Tantra is a practical science. I see many books and posts these days with many flowery descriptions of what tantra is. I see much talk and debate and discussion of what it means to be liberated, what the good of this or that mantra is. Phds and "experts" discuss the tantra. The debates and the mental gymnastics go on endlessly. To me, this is information that goes down like junk food. Tastes ok going down and hurts on the way out.
The fact is, tantra can only be realized through practice. For this, initiation is required. I have my own opinions about how initiation can come about but ultimately to debate the "correct" way for this to happen is also to fall into the mental junk food trap. But initiation is definitely required. For those who read the instructions and the texts that describe what occurs beyond initiation is just to engage in elaborate mental play. It is theoretical and as different from the actuality as the map is to the territory that represents it. Contemplate truly how different the map is from the territory. Imagine that map to be of a foreign landscape. Can we truly imagine what it is really like? Remember a trip that you took to a far off distant land. Remember how you felt the place would look like before, and how it actually looked when you got there. Were they the same? Probably not even close. Thus, to attempt to describe these later places to those who do not put in the practice is like giving calculus to those who do not have basic math. It might seem like I am being harsh or critical and I am in a certain way because I feel that there is serious misunderstanding and false assumptions that are occurring when information is given out like this. Because the practice of tantra is quite unlike many other disciplines. It is like the unlocking of a zip file that is downloaded directly into you by the shakti of the Guru. Tantra is an initiatory tradition.
I am proposing in these series of articles on the tantra to truly focus on the practical side of things. Theory can support or help only so far with this work. To truly understand the work, practice of the techniques has to be done. "Armchair" tantra is next to pointless and only leads to the gilded cage.
In the Sri Vidya tantra, one can explore stotrams such as Lalitha Sahasranama and Khadga Mala or the many others before beginning initiation to get a sense of whether or not one feels a certain connection to this particular path of Goddess based tantra. I did this for over 2 years before my initiation and began to feel the irresistible pull towards initiation until I was drawn like a moth to the flame of my Guru's light. So one at a certain point will decide (or it may seem like you don't have a decision) to dive into the power of the initiation.
Every tradition is slightly different and of course there are differences between Gurus, even of the same lineages. To say tantra is all the same is a bit of a gross oversimplification. Basic principles are the same but there can be some vast differences. For example, one Guru in my tradition makes the students forgo the eating of meat. When I asked my Guru about it, he told me it didn't matter. Some Gurus will attempt to control the student. Others, like my own Guru, give nothing but absolute freedom of will. My recommendation would be to find one like the latter.
When a Guru asserts control over the student's will, there is a big problem. There is a limitation of the divine expression, which is necessary to flow forward in this very path of tantra. Tantra is ever expansion. It is freedom. It is divine movement. This is inhibited when the Guru's ego comes in to take over the disciples. I have seen nasty propagation down the lineage lines affect students in the same way. And sometimes, students cannot handle the intense freedom that is given by the Guru and the student goes back to a mode of contraction and control. Why is it so many of us actually want to be bound?
So having found the Guru, having found the initation, practice must be undertaken according to the instructions and the lineage. At this point, something starts to really come alive inside the individual. I say this from experience. The vidyas themselves begin to reveal things. Reality itself begins to "talk" to you. You begin to have a true dialogue with God. There is no point in debate at this point because the conversation that God has with each individual is very unique. Truth is not necessarily going to look or feel the same with different individuals. Why debate this point?
So to reiterate, I am writing these series of articles to elaborate and discuss the practices of tantra. Initiation is required. How you get that is up to you. Otherwise it is just eye candy or food that doesn't digest properly. I have been inquiring with myself and my Guru about the possibility of Self-initiation. I do believe that it is possible and may talk on this in a later post. Some or most may ridicule this idea and I wish them peace. Others will realize that we are living in a time of extreme and powerful means and that the only obstacle between us and our higher selves is us.