Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 46)

Verse 46, Vijñānabhairava-tantra       becoming Void

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“He should, for a moment, contemplate emptiness in a part of his body. [The result is] freedom from thought constructs. Being devoid of thought constructs, he becomes the Void itself ”

तनूदेशे शून्यतैव क्षणमात्रं विभावयेत्।
निर्विकल्पं निर्विकल्पो निर्विकल्पस्वरूपभाक्॥ ४६॥

tanūdeśe śūnyataiva kṣaṇamātraṁ vibhāvayet|
nirvikalpaṁ nirvikalpo nirvikalpasvarūpabhāk || 46 ||

“He should contemplate emptiness”

The term “emptiness” (śūnyatā) has many facets. On the one hand it refers to the essential instability of all matter, therefore of any “part of his body” (tanūdeśe), for all is transient. Matter has no absolute reality. It is in keeping with verse 29:64 of the Tantrāloka, “I am not, …. I am only energies (śakti)”. This verse contrasts with the famous phrase ‘I am Brahman’ (aham brahmāsmi). The primary stain (mala) is to give absolute value to the ego (ahamkāra). Nothing exists in itself. It is only a combination of śaktis. Solidity and reality are attributed to the body, but that is an illusion.

That teaching applies not only to the body but also to all aspects of one’s person: the faculties and memories, one’s history and reputation. These are all empty.

This practice is difficult, for it involves detachment in every regard. It implies a rejection of the sense of identity and self-absorption. It means not worrying about what to eat, what to have, what to be. It means attaching no importance to fame and honour, popularity or acceptance. It means giving up the many fears and desires that dominate society.

This emptiness can be considered in a more positive sense also, since all arises out of the transcendent, which is beyond all understanding and definition. The transcendent cannot be classed as a being among beings. It rises above all such things. Therefore at the heart of all matter, and therefor at the heart of any part of the body, there is the Void (śūnyatā); there is something apophatic that cannot be described. There is a profound freedom at the centre of what seem most inert and material. Thus insubstantiality and indefinability and freedom and transcendence are contemplated there, in what touches us most closely: the body.

This is not a prolonged act of contemplation. It is “for a moment” (kṣaṇamātraṁ).

“freedom from thought constructs”

As a result there occurs an abandonment of thought constructs (nirvikalpaṁ). The categories disappear because they are irrelevant and can longer interest the mind. The practitioner has gone beyond them.

Being devoid of though constructs

This attitude penetrates the practitioners such that they themselves become identified with the absence of thought constructs. They can be named as ‘devoid of constructs’ (nirvikalpo), of ideas and categories and all limitations.

“he becomes the Void itself”

But the practitioners go further. Śiva himself is Akula, without the aspects that belong to Kula. Śiva is without form and so, like a mirror, can take on every form. This absence of innate form is not weakness but strength. Since Śiva is nothing he can be everything. Since he is empty he can receive all without barrier or inhibition.

The practitioner, therefore, takes on the very being of Śiva. He becomes the very “essence of lack of thought constructs” (nirvikalpasvarūpa). He becomes Void. He is ‘fully empty’, so to speak. He is nothing; he is everything, not in his limited self, but in his essential being.

This in turn transforms the practitioner’s being, which now manifests the infinite. The body, which is still mortal and corruptible, takes on surpassing beauty and infinite worth. Its loveliness does not depend on externals such as youthful good looks, but on inner radiance. Even in old age magnificence shines forth, because the divine is manifest in the human. It is transfiguration.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 90)

Verse 90, Vijñānabhairavatantra      reciting the phoneme A

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“O Goddess, as a result of reciting the phoneme A without either or
the great flood of knowledge arises powerfully, Parameśvara himself.”

अबिन्दुमविसर्गं च अकारं जपतो महान्।
उदेति देवि सहसा ज्ञानौघः परमेश्वरः॥ ९०॥

abindumavisargaṁ ca akāraṁ japato mahān |
udeti devi sahasā jñānaughaḥ parameśvaraḥ || 90 ||

The symbolism of the 50 phonemes:

The 50 phonemes in the Sanskrit alphabet starts with A and finishes with KṢA. The sequence is not haphazard; its very sequence expresses a theology.

The 16 vowels come first, and the 34 consonants come next. The vowels are considered to be ‘masculine’; the consonants are deemed to be ‘feminine’. The first vowel, A, starts at the back of the throat, and moves to the lips, as a sign of increasing manifestation. The first consonant, K, also starts at the back of the throat, and moves to the lips.

The fifteenth ‘vowel’ is the phoneme Ṃ, which is called ‘drop’ or ‘point’ (bindu) or ‘subsidiary vowel’ (anusvara). It is like the crest of the wave when it is about to crash. It seems to hover; all the power of the crash is there, but nothing has yet happened. The sixteenth ‘vowel’ is Ḥ, which is called ‘emission’ (visarga). It is like that split-second when the wave begins to crash.

This symbolism is continued in the orthography. The bindu is written as a single dot with the letter : all is contained in the point. The visarga is written with two dots, : , signifying the differentiation that occurs on emission.

The phoneme K, pronounced at the back of the throat, symbolizes the very first moment of manifestation, like the breaking of the wave. The following phonemes are understood to represent the manifesting of the universe.

This śloka 90 relies on this symbolism.


The A is pronounced briefly, such that there is no mental activity of any sort associated with it. Indeed, the brevity of the recitation involves the cessation of breath (kumbhaka). The practitioner is to recite the phoneme A without bindu or visarga, which are very often the concluding phonemes of a mantra, and therefore without any hint of manifestation, and so in the state of pure subjectivity and supremacy. As a result this is the simplest of mantras. Indeed, it is the first step in pronouncing the mantra AUM, the prāṇava, which is considered to be the primordial sound.

The phoneme A, the vowel at the very start of the fifty phonemes, symbolizes Śiva himself, who is at the origin of all. It is his phonic form. (The second phoneme, Ā, symbolizes his consort, Śakti.) To recite the phoneme in all its simplicity is to come to unity and simplicity, and to the very basis of all mantras and words.

The practitioners by reciting the phonic form of Śiva will, by his grace, come to identity with him. They will in fact be Śiva reciting Śiva, Śiva expressing himself in what symbolizes him perfectly. There is identity between the sayer (vacaka) and the saying (vacya).

Yet, nothing is automatic. Even a parrot can be taught to recite A. What counts is the level of grace, the knowledge and will and the purity of motivation, as well as the correctness of the pronunciation. The saying will be total if the identification with Śiva is total, but time and practice may be required before identity of sayer and saying is attained. If the practitioners were able to recite the phoneme A in all fullness, they would need to say it only once. There would be no need to repeat.

The sound A is also emitted at moments of wonder (camatkara), pleasure, beauty and surprise, and also before what is horrible. In these moments of amazement the person goes beyond the limitations of mind and arrives at transcendence.

The moment of transcendent amazement cannot be contained, and defies all attempts at definition. Thus A contains all knowledge. It is the ‘flood of knowledge’ (jñānaughaḥ).

The Sanskrit word sahasā means ‘powerfully, ‘mightily’. It is intentionally chosen. The acts of inhalation and exhalation are symbolized by SA and HA, which are the ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ breaths, and are found in well-known mantras such as haṃsa or so ‘ham. But because the breaths alternate, each is limited compared with the utter simplicity of just A. There is more power in the single phoneme A than in SA and HA and the mantras that are based on them.

Then because of the identification with his phonic form, Parameśvara himself arises.  



Vijñānabhaiva-tantra (Shloka 162)

Verse 162, Vijñānabhaivatantra

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“Hearing these words, the Goddess, merged into the throat of Śiva.”

इत्युक्त्वानन्दिता देवि कण्ठे लग्ना शिवस्य तु॥ १६२॥

ityuktvānanditā devi kaṇṭhe lagnā śivasya tu || 162 |

The Vijñānabhairavatantra is a dialogue between the god and the goddess. She began the tantra by asking for enlightenment on a number of issues. From śloka 24 to śloka 138 the god reveals 112 methods for reaching fullness.

This final verse, in fact a half line, gives the conclusion to the whole tantra. He has enlightened her, and she is filled with bliss (ānanditā).  She embraces him, merges (lagnā) into him at his throat (kaṇṭhe), precisely at the place from which all these words have sprung. The genitive form ‘of Śiva’ (śivasya) can have two meanings. One is ‘ at the throat (kaṇṭhe) of Śiva.’ Words spring from his throat and now she joins herself to his throat  Words have been the means of union. The other, that the goddess is ‘of Śiva’, she belongs to him, is identified with him. She had been separated from him by her doubts and ignorance and now she is one with him.

There is a progressing, grammatically, from objects – the words spoken (ityuktva) – to the goddess (devi), and then to the god (śivasya). The three dimensions of reality – words,  Devī and Śiva – are one. It is the climax of the tantra.

The śloka finishes at the half line, as though to say that once the union of Devī and Śiva occurs, there an on-going profound eternal silence.

The purpose of the whole tantra is to arrive at the union of god and goddess. This can occur only by true knowledge.  

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 135)

Verse 135, Vijñānabhairavatantra

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“Bondage does not apply to me, nor liberation. These are bogeymen to frighten people. This universe is mirrored in the intellect like the reflection of the sun in water.”

न मे बन्धो न मोक्षो मे भीतस्यैता विभीषिकाः।
प्रतिबिम्बम् इदम् बुद्धेर् जलेष्व् इव विवस्वतः॥ १३५॥

na me bandho na mokṣo me bhītasyaitā vibhīṣikāḥ |
pratibimbam idam buddher jaleṣv iva vivasvataḥ || 135 ||

It is Śiva who is speaking (me). Since he is the source of all things, he cannot be bound (bandho) and he cannot be liberated (mokṣo).  He is always free, even when he takes on ignorance. He cannot be liberated, for he is beyond categories.

This is true of all beings, but they are not aware of it. They divide the world into bound and free.  But these divisive concepts have the effect only of frightening (bhītasya) people like the bogeymen (vibhīṣikāḥ). Thus, when people believe they are bound, they are anxious and take great efforts to become free. They lament their lack of liberation.

Of course, we are essentially free, so Kashmir Shaivism teaches, but do not know it. Abhinavagupta, towards the start of the Tantrāloka, tells the story of a young woman who has heard about a great prince, so handsome and so brave. She falls in love with him and yearns to see him. One day he does in fact come to her but she is still caught up in her dreaming. Then the moment comes when she does at last recognize him. It is the moment of recognition (pratyabhijñā). By this tale Abhinavagupta is saying that we do in fact know that we transcend the limitations of bondage and freedom but do not realize it.

What then is the value of rituals? ? If we think that by them we attain freedom we do not already possess, we are mistaken. But by them we do come to truly appreciate that we are free. They enable the realization to grow in us and to be expressed in us in, in our actions and attitudes, so that we radiate the freedom, which is essentially ours.

The śloka makes comparison between seeing the sun reflected in water and seeing the sun directly. Those who say they are liberated are still bound, for they are using the divisive categories that occur in the buddhi, which is a limited state of consciousness. It is not consciousness as such (samvit).

This same idea is taken up by St Paul, who says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.” And he goes on: “I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (I Cor 13:12) 

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 110)

Verse 110, Vijñānabhairavatantra

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“Just as the waves arise from the water, flames from fire and rays from the sun, so too from me, Bhairava, the aspects of the universe arise in their variety.”

जलस्येवोर्मयो वह्नेर् ज्वालाभङ्ग्यः प्रभा रवेः।
ममैव भैरवस्यैता विश्वभङ्ग्यो विभेदिताः॥ ११०॥

jalasyevormayo vahner jvālābhaṅgyaḥ prabhā raveḥ |
mamaiva bhairavasyaitā viśvabhaṅgyo vibheditāḥ || 110 ||

In the previous śloka the meditation focused on the fact that the practitioner realizes he is Parameśvara. This śloka follows on naturally: all things arise from the Supreme Lord.

The question immediately arises about what is meant by ‘the variety’. Does this include evil? This question is acutely felt in the teaching of non-dualism. As long as the world can be divided into good and evil, in a Zoroastrian sense, the question is easily answered: No! But if all springs from Bhairava, then is evil due to him? How then pray to be free from evil; why fight against evil? Why be concerned with social justice? Why feel sorrow? The consequences are enormous.

Islam teaches that everything happens by the will of Allah, but would not go so far as to say that Allah is the author of evil. Job says “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,”(Job 1:21) but goes no further.

In the Christian view of things, there is another answer, namely that evil is turned to good. God shows his omnipotence by turning evil into good. On the last day when all is resolved, it will be seen that what was evil – and indeed it was evil – is now turned to our advantage. The tables have been turned.  Greater good has been drawn from evil.

Furthermore, who are we to know what is good and what is evil? However, just because we do not know what is finally good and what is finally evil, we do not jettison the law of morality.  There are paths down which we do not go, for they do not give rise to the flowering of consciousness.

Only the one who has been through life and death is the Judge of all. Indeed, he wishes to know life and death so as to be the Lord of life and death. Non-dualism is not to be understood with limited consciousness. Only in the end is God all in all, God is God even in evil.

The title used in this verse is ‘Bhairava’ which is carefully chosen, for if the name ‘Śiva’ refers to auspicious form of the ultimate reality, ‘Bhairava’ refers to the awesome aspect, the terrible, redoubtable form. 

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 109)

Verse 109, Vijñānabhairava-tantra

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“The Supreme Lord is all-knowing, all-doing, and all-doing, pervading. I am He indeed, the reality of Śiva. As a result of dwelling in this thought, one becomes Śiva.

सर्वज्ञः सर्वकर्ता च व्यापकः परमेश्वरः।
स एवाहं शैवधर्मा इति दार्ढ्याच् चिवो भवेत्॥ १०९॥

sarvajñaḥ sarvakartā ca vyāpakaḥ parameśvaraḥ |
sa evāhaṁ śaivadharmā iti dārḍhyāc civo bhavet|| 109 ||

At the first stage, a threefold description is given of the Supreme Lord (parameśvaraḥ), “all-knowing, all-doing, and all-doing, pervading”, which remins us of the three faculties, of knowledge, action and will, but not in their limited human sense but ‘all-knowing’ etc. These are concepts (vikalpa) and therefore are in one sense limited. These prepare for next stage which is to realize that “I am he”, (sa evaham) which is similar to the famous mantra so ’ham. This is reinforced by the next phrase “the reality of Śiva” (śaivadharmā). All that the Lord is, so am I. It is the moment  of recognition and realization.  It is a moment of grace, for the knowledge of the Lord ‘out there’ is only a step the prelude to the realisation of one’s inner being.

This reminds us of the famous saying of St Paul in Galatians, “I live or rather not I but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20). It is reflected again in th phrase: “you are the body of Christ” (I Cor12:27), or the image of the vine and the branches. The vine is all branches, one can only see separate branches but the reality is the vine. All together form a diversity and a unity. This teaching of identify is significant.

The practitioner reflects on this realization (dārḍhyāt). It is an act of focusing the attention (dhāraa). The practitioner reflects during the time of meditation but also at all times. and this is the level of grace, the more a person realizes this the more he can realize it at every tiena d bring it into every action so that it informs all this actions.  

It is attaching suitable to this Kālī age, this age of darkness. In the Golden Age, it was easy to observe the dharma, but in this age of darkens, the greater power of śakti is need. Not very useful.

The question arose about the meaning of identity. The theme of divinization (theosis) is found in Christianity as when Athanasius famously says, “God became man so that man might become God”, or St Peter speaks of becoming “participants in the divine nature.” (2 Pt 1:4) or St John,  “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).

This question arises about devotion. When the Kari Krishna has devotion to Krishna, there is at first a separation, a devotion to someone ‘over there’, but as the devotion progresses, the man realizes that he is Krishna and the woman reliss he she is Radhā, and they join as Krishna and Radhā. The purpose of devotion is to become one, so that there is no ‘other’.

The issue of identify of nature and diversity of persons is at the heart of the Trinitarian concept, but this śloka is dealing with the identity of nature only. The purpose of the Christian faith and of tantra is to realize one’s true nature. I am not this limited indivial or rather, my inner essence is Śiva himself. “I am he indeed”.  Therefore, one bemes all-knowing all-pervading, all-doing, separate from nothing, foreign to nothing.

Is such a consideration possible in Islam? In Sufi tradition, it is entirely possible, for in the act of adoration and intimacy there is identity of the worshiper with Allah, so that they are no longer divided but one, indeed, there is no sense even of ’one’, for that is a concept. There is the experience of complete union without ideation.  The Qu’ran was given because people had come to darkness, and needed the light of the Qu’ran. It is in the deepest darkness that light appears in all its beauty and brilliance; it is when one is completely lost in the dark forest that the light of some welcoming house is most beautiful and comforting.

Just as in the moment of greatest darkness, when Jesus utters one great cry from the cross, it is his moment of greatest revelation, beyond words. In the moment of greatest darkness, the greatest revelation occurs. It is the moment when light and dark come together. So in the darkness of the Kalī age, the greats teaching is given, the ‘Fifth Veda’, which is the tantric system.

This is divine teaching, a though it is given in time by the cwriters of the t bht Bhairava tt, it is something that is true from all ages, eternally true and reveled in time. This is true also, I use teaching of the Koran which is uncreated and which has been expressed in material form in the Arabic words fo the hoy book. Just as Jesus, the word of god has existed rot he beginning uncreated, and is ade manifest me flesh and we call him Jesus. So the teaching of the tantra is eternal but made manifest here. So when the goddess hears it, she enters into the bliss that tis there In Christian teaching, this is u the revelation is gen but not necess not fully understood, and it is only it the spring teaching of the holy spirit that at least the fully mystery of Christi is revlead. Th spirit dos not add o what rjesus teaches but shows what is means, thus there is progress understanding to the releatinand in this snes a progressive revelation. So too in Islamite he Koran is given but it us be read and reflected upon and understood. Yeh process is not so clearly stated as due tot h hoy sprit. Both thr is the snes that the zoran cannot be taken as fully understood as do some funemalists and tremiss, tubt understood.   And applied to life.  

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 63)

Verse 63, Vijñānabhairavatantra Conscientising

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

“The meditator should reflect that his whole body or the universe is composed of consciousness. [The body and the universe can also be considered] conjointly, without thought construct, [as consisting of consciousness]. The supreme awakening occurs in the mind.”

सर्वं देहं चिन्मयं हि जगद् वा परिभावयेत्।
युगपन् निर्विकल्पेन मनसा परमोदयः॥ ६३॥

sarvaṁ dehaṁ cinmayaṁ hi jagad vā paribhāvayet|
yugapan nirvikalpena manasā paramodayaḥ || 63 ||

“The meditator should reflect that his whole body or indeed the universe itself is composed of consciousness.

This is possible because Śiva is consciousness itself, and all reality springs from him and his union with Śakti.

While the unenlightened person distinguishes between unenlightened and enlightened, the fully conscious person sees that all is in fact conscious, each in its own way.

This is remarkable teaching, but Pierre Teilhard de Chardin also notes it in his work The Phenomenon of Man. This seems to be born out by modern physics, which would say that matter is to be considered not so much as inert particles but as sources of information.

Reality is the outcome of the love play between Śiva and Śakti and all reality consists of lesser forms of this love-play. The lesser gods and goddess are engaged in intercourse according to the consciousness that is appropriate to them. The whole of reality is not only vibrant, it is conscious in its own way and capable of being brought to the fullness of consciousness. All reality is vibrating with the intensity of love. For this reason St Paul speaks about the whole of creation groaning and seeking to have the freedom of the children of God, that is to become fully conscious, fully loved and loving.

“creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rm 8:21)

It is the role of the ‘children of God’ and the meditator, to bring this about.  This leads to the Omega Point, as Teilhard puts it, where all is fulfilled, blissful and conscious.

This attitude is affirmative, for it sees the possibilities of matter, inert thought it may be. This mighty universe is destined to greatness.

The act of ‘placing’ (nyāsa) seeks to bring all the aspects of the body to consciousness by associating them with divinity. In the Christian tradition the great act of ‘placing’ is the sign of the cross, where Christians name the divine Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that in their very body they are taken up into their communion. And as they trace the mark of the cross on their whole body they take to themselves the whole of the Christian mystery: the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus they are conscientising their being by the sign of the cross. Similarly, the sign of the cross is made over the people in blessing at the end of Mass or over any article when it is blessed. When indeed blessing is extended to the whole world, it is being conscientised into the Trinity and the Paschal Mystery. In this way the body and the universe consists of the highest knowledge.

The body is not just the element that that can be seen. It is a microcosm, which contains in itself the whole macrocosm. Indeed, in the Kula initiation rite, the initiand will, at a certain point spontaneously place their hand on one or other part of their body. This signifies that they are united to the yoginī who presides at that point and who has governance over all the worlds associated with that point, for each point in the sweep of the body is associated with a certain world.

This idea of many worlds is found in the Al Fatiha, the opening sura of the Qur’an, where Allah is referred to as the “Lord of all the worlds”, implying not only the world we see but also the worlds we do not see.  In the ceremony in preparation for reciting the Al Fatiha and other prayers, the worshippers wash (wudu) their hands and feet and face, the major ‘instruments’ of their activity, not only to purify them from any stain whether physical or moral, but also to bring them to a heightened sense of awareness in preparation for prayer.

“They can be considered jointly, without thought constructs, [as consisting of consciousness[.

The word yugapan can be understood in two ways. It can contrast with the previous distinction ( ‘or’) between body and universe, and mean rather  ‘both the body and the world’. The word yugapan can also mean that they are seen jointly as one reality, in a way which is without thought (nirvikalpena), without reflecting on the objects, and so with a global sense.

“The supreme awakening occurs in the mind.”

As a result of considering things in this way there is, mentally or from within, the supreme enlightenment. There has been a shift from considering things in opposition, as either object (prameya) or means of knowledge (pramāṇa) or subject (pramāt). All become pramiti where the knowers know themselves by means of themselves, where all is non-dual. They are Śiva. This finds its counterpart in Christianity where the Lover, the Loved and the Loving are all one Love.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 70)

Vijñānabhairava-tantra, Verse 70   Recalling a sexual encounter

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

The śloka reads as follows:

“O Mistress of the Gods, bliss surges even in the absence of a śakti, through the act of recalling intently the pleasure experienced with a woman, the kissing, the embracing, the clasping.”

लेहनामन्थनाकोटैः स्त्रीसुखस्य भरात्स्मृतेः।
शक्त्यभावेऽपि देवेशि भवेद् आनन्दसम्प्लवः॥ ७०॥

lehanāmanthanākoṭaiḥ strīsukhasya bharāt smṛteḥ |
śaktyabhāve ‘pi deveśi bhaved ānandasamplavaḥ || 70 ||

The operative word is ‘recalling’ (smṛteḥ). It presupposes an earlier experience.  It is not fantasizing, or imagining what has not happened.  It is not a form of pornography or voyeurism. It is not compensation or make-believe. It is the act of recalling a delightful episode, which did in fact happen.

This recalling is to be distinguished from the karmamudrā in Buddhism, which is the experience of union with a real woman (mudrā), or the jñānamudrā which is the contemplation of womanhood. Note that similar terms, karmadūtī and jñānadūtī, appear in the Āgamarahaysa where the word dūti refers to the sexual partner. Note also that the word dūti is prominent in the description of the Kula Ritual in chapter 29 of Abhinavagupta’s Tantrāloka.

The term sukha forms one item of the pair sukhaduhkha, pleasure – suffering. This reliving of pleasure (sukha) with a woman (strī) leads to the experience of that bliss (ānanda) which is the state of Śiva and Śakti in their 1000 year intercourse (maithuna) (the figure 1000 being code for ‘everlasting’).

Śiva and Śakti, in their eternal union, are the basis of all reality. Everything that exists is the outflow of their sexual intercourse. Therefore the individual man and woman in their joining are expressions of Śiva and Śakti, and are united with all the copulations that occur in every moment, for the whole world is one vast field of love-making. That is why the couple senses such harmony with the whole universe. All mirrors all.

The pleasure was powerful at that time in the past because it was an inkling of the bliss that belongs to Śiva and Śakti in their eternity.  The act of remembering returns the practitioner to that moment.

The previous śloka 69 refers to the concluding moment of an actual sexual act, therefore to the sthūla (objective, ‘gross’) level.  This  śloka 70 is a dhāraa at the subtle level based on the power of memory (smṛti). Both lead to the sense of maithuna at the supreme (para) level, since all is derived from para.


The question arises then about the brahmacārī who has not experienced pleasure with a woman.  Is he excluded from practicing this dhāraa. Yes, of course, since he has not had a past sexual encounter.  But the sexual encounter of that sort is limited by its very nature. It did not, could not, last. The brahmacārī by contrast, does not seek “the kissing, the embracing, the clasping” (lehanāmanthanākoṭa) as the means to experiencing the eternal union of God and Goddess. Rather, he seeks to experience the supreme (para) divine intercourse from the outset. The desire arises in him for an eternal maithuna, which is found in every circumstance. This is his desire, his intention (samkalpa) from the start.

By a powerful gift of grace he experiences already at the highest level the union of the Divine Couple. He knows he is already Śiva in union with Śakti but also in union with all the śaktis that emanate from her. He experiences the stillness and energy that lies at the very origin of all things. He knows the divine maithuna at the deepest level of consciousness, for that godly sexuality is the heart of reality.

He is inverting the procedure, therefore, not proceeding from the lower to the higher but allowing the higher to inform the lower. As he rests in this state of bliss (ānanda) his whole person, his word, mantra, mind, emotions, feelings, his very body and all its faculties are filled also with the delight (sukha) that is sexual. He knows both the ānanda and the  strīsukha. Thus, at every moment, the brahmacārī experiences intercourse ever more frequently, ever more consciously. He has the fullness of sexuality and is united with the whole of the universe. This is described by Abhinavagupta, in Tantrāloka 29.79, as follows:

Moreover, having by his own nature become the sole Lord of the Kula, he should satiate the many śaktis by pairing [with them], he who possesses every form.

Jayaratha, in his commentary on TĀ 29.79 reinforces this statement with a quote

His śaktis are the whole universe …….

In Christian terms, the teaching has always been that the truly dedicated virgin, male or female, experiences already both the original and the future state:

For in the Saints who consecrated themselves to Christ
for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven,
it is right to celebrate the wonders of your providence,
by which you call human nature back to its original holiness
and bring it to experience on this earth
the gifts you promise in the new world to come.
(Roman Missal, ‘Preface of Holy Virgins and Religious’)

This teaching receives a fuller explanation in the light of śloka 70.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 108)

Vijñānabhairava-tantra   śloka  108

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

निराधारं मनः कृत्वा विकल्पान् न विकल्पयेत्।
तदात्मपरमात्मत्वे भैरवो मृगलोचने॥ १०८॥

nirādhāraṁ manaḥ kṛtvā vikalpān na vikalpayet|
tadātmaparamātmatve bhairavo mṛgalocane || 108 ||

“After removing all support from the mind, and entertaining no thoughts, when one has identified one’s self with the supreme Self, one becomes Bhairava, O Lady whose eyes are like those of a doe.”

The question is about becoming identified with the supreme Self (paramātmatve). The śloka teaches that by giving up every support (nirādhāraṁ) and every thought (vikalpān), when there is identity between the limited self and the supreme Self, one becomes Bhairava.

This is an issue raised in our Neo-Vedanta discussions where Shri Ramana Maharshi asks people who they are and will not give up his questioning till such time as they acknowledge that they are essentially the Self. This seems to be the aim of all religions, to acquire union with the divine in some way and to some extent. This is problematic, however, in the context of Islam, which does not use phrases like ‘partakers of the divine nature’. Even when Hallaj says ‘I am the Truth’, he means that he is so aware of the truth that it forms the core of his being. Christianity, however, does not hesitate to propose divinization, theosis, as in the famous saying of St Athanasius (c. 296–298 – 373), “God became man so that man might become God.”

The śloka speaks of having no support, yet the rituals are of value since they are like doorways that lead beyond themselves. This is true also of images. It might be one aspect of the deity, the sword of Kalī or the sweetmeats of Ganesh for example, which attracts because it reflects something in ones’ character, but these limited aspects are given so as to go beyond limitation. It is like seeing a beautiful woman. At first the beauty the eyes or the fairness of the skin attracts, but then the gaze is taken further to see the full beauty of the woman. Or the ski jumper who uses the slope as his support but only so that he can leap into the air, and go beyond all support. Similarly in the worship of Islam the moment of prostration is the moment when the person reaches to the Infinite.

The question still arises about identity with the deity. How far can we go? At the heart of Islam there is the sense of obedience, the fulfillment of one’s obligation. As a result there is a sense of the blessing of God, spiritual more than material, the sense of closeness and presence, of peace and satisfaction. One has done one’s duty. In Christianity the sense of closeness is taken to the highest level, as Jesus ‘sits at the right hand of God’. There is fullest unity, the identity of nature and difference of persons.

This identity of nature goes hand in hand with the process proposd in the śloka, for Jesus is bereft of every support, and cries out at the end that he is abandoned by all, even it would seem by the One who sent him. He is reduced to silence, for nothing makes sense any more. All human words fail and his final utterance is one great cry, both of horror and triumph.

The practitioner, as Kameshvara, worships the goddess Tripurasundarī, and so experiences her beauty and energy. He does not become the goddess but is one with her.  This is a different sort of identity. It is union without identity of nature. It is complementarity where one implies the other so that both are involved in each.

The śloka particularly emphasizes the sense of one’s divinity, one does become Bhairava. This fits in perfectly with  Jesus’ statement ‘I am’. He knows that he is of one substance with the Father, not that he takes His place. Precisely because he is fully in the Presence of the One, he is all that the One is. They are of one substance and mind, of one will and being. They are consubstantial.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 107)

Vijñānabhairava-tantra 107 Omnipresence

Summary of discussion on Vijnana-bhairava-tantra made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

स्ववद् अन्यशरीरेऽपि संवित्तिमनुभावयेत्।
अपेक्षां स्वशरीरस्य त्यक्त्वा व्यापी दिनैर् भवेत्॥ १०७॥

svavad anyaśarīre’pi saṁvittimanubhāvayet |
apekṣāṁ svaśarīrasya tyaktvā vyāpī dinair bhavet || 107 ||

“Leaving aside any consideration of his own body, he should experience the consciousness present in another’s body. In a matter of days he will become all-pervading.”

This remarkable śloka develops the theme of mindfulness. The awareness involved here is not of an object or situation or of one’s own mind, but consciousness of another’s consciousness. The practitioner experiences (anubhāvayet) another person’s state of mind (saṁvittim).

This requires on the part of the practitioner a self-emptying, a detachment (tyaktvā) from one’s own limited human condition, one’s own desires and revulsions, self-concept, and anxieties, which are signified by the word ‘body’ (śarīra). This purification allows a clear vision of the other in the deepest part of their being, namely their consciousness, which is not ethereal but embodied.

By freedom we perceive freedom. Clear vision alone can fully perceive the truth of another. Thus the detachment from one’s own ‘body’ enables the practitioner to perceive the consciousness in another’s ‘body’ (anyaśarīre) in all its limitations. One is not limited by the limitations of another.

As a result, the practitioner becomes omnipresent (vyāpī) in a matter of days (dinair). The perception penetrates everywhere, into vegetation as well as into blooded creatures, the ‘mobile and immobile’, even into the darkest recesses.

This is ultimately possible because there is in fact one consciousness. For those who are fully enlightened, there is no distinction between this awareness and that awareness. There is one mind. This is in keeping with the Gospel of St John 1:4 ‘the Word is the Light that enlightens all people’. Or again, according to Kashmir Shaivism, there is one Śiva who is ultimate consciousness. The Qur’an speaks of Allah breathing his breath into human beings, so that the one divine breath unites them all.

This practice involves becoming aware not only of the deepest truth of others but also of their limited consciousness, indeed their impure consciousness. Only the pure can perceive the impure, whereas impurity is self-defeating because it clouds perception. The awareness of the other’s consciousness comes gently and smoothly, for it is understanding, compassionate and sensitive. And by its presence, the other is assuaged and calmed and satisfied. It has a healing effect.