Tantra is a word that has many interpretations, and though the West has appropriated the word, its meaning remains diverse and complex in the Indian subcontinent. It often refers to the practice of uniting the human to the divine by uniting the masculine and feminine energies through the sexual act. Sex, so, mirrors the divine union. It is supposed to elevate your soul spiritually and provide you with semi-divine powers. A few days ago, intrigued by the invisible world and the practice of tantra, I met with a tantric (who wishes to remain anonymous, but allowed me to use his initials) in a small temple in the bylanes of Jaipur. What follows is a slightly edited version of the conversation. The editors do not necessarily support the views expressed by the interviewee, nor is the practice of tantra or any such occult art encouraged.
SD: Hello JS, we’re sitting in a temple. Could you please tell me a little about it … you’ve built this yourself?
JS: Yes, in fact, I have two houses right on the next street, but I haven’t been there in 25 years. My sons and daughters-in-law, all live there. My wife used to live there until a couple of years ago, but now she’s here with me. This temple is my life, most of the money I earn goes into the building and maintenance of this space, I’ve built it from nothing. My whole life revolves around this place. As you can see, there are women singing and praying here, today is the 14th day (of the moon cycle), they all reached here at 3:30 a.m. I had to open the gates at that early hour, because they’ve come to visit the goddess and not me. So I cannot refuse.
SD: You’re both a priest and a tantric. When exactly did you decide to get into the occult arts?
JS: Yes, I am a temple priest but I’ve been a worshipper of Virabhadra since the age of 5. I am now 65 years old. The gods possess me, speak to me, and I listen to them.
SD: Who exactly is Virbhadra?
JS: When Sati went to her father Daksha’s famous yagna, despite not being invited, and against Shiva’s wishes, and later immolated herself in the sacrificial fire, Shiva was livid. It was at this time that he pulled out a lock of his own hair, and from that Virbhadra was born. It was Virbhadra, when instructed by Shiva, who led Shiva’s entourage of spirits and ghosts to destroy the Daksha yagna. Insult of Shakti had to be avenged. Daksha was decapitated, but later Shiva forgave him and brought him back to life by fixing a ram’s head on his neck. This was his punishment. He would be worshipped in this form.
SD: And so, Virbhadra speaks to you?
JS: Yes, he speaks to me. Devi speaks to me, too. In the form of Chamunda. I liked these deities, and they took a liking for me, too. So they help me. And once they started helping me, I asked them to help the world as well, through me.
SD: So, you only help people, do only good things with whatever powers you claim to have?
JS: I won’t lie, I was, at one point, utterly and deeply involved in tantric meditation and did some things I probably shouldn’t have done. I have harmed people, their families, their houses, etc. Once I forced some spirits to vacate a house. They went to live in another house and started harming a young girl who stayed there. The spirit told me that he had to live somewhere, since they were forced out of another house (by me). This was when I realized my mistake. I should not have gotten involved with the dark spirits. So I asked the spirit what did he want? He said that he wanted the sacrifice of one goat, and only then will he leave the young girl alone. But I am a brahmin, I cannot touch such things. So, then the goddess told me to give 7 nutmegs instead of a goat (it’s equivalent to a goat sacrifice – and among the gods, only Bhairva, Virabhadra, Kali, accept this offering.) She asked me to go to the cemetery with the spirit and make the offering. And so, I went. And then the girl was free. If I hadn’t done this, the girl would have been killed.
I will tell you another story. Once the parents of a young girl, about 24 years old, came to me. The girl had run away, they’d complained to the police, but they wanted to know where she was. So I asked them to bring me something of hers, something intimate. The parents brought her bra to me. So, I took it and meditated upon it, and after some time, I knew where she was. They found her. I told them not to be too harsh with her. But then later, the police asked them how did they manage to find her. They told the SP (Superintendent of Police), and he came here to meet me. He wanted to know how did I find out. Was I involved? I told him not to mess with me too much. You know, a tantric should not be messed with. You should neither be too friendly nor too hostile to a person with such powers. It’s best to keep your distance. But he just won’t listen to me and kept mocking me, and asked me to show him some miracle. So, I took two mustard seeds and lit a small plant on fire. He couldn’t believe it. So I told him to stay away from me. He apologized, but asked me to not interfere in police cases.
SD: What is tantra? Can anyone learn it?
JS: Tantra is the art that can only be learnt at the place of the dead, like a cremation ground or a cemetery. One has to worship the gods there, where the spirits of those who died untimely roam like air. They never leave the earth for thousands of years, there is no release for their soul.
SD: Can you see these spirits?
JS: Yes, of course. I see them, I talk to them. Sometimes they’re hell-bent on revenge. This is the path I’ve treaded all my life. You asked if anyone can learn tantra, yes. Anyone. Women learn it, too. Some years ago, this woman came to me. She had been betrayed in love and she wanted to avenge the betrayal. I tried talking her out of it, but she won’t listen. She told me that she will give me anything I wanted in exchange for learning the tantric arts. I told her that she would have to take off her clothes in the cremation ground. She would have to be absolutely naked. She agreed, but said her parents would wait outside. After a while, when she was adept at using tantra, she decided that she will now kill the man who’d left her. I told her if she considers me her guru then she shouldn’t kill him, but destroy him – materially. Get him fired from his job, or jailed. At first, she wouldn’t listen to me, but later she gave in and got him jailed. She visited him at jail and told her that it was she who’d done it, and that she could kill him if she wanted, she now had spirits who obey her.
SD: So, is tantra only used to bring harm to people?
JS: Not necessarily. But it can only be achieved in this way, there is no other path for tantric siddhis (or, tantric accomplishments). Once you have mastered it, then you’re free to do whatever you want : good or bad. There are different mantras for different things. Some do good, some bad.
There was a deputy-collector here, whose wife is a professor. Due to some personal situations, the husband couldn’t be present at his own son’s birth. And for three months, the wife was at her parents’ house, he did not visit her. When finally he did, she threw him out of the house, saying that their marriage was over. So he approached me, so I asked him to bring me her clothes. Her blouse, her panties, etc. It took me seven days, but through my mantras, I communicated my message to her via dreams. In her dreams, someone constantly was asking her to go back to her husband. A few days later, she calls her husband and asked him if he was doing any tantra on her, she’d been having these strange dreams. In any case, she listened to the dreams, and came back to him. Now that’s a good thing I did, if they’d been separated, it would have been bad for both of them. This is tantric knowledge.
SD: What do you think is the importance of dreams?
JS: They have to be interpreted properly. There is a tantric siddhi for that. If someone masters it, they can interpret dreams perfectly. And understand all its messages as they are meant to be understood.
SD: In the memory of a Sufi patient, one last question: how would you define life in two words?
JS: Two words are difficult. I’d say, worship and god.