Tantra and Yoga: A Short History

by Acarya Gunamuktananda Avadhuta

Tantra literally means “that which liberates the mind from dullness by expansion.” Although the word has often been misinterpreted, its real spirit implies the system of life which expands the mind from crudeness to the attainment of the Supreme Stance.

Yoga means “to unify” (hence the English word “yoke”). To mix sugar and sand means to unite the two. But it is more than that. True unification is like mixing sugar and water: the two become one. Samyoga Yoga Ityaktoh Jiivatman Paramatmanah (Yoga is the unification of the unit consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness).

Therefore Tantra and Yoga essentially have the same meaning, because expansion leads to unification, and for unification there must be expansion.

“Tantra is sadhana and sadhana is Tantra.”

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti

Since the beginning of human civilization, people have aspired toward spiritual fulfillment. It is this yearning for supreme expansion that eventually led to the techniques of Tantra. They were originally systematized by Lord Shiva 7000 years ago. He also taught the system of marriage, medicine, music, dance and science. So right from the beginning the practical philosophy of Tantra was not limited only to spiritual practices, but pervaded all fields of life.

Over time, the original systematization of Tantra was distorted, and some aspects were misunderstood or lost. An attempt was made by Patainjali about 2100 years ago to reclassify the techniques – into what he called Astaunga (“eight-limbed”) Yoga. Swami Vivekananda more recently called it Raja Yoga (“the yoga of kings”), implying that the yogi never feels subjugated by anyone.

Ananda Marga sadhana, however, is Rajadhiraja Yoga (“the yoga of the king of kings”). It was first named as such by the sage Astavakra over 2000 years ago. Shrii Shrii Anandamurti gave the present-day form on the framework of Patainjali’s eight-limbed structure, but included techniques of the original system which were lost or overlooked, clarified and corrected misinterpretations, and introduced new practices which bring the whole system into relevancy for modern-day life and human psychology. All the techniques have been amalgamated into the Sixteen Points of Ananda Marga spiritual practice, for the development of the individual and society as a whole.

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