Vamacara, Vamamarga

Skt., vamacara, vamamarga: Left-Handed Path

The so-called left-hand path of Tantric worship, which includes actual sexual union and the panchamakara ritual. The name for the followers of this path is Vamacharis or Vamacharias.

This school must be considered as representing the more original Tantra as there is no mention of a Dakshinacara before the thirteenth century; although the centuries during which Tantra developed and flourished were the fourth through the twelfth. The designation left simply derives from the fact that the women participating in the rites are seated on the left, their male partners on the right.

Vamacara as a whole is subdivided once more into Madhyama Vamacara, where ritual includes all five of the makara; and Uttama Vamacara, according to which only madya (wine), mithunam (sexual union), and mudra (cereal) are required and/or recommended.

Dakshinacara, Dakshinamarga

Skt., daksinacara, daksinamarga: Right-Handed Path

The right-hand path of Tantra, the followers of which are called Dakshinacharins and who renounce many of the truly Tantric techniques, being mainly bhakti (Skt., devotion) oriented. Here, sexual activity is merely symbolic/mental, and several of the five makara acquire a different interpretation.

The reformation from left to right is often attributed to the influence of the scholar, philosopher, and teacher Shankara (788-820). He and others like him actually tried to compromise between the new and radical teachings of Tantra and the more orthodox Vedic tradition.

The Sanskrit word daksina indicates both right and south. A temple, for example, with the name Dakshin-Kali (found in both India and Nepal) does not signify a right or right-handed Kali, but more likely She who's worship derives from southern India. Such a temple does not necessarily have to be a sacred place of Dakshinacaras.