Elements of Kaśmir Śaivism mentioned in ‘Amaraugha-śāsana’ of Gorakṣanāth

Right at the beginning of the text “Amaraugha-śāsanaGorakṣanāth describes various processes, connected with different types of Śakti. The highest ultimate space (parama-sukha) could be acquired via ūrdhva-śaktinipātāna (descent of the upper Śakti), adhaḥ-śaktikuñcanā (folding of the lower Śakti) and madhya-śaktiprabodhena (awakening of the middle Śakti). Further, Gorakṣanāth tells about a practice named ṣaḍadhvagā-sāraṇā (unfolding of six flows), these ṣaḍadhvagās are also described in Trika texts. I’ll briefly explain what that practice is about. Bindu and a tendency to create are manifested through tension of nāda, which is generated by Śiva, playing with Śakti. Then Śiva manifests himself in the forms of vācaka (he who manifests speech) and vācya (what is manifesting), which are designated as arthas (objects). Such self-manifestation of Śiva has three levels: para (supreme), sūkṣma (subtle) and sthūla (gross), each of whom are divided in two, the one where vācaka (subject) prevails and the other, where vācya (objectivity) prevails. On the para level the subject is vārṇa (mātrikas) and the object is kalā (aspects of creation). On the whole, different mātrikas cover certain kalāsvārṇa क्ष corresponds to nivṛtti-kalāvārṇas ह to ट correspond to pratiṣṭhā-kalāvārṇas ञ to घ correspond to vidyā-kalāvārṇas ग ख and क are located in śāntā-kalāvārṇas from visarga to अ are located in śāntyatīta-kalā. Further, mantras and their manifestations as 36 tattvas are located on the sūkṣma level. Pada (word-forms) and manifested worlds of bhuvan are located on the sthūla level. A considerable amount of different mantras, padas and worlds are described in texts. All in all these elements have a match for each other, Śiva manifests them as Macrocosm, whereas they are presented in us as a microcosmic structures. A practice, where these elements are used, is given in “Vijñānabhairava-tantra”:

भुवनाध्वादिरूपेण चिन्तयेत्क्रमशोऽखिलम्।
स्थूलसूक्ष्मपरस्थित्या यावद् अन्ते मनोलयः॥ ५६॥

bhuvanādhvādirūpeṇa cintayetkramaśo’khilam |
sthūlasūkṣmaparasthityā yāvad ante manolayaḥ || 56 ||

It is necessary to contemplate dissolution from bhuvan etc. to all adhvas, from the gross level (sthūla) to the subtle (sūkṣma), and further, to the supreme level (para) and to achieve the dissolution of the mind in the end.

Mudrās from Nātha texts and Tāntric mudrās

Such mudrās as karaṅkiṇi, krodhinī, bhairavī, lelihānā and khecarī belong to the same system. The basis of this system is khecarī-mudrā, and the other four are in fact various aspects of khecarī-mudrā. These mudrās are mentioned in 32nd āhnika (5-6) of ‘Tantrāloka’ as a manifestation of khecarī-mudrā, and altogether they described as a principle (प्रतिबिम्बोदयो pratibimbodayo), reflection of divine awareness between a subject and an object(s). The practice of these five mudrās is mentioned in a famous ‘Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra’ (dhāraṇā 54) and in a number of other texts, such as, for instance, ‘Mahārtha Manjarī.’ Nāthas attribute ‘Mahārtha Manjarī’ to Gorakṣanāth, as the text identifies Maheshvarananda and Gorakṣanāth as authors. Also, these five mudrās are connected with Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, through its awakening by ritual sexual practices, ascending over five centres in the microcosm of a practitioner, starting from ‘kanda’ in a lower part of a body to bhrūmadhya. While Kuṇḍalinī ascends, these mudrās proceed as follows: karaṅkiṇi, krodhinī, bhairavī, lelihānā and in bhrūmadhyakhecarī. That practice may include both inner and objective awareness. Also, many texts state that these mudrās reveal different perfections. Karaṅkiṇi is translated as ‘a carcass’. This mudrā gives an experience of ‘jñāna-siddhi’ – the knowledge of conventionality of external form, because there is a divine dimension behind it. ‘Krodhinī’ means destructive qualities of Bhairava or Bhairavī, when tattva of a Deity, presented as devouring fire of a mantra, consumes basic elements of creation. Bhairavī-mudrā shows the unity of internal and external spaces, feeling of their interflow, which is an analog to śāmbhavī-mudrā in Tantra, described in many Tāntric sources and in ‘Amanaska Yoga’ of Gorakṣanāth as “an unblinking outward gaze” (with simultaneous inner awareness). Bhairavī-mudrā grants melāpa-siddhi, which is a realisation of unity between consciousness and outer space, or between Bhairava and Yoginī. Lelihānā-mudrā means the consumption of neсtar ‘kulāmṛita’. This mudrā gives śakta-siddhi, practically it’s an enhanced form of bhairavī-mudra. Khecarī-mudrā grants a state of immersion into the omnipresent space of appeasement, which reveals śāmbhava-siddhi. Five chakras in microcosmic system of human being can be found in many early Tāntric traditions and their texts: in the 29th Chapter of ‘Tantrāloka’, where they are mentioned in connection with eight vyomas; in Kubjikā Tantras, also in texts of Gorakṣanāth (e.g. ‘Gorakṣa-purāṇa’). Many similarities about such sort of practices can be found in texts of Gorakṣanāth and many other Nātha Yogins, as in the title of Tāntric mudrās, as well as in their essential reference points. The fact that yoga texts say that of all yogic mudrās khecarī-mudrā is the fundamental (essential) is not accidental. Guruji Mithileś Nāth ji told me once that Tantra is a nutrition environment for Nātha Yogins, it served as ‘nourishment’ for yogic life of Nāthas. But of course, there is a vast amount of detailing in Tantrism, sacred use of Sanskrit alphabet, it’s phonetics, including mentioned mudrās and other methods. However, it’s impossible to examine all these subtle details in a short article, they bound with secrecy and a certain level of a relationship (confidence, devotion) between a disciple and a Guru.

Viṣa and Amṛta in Tantra

Various Sampradayas could define many images of Vedas, Puranas, Tantras, Yoga-Shastras in their own, sometimes diametrically opposing ways. They use metaphorical language which is intentionally called ‘sandha-bhasa’ by siddha yogis. This is a language which allows you to find doors to multidimensionality and versatility of meanings. One of such often described terms in Tantras is विष “viṣa” (poison), which is related to a poison consumed by Shiva after Samudra manthan (churning of the ocean by Devas and Danavas). Shiva also wears snakes instead of brahmanical thread and as earrings in his ears and etc. However, you may notice that the same element, for example, the churned ocean could produce opposite elements such as amṛta (nectar of immortality) and poison. Goddess Kundalini in her snake form could be associated with poison, but she is the Goddess of nectar, Sudha as well. Kundalini is described in ‘Tantraloka’ (29.248) as following:

अथ एतदनुषाक्तं भुजङ्गवेधमभिधातुमाह
atha etadanuṣāktaṃ bhujaṅgavedhamabhidhātumāha

Then, in such a way penetration of a snake is explained as closely connected to penetration related to Shakti. He says:

सा चैव परमा शक्तिरानन्दप्रविकासिनी । जन्मस्थानात्परं याति फणपञ्चकभूषिता ॥२४८॥
sā caiva paramā śaktirānandapravikāsinī ।
janmasthānātparaṃ yāti phaṇapañcakabhūṣitā ॥248॥ 

The same Supreme Shakti, she manifests bliss and goes from a place connected with ‘Birth’ to a highest level, she, who is adorned with five snake hoods. .. 248 ..

Then Shakti ascends, appears as five vyomas in five places in the body and goes to dvadashanta, said in this part from 248 stanza and further.

You can notice a description of snake as Sankarshana (destroyer of time) and there are Universe’s worlds lie on snake’s hoods. Also, if you check behaviour of common snakes while attacking, you will notice how they coil before strike, so probably a coiled snake in kanda, described as ‘sleeping’, is a symbol of poison and destruction. When snake, listening the Nada sound, straightens and stretches upwards, as for example, when snakes are charmed by fakirs, it is another symbol which is often found in yoga scriptures. Yet again, concerning a poison, a term विष (n.m.) – is poison, but as a feminine and neuter noun it is translated as ‘evil’. Probably, by poison, ‘the poison of samsara’ i.e. various Worldly Defilements are allegorically implied. Though Kshemaraja gave another context to poison related to kaula interpretations, he said that this term is correlated with विश् (penetrate), i.e. character of Shakti. Shakti can spread in the form of visarga and bindu, and poison possesses similar qualities. ‘Even a poison transforms into the nectar during tantric sadhana’ said in ‘Shiva Stotravali’ (20.12). I.e. the context is that worldly defilements form the nectar in connection with the fire of consciousness. This definition of ‘poison’ can be found in almost all known tantric systems: Shri Kula, Kali Kula, Kubjika, Trika etc., also in the Natha Yoga. According to Kshemaraja, ‘viṣa’ is nothing more than ‘avesha’, i.e. absorption of consciousness by expression of Shakti. Look how this technique is described in ‘Vijñana Bhairava Tantra’:

वह्नेर् विषस्य मध्ये तु चित्तं सुखमयं क्षिपेत् । केवलं वायुपूर्णं वा स्मरानन्देन युज्यते ॥ ६८ ॥
vahner viṣasya madhye tu cittaṁ sukhamayaṁ kṣipet |
kevalaṁ vāyupūrṇaṁ vā smarānandena yujyate ॥ 68 ॥

It is necessary to put your consciousness, being similar to the purest space, into the very centre of engagement between fire (consciousness) and a poison (various defilements) or to be absorbed into fullness of vital force through sexual intercourse.

In general, it is possible to explain many ‘impure elements’ in vamachara tantra, such as various intoxicants: alcohol, bhang (vijaya) and drugs, as smokable, as well as liquefied (which is made from the same seeds as bhang) through the concept of ‘poison’ as enhancing element for awakening of blossoming consciousness. Also, sex, which is criticised by Orthodox Hinduism, especially with a deliberate disregard to the system of varnas, castes, households and, in general, to sexual emanations, meat consumption etc. Whatever the case I use substitutions for the most of these elements, because I realised many states of consciousness and there is no necessity for a variety of radicalisms. These substitutes are called ‘anukalpas’. In yoga these states and effects are often connected with particular psychophysical inner processes. The conclusion is that ‘the poison of samsara’ could be doubly viewed as destructive element, as well as realising true pureness.


Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 35)

Verse 35, Vijñānabhairava-tantra

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

“The central channel stands at the centre like the stem of a lotus. By meditating on this space within, the God shines forth, because of the Goddess.”

मध्यनाडी मध्यसंस्था बिससूत्राभरूपया।
ध्यातान्तर्व्योमया देव्या तया देवः प्रकाशते॥ ३५॥

madhyanāḍī madhyasaṁsthā bisasūtrābharūpayā |
dhyātāntarvyomayā devyā tayā devaḥ prakāśate|| 35 ||

This śloka is concerned with the context in which the Goddess can be effective.  She is the major operative force in his śloka. It is because of her that the God becomes evident.

The first line of the  śloka gives a set of balances.

1. The first is between the left (iḍā ) and right (piṅgalā) channels of the body.  Iḍā is described as ‘white’, ‘feminine’, ‘cold’, and represents the ‘moon’ while piṅgalā is described as ‘red’, ‘masculine’, ‘hot’, and represents the ‘sun’. The channels start from the base chakra (mūlādhāra), cross from side to side of the body, and finally meet at the point between the eye-brows (ājñā). The subtle-breath (prāṇa) circulates through them.

Between iḍā and piṅgalā is the central channel (madhyanāḍī) which is called   suṣumnā. It is where the left and right channels balance their energies.

The Spandakārikā, another of the texts of Kashmir Shaivism, associates the practice of this śloka with the outward (prāṇa) and inward (apāna) breaths. The contrasting forces of exteriority and interiority are balanced. Persons with an extrovert nature, if not balanced by a sense of interiority, become bombastic. Likewise persons with an excessively introvert character lose touch with reality. A balance of outward (prāṇa) and inward (apāna) is necessary.  A balanced personality will be both self-aware and outer-aware.

From another yogic viewpoint, the balance of the prāṇa and apāna lead to the from of subtle breath called samāna (‘equality’, ‘evenness’) and from this comes the ‘upward rising subtle-breath’ (udāna) which in turn leads to the vyāna and the full flowering, the energizing of the all the centers, and faculties, so that in the end the whole person is empowered.

It is also the state of bhairavamudrā where inner and outer coincide. When Bhairava looks within himself he sees the whole world, since all things proceed from him. If he looks at the world outside he recognizes it as his very self.

2. The second balance is between upper and lower. The image is that of the lotus stalk (bisa-sūtra), which comes out of the mud, rises and flowers on the surface of the water. The stalk links lower and upper, immanence and transcendence, the transience (saṁsāra) of water and the infinity of space. Both upper and lower are present, neither is rejected.

The stalk is a tube, and therefore is empty in its inmost core. This is the suṣumnā, the central channel, which is not anatomically visible but is experienced in the body, particularly along the spine.

The first half of second line of the śloka describes the practice

The practitioner meditates (dhyātā) on the emptiness (vyoman) of the ‘stalk’ within himself (antar), located between right and left, between base and height. In this way he ensures there is openness and freedom; he makes sure there is neither rejection nor control.

The second half of second line of the śloka describes the result

As a result the Goddess is free to function. She becomes active and energetic, and under her influence (devyā) the suṣumnā becomes a place of movement, as the energy unfurls from the base (mūlādhāra) to the highest level, to the thousand-petalled lotus (sahasrāra) at the crown of the head. The goddess rises spontaneously and brings the practitioner to fullness of knowledge. Because of her (tayā) the God (devaḥ) shines forth (prakāśate).

It is then that the practitioner realizes he is not just like Śiva but is Śiva.  He is full of light, he is light.





Tantrāloka chapter 5 śloka 71

Summary of discussion on Tantrāloka made by Guru Yogi Matsyendranath and Rev. John Dupuche

The verse reads as follows:

“Let the wise man come to the ‘heart’: when the śakti is aroused, when he enters into the kula, when he is aware of the extremities of all the channels, when there is omnipresence, when everything is drawn into the Self.”

śākte kṣobhe kulāveśe sarvanāḍyagragocare |
vyāptau sarvātmasaṁkoce hṛdayaṁ praviśetsudhīḥ ||


This śloka lists a range of different contexts of pleasure and concludes by noting that that the wise person (sudhīḥ) will, in all these various contexts, arrive (praviśet) at the principle that unites them all, which is the heart (hṛdayaṁ).

The contexts proceed from the outer and most visible to the most interior and unperceived. This is in keeping with the general principle that the inner is superior to the outer, the universal to the particular, the unexpressed to the expressed; the inner is the source of the outer; the purpose of the outer is to reach the inner.

The list goes, by stages from the individual ‘external śakti’ to the sense of universal presence and ultimately to the ‘self’. These are put in sequence to show that one leads to the other, for when there is sexual union, either actual or remembered, then all the faculties are heightened, every sensation is awakened, and one acquires a sense of universality and of the Self. The list is thus read as a sequence, a series of consequences, a progression.

The list can also be read as a set of alternatives: the actual intercourse, the memory of it, the awakening of any faculty, the sense of universal pervasion, the focus on the self etc.  Any of these methods will lead to the heart. This idea is found also in the Vijñānabhairava-tantra, which consists of 112 methods of which only two are clearly sexual. These two are quoted in Jayaratha’s commentary on 5:71.

Jayaratha’s commentary:

Jayaratha prepares the reader for 5:71 by making two comments. First he notes that the ‘individual means’ (āṇavopāya), which is the subject matter of Tantrāloka chapter 5, is a practice (sādhanatva) concerned with pleasant things (sukha). He then goes on to say that pleasure has a host of disparate (bhagna) forms. How then can the practitioner maintain a sense of unity or single-mindedness (ekaka)? The question is valid. Given the multiplicity of forms of pleasure is there not a risk of the practitioner’s mind being dissipated? Will he not become so distracted by one delight after another that he becomes disjointed?

To answer this question Jayaratha takes each of the different contexts of 5:71 and supplies a śloka from the Vijñānabhairava-tantra as an illustration.

śākte kṣobhe

Jayaratha specifies that śākte kṣobhe refers to the enjoyment of the  ‘external śakti’ (bāhyaśaktisabhoge), namely the act of intercourse. In illustration he quotes Vijñānabhairava-tantra 69, which we have studied elsewhere in detail.

“He comes to the śakti; the śakti is fully aroused; he enters into the śakti; the climax occurs: – the pleasure [experienced at that point] is ‘Brahma’; that pleasure is his very own.”

यत्सुखम् ब्रह्मतत्त्वस्य तत्सुखं स्वाक्यम् उच्यते॥ ६९॥

śaktisaṃgamasaṃkṣubdhaśaktyāveśāvasānikam |
yat sukham brahmatattvasya tat sukhaṃ svākyam[1] ucyate || 69 ||

The phrase śākte kṣobhe is echoed in śakti-saṃgama-saṃkṣubdha of 69: the śakti is fully aroused’. This phrase, śākta kṣobhe, is further investigated in the following śloka at 5:72 where Jayaratha asks what is the meaning of śāktasya kobhasya and makes it clear that it refers to sexual union.


5:71 broadens the area of awareness, from the individual woman to the realm of the feminine. The term kula can refer to Śakti and is contrasted with Akula, which refers to Śiva, but it can also have a wider reference, namely all the outpourings of Śakti who is the source of the universe.

Jayaratha quotes Vijñānabhairava-tantra 70, which speaks of the memory of a past encounter and all that happened.  We have already studied it elsewhere in detail.

“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 ||


5:71 expands the realm of awareness.

Jayaratha gives two interpretations at this point. First of all he interprets sarvanāḍyagragocare to refer to dvādaśānta (‘end-of-twelve’), which can refer to a multitude of locations such as at twelve finger widths from the nostril where the outgoing breath ceases but ‘principally or eventually’ (pradhāne pāryantike vā)  to the point at twelve finger widths from the crown of the head where all the channels come together.

With reference to dvādaśānta he quotes Vijñānabhairava-tantra 51.

‘One should focus the mind on the higher centre (dvādaśānte) in whatever which way. After a few days, once the agitation gradually comes to an end, the Ineffable (vailakṣaṇyaṁ) occurs.”

यथा तथा यत्र तत्र द्वादशान्ते मनः क्षिपेत्॥
प्रतिक्षणं क्षीणवृत्तेर् वैलक्षण्यं दिनैर् भवेत्॥ ५१॥

yathā tathā yatra tatra dvādaśānte manaḥ kṣipet ||
pratikṣaṇaṁ kṣīṇavṛtter vailakṣaṇyaṁ dinair bhavet || 51 ||


Jayaratha goes on to focus on a section of the term sarvanāḍyagragocare, namely the phrase agragocare and gives a wider interpretation of the word ‘extremity’ (agra) and includes all sorts of places (prāntadeśe) in this. He provides the example of gently pressing the armpit (kaka). Great pleasure is felt (mahānanda) there. So it is no only the point above the crown of the head but at any and every point that great pleasure can be felt.

To illustrate this point, he quotes Vijñānabhairava-tantra 66, which speaks of mahānando. It also refers to the element of surprise, as though by a trick of magic (kuhanena).

“As though by magic, O Lady with the eyes of a gazelle, a great bliss suddenly rises. As a result, the Reality manifests itself.”

कुहनेन प्रयोगेण सद्य एव मृगेक्षणे।
समुदेति महानन्दो येन तत्त्वं प्रकाशते॥ ६६॥

kuhanena prayogeṇa sadya eva mṛgekṣaṇe |
samudeti mahānando yena tattvaṁ prakāśate || 66 ||


Abhinavagupta makes the point that it is not only in the act or memory of lovemaking, or in the sensations felt at the extremities, but also by the sense of universal presence that entry is gained to the heart.

Jayaratha quotes two texts in this regard. The first is Vijñānabhairava-tantra 109, which we have already studied elsewhere in detail.

“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 on 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 ||

The second is Vijñānabhairava-tantra 110, which we have already studied elsewhere in detail.

“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 ||


Abhinavagupta then refers to the act of withdrawing from all these external sensations and perceptions. It is the focusing (saṁkoce) without any object of knowledge, a movement beyond knowledge, into the depths.

In his commentary Jayaratha quotes the phrase naitadvastu sat kicit, ‘there is nothing at all’, which echoes kasyacin naitad  in Vijñānabhairava-tantra 99 which he quotes.

“All knowledge is without cause, without support, fallacious.  In absolute terms, no one has [knowledge]. By adopting this point of view, O Beloved, one becomes Śiva.”

निर्निमित्तम् भवेज् ज्ञानं निराधारम् भ्रमात्मकम्।
तत्त्वतः कस्यचिन् नैतद् एवम्भावी शिवः प्रिये॥ ९९॥

nirnimittam[2] bhavej jñānaṁ nirādhāram bhramātmakam |
tattvataḥ kasyacin naitad evambhāvī śivaḥ priye || 99 ||

He reinforces this idea with another quote from the Vijñānabhairava-tantra 102.

“If one meditates on the universe by considering it to be a fantasm, a painting or a whirlwind and comes to perceive all things in that way, happiness (sukha) arises.”

इन्द्रजालमयं विश्वं व्यस्तं वा चित्रकर्मवत्।
भ्रमद् वा ध्यायतः सर्वम् पश्यतश्च सुखोद्गमः॥ १०२॥

indrajālamayaṁ viśvaṁ vyastaṁ vā citrakarmavat|
bhramad vā dhyāyataḥ sarvam paśyataśca sukhodgamaḥ || 102 ||

hṛdayaṁ praviśetsudhīḥ

This is the climax of TĀ 5.71.

Jayaratha does not quote any text for this final section.  He simply explains that the wise person has fullness of knowledge (pūrṇajñāna) and will not experience rebirth (janmā). By union with all manifestations the wise person comes to (praviśet) union with the source of them all, namely the ‘heart’ (hṛdayaṁ), which Jayaratha defines as the ‘place of emission’ (visargabhuva) and therefore the universal yoni. The heart is the totality of things, without the limitation of particular sensations. The particularities of earlier experiences are, in the hands of a wise person, the means of entry into universality. Unity is found by not by rejecting experiences but by allowing them to lead to the fine point at the origin of them all.  Unity and diversity are reconciled.








[1] For ākyam read ākhyam  ‘named’, ‘called’, ‘declared’. The word svākhyam can be spelt out as sva-ākhyam ‘deemed to be his own’.

[2] Silburn’s and Bäumer’s versions of Vijñānabhairava-tantra 99 place  nirnimittam  first and nirādhāram  later. Jayaratha’s version inverts the order.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 31)

Verse 31 Vijñānabhairava-tantracontracting the eye-brow centre

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

“He quickly permeates [his being] with the [subtle-breath] right up to the crown of the head; [then] breaking through [this spot] by using the contraction of the eye-brows as a bridge, his mind being free of all thought constructs, he transcends all, he is above all.”

तयापूर्याशु मूर्धान्तं भङ्क्त्वा भ्रूक्षेपसेतुना। निर्विकल्पं मनः कृत्वा सर्वोर्ध्वे सर्वगोद्गमः॥ ३१॥

tayāpūryāśu mūrdhāntaṁ bhaṅktvā bhrūkṣepasetunā |
nirvikalpaṁ manaḥ kṛtvā sarvordhve sarvagodgamaḥ || 31 ||

There are four stages in this process.

1. “He quickly (aśu) permeates (āpūrya) [his being] with the (tayā) [subtle-breath] right up to the crown of the head (mūrdhāntaṁ);
Lilian Silburn, Bettina Bäumer and Jaideva Singh all interpret the word tayā to mean the energy of the subtle breath. Silburn and Bäumer interpret mūrdhāntaṁ to mean the crown of the head and identity this with brahmarandhra. However, Jaideva Singh says the brahmarandhra is a space covered by twelve finger widths from the middle of the eyebrows. There is some uncertainty here. In any case the whole body is filled with subtle breath (prāṇa).

2. “breaking (bhaṅktvā) through this spot by using the contraction (kṣepa) of the eye-brows (bhrū) as a bridge (setunā)”
The next step is to contract the eyebrows. Silburn, Jaideva Singh and Bäumer all readily acknowledge that this technique is now lost. Nevertheless, the following considerations may be of value. 

a. Is the technique related to the bandhas that are made in yoga at the perineum or the stomach or the throat? These contractions are designed to overcome blockages (granthi).
b. Although the practitioner is filled with subtle breath and therefore experiences no blockage within his own being, there is perhaps a further step to be taken. Does this next step represent a release of the energies that are contained within him like the rush of waters held back behind the wall or the bridge (setunā) of a dam.
c. Lilian Silburn and Jaideva Singh both speak of the energy of consciousness (citśakti).
d. The act of contracting the eyebrows occurs when mind and will are focused on something. It is the projection of energy.
e. So, according to the Devīmahātmya, when Durga was involved in battle with the demons, she frowned, and from her frown Kālī leaped forth to destroy them.
f. The eye-brow centre, where the iḍā and piṅgalā come together and join their energies, is also the cakra point of ājñā, which means authority.
g. Bäumer makes the comment (p. 77 fn. 69) that eye-brow centre is where the guru places sandal paste, for example, so as the bring the disciple to a heightened consciousness. The practitioner, having filled himself with prāṇa and not distracted by any limited thought constructs (see below), now contracts his eye-brows. This has the effect of projecting the energy beyond the limits of the body into the highest realm. In this way the practitioner is transported to a consciousness he did not have before.

3. ‘his mind being free of all thought constructs’
The practitioner is no longer distracted by the multiplicity of thoughts, but is completely focused, spontaneous, free of calculation or doubt, or of any attempt to categorize and understand. There is totality in his action.

4. ‘he transcends all, he is above all’
The practitioner transcends his own body and achieves a consciousness, which is beyond all limitation. The repetitive nature of the phrase ‘he transcends all (sarvagodgamaḥ), above all heights (sarvordhve)’ emphasizes the surpassing nature of this consciousness.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shlokas 142b-155)

Verses 142b-155Vijñānabhairava-tantra  A critique of ritual

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

1. Introduction

The ślokas 142b-153 constitute a critique of customary ritual, which it says is suited to those who are ‘gross’ and externalized, lacking in subtlety. The ślokas are, in turn, a statement of preference for those methods – the 112 techniques – which are part of everyday life.

2. The context of vv. 142b-155

In ślokas 1-21 the Goddess sets out the metaphysical system of Kashmir Shaivism. She knows a great deal, therefore, but she has some questions. She sets them out in 22-23, asking Bhairava to resolve them so that her understanding might be complete. In 24-138 Bhairava describes 112 techniques by which the highest state is achieved. The techniques cover a vast range of methods.

Those couplets 24-138 are composed of four half lines, of which the first three give the method and the fourth gives the result.

In vv. 139-142a Bhairava states that he has given the 112 techniques, and he goes on to give an extensive list of the results.

In 142b-144a the Goddess speaks a third time and now with a very different sort of question, namely what is value of the customary rituals. She names them: recitation, meditation/visualization, sacrifice, satiation, fire-sacrifice, and worship.

In 144b Bhairava begins by saying that such things are external and suitable only for those who are ‘gross’ (sthūla). He goes on, in 145-153, to take the various elements of ritual, as well as others the Goddess had not asked about, such as ritual bath, sacred site and offerings, and shows how the consciousness that is attained by means of the 112 techniques surpasses them. In 154-155 he speaks of the manifestation of the Goddess and the attainment of the God.

This critique comes from Bhairava himself, the highest authority. The God himself is rejecting the rituals in favour of the 112 methods.

The remaining ślokas form a set of concluding remarks. Firstly, as if they were a coda, 155bis-156 gives another technique, namely the cycle of breath and the pronunciation of the phonemes SA and HA. In 157-161a the Goddess is told that all these many techniques are to be reserved to those who are suitable, and these persons are described. In 161b-162 the Goddess speaks a fourth time: she cries out her joy: she is satisfied. Finally, in 163a she unites herself with Bhairava.

3. Verses 142b-155

श्री देवी उवाच।
śrī devī uvāca |
The illustrious goddess said

इदं यदि वपुर् देव परायाश्च महेश्वर॥ १४२॥
idaṁ yadi vapur deva parāyāśca maheśvara || 142 ||
O Lord Maheśvara, if that is the bodily form of the supreme [energy],

एवमुक्तव्यवस्थायां जप्यते को जपश्च कः।
ध्यायते को महानाथ पूज्यते कश्च तृप्यति॥ १४३॥
evamuktavyavasthāyāṁ japyate ko japaśca kaḥ |
dhyāyate ko mahānātha pūjyate kaśca tṛpyati || 143 ||
who, according to custom, recites [the mantra] and what is the recitation?
Who, O Great Lord, is visualized, to whom is sacrifice offered, and who gives satisfaction?

हूयते कस्य वा होमो यागः कस्य च किं कथम्।
hūyate kasya vā homo yāgaḥ kasya ca kiṁ katham |
Or to whom is the fire-sacrifice offered, and for whom is sacrifice made, and in what manner?

श्री भैरव उवाच।
śrī bhairava uvāca |
Illustrious Bhairava replied

एषात्र प्रक्रिया बाह्या स्थूलेष्व् एव मृगेक्षणे॥ १४४॥
eṣātra prakriyā bāhyā sthūleṣv eva mṛgekṣaṇe || 144 ||
O Lady with the eyes of a gazelle, that ritual practice is external; it is for those who are ‘gross’.

1 recitation (japa)

भूयो भूयः परे भावे भावना भाव्यते हि या। जपः सोऽत्र स्वयं नादो मन्त्रात्मा जप्य ईदृशः॥ १४५॥
bhūyo bhūyaḥ pare bhāve bhāvanā bhāvyate hi yā |
japaḥ so’tra svayaṁ nādo mantrātmā japya īdṛśaḥ || 145 ||
The act of contemplation, as it is progressively raised to the supreme level, is ‘recitation’. Sound arises there spontaneously, the sound that is the essence of the mantra. That sound is to be recited.

2 visualization (dhyāna)

ध्यानं हि निश्चला बुद्धिर् निराकारा निराश्रया। न तु ध्यानं शरीराक्षिमुखहस्तादिकल्पना॥ १४६॥
dhyānaṁ hi niścalā buddhir nirākārā nirāśrayā |
na tu dhyānaṁ śarīrākṣimukhahastādikalpanā || 146 ||
The perception, which is stable, without images and without support: that is visualization. The imagining [of deities possessed] of body, organs, face and hands etc. is not visualization.

3 worship (pūjā)

पूजा नाम न पुष्पाद्यैर् या मतिः क्रियते दृढा। निर्विकल्पे महाव्योम्नि सा पूजा ह्यादराल् लयः॥ १४७॥
pūjā nāma na puṣpādyair yā matiḥ kriyate dṛḍhā |
nirvikalpe mahāvyomni sā pūjā hyādarāl layaḥ || 147 ||
Authentic worship is not performed with flowers etc. When the mind is firmly established, in the highest heaven, beyond thought constructs: that indeed is untroubled worship.

4 satisfation (tṛptir)

अत्रैकतमयुक्तिस्थे योत्पद्येत दिनाद् दिनम्।
भरिताकारता सात्र तृप्तिर् अत्यन्तपूर्णता॥ १४८॥
atraikatamayuktisthe yotpadyeta dinād dinam |
bharitākāratā sātra tṛptir atyantapūrṇatā || 148 ||
When [the practitioner] is committed to even one of the [practices] given in this text, he progresses day by day to the highest state. Limitless stature here: that is the unbounded satisfaction.

5 fire-sacrifice (homa)

महाशून्यालये वह्नौ भूताक्षविषयादिकम्। हूयते मनसा सार्धं स होमश् चेतनास्रुचा॥ १४९॥
mahāśūnyālaye vahnau bhūtākṣaviṣayādikam |
hūyate manasā sārdhaṁ sa homaś cetanāsrucā || 149 ||
The elements (bhūta), the sense organs, and so on, are offered into the flames, into the great void, along with the mind: that is the fire-offering, consciousness is the ladle.

6 sacrifice (yāga)

यागोऽत्र परमेशानि तुष्टिर् आनन्दलक्षणा।
क्षपणात्सर्वपापानां त्राणात्सर्वस्य पार्वति॥ १५०॥
yāgo’tra parameśāni tuṣṭir ānandalakṣaṇā |
kṣapaṇātsarvapāpānāṁ trāṇātsarvasya pārvati || 150 ||
Blissful satisfaction, O Supreme Lady, is the sacrifice here. O Parvatī, all sins are destroyed, protection is given to all.

7 Sacred site (kṣetra)

रुद्रशक्तिसमावेशस् तत्क्षेत्रम् भावना परा।
अन्यथा तस्य तत्त्वस्य का पूजा काश्च तृप्यति॥ १५१॥
rudraśaktisamāveśas tatkṣetram bhāvanā parā |
anyathā tasya tattvasya kā pūjā kāśca tṛpyati || 151 ||
The union of Śakti and Rudra: that is the sacred site, the supreme object of contemplation. Otherwise what worship of that Reality would there be, and who[1] would be giving satisfaction?

8 ritual bath (snāna)

स्वतन्त्रानन्दचिन्मात्रसारः स्वात्मा हि सर्वतः।
आवेशनं तत्स्वरूपे स्वात्मनः स्नानम् ईरितम्॥ १५२॥
svatantrānandacinmātrasāraḥ svātmā hi sarvataḥ |
āveśanaṁ tatsvarūpe svātmanaḥ snānam īritam || 152 ||
One’s Self is the stream of freedom, bliss and consciousness, in every respect. Entry into the very nature of one’s Self is called ‘the ritual bath’.

9 offerings (dravya)

यैर् एव पूज्यते द्रव्यैस् तर्प्यते वा परापरः।
यश्चैव पूजकः सर्वः स एवैकः क्व पूजनम्॥ १५३॥
yair eva pūjyate dravyais tarpyate vā parāparaḥ |
yaścaiva pūjakaḥ sarvaḥ sa evaikaḥ kva pūjanam || 153 ||
He, the Transcendent / Immanent (parāpara) worshipped or satisfied with offerings [and] the worshipper: all are one. What else is worship?


1 Kuṇḍalinī arises

व्रजेत्प्राणो विशेज् जीव इच्चया कुटिलाकृतिः।
दीर्घात्मा सा महादेवी परक्षेत्रम् परापरा॥ १५४॥
vrajetprāṇo viśej jīva iccayā kuṭilākṛtiḥ |
dīrghātmā sā mahādevī parakṣetram parāparā || 154 ||
The exhalation goes out, the inhalation comes in. Of her own accord the Curvilinear [viz. kuṇḍalinī] rises up, she, the Great Goddess, she, the supreme Sanctuary, she the Transcendent / Immanent (parāparā).

2 Bhairava is attained.

अस्यामनुचरन् तिष्ठन् महानन्दमयेऽध्वरे।
तया देव्या समाविष्टः परम् भैरवमाप्नुयात्॥ १५५॥
asyāmanucaran tiṣṭhan mahānandamaye’dhvare |
tayā devyā samāviṣṭaḥ param bhairavamāpnuyāt || 155 ||
Following the [rise of the Great Goddess], being committee to the method of the great bliss, [the practitioner], becoming one with the Goddess, attains the supreme Bhairava.

4. Commentary

The statement in v.144b, that ritual practice is only for those who are ‘gross’, is a severe criticism. It does not correspond to the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism as a whole, which allows that there are four methods for reaching the divine state. The first three (āṇavupāya, śāktopāya, śāmbhavopāya) are related to action, knowledge, and will, or to the object of knowledge, the means of knowledge and the subject of knowledge respectively. The fourth, literally the ‘non-means’ (anupāya), underlines all other three. Thus there is an aspect of anupāya in the individual ‘way of action’ to which ritual particularly belongs.

Furthermore, some of the 112 techniques are very much concerned with action, such as the pleasure of music and food, the experience of sneezing or fleeing the field of battle, or walking through a forest with dappled light.

The criticism is a part of the custom of showing that the path one proposes is more effective than the paths proposed by others. It is an example of the rivalry between methods and traditions. It does make the valid point, however, that what counts is not the ritual itself, as though it were magical, but the mind with which it is done, and the experience which results.

The criticism is also liberating, for it means that ritual is not the only method, and that the ordinary events of life can become moments of profound and divine experience. It frees practitioners from what can become the straightjacket of ritual, from being tied to those who have the ability and authority to perform rituals.

However, the four methods should not be opposed. They are simply different emphases. Thus the person who has reached fullness will be involved in all four aspects in a harmonious way, and perform rituals and all the actions of life with knowledge of their meaning and as well as with detachment and a sense of transcending them. All four aspects have their rightful place.

Christian Tantra

The same issue attaches to all religions practice. It is false to oppose religion and spirituality, presuming religion to the involve the first two methods only, ritual and doctrine. A balanced approach involves all four.

Thus, in the Christian view, only the person who has has died with Christ and been raised with him, therefore who has reached the highest level of transcendence, can best perform the ritual, which then becomes transparent and manifests all four aspects. Ultimately there is no means, all depends on grace. But grace will manifest itself in every aspect of the person.

[1] Other editions read kaś.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 34)

Verse 34, Vijñānabhairava-tantra             focusing on the centre of the skull

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

“After closing the eyes, one should focus the mind within the skull.
Gradually, with unwavering mind, one discerns  the eminently discernible.”

कपालान्तर् मनो न्यस्य तिष्ठन् मीलितलोचनः।
क्रमेण मनसो दार्ढ्यात्लक्षयेत्लष्यम् उत्तमम्॥ ३४॥

kapālāntar mano nyasya tiṣṭhan mīlitalocanaḥ |
krameṇa manaso dārḍhyātlakṣayetlakṣyam uttamam || 34 ||

The word used in this śloka is ‘skull’ (kapāla), not head (siras) though this might seem to do as well. It is not karoṭi although this means ‘skull’, ‘cup’, ‘basin’. It is not mūrdhan, which can also mean ‘skull’. This is because kapāla has many resonances, some of which are listed here.

1. The tantric tradition is closely associated with the Kapālika tradition where the skull was an important ritual instrument. Legend holds that Bhairava, after being falsely accused of killing a Brahmin, had to spend many years in penance. He carried the skull of the Brahmin, drank from it and frequented the cremations rounds. This austerity and its association with death only served to increase his powers. The custom then arose to use the skull in ceremonies, placing in it all manner of repulsive items, such as flesh and wine and bodily fluids. The skull became the source of horror and power, liberation and mystery.

2. The skull is also the place from which the nectar of immorality (amṛta) flows down and is absorbed into the body.

3. It can be compared to a lotus flower. The following śloka 35 speaks of the central channel (suṣumnā) being like the stalk, which leads up the spine to the head, which is like the lotus flower.  In fact a thousand petalled lotus (sahasrara) covers the head and signfieis the fullness of consciousness.

4. It can be compared to the void. The previous śloka 33 speaks of the ‘empty space’, the ‘wall’ or the ‘vessel’ as the object of contemplation.

5. Between these two ślokas, mention is made of the interior (antar) of the skull as the focus of meditation. This is the locus of the pineal gland, which has an important function in regulating aspects of the body.

6. There are yogic techniques which consist of drawing the breath (prāṇa) in through the eye-brow centre (bhrūmadhya), which is the place of authority (ājña), to the interior of the skull and from there breathing out again through the same spot. This is stimulating.

7. There is also the idea that the Śakti, which lies dormant at the base of the spine  (mūladhāra), is aroused and rises up the suṣumnā to join Śiva in intercourse at the crown of the head.

 8 . Kālī wears a garland of skulls round her neck and a belt adorned with the forearms of her victims. Thus she disempowers all her enemies, both in their mental as well as their physical strength. The skull is the place of powr.

9. The two parts of the word kapālaka and pāla – have been interpreted to mean Śakti (ka) and Śiva (pāla, literally ‘protector’). Thus the skull is the place of the union of the god and the goddess, who are the source of all the worlds and the resting place of their reabsorption.

10. It is customary, when consecrating a building, to place five skulls in the foundations, one of which is human. Such skulls are readily available in village cremation grounds, such as one near Puri where they lie scattered among the ashes and the encroaching vegetation.

11. The custom is for the eldest son, at the time of cremation, to break open his father’s skull so as to release the prāṇa, which resides there most notably. 

12. The idea of head as the place of authority is known in many languages – chief, captain, head, capital, etc. etc. – such that the image of head and the idea of ruler coincide.

The skull or head has acquired all these associations because, irrespective of legends and practices, it is instinctively sensed to be of prime importance. Indeed the stories and rituals coalesce around the skull because it is a natural symbol of the infinite. It is the sort of ‘bulls-eye’, the centre of all, from which all comes and to which all returns. The practitioner should fix (nyasya) his mind (mano) within the skull (kapālāntar). It is the focus.

The text goes on to state that the practitioner should ‘close the eyes’ (mīlitalocanaḥ). This closing signifies the reabsorption of all things, whilst the opening of the eyes (unmīlina) signifies the emanation of the universe. This śloka therefore involves the act of dissolving the universe in order to return it to its source, namely the union of Śiva and Śakti.

The phrase lakṣyam uttamam can be taken in two ways.

 1. The mind (manaso) is focused (lakṣayet) unwaveringly (dārḍhyāt) at this place, which is the target (lakṣyam).  By its inherent significance, one is taken gradually (krameṇa) to the Ultimate (uttamam).

2. The Infinite, the Ultimate is the most discernible (lakṣyam uttamam). For those who are still on the way the supreme seems to be elusive. But once it is perceived it is perfectly obvious. The uttamam is the most discernable.

The Christian dimension is quite simple.

Christ is acknowledged as the head of the Church, indeed of all creation, with many of the meanings given above to the term ‘skull’.  Therefore by focusing on ones own head, one also focuses on him as the head, and we are lead into the infinite. 

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.