Yogic Practices of Tantra

By Dr. RAJESH K. RAJ On Oct 2, 2020

Tantra yoga is built on the principle that true knowledge, wisdom, and awareness of oneself and of all worldly and immaterial concepts can only be attained by uniting all aspects and dimensions of existence (both known and unknown) into a harmonious relationship that connects us to it on a spiritual level. Tantra yoga opens up the mind, body, and soul to a whole new world of peace, serenity, and inner confidence by combining two fundamental approaches that form the basis of tantra yoga. One of these focuses on qualities such as stability, power, and rest (shiva) while the other focuses on creativity and movement (shakti). The unifying principle behind the diverse systems of tantra is that the material world and its experiences can be utilized to attain enlightenment.

Tantra is the original spiritual science first taught in India more than 7000 years ago. Tan is a Sanskrit root which signifies “expansion”, and Tra signifies “liberation.” Thus, Tantra is the practice that elevates human beings in a process in which their consciousness is expanded. It leads human beings from the imperfect to the perfect, from the crude to the subtle, from bondage to liberation. The development of Tantra is intertwined with the development of civilization in ancient India. They also developed a system of prayer and worship in order to enter into a relationship with this Supreme Consciousness. Tantra traditions developed rituals and process of sadhana in pre-vedic culture in India. Latter on these systems branched in different streams of knowledge and culture. The Samkhya and Yoga philosophy also came out from these tantric traditions. Whatever we know as ‘yoga’ all came out from tantra.

Mantra and Laya: Mantras (or mantrams) are words, phrases, or syllables which are chanted thoughtfully and with growing attention. Mantra yoga meditation involves chanting a word or phrase until the mind and emotions are transcended and the superconscious is clearly revealed and experienced. Mantra is a profound and practical method of self-awakening, opening, and self-transcendence. It is a form of yoga that speaks to the deep organic roots of man’s being by the use of vocalized and mental sound-currents of both audible and inaudible frequencies. These subtle vibrations awaken dormant centers of the brain (most of which are as yet unused in the average being) attuning the psychological, physiological, and spiritual faculties to the primordial and sustaining vibration of creation. When we come into harmony with the vibratory rate of sub-atomic pulsation in consciousness (as in deep meditation) we hold the key to universal knowledge and self-healing. Among many practitioners of yoga, one finds that the major focus of interest rarely goes beyond that of the physical aspect. The teachings then lead on to the higher experiences of Laya Yoga (the Yoga of Transformation) through the practice of Mantra (sacred mystic syllable repetition) and Nada (the Yoga of Subtle Sound.) Laya is a process of gradual absorption of basic energies that generate our material form so that Consciousness (Chittam) becomes released (liberated, redeemed) from all phenomena that are not spiritual, or where the divine enlightening power of Pure Spirit is concealed inside. One can say that consciousness that is absorbed in concentration on God and submerged in God, becomes progressively so preoccupied with it that everything that does not represent spirituality discards it and becomes annihilated. What remains is the imperishable existence of the Eternal Spirit, the real substance, and essence (Sain) of a human being. Laya yoga attempts to locate these energy centers and channelize them through meditation. Laya essentially means to dissolve all Karmic patterns or conditioning and merge into the transcendental reality. It also means deep concentration and making an effort to obliterate the ego, thereby rising to a higher state of consciousness, called Turiya.

Mantra defines as “Mananaat traayate iti mantra”, that which liberates (traayate) by constant repetition is a Mantra. Mantra is a sequence of mystic worlds having concentrated thoughts and a very divine potency. An utterance of a mantra can create the cosmic sound vibrations which enable the seeker to attain the state of super consciousness or self-realization. Each mantra creates a stream of specific vibration in the cosmos when chanted in a repeated, rhythmic, and continuous manner. It creates purity, divinity, spirituality, and desired effects in the mind and the life of the seeker. The mantra is a force like gravitational, electrical, and magnetism. Every word of the mantra has a specific weight, shape, size, form, power, color, and quality. The rhythmic utterance of a mantra can create a specific pattern of waves in the universe which have a definite frequency, vibration, and energy. The sound vibrations produced during mantra chanting are mechanical waves that always requires a medium [like solid liquid and gas] for their transmission. Each mantra has a presiding deity to whom it was revealed and attains divine self-realization by meditating on it. The specific deity bestows the powers, fulfillments, and self-realization to the seeker. When we meditate on a particular deity our heart becomes illuminated with his grace, divinity, love, and light, and we attain super-consciousness state.

When we chant the mantras or listen to them, we get the purity of mind and word. This prepares us for meditation. As a result of the sound vibrations, different patterns of the mind re-arrange themselves to become tranquil. Agitation is reduced, helping us to turn inward. For instance, when we laugh, our happiness increases. When we cry, the heaviness of our sorrow is released. Just the sounds of laughter and crying have helped. Mantras act in a similar manner. Repetition of the Mantras creates a psychological or mental response that is very deep and beyond the realm of words or expression. It can only be experienced. Speech falls short as it cannot go beyond the expression level into the experiential level. When the mind is calm and centered, it can turn inward. Only a mind turned inward can experience the vastness and beauty of the Divine consciousness. When our focus is outward on the objects of the senses, our mind is scattered and racing behind one craving or another. Physical senses seek to know all about the external universe. Meditation is a tool for inner exploration.

The gross or the physical part of the mantra such as the sound vibrations appears to travel in the medium like solid, liquid, and gas. But the subtle energy of the mantra travels in the Manas or Mind-Substance filling all space like ether and it serves as a vehicle for the mantra. Sound wave vibrations produced by mantra chanting have transmission energy losses in the medium because of our limited range of vocal cord capability and the friction offered by the medium particles. Hence the divine vibrations of the particular mantra might not reach to its final destination of the desired deity due to severe energy losses in the medium. Hence modulation of the mantra waves is required. Modulation is the process of facilitating the transfer of information over a medium by mixing low-frequency wave [information signal] to a much higher frequency wave [carrier wave]. Like in a radio transmission the basic audio sound waves are added to the radio wave of having much higher frequency known as the carrier wave to produce a new signal of higher potency which can be successfully sent in the medium to the desired destination. In the final receiving destination, the desired signals are decoded to achieve the original copy of the sound wave.

Mantra reaches the worshipped deity in the form of sound vibrations reverberating throughout the atmosphere like radio waves and repetitive chanting of a Mantra gives rise to the development of a divine energy within and bestows unlimited power on the devotee. Various Mantras have the subtle energies of various deities in a basic form. As before sowing a seed, we cannot see the tree, fruits, and flowers but after we sow that same seed in the soil, it grows into a full-fledged tree and is visible to everyone and this tree also grows fruits and flowers. In the same manner, a Mantra is an external manifestation of the invisible deity within which after continuous care and watering grows fruits and flowers. The mantra is like a seed. Every seed has the potential to become a tree. Similarly, these sound vibrations contain all the possibilities of creation. Some mantras are in the seed form, called the bija mantras. Others are fully expressed, i.e, the fruit of the mantra is also expressed, such as the Gayatri mantra.

Mantras are a secret. That which is kept a secret alert the sub-conscious mind. The mantras work at the level of consciousness. When we want a seed to sprout, it needs to be sown into the soil, hidden, a secret. If it is simply thrown around, birds may eat them up. We can read and learn about mantras and their uses from books and the internet but that will only satisfy the intellect and not translate into experience. Every mantra has to be chanted for a definite number of times. Every mantra is a deification of a unique combination of miraculous sound vibrations and divine power of the deity and the deity we worship is the one who bestows its blessings on us and this very frequency of the underlying vibrations in a mantra brings us in communion with the divine deity. The power of a mantra is greater than even the nuclear power and every person gets results in accordance with his own positive or negative vibrations. Every mantra has been tested and approved by our Rishis and Munis. Mantras should be chanted only with a pure heart and mind and it is only the correct pronunciation of a mantra that gives the desired results. Mantras are such a meditative science in which only by following the proper method one can get the desired results.

Basic precaution of practice

  • Have complete devotion and faith in the Mantra. Repose your complete faith in the deity being worshipped. Keep a peaceful mind.
  • While chanting of Mantras never let your mind is distracted. Concentrate deeply. Put your complete will power in the chanting of Mantra.
  • Never be afraid while the chanting of Mantra. Never change your place before your Mantra Chanting is complete. After bathing and with complete purity perform the chanting of Mantra.
  • While chanting of Mantra all these things should be taken special care of. At the same time, always undertake “Samkalpa” (resolve) at the starting of the chanting of Mantra and receive its results at the end of the chanting of Mantra.

Basic steps of practice

  • Vaikhari Japa: When a aspirant uses a Mantra, it is first repeated ( Japa) aloud ( Vaikhari). Here he or she focuses on the sound of the Mantra produced by the vocal cords.
  • Upanshu Japa: When the aspirant has warmed up with this practice, or when he or she has attained a deeper and clearer awareness of the sound of the Mantra, then the aspirant intensifies the experience of the Mantra by whispering it or by saying it with the lips without producing an audible sound. The aspirant aims at becoming one with the whispered Mantra. When this is achieved, and the aspirant realizes that the mantra has become mental, the movements of the lips will stop.
  • Manasika Japa: The same mantra is now chanted in the head or rather in the heart. And the mind begins to merge with the rhythm and vibration of the mantra. The aspirant experiences it as if the mind actually sings it, so that everyone can hear it. But it happens only within.
  • Ajapa Japa: Then it occurs to the aspirant, that he or she is not producing the mantra, but hearing the mental and fine tones, as if they are there by themselves (Ajapa Japa).

There are two kinds of Mantras:

  2. Vedic Mantras like OM, Hari OM, SOHAM, HAMSO, RARAM, Namo Namaha, Hare Ram, Namaha Shivaya, Tat Sat, Tat Twam Asi, Aham Brahma Asmi etc.

Tantrik mantras are the ones we call ‘Beeja Mantras’ whereas Vedic Mantras are the ones that are followed under the Vedic system. Vedic mantra has concentrated meaning and resembles the absolute and ultimate being. Whereas the tantrika mantra has special vibrations in their syllable, it may be meaningful or without meaning.

Yantra: The Sanskrit word ‘yantra’ derives from the root ‘yam’ meaning to sustain, or hold. Hence in metaphysical terms a yantra is visualized as receptacle of the highest spiritual essence. A Yantra is a pure geometric configuration, composed of basic primal shapes. These shapes are psychological symbols corresponding to the inner states of human consciousness. A Yantra is a pure geometric configuration, composed of basic primal shapes. These shapes are psychological symbols corresponding to the inner states of human consciousness. This innate simplicity of composition is identified with spiritual presence. The use of such elementary shapes is not simplistic but represents the highest conception in visual terms, because the projection of the symbol is then direct and bold so that even a small miniature can create a sense of expansiveness. The dynamism of tantric imagery is generated by a quest for geometric order. A yantra represents a particular configuration whose power increases in proportion to the abstraction and precision of the diagram. A yantra gradually grows away from its center, in stages, until its expansion is complete. Around the center are several concentric figures which take part in this expansion. This concentric architecture defines the volume of the yantra and creates a rhythmic unity. The predominant elementary forms of which yantras are constituted are the point, line, circle, triangle, square, and the lotus symbol. All of these forms are juxtaposed, combined, intersected, and repeated in various ways to produce the desired objective.

Mandala: The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself; a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds. Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community. The creation of purely geometrical designs are called Yantra, the more complicated colorful and elaborated designs, which included concentric circles frequently within a large square are called Mandalas. Mandala means ‘circle’ in the Hindu language and is viewed as a sacred symbol representing wholeness. Mandalas can be created with this benefit in mind, and have been integrated into treatment and therapy. The mandala can also be created for the love of drawing, coloring, painting, and the freedom of the creative process (although equally beneficial). The mandala can be also be used to focus the mind in meditation, concentration allowing us to go within. Focusing on the mandala and holding the image in the minds eye cannot only increase the benefits, but it can also act as a tool to bring the mind to a calm, still point leading to concentration and meditation.

Sthula Tantra: This is for the normal aspirants whose mind is not entered into deep concentration or the stage of dharana or the antaranga yoga. Sthula means gross, here the subject of sadhana is statue or pictures of deities and related rituals called puja. These external subjects are worshiped in such a manner that their attributes and characters could be dissolved within and our consciousness can develop into higher state. In Hinduism deities are actually the divine character of humanity and these deities designed as human postures in very scientific way. If you research in any of the deity explained in tantra traditions have surprisingly psychological connection to higher consciousness within. The worship of deities includes gazing, emotional relation, chanting of their name, role, function, attributes and characteristics, resolve for inner development, social and spiritual commitments and many interesting rituals which develop not only the inner being but indirectly corresponding to the development of whole society.

Sukshma Tantra: This sadhana is for little higher aspirants who got somewhat concentration and harmonization with the nature, attributes and characteristics of the self by Murti Puja as described in Sthula sadhana. Aspirants for Sukshama sadhana prepare themselves with regular and sincere practice of ritualistic worship with love, respect and pure devotion. When they prepared they start special worships called vrata, anusthana, purashcharana etc with the help of mantra, yantra and mandala. This requires many rules, regulations and discipline. Aspirants follow strict discipline in daily life routine. It may be some restriction in food, sleep, entertainment, sex or any behavior which distract the concentration of special worship. Here the meditation on mantra, yantra and mandala is very important. Mantra is chanted in special tantric method with particular number of repetition and concentration. Yantra is a geometrical diagram of mantra vibrations. Every tantric mantra has a specific yantra which is very scientifically designed according to the vibration of the respective mantra. By continuous chanting of mantra our consciousness creates a psi field of cosmos called mandala. The mandala is multidimensional aura which is made up of energy circuits of yantra. So first we chant mantra which creates the yantra within and pranic flow in circuits of yantra creates mandala. This mystic mandala has specific powers which can fulfill the desires or resolves of aspirants. Mandala can give the siddhies (super natural powers) to aspirants. These super natural powers should be used only for para sadhana.

Para Tantra: This is done by the ‘Siddha’ (aspirants having divine powers). Aspirants use their concentration power to get liberated from attraction, attachment and ignorance of mundane and immortal cosmos which we perceive as world. Para sadhana is done for realization of ultimate and absolute consciousness. The same deity whom we started worship in beginning slowly revealed in subtler form and in subtlest form it cognized as Supreme God. So whatever deity you start with you will reach to same Supreme Being. We start with the deity outside and slowly in Sukshma Sadhana we reveal the deity inside in the form of mandala that is also known as the loka (space) of that particular deity. Our inside journey is accomplished in Para Sadhana which is very secret between Guru and disciple. Guru, the experienced teacher of same sadhana, guides the aspirants in difficult situations and obstacles in sadhana.

Tantra Practices:

  • Asana-Pranayama with Mantra and Puja
  • Pratyahara-Dharana with Yantra and Mandala
  • Dhyana-Samadhi with Para Sadhana