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These texts describe the esoteric teachings of Tantra, a belief system which originated in India, practiced by a number of Hindus and Buddhists. Tantra has become a synonym in the West for unbridled sexuality; however, sexuality is only one faucet of this elaborate spiritual practice.
This is one of the best known of the Tantric scriptures. It was translated by Sir John Woodroffe (under the pseudonym ‘Arthur Avalon‘), one of the few Indologists to gain direct access to this obscure and secretive branch of Hinduism. Framed as a conversation between the god Shiva and goddess Shaki, this text describes the chakra, or subtle energy structure of the human body, ceremonies, yogic practices and mantras for meditation, and a summary of the Hindu laws (dharma) regarding sexual behavior.
There are three classes of men – pashu, Vira, and Divya. The operation of the guna which produce these types affect, on the gross material plane, the animal tendencies, manifesting in the three chief physical functions – eating and drinking, whereby the annamayakosha is maintained; and sexual intercourse, by which it is reproduced. These functions are the subject of the panchatattva or panchamakara ("five m’s"), as they are vulgarly called – viz.:
mudra (parched grain)
In ordinary parlance, mudra means ritual gestures or positions of the body in worship and hathayoga, but as one of the five elements it is parched cereal, and is defined as Bhrishtadanyadikang yadyad chavyaniyam prachakshate, sa mudra kathita devi sarvveshang naganam-dini.
The Tantras speak of the five elements as pancha-tattva, kuladravya, kulatattva, and certain of the elements have esoteric names, such as Karanavari or tirtha-vari, for wine, the fifth element being usually called lata-sadhana (sadhana with woman, or shakti). The five elements, moreover have various meanings, according as they form part of the tamasika (pashvachara), rajasika (virachara), or divya or sattvika sadhanas respectively.
All the elements or their substitutes are purified and consecrated, and then, with the appropriate ritual, the first four are consumed, such consumption being followed by lata-sadhana or its symbolic equivalent. The Tantra prohibits indiscriminate use of the elements, which may be consumed or employed only after purification (sho-dhana) and during worship according to the Tantric ritual. Then, also, all excess is forbidden. The Shyama-rahasya says that intemperance leads to Hell, and this Tantra condemns it in Chapter V. A well-known saying in Tantra describes the true "hero" (vira) to be, not he who is of great physical strength and prowess, the great eater and drinker, or man of powerful sexual energy, but he who has controlled his senses, is a truth-seeker, ever engaged in worship, and who has sacrificed lust and all other passions. (Jitendriyah satyavadi nityanushthanatatparah kamadi-validanashcha sa vira iti giyate.)
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