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Tantrism: origins and historical notes

In 3000-1000 BC there existed in the valley of the Hindus a people of matriarchal culture, the Harappei, who had a real culture of pleasure: each house had, in the living room, a large bed, called the landlady; it was taller than the other beds and the woman celebrated the act of love with the man she chose while all the other men, children, servants, friends passed by, because the living room was right at the entrance to the house.
Tantra finds its historical and cultural roots right within this society, where sexuality was conscious and healthy. Tantra is the discipline of conscious sexuality in which sexual energy pervades the meditative states, focusing on the nuclei of man and woman, and giving that charge that makes love and meditation so strong. For this reason his techniques were soon adopted by Indian yogis in Kundalini Yoga and by Tibetan Buddhists in Vajrayana.


The term Tantra (properly "weft of a fabric") means doctrinal book and the Tantras are a series of sacred books, of extravedic origin but somehow connected to the Vedas, elaborated by numerous authors, many of whom are unknown, over a period of time which goes from the first centuries of the Common Era to almost the present day.
The relationships between Tantra and Veda are extremely complex and the followers of Tantrism are often accused of heterodoxy by the supporters of the Vedic-Brahmanic system (Brahmanism, Hinduism), even if the Tantras and the Vedas have several factors in common, such as the symbolism of the language. and the internalization of sacrifice as it emerged in the Upanishads.
Furthermore, some Vedic ritual practices continued in Tantra, such as the use of certain utensils and certain sacred formulas. Although the Vedas contain some elements that reappear later in the Tantric sources, the Tantras originate in ancient traditions, not systematized, yogic, magical, astrological, erotic-religious and ritualistic coming from an archaic culture typical of the indigenous populations with an agricultural economy pre-existing to the arrival of the Arii and contrary to Vedic pastoralism. Such peoples worshiped the Great Mother and had fertility cults and ritualized sexual practices. The origin of Tantrism is connected to that of Shaktism and must be identified in the most ancient Tantric texts which are distinguished in: Hindu Tantra, existing from the 5th century AD (Samhita visnuite of the "Pancaratra" and Agama Shivaiti school), and Buddhist Tantras, datable starting from the III century AD, even if the Tibetan tradition places them at the beginning of the VII century AD


Some Shivaite Tantras were revered sources of inspiration for Abhinavagupta (11th century AD) and other authors of the Kashmira school. They are of a mystical-philosophical character and are distinguished from the Agamas and the Samhitas, mainly of a ritualistic-disciplinary type for common worship. The development of Tantrism, especially Buddhist, seems to have received strong impulses from the royal patronage both in India and in Tibet. In turn, Buddhist patronage served as an indirect stimulus for the schools of Hindu Tantrism. Around the tenth century AD, the development in schools, of Tantric doctrines and rituals was maximum, as well as the fusion between the religious cultures of the Hindu tradition and the elements of Tantrism. From this period, Tantrism is regularly attested by numerous sources. Among the most famous temples for the worship of Tantric deities in India, the Vaital Deul (8th century AD), the Varahi (10th century AD), both in Orissa, and the Yogini Temple of Bheraghat (10th century AD). The iconography of these and other centers of worship is of great interest and testifies to the fashion, in vogue at the time and not limited to Tantrism, of erotic sculptures.

A renewed interest in Tantrism manifests itself towards the end of the 18th century, while in previous eras it had had to fight against rival religious movements such as the Vishnu revival of the 15th century, which in turn gave rise to a particular form of Tantrism called "Sahajiva. ", today followed by the Baul community. The most important modern thinker influenced by Tantrism was Aurobindo Ghose and famous names in the world of Indian intellectuals appear among his living tantric gurus.


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