Human Spiritual Structure: Tantric Sadhana
Notes in progress © 1998-2002 Alan McAllister  

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Liberation is achieved by merging the unit mind back into the Cosmic Mind. The distortions in the unit mind (especially the lower kosas due to the stored samskaras prevent the unit mind from clearly reflecting the Cosmic mind. The elimination of this crude reflection of Cosmic mind by perfecting the unit mind is only possible through the introversion of the vrttis, or mental tendencies. The introversion of the tendencies is only possible when all the kosas are known and perfected via knowledge and sadhana. Sadhana is the process of clearing these imperfections, ripening and clearing the old samskaras, while avoiding the generation of new samskaras, and thereby allowing the full physical manifestation of the jiivatman.

The avoidance of new samskaras is possible by taking the ideation of God before every action and surrendering the results, including the gratification of doing, also to God. Then there will be no new potential reactions created in the mind of the sadhaka. It is important that the aim is to stop creating all karma, good as well as bad. For chains will bind be they of gold as well as iron.

This process of purification, growth, and evolution is human dharma (fundamental characteristic). The longing for the Supreme, the Infinite, to realize our souls is human dharma. It is to obtain true happiness, infinite cosmic bliss.


Tantra is derived as: tan + trae + da. Tra means that which liberates, while tan means to expand. Thus it means liberation through psycho-spiritual expansion.

The main characteristic of tantra is struggle or fight. This has an internal component in the practice of meditation, the raising of the kundalini. There is also an external component which involves overcoming the fetters and the enemies of the mind by direct action. It is thus that we work through our samskaras.

There are three categories of tantra: Kuala ( or external) tantra; Mishra, a mixed form which uses external and internal practices; and Samaya, the pure practice of internal tantra. This latter is what is described here.

Astanga Yoga

Yoga means to join, or yoke, the unit self with the Cosmic Self. There are different types of yoga, including hatha (physcial), karma (service and works), jnana (philosophical), and bhakti (devotion). The combination of these paths is called Astanga yoga (eight fold) or more recently Raja yoga (royal). In some works the first four limbs are referred to as Hatha (Sun-Moon) yoga, and the rest as Raja yoga.

These yogic techniques for perfecting the kosas were first codified by Patanjali over one thousand years ago into eight limbs. In his Yoga Sutras the main purpose was to control the vrttis rather than channeling them towards the higher layers of mind. The following description is based on the modern teachings of P. R. Sakar.

Complete perfect sadhana is the sustained effort to control the chakras and vrttis, turning them inward to the Supreme. In this process they are controlled more and more by the higher kosas. The final stage is then to take the whole ajina chakra into Bhramaloka, where it is merged with Consciousness. This is in the sahasrara chakra. In this overall process, and in most of the limbs the quality of devotion is absolutely necessary for maximum effect.

The Use of Mantra

The use of a powerful siddha mantra is essential for the awakening of the kundalini, yogic initiation. In combination with the practices of Yama and Niyama the mantra serves to clear the mind of crude thoughts , replacing them with a high vibration that can lead to mind towards God.

The Ego in Sadhana

In successful sadhana a well developed ego , or sense of self is a necessity. This is because to rise through the subconscious mind (western unconscious), which contains many suppressed aspects of the self, a weak, unbalanced, or disturbed ego, may easily get lost. In western psychology the main aim is to expand the ego (conscious self) by integrating portions of the unconscious mind. This both strengthens (expands) the ego and reduces the mass of repressed material in the unconscious. In yoga this aspect of reinforcing the ego is accomplished by following yama and niyama.

It is interesting to note that the ego, like the body is never really destroyed, although it does evolve through many reintegrations. In most cases it is only temporarily desolved or left behind. As long as a person exists in the manifest world, and interacts with others beings they will express their self through the ego as well as through the body. However this can be done from a much higher level of consciousness, which understands that the ego is only a part of the Self.

The Rise of the Kundalini

As sadhana progresses and the kundalini rises through the chakras, as the mind rises through the kosas, the sadhaka experiences samadhi in progressively the subtler worlds or lokas and hears the sound of the Omkara in different ways. It is also found that each world or layer posses its own challenges and temptations. See e.g. St. Teressa of Avila's Interior Castles.

The rising of the kundalini can be a tremendous strain on the body if it is not properly cared for. The limbs of astanga yoga, along with a proper vegetarian diet and suitable physcial exercise help to purify the body and the mind so that the evolution of the mind can take place. The body actually changes in parallel to the expansion of the consciousness and its strength provides the foundation for the mental concentration that is necessary for proper use of the mantra and meditation. The body is the tool and the vehicle for tantric sadhana.

As the kundalini rises through the chakras they are said to awaken, producing various affects in the sadhaka. There are various yogic practices that are aimed at helping to clear and balance each chakra and thus enhance their opening. The arrival of the kundalini at the sahasrara chakra results in nirvikalpa samadhi the final goal of tantra and yoga. It is said that this union of the unit mind and cosmic mind is incomparable bliss.

The Four Stages of Sadhana

Types of Disciple

In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, students are ranked in three grades depending on their ability to concentrate the mind, and a fourth class whose minds are too disturbed to concentrate at all. For these people other practices are first necessary before the practice of yoga can be done.

Advaita Vedanta

The concept of non-duality is the core of this path, while the method is that of self-inquiry [what is the sanskrta?], of asking "Who am I?" and chasing the thoughts ( citta) to the I ( aham) which thinks them, to the I ( mahat) which watches them, to the Self ( Atman) which is source of the mind.

Ramana Maharshi calls this a path of jnana-yoga, and contrasts it with the path of dhyana-yoga which is essentially that which is described above. He claims that the former is gentler and subtler than the latter, though they can both reach the goal. This is said to be the path of Sankaracharya. It is inclusive and does not seek to dispute other philosophies or paths, but sees itself as the peak or pinnacle towards which all are striving.

A key realization of this school is that we are already the Self, and need only realize that and become aware of it. It is not something we need to find or experience, we simply need to relax and be it.

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Created February, 1998.
Last updated February 6, 2000.
© Alan McAllister

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