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A Tantric Vaiṣṇava tradition, which flourished in Northeastern India, especially Bengal, between the early 17th and the late 19th centuries. Any connection with the much earlier Buddhist Sahajiyā tradition is not clear, but the Sahajiyās appear to have been influenced by Caitanya, whom they regarded as their guru. Their name is derived from the term sahaja, since their practice is geared to actualizing the ‘innate’ state of consciousness in which all duality or difference is unified. This involves various meditational, yogic, and devotional practices, culminating in the cooperation of properly initiated men and women in ritual sexual intercourse. The man identifies with Kṛṣṇa, the woman with Rādhā, although they are considered merely male and female aspects of the one, supreme deity (‘Kṛṣṇa’). Through the manipulation of sexual fluids (including the retention of semen), the physical body is converted to an inner or spiritual body in which the practitioners share a state of blissful equilibrium and divine love (preman)—one which marks a return to the state of unity underlying all creation. Given their practices, it is not surprising that the Sahajiyās maintained a secret tradition, and that their texts, which include hundreds of short songs, and various Tantras, were composed in a highly ambiguous and coded form of Bengali known as sandhyā/sandhā-bhāṣā. Their guru paramparā is said to be extinct, although their influence is clear on other traditions, such as the Bāuls.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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