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Difference between Yoga and Tantra

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Ravinder Jalali

No discussion on meditation is complete without mentin of the Vigyan Bhairava Tantra. This is 5,000 years old ancient Indian book on meditation. Vigyan means science in Hindi. Bhairav is an ancient mythological God of Hindu religion and Tantra is mystical spritual path.
The very words Vigyan Bhairav Tantra means the technique of going beyond consciousness. Vigyana means consciousness, Bhairava means the state which is beyond consciousness, and Tantra means the method: the method of going beyond consciousness. In Vghan Bhairav Tantra , the Devi aks questions to Shiva. All the questions that Devi asks, Shiva is not going to answer at all. And still he answers! And really, only he has answered them and no one else – but on a different plane.
Shiva proposes one hundred and twelve methods. In the energy system of this body, we recognise 114 points where energies meet and redistribute themselves, a junction point. Out of 114 points two are outside physical system. These are all the methods possible. The techniques are given in form of a dialogue between Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati, who has been reffered in the process as Devi.
Tantra and yoga are basically different. They reach to the same goal; however, their paths are not only different, but contrary also. So this has to be understood very clearly. The yoga process is also methodology; yoga is also technique. Yoga is not philosophy, just like tantra – yoga depends on action, method, technique. Doing leads to being in yoga also, but the process is different. In yoga one has to fight; it is the path of the warrior. On the path of Tantra one does not have to fight at all. Rather, on the contrary, one has to indulge – but with awareness. Yoga is suppression with awareness; Tantra is indulgence with awareness. Tantra says that whatsoever you are, the ultimate is not opposite to it. It is a growth; you can grow to be the ultimate. There is no opposition between you and the reality. You are part of it, so no struggle, no conflict, no opposition to nature is needed. You have to use nature.
In yoga you have to fight with yourself to go beyond. In yoga, the world and Moksha, liberation – you as you are and you as you can be – are two opposite things. In the eyes of Tantra, yoga is a deep suicide. You must kill your natural self – your body, your instincts, your desires, everything. Tantra says accept yourself as you are. It is a deep acceptance. Do not create a gap between you and the real, between the world and Nirvana. There is no gap for tantra; no death is needed. For your rebirth, no death is needed – rather, a transcendence. For this transcendence, use yourself.
Yoga takes the opposite view – opposite to the ordinary mind. The ordinary mind is being destroyed by its own desires, so yoga says stop desiring, be desireless. Fight desire and create an integration in you which is desireless. Tantra says be aware of the desire; do not create any fight. Move in desire with full consciousness, and when you move into desire with full consciousness you transcend it. You are into it and still you are not in it. You pass through it, but you remain an outsider.
Yoga tries to systematise breathing. If you systematise your breathing your health will improve. If you systematise your breathing, if you know the secrets of breathing, your life will become longer; you will be more healthy and you will live longer. You will be more strong, more filled with energy, more vital, alive, young, fresh. But Tantra is not concerned with that. Tantra is concerned not with any systematisation of breath, but with using breath just as a technique to turn inward. One has not to practice a particular style of breathing, a particular system of breathing or a particular rhythm of breathing – no! One has to take breathing as it is. One has just to become aware of certain points in the breathing.
Yoga is negation; Tantra is affirmation. Yoga thinks in terms of duality – that is the reason for the word ‘yoga’. It means to put two things together, to ‘yoke’ two things together. But two things are there; the duality is there. Tantra says there is no duality. If there is duality, then you cannot put them together. And howsoever you try they will remain two. If the world and the divine are two, then they cannot be put together. If really they are not two, if they are only appearing as two, only then can they be one. If your body and your soul are two, then they cannot be put together. If you and God are two, then there is no possibility of putting them together. They will remain two.
Tantra says that these same energies are to be transformed. It can be said in this way: if you are against the world, then there is no Nirvana – because this world itself is to be transformed into Nirvana. Then you are against the basic energies which are the source. These are two paths, yoga and Tantra. Tantra could not be so appealing because of our crippled minds. But whenever there is someone who is healthy inside, not a chaos, Tantra has a beauty. Only he can understand what Tantra is. Yoga has appeal, an easy appeal, because of our disturbed minds.
Remember, it is ultimately your mind which makes anything attractive or unattractive. It is you who is the deciding factor. These approaches are different. I am not saying that one cannot reach through yoga. One can reach through yoga also, but not through the yoga which is prevalent. The yoga which is prevalent is not really yoga, but the interpretation of your diseased minds. Yoga can be authentically an approach towards the ultimate, but that too is only possible when your mind is healthy, when your mind is not diseased and ill. Then yoga takes a different shape.
There are two types of persons basically, male and female. I do not mean biologically, but psychologically. For those who are psychologically basically male – aggressive, violent, extrovert – yoga is their path. For those who are basically feminine, receptive, passive, non-violent, Tantra is their path. So you may note it: for tantra, Mother Kali, Tara, and so many Devis, Bhairavis – female deities – are very significant. In yoga you will never hear mentioned any name of a feminine deity. Tantra has feminine deities; yoga has male gods. Yoga is outgoing energy; Tantra is energy moving inwards. So you can say in modern psychological terms that yoga is extrovert and Tantra is introvert. So it depends on the personality. If you have an introverted personality, then fight is not for you. If you have an extroverted personality, then fight is for you.

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