In this post, we take a look at differences in the way Left-Hand Tantra and Right-Hand Tantra are interpreted (or classified), but let’s start by the way Left-Hand and Right-Hand ideas are positioned in Western esoteric traditions.
In the West, Left-Hand paths are interpreted as occult and ceremonial magic, sometimes seen as so-called Black Magic. Left-Hand paths are generally considered “dark and bad.” By contrast, of Right-Hand esoteric practitioners it’s thought that they occupy themselves with benevolent and compassionate White Magic.
Nevertheless, there are some other ideas also about this division, where it’s thought that Left and Right have not so much to do with good or evil, but rather with different approaches and different kinds of esoteric works and activities.
In Indian Tantra, Left-Hand Tantra is called Vamachara and Right-Hand Tantra is called Dakshinachara, and this division has indeed some similarities with Left-Hand and Right-Hand esoteric paths in the West.
The idea here is that Vamachara (Left-Hand) Tantra includes taboo-breaking ritual practices that conflict with conservative Hinduism, such as sexual rituals, consumption of meat, alcohol and other intoxicants. There’s no distinction made between pure and impure, that is, everything is sacred. Left-Hand Tantra could be compared with Red Tantra.
By contrast, Dakshinachara (or Right-Hand) applies rather traditional Hindu spiritual practices, such as asceticism, Yoga and meditation, the use of mantras, yantras, tantras and mandalas, and such. Right-Hand Tantra could be equated with White Tantra.
Nevertheless, both Left-Hand and Right-Hand Tantra have as their goals to transcend sensuality and sexuality to attain spiritual enlightenment, where Vamachara is usually considered to be the faster route, albeit more difficult and more dangerous (that is, there are more risks to get stuck in the material sensual sphere).