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PREFACE THE Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga, and as such are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox "Hinduism." The Tantra Shastra is, in fact, and whatever be its historical origin, a development of the Vaidika Karmakanda, promulgated to meet the needs of that age. Shiva says: "For the benefit of men of the Kali age, men ereft of energy and dependent for existence on the food they eat, the Kaula doctrine, O auspicious one! is given" (Chap. IX., verse 12). To the Tantra we must therefore look if we would understand aright both ritual, yoga, and sadhana of all kinds, as also the general principles of which these practices are but the objective expression.
Yet of all the forms of Hindu Shastra, the Tantra is that which is least known and understood, a circumstance in part due to the difficulties of its subject-matter and to the fact that the key to much of its terminology and method rest with the initiate. The present translation is, in fact, the first published in Europe of any Indian Tantra. An inaccurate version rendered in imperfect English was published in Calcutta by a Bengali editor some twelve years ago, preceded by an Introduction which displayed insufficient knowledge in respect of what it somewhat quaintly described as "the mystical and superficially technical passages" of this Tantra. A desire to attempt to do it greater justice has in part prompted its selection as the first for publication. This Tantra is, further, one which is well known and esteemed, though perhaps more highly so amongst that portion of the Indian public which favours "reformed" Hinduism than amongst some Tantrikas, to whom, as I have been told, certain of its provisions appear to display unnecessary timidity. The former admire it on account of its noble exposition of the worship of the Supreme Brahman, and in the belief that certain of its passages absolutely discountenance the orthodox ritual. Nothing can be more mistaken than such belief, even though it be the fact that "for him who has faith in the root, of what use are the branches and leaves." This anyone will discover who reads the text. It is true that, as Chap. VII., verse 94, says: "In the purified heart knowledge of Brahman grows," and Brahmajnane samutpanne krityakrityang na vidyate. But the statement assumes the attainment of Brahmajñana, and this, the Shastra says, can be attained, not by Vedantic discussions nor mere prayer, after the manner of Protestant systems of Christian worship; but by the Sadhana which is its main subject-matter. I have referred to Protestant systems, for the Catholic Church possesses an elaborate ritual and a sadhana of its own which is in many points strikingly analogous to the Hindu system. The section of Tantrikas to whom I have referred are, I believe, also in error. For the design of this Tantra appears to be, whilst conserving commonly-recognized Tantrik principles, to secure that, as has sometimes proved to be the case, they are not abused. Parvvati says (Chap. I., verse 67): "I fear, O Lord! that even that which Thou hast ordained for the good of men will, through them, turn out for evil." Hitaya yane, karmani kathitani tvaya prabho Manyetani mahadeva viparitani manave. It is significant, in connection with these observations, to note that this particular Tantra was chosen as the subject of commentary by Shrimad Hariharananda Bharati, the Guru of the celebrated Hindu "reformer," Raja Ram Mohun Roy.
The Tantra has been assigned to the group of sixty-four known as those of the Rathakranta. It was first published by the Adi-Brahma-Samaja in 1798 Shakabda (A.D. 1876), and was printed in Bengali characters, with the notes of the Kulavadhuta Shrimad Hariharananda Bharati under the editorship of Anandachandra Vidyavagisha. The preface to this edition stated that three MSS. were consulted; one belonging to the library of the Samaja; the second supplied by Durgadasa Chandhuri, and the third taken from the library of Raja Ram Mohun Roy. This text appears to be the basis of subsequent publications. It was again printed in 1888 by Shri Krishna Gopala Bhakta, since when there have been several editions with Bengali translations, including that of Shri Prasanna Kumara Shastri. The late Pandit Jivananda Vidyasagara published an edition in Devanagari character, with the notes of Hariharananda; and the Venkateshvara Press at Bombay have issued another in similar character with a Hindi translation.
The translation published is that of the first part only. It is commonly thought (and was so stated by the author of the Calcutta edition in English to which I have referred) that the second portion is lost. This is, however, not so, though copies of the complete Tantra are rare enough. The full text exists in manuscript, and I hope at a later date to have an opportunity of publishing a translation of it. I came across a complete manuscript some two years ago in the possession of a Nepalese Pandit. He would, however, only permit me to make a copy of his manuscript on the condition that the Shatkarmma Mantras were not published. For, as he said, virtue not being a condition precedent for the acquisition of siddhi in such Mantras, their publication might enable the evilly disposed to work harm against others, a crime which, he added, was, in his own country, where the Tantra was current, punishable by the civil power. I was unable to persuade him even with the observation that the mere publication of the Mantra without knowledge of what is called the prayoga (which cannot be learned of books) would in any case be ineffectual. I could not give an undertaking which would have involved the publication of a mutilated text, and the reader must therefore for the present be content with a translation of the first part of the Tantra, which is generally known, and has, as stated, been several times printed. The incident has further value than the direct purpose for which I have told it. There are some to whom the Tantra, though they may not have read a line of it, is "nothing but black magic," and all its followers are "black magicians." This is of course absurd. In this connection I cannot avoid interposing the observation that certain practices are described in Tantra which, though they are alleged to have the results described therein, yet exist "for delusion." The true attitude of the higher Tantrika is illustrated by the action of the Pandit who, if he disappointed my expectations, at any rate by his refusal afforded an answer to these too general allegations....