In my previous post I discussed
about the Schools of Tantra. This post will further dive into the two major
paths of Kaula School of Tantra in Shakta tradition. Most tantra practitioner start their
practice in Kaula School, in which a teacher
first initiates a student. It is easier to identify practices with external objects. Once
a student continues to grow in the practice, teacher helps a student to guide a student based on their nature to either Samaya or Mishra school of Tantra. So, without going into details for these practices,
here are some major or distinct differences between the two groups of Kaula
Tantra- known as left hand and right-hand paths.
Two Paths of Kaula
1. Left-hand path (Vama Marg): This is
non-orthodox path, there is no distinction between pure and impure. Thus, this path
is not for everyone, variety of special rituals which is not attractive or
accessible to common people, as it may appear to be against the acceptable
norms or ethics of society. The ritual named – “Panchamakara” emphasizes on
using wine, meat, fish, mudras and sexual intercourse (maithuna) for
transcendence. Out of all other ritual practices, the sexual union ritual is unfortunately well known and famous with the word of tantra today. So, it is important to state the
fact that Tantric sex practice is part
of left hand Kaula practice only. Sexual
practices of tantra is also known as Red tantra (subset of left hand tantra). All these practitioners strive to attain
siddhis or spiritual powers by all possible means, they even dare to take
practices of any kind, including forbidden ones. If a practitioner utilizes
his/her Shiddhi or power for negative or wrong purposes, they are called black
magic or Black tantra. Use of such power
for wrong purposes are called forbidden practices because it is against the law
This path is also called path of ecstasy, which emphasizes more on fulfilling the body desires first - enjoyment (bhoga) and accomplishment (bhukti) than freedom and liberation (mukti). This practitioner of this path requires great courage, thus is also known as path of warriors.
Teachers of Left-Handed Path is very very rare to find, as they never come
out openly to teach anyone interested in it, rather they look for right
student who can really have strength to practice this knowledge
successfully. Only very few can truly walk on this razor-sharp path
which contains lots of pitfalls (as you can easily fall in the trap of
enjoying sexual pleasure or other powers than experiencing the
enlightenment and freedom), but if someone committed to this path with
right teacher it promises to take less time to reach the goal.
Handed Path (Dakshina Marga): These practices are more orthodox in nature.
It focuses on the practices of mantra, yantra, mandala for
meditation. It also includes worship of deities, pilgrimages to sacred sites, use of fire, metal and herbs. The practices may be elaborate and sometime complicated. It is also referred as White
tantra, as there is more emphasis on purity. In the rituals and worship only “pure” objects are used.
This group emphasizes more on austerities and condemn the use of liquor, meat,
fish and sexual union. Strive to attain siddhis by propitiating the sattvic
form of the divinity. In general, it encourages only those practices that do
not violate the principles of “purity” and conventional morality.
This path is said to be path of integration and peace, which more emphasizes on freedom and liberation (mukti) than enjoyment (bhoga) and accomplishment (bhukti). The practitioner of this path requires great devotion and dedication; thus, it is called path of devotees.
Right-Hand path practices are safer, done in progressive order and with
moderation, practices are fairly acceptable in most of the society. Though, it is hard to
find a good right-hand path Tantra teacher, but comparatively with
left-hand path, some good teachers are visible and available around the
world to guide you to this path.
Note: Technically, left-hand and right-hand path differentiation only exists in Kaula School, as Samaya and Mishra Schools do not use left-hand practices. Thus, for simplicity the Samaya and Mishra schools are categorized as advance level of right-hand path.