Tantra: Material World and its Experiences for Attaining Enlightenment

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Satyananda Yoga believes that Tantra is a collective title, which covers a vast range of practical teachings leading to the expansion of human consciousness and the liberation of primal energy (Kundalini). The material and its experiences can be utilised to attain enlightenment. Navodita deals with this, in detail, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.

While Anusara Yoga and Shivananda Yoga focus on Asanas and meditation and inward-process of the , Bihar school of Yoga has functioned at an integrated level, which incorporates practical philosophy and a holistic lifestyle. Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati is said to be a great visionary associated with this form of Yoga. He has brought to light certain teachings from sacred scriptures and lost traditions.

He has framed them in a modern language, which incorporates both traditional and scientific understandings. If the head, the heart, and the hand, says Swami Satyanandaji, do not function in harmony, there is a restlessness in life. This restlessness maybe on the mental, emotional, physical or spiritual level. Though its manifestation is large, it always results in the shattering of inner peace. Yoga practices developed by Sri Swami Satyanandaji and Bihar School of Yoga aim to harmonise life at all levels and experience through practical means. This system is known as Satyananda Yoga.

Satyanand Yoga focuses on AsanasPranayama, Mudra, and Asanas work on both the body and mind. These are not separate entities although there is a tendency to think and act as though they are. The gross form of the body is the mind. Practicing asanas integrates and harmonises the two.

Satyananda Yoga also believes in certain Hindu traditions – Tantric tradition, for example, being one. Tantra is a collective title that covers a vast range of practical teachings leading to the expansion of human consciousness and the liberation of primal energy (Kundalini). The unifying principles behind the diverse systems of Tantra are that the material world and its experiences can be utilised to attain enlightenment.

Although there are many branches of Tantra, the practices common to all systems leading to transcendental awakening are mantras (vibrational tuning through sounds), yantras (concentration symbols to liberate the consciousness), chakras (realisation of psychic centres), mandalas (perceptions of the macrocosms), tapasya(practices of self-purification), Raja Yoga (integral yoga), pranayama (yogic breathing practice), self-surrender, shaktipat (transmission of energy), and tantric initiations (a process incorporating all the above). These elements are all a part of Tantric practices. Tantra believes in integrating the faculties of the intellect and the heart. The faculties of the intellect are discrimination and concentration, and those of the heart is seeing the unseen, glimpses of the transcendental and cosmic consciousness.

Then they also believe in the Vedic tradition and work towards promoting it among students. Vedic tradition is one of the most ancient surviving spiritual and mystic traditions of the past. It advocates realisation of the divine as the ultimate truth and living a pious and virtuous life in the material world. The central theme of the Vedic philosophy is that God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent reality, whereas the individual is only an actor who plays his part on the ‘stage of life’ and then is no more. One has to be able to harmonise the thoughts, behavior and actions. Meditative contemplation, faith in God, trust in oneself, of and living in harmony with the and nature, experiencing oneness in all interactions are some of the basic foundations of the Vedic tradition.

Moreover, you have the Yogic tradition, which means basically the union or integration of individual with universal consciousness. On a practical level, it is the way to balance and harmonise the body, mind, and emotions. This is achieved by practicing asana (physical postures), pranayama (breathing practices), mudra and bandha (psychophysiological energy release techniques), shatkarma (internal cleansing practices) and a wide variety of meditation techniques. Through yoga, the limitations of life can be transcended, as Satyananda Yoga believes, and efficiency in action can be attained, which results in higher expression of higher levels of creativity and positivity in life.

Finally, one of the most important components of Satyanand Yoga is the Satyananda Yoga Nidra devised by Sri Swami Satyananda Saraswati from traditional Tantric practices and has left a major impact on all practitioners. It is a pratyahara technique in which the distractions of the mind are contained and the mind is allowed to relax. It is the state of dynamic sleep. It is a systematic method of inducing complete, physical, mental and emotional . During the practice, one appears to be asleep, but the consciousness is functioning at a deeper level of awareness, as Swami Satyananda mentions in his book Yoga Nidra.

Similarly, many meditations and concentration techniques have been developed by Satyanand Yoga –Antar Mouna, Ajapa Japa, Trataka among others. The practices of pratyahara (stilling the mind), dharana(concentration), dhyana (meditation) and laya yoga techniques, derived from the Upanishads, the Tantras and other traditions have also been classified, taught and published. All techniques have different levels and stages of practice as clarified by the Satyananda Yoga tradition. More about such techniques may be found in the books Meditations from the Tantras and Dharana Darshan.

Next time, we will be back with more on other traditions of Yoga.

©Navodita Pande

Photos from the Internet.

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Navodita Pande has been practicing yoga since she was 9 years old in Iyengar Yoga. In April 1995, she performed at the International Yoga Seminar. In January 2003, Navodita taught at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Mandir in New York. Navodita had a Yoga show on NDTV 24×7 and was also the official yoga trainer for Miss Delhi contestants in 2007. She currently teaches Yoga and Reiki to
people in Kanpur.