The many features of Tantra which distinguish it from other spiritual traditions make definition difficult within a short space. But if we are to focus on the single most characteristic of Tantra’s distinguishing features, surely that must be the spirit of fight. Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti has said,
The main characteristic of Tantra is that it represents human vigour. It represents a pactless fight. Where there is no fight there is no sádhaná. Under such circumstances Tantra cannot be there, where there is no sádhaná, no fight. It is an impossibility to conquer a crude idea and to replace it by a subtle idea without a fight. It is not at all possible without sádhaná. Hence, Tantra is not only a fight, it is an all-round fight. (“Tantra and Its Effect on Society”, in Volume Two)
Tantra finds or creates circumstances designed expressly to bring out, rather than to intern away, one’s problematic mental tendencies. “A practitioner of Tantra becomes elevated and attains mastery over a hostile environment. Tantra does not accept the teaching of the Vedas that human beings should move internally, and carefully avoid any association with their environment” (“The Fundamental Difference between Tantra and Veda”, in Volume Two). So only if a spiritual path at some stage deliberately seeks out fearful, demoralizing or tempting circumstances in order to fight and overcome them by Cosmic ideation and by trust in the guru, does it deserve to be called Tantric.
It is not only an external or internal fight, it is simultaneously both. The internal fight is a practice of the subtler portion of Tantra. The external fight is a fight of the cruder portion of Tantra. And the fight both external and internal is a fight in both ways at once. So practice in each and every stratum of life receives due recognition in Tantra.… The practice for raising the kulakuńd́alinii is the internal sádhaná of Tantra, while shattering the bondages of hatred, suspicion, fear, shyness, etc., by direct action is the external sádhaná. (“Effect”)
Both the “internal fight” and the “external fight” refer to the fight against internal enemies – but the latter uses external means to intensify the fight.
The very first night that a (1)Tantric goes to the burial ground he is stricken with fear.… But when he returns home after finishing sádhaná, the mind is much lighter than before. When he goes out for sádhaná the next night, he is much less fearful. And thus the Tantric steadily and slowly overcomes fear. This is the applied process of Tantra which will help the practitioner overcome all instincts. (“Fundamental Difference”)
Though practices such as that of sádhaná in a burial ground may be the clearest instances of techniques designed to bring to the surface one’s mental propensities, such practices are not required of all Tantrics. But all Tantrics are brought face to face with their weaknesses in one way or other. A Tantric guru assigns to his disciples tremendous responsibilities for social change. The disciples’ participation in an activist movement aimed at a just and spiritually-based society forces them to confront sometimes physical fear, but more routinely the fear of social censure and the fear of the overwhelming task before them. The inferiority complex is the most debilitating fear which most of us must learn to overcome in our lives.
Tantra advises: Jump into your environment without the least hesitation. Don’t be afraid. Fear will leave you step by step. Tomorrow you will not be as fearful as you are today, the day after you will be even less fearful, and ten days from now you’ll notice that you are completely fearless. (“Fundamental Difference”)
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In 1967 in Allahabad Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti gave an important discourse on Tantra which was not recorded or fully transcribed at the time. Fortunately one of Ánandamúrtijii’s disciples is confident of having retained a clear memory of it, and has transmitted the main ideas in an article written in 1991. (A fellow disciple who attended the same discourse took some notes which corroborate the basic content of the article.) Because of its deep relevance to the topic of Tantric History, covered in Part 3 of this volume, it deserves to be mentioned here:
"Tantra, though a singular science, developed into five branches during the Paoráńik period of Indian history.…
According to the Shaeva Cult.… Human beings should direct all the expressions of their life towards the inner world and finally merge into the Supreme Cognition.
Viśńu is the Entity that pervades each and every thing of this universe.… [So the Vaeśńava Cult is] the cult of divine love.…
The Shakti Cult lays great stress on the attainment of power and its judicious application.…
Gańesha or Gańapati… is the deification of the leader of the tribe in ancient times. The head and trunk of an elephant placed on his torso signify a warrior society led by the strong and sturdy leader of the tribe.… When the ancient custom of group leadership was converted into a cult during the Paoráńik age, the idea was adopted that the group leader was the leader of the universe.
The Saora Cult.… like the sun which is the nucleus of our solar system.… God is the Supreme Nucleus of this entire creation.… All the units revolve around Him. Salvation is possible only when the unit consciousness merges into Him.…
Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti.… synthesized the Paiṋca Tantra [the above five well-known schools of Tantra] into a singular cult by including the salient features of all of them.… Ánanda Márga is a spiritual cult where the goal is the attainment of Supreme Cognition. In this respect it is Shaeva; but to attain this spiritual rank one needs psychic and spiritual strength for which proper sádhaná is required. So in practice it is Shákta.… The Vaeśńava Cult teaches us how to live in joy and peace with the entire creation. Hence in society one must be a Vaeśńava.… Saora Tantra teaches the secret of introverting the extroverted energies leading towards the Supreme Hub.… Collective life [must be] systematised, regulated and directed towards the Supreme Goal.… Gáńapatya Tantra [in which the Supreme is personified as a divinized tribal leader] is devised to achieve this objective." -Shrii Shrii A'nandamu'rti
Shrii Shrii Ánandamúrti often spoke of having modified Tantra “to suit the needs of the modern era”. He furthermore elaborated the philosophy of Tantra along lines which had previously been little developed.
Ác. Vijayánanda Avt.
Ác. Acyutánanda Avt.
(1)- Meditation technique thaught to mostly sannyasis and some laypersons practising higher Tantra sadhana. General lay persons can practice sadhana in the comforts of their homes and are not required to perform the type of sadhana in the burial grounds .