Twilight Of The Buddha: Tantra As It Had Risen Against Brahminism

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History has it that, a good eighteen centuries ago, there flourished in the Indian subcontinent a Buddhist philosopher named Nagarjuna. He is credited with having introduced a critical partial in successive subcontinental visionary judgment – that of ‘Shunya’ or emptiness. A rather simplified bargain would be a fulfilment of the blank or blank (‘a-bhava’) – one  that would widen over us once we annul the binary or the duality between being (‘swa-bhava’) and not-being (‘nih-swa-bhava’). The Sanskrit word for duality is ‘dwaita’. Thus, it is given of this opposite of duality that this judgment has mostly been mentioned of in Sanskrit novel as ‘A-dwaita Shunya’ – meaning, the non-dual void.

History also has it that, Buddhism had risen and flourished in the Indian subcontinent as a counter-reaction to the caste-oppression of the Brahmins. Nonetheless, certain Brahminical elements have also had continued to corrupt the sacrament opposite history. One such element, Gaudapada, had flourished in Bengal a good 4 centuries after the times of Nagarjuna. His confluence to Brahminism, despite being indoctrinated and instituted into the Buddhist sequence of ‘Madhyamaka’ or the Middle Path as was strengthened and propounded by Nagarjuna, is attested by the fact that he is still worshiped by the ‘Saraswat’ Brahmins along the western and southern coastlines of the peninsular subcontinent.  The appendix ‘pada’ was ordinarily used by the scholars of Buddhism in those days. It was a short-form for the Sanskrit word ’padacharya’, meaning, poet-scholar. As for Gaudapa, he took the judgment of Adwaita Shunya and transposed the Shunya with a draconian, irritable and biased Brahminical content – Vedanta.

This did not stop here. Gaudapada found a footman in Govindacharya. This Govindacharya, subsequently, set up his ashrama by the stream Narmada and continued priesthood this caste-discriminatory Adwaita Vedanta philosophy. The truth found a shot in arm from Govindacharya’s footman Shankaracharya, mostly referred to in successive Hindu novel as Adi-Shankar. With Shankaracharya, the acclimatization of a ‘Hindu’ temperament of the Vedic and post-Vedic Aryan orders of faith was nigh-complete. Caste-system had to be re-clamped by the Brahmins. The need to destroy Buddhism and expunge it from the subcontinent had arisen. Thus, by the 9th century AD, we see the robbery forces of Shanaracharya and his disciples razing the stupas and monasteries to ground. Noted monasteries such as the one at tucked in the Himalayas at Badri (distt. Uttarakhand) were shortly converted into Hindu temples. Even sites of adivasi ceremony such as the Shabar deity at Puri (distt. Odisha) by the Bay of Bengal were not spared.

It is loyal that on and from the 7th century AD, Brahminism was upping its ante against Buddhism. But the resistances were splendid! If one looks at the story of the anti-caste Bhakti transformation that had risen opposite the subcontinent against the restraint of casteism in the past one a half millennia, one sees the arise of Vajrayana (Thunder Vehicle) and the successive streams of Sahajayana (Easy Vehicle), Kalachakrayana (Wheel of Time Vehicle) Buddhism and even of the Nath sequence which has, over time, come to turn a stream of Hinduism as it is accepted currently – all as a thought attrition with the rising village distemper of the casteist Shankaracharya-ilk.  Thus, around the same time as that of Shankaracharya and his misdeeds, we find total such Padmasambhava environment out towards to Himalayas to find retreat for the Buddhism opposite the ominous passes. Around the same time, the codification and authorized growth of Vajrayana Buddhism began, along with its own set of pantheon – in an sequence where any deity represents realms of consciousness, being, fulfilment and such other ‘Bhaav’-s or states. Much of what is accepted as Tantra currently finds its basics in Vajrayana – by crypts and codes – all that find to exhibit some deeper realms of bargain and notice but bashful divided from spelling them out.

It is with the growth Vajrayana opposite the eastern tools of the subcontinent from the 7th to the 12th centuries AD when Buddhism still had stately congregation in those tools that the term Gujhya-Samaja or Secret-Society began rising to inflection in earlier successive accepted scriptures. The names of many Tantric scholars and poets who thrived in those times also come to light, along with some cryptic, lyrically organised verses by such and a few other unknown poets of those times. Here, a doubt rises: Why such secrecy? The answer is blowing in the dull Tibetan winds. The Brahmins were brutal to the Buddhists. The knowledge had to be saved from physically aroused drop as good as cooption – something the Brahminical sequence has been historically skilful at.

Many scripts containing such mysterious psychic verses have been recorded in and around Tibet where Vajrayana Buddhism had flourished, with majestic patronage, compartment the last century. Some even enclose explanations of the visionary connotations by ‘Teeka’-s or brief records created in Sanskrit alongside the verses. Common clarity insists that the denunciation used was a proto-language to complicated languages dialects such as Bangla, Axhomiya, Odiya, Angika, Magahi, Maithil etc which are oral in the eastern subcontinent. By and large, it would then have been a reduction of the late Pali, Ardha-Magadhi (half-Magadhi – denoting the denunciation used in the eastern partial of the Magadha Mahajanapada, a denunciation which finds its beginning discuss in the Natya Shastra gathering that came to be in the 2nd century BC), ‘Paishachi’ (denoting a cluster of languages used by churned inland communities of the subcontinent – the word ‘Pishach’, definition zombie, was used as a race-slur against these communities in beginning Vedic scriptures on denunciation patrician ‘Prakrit Prakash’, attributed to a fabulous virtuoso Vararuchi), etc. Nonetheless, ‘modern’-day Brahminical scholars continue subterfuge over which modern-day denunciation bears loyal estate of the denunciation in which the Tantric texts were created during those days.

One rare aspect of the demeanour in which this proto-language was used by the Tantrics in their verses could, however, never be overlooked. In 1916, Haraprasad Shastri, after laboring by certain scriptures of such verses their explanations he had stumbled on in the Royal Durbar Library at Kathmandu while portion his reign as a ‘travelling pundit’ trustworthy to the Asiatic Society, had pronounced that the denunciation is one of ‘light and darkness’. He had named it ‘Shandhyo Bhasha’ (literally: Language of the Evening). This peculiarity was serve highlighted by Mircea Eliade, who, in 1971, had used the term ‘Twilight Language’ to imply this proto-modern language. As such scholars agree, the language, by its words, syntaxes and structures, have a verbatim definition that any lay listener can sense and maybe enjoy along with its low-pitched element. However, all these spirit at some deeper connotations – which are the visionary connotations that only those who are instituted into the Secret Societies of several koulas or Tantric sects can understand. Thus, any such strain contains two or some-more layers of meanings. Multiplicities to nonplus the foolish Brahmin.

The Tantrics have been famous to have been heterodox in life and living. A term ‘Vamachara’, definition Left-Hand-Praxis, have mostly been used to heed them from the caste-Hindu habit and their ‘Right-Hand-Praxis’ or Dakshinachara disciplines of faith. The anger of the heterodox against the approved simmers in some of the poetry.

Thus we find Vajrayana minstrel Sarahapada, himself, in all probability, innate in a Brahmin family, distracted out loud:


The Brahmins know zero but how to discriminate

They have lain this down that only they can review the Vedas

They make fire-holes on earth and ceremony flames

They brave disquiet the universe

Smoke from abandon make eyes water

As their purposeless exercises continue

And then there are all these rules

Coded down, spelled out,

backed by punishments,

across the hours,

through sticks and stones

Can such pointless a God ever be true?

The Brahmins – they margin in proper dresses

They bear manners of the gentlemen

And pronounce well-spoken words

Like swans impersonation sagacity

false flows their world, they forget,

That there can never be a scale

To import sacrament against irreligion.

This is from the Dohakosha or Compilation of Doha Verses created by Vajrayana philosopher Saraha or Sarahapa or Sarahapada who had flourished a good thirteen centuries ago.  In that scripture, he continues to vent his madness against all the 4 eremite orthodoxies of those times:  the Brahmins, the Theist or Caste-Hindu believers (‘Ishwarvadi’-s), the Jain’ Kshapanaka’-s and the Mahayana Buddhists.

Another such Vajrayana minstrel was Kanhapa or Krishnacharya, who is also worshiped to in the Nath group as Kanifnath – one of the Nine Naths or Nava Nathas who are held in high venerate as the beginning guru-s of that order. The scripture containing his collection of Dohakosha enclose Sanskrit records created by Mekhala. Mekhala her sister Kankhala are worshiped to in Tibetan Buddhist mythos as the two Sever-Headed Sisters. Curiously, centuries after the decline of Buddhism from the eastern subcontinent, they have together been deified and have given acquired space in the Lokayata pantheon and mythos as ‘Chhinnamasta’ – the Sever-Headed Goddess!

Many mysterious verses by Saraha, Kanha and other distinguished Vajrayana Tantrics who had flourished in eastern subcontinent were gathered in a publishing patrician ‘Charyacharyavinishchaya’ or ‘Charyapada’. This Kanhapada, in many of his poems, speaks of a muse. He addresses her by her village name – Dombi – Dom woman.

Dombi, your residence lies over the city

Brahmins and Shaven-Heads reason you alike

O Dombi I’ll make adore to you

I am Kanha, Shameless, Naked Kapalika Yogi

One lotus has sixty-four petals

Poor Dombi dances on it

O Dombi, we ask you with love

Whose vessel do you packet on?

You sell dawn to them

You sell bamboo-wicker-baskets to me

For you, we obey my actor’s sack

Oh, you are Dombi, we am Kapalika

I wear a wreath done of skeleton for you

Dombi breaks by the waves of the lake

To eat lotus stems

I kill Dombi

I take her life.

(Charyapada Verse 10)

He continues in the same capillary in hymn no. 18, which ends in the following note:

Some call you bad,

But the intellectuals hold on to you

Kanha sings, you are Kaama-Chandali,

Oh Dombi, you are the biggest coquette ever!

Such verses enclose apparent village names such as Dom, Chandala, and even Bangali (Bhusukupa, hymn 49, Charyapada). Certain ‘ragas’ that had been identified in the scriptures bear names such as ‘Bangal’, ‘Shabar’ etc impute to such community-identities. Even the names of some of these Tantric-poets, such as Dombipa and Shabarpa, prove their village origin. However, as the records reveal, these terms were also used as codes to imply certain maladroit that is ‘Vamachara’ or Tantric praxis involving the praxitioners own physique – loosely connoted as ‘Kaya-Sadhana’ or the Body-Praxis. These community-identifying difference are so also clues to paths that consecrate the protocol core of Tantra.

Shabarpa, whose name indicates his adivasi origins, writes for his troubadour Shabari –

On hills and ranges high and high lives Shabari girl

She dons peacock plumes

She wears a red gunja-seed garland

Shabar is crazy in love, oh, greatfully do disturb

She is your wife, she is Easy Beauty (‘Sahaja-Sundari’)

Many trees bloomed, their branches overwhelmed the sky

She wears earrings holding Thunder (‘Vajra-dhari’)

She roams this timberland all alone

Shabar creates a cot out of 3 metals

He then creates a bed

Shabar and ‘Nairamani’[1] make adore all night

The mind is a betel-leaf.

In good joy, they eat it with camphor

Holding his Empty (‘Shunya’) Soullessness to his throat-Chakra

He spends the night in good happiness

Guru’s difference are like arrows with tails

Strike your mind with such an arrow

One arrow to strike pinnacle (‘Param’) Niravana

Strike it!

In sagely Guru’s anger, Shabar rages

He enters where the towering peaks meet

How do we demeanour for him?

(Charyapada Verse 28)

It is not just distinguished Niravana by adore that Shabar talks about. He also dwells in a breathtaking, enchanting area of tranquillity of almost an whole cycle of life in Verse No 50 of the same collection:

Across the skies lies the third residence –

It is but a field!

Axe hacks heart

‘Nairamani’ girl hugs neck

She awakes to uproot!

Leave, leave these terribly illusory forms

of Maya and Moha

Shabar lives in good happiness

with the lady who is blank (‘Shunya’)

The third residence is like the sky

White cotton-flowers bloom

In the light all around the third house,

yet another residence can be seen –

it is but the residence of moonlight

blooming opposite the dim skies!

Green melons have ripened

Shabar Shabari gets dipsomaniac in that

They make adore opposite days on end

Shabar feels empty

A inferno is placed on 4 bamboo-poles

Shabar’s physique is burned

Vultures foxes weep

The inebriated disturb of being (‘Bhavamatta’) is killed

Its offerings are sparse in all Ten Directions

Behold, Shabar attains Nirvana!

Shabar is not Shabar anymore.

Needless to say, these Vajrayana poets who had flourished in the eastern subcontinent as a syncretic counter-reaction to Brahminical re-mobilisation have all been venerated, in Tibetan Buddhism also in the Natha group of Hinduism as it is accepted today, as the eighty-four achieved ones or the 84 Siddhacharyas. Sadly, given that all the names poets hold, are, in all probability, male-names, the ravages of patriarchy even on the counter-Brahminical heterodoxy that Tantra represents can't be denied. The women poets and philosophers were pushed to the Anonymous nom-de-plume of ‘Dakini’ – literally Witch. Nath legends tell the story of one ‘Jnana-Dakini’ or Wisdom-Witch ‘Moynamoti’. More prominently, many knowledge brimful sayings on agrarian ecology famous as ‘Vachana’-s exist in the name of one such ‘Witch’ Khana, exist, compartment date, within the folds of folk-wisdom of the agrarian communities of farming Bengal. Legend has it that, men, being incompetent to digest a lady observant such low and useful things on agrarian ecology formed mostly on lunar cycles, anniversary heavenly movements and, perhaps, then-prevalent folk-wisdom, had cut her tongue. Many of her sayings have survived over two millennia.

It beggars discuss here that, on this same topic, nonetheless another Tantric scripture exists. It is patrician ‘Dakranava’, meanings, ‘Wizard’s Ocean’. Books on this subject simulate an ancient inland wisdom-flow of the subcontinent. Till date, this reflects on the Panjika or lunar calendars that establish the ceremony rituals of Hindu festivities. Unfortunately, the reification-focused forces of Hinduism have converted that this knowledge of what to boar when, where to build an ideal residence or where and when make a crop-field formed on where the waters upsurge and how the winds blow, the moon waxes and wanes, the stars change positions opposite the sky by the flitting seasons and so on, into piles of fallacious and oft-discriminatory practices. This, again, points at an older debasement. Legend has it that Ecology or Vastu-Tantra was grown in its easy form by inland Mayasura who had cohesed such healthy wisdom. Modern-day Hindutva has cursed this ancient ecological knowledge of the inland subcontinent to the standing of upmarket interior-decoration.

It is loyal that the aroused re-rise of Brahminical Hinduism, along with certain foolish decisions of the late Pala kings such as banning fishing and sport on the eremite belligerent that assault to all sentience is to be shunned – something that done the fishing and sport communities of Rarh-Bengal rise, by riparian guerilla movement commandeered by fleets of quick moving, armed and armoured boats, in what has been famous as the Kaivartya Vidroha of the 11th century AD, — had, ensured a virtual nonexistence of Buddhism from the subcontinent. Drawing from the 19th century demographic research of HH Risley, one shudders to suppose how assault on women and children must have risen by child-marriages, forward Brahminnical polygamy, the suttee, firm coercion of stern and lifelong purity on widows including child widows and such other evils must have raged in multitude as the standing and gotra tangible Kulin-Brahminical systems of endogamy and exogamy was clamped unto the nascent Bangali multitude of those times. Even the Brahminical commentators, out of shame, have, on churned occasions, had sought, despite in vein, to censor the names of the Hindu kings of Bengal from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries AD – kings such as Vallala Sena and Niladhwaja – who had actively participated in this enforced clampdown of caste-Hinduism – under a common nom-de-plume ‘Adisura’ – meaning, ‘the Earliest Aryan’.

It is also loyal that, on and from the 19th century AD, the neo-Brahminical land-holding babu and bhadralok gentry of Bengal had been active agents of Hindutva. In 1893, Vivekananda had, in the Chicago Parliament of World Religions, admitted himself to be from the origin of Shankaracharya, thereby, siding unabashedly with the casteist Hindu order. Curiously, nowhere in that supposed ‘Parliament’ had this Hindutva-agent mentioned the name of his genuine life praxis-initiator Ramakrishna.   Hindutva has been on the arise ever since. The pitches have left too damn biting lately.

However, all the knowledge could not be effaced. Owing to the ‘light and darkness’ of the language, the genuine kaya-sadhana disciplines have been followed by the secretive Tantric Koulakrams. Narratives of bend to the Vajrayana minstrel Tilopa shown by such orders even in the crematoriums and praxis-centers of Pithas of the Tantrics of 20th century Bengal exist. Even Haraprasad Shastri, while looking at an ancient portrayal of one such Tantric minstrel ‘Naropa’ exclaims – ‘he looks just like the Bauls of today!’

After the decline of Buddhism, many dalit communities of the subcontinent, being browbeaten back to the irritable caste-folds of Hinduism, sought retreat in Vaishnavism and then in Sufi. Today, people from many Vaishnav dalit communities continue gripping their heads shaved in observance to a casteless past. The Easy Vehicle or Sahajayana cult, having churned with the heterodox views of a good 14th CE philosopher named Nityananda from within the Vaishnava-cult, led to the Sahajiya-Vaishnava order. One territory of this sequence exists as it is today, given the other, after the liquid of Sufi, gave arise to the Baul. In smoothness with the use of the Buddhist bhikkhus and shramans, basking to make a vital has been continued by these sects. The songs that these minstrels sing pronounce of the casteless, religionless hint of human realization, just like those by Kabir do.

Kabir’s path, Sikhism and other orders of faith that had risen opposite the Middle Ages arose as a counter-reaction to Brahminical oppression, just like Buddhism had in some-more ancient times, also held the hint of Shunya or the blank – a prophesy that the caste-Hindu orders shuns like disease given it seeks to intermix the very foundations of caste-division which forms the cornerstone of their sinister diversion of power. Thus, we find terms like ‘Niranjana’ used by the Sikhs, Kabir-panthis, Baul-Fakir-Dervishes and the Lokayata and just inland Dharma worshippers consisting of the dalit Dom and churned other farming secure communities. Even the prevalent ceremony of the mom enchantress Tara opposite Bengal, Axhom Nepal – which, same to the Nath ceremony of Shiva, has given been by and vast engrossed by mainstream Hinduism – reveals glimpses from the Vajrayana past.

Side by side with all these, churned Nath-Pantha misconceptions that had begun elaborating before the Shaivite Nath sequence was engrossed in entirety by caste-Hindu power-brokers exhibit a smoothness of this informative insurgency by communication and music. It serve establishes the role of Tantra within the folds of the anti-Brahminical ‘bhakti’ movements of the subcontinent. The resistances have given continued. While traffic with the story of Bengal, one must never forget this, that, in the eighteenth century, the Fakirs of Bengal were one of the first communities to arise in fixed rebel against the rough colonial forces. It began in 1774, 4 years after a terrible fast had raged by almost the whole of the subcontinent. The Fakir Revolt raged opposite endless tracts of Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand from 1774 to 1778. It was led from the front by Majnu Shah. Cultures of insurgency were supposing for by, among others, Lalan Fakir. One good century after this, Bankimachandra Chattopadhyaya, nonetheless another remarkable Hindutva-agent sought to ruin this story and execute it as a winning fight raged by an definitely fictitious group of Vedic monks against the Muslim village in his supposed magnum opus Anandamath.

Despite all the ravages, the knowledge has not been obliterated in entirety yet. Strains of the music have turn faint, agrarian ecologies have been scorched by localities, carnivals where the music once flowed have turn sites of relentless standing crimes perpetrated and superstitions used by idolaters. Nonetheless, what matters is, that, it still exists!

[1] In Vajrayana, ‘Nairamani’ represents Nairatman or a fulfilment for soullessness and is connoted as the enchantress of the Sciences – Vijnanan Skandha

Atindriyo Chakrabarty is a producer and writer.

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