Tantrism – Nidrâ Yoga in the Shaivaism Tradition
Tantrism, a school that revolutionized yoga, was in its heyday between the 6th and the 8th century AD. lts teachings, called tantras, have influenced all religions and sects in India. The Agama-shastra, or Tantric texts (in everyday speech, the term "tantra" can mean any kind of treatise), are not about abstract systems of speculative thought. They make up a systematic survey of practices, or Sadhanashastras, aimed at spiritual self-realization, that were designed to meet the needs of Kali Yuga or the "Iron Era" (a term suggesting our living in "dark ages") in the course of which the highest self-realization is to be made available to the greatest number, regardless of caste or gender.
" Only by practice, relentless practice of all aspects of yoga, is Fulfillment to be reached: by the youth, the adult and the old man alike, even when ill or feeling weak." (Hatha Yoga Pradipika).
The originality of the Tantric method is in its making use of, rather than combatting, the natural inclinations and basic instincts of man in order to transcend them and to reverse his egocentric propensity into the wakening of Infinite Consciousness.
All aspects and all actions of everyday life are used for the purpose of attaining Liberation. When reached, the world ceases to be an illusion and is perceived, like in Vedic times, as profoundly real. It manifests itself through the power of Shakti, the divine energy that creates and animates the world of forms, the world of life. The body, the senses and thought become auxiliary to the discipline and hence, turn into tools for disclosing the truth hidden in ourselves; for man makes contact with cosmic reality, and subsequently with Pure Conscience (Shiva), by retrieving his own center, the former's true nature being nothing other than his own.
Etymologically speaking, "tantra" means the shuttle that pulls the weft through the warp to weave them into a fabric on a loom. The root "tan" originally means "to stretch" or "to pull straight". It conveys the idea of an activity that unites by moving back and forth like in weaving a piece of cloth.
Applying this metaphor to everyday life, the warp threads on the loom represent our initial objectives, which somehow tie us up. The weft threads are the events that fling us back and forth around our initial direction. Some people do suddenly change their weft, which could be called "spiritual zapping". In general, however, we give up or switch our objectives quite rarely. Noticeably, external contingencies may lead us astray while keeping us, curiously enough, on the chosen track in a mere slalom. Similarly, the warp and the weft are involved in a perpetual play of attraction and repulsion, creating so-called tensions. The right tension will give the tissue its quality, its fabric and suppleness. Those are the tensions we need for survival; l shall simply call them "tensions".
Other tensions are perfectly superfluous. I shall call them "contractions". The interplay of forces between that which does not move (the warp) and that which moves (the weft) is kept going by the shuttle, which creates friction; there is some friction all the time! In Sanskrit, this process, by which energy is produced, is called "tapas". Sometimes, there are so many frictions, and we live in such contradiction with ourselves, that fear, anger and frustrations are the outcome, and we inwardly boil. Sometimes, the friction is balanced, and both tendencies are in harmony: the contingencies with the objectives, the slalom with the set direction.
According to one of its amazing statements, Tantrism is actually neither about the state of harmony, nor about the state of conflict between the warp and the weft. It merely focusses on our perception and full awareness of the connection between both, whether in the heat of anger or in the warmth of harmony. Our sole quest is to grow aware of this "link".
Among the many existing approaches, some focus on harmony, others on friction. Nidra has espoused the harmonizing approach, while sharpening our conflict awareness as well.