A blog on the Transpersonal Psychology of Indian Yoga and the Spiritual Genius of India (another blog of the same author – http://integralmusings.aurosociety.org)
A unique feature of the tantra yoga is the great importance given to the human body. Unlike the traditional vedantic yogas which tend to despise the body as an ugly assortment of flesh and bones and as a great obstacle to sadhana, the tantric yoga gives almost a divine status to the body. Human Body, in the tantric conception is the material form of the divine Sakthi in Man the microcosm, as the physical universe is the material body of the Sakthi in the macrocosm. All the natural activities and functions of the body are in essence, the activities of the divine Sakthi. The tantric texts enjoins the seeker to make this idea a living and conscious fact of his day to day life. So says Siva sutra “Bodily activity is the enjoined discipline”.
But what is the psychological and spiritual basis of this veneration for the body? From the psychological point of view, tantric attitude to the body follows logically and naturally from some of the fundamental principles of Tantric psychology. As we have explained elsewhere, in the tantric conception the human being is a multi-dimensional system of energy; the human organism is an indivisible whole of psycho-physical-spiritual energy or to be more precise he is a psycho-physical organism in which the spirit dwells in the body. So, tantric psychology makes no separation in thought as well as in practice between Body, Psyche and Spirit. The human being is viewed as a single organic psycho-spiritual-physical whole.
There are some fine and subtle differences in the standpoint of vedantic and tantric psychology on the relative importance of body and mind with very practical consequences for sadhana. The vedantic psychology also views the human being s a spirit dwelling in the psycho-physical organism. But vedantic thought views the human being predominantly as a spirit in the Mind with Mind as the primary instrument of liberation and perfection and body as a very subordinate instrument, rather a troublesome and heavy clod in the spirit. On the other hand, tantric psychology views human being predominantly as a spirit in the Body with body and the life-force prana as the primary instruments of liberation and perfection and the mind supporting and enlightening the body and life in their effort. This is the reason why tantra sadhana gives great importance to Kriya yoga, yogic disciplines involving physical-vital activities like asanas, pranayama’s, mudras and rituals.
The other practical consequence of this difference between the psychological stand-point of the vedantic and tantric yoga is in the method used to effect the liberation. The traditional vedantic method of knowledge is to separate and detach the body from mind and mind from the spirit so that the spirit can reach alone to its source in the Absolute in a bodyless liberation. On the other hand tantric yoga in general doesn’t make any such separative act; it takes the human being as an indivisible psycho-vital-physical-spiritual organism and tries to liberate and transform the human being as a whole – his body, life and mind by the power of the spirit. We must remember here that the goal of the kundalini yoga of the Tantras is not a bodyless liberation but a spiritual transformation of the whole being of man. According to tantras this highest transforming experience is not merely a subjective illumination and ecstasy happening outside the body; it happens, within the body and enjoyed and experienced by the body, flooding the whole body with light and bliss; even the energies which constitute the body undergoes this spiritual transmutation at the subtle level.
But there is a still deeper spiritual insight behind the tantria’s veneration of the human body. In the tantric conception the energies which form the physical organism of man contains in potential all the psychological and spiritual forces, powers, achievements and ecstasies which he is capable of attaining. So the human body is not a repulsive mass of blood and bones but a treasure house of spiritual riches. The energies of the human physical organism contains potentially the highest power and bliss. “Ananda is the nature of the supreme Reality and Ananda is founded in the body” says a tantric text. According to another text, the lowest abdominal centre, in man, called the Muladhara, which controls the biological functions of the body contain all forms of bliss including the supreme bliss. It is as if the divine Sakthi, the Mother of the World, with all Her spiritual riches and delights which She wants to lavish on Her human child, descended from her highest spiritual plane into the body of man, which is the lowest and the grossest part of his being and entered into the lowest of his energy-centre, Muladhara which controls the activities of his body.
So, not a disembodied liberation in some supracosmic Beyond, but an embodied perfection and beatitude here and now in the body is the goal of the Tantra yoga.