As time passed the tantrics developed so many techniques that it became almost impossible to study and teach. So, they categorized them in a progressive order as a journey of a student from gross to subtle, from the external to the internal realm. Using this simple reason, they divided into three distinct schools of thought, one school uses external objects, while another one purely uses internal & meditative practices, and the third employs both. The following are the main schools of tantra.
Kaula – Kaula word comes from word - Kula, which means family (of shakti). These practices consist of external worldly objects and rituals. Most practitioner start their tantric practices here as it is easy to relate to external objects. Thus, it includes - use of yantra & mandala for meditation, rituals, worship of deities, use of minerals and herbs. The focus of these practices is geared towards having control over the lower desires and physical needs of the body, so in other words it emphasizes on emotional and devotional components. Thus, the practices are more focused towards first three chakras, starting from root (muladhara) chakra. Goal of this School is to have worldly enjoyment (Bhoga), accomplishment (Bhukti) and spiritual freedom (Moksha). This school of tantra was further divided into two groups based on nature of practice. This will be discussed in another post.
Samaya – Samaya means one with divine (mother). This is considered final and highest school of tantra. Here internal practices are more emphasized, purely yogic practices including body, breath, mind and spirit. Hatha Yoga practices and meditations focusing on Sahasrara Chakra are part of this school. But, these meditations are only done after Kundalini is awakened. There are no external objects and rituals are used in this practice. Human body is viewed as a Yantra and practiced accordingly. The practitioners gradually moved beyond the worldly pleasure (bhoga) and accomplishment (bhukti) with regular practice. This highest goal of this School is to attain Moksha (spiritual freedom).
Mishra – Mishra means mixed, where external and internal practices come together. Means this school uses some practices of Kaula and Samaya School. Thus, both external and internal (mental) worships are performed. These practices now get geared towards the heart center, visualizing Kundalini Shakti to fully awake. No left-hand path of Kaula Tantra is practiced here, but the right-hand path of Kaula practices moves to next level, in which Yantras are now drawn on the palm or simply visualized it in the heart center, thus gradually removing the complete dependency on external objects. Goals of this School of Tantra is to attain both Bhoga (worldly enjoyment) and Moksha (spiritual freedom) with more emphasis on Moksha. By combining the two, this school is said to be more practical path, which most people commonly practice today.