By Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri)
Q: You have written that Tantra is dangerous, having seen half a century of people harmed by it. Could you expand on this? Why is it dangerous? Which practices for example are dangerous? How was it harmful in your observation?
The “path of power” is always dangerous, whether yogic or occult/esoteric. Our nature is consciousness, not shakti, and obsession with and cultivation of shakti leads to delusion.
But the ego, being energy itself, naturally loves it because it will increase the ego and eclipse the Self whose realization puts an end to our involvement in prakriti and the various worlds formed of it. One former Christian (Franciscan) monk who had become deeply involved in a tantric/occult tradition told me: “I feel like I am dying inside.” And he was. There was no way to help him because he was deeply enmeshed in his self-disintegration. It pleased his ego.
The difference between Yoga and Tantra
Tantra is not Yoga, though of course it seems to be so since they appear to have elements in common. But they are opposites, for Tantra is involved with shakti and Yoga deals with consciousness (chaitanya) alone. For example, they both work with mantra and breath. But the mantras and the breath modes are completely different because they do not at all have the same purpose. They are two different paths and do not lead to the same result.
It is the nature of Tantra to alter the configurations of the subtle bodies and the mind rather than to resolve the awareness into Self-awareness. Oh, of course tantrics talk about realization, but it is only talk. Sincerity on their part in no way protects them from the harm they inflict on themselves ignorantly.
Just as there are drugs that so distort the mind that the addict is not even aware of the distortions until the drug wears off, so tantric practices do the same. I have met people who lived on the edge of mental collapse from the practices given them by a tantric guru. (Suicide is not unknown among such people.)
A very good friend of mine in India came to believe that God hated her. I explained that her tantric sadhana was the cause of this aberration and I am glad to say that she had enough mind left to realize I was telling her the truth. So she stopped and returned to the authentic (and unspectacular) sadhana she had known before coming under the influence of the tantric guru. She recovered completely. Other disciples of the same guru refused to even look honestly at their situation and became increasingly mentally disturbed.
A family I knew was overwhelmed with illness, emotional imbalance and material misfortune. The source was a relative who was hiring a Tantric to destroy that family. I explained this to them, even telling them some of the tantric rituals being worked against them. But they were disciples of a guru who was tainted with tantric attitudes and acceptance of “right-hand” practices who told them to ignore me. So they did, and the last I saw of them they were living in constant fear and confusion.
Tantric attacks on Anandamayi Ma
Many people thought that Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, were in power through the influence of Anandamayi Ma. Ma had given Indira a rudraksha mala, and I was amazed one day to see a political cartoon of Indira where she was leaping from stone to stone in a river while holding on to the rudraksha mala around her neck. The idea of the cartoon was that through Ma’s power residing in the mala she was able to keep avoiding political upset.
The result was that many tantrics were engaged to kill Ma Anandamayi. Their rituals went on day and night, as Ma herself revealed. One day while Ma was conversing with Brahmacharini Udas, and she opened her hand and showed Udasji a deep cut that had just appeared on the palm of her hand. She explained that the tantric rituals had produced that. After a bit it was gone.
What I witnessed myself
Now my own observation. One morning in Brindaban I saw a wolfish-looking man with long hair and upper cloth and dhoti, the attire of a very traditional Indian religious person, come into the satsang where he sat opposite Ma and never took his eyes away from her.
That afternoon one of the devotees who usually travelled with Ma came to me in agitation. She told me that when the ashramites left Ma to rest after the noon meal they had forgotten to lock the door. When one of them returned to unlock it and go in to Ma, they found the door open and inside the room the man I had noticed was sitting performing various tantric hand gestures and intoning tantric curse mantras. Ma was sitting there calmly watching all this with great interest, for it was her habit to never reject anyone or anything, even if negative.
“We are so worried,” my friend concluded, “because the cursing may work since Ma accepts whatever comes and never defends herself.” Her apprehension was correct. The next day no one could see Ma because she was quite seriously ill. Things got progressively worse and in a few days we learned she was being taken far away to a small ashram in Gujarat. We immediately got reservations on the same train. As we were waiting at the station, some of Ma’s devotees came in carrying Ma on a stretcher which they put down on the platform. Ma appeared completely unconscious, and frankly looked dead.
As we stood there, Mr. Wolf himself came brazenly swaggering in and stood there looking at Ma very intently, obviously estimating the effects of his work. When we arrived at the ashram each one who had come there set about doing what we could to offset the evil force, because Ma was evidently not going to. Japa, meditation and worship and singing of God’s Name went on continually, but only individually, not in a group.
Fortunately I had brought with me some holy amulets which protect against and repel evil energies and spirits. I gave one to Swami Bhaskarananda and explained its character and use. Swamiji immediately went and got a new sacred thread (yajnopavita) and tied it to the amulet and hung it by Ma’s cot where she was lying. Each day Ma got better, and each day I saw the amulet hanging there near her. Finally Ma was completely recovered. But I did not forget this experience.
Actually my first experience with a tantric took place at an ashram on the bank of the Ganges in the holy city of Hardwar. The ashram consisted of twenty or so kutirs (small cottages), and I was living in one. Every night when the sun went down I would feel an eerie and negative atmosphere pervade the ashram.
After a few days an American yogi came to stay in one of the kutirs and we began meditating together daily and occasionally singing kirtan. In a week or so the manager of the ashram who lived in Delhi came to stay for a few days. He came to see me, having made arrangements for me to stay there at Ma Anandamayi’s direction.
“There seems to be some disturbance here,” he told me. “The sadhu in the kutir next to you has complained vigorously to me that you and your friend are upsetting his routine. ‘Day and night they are over there shouting and making a racket and I get no peace at all!’ he told me.” This was surprising to me, since of course we certainly were not shouting at any time, and when we were going to do kirtan we would close the windows and doors just so no one would hear us and be disturbed.
When I told him this, he gently laughed and replied: “You see, he is a tantric. He has lived here for some years intent on raising his kundalini.” Then he told me a bit more about the man and concluded, “Go on doing whatever you are doing. You are not making a disturbance, I know. That is his problem.”
During my next trip to India Ma recommended that I stay at that ashram again with some others who had come to India with me. So we did. But there was definite negative psychic atmosphere, and when we went down to Delhi for a day or so we visited a saint I had become acquainted with during my first trip to India. I told her about the situation at the ashram and she sat for a while with closed eyes. Then she said: “A Tantric is at the heart of this. He is living in the kutir just next to yours and he is upset by all of you doing meditation.” And she told us how to counteract any negativity on his part.
When we returned I made inquiry and found it was the same Tantric who was there five years previously. We did what the saint told us and everything went smoothly and the negative atmosphere was dispelled. And the Tantric remained silent and invisible.
Another tantric disturance
Quite some years later I stayed at an ashram in the plains which was quite pleasant and peaceful during the day, but at night became gloomy and disturbing. Others who stayed there told me of the same experience. They, like myself and my friends, would not go out of their room alone after the sun set, there was such a threatening feeling in the air. The reason was that a Tantric was staying in a room right next to us. He was a very mild and, I am sure, sincere man. But daily for hours he was reciting Tantric texts and mantras which attracted negative spirits and energies.
So evil intent is not necessary for Tantric practices to produce negative results.
Experience, not theory
As you see, my ideas about Tantra are not theoretical. And these are but a few instances I have had myself or heard about.
I know there is what is called Right-hand Tantra and Left-hand Tantra, but the distinction is deceptive. Being obsessed with power and control, eventually both end up in the same swamp. Those who start out on the right hand drift toward the left, not realizing what is happening.
All Tantra is dangerous. My sannyasa guru, a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, was a great yogi and possessed all the yoga powers. He would not allow Tantra to be named in his ashram, much less discussed. Bengal is the home of Tantra and no one is unaware of its character.
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