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Agamas and Tantra an Introduction Since the dawn of Hindu civilization Hindu mind has been making assiduous

efforts in finding various means for the attainment of SreyaH (Spiritual greatness) and PreyaH (Wordly prosperity).It had been concluded that SreyaH is not attainable without unification with the highest Reality as forming the causeless cause of the universe. For this approach is advised of the two possible aspects of the highest Reality -- unqualified and qualified. The unqualified is very very difficult to be accessed by the man. The qualified has reference either to the male conception or the female.It is ,therefore, that the highest Reality is described in the sacred texts whether Agamas or Tantras as a personal God or Goddess always engaged in creating,sustaining and dissolving the world, both admitting their affiliation more or less with the Vedas. The Agamas include the Tantras, Mantras and Yantras. These are treatises explaining the external worship of God, in idols, temples, etc. All the Agamas treat of (i) Jnana or Knowledge, (ii) Yoga or Concentration, (iii) Kriya or Esoteric Ritual and (iv) Charya or Exoteric Worship. They also give elaborate details about ontology and cosmology, liberation, devotion, meditation, philosophy of Mantras, mystic diagrams(Yanthraas), charms and spells, temple-building, image-making, domestic observances, social rules, public festivals, etc. The Agamas are divided into three sections: The Vaishnava, the Saiva and the Sakta. The Vaishnava Agamas or Pancharatra Agamas glorify God as Vishnu. The Vaishnava Agamas are of four kinds: the Vaikhanasa, Pancharatra, Pratishthasara and Vijnanalalita. Vishnu is the Supreme Lord in the Pancharatra Agamas. The Saiva Agamas glorify God as Siva and have given rise to an important school of philosophy known as Saiva-Siddhanta, which prevails in South India. The Sakta Agamas or Tantras glorify God as the Mother of the Universe,under one of the many names of Devi. They dwell on the Sakti (energy) aspect of God and prescribe numerous courses of ritualistic worship of the Divine Mother in various forms. There are seventy-seven Agamas (this number may differ as per description of some scholars.Adi Sankara in Saundarya Lahari Sloka 31 has given the number as 64 ). These are very much like the Puranas in some respects. The texts are usually in the form of dialogues between Siva and Parvati. In some of these, Siva answers the questions put by Parvati, and in others, Parvati answers, Siva questioning. Mahanirvana,Kularnava, Kulasara, Prapanchasara, Tantraraja, Rudra-Yamala, Brahma-Yamala, Vishnu-Yamala and Todala Tantra are the important works. The Agamas teach several occult practices some of which confer powers, while the others bestow knowledge and freedom. Sakti is the creative power of Lord Siva. The Agamas do not derive their authority from the Vedas, but are not antagonistic to them. They are all Vedic in spirit and character. That is the reason why they are regarded as authoritative.
Further many of us know that there are two schools of thanthra, the left-handed path(Vaama maargha) and the right-handed path(Dakshina maargha), depending on the nature of the practices. However, these two are actually divisions within one school, that of Kaula thanthra. The other two are the miSra and samaya schools of thanthra. All systems or methods of thanthra fall into one of these three schools.

The Kaula thanthra school utilizes external practices and rituals, while the samaya school is completely an internal process. The miSra thanthra school mixes the external practices and rituals, along with internal practices. Thanthra believe in purification of the body, breath, mind, and samskaras, which are the driving force behind karma. The purifying process is called bhoothaShudDhi, which means purifying of the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space in the various ways in which they manifest. Thanthra also practice methods for awakening the spiritual energy of kundalini. Samaya school of thanthra is higher than both the Kaula thanthra and miShra thanthra . The word samaya literally means "I am with you". Samaya thanthra practices Sri Vidya, the mother of all the vidyas. Kaulachaara is prohibited because of use of panchmakaaras for Brahmins.In samayachaara the spiritual meaning of panchmakara is taken instead of using them in real form which has brought disrepute to the thanthras as a whole. We can further describe it that the followers of Samaya system or those who believe in the sameness (saamya) of the Sakthi and Siva, and the Kaulas or those who worship the Kaulini, the sleeping Kundalini, i.e., the Sakthi, which resides in the MulaaDhaara, which is known as the Kula-plexus. The former believe in the rousing or awakening of the above Kundalini, the grossest form of Chith, and its being worked up in successive stages, by upaasana, thapas and mantra-japa, through the six chakras, which are the centres of energy, on to the thousand-petalled lotus, wherein abide the sath and the chith, and where the unification of the Jivatman with the Paramaatman is to be effected. This form of worship is therefore exclusively internal. The Kaulas, on the other hand, worship the Kundalini, even without rousing her from sleep and are satisfied with the attainment and enjoyment of purely temporal objects, believing, at the same time, that, with the rousing of the Kundalini, they attain liberation. This form of worship is therefore mainly external.

The mode of construction of the Srichakra of the Samayins is the Srstikrama and of Kaulas is samhaarakrama. The Samayins also have works exclusively relating to their Achaara, known as the Subhagama-panchaka or the five Samhithas attributed to the sages VaSisTha, sanaka, Suka, sanandana and sanathkumara.

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