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Vamachara (Left-Hand Path) is a technical term used to describe particular tantric practices that are considered heterodox according to usual Hindu social norms. The term Dakshinachara (Right-Hand Path) is used to refer to Tantric sects that do not engage in these heterodox practices.
Etymology "The means of spiritual attainment which varies from person to person according to competence...Achara are generally of seven kinds -- Veda, Vaishnav, Ashaiva, Dakashin, Vama, Siddhanta, and Kaula, falling into two broad categories -- Dakshin and Vam. Interpretations vary regarding the nature and grouping of the types. It is generally held that those who participate in the rituals of Five Ms belong to the category of Vamachaar."
Vama means "left" and Dakashin mans "right". For this reason, the term Vamachaar is often translated "Left-hand practice". An alternate etymology is that it is possible that the first word of the expression Vamachaar is not vama or "left", but vama or "woman". A main feature of the Tantras is respect for the status of women as a representation of Shakti, and that if this was the original conception underlying Vamachaara the opposing term Dakshinachaar may have been a later development.
An alternate term Vamachaar ("Left Path") is also used. In this compound the ambiguity between vama and vamaa is not present because the final "-a" in Vamamarga is clearly short.
PracticesThe Brahma Yamala, a Tantric text, says there are three currents of tradition (dakshina, vama, and madhyama) characterized respectively by the predominance of each of the three gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas). According to this text, dakshina is characterized by sattva, and is pure; vama, characterized by rajas, is mixed; and madhyama, characterized by tamas, is impure. The Tantras of each class follow a particular line of spiritual practices.
Vamachara is particularly associated with the pancha-makara or the "Five Ms", also known as the pancha-tattva. In literal terms they are: Madya (wine), Mamsa (meat), Matsya (fish), Mudra (cereal), and Maithuna (sexual intercourse).
Vamachara traditions place strict ritual limits on the use of these literal forms and warn against nonsanctioned use. Douglas Renfrew Brooks provides this quotation from the tantric scholar Bhaskararaya warning that any nonsanctioned use of intoxicants can result in disaster:
"The form of Brahman is bliss and that is established in the body. The (ritual) substances which manifest that (bliss) are drunk by the Yogis.... However if the substances when not ritually used (and so considered) impure (apavitram) are drunk then because they actively obstruct the aims of human life, they bind one to sin (and) are not capable of inducing that (blissful) state."
Practioners of vamachara rituals may make symbolic substitutions for these literal things, which are not permitted in orthodox Hindu practice. They participates in sex rituals, drinks alcohol, consumes other intoxicants, eats meat, and sacrifices animals.The fact that tantric practices can be done without involvement with the literal pancha-makara is emphasized by Swami Madhavananda:
"The Taantrik rites can be practised in the purest form possible, without a touch of wine or sex-indulgence, and this is amply proved by the lives of numerous saints of this school."
Keep in mind, this is the minority, but most of the contemporary Tantra Yogis and Yoginis, who follow the Vamachara path, are practicing a form of 'New Age Tantra Yoga,' without any direction or guidance from a Guru. They blindly search for a higher spiritual plane of existence, by trying their best to incorporate magic and witchcraft into this blend of New Age Tantra Yoga, without a Yoga teacher.
Those that follow the Vamachara path, with a lineage, are not going public. On the other hand, the New Age Tantra Yogis and Yoginis, who post their pictures up on the Internet, in pursuit of many different sex partners, are doing their best to go public. A Tantra Yoga teacher is not usually a sex therapist. If a person, or a couple, is experiencing sexual problems, or difficulties, due to trauma, infidelity, levels of sexual interest in each other - that person, or couple, should seek professional help with a qualified sex therapist. It only makes sense that you get counseling from the most professional source.
A sex therapist is not usually a Tantra Yoga teacher. This is just another way to market and re-package sex therapy. If you happen upon a sex therapist, who also claims to be a Tantra Yoga teacher, do a little research first, and you may find the deeper truth about marketing.
Finally, most Orthodox Hindus do not look favorably upon the Vamachara path. For religious fundamentalists, who are not Hindus, the Vamachara path of Tantra Yoga is the ?smoking gun? of Yoga, but ironically they point the finger of suspicion toward Hatha Yoga (union by physical mastery) because of its global popularity.
"Sacred Activism is the fusion of the mystic's passion for God with the activist's passion for justice, creating a third fire, which is the burning sacred heart that longs to help, preserve, and nurture every living thing." - Andrew Harvey
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