The Tantra and the Integral Yoga

The Tantric tradition has developed a methodology (frequently and widely misunderstood and misapplied), to bring about the opening of the subtle energy centers, called chakras, that reside within our energetic body and control the various functionality of powers of body, life and mind within our human instrument. The rising of the kundalini, the coiled serpent sleeping at the base of our being in the muladhara chakra, and opening up the higher chakras until reaching the 1000 petaled lotus at the top of the head, signifies the development and mastery of the physical body, the vital being and the mental activities of the developed human being. New powers of action develop and eventually, this process leads to the enlightenment within the world itself. A key principle is to purify the psychology to disentangle sensual, ego-gratification from the exercise of the natural forces that act through the chakra that is opening. There is a danger involved here as opening of the lower chakras, which govern powers that include sex and the will to power, among others, can drive the seeker mad or distract from the actual original goal.

The integral yoga recognizes the locked forces held within the blocked chakras and the need to open up these energies for a higher and more powerful action. By starting generally above and opening to the divine force, the Mother, the opening of the Chakras can occur with potentially far less risk than if suddenly there is an outburst of powers emanating from the lowest chakras without any moderating influence from higher centers already partially or wholly open. Additionally, while the goal of the rising of the kundalini is the eventual liberation of the human individual into the divine consciousness, there is no focus in the tantra on the transformation of life on earth through the descent and action of the next evolutionary level of consciousness; whereas in the integral yoga, this is a primary consideration.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Veda and Vedanta are one side of the One Truth; Tantra with its emphasis on Shakti is another; in this yoga all sides of the Truth are taken up, not in the systematic forms given them formerly but in their essence, and carried to the fullest and highest significance. But Vedanta deals more with the principles and essentials of the divine knowledge and therefore much of its spiritual knowledge and experience has been taken bodily into the Arya. (A philosophical journal (1914-21), in which most of Sri Aurobindo’s major prose writings first appeared.) . Tantra deals more with forms and processes and organised powers — all these could not be taken as they were, for the integral yoga needs to develop its own forms and processes; but the ascent of the consciousness through the centres and other Tantric knowledge are there behind the process of transformation to which so much importance is given by me — also the truth that nothing can be done except through the force of the Mother.”

“The process of the Kundalini awakened rising through the centres as also the purification of the centres is a Tantric knowledge. In our yoga there is no willed process of the purification and opening of the centres, no raising up of the Kundalini by a set process either. Another method is used, but still there is the ascent of the consciousness from and through the different levels to join the higher consciousness above: there is the opening of the centres and of the planes (mental, vital, physical) which these centres command; there is also the descent which is the main key of the spiritual transformation. Therefore, there is, I have said, a Tantric knowledge behind the process of transformation in this yoga.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and Other Systems of Yoga and Philosophy, pg.31

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