In my previous post, I discussed the Schools of Tantra. This post will further dive into the two major paths of Kaula School of Tantra in Shakta tradition. Most tantra practitioners 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, the 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, a variety of special rituals which is not attractive or accessible to common people, as it may appear to be against the accepted norms or ethics of society. The ritual named – “Panchamakara” emphasizes on using wine, meat, fish, parched grain 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 (a 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 Siddhi or power for negative or wrong purposes, they are called black magic or Black tantra. The use of such power for wrong purposes are called forbidden practices because it is against the law of nature.
This path is also called the 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 it is also known as the 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 the 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 the right teacher, promises to take less time to reach the goal.
2. Right 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 sometimes complicated. It is also referred to 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 condemns 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 the 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 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 advanced levels of the right-hand path.