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Note: My Anthropic Trilogy web-book, evolving since 1997, is a chronicle of my passing all considered opinion through the lens of my Nirvikalpa Samadhi with both an open-mind and healthy skepticism.

Is Vamachara Tantra Dharmic?

A presentation of comments excerpted from a thread in the Hindu Dharma Forum on the topic.

The major participants of this forum- both pro and exponents- appear to have a comprehensive, scholarly grasp of Vamachara Tantra and dharma and so I've simply compiled excerpts from the extensive thread that highlight various aspects of the discussion which provides an intimate insight to the unique mindsets of contemporary Hindu religious consciousness. All commentary is in a colloquial English syntax (typical of native Hindis) filled with sanskrit words for the myriad features in the convoluted religious landscape so I had to follow the discussions more intuitively than cognatively. What is obvious is how much diversity and intricacy there is- both in the dharmic traditions and how they are interpreted in formulating the broad range of sectarian belief that has evolved from their archaic scriptures. The discussion often gets into excruciatingly precise definitions of what certain sanskrit terms in sacred texts imply. An example is the role of Panchamakara and how the expression "usage of tongue and genitals" should be interpreted as to how speech and sex are involved- whether abstained, substituted or are vital- in various tradition of Vedic, Vamacara, Kaula-mata or Lakshmi Tantra practice to qualify for the grace of moksha. I've included scriptural citations relating to Vamacara Tantra mentioned in the commentaries in the chance these could be accessed outside the theosophical libraries in India as well as excerpting a stirring ode to the practice of Vamachara Yoga. An appendix provides links to some other forums for contemporary practitioners of various forms of Tantra maithuna.

What is Tantrik Monism? another thread in the same forum with Arjuna and other contributors. In the sense used from at least 9th century e.v. word "Tantra" refers to the distinct trend in Hinduism, which is complete and perfect in itself. To be more precise we use the term Kaula-tantrism or Shakta-tantrism. (In ancient Vedic religion "tantra" meant ritual procedure, that's right. But Tantrism is a mystical tradition that has philosophy and practical method of its own.) Tantrism is "practical" not in the sense it is all about rituals etc, not at all. It is practical because it leads to live realisation of metaphisical Truth, to Moksha in the very normal life, to God-realisation being in the world.

Is Vamacharya marga Dharmic? Maybe or may not be, that is an individual opinion. Is Vamacharya vedic? Obviously no. There is some reasonable criteria to met to qualify as a vedic religion. Present a commentary on the important works - the Brahma sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, upanishads to justify the fundamentals your faith etc. If a commentary cant be provided, at least the followers of the faith must hold vedas in authority like the Shankyas or Vaisheshikas and follow its teachings, both in theory and practice, or at least in practice. Without meeting any of these requirements, there is no way a religion can be called vedic.

"Shankaracharya has clearly condemned this (Vamacara) unVedic pratice according to couple of Shankara Vijayas." First of all, this kind of writings (half-mythical stories about lives of some saints) are not of primary importance to any tradition. Secondly, they are valid only for Shankara's tradition - and in no way have to be accepted as general Hindu authority, let alone Tantric one.

Shri Amritanandanatha of Devipuram is much more trustable (on Vamachara). And he clearly says Vamachara was and is an esoteric, sublime part of Shrividya tradition. Which is in full accordance with Agamas and other sacred texts of Shrividya.

Vamachara is prescribed in almost all scriptures of Shakta tradition. They are present in Shaiva- and Bhairava-agamas, as well as in Shakta- (Kaula-) agamas. Even in Vaishnava tradition there is a place for sexual rituals - both in South Indian tradition of Shri-sampradaya and traditions of North. I do not mean to say that all Shaivas or Vaishnavas followed Vamachara (which is of course not the case), but some of them did - and their practice is fully dharmic and based of their Agamas.

Vamachara is a valid path in Hinduism, and necessary part of Tantrism. But it is not for everyone, and primarily is meant for grihasthas with intention to Moksha or knowledge of God. Also, Kaula-tantra is impossible without Love (bhakti), which is to be taken into account.

It is also a fact that many great Acharyas were adherents of Vamachara and promoted it. One has to reply on those Acharyas who are authorative for his sampradaya and parampara. As for myself, i rely upon Sri Shambhunatha, Abhinavagupta, Matsyendranatha, Maheshvarananda, Vatulanatha, Bhaskararaya, Purnananda and others. Being a kaula i follow my tradition, and this is my dharma.

Extensive discussion of Kaula Doctrine defended by "Saubhagyamastu" follows.

Vamachara is the 3rd stage of vira bhava. This is followed by 3 more stages of divya bhava. All in all 9 stages (9th being kaula or avadhuta who is free) to free the human from 8 bondages.

Sexual practice has two basic reasons in Kaula-mata: 1. It is a means to develop bhakti-bhava and achieve Shakti-jnana, which are conditions for the Grace to manifest. Of course it is not physical sex only, but LOVE which includes sexual side. And perfect Love should include it, since it is total. 2. Sex is a natural way to manifest Ananda, bliss of Brahman as it is present in the world and body. Thus it is a part of Kaulika brahmacharya.

On Lakshmi Tantra by [ramkish42] "I am bound to my words given not to disclose Lakshmi Tantra (for that fact any Paancharaatra verses) verses to a non vaishavite."

maithuna is a natural part of life

Cool down, I am not upseting your boat, but trying to understand you Kaula for texts with me gives me different picture than what you are giving. Request you to quote your texts which is verily against such substitutes

Vamachara refers only to pratyaksha usage of 5M (while anukalpas are used by pashus, in samayachara, and inner practice of 5M can be done in kaulachara when complete 5M aren't possible).

Kaula Doctrine of Bliss is in total accordance with Vedic Shruti. Agamic Shruti introduced a new method of upasana and Brahma-jnana, but its "object" (Brahman) and basic principle is verily Vedic.

Sarvananda was a Vamachari and had a shakti.

Pashu-sadhanas (which include substituted 5M) bring limited results and are bound by karmas, while Kaula-upasana leads directly to Moksha.

Substitution and abstainence: I said Jnani shoud stop using usages of tongue and genitals which are not vital. Taste is immaterial for life; Absense of sex does not kill a person; verily no urinating or not eating food will kill the person. When the scripture says abstain, the meaning of the word abstain is taken as abstain all things which are not vital - do not do such things which will not render you dead.

In this case WHAT IS MEANT BY JIHVA-TYAGA? Of course, sex is not vital, as well as speech. The only chance for U to remain logical is to admit Jnani has to abandon speech. But we know that many Jnanis (both Kaulas and non-Kaulas) did speak.

Otherwise he cannot get advanced dikshas and cannot take part in Kula-chakras. In other words, he cannot be a Kaula.

Vamachara is verily Dharmic since it is firmly based upon Agama and Amnaya (Tradition).

It is not Vedic in its origin, but rather pre-Vedic. However some parallels with Vedic cult are there; as a minimum, Vama-naya is compatible with Vedic teaching.

There are Tantric commentaries upon complete Prasthana-traya: Gita (Gitartha-sangraha), Brahma-sutra (Shakti-bhashya) and Upanishads (not all, but several out of Muktika canon). There are also some Tantric commentaries upon Vedic samhitas.

Tantras acknowledge the authority of Vedas, but consider Agamic authority higher.

Others (Agehananda Bharati in his The Tantric Tradition, Rider & Co, 1965), make the picture a little cloudier by insisting that sexual contact is the main point of tantrism, whether Buddhist or Hindu. "The central sadhana of tantrism, Buddhist and Hindu alike, is the exercise of sexual contact under tantric 'laboratory' conditions. It is irrelevant, in the final analysis, whether these sadhanas were or are literally performed, or whether they are hypostasized entirely into mental configurations." (Bharati, Chapter IX).

The existance of certain view among some exponents doesn't make this view correct. Agehananda makes a mistake which coinsides with Ur ideas, that's all. But it contradicts Kaula Doctrine. Was Agehananda a Kaula? That is a question. In any case, i would prefer authority of Agamas and great Masters, and not some dubious investigators.

Action free from sankalpa - and it is free from it since Mukta lives in permanent unmani (aka sahaja-samadhi) - doesn't bind, and thus it is mokshana.

In maithuna at the time of Ananda-samplava, orgasm, there is no mind and no personality, but pure consciousness only. I have cited Vijnanabhairava verse about this.

There is no caste distinction inside Kaula-mata. EVERY Kaula is a brahmana inside Kula-chakra (though in society he retains his caste unless he becomes an Avadhuta).

What i knew from my Acharya, Shri Amritananda and some of my more knowledgeble friends regarding existence of sexual rituals in Vedic cult, now is proven:

On issue of withholding semen during sex ritual which Tirumantiram proscribes: Tirumantiram is a Shaiva-siddhanta grantha and not a Kaula one.

Citations to scripture relating to Tantric and Vamachara practice.

I specifically talk about Sahajiya branch of Gaudiya-vaishnavism and Jagannatha cult of Orissa. References are many, U may easily find them in studies of these two cults. What i have read myself are "Obscure Religious Cults" by Dasgupta (still available in India) and "The Place of the Hidden Moon - Erotic Mysticism in the Vaishnava-sahajiya Cult of Bengal" by E. C. Dimock. Some material is present in "Criminal Gods and Demon Devotees", an academical digest by several scholars and some other works.

The dialogue of the priests and the queens, as if found in the Vajasaneyi-samhita XXIII.22-31, was likewise meant to be a part of an older ritual act in which a man, evidently a priest, had to unite with the queen - the part played by the horse here - and after his ceremonial sexual union he was put to death. The Vajasaneyi verses mentioned above tell us that the queen and the priest are to be raised up high by a few persons and in that position they are required by the ritual to have sexual intercourse. In Uvata’s commentary on the Vajasaneyi-samhita, this rite is explained in greater detail. Shatapatha-brahmana (XIII.2.7-9) also refers to the queen’s union with the priest. This ritual was later transformed into the Ashvamedha sacrifice in which a horse was used as a substitute for the priest. (N. N. Bhattacharyya, History of the Tantric Religion, New Delhi, 1987. P.124)

In certain Vedic works, e.g., Shrautasutras of Katyayana (IV.3.17), Gobhila-Grihyasutra (II.5.6.9-10), Taittiriya-aranyaka (IV.7.50) to mention only a few, sexual intercourse is regarded as a part of religious rites. Drinking of wine appears (e.g., Shatapatha-brahmana V.1.2.9; Aitareya VII.1.5 etc.) to have been in vogue in sacrifices. The Vajapeya and Sautramani seem to be the precursor of the Chakra of the Tantric devotees. (Dr. Savitri Vashist, Tantra and Religion, Jaipur, 2002, p. 92).

Tara-rahasya 3. 8:
vAmAchAraM parityajya pUjanaM vA japa~ncharet. sa gachchhennarakaM ghoraM yAvadindrAshchaturdasha.. "The one who is doing puja or japa [of Devi] without Vamachara, goes to the terrible hell for a period of 14 lives of Indra."

Taittiriya Upanishad 3.6.1: "Bliss is Brahman."

Taittiriya Upanishad 2.7.1: "He (Brahman) is Rasa. Having known that Rasa, one becomes blissful. Who could have breathed or inhaled if no bliss was in this space? For He only is the cause of bliss."

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Yajnavalkyakanda 3.9.28:
"Knowledge and Bliss are Brahman."

Shvetashvatara Upanishad (?): AnandayoniH Anando brahma brahmaivaiShA devI ekAnekaprapa~nchA syAt chaturthapauruShArthe AnandarUpeti .. "Yoni of Bliss, Bliss is Brahman. Brahman is this Devi, who is One in multitude of creation and form of Bliss in four Purusharthas."

Brahma-sutra 1.1.12 states that "Anandamaya" refers to Brahman.

Gandharva-tantra 27.36b-37a:
AnandaM brahmaNo rUpaM tachcha dehaM vibhAvayet ..36..
tasyAbhivya~njakAH pa~ncha makArAdyAH prakIrttitAH.
"Bliss is the form of Brahman, which should be known through the body.
The five Makaras are glorified as manifesting this Bliss."
Exactly the same is said in Tantraloka of Shri Abhinavagupta (29th Ahnika).

Devi-rahasya, Uttarardha 58.11a:
AnandarasapUjAyAM tuShyate parameshvarI.
"Parameshvari is satisfied in the worship of Rasa of Bliss."

Kularnava-tantra 7.101:
AnandAttR^ipyate devI mUrchchhayA bhairavassvayam.
vamanAtsarvadevAshcha tasmAttrividhamAcharet..
"By bliss Devi is satisfied, by orgasm Bhairava himself.
By sexual emission all deities [are satisfied], thus one should worship in this three ways."

In a commentary upon the name Kamarupini, Shri Bhaskararaya writes:
-796. [She who is in] the form of the deeessiiire. Kama, the supreme Shiva. The Kameshvara is he who desires to create the universe as described in the Shruti: "He desired, let me become many, let me create beings" (Taittiriyopanishad, II.5). About whom the Brihadaranyakopanishad speaks: "He is the Purusha consisting of desire, it is He, o Shakalya, who is his deity? He replied, woman is his deity" (III.9.11).

Kathopanishad (III.11) says: "Beyond the Person Purusha there is nothing. This is the goal, and the supreme abode."

Agamas say: "Women are divine, women are life-breaths, women are ornaments. One should always be with a woman, another’s or his own."

Vamachara is literally "following a woman" and it leads to Kamakala, essence of the Godhead. Kulachudamani states that "without a woman one never attains the Perfection, thus one should take a refuge in a woman." Meru-tantra (X.67) says: "Only he whose love (bhakti) is strong, attains the Perfection on the Vama-path." And then (XX.153) also: "Linga is Shiva, bhaga (vagina) is Shakti, emission is water of Ganga. Being aware of this in sexual enjoyment the follower of Vama achieves Liberation."

Arjuna 26 April 2006, 05:30 PM Shri Sarvananda in his "Sarvollasa" (24. 7a) says:
AnandArthe pibenmadyamAnandaM muktidAyakam.
"One should drink wine for the sake of Bliss, Bliss brings Liberation."

In Brihannila-tantra (8. 90) it is said:
striyo devAH striyaH prANAH striya eva vibhUShaNam.
strImelanaM sadA kuryAtsundarIbhirvisheShataH..
"Women are divine, women are breaths of life, women are the ornament.
One should always unite with women, especially with beautiful."

Gandharva-tantra (40. 51b-52a), Shrividya Agama states:
bhagali~NgasamAyogAdyadAnandaH prajAyate ..51..
brahmaiva tadvijAnIyAdanantaM mokShasAdhanam.
"That Bliss which is born out of union of yoni and linga,
should be known as [Bliss of] Immense Absolute and a path to Liberation."

And Devi-rahasya (Uttarardha 58. 11a) states:
AnandarasapUjAyAM tuShyate parameshvarI.
"Parameshvari is satisfied through the worship of taste of Bliss."

Kularnava 9. 50 says:
alimAMsA~NganAsa~Nge yatsukhaM jAyate priye.
tadeva mokSho viduShAm abudhAnAntu pAtakam..
"O my Beloved! The joy derived from wine, meat and coition with women is Liberation for the wise, but a sin for the ignorants."

Yoni-tantra (8. 2) which says:
"There is no Liberation without maithuna, such is the verdict of Shastras."

Kali-tantra 12. 22:
"O Lady of gods, on the way of Kula Perfection is achieved not by pujas, nyasas or snanas, but only by japa in union with a woman."

Kali-tantra 9. 23b-24a:
"He who knows the heart of Kalika, who does Vama-sadhana with a woman, becomes divine and achieves eternal Liberation."
Kulamrita-dipika says:
"Sayujya is achieved through sexual union, there is no doubt in this".

Prashna Upanishad 4. 7-9:
"O dear, as birds gather on a tree, which is their home, in a same way all these things verily gather in the highest Atman:
Earth, and particles of earth, and water, and particles of water, and fire, and particles of fire, and wind, and particles of wind, and space, and and particles of space, and eye, and seen, and ear, and what is heard, and sense of smell, and what is smelled, and taste, and what is tasted, and skin, and what is touched, and speech, and what is spoken, and hands, and what is held, and genitals, and what is enjoyed, and anus, and what is excreted, and legs, and a path, and intellect, and what is understood, and comprehension, and comprehended, and self-awareness, and that which is aware of self, and thought, and what is thought, and brilliance, and what is illuminated, and breath, and sustained.
For He is the Atman who sees, touches, hears, smells, tastes, understands, comprehends, acts and recognizes. He is established in the highest, eternal Atman."
Ode to Vamachara Practice- selections from Himalyan Academy

From Tirumantiram: 19 PARIYANGA YOGA

825: Pleasures of Sex Union Will Abide
If Breath Control is Properly Practiced
Anointing her body with unguents diverse
Bedecking her tresses with flowers fragrant
Do you enjoy the damsel in passion's union;
If you but know how to shoot
Prana breath through the Spinal Cavity
Your enjoyment never ceases.

826: If Breath is Controlled Delicious Enjoyment
For Partners in Sex Union Results
When they seek enjoyment
The breath stands still;
The full breasted damsel and the goodly man
Stand in union exalted;
As liquid silver and gold
Their passion's emissions
In rapture commingles.

827: Duration of Enjoyment Lengthens
If Breath is Controlled
In the copulatory yoga that is practised
By the hero and the heroine
Upward they drive the coach of breath
That has its wheels in regions right and left;
There they collect the waters of the heaven
And never the organs tiring know.

828: Restraint of Semen Flow Through Breath Control
This the meaning of that union;
When in the sex act semen flows
The yogi lets it not;
But checks it
And attains within;
And a Master he then becomes.

829: Effect of Restraint of Semen Flow
He becomes master of Jnana all
He becomes master of enjoyment all
He becomes master of himself
He becomes master of senses five.

830: Sex Union Through the Pariyanga Lasts Five Ghatikas and is Bliss
This is Pariyanga Yoga
That lasts five ghatikas;
Beyond in the sixth
The damsel sleeps in the arms of lover
In union blissful
That fills the heart
And passes description.

831: Successful Practitioners Alone Can Resort to Pariyanga Yoga
Unless it be,
He had in success practised
The Pariyanga yoga
Of five ghatika length
No yogi shall
A woman embrace.

832: Lord Siva Practised Pariyanga Yoga
Who may you ask,
Is He that achieved this audacious Yoga;
The lord is He that wears heavenly Ganga on His matted lock;
For ghatika* five
He embraced Sakti of speech ambrosial sweetness
Thinking and thinking not of the act performed.
*070a time span of 24 minutes or nazhi kai

833: The Age of the Couple for Pariyanga Yoga
For practise of this yoga,
Twenty the age apt for damsel
And thirty for lover;
Then does high rapture ensue;
The five senses of woman desert her,
Her mind exhausted becomes,
When she climax reaches;
But no weariness the man knows
Neither does his silvery emission flow.

834: Only Those Who Have Practised Kecari Can Resort to Pariyanga Lest the silvery liquid into the golden flow,
The artful goldsmith (practitioner) covered it up with yogic breath The sparks (Kundalini) that flew travelled up by the way of Spinal tube There above,
He contained them with tongue's tip (Kecari).

835: Pariyanga Yogi is Exalted
The Yogi who is in ecstatic joy
Unexcited performs this yoga with woman
Becomes radiant like the sun,
An acknowledged master in directions ten,
And of Ganas of groups eighteen.

836: Pariyanga Yogi Practiced With Kecari Yoga Also
Espousing Wisdom that is denoted by Budha*, (Mercury)
Who stands middle of sun and saturn
The youthful Yogi who embraced the damsel
Knew joy infinite;
Lest the male silvery liquid flow not
Ahead of female golden one
He had his red mouth buried in the Mystic Moon.
(Note: This Budha spelling is the author's dub on Buddha)

837: Pariyanga Yoga is Yogic Wisdom That Retains the Semen
They who perfect wisdom
And embrace woman in wisdom's beauty
Will know grief none,
Though by woman's side he be;
The liquid silver remains unspent
And flows not into the vaginal bag of woman.

838: Freedom From Sexual Union is Attained by Pariyanga Yoga
This body that melts like wax over fire
(By sexual union)
Will no more indulge in it,
When wisdom dawns;
To those who have attained Wisdom of Void
The liquid silver no exit knows.

839: Vision of Void in Pariyanga Yoga
When You know the Void
And the light in that Void
Your mind shall be strong as a chistle of bronze;
After having tasted of the nectar
I saw the Void
With goodly Nandi guiding;
Beyond, I knew not.

840: Pariyanga Yoga was Expounded by Sadasiva to Sakti
Who are those that rank high above?
Mal, Brahma and Nandi (Rudra) art they;
In the Fourth is that Sadasiva,
Who to the slender-waisted Sakti
This expounded.

841: Immortality for Those Who Unite in Sivasakti in Cranium
If you can get to Sakti and Siva
Inside the Golden Circle within (Cranium)
And then join them in union,
You may live on earth
A million, trillion years.

Forums for Contemporary Practioners of Various Forms of Tantra Maithuna

Shakti Tantra For perspective- this site offers a forum for a worldwide participation by those practicing Shaktism- a broader discipline in honoring Devi which does not incorporate many of the "suspect" aspects of Vamachara. One of the primary purposes of this Group is to counterbalance the distorted perception by providing accurate, detailed and truthful information about Shaktism. In Shaktism also, the basic concept is merger with the absolute even while living in the world, without renunciation. In fact it is said this is the ONLY path that offers both Bhukti (worldly happiness) and Mukti (spiritual liberation). Forum is a frank discourse between people who truly love Devi, and have chosen to approach the Ultimate Divine through Her myriad forms- revealing intimate perspectives on the practice.

Abhinavagupta Discussion - Yahoo discussion group for Abhinavagupta- scholar of Kashmir Shaivite (Kaula Tantra) (Must register to enter forum) Access sample discussion at svAbhinava bulletin board- A critique of Wendy Doniger's review of David Gordon White, Tantric Sex in its South Asian Contexts, in a post by Rajiv Malhotra followed by Jeffrey S. Lidke's defense of White which serves to introduce Rajiv's subsequent 3-part piece: Wendy Doniger's glorifying review of White's book's core thesis is that Tantra was intended as South Asian decadent sexuality, without spiritual purpose, and that this decadence was the result of sociological suffering of Indian subaltern (lower castes) in classical times. Since his thesis on Tantra claims to demolish centuries of writings by Kashmir Shaivites and other thinkers from within the tradition, he asserts (without proof) that scholars like Abhinavagupta did not know or did not want to know the "real" Tantra which White claims to have uncovered in his book.

The Mystery of the "five M" - (extract from the article) Arjuna Taradasa - A forum discussion on Panchamakara- includes prospect of gay couples practicing Tantric maithuna.

Abhinavagupta - Kula Ritual by John D. Dupreche - Preface: This monograph is a first reading (translated) of one chapter of the Tantrāloka ("Light on the Tantras") written a thousand years ago. Yet this chapter occupies an important position in a book which itself is the greatest work of the greatest thinkers of his day for it was into the Kula (Kaula) ritual that Abhinavagupta, a leading figure in Kashmir Saivism, was initiated by Sambhunathatha and which he prized above almost all the rest.