A long time ago, what we call Aryans came from northern Europe to India to bring their faith all along their way. This happened maybe 1500 or 2000 years before our era, and changed the face of India forever.
I write this essay because I felt that a lot of Pagans are aware of eastern spirituality, know something about chakras or yoga, but do not go further. I will try to clarify the knowledge we have as westerners about real Hinduism, Yoga or Sanatan Dharma (the eternal religion) as they call it themselves. I am not a specialist about the subject, never been to India and if there is errors in the text just tell me I will be happy to correct them.
First of all, the world religion comes from Latin religare, and that means to link. The word Yoga means the same.
The fact that white skin people colonized India is important to make the connection between the two civilizations at this time. Actual historians claim that our ancestors were just a draft of civilization.
I am furious about this; my personal history studies confirmed me that intelligent and spiritual people were dwelling on earth more than 300 000 years ago (time of the first known grave).
So the known history of India begins there; the writing of the laws of Manu, an old moral and spiritual code from the colonization time, that sadhus (initiates) hold in high regard, just precipitate the unification of India under the same religious fever. But before the invasion, what were the religious practices in India?
The coming of Aryans defined the four casts, the highest being the Brahmans or priests. They had power over the Indian people for these 4000 years; the same way Christians had power over us in the West. Gandhi was a great man because he tried to destroy this system that kept women and untouchables outside society. A lot of people tried to do this before him, but he did and this was one of his great works.
The Vedas are a corpus of religious texts. We count four Vedas written during a dozen of centuries, and a plethora of treatises are linked to them. They would cover an entire library on their own. The Rig-Veda is the oldest one and the most “tantric” of them (1500 before our era); it mentions the use of Soma, or ecstatic beverage.
Tantrism is the oldest tradition that survives the patriarchal domination of the Aryan invasion. I will not cover the history or the differences between the sects of tantrism. To define Tantrism is almost to kill it. It is the way yogis and yoginis lived their spirituality outside the boundaries of accepted dogma.
They were often nude, doing strange rituals at night, in the forests or in the cremation grounds, or worshipped deities in ways not accepted by the Brahmans. For them, sex, as alcohol, drugs, meat or fish, were sacred because it was the body of the Goddess.
This created hate from the Brahmans community, who lived with a lot of restrictions. Tantrikas had to hide themselves in forests or lost temples; they lived the same persecution as the Inquisition.
Their Goddess has more than a thousand names. The most common are Devi (Goddess), Durga (She who is hard to attain), most revered in Bengal, Kali (Black Time, the destroyer), Lakshmi (the radiant) and many others that I will not list there.
The legend tells that Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are at Her feet; She is all the manifest world, matter and space. Kali is a powerful goddess. Shiva is Her consort; He lies under Her feet, maybe because without Her, He is a cadaver (shava).
The current image of Kali was drawn from a vision of a sixteen-century saint, who saw a girl bathing in a river. She was nude, and when she saw the intruder she lift her tongue and in a moment, he saw the goddess in her. He thought this would be a powerful goddess image.
She has eight or ten arms, dark blue skin and a necklace of skulls (meaning the fifteen syllabs of Sanskrit). She has three eyes, one white, one black and a red one. She always takes care of Her devotees and often goes straight to them, like myself. The Goddess as Kali came into my life when I did not have any interest about Indian culture.
Not all tantrikas are Kali devotees. But they always see Shakti the goddess as Manifest Universe (what they call the Tattwas, or Elements) and Shiva as the Pure Non-manifest God. They have a corpus of practices very effective like Ishnaan, or cold showers, Kundalini Yoga, or awakening of the shakti/goddess energy, or specific mantras that will awaken the energy into the body.
The goal is to destroy the boundaries between the matter and the spiritual, the self and the non-self, the divine and the mundane. Because for a Tantrika, everything is sacred and the ultimate divinity manifested
They worship in different ways; the most common is Puja. The Puja is like a ritual to celebrate the deity. There is thirty millions gods in India. All spiritual devotees have a specific deity, whom they choose and dedicate in their life; this is called Ishtadevata.
I see it as Pagans often have a favorite deity that has a deeper meaning for them; they choose to worship it more often or dedicate their life to, like Hekate, Zeus, Morrigan, Odin or Isis. They recognize other deities as the ultimate divinity with another form, as we see the God and the Goddess for others Pagans.
So Tantrism is still alive and maybe more than ever, because the Goddess still want Her devotees to know her, with all their desires, needs, and dreams. Some Indian Gurus and Initiates came to the West to teach what they knew here, because of the New Era. They say that in this Era, not only the Truth and the teachings will be open to everyone, but they will be shouted from the roofs, and nobody would hear them (excerpt from Kundalini Yoga, Michel Manor) I can not get tantra teachings were I live, so I hope you will try to get some if you can, and I really hope you will open your mind reading this essay and find your Way in this life.
If you want to know more about Tantrism, you may search about any of the Indian goddesses, Ramprasad, Ma Ananda Moyi, Shree Ma Sarada Devi and Ramakrishna, Shree Rajneesh, Dadaji, Devi, Durga, Kali, or Shiva, or Kundalini Yoga.