Philology of Yoga and Tantra

Philology of the Sanskrit words “Yoga” and “Tantra” according to P.R. Sarkar (Shrii Shrii Anandamurti)

from “Yoga and Tantra” discourse (1979)

The word yoga is derived as the Sanskrit root verb yuiṋj plus the suffix ghaiṋ. Or alternatively, the root verb yuj plus the suffix ghaiṋ. If yoga is derived as yuj + ghaiṋ, it means “addition”, such as “two plus two equals four.” But if yoga is derived as yuiṋj + ghaiṋ, it means “unification”, such as the unification of sugar and water. When sugar and water are mixed, you will no longer find sugar separate from water. But in the case of “two plus two equals four,” you will find the first “two” and the second “two” separately. Two mangoes plus two mangoes equals four mangoes: here you will still be able to see the four mangoes separately. So in the case of yuj + ghaiṋ, yoga means “unity” or “addition”, and in the alternative case it means “unification”.

Besides the two derivations of yoga, there are also various definitions of yoga. Maharshi Patanjali defines yoga as Yogashcittavrttinirodhah – that is, “Yoga means the suspension of all the psychic propensities.” In the human mind there are fifty main propensities. If by some special means the propensities are suspended, their expressions are stopped, in that case the mind will cease to function. That state of psychic suspension is here termed yoga. But we have defined yoga above to mean unification, and we can see that the suspension of propensities does not in any way mean that those propensities are being unified. The suspension of the propensities does not necessarily lead to the unification of the unit mind with the Cosmic Mind. This definition does not make clear, unification with whom or what. Hence this definition of yoga is not acceptable.

Now the second definition is Sarvacintáparityágo nishcinto yoga ucyate. That is, “When the mind is free from any sort of thinking, the mind is completely free of thoughts, that state is called yoga.” Now if the mind becomes free from thought, it does not lead to unification. When people are in deep sleep, when they do not even dream, the mind becomes free from thought, and people become unconscious. In that state also the mind stops thinking. But is that yoga? No!

Now another definition, as given by Sadáshiva, is Saḿyoga yoga ityukto jiivátmá Paramátmánah. That is, “The unification of the unit soul, the jiivátmá, with the Universal Soul, that is, Paramátmá, is yoga.” This seems to be the best, most scientific, definition.


The word tantra is derived as: tan + trae + d́a. Tra [trae + d́a] means “that which liberates.” So Tantra means the science which shows the path for the emancipation of the human entity through psycho-spiritual expansion. In other words, the spirit of Tantra is ever to continue expanding.

So literally tantra means “a systematic and scientific process which brings about first expansion, and thereafter liberation from the bondages of dullness and lethargy”. This liberation is called tantra in Sanskrit. Tantra means “liberation from bondages”.

from “Tantra and Its Effect on Society” discourse (1959)

What is Tantra? The process of transforming [latent divinity] into the Supreme Divinity is known as Tantra sádhaná. The sleeping divinity in animality is termed, in the language of spiritual aspirants, the kulakuńd́alinii. So we find that actually the spirit of Tantra sádhaná lies in infusing a [vibration] in the kulakuńd́alinii and pushing her up towards the spiritual goal.

The significance of the term tantra is “liberation from bondage [the bondage of dullness, or staticity]”. The letter ta is the seed [sound] of dullness. And the root verb trae suffixed by d́a becomes tra, which means “that which liberates” – so the spiritual practice which liberates the aspirant from the dullness or animality of the static force and expands the aspirant’s [spiritual] self is Tantra sádhaná. So there cannot be any spiritual practice without Tantra. Tantra is sádhaná.


There is spiritual force in each and every living entity. The practical interpretation of Tantra is to awaken this spiritual force and expand it, with the one objective of unifying it with the Supreme Divinity. The lowermost portion of the spinal cord is known as kula, [the abode of] Svayambhú. It is called kula because it bears the weight of the main physical trunk: ku means “creation” and la means “holder” (lá + da = la). [The abode of] Svayambhúliuṋga, bearing the weight of the main physical trunk, is rightly termed kula.


The main characteristic of Tantra is that it represents human vigour. It represents a pactless fight. Where there is no fight there is no sádhaná. Under such circumstances Tantra cannot be there, where there is no sádhaná, no fight. It is an impossibility to conquer a crude idea and to replace it by a subtle idea without a fight. It is not at all possible without sádhaná. Hence, Tantra is not only a fight, it is an all-round fight. It is not only an external or internal fight, it is simultaneously both. The internal fight is a practice of the subtler portion of Tantra. The external fight is a fight of the cruder portion of Tantra. And the fight both external and internal is a fight in both ways at once.

So practice in each and every stratum of life receives due recognition in Tantra, and the coordination and cooperation of the practices in all strata represents Tantra in its proper perspective. The practice for raising the kulakuńd́alinii is the internal sádhaná of Tantra, while shattering the bondages of hatred, suspicion, fear, shyness, etc., by direct action is the external sádhaná.


About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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