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) 

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