Tantra is a rich and diverse spiritual practice developed in India. Tantra is an art, science and a way of life. The word Tantra has its origin in Sanskrit, ‘Tan’ means expansion &‘tra’ means to liberate or release. Thus, Tantra literally means a vehicle to expand the consciousness from ordinary to extra-ordinary, to liberate all the energies and be one with the divine consciousness. It is the ultimate path to self-realization and supreme awareness.
Sages in ancient India brought forth the idea of Supreme Consciousness. They developed prayers & methods of worship to connect with this supreme consciousness, but these were more of an external, ritualistic nature. These were compiled in what we know as the Vedas. But a group of people took this concept of Supreme Consciousness & put forth a set of practices which were fundamentally different from the Vedas because here the means to connect with the Supreme consciousness was more internal than external methods.
During this time Lord Shiva was born, he preached that human beings want more pleasure than they get from their senses, that human beings were the only species who wanted peace as an ultimate goal. Lord Shiva’s wifeParvati used to ask him questions about this spiritual science, the compilation of these questions & answers is what constitutes the Tantra Shastra (Tantra Scriptures). Lord Shiva imparted the knowledge of Five M’s of spiritual practices to his disciples according to their levels of spiritual consciousness, each M has a spiritual& physical meaning.
- First M is “Madya”. It means Wine for those at a low level of consciousness. Shiva asked these people to continue drinking wine, but also encouraged them to control the habit and finally aim to give it up. For those who were at a higher level it meant “Divine Nectar”. Yogis who had purified their bodies & mind by fasting can taste “Amrita”, a fluid secreted by the pineal gland& experience bliss.
- Other M stands for “Mamsa” or Meat. Shiva again advised those at a lower level of consciousness to continue eating meat, to try & control the urge and then give it up eventually. For other at a higher consciousness, Mamsa refers to the tongue, to practice controlling the speech.
- The third M is Matsya& it refers to the fish, Shiva advised the same thing he advised for wine & meat. To an advanced disciple,Matsya meant the 2 nerves called the Ida &Pingala starting at the base of the spine and crisscrossing before entering the nostrils. With Pranayama, these nerves are controlled & the mind becomes calm and prepared for meditation. This is the state of Matsya for those at a higher consciousness.
- The fourth M stands for “Mudra”. Mudra only has a spiritual significance and has no physical meaning to it. Mudra means to maintain contact with those people only who help you to spiritually progress& stay away from the company of people who hinder our progress.
- The fifth M stands for “Maethuna” which caused a great confusion. Maethuna means union, but in its crude sense it was interpreted as Sexual Union. Shiva advised sex must be indulged in with a spiritual idea & too many sexual urges should gradually be controlled. In the spiritual sense, it refers to the union of individual consciousness with Supreme Consciousness. It means that the spiritual energy, which lies dormant at the base of the spine is raised to the highest energy center, causing the individual to experience oneness with the Supreme.
Tantra is based on the subtle & spiritual interpretation of these 5 M’s. Tantra is not just an amalgamation of yoga and meditation. It is a systematic scientific method to expand our consciousness and attain material & spiritual prosperity.