introduction jnani raja hatha tantric kundalini laya mantra karma bhakti sufism vajrayana zen taoist

Tantric Yoga

This term is open to very wide interpretation. For our purposes, it is Yoga as outlined by the very great range of both Buddhist and Hindu texts known as Tantras. What these give in essence, (when concerned with Yoga), is an account of the quest for liberation which depends on a model of the universe at large and the human being's psycho-physical makeup and the relationship between these two.

This is the model used by Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Mantra Yoga and Laya Yoga. Most of Vajrayana also uses this model. The key concepts are:

  1. that the human body is a microcosm of the universe at large, the macrocosm;

  2. that the body has a number of layers (koshas) of increasing subtlety;

  3. that anything in life can be used for liberation, even those features which are often anathematised by orthodox approaches to spirituality, including such "indulgences" as sex, sense-pleasure, imagination, art and so on;

  4. that liberation takes the form of a fusion of opposites, particularly that between the microcosmic nature-energy and the base of the spine (Kundalini, shakti, prakriti) and the microcosmic passive principle residing at the crown of the head (Purusha). The union of these opposites is symbolised as divine couple in ecstatic sexual embrace. This ecstasy mirrors the macrocosmic creation of the whole universe out of the sexual embrace of Siva and his Shakti (Hinduism) or the Cosmic Buddha and his consort (Vajrayana Buddhism), and in a sense is a microcosmic return to it, an involutionary journey back along the path traced by evolution.

Laya Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Kundalini Yoga are all aspects of Tantric Yoga, as are the various types of Yoga employed by Vajrayana Buddhism. Though the symbolic details of the soteriological model differ between the Hindu and Buddhist tantras, the underlying structure is the same and it derives from Samkhya philosophy. The belief systems are variously mapped onto the body and the cosmos. This mapping together with the macro-microcosm doctrine is found in Sufism and Taoist Yoga as well as in mediaeval alchemy and Kabbala. These similarities might be put down to cultural drift, and certainly a lot of cross fertilisation has taken place. However, we should not discount Jung's idea that such symbolising activity and its resulting symbols are universal in virtue of their originating from a deep layer of the human unconscious, the collective unconscious, which is shared by all people and which is uncovered and made conscious by spiritual practice.

introduction jnani raja hatha tantric kundalini laya mantra karma bhakti sufism vajrayana zen taoist