“How long does youth endure? So long as we are loved.”
– Golden Book of Diana
Western students invariably ask: will the practice of Tantrik sadhana help me to stay young? What kind of diet does the Shastra prescribe? Are there disciplines that can be used to cure illness?
Such queries reflect the dominant preoccupation with the physical body that has come to be an outstanding characteristic of occidental civilization.
At no time nor place in history have such care and attention been lavished upon the fleshly form. Never before has youth, perse, been of such paramount importance to a whole population that they would spend enormous amounts of time and money in a desperate attempt to remain young.
It has been reliably estimated that eighty percent of all contemporary men and women in the Western world have no higher aim in life than to live in comfort and safety, and to be admired.
Thanks to tremendous advances in technology and medicine, this ideal has been largely achieved. Only within the most recent years has the threat of nuclear extinction hung monstrously in our blue heaven.
Even the Westerner’s religion, Christianity, has joined the popular chorus clamoring for an earthly paradise. Disregarding their Founder’s clear-cut declaration – “My kingdom is not of this world” – most Christian denominations today dedicate their time, money and energies to implementing the “social gospel,” that is, to the problems of earthly existence and to ways of improving it for all men.
The Tantrik view, on the other hand, while acknowledging the importance of earthly life as an arena for soul experience, insists upon the primacy of the spirit.
Tantra – The Fountain of Youth
The gross body is given careful attention and care, not as an end in itself, but only because it is an instrument of the soul, to be used for attaining moksha or liberation.
Tantriks claim that their sadhana, more than other systems of yoga, bestows youth upon the aspirant because of its concern with the muladhara or sex chakra. As previously explained, Tantra regards this subtle center as the control station for organic and cellular functions that, in turn, influence the ageing processes of the body.
Research by Western scientists seeking a fountain of youth for material reasons, supports this view.
For example, Dr. Eugen Steinach, the Viennese physiologist noted for his pioneer work in human rejuvenation, noted that senility is directly related to sexuality.
He said that sex is the most obvious key to the process of ageing because the sex glands are what he called the “root of life.”
He observed that, just as sexual glands produce physical and psychic maturity, induce and preserve the period of human flowering for shorter or longer periods, depending upon the individual, so also their function is responsible for the fading of the body and the diminishing of vitality, both physical and mental.
This being true, it follows that in the sex chakra we have the means for not only increasing the store of energy available during the early years, but an instrument for its restoration in the period of old age.
The youthfulness, both in appearance and behavior, of most Americans – so striking to people of other countries – is attributable not so much to improved cosmetics and better nutrition as to the constant stimulation of the sex center by advertising, literature, movies, TV, and so on.
Most rejuvenation formulae put forward by metaphysical groups in the United States fail dismally be-cause of two things.
First of all, they encourage their followers to suppress the sexual function or to deny it full expression. In so doing, they also arrest the flow of life-giving hormones which alone can insure youthful vigor to the organism.
In the second instance, they prescribe a system of meditation that accomplishes a result exactly opposite that desired. This is true because of a principle known as the law of reversed effort.
When we voluntarily focus the attention upon an idea (as in meditation), and will a condition to come about, the negative force of our will immediately appears as a counter-suggestion. The more we concentrate, the stronger our mental effort in the direction of a given goal, the greater the resistance to that effort.
Every alcoholic who has tried to give up drinking by willing himself to do so knows that the more violent his resolve not to touch another drop, the sooner he will find himself with another bottle in his hand.
Similarly, the greater effort you make to stay young, the greater the forces you set in motion to make you older. Perhaps the most potent of these negative forces is fear. The fear of ill health and fear of age produces a kind of poison that hastens both conditions.
No matter what diet you follow, what exercises you take, what vitamins you swallow, if you are old at heart – that is, sexually old – senility will soon follow.
On the other hand, Tantrik gurus worthy of the utmost confidence have asserted repeatedly that youth can be maintained throughout the normal lifespan.
Their prescript is simple: elimination of the corrosive acids that cause formation of the death element in man. These “acids” formed by our reaction to influences outside ourselves, soon make their presence known, first in the quality of our thinking.
The spontaneity, the enthusiasm, the readiness to change – which characterize youth – gradually disappear. Habitual patterns of thought emerge. We become “set in our ways.”
Neutralizing The Corrosive Acids Of Age
To quicken the vibrations of both body and mind, and thus to neutralize the corrosive acids of age, so to speak, Tantrik sadhana rouses the cosmic energy coiled in the root chakra.
This action releases neurohormones into the bloodstream of the gross body, re-invigorating the physical powers.
The mental faculties are likewise revitalized, creating a more active and seeking inclination in the mind, a dissatisfaction with the status quo.
The over-all guiding principle in Tantrik rejuvenation is, of course, love – that is, reintegration of the two polar streams. And the method, par excellence, for achieving this end is successful maithuna.
Tantrik Views On Diet
In the matter of diet, with one or two notable exceptions, Tantriks follow the same regimen as that of other yogis and of Hindus in general. Outside the panchatattva ritual, they rarely eat meat or drink alcoholic beverages.
However, their eating habits are in conformity with national custom and tradition, rather than with any rule inherent within Tantrism itself.
In general, Indian scriptures recommend sun-enriched foods and urge yoga practitioners to avoid anything bitter, acid, strong-smelling or salty.
Typical counsel concerning food is that given in the Markandeya Purana:
“Rice gruel, buttermilk, barley, fruits, roots, saffron, porridge, oil cakes and raw grain flour – these foods are good for the yogi and lead to attainments. They should be eaten with concentrated mind and devoted care.”
Like the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, Tantriks believe that during the more spiritually advanced ages which preceded the present one, men subsisted wholly upon fruits, grain and vegetables.
But they recognize that in this, the debased age of Kali, one’s diet must sometimes include so-called tamasic foods, strictly eschewed by the spiritually advanced rishis who wrote the scriptures.
Too, the better-educated Shakta gurus take into account the fact that widely different diets are necessary to meet the requirements of various climates, customs, and ways of life.
“We take the view,” explained Pundit Chatterjee, “that aside from a few solarized foods, good for anyone practicing Tantrik sadhana, you may eat whatever and whenever you wish. We are wholly in accord with the saying of Jesus that a man is not defiled by what goes into his mouth, but by what comes out of it.
“The chief consideration in the matter of eating,” he continued, “is to avoid anything that might seriously interfere with a fruitful practice of sadhana. It is only common sense to abstain from hard-to-digest foods when you are planning some activity that requires careful concentration and mental tranquility.
“In the West, the greater density of the spiritual magma (if I may use the term in that frame of reference), has led to overeating in attempts to cope with environment. Our practice of eating less at one time might be adopted with good results. My own guru taught that the stomach should be only one-fourth filled at breakfast, three-fourths at the noon meal; and one-half at the evening repast.
“On the other hand, I once met a sadhu who had attained extraordinary siddhi (supernormal powers), but whose belly was as big as that of Ganesha, from overeating.
“If you were to ask me to single out one food that, more than any other, is a Tantrik food, then I would say at once: honey. Mix it with ghee (clarified butter) in the proportion of three to one and take a tablespoonful morning and evening. Some years ago, the newspapers both here and abroad, carried an account concerning Srijut Malaviya, one of our prominent educators, who had discovered some secret of rejuvenation. It was reported that he had turned back the clock twenty years, so far as his personal appearance and vitality were concerned.
“I journeyed to Benares for the express purpose of learning from his own lips how he had accomplished it. When I pressed him for details, he told me that the chief dietary item in his remarkable discipline was honey mixed with ghee.
“An English student to whom I once imparted this information, wrote me after he had returned to England to say that he had found the same advice in his own scripture. It was written by the Hebrew rishi, Isaiah.
“If we are to consider the subject of physical aids to sadhana in its broadest view, and from the standpoint of Western needs, there are other things equally as important as food.
Control of the Body’s Polarity Through Exercise
“There is the matter of physical exercise, it I may mention one. In your country this usually means a more or less strenuous program, often at irregular intervals. The aim in view seems to be improved muscle tone, better circulation, and so on.
“For the follower of Tantra Shastra, the main purpose of exercise, as of all action, is greater control over the body’s polarity. The spine is merudamda, that is to say, the static pole up and down which the dynamic currents of our earthly existence move. Therefore, we try by daily exercise to keep it flexible and vital.
“This is easily accomplished by walking at least one mile each day, always with the arms swaying, the palms facing forward. We also use familiar asanas such as halasan or yoga mudra, which you will find described in any popular book on Hatha Yoga.
l Isaiah VII:15 – “Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.”
“The Tantrik disciple is taught to give careful attention to his feet also – especially to the two large toes, for these are terminal points of important nadis. After bathing, they should be pulled, stretched and massaged with coconut oil, ghee or oil of almond, but never with anything containing animal fat.
“This procedure is perhaps even more important for you of the West than for Indian shisyas, because your feet are constantly encased in footwear of one kind or another. Here in India, as you have observed, we kick off our sandals at every opportunity. An American lady who visited our country recently said she is certain we are a nation of foot fetishists. Otherwise, how could one account for the fact that half our adult population are constantly massaging their bare feet or pulling their toes as they converse?
“Actually, I think they are acting from unconscious knowledge passed down to them by long-forgotten gurus of India’s glorious past.”
Pundit Chatterjee also had some suggestions for combating adverse effects of an urban, industrial environment. The polarity of our bodies, he said, is directly affected by our physical surroundings, and by the air we breathe.
The air of cities and industrialized areas is heavily charged with a positive polarity. Prolonged habitation in such an atmosphere produces the same physical effects as would result if the sadhaka permanently closed his left nostril and breathed only through the pingala or (right) sun channel. These effects include nervous tension, of which there is always a high incidence in big cities; vascular diseases, and emotional disorders.
One solution to this problem of urban living is for the city dweller to increase the periods of breath flow through the ida or left nostril, as described earlier in the present work.
Another and obvious way is to take every opportunity to spend time in rural surroundings, especially in large open areas such as deserts, meadows, seashore or lake. Atmospheric ions, which are minute clumps of air molecules having an electrical charge, are negative in large open spaces of this kind. And being negative, they can often reverse the damage done by positive ions during sojourn in urban environment.
In this connection, it is interesting to observe that only recently, researchers both in the West and in Soviet Russia, have been seriously studying the effects of atmospheric polarity on human behaviour.
To date, their knowledge of this subject is not as extensive as that which has reposed in Tantrik tradition for centuries, but important experiments have been conducted under scientific test conditions.
At the Batelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, where some of the tests were carried out, Drs. Howard G. Schultz and Richard A. Duffee pointed out that the effects of air ions on human health and behaviour have assumed a new importance in the nuclear, space age.
Observing that the astronaut and submariner may be exposed to ion concentrations considerably higher than normal, they said: “The effects of this increased ion concentration may be enhanced by other environmental factors such as stress.”
Their experiments showed that negative ions produce a pleasant feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. Positively charged ions were found to produce an unpleasant feeling of dizziness and nausea, often accompanied by headache and sore throat.
The Russians also had space travel in mind when they , launched a similar research project. The Soviet re-searchers reported that during the course of their study, athletes who inhaled negative ions during a period of fifteen minutes daily for twenty-five days, were able to grip a dynamometer 46% longer than control subjects not given the ions. After only nine days of negative ion treatment, treadmill endurance increased 55.9%.
If you are a city-dweller who cannot often get away to the wide-open spaces, you may, in a limited way, counteract the effects of your positively-charged atmosphere by walking barefoot through wet grass on your lawn, wading in pools or taking a plunge in a swimming pool or tub, provided the water is cool.
Water is negative and magnetic. Its effect, in perhaps a smaller measure, is the same as that of the sea or desert air – it relaxes tired nerves and eases tension.
On the other hand, walking barefoot upon the earth, especially through dust or sand, builds a positive polarity in your body.
In the matter of dress, Tantriks favor loose-fitting garments made of non-conductive material such as silk, wool, or linen. Most yogis regard tight-fitting Western clothes, especially those worn by men, with abhorrence.
In climates where the student is exposed to the hot sun’s rays, he is cautioned to wear some kind of head-gear which will protect the area at the base of his skull, where over-exposure to the sunlight can result in injury to his nervous system.
Tantra does not dwell at length upon the subject of physical fitness, as do some other systems of yoga. It is taken for granted that a sadhaka who seriously practices the disciplines given him by his guru will enjoy health – both mental and physical – regardless of his environment or social status.
Tantriks believe that, in the final analysis, health is nothing more than correctly balanced polarity. Such a balance brings harmony, first to the subtle body, then to the gross body and mind.
How is such harmony achieved? There are several ways of changing polarity, some of which have already been presented. But to harmonize only during practice periods is not enough. A return to old ways of thinking and perspective following sadhana will mean a return to the same inharmony that created ill-health to start with.
The first requirement, then, is an over-all change of perspective. Such a change is not achieved by merely willing it. It comes, rather, through the realization that each of us has an individual purpose and destiny upon this earth.
Our daily lives are often filled with the trivial, the confused, the transient. But hidden within or beneath this seemingly meaningless activity is a pattern of light. This pattern of guided experience may be known only through intuitive awareness. Until such an awareness is achieved, the physical mind cannot think thoughts that soar to liberating heights above man’s death world.
Illness, old age and death rule most men’s inner thought. Their daily needs are measured to these. But a harmonious return to the soul’s guided destiny releases to us a new outlook, because the poisonous fear of dissolution and misery is no longer the substance of our thought.
As a consequence, the physical body is liberated by relaxation of nerves and, through the nadis, is tuned to a higher vibration. The soaring thought is a healing thought.
Therefore, hope and not fear, must be forever the ideal of living, if the sadhaka would conquer sickness and age – yes, even death.