The magazine known as Theosophist, 6th issue, December 1879 has published part of the autobiography of Śrī Dayānanda Sarasvatī Swami. In it Swamijī writes that the Tantra Śāstra is very dirty and the authors of that śāstra are cunning and sinful, because it is written that through five impure activities such as alcohol, flesh etc. one attains liberation.
As far as we know, Dayānanda Sarasvatī is a paṇḍita. Having attained the rank of ‘Sarasvatī’, he is considered to be a caturthāśramī, in other words, a sannyāsī. No doubt he is either in the Sarasvatī sampradāya amongst Śaṅkarācārya’s daśā-vidha followers, or he is a daśa-nāmi sannyāsī in the lineage of Dattātreya. Whatever the sampradāya, can it be doubted that he is a qualified member of the jñānī sampradāya? It is possible to be thoroughly eligible to follow the Veda Śāstra and Vedānta Śāstra. That such a person condemns the Tantra Śāstra composed by Śrī Śrī Mahādeva without comprehending its significance, is matter of great sorrow. Something which is more surprising is that the Śakta paṇḍitas have not yet protested against Sarasvatī’s conclusions. It seems that due to the onslaught of time, there is a dearth of knowledgable paṇḍitas amongst the Śaktas. It is the duty of the knowledgable Vaiṣṇavas to try to protect the rights of their Śakta brothers. Therefore, we will say one or two things in favour of the Tantra Śāstra.
There are two types of śāstra, namely śruti and smṛti. The entire Vedānta mīmāṁsā belongs to śruti, because it explains śrauta-dharma. Smṛti refers to the Mahābhārata, the twenty Dharma Śāstra, all the Purāṇas and the Tantra Śāstra. Tantra is threefold, meaning sattvika, rājsika and tāmasika. The entire Tantra is composed by Śrī Mahādeva. The sattvika-śruti states, vaiṣnavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ – ‘Mahādeva should be known to be the topmost Vaiṣṇava.’ No one from an Āryan dynasty can say that they will write any degraded and inauspicious śāstra.
There are three types of people in this world, namely sāttvika, rājsika and tāmasika. The same śāstra can never be helpful for these three kinds of people. Sāttvika Tantras such as the Nārada Pañcarātra etc. are not held to be sublime or useful to all the tāmasika people. All the Tantras in which dakṣiṇācāra* holds some special glory, all the rājasika Tantras, are also troublesome for tāmasika people. Is there any doubt that Jagadguru Pañcānana* (his name Pañcānana is also used to express the five kinds of worship achieved by five kinds of qualified persons) has created the pañca ma-kāra* method for the benefit of those who are extreme kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs?
* Translators Note: Dakṣiṇācāra refers to those Tāntrikas who do not engage in heterodox activities.
* Translators Note: Pañcānana refers to Śiva who has five heads.
* Translators Note: Pañca ma-kāra in tāmasika Tantra, refers to five things beginning with the syllable ma – māṁsa (meat), matsya (fish), madya (alcohol), mudrā (mystical hand gestures) and maithuna (sex).
Thus, in the Mahā-Nirvāṇa Tantra:
madyaṁ māṁsaṁ tathā matsyaṁ maithunam eva ca
śākt-pūjā vidhā-vādye pañca-tattvaṁ prakīrtitaṁ
Actually, the form of wine, meat, fish, mudrā and sex is also twofold. In other words, gross and subtle. If the desire for pañca ma-kāra is very strong and lasts the whole life, then Kaula Dharma is resorted to in order to curb that instinct.*
* Translators Note: Kaula-dharma is a school of Tantra.
This system is as follows:
yāvanna cālyet dṛṣṭiṁ yāvanna chālayen-manaḥ
tāvat pānaṁ prakurvīta paśupāna mataḥ paraṁ
Meaning: One can drink alcohol as long as his mind and eyesight are not disturbed. If he drinks more than that, he will become an animal.
When a specific amount of something which is to be enjoyed is managed for a limited period of time, the activity is very brief. Especially when some feelings towards Īśvara are mixed in with the pursuit of the subject according to his instinct, then bhagavat-rati (attraction towards Bhagavān) which is beneficial for the ātmā, eventually begins to appear. When that rati is nourished, the external activities of the ma-kāras that follow him are eliminated. Thus:
kūlācaraṇe deveśi brahma-jñānaṁ prajāyate
brahma-jñāna yuto martyo jīvan-mukto na saṁśayaḥ
Meaning: The aforementioned Kulācāra form of external sādhana eventually gives rise to brahma-jñāna. Then one gives up such material activities and attains liberation in this life.
This is the external sādhana in the Tantra Śāstra. In addition to this, there is also a subtle sādhana, which manifests with the nourishment of ātmā-rati. At that time, the meaning of animals such as goat, sheep, buffalo etc. is different. The consumption of goat flesh means brahmacārya, in other words giving up sex. Sex is very dear to goats. By destroying the goat, which is the form of sexual desire within the body, the practitioner engaged in subtle sādhana, eats its flesh. The sheep represents stupidity. The buffalo represents anger etc. In this way, one will eat the flesh of the animal after slaughtering it. Wine is the form of intoxication. That tattva which is deep, is represented by the meat of fish which resides deep within the ocean. Mudrā is the symbol of yoga. Sex represents īśa-tattva (the principle of the Supreme Reality). Statements are the same everywhere in gross and subtle sādhana, only the meaning and the activity are different. If all those persons who cannot comprehend the concept of Īśvara, but are always engaged in the physical ma-kāras, are to be brought to the subtle path, how can they be saved if they do not decide on one type of worship according to their instincts? Although the Vaiṣṇavas have no eligibility for such sādhana, because they are virtuous and they worship the Supreme Lord, and because there are many ordinary humans in the world, Sadā-Śiva, who is worshippable by all Vaiṣṇavas, makes arrangements for such persons and creates the Tantra Śāstra with constant care. This conclusion can be found in the Kulārṇava Tantra, Volume 5, 17th section, and in the 11th and 12th sections of the Nirvāṇa Tantra.
Oh! Those who condemn the śāstra in this way are totally confused and blind to tattva. From time to time, we will explain the Tantra Śāstra in a special way. I have presently published this short article.
Briefly it can be said that those who practice dharma without deliberating upon the reality of a human being’s eligibility, are utterly incapable of giving any sādhana which is beneficial to the jīva. In the Āryan śāstra, five methods of sādhana have been specified by deliberating upon qualifications, and the superiority of ārya–dharma over all other dharma has been recognised the world over. We are very sorry that Sarasvatī Mahāśaya, without understanding this reality, condemns the Tantra Śāstra simply for the sake of establishing one type of general dharma.