This introduction to tantric healing is the result of many talks and experiences with Kedar Upreti, a seventh generation tantric healer from the Tantric & Ayurvedic Healing Center in Kathmandu - Nepal.
Tantric healing is a healing tradition based on Tantra, the holistic science of energy and consciousness. It can be regarded as the shamanic tradition of Asia and its practices are similar to what is found in worldwide shamanic healing. The unique perspective of tantric healing however comes through the link with yogic science in general and Tantra Yoga in particular.
Tantric healing includes Ayurvedic remedies, as well as general guidelines for a more healthy, yogic lifestyle. The tantric healer however adds another dimension to it : the spiritual world. Through mantra, yantra and rituals (puja), the karmic impressions of the patient are affected, in order to produce or promote effective healing. The tantric healing practices may thus seem rather bizarre or incomprehensible, yet to the person who gets healed this is not very important.
A disease may originate with an imbalance on any level : physical, mental/emotional or spiritual. However, if the condition becomes chronical, then the imbalance will spread to all levels. Just eliminating the original cause may then not be succesful in removing the disease and only a holistic approach on all levels of our being may produce the desired result. And if the cause is spiritual, the sole treatment of the physical and mental/emotional symptoms may often produce new symptoms and problems, which may even be more severe than was originally the case.
The spritual world
The spiritual world that is referred to here is exactly what the word says : it is the world of the spirits. Next to beings like us who have a physical body on the physical plane, other beings exist with a more subtle energy body. Thus they are also often named "energies", even though it must be clear that these energies are not non-conscious. They are beings and most of them are quite simply people who left their bodies and became spirits. Those who believe in reincarnation also naturally believe in the existence of spirits, even if for many this is not so obvious.
Next to relatively "normal" spirits, there also exist beings that are more powerful than average, or more spiritually evolved. But basically, spirits are just like people : some are more happy or less happy, more nice or less nice, more smart or less smart, more or less spiritual, more playful or more serious, etc.. Another name often used for the spirits is the "vayu", because they live in close connection to the air element.
Most spirits are relatively harmless and live their own lives without much contact with life on the physical plane. Yet some spirits are more connected to the physical plane because of their own karmas. They feel the need to affect people on the physical plane, whether in a positive way, or in a negative way, or in a more playful way that is neither positive nor negative. The spirits that cause or maintain a disease are basically unhappy spirits that may be driven by quite normal emotions such as jealousy, depression, greed, sadness, etc... They may also increase the same negative feelings in us.
Most people are influenced by the spirits of their ancestors, because through the blood link, the connection is easy. When a spirit leaves the body, the time frame very fundamentally changes. Before again incarnating in a new form, an ancestor spirit may well stick around for dozens of years, because to that spirit it will seem like a very short time. This explains why ancestor spirits are very important and why they are so numerous. Sometimes a person may be influenced by an ancestor that left his or her body even before the person was born. In any case, it is vital to regularly pay respect to the ancestors. This may happen in a more formal way, like in a puja for the ancestors, or in a more personal way, simply greeting and thanking the ancestors. For health and general well-being, it is important quite simply that the ancestors do not feel neglected or forgotten, especially if the relationship with a particular ancestor was not very good in life. Kedar Upreti clearly indicates that the general loss of these traditions is causing many mental, emotional and physical problems worldwide. Regularly keeping contact with the ancestor spirits is not just important for health : it may also produce much help in any aspect of life, such as in business, art, relationships, etc...
Some people are born with more channels connecting them to the spiritual world, and some may develop these channels throughout life, yoga and meditation. These people then may experience that they are particularly sensitive to the spiritual world and may be more often affected by the spirits, both in a positive way as in a less agreable fashion. They may need particular tantric practices to become more protected. And in everybody, the spiritual world is essential in bringing our karmic impressions into expression.
The role of karma
According to the Hindu view, we produce our own karma, but this karma is manifested through the intermediate of the vedic planets. The nine planets are seen as manifestations of Lord Vishnu, the preserver. Thus they serve to preserve the universe by bringing balance wherever there is imbalance. Where knowledge is needed, Jupiter will rise. Where a fight is needed to protect the universe, Mars will do the job, etc... While these planets are themselves also highly evolved spiritual beings, they do not do their work "all by themselves". Each of them is aided by a large number of devoted spiritual beings that may affect our lives quite directly, in order to balance our karmic impressions. In that, they bring us only what we want to receive, on a subconscious level. If subconsciously we feel guilty about something, then we may ourselves invite a suitable punishment, for example through the intermediate of spirits related to the planet Saturn. Or if we feel subconsciously very much in need of affection, the spirits belonging to the planet Venus will help us to find it. These are just simplified examples of what is really quite a complex, magical process of vibrations resonating with other vibrations, the interaction between our karmic impressions and the spiritual world.
In a similar way, other mighty spiritual beings like the Hindu devatas or gods (sometimes called demi-gods) have particular roles in the universal Leela (play). And just as it happens with the planets, less mighty spirits may feel attracted to this or that deity and serve their main purpose or role. In this way, praying to Hanuman, Ganesha, Lakshmi, etc... may produce very direct results in life and health, because the prayers may be responded to quite concretely by the spirituel beings that are associated with these deities. Many of the puja practices happening at home as bhakti yoga, are thus also tantric practices.
The tantric healer
A tantric healer is a person who has a strong connection to the spiritual world. That means that he or she has developed strong alliances with particular spirits that help the healer in diagnosing the problem and in finding a proper solution. These ailliances have to be created and also maintained by proper ritual. Kedar Upreti for example is a seventh-generation tantric healer, who was taught the art of tantric healing by his father and grandfather from the time when he was only 6 years old. Some of the spirits that help him in his healing practices today have been aiding his family for many generations.
To be trained as a tantric healer starts with learning a large variety of rituals. But it goes way beyond that. The healer has to learn to be very concentrated, so that for example the sound frequencies produced by a mantra are not disturbed by the "sounds" of unnecessary thoughts within. Each mantra that is to be used by the healer has to be repeated for a prescribed number of times (24.000, 100.000,...) so that the mantra becomes strongly embedded within the mind of the healer. In this way, the healer truly receives the power of that mantra, so that even using it only ones may already produce considerable result. Building up this kind of power also includes establishing connections with particulate spirits, which in truth are the ones who bestow these powers.
The tantric healer may essentially cooperate with spirits of two kinds : devic and asuric spirits. One might translate these two words as "divine" and "demonic", but that is not really correct as the names only indicate a particular tendency or character. Devic spirits help the healer because they like to aid in the healing process. They are caring and peaceful by nature and are usually associated with some or other deity. Asuric spirits are a little more selfish. They help the tantric healer because they get some reward in return, such as an offering of alcohol or meat. They are by nature more fierce. Some tantric healers will only use devic "helper" spirits, while others may use both and a few will only associate with the more asuric spirits. Asuric spirits are more forcefull and thus they may provide some aid where devic spirits may not. On the other hand, the effects of the aid of more asuric helper spirits may be rather shortlived, while the aid offered by more devic spirits, if succesful, is always more durable.
The tantric healing process
At first, these "helper spirits" will communicate with the spirits that are connected to the patient, in order to diagnose the problem. If an unhappy spirit is causing or maintaining the disease, then the approriate means will be chosen to end this influence. Generally speaking, the first thing to try is simply to convince the unhappy spirit to leave the patient. For this purpose, the more devic "helper" spirits are used because they are able to remove some of the unhappiness through love and compassion. Second, the unhappy spirit may also be offered certain rewards for leaving the patient, such as some fruits, flowers, etc... The spirit is then guided to take possession of these offerings, which are then placed somewhere in nature, away from the patient. In more extreme cases, "bigger" rewards may be offered, such as an egg, or even animals. Third, if the spirit cannot be convinced by these more gentle approaches, the more asuric "helper" spirits may be used to drive it away or "push" it towards the offerings. But even then, the tantric healer will always try to be gentle, understanding that the unhappy spirit is to be respected also and should not be caused any unnecessary pain. After all, the tantric healer should also be concious of his or her own karma.
In any case, karma is always an important consideration. If the "diagnosis" reveals that the spirit which is causing the disease is supported by the karma of the patient, then the healer will usually refrain from interfering. An analysis of the horoscope will often reveal that the disease is just a symptom of a period in which the patient has some karmic debt to pay. Removing the disease or the spirit that is causing it may then result in the manifestation of another, more severe problem, linked to the same karmic debt. This karmic debt comes associated with a certain planet and the spirits that are associated with this planet will make sure that the debt is paid somehow or other. Ultimately of course, this karmic debt is stored in the subconcious mind of the patient, so it is the patient him- or herself which gives the spirit the "opening" to cause a particular disease.
Tantric healing rituals
To the outsider, tantric healing rituals may seem very obscure and also quite rigid. The main reason why certain things have to happen in a particular way is because they have been done in the same way before. Ritual actions are like a language adressing particular spiritual beings in a particular way. This explains why different healers may have totally different traditions, each maintaining that the ritual has to happen in a very particular way. If two healers have a totally different opinion for example on how to perform the ritual cleansing before a ritual, they are both correct because they are communicating with different spirits that have different opinions on this cleansing ritual themselves.
Many helper spirits are in fact quite old, so they may hold on to practices that are very old. Rituals may change over time, but these changes should be very gradual and the healer will take time to explain the reasons for these changes to the spirits. Whenever such a change is made, the healer should carefully consider the details, assuring that he will be willing and able to maintain the new ritual practice over time. Some of these changes may also be suggested by the spirits themselves, who will communicate them to the healer by a form of telepathy.
General rituals that pay respect to the beings of the spiritual world or adress, praise and thank helper spirits are thus usually very traditional and rather rigid. On the other hand, the particular ways in which a healing is done may vary very much according to the situation. The healer may thus receive very specific instructions from the helper spirits on the kind of offerings that are needed, the mantras that are to be used, the moment on which the healing is to take place, etc...
Of all tools used in tantric rituals, mantras are probably the most important. Through their sound syllables that produce certain energetic vibrations, they influence the spiritual world in a major way. They may be used to attract helper spirits, to make unhappy spirits more happy, or drive away spirits that are causing problems. Very often, the patient will be given a mantra that should be used as much as possible for further protection or even to help to bring the healing about. Unhappy spirits that are more asuric in nature may quite simply dislike certain mantras, incenses, ash from a fire ritual, etc.. that create more devic vibrations, so regularly using these tantric tools is very important for spiritual health. On the other hand, such spirits usually like bad smells, bad sounds, etc... so these should be maximally avoided.
The above is just a symplified introduction to what is really a highly complex science. There are many more aspects to tantric healing that have not yet been discussed here. As tantric healing traditions are so highly varied, some of the practices or interpretations described here may not correspond to what is valid in a particular tradition.
These days, tantric healers in Asia are not having an easy time. The younger generations of patients often regard tantric healing rituals as superstitious and turn towards "modern" western medicine. Tantric healers always have had a special position in society, feared by many because of their connection to the spirit world, but respected by all. These days however this respect is waning and many tantric healers have difficulty to provide for their families. Their sons and daughters are thus also less likely to believe in the future of their family tradition, even if only for economic reasons. As a result, a lot of understanding and spiritual power is lost. Fortunately, westeners as well as asians who have had sufficient experience with the limitations of western medicine are returning towards tantric healing in number. Especially if diseases become chronical and regular doctors seem unable to provide any clear cause or cure, it is advisable to seek ou those that look further than the purely physical aspects of disease.