The Balance of Life. The right and left hand path of tantra. Part 1

In tantra, much is said about the left hand path (yama viarga) and the right hand path dakshina marga). There are many misconceptions about these terms. It is often said that the left hand path is somehow decadent and immoral and the right hand path is preferable. This is a misunderstanding, because actually the left hand path is for those aspirants who are firmly established in spiritual life. It is the path for more advanced sadhakas and comes after they have trodden the right hand path.

It is commonly accepted that there are seven stages of sadhana on the path of tantra (sometimes nine are given). These are called acharas and represent progressively higher levels of understanding and practices associated with progress along the spiritual path. We will not describe these different acbaras here, for this is not the purpose of this discussion. What we want to point out here is that four stages are included within the realm of dakshina marga. This is also called pravritti marga, the path of external action. Here, the emphasis is on the pingala principle, though ida is also developed. This is the path that most people in the world are treading.

In tantra, the aspirant on the dakshina marga is preparing for the higher stages where the mind is more receptive and able to pass beyond the obstacle of laya that we discussed previously (refer to the heading entitled the ‘Path of Darkness’ and the ‘Path of Light’). It is a path for those who are predominantly tamasic in nature. It is concerned mainly with outer action as a means to purify the mind of problems, phobias, neuroses, selfishness and so forth. Some inner awakening does occur but the emphasis is on karma yoga. It is concerned with initially harmonizing the mind and body. It is a combination of the ida and pingala paths, but with a strong emphasis on the pingala aspect. This allows the individual to recognize his more gross problems and to understand his relationship with other people so that he can eventually expand inner awareness.

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