescribes pictorial icons in exact detail, and there is very little scope for modification.


The Hindu scholastic's effort to explain Mahayana doctrine in terms of Vedantic notions is of course much older than the nineteenth century, but its western echo or counterpart reinforced the trend. Deussen's generation was not familiar with medieval Hindu tantric texts which assimilated Vajrayana doctrine into a Hindu frame. European indology perhaps arrived at this notion independently, prompted by the inherent romanticism of early indology. In a text which I would date between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, a Kashmiri scholar discusses the word makara as a name of the Universal Goddess (Devi); he there describes her as 'beholding her own body as both sunya and nonsunya which he then glosses in Vedantic fashion: sunya means of the form of pure mind, but not nonexistent by nature, and nonsunya means polluted by Maya.

It is quite possible that Makara was a Hindu tantric goddess, if the name is really a personification of the `5 m s' pancamakara as it does seem to be. She is not listed in Bhattacharya's Buddhist Iconography, nor in the fairly exhaustive Sadhanamala. However, it is impossible to say which deity was Hindu and which Buddhist in medieval tantric Kashmir. By that time, Hindu scholars had come to avoid terms like sunya together with other terms of a specifically Buddhist flavor, and Sitikantha's apology for its use in the prescribed meditation on that goddess would indicate that her dhycina was originally Buddhist.

Four yantras  
Modern Brahmin scholars, who remain unfamiliar and hence unaffected by occidental literature on Indian thought, continue to antagonize the Buddhist doctrines about as vehemently as their classical forbears. Thus, Pdt. Laksminatha Jha, former Head of the Department of Indian Philosophy at the Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya, Banaras, says: 'If the root of phenomenal existence be manifest to Intuition, then what is the foundation of phenomenal existence whereof it is a manifestation, since everything (according to Madhyamikas) is sunya? Hence, the doctrine that everything is sunya conflicts with everything, and because it denies a foundation for anything, it has to be rejected.

It is as yet impossible for a Hindu or a Buddhist unfamiliar with occidental methods of philosophical analysis to state the basic difference of Hindu and Buddhist tantric philosophy without a slant and with objectively valid precision. There is a lot of precise terminology within the scholastic traditions of India, and a fortiori of Tibet, but neither the Hindu nor the Buddhist has developed a terminology sufficient to step out from the atma and no Alma complex. This we can do at present perhaps only by aid of non Sanskritists analytical language. This is the situation: the Hindu insists on the notion of a Self, or a transcendent immanent personality principle, or an atman or Brahman. The Buddhist, in theory at least, denies any self or any super self. However, in practice the Vajrayana and to a certain extent all Mahayana Buddhist doctrines have a sort of Ersatz self or super self, something which defies any treatment in terms of the Hindu 'entity postulating' languages, yet it has some sort of subsistence.

Now I believe that the crux of the matter lies in the fact, not hitherto mentioned by any scholar known to me, that the principle, or quasi entity which Mahayana and Vajrayana accepts (Sunyata, Buddhahood, and all the complexes which tantric Buddhism personifies in its deities, populating the universe with psycho experimentally necessary and highly ingenuous anthropomorphic hypostases of philosophical 'non entities', for example, the Goddess Nairatmya  Tibetan bdag med ma) is not a principle accepted in lieu of the Hindu entity, but it is a principle accepted in spite of the Hindu principle, and arrived at by totally different speculative processes. The Buddhist teachers must have been aware of the danger of postulating anything that might smack of the teachings which the Buddha had rejected; I am not persuaded by the rather facile assumption, shared by many Indian and occidental scholars, that the later Buddhists had forgotten that the mainstay of Buddhism had been dismantling the notion of Being and of Self; nor by the oft propounded idea that an ideological group which keeps up its distinct identity chiefly by refuting another ideological group gradually assumes the latter's terms and ideas.

Shri Devi Charan Yantra
This may be so among political groups (the Nazis developed a system and a language which was very similar, in many points, to communism which they fought), but it is hardly believable about scholars who are critically aware of their doctrinary differences from the ideology which they oppose. In other words, I cannot bring myself to believe that Asanga or Advayavajra or any other tantric Buddhist teacher should have been unaware of the possible charge of 'your sunyata or your Nairatmya are so thoroughly rarefied that there is no difference left between them and Brahmin notions of Being'. Samkaracarya was called a crypto Buddhist (prachanna Buddha) by his Brahmin opponents, because his Brahman was so utterly rarefied and depersonalized that it reminded the less informed of the assumed Buddhist nihil, the .sunya. Had any of the famous Buddhist teachers been charged with being a crypto Hindu, such a charge would have probably been recorded. As it is, scholastic Hindus feel a strong doctrinary resentment against Buddhist doctrine, and it is only the Occidentalized, 'all religions are basically one' Hindus who declare the Buddhist teachings as a form of Hinduism or vice versa.

The Buddhist dialectician proceeds from the denial of any entity, from the axiom of momentariness, and arrives at the notion of s'anya; the Hindu dialectician has a built in deity as the basis for his speculations on a self, on a static entity. To the outsider, however, the rarefied Brahman of the Vedanta monists and the Buddhist sunya may look similar or 'virtually' identical as intellectual constructs. But they are not. Buddhism has no ontology, no metaphysics; Hinduism has a powerful ontology this is the one unbridgeable difference between all of its forms and Buddhism of all schools. That the psycho experimentalist, the tantric, or anyone who takes sadhana seriously (and taking scidhana seriously means regarding it as more important, though not necessarily more interesting, than philosophy), may come to feel that there is some sort of identity between sunyata and Brahman, is a different matter: it does not conflict with what is said above, and there is no gainsaying the fact that reports on the 'feeling' in Vedanta trained enstasis and in tantric enstasis is very similar indeed.

Yet, even if two authentic reports on enstatic experience should coincide, it does not follow from this that the schools from which these reports derive teach a similar philosophy. The notion upheld among religious teachers in India today that a specific sadhana yields a specific philosophy or vice versa, I believe to be wrong; it hails from an understandable pious wish that the corpus of doctrine, embodied in one tradition, should be autonomous, and should encompass both sadhana and philosophy. To put this point succinctly: no specific sadhana follows from any one philosophy, nor does any specific philosophy follow from any particular sadhana. Our own tantric tradition provides the best illustration: tantric sadhana follows a single pattern, Vajrayana Buddhist and Hindu tantric sadhana is indistinct guishable, in spite of the immense disparity between the two philosophies.

 Shri Kal Bhairav Yantra
I admit, however, that the language of Vajrayana suggests ontology to a degree where a scholar, who did not know Hindu or Buddhist philosophy, but did know Sanskrit and modern occidental philosophy would be at a loss to realize that Buddhist philosophy was non ontological as opposed to Hindu philosophy. To quote a typical passage from a Vajrayaria text: 'of firm essence, unfragmented, unbreakable, indivisible in character, incombustible, indestructible, sunyata is vajra (i.e. the Buddhist Void is the Buddhist Adamantine, the Vajra). Word for word, this description of sunyata and vajra could apply to the brahtnan of the Veal 16n, and for that of all Hindus, and I do not think there is any adjective in this passage which has not been applied to the Brahman, with the exception perhaps of asauirryam (lit. 'un perforated'), which I have not seen in a Hindu text; 'unbreakable, indivisible, incombustible', almost in this order, is the description of the infinite Brahman in the Bhagavad-Gita .It is futile to speculate why the tantric writers availed themselves of terms which were excessively popular with their Brahmin opponents, in Describing the ultimate.

I think the main reason is simply that these terms are ready theological superlatives, abstract enough for the statement of principles. On the other hand, these adjectives would be less suggestive of ontology had they not been constantly used by Hindu, i.e. ontological, thinkers. Without the Hindu reference, these terms can be used as epithets to non ontological notions just as much as they can for ontological ones. They may be semantic ally more suggestive of ontological background, because 'things' arc 'breakable' and 'divisible', etc.; yet such consideration is somewhat jejune, for after all the ontological notions of Hinduism, or of any ontological philosophy, as the 'on' of the Elcadic philosophers, or the 'ens' of Thomism, or 'Being' (das Sein, as opposed to das Seiende) of Heidegger are not really any of the 'things' which are breakable or combustible. This is just an illustration of the fact that languages use object language terms to qualify non object language concepts.

 Shri Yaksha yantra
The specific case of extension of ontological vocabulary to non ontological thought may have another, somewhat more technical cause: the tantric Buddhist 'commentators had to vindicate their preceptors' facile use of 'surrounding' terminology: by this I mean that the first tantric teachers, such as the eighty four siddhas, who were mostly rustic folk without much liking for and no pretence to learning, were constantly exposed to Hindu village parlance around them, and popular Hinduism was hardly distinguishable from popular Buddhism in early medieval Bengal. Their more learned commentators in turn used learned non Buddhist vocabulary to denote Buddhist concepts, in conscious analogy, perhaps, to their unsophisticated preceptors' use of unsophisticated non Buddhist vocabulary. It is a pattern frequently observed elsewhere: the words of Christ, often indiscriminately reminiscent of Hellenic pantheistic ideology CI and the Father are one'), had to be exegetically 'atoned for' by the learned Fathers and scholastics in later days. St. Augustine's work was one great effort to eradicate any trace of Hellenic and Alexandrina pantheism and to put dualistic monotheism on a firm basis. Christ had been exposed to 'surrounding' non Judaic terminology, the Province of Galilea


Being suffused by popular Hellenic doctrines largely pantheistic ('What good can come of Nazareth' John ). In later centuries, we have an exact analogue in the teachings of Mohammed. The main difficulty for all learned commentators who write as apologists for their naive preceptors consists in the attempt to make the learned believe that the preceptors had entertained sophisticated theological ideas which they chose to put into naive language for the benefit of the crowd yet no exegete who does not also happen to be an anthropologist would state the facts as they are: that the founders or the first saintly preceptors of most religious traditions were naive, and did not teach discursive theology, not because they did not want to, but because they knew nothing about its.

Thus, Bhusukapada, a siddhas listed in all Tibetan histories of Buddhism, seemed to put a blend of Vijiianavada, Madhyamikas and Vedanta teachings in his saying: 'the great tree of sahaja is shining in the e worlds; everything being of the nature of sunya, what will bind what? As water mixing with water makes no difference, so also, the jewel of the mind enters the sky in the oneness of emotion. Where there is no self, how can there be any non self? What is increate from the beginning can have neither birth, nor death, nor any kind of existence. Bhusukapada says: this is the nature of all nothing goes or comes, there is neither existence nor non existence in sahaja. It is quite evident that once this sort of poetry, vague in doctrinary content but rich in potential theological terminology, is accepted as canonical, commentators of any of the philosophical schools can use it for their specific exegeses.

Shri Maha Shakti Yantra
I think an analogy in modern times is permissible, because village religion has not changed very much in India. Thus, the unsophisticated sadhu and his village audience use and understand terms like atman, Brahman, Maya; for them, these terms are less loaded than for the specialist, but they are used all the same. Similarly, .1 think Bhusuka, Kanh, and Saraha, etc., used sunya' and `sahaja' in this untechnical, but to their rustic audiences perfectly intelligible, sense; not, again, because of pedagogical prowess and `to make it easy', but because those preceptors did not have any scholastic training for them; these terms were as un loaded as for their audience, at least on the discursive level.

This is not to deny the possibility that the spiritual experience related to their sadhana did enhance the charisma of these terms for the adepts.

Now of all Indian ideologies, tantrism is the most .radically absolutistic, and the 'two truths' coalesce completely; the intuition of this coalescence indeed constitutes the highest 'philosophical' achievement of the tantric (here I am using 'philosophical' in the way H. V. Guenther does he translates 'rnal byor' yogi, by 'philosopher'). Any Tibetan teacher, such as Kham lung pa, 'admitted the theory of the two truths, according to which the 'All was either conventional or transcendental'. There is a constant merger of the phenomenal samvrti into the absolute paramartha, logically because the former has the 'void' sunya as its basis, and in the experience of the adept, because he dissolves the phenomenal in sunya, this being the proper aim of all sadhana is; and the frame of reference wherein the tantric conducts all his sadhana is the complete identity of the two. Thus the Guhyasamaja, one of the most important and oldest Buddhist tantric texts, says (the Buddha Vairocana speaking), 'my "mind" (citta, sems) is such that it is bereft of all phenomenal existence, "elements" (dhatus) and "bases" (ayatanas) and of such thought categories as subject and object, it is without beginning and has the nature of sunya'. There are very few concepts which Hindu and Buddhist tantrism do not share. The 'three bodies' (trikaya, sku gsurn) doctrine, however, is uniquely Buddhist and has no parallel in Hindu tantrism.

Shri Dharm Chakra Yantra
This, I think, is the only case where there was a real separation of terminological spheres: there is nothing like a trikaya' doctrine in Hinduism, although the Kashmiri Trika' School of Saivism has traces of a threefold division of ‘body’ principles, possibly similar to the Vaisnava notion of the deity in its threefold aspect as `attraction' (Satnkarsana), `Unrestrainability' (Aniniddha), and 'the purely mythological' (Damodara). In the Mahayana classification of the three 'bodies', definitional certainty is by no means equally strong. Thus, dharma kaya and nirmanakaya (chos kyi sku and sprul sku), it seems to me, are relatively un complicated notions, but there is a lot of uncertainty about sambhoga kaya. On the Hindu tantric side, I think that, apart from those mythological proper names which the Buddhist tantric pantheon does not share, the only term Buddhist tantric literature avoids is Sakti in its technical sense, i.e. as the dynamic principle symbolized as the female counterpart to the static wisdom principle.

Summing up on tantric philosophy, these arc the points that can be made: Hindu tantrism and Buddhist tantrism take their entire speculative apparatus from non tantric absolutist Hindu and Buddhist thought, and although systematized tantrism is even more eclectic than pretantric ideologies, there is a pretty clear distinction between Hindu and Buddhist tantric ideas. Common to both is their fundamental absolutism; their emphasis on a psycho experimental rather than a speculative approach; and their claim that they provide a shortcut to redemption. The main speculative difference between Hindu and Buddhist tantrism is the Buddhist ascription of dynatnicity to the male and of 'wisdom' to the female pole in the central tantric symbolism, as opposed to the Hindu ascription of dynamicity to the female and (static) wisdom to the male pole; and lastly, the difference is terminological inasmuch as certain technical terms very few though are used by either the Buddhist or the Hindu tantric tradition only. This book presupposes familiarity with the basic doctrines of Hinduism and Buddhism it is for this reason that the chapter on tantric philosophy is short and emendatory rather than a survey. There is really no tantric philosophy apart from Hindu or Buddhist philosophy, or, to be more specific, from Vedantic and Mahayana thought.

The diagram which now follows should provide a model for the interrelation of doctrine and target in the tantric tradition. The late Swami Visvananda Bharati suggested to Inc that the problem of variant doctrine and common target can be likened to a 'children's top' (bhramarakridamkam). I found this a helpful model:

Writer – Agehananda Bharati
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