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history of tantraTANTRA
It is difficult to trace the history of tantra which is mostly obscure as in case of the history of religions. Many tantras offer mythical explanations for their origins, often setting themselves as the given word of either Siva or a goddess such as Devi. Scholarly depictions of their origins are often as varied, ascribing tantras to pre-Aryan, Indus Valley civilizations or similar aboriginal, tribal groups or as integral part of an Indian cultural fabric. In reality, no definitive accounting of the origins of tantra can be made owing to the significant polyvariance of the term tantra in Sanskrit. Tantra, which in its earliest written form was a distinctly iconoclastic, private, and esoteric practice, evolved into a number of respected, exoteric orders (sampradaya). It is convenient, although somewhat false, to group the orders into two categories: left-handed and right-handed. Left-handed tantras (vaama marg) incorporate five sacraments (pancamakarapuja) of fish, meat, parched grain, wine and sexual intercourse into ritual practice. Right-handed tantras, on the other hand, advocate the visualization of these antinomian practices. Both groups rejected many aspects of Brahamanic orthopraxy, most notably the caste system and patriarchy. Despite this, Tantra was accepted by some high-caste Hindus, most notably the Rajput princes. Nowadays Tantra has a large, though not always well-informed, following worldwide.
Tantra exists in Vaisnava, Shaiva, and Shakta forms, among others. Extolled as a short-cut to self-realization and spiritual enlightenment by some, left-hand tantric rites are often rejected as dangerous by most orthodox Hindus. The popular perception of tantra among Hindus espoused in Indian journalism, equates it with black magic.
Some tantric aspirants simply feel the union is accomplished internally and with spiritual entities of various kinds. For this reason, almost all tantric writing has a gross, higher and subtle meaning. This tripartite system of understanding readily obscures the true purport of many passages for those without the necessary background or deeper understandings so crucial to tantra. Thus, a 'union' could mean the actual act of sexual intercourse, ritual uniting of concepts through chanting and sacrifice, or realisation of one's true self in the cosmic joining of the divine principles of Shiva and Shakti in Para Shiva.
According to John Woodroffe, one of the foremost Western scholars on Tantra, and translator of its greatest works (including the Mahanirvana Tantra):
"The Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga, and as such are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox "Hinduism." The Tantra Shastra is, in fact, and whatever be its historical origin, a development of the Vaidika Karmakanda, promulgated to meet the needs of that age. Shiva says: "For the benefit of men of the Kali age, men bereft of energy and dependent for existence on the food they eat, the Kaula doctrine, O auspicious one! is given" (Chap. IX., verse 12). To the Tantra we must therefore look if we would understand aright both ritual, yoga, and sadhana of all kinds, as also the general principles of which these practices are but the objective expression." - Introduction to Sir John Woodroffe's translation of "Mahanirvana Tantra.." 
While Hinduism is typically viewed as being Vedic, the Tantras are not considered part of the orthodox Hindu/Vedic scriptures. They are said to run alongside each other, The Vedas of orthodox Hinduism on one side and the Agamas of Tantra on the other. However, the practices, mantras and ideas of the Atharva Veda are markedly different from those of the prior three and show signs of powerful non-Aryan influence. Indeed, the Atharva Veda is cited by many Tantra texts as a source of great knowledge. it is notable that throughout the Tantras, such as the Mahanirvana Tantra, they align themselves as being natural progressions of the Vedas. Tantra exists for spiritual seekers in the age of Kaliyuga, when Vedic practices no longer apply to the current state of morality and Tantra is the most direct means to realization. Thus, aside from Vajrayana Buddhism, much of Tantric thought is Hindu Tantra, most notably those that council worship of Lord Shiva and the Divine Mother, Kali.
A tantra typically takes the form of a dialogue between the Hindu gods Shiva and Shakti/Parvati. Shiva is known in Hinduism as 'Yogiraj' or 'Yogeshwara,' 'The King of Yoga' or 'God of Yoga' while his consort is considered his perfect feminine equal. Each explains to the other a particular group of techniques or philosophies for attaining moksha (liberation/ enlightenment), or for attaining a certain practical result. (Agamas are Shiva to Shakti, and Nigamas are Shakti to Shiva.)
This extract from the beginning of the Yoni Tantra (translated by Mike Magee) gives an idea of the style.
Seated upon the peak of Mount Kailasa the God of Gods, the Guru of all creation was questioned by Durga-of-the-smiling-face, Naganandini. 
Sixty-four tantras have been created O Lord, tell me, O Ocean of Compassion, about the chief of these. 
Mahadeva (Shiva) said:
Listen, Parvati, to this highly secret one, Dearest. Ten million times have you wanted to hear this. Beauteous One, it is from your feminine nature that you continually ask me. You should conceal this by every effort. Parvati, there is mantra-pitha, yantra-pitha and yoni-pitha. Of these, the chief is certainly the yoni-pitha, revealed to you from affection. 
Tantric practices
Because of the wide range of groups covered by the term "tantra," it is hard to describe tantric practices definitively. The basic practice, the Hindu image-worship known as "puja" may include any of the elements below.
Mantra and Yantra: As in all of Hindu and Buddhist yogas, mantras play an important part in Tantra for focusing the mind, often through the conduit of specific Hindu gods like Shiva, Ma Kali (mother Kali, another form of Shakti) and even Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of wisdom (refer to the Ganesha Upanishad). Similarly, puja will often involve concentrating on a yantra or mandala.
Identification with deities: Tantra, being a development of early Hindu-Vedic thought, embraced the Hindu gods and goddesses, especially Shiva and Shakti, along the Advaita (nondualist Vedic) philosophy that each represents an aspect of the ultimate Para Shiva, or Brahman. These deities may be worshipped externally (with flowers, incense etc.) but, more importantly, are used as objects of meditation, where the practitioner imagines him- or herself to be experiencing the darshan or 'vision' of the deity in question. The ancient devadasi tradition of sacred temple-dance, seen in the contemporary Bharata Natyam is an example of such meditation in movement. The divine love is expressed in Sringara and Bhakti.

Tantriks see the body as a microcosmConcentration on the body: Tantrikas generally see the body as a microcosm; thus in the Kaulajnana-nirnaya, for example, the practitioner meditates on the head as the moon, the heart as the sun and the genitals as fire. Many groups hold that the body contains a series of energy centres (chakra - "wheel"), which may be associated with elements, planets or occult powers (siddhi). The phenomenon of kundalini, a flow of energy through the chakras, is controversial; most writers see it as essential to Tantra, while others regard it as unimportant or as an abreaction. As it is, kundalini is nothing but the flow of the central sushumna nadi, a spiritual current, that, when moving, opens chakras, and is fundamental to the siddhi concept that forms a part of all tantra, including hatha yoga.
Taboo-breaking: The act of breaking taboos is the definitive feature of left-hand Tantra. While the breaking of sexual taboos is perhaps the most recognized of tantric practices, it is not considered generally beneficial. All tantras state that there are specific levels of preparation required for breaking taboos. Tantras practiced by inadequately prepared individuals are considered harmful rather than beneficial to the practitioner. The normal state of human preparation is referred to as pasu-bhava (animal disposition). A person in the state of pasu-bhava is one who regularly eats meat and indulges in intoxication. They are considered dishonest, promiscuous, greedy and violent. A fundamental requirement of all tantras is the initial transcendence beyond this base state.
Tantras prescribe a strict regimen of penance, meditation, sensory control, cleansing the self of negative thoughts and seeking truth and justice before an individual can hope to transcend from her or his natural state. An individual who successfully practices these tasks may eventually take a vow of viravrata (a hero's vow) to be of vira-bhava (heroic disposition). The demarcation vira is potentially transient as it is considered a state of being free of desires.
In the Kaula and Vamachara schools of tantra the pańca makara (5 M's) ritually/sacramentally broken in order to free the practitioner from binding convention are:
Madya (wine)
Mamsa (meat)
Matsya (fish)
Mudra (parched grain)
Maithuna (sex)
The "sacramental" or ritual breaking was only for the vira practitioner, not the divya or pasu. The pasu would misunderstand and get caught up in the literal act while the divya will have already progressed beyond and not need the literal act to understand the inner meaning.
There also exist tantric schools that substitute innocuous items for the taboo substances and acts, claiming that literal interpretations of the pańca makara miss the inner truth of the rite.

Tantra in the Modern WorldTantra in the Modern World:
Tantra is used in the West as a general term which relates to sexual practice as a spiritual evolutionary scheme. There are in fact many different approaches as to how this manifests in American society - and also examples of the same development in Europe (see further down). There have been many civilizations which have deified sexuality as the most approximate expression of cosmic love or God. Regardless, the point is that tantra is moldable. It changes with each moment and environment. It especially depends on the nature of the practitioner.
In traditional pockets of Tantric practice in India, such as in Assam near the venerated Hindu temple of Kali, Kammakha, in parts of West Bengal, in Siddhanta temples of South India, and in Kasmiri Shiva temples up north, Tantra has retained its true form. Its variance in practice is seen where many tantrics are known to frequent cremation grounds in attempts to transcend their worldly attachment to life, while others perform still more arcane acts. But what is common to them all is the intense secrecy in which their rituals are kept and the almost godlike reverence paid to the Guru, who is seen as the pinnacle of Tantra. It would be safe to say that every single Hindu Tantra Yogin in India is a Shiva and/or Shakti worshipper, and the more wide-spread practices to which all Hindus commit themselves, like pooja and worship through devotion, are maintained while more occult yogic practices involving sacred rites continue. Tibet too has a very strong Buddhist Tantric background which continues, albeit many have been transplanted to monasteries in India, and claims to be a right-hand path, in contrast to the more varied Hindu counterparts (that include both left and right-hand practices).

Tibetan Tantra or Vajrayana flourishes in America and other countries in a relatively pure and genuine, if somewhat attenuated form, under the guidance of many Tibetan teachers either of the first or second generation to escape from Tibet. There are hundreds of Tibetan Buddhist centres outside Tibet and India, primarily in the Americas and Europe, but also in eastern countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Russia and others. Practices in these centres, with Tibetan gurus or those trained directly by them, emphasize the true Mahayana ideal of rapidly gaining the enlightenment that characterizes a Buddha entirely dedicated to the purpose of relieving the suffering of others. This is claimed to be the Bodhisattva ideal of Mahayana Buddhism represented historically and mythologically by Avaloketishvara, Tara and others, as well as today in the person of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan teachers. In the Tantric or Vajrayana aspects of this system, harnessing the energies of the body, emotions and mind, including, joy, wrath and sexual energy, is not an end in itself but a potent means to the ultimate goal of realizing the true nature of reality, emptiness or Shunyata, thus attaining complete spiritual enlightenment and relief from the endless dissatisfaction of life, and using the power thus gained exclusively to help others do so as well.
Modern Tantra may be divided into practices based on Hinduism and Buddhism. The form of Hindu Tantra popularly practiced In America is said by Hindu Tantra traditionalists to represent a mutilated and extremely narrow-minded, sensationalist approach encompassing only a misguided thinking about "sacred sexuality," with little reference to its true practice. Traditional Tantrists say their practice involves much more than mere wizardy or sexual titillation: like the rest of Yoga (Hindu), it requires self-analysis and the conquest of material ignorance, often through the body, but always through a pure outlook of the mind. 'Real Tantra' is about transforming one's sexual energy into spiritual progress, and has nothing to do with 'sex just for fun'. Those without a guru or lacking in discipline of the mind and body are unfit. It is telling that a Tantrica in West Bengal, a devotee of the Hindu goddess Kali, once said that "those most fit for Tantra almost never take it up, and those least fit pursue it with zeal."
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What is Tantra?What is Tantra?
Tan - thread, web, stretch, spread or expand, and
Tra - tool or instrument. Tantra , Taantrik Yoga or Tantrism is any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy.
Tantra (Sanskrit: also means weave, loom)- tool for expansion or a weaving.

Through Tantrik practice one can experience an expansion of consciousness and recognize the interlinked of the web of existence.
Tantra is a vast body of spiritual and physical knowledge, encompassing an array of practices, including all forms of yoga.
These practices are aimed at expanding consciousness and liberating oneself "through life and not through escape, using the body as an instrument."
In Tantra, the energies of the body are used as the fuel for spiritual development.
Tantra is an eminent science having thousands of principles. It is the system of our life and a science of practice and practical knowledge. Through Tantra, we can attain superb powers by attracting and deriving the divine faculties pervading the entire cosmos. The aspirant of Tantra makes his internal capacity sharp and intensely forceful just like a magnet. This science is the process of activating the various dormant vital glands and Chakras of the astral form, present inside the human body. It makes us aware of the truth that a person can get liberation from his own subjugation, can achieve immense power and even with the physical body present, can free himself from his body and expand his faculties infinitely.
Each and every element of the nature is associated with the other. Every action has a definite basis and for that action, there also exists an equal and opposite reaction. This uninterrupted succession of atomic process is going on in our atmosphere. Formation of water vapours, rain from the clouds due to attraction between positively and negatively charged atoms, storms and earthquakes, all are interrelated to each other.
Tantra is the process of intensification of our peculiar inner potentialities so that we can command this atomic arrangement which in other words is known as Siddhi. The flow of energy is going on ceaselessly in the environment and when your own inner energy becomes capable of influencing the external ones, nothing will remain impossible for you and this is the Science of Tantra in which the aspirant's wish is first and foremost.
Extolled as a short-cut to self-realization and spiritual enlightenment by some, Taantrik rites are often rejected as dangerous by most orthodox Hindus.
There are two "paths" in Tantra:
i) Dakshinachara (also known as samayachara), the "Right-Hand Path", and
ii)Vamachara, the "Left-Hand Path".
The latter is associated with many ritual practices that go against the grain of mainstream Hinduism, including sexual rituals, consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, animal sacrifice and flesh-eating.
Sometimes, Tantra is classified as either
i) Red (rajas or heat, fire, restlessness, anger),
ii) Black (tamas or darkness, ignorance, stagnation) or
iii) White (sattwa pure, moderate, divine). These correspond to three Hindu conceptions of the qualities of existence first posited in Samkhya.
Some Taantrik (Tantra aspirants) simply feel the union is accomplished internally and with spiritual entities of various kinds. For this reason, almost all Taantrik writing has a gross, higher and subtle meaning. This tripartite system of understanding readily obscures the true purport of many passages for those without the necessary background or deeper understandings so crucial to Tantra. Thus, a 'union' (Yog) could mean the actual act of sexual intercourse, ritual uniting of concepts through chanting and sacrifice, or realization of one's true self in the cosmic joining ( Yog) of the divine principles of Shiva and Shakti in Para Shiva.
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Dus Mahavidya
The ten great learnings are related with Sati, Shiva, Gori, Parvati, all synonymous of the same Shakti (power). She is also known as Navdurga, Chamunda, Vishnupriya etc and is worshipped. The origin of this ten great knowledge is as follows.
Daksha Prajapati, the father of Sati, once performed a Yagna (religious sacrifice) in which he invited all the deities and sages, except his own Son-in-law Lord Shiva, because of his jealousy towards him. Sati wanted to be present at that occasion but Lord Shiva refused to give permission, thinking it was improper for her to go without the invitation. But she was unmoved. She said "I will certainly got to the Yajna, I would either get the fortune of that religious sacrifice for my dearest, deity of the deities, husband (Lord Shiva) or else I would destroy that religious sacrifice itself." Sati's eyes became red. She looked at Lord Shiva violently, her lips began to flutter, and her complexion became dark. The fire of her anger made her appearance look frightening and violent. Such an appearance of Sati was frightening even for Lord Shiva. Her appearance, which had the blaze and radiance of Crores of mid-noon-suns, made her so fearful that he just ran away. To stop Lord Shiva from running away in all the possible ten directions, Sati manifested herself in to ten different forms. These ten Shaktis (powers) of Sati are known as the ten great knowledges or 10 great learnings.
Dus MahavidyaThey are:-
1) Kali:  Kali is mentioned as the first amongst the Mahavidyas. Black as the dark night she has a terrible and horrific appearance. The word Kali means "to give," and is taken to mean "the giver" of bliss, of peace of happiness. Kali is Standing on a corpse, greatly terrifying, laughing loudly, with fearful fangs, four arms holding a cleaver, a skull and giving the mudras bestowing boons and dispelling fear, wearing a garland of skulls, her tongue rolling wildly, completely naked (Digambara - clothes of the directions), thus one should meditate on Kali, dwelling in the centre of the cremation ground.
2) Tara:  Akshobhya Seated in the pratyalidha asana, seated on the heart of a corpse, supreme, laughing horribly, holding cleaver, blue lotus, dagger and bowl, uttering the mantra Hum Hum, coloured blue, her hair braided with serpents, the Ugratara.
3) Chhinnamasta:  The image of Chinnamasta is a composite one, conveying reality as an amalgamation of sex, death, creation, destruction and regeneration. It is stunning representation of the fact that life, sex, and death are an intrinsic part of the grand unified scheme that makes up the manifested universe.
4) Tripur Sundari:  Sri Vidhya - Shodashi:
5) Bhuvaneshwari:  The Creator of the World - The beauty and attractiveness of Bhuvaneshwari may be understood as an affirmation of the physical world, the rhythms of creation, maintenance and destruction, even the hankerings and sufferings of the human condition is nothing but Bhuvaneshvari's play, her exhilarating, joyous sport.Like the red rays of the rising sun, with the moon as her diadem, and with three eyes, a smiling face, bestowing boons, holding a goad, a noose and dispelling fears, thus I hymn Bhuvaneshi.
6) Tripura Bhairavi:  Bhairavi embodies the principle of destruction and arises or becomes present when the body declines and decays. She is an ever-present goddess who manifests herself in, and embodies, the destructive aspects of the world. Destruction, however, is not always negative, creation cannot continue without it.Her head garlanded with flowers, she resembling the red rays of 1,000 rising suns, smeared with red, holding milk, book, dispelling fears and giving boons with her four hands, large three eyes, beautiful face with a slow smile, wearing white gems, I worship Bhairavi.
7) Dhoomavati:  she is the embodiment of "unsatisfied desires." Her status as a widow itself is curious. She makes herself one by swallowing Shiva, an act of self-assertion, and perhaps independence. The colour of smoke, wearing smoky clothes, holding a winnowing basket, dishevelled clothes, deceitful, always trembling, with slant eyes, inspiring fear, terrifying.
8) Baglamukhi:  The Goddess who seizes the Tongue and enemies - The pulling of the demon's tongue by Bagalamukhi is both unique and significant. Tongue, the organ of speech and taste, is often regarded as a lying entity, concealing what is in the mind. The Bible frequently mentions the tongue as an organ of mischief, vanity and deceitfulness. The wrenching of the demon's tongue is therefore symbolic of the Goddess removing what is in essentiality a perpetrator of evil. Three eyes, wearing yellow clothes and gems, moon as her diadem, wearing champaka blossoms, with one hand holding the tongue of an enemy and with the left hand spiking him, thus should you meditate on the paralyser of the three worlds.
9) Matangi:   Dusky, beautiful browed, her three eyes like lotuses, seated on a jewelled lion-throne, surrounded by gods and others serving her, holding in her four lotus-like hands a noose and a sword, a shield and a goad, thus I remember Matangi, the giver of results, the Modini, Giver of wordly pleasures.
10) Kamla:  The name Kamala means "she of the lotus" and is a common epithet of Goddess Lakshmi. Lakshmi is linked with three important and interrelated themes: prosperity and wealth, fertility and crops. With a smiling face, her beautiful lily-white hands hold two lotuses, and show the mudras of giving and dispelling fear. She is bathed in nectar by four white elephants and sits upon a beautiful lotus.

The method of worship of all these ten forms is different. Kali, Tara, Chinnmasta, Baglamukhi and Dhoomavati are apparently violent but in reality they are most merciful, where as Bhuvaneshwari, Shodhashi, Tripur Bhairavi, Matangi and Kamla are the sombre appearances. These ten great learnings are the most valuable wealth of the Sadhakas (accomplishers) which give infinite accomplishments and also are capable of introducing the infinity to them.

Of all the Deities, Gods and Goddesses the ten Mahavidhyas enjoy avery respectable place in the spritual spheres. In fact to join the most exalted group of enlightened ones as prerequiste sadhaks have to attain Siddhi of atleast Four of ten Mahavidhyas. All these Godesses are different forms of Adya Ma Shakti (Mother) who remains ever eager to bestow all favours upon her childeren. Hence she has assumed the these diverse forms which are capable of blessing one with different boons.
In their strong associations with death, violence, pollution, and despised marginal social roles, they call into question such normative social "goods" as worldly comfort, security, respect, and honor. The worship of these goddesses suggests that the devotee experiences a refreshing and liberating spirituality in all that is forbidden by established social orders.

The central aim here is to stretch one's consciousness beyond the conventional, to break away from approved social norms, roles, and expectations. By subverting, mocking, or rejecting conventional social norms, the adept seeks to liberate his or her consciousness from the inherited, imposed, and probably inhibiting categories of proper and improper, good and bad, polluted and pure. Living one's life according to rules of purity and pollution and caste and class that dictate how, where, and exactly in what manner every bodily function may be exercised, and which people one may, or may not, interact with socially, can create a sense of imprisonment from which one might long to escape.
Shri Shiva said: Listen, beautiful one to Kalika's Bhairava. On Dakshina's right, worship Mahakala, with whom Dakshina is always in love union. Worship Akshobya on the right of Tara. Devi, the kalakuta poison produced by the churning of the ocean caused great agitation to all the gods and their consorts.
"Because he destroyed the agitation caused by the deadly yellow poison, he is known as Akshobya. Thus Tarini, the Mahamaya, always delights in her consort.
"On the right hand side of Mahatripurasundari, worship Shiva in his five-faced form with three eyes in each of the faces, O lady of the gods. She always delights in sexual union with her consort, O Mahadevi. For this reason, she is known as the famous Pancami. On the right side of Shrimad Bhuvaneshvari, who in the heavens, on earth, and in the underworlds is known as the Adya, worship Tryambaka. She makes love with Tryambaka in these places, it is said. He and his Shakti are mentioned and worshipped in all tantras. On Bhairavi's right side is Dakshinamurti. By supreme efforts, one should certainly worship that five faced one.
"On Cchinnamasta's right side, worship Shiva-Kabandha. By worshipping him, one becomes lord of all siddhi. The Mahavidya Dhumavati is a widow. Seated on the right of Bagala is the Maharudra, with one face, who dissolves the universe. On Matangi's right side is Shiva Matanga, similar to Dakshinamurti, the form of cosmic bliss. He who worships Sadashiva, the Vishnu form, on Kamala's right side becomes perfect, there is no doubt about this.
"On Annapurna's right hand side, worship Brahma, the giver of great liberation, the god with ten faces, the Maheshvara. On the right side of Durga, worship Narada. The letter Na causes creation, the letter Da maintenance, while the letter Ra causes dissolution. So he is known as the famour Narada. Worship the Rishi who "gave birth" to the other vidyas on their right hand side." (Todala Tantra)
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