Durga – The Fractal Icon – Part II

Continuing our discussions on the Tantric pithas of worship, strewn around this subcontinent, we need to take our journey far away in time as well in geography. The emergence of the cult, practice, philosophy of Tantric world-view takes us to the faint world of pre-history and the light and shade that it sheds on the relatively more illumined memory called historie propre`. The landmass of India has seen cultural and military osmosis from its all boundaries, if we make the historical time-window sufficiently broader and wider. In recent years the most notable being the northwest frontier but researches suggest that coastal south might have witnessed Sumerian Landing much before the Northwest passes became an active channel of commerce, people and ideas. The son of the soil and the lie of the land are interwoven in the cultural psyche and if child is the father of man, collective memory is the father of mother/father (land) itself. The great question of Aryan invasion/infiltration/colonization and the cultural cross-comparison leaves us one undeniable fact that every new stream of ideas in this land encountered not a barren field but a field that had already seen growth and development of ideas. However, this conclusion is a trivial fact but overlooking this trivial fact sometimes gives rise to error in initial condition and as we diverge from the epicenter, the periphery of error increases. We will convince ourselves at this point that every instant of India’s past, every foreign element found something lying in front, however about its true nature, both parties were ignorant to the same extent.  Because of the type of a past where growth has never been discontinuous but in a segmented way, Indian National Movement some thousands years later encountered the problematic of what is meant by the Indian Nation. This type of finding in historical analysis is common as events of thousand years apart might be more strikingly co-related in cause-effect domain than events separated by lesser time span.  In entering into the human side of Tantra and its practices, we need to be consciously aware of this basic fact of development. Like any religious school or spiritual discipline, Tantra has some aspect, which is outside the scope of history, but at the same time, the interpretation of that essence which is outside the scope of history is always a human enterprise.

            Tantra literally means – Rules or Protocols. It is more resonant with the sense protocol is used in our contemporary Internetworking, which is also a complex system in its own.  If it is not a sacrilege, we will find more parallel with Tantric modeling and present modeling of complex systems.  The motivation behind defining and codifying any rule underlies a conscious, unconscious or conditioned desire for some specific state of achievement. In Tantra, the specific state is to achieve a state of Being, an inner journey to understand the relationship of an individual with the cosmic state of Being. The unique aspect of Tantric discipline is that the rules are more organic than mental, more humane than perfect, more flexible to incorporate different temperaments and attitude and hence less rigorous. The last point has earned it a larger acceptance and at the same time ensured its direction of metamorphosis that is loosening of its inner structure and exploitation. However, like all human creation having that seed of potent regeneration, Tantra has always been revived by direct living commentaries and being organically rich, it never failed to attract curiosity of scholars and common man alike.  In addition, Tantric cults can be truly said to be a Pan-Indian cult, including Tibet, Nepal, Ceylon, and Far East and in the West, its germs are spread in all ancient civilizations, notable being the Fertility Cult. Tantra’s interpretation of the relationship between man and woman remains one of the most creative interpretations of all time and also shows a hierarchical structure embedded in it. We will come to its core in due course. But at this moment, we have to note the fact that Tantra has touched and got nourishment from the clashing of Aryan and non-Aryan, has become a part of Buddhism, interacted with other cults and during all historical ages never lost the magnetism of attracting the very highest as well as the most profligate of mankind. Just like a war witnesses highest level of selflessness as well as the most abject profligacy, Tantra contributed both to the Civilization at varying degrees because finally, all said and done, the essence of Tantra is also a battleground where the body is the battlefield, the outcome lying outside it and the actual battle – a very complex system, just like our existence is.   

            Tantrics, without the general cosmetic imagery that comes to our mind (with ochre-red clothes and inebriated eyes and speech, equally reddish and voluptuous companion in the form of a young woman, surrounded by skulls, bones and carnivorous – domestic or wild, manipulator of darker forces, capable of causing psycho-material harm and other local variation) are the greatest practicing Romantics, not only on mental plane but on possible planes.  Tantra declared to a surprised world-audience that in this temporal body of flesh, bone, bile and blood are processes which are reflections of cosmic undercurrents in a micro-scopic level and that’s why all bodily activities are holy and needs to be studied. Human body and its biological urges are not a prison that condemn us but raise us to understand them better. Sex is not some sin that has to be borne in silence and silently but is that aspect of existence where the cosmos is trying to express itself through each one of us in its Creative Formlessness.  Religion is a practical theory and without direct individual experience, all are hearsay.  Everybody is a born animal (pashu), the by struggle we become a warrior (Vir) and then at the culmination, we become Shiva – the ultimate designation. And in this process of identification as Shiva, there is the concept of shakthi (Just like quantum physicists call quanta in explaining material energy transfer ) and hence establishing the immutable duality of Existence. Tantra, in this classification totally disregards all barriers of caste just like Bhakti movement made everyone a bhakta first and everything after.  Now, shakthi part of Tantric schools have a deep and significant clash with conventional morality as it touches three aspects – Sex, Property and Succession that has always been the pillars of an organized society.

We are going to enter into the modeling aspect of Tantra, which in addition of being highly poetic and symbolic reconnects us to the contemporary knowledge that in modeling a complex system, chaos, layered development and combinational explosion are essentials. If we can unwind the esoteric and individualistic additions, what surfaces is a scientific, learning-ready and durable model that can grow and embrace new developments and directions. We will enter into that very interesting arena now, where the amphitheatre is filled up with the animals of senses, the masked warriors of half-knowledge and dilemmas, the sky reflects a hope and benediction that something lies beyond, the crowd is that fatal inner crowd whose cry of hope and despair both needs to be absorbed within and the Matador – that lone man which is each one of Us.  Tantra dramatically opens this scene in front of us and without going into educating the external sight first concentrates on the warrior – of what stuff it is made up of and comes the first model – The Chakras. 

The Chakras are conceptual Energy centers located at different parts of the body starting at the end of Vertebrata and ending at the Brain. This is a path with nodes at each of these points. Each node is associated with specific characteristics and as a symbol; differently colored and mult-petalled Lotus flower designates it. Apart from this imagery, what is striking is that Tantra says that we are already born with all the Chakras and the discipline of Tantra makes them manifest the appropriate properties. In this journey from the lowest level of consciousness to the highest level, the journey starts at the lowest rung of evolution and gradually traverses different border-zones of matter and subtler matter, mind, subtle-mind, consciousness and then to Super-Consciousness, using our known and intimate body as a frame, hung as a mortal cloud in the vast Existential Sky.  In such a modeling of node and path, the question is what is the traffic? The traffic in this path is Energy and at the lowest level it is bio-energy and as this energy ascends, it gets refined, subtler and at the final center, it attains the highest possible refinement and becomes One with the Existential Sky – the Samadhi. This Energy movement is called kundalini and literally means coiled-up, like a spring or a serpent coiled up. The metaphor has other significance. A coiled-up body is a stored energy and at the final center, this coiled up energy is released and this transformation gives Universal Kinetics – the bound energy is set free. The River falls into the Ocean. The Great Merging. In this model, we observe six modeling blocks:

  1. 1.      Nodal Arrangement and Path.
  2. 2.      A hierarchical Development.
  3. 3.      Possibilities of infinite intermediate States of the Traffic in between those nodes.
  4. 4.      Each of the nodes is directly connected to two nodes except the first and the last and thus making point origin and point destination.
  5. 5.      No assumption about Time is stated.
  6. 6.      An Open System with all possible choices remaining open.


The Creative part of this model is that it presupposes the principle of Conservation of Energy and this makes it radical in a sense that all Perfection is already manifest in us. In this model, the lower energy centers have been designated as the center of bio-energy which are nothing but the sex-centres and are more or less known to us. Higher attributes of mind and psyche are in progressively higher up centres. So Tantra takes sex very seriously, in theory as well as in practice that it makes it holy and declares that sexual union is also a layered phenomenon – where two energies of slightly varying types are meeting together and in this there always remains a possibility of merging of other centres because of their fundamental interconnection.  Sex is not only a mechanical way of reproduction with a dividend of pleasure but a tremendously involved phenomenon, whose seriousness is as much as understanding our source and destination.  Here again, Tantra started from something quite known and within the range of experience of common man – sexual union and sexual pleasure. The Chakras are the destinations and by conscious effort we can attain those destinations, starting with the only energy whose pulsations we can feel most intensely and most authentically and also statistically – sex and sexual pleasure. The Opposite sex, then automatically becomes a partner in exploring rather than a tool to exploit. Once it is realized, a tremendous mutual respect comes and so much so that the Man is Shiva and the woman is Shakthi, both are like mirrors held up by Existence to each other.  Every sexual union then finally becomes a play of Energy, every sexual union is a potential act of understanding better the great Energy reservoir on which we are submerged and whose resources we carry like a spoon can hold a ocean by getting filled up by the ocean water.

In BOOK III, we will venture into actual practices of Tantra, the place of shakthi in its practice with references to a remarkable book where a curious man visits Tantrics in India and learns about their methodologies and idiosyncrasies.