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.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 42)

Vijñānabhairava-tantra 42

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

piṅdamantrasya sarvasya sthūlavarṇakrameṇa tu |
ardhendubindunādāntaśūnyoccārād bhavec chivaḥ || 42 ||

“On the other hand, by [noting) in due order the ‘gross’ phonemes of any piṅdamantra, [and ] by rising through the stages ‘half-moon’, ‘dot’, ‘end of sound’, ‘void’,  one becomes Śiva.”

In the normal recitation of praṇava (AUM), according to Kashmir Shaivism, the practitioner goes through twelve stages, namely a, u, m, bindu, ardhacandra, nirodhini,  nāda, nādānta, sakti,  vyāpinī, samanā, unmanā. The first two are the vowels A and U followed by M whose nasalization is shown by the sign ँ . This sign consists of two parts, the crescent shape, ardhendu (literally ‘half-moon’) and the dot, bindu. The termination of the process of sounding is nādānta (‘end of sound’). The whole process ends in unmanā or, equivalently, in śūnya. This moving upwards from the audible to the inaudible, from limited sound to the unlimited void, is called uccāra.

By mentioning only some of the twelve stages, namely ardhendu-bindu-nādānta-śūnya the śloka is referring to all.

This particular śloka 42 considers, not a mantra which is pronounceable, but an unpronouncable mantra, namely one which consists only of consonants, which are given the description ‘gross’. This is called piṅdamantra, since it consists of a ‘mass’ (piṅda) of sound. An example of a piṅdamantra is H, R, Kṣ, M, L, V, Y, Ṇ, Ūṁ which is called navātma.  It cannot be pronounced but it can be thought. It is not the object of contemplation if contemplation means focusing on the mantra, for the intention is to move through the twelve stages to reach the ultimate state, which is Śiva.

The śloka 42 comes as the conclusion of a series on mantra and sound: namely ślokas 36 and 37 on bindu, śloka 38 on anāhata (‘unstruck’ or spontaneous sound), śloka 39 on AUM, 40 on the beginning or end of a phoneme, śloka 41 on the sound of a plucked string. Then śloka 43 proceeds on to techniques concerned with the void (śūnya), which is also mentioned in 42. In this way, śloka 42 forms a fitting conclusion to one series and an introduction to the next.

The technique, therefore, it is firstly to acknowledge the unpronouncable mantra and from this position to go through the various stages to the void, at which point the practitioner becomes identified with Śiva who is the void and the source of all manifestation.

This practice forms a useful corrective in case the practitioner should stay tied to a pronouncable mantra and not proceed on to silence. This śloka emphasizes that the purpose of reciting a mantra is to go beyond it to the state of Siva himself.  In other words, the purpose of the audible is to reach silence, the purpose of the visible is to reach the formless, since silence and emptiness are the origin of all and contain all.

The technique starts with āṇavopāya and finishes with śāmbhavopāya. 

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 126)

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

Vijñānabhairava-tantra 126

Technique: equanimity

na dveṣam bhāvayet kvāpi na rāgam bhāvayet kvacit |
rāgadveṣavinirmuktau madhye brahma prasarpati || 126 ||

“One should entertain neither hatred nor attachment to anything. When one is free from attachment and hatred, brahma moves in the centre.”

The practitioner has neither hatred (dveṣam) nor attachment (rāgam) to anything (kvacit). This technique is easily stated; its execution is extremely difficult, for the natural reaction to injustice is hatred; and the human being is naturally full of desire.

The technique is to consider those situations where the natural response is hatred or attachment, to acknowledge the evil or the pleasure and to see them as limited states, and respond to them with equanimity, to be simply free of hatred and attachment (rāgadveṣavinirmuktau).

As a result there is an influx of brahma.  The word brahma has a number of meanings. It is etymologically related to growth or increase, but can also refer to bliss. ‘Bliss is the form of brahman’ (brahmaya-ānanda).

The word prasarpati is linked to the word ‘serpent’ (sarpa) and suggests the gliding movement of the snake. The kuṇḍalinī is often described as a snake.

Then brahma spontaneously moves the middle (madhye). The term ‘middle’ has several meanings. One is more general, meaning the very centre of one’s being, the core of one’s reality, in the very heart, at the deepest level. Another refers to the suumna, the central channel, which is felt in the region of the spine.

Thus in the very midst of turmoil and pain, there is a joy and a bliss that nothing can take away. This bliss becomes perceptible to all who meet us. The sense of brahma spreads through our whole body and our whole existence.

The Christian attitude is is proactive. It involves replacing hatred with love, and attachment with poverty of spirit. This requires great strength of character and is possible only by acquiring the divine mind. It is in fact one of the greatest powers (siddhi), far greater than the eight powers such as the ability to make oneself extremely light (laghimā) or immensely heavy (gurimā) etc., powers much admired in the literature. It is the sweetest revenge: to make use of evil and turn it into good. As a result, far from doing us harm, evil is now to our advantage. It is disempowered by a greater power.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 40)

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

Vijñānabhairava-tantra 40         

Technique: focussing on the emptiness at the beginning and end of a sound

yasya kasyāpi varṇasya pūrvāntāv anubhāvayet |
śūnyayā śūnyabhūto ‘sau śūnyākāraḥ pumān bhavet || 40 ||

“He should focus on the beginning and end of any sound. By becoming ‘void’ due to the power of the void, the man takes on the form of the void.”

Any (kasyāpi) sound or phoneme (varṇa) arises out of non-sound, out of the emptiness (śūnya) of sound, and ends in the reabsorption of sound. The technique is to experience (anubhāvayet) the moment when the varṇa arises and the moment when it is absorbed, its beginning and end (pūrvāntāv).

The beginning and the end of a sound are moments of particular power. They manifest the relationship of Śiva and Śakti. If Śiva is I am (aham), then his self-awareness, ‘I am’, is his Śakti. These stand in the relationship of light (prakāśa) and auto-illumination (vimarśa). They are in eternal union, one never without the other, inseparable.

This self-awareness, ‘I am’, is the supreme word (paravāc  or vāc), and this primordial ‘word’ is the origin of all words; this essential ‘mantra’ is the basis of all mantras and permeates them all.

Thus in the act of recitation there is a double aspect, the absence of sound and the spontaneous arising of sound and its equally natural disappearance. It is spontaneous because Śakti is freedom itself (svātantrya). Beginners start the sound with an act of the will but, when recitation becomes perfect, the sound arises spontaneously from the depths of their being. This spontaneity means that the sound becomes natural (sahaja) to them.   It arises from the void for Śiva is emptiness, and return to the void.

This ‘emptiness’ is open, welcoming, without limits, without barrier or duplicity.

Disciples wish to hear the words of the guru, which spring spontaneously and intelligently, wisely and energetically from him. The more his words spring from ‘emptiness’ the more energetic and powerful they will be. The disciples listen to the words but also perceive the immense void and restfulness from which the words come and to which they lead. The guru’s words enter them but his silence enters them also and they become silent in his silence. Silence inspires silence.

The word śūnya (empty) occurs three times in the one line.

One becomes ‘empty’ (śūnyabhūto) ultimately not by means of the will but by the sheer power of emptiness (śūnyayā). Nothing can control emptiness. It is something to be experienced (anubhāvayet) and in this sense is happens spontaneously. Emptiness is its own source. No object or means can produce emptiness. Emptiness occurs by means of emptiness. The result is that a mere man (puman) becomes śūnyākārah. The word akārah means‘sound’ or ‘letter’; the word ākāra means ‘shape’ or ‘form’. The man therefore becomes Śiva/Śakti, both emptiness and sound (śūnya-akārah). Or having become empty, he is the image (ākāra) or manifestation of Śiva who is emptiness (śūnya). These two meanings impact on each other and explain to the richness of the result.

This emptiness moves the heart and mind of the reciter so that he becomes perfectly still and void of all ambition, of all desires and attachments, free at last.  The practitioner becomes ‘empty’, and the sound resounds in him without hindrance.

The beginner will need to recite the sound over and over, many lakhs of times, but the more proficient he becomes, the less need there is to recite it. Indeed, ultimately there is only one utterance of the one sound. The auto-illumination of Śiva occurs once and forever, perfectly. The yogī will eventually reach the state when, in saying the sound once, he will have said it perfectly and need not repeat it. But that is at the end of a long path.

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 69)

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

Vijñānabhairava-tantra 69          

Technique: sexual intercourse

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

“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.”

The word ‘śakti’, that is ‘sexual partner’, is used three times in the first line: ‘he comes to the śakti (śaktisaṃgama); the śakti is fully aroused (saṃkṣubdha); he enters into the śakti (śaktyāveśa). The stages of the process are listed in due order. Emphasis is placed on the concluding (avasānikam), climactic moment.

The śakti is fully aroused in every sense, her energy, her freedom and all her faculties are engaged. She is fully aware and wholeheartedly desires to be the Śakti to her Śiva, the Kula to his Akula.

It is into the śakti at this point that the practitioner enters. The word aveśa has many meanings. He penetrates into her body and mind, into her emotions and her very being. This is when the orgasm occurs.

The second line mentions the pleasure (sukha) twice: “the pleasure [experienced at that point] is ‘Brahma’” (sukham brahmatattvasya), “that pleasure is his very own” (sukham svākyam). In other words, the highest divine pleasure and the practitioner’s own pleasure are identical. His pleasure is the divine pleasure. He experiences divinity at this climactic moment, which is the whole point of the practice.

This same teaching is found in a quotation Jayaratha supplies for Tantrāloka 29.99-100.

“He, whose mind, at the moment of emitting semen, i.e. within the split-second of time, has spontaneously settled in respect of all the fluctuations of thought, all at once there arises in his mind the consciousness of bliss. The resulting form is perfectly described as ‘pertaining to brahman’ (rūpaṃ tad-brahmaṇaḥ samākhyātam).

Jayaratha provides another quote: “The form known as ‘the bliss of brahman‘….” (brahmaya-ānanda-ākhya rūpam), namely semen.

The Kula ritual as described by Abhinavagupta develops this whole process, especially in 29.96ff. In doing so he gives the term brahmacārī, which usually means ‘celibate’, a totally opposite meaning: namely someone who uses sexual activity as the means to reaching full consciousness. The term brahmacārī will be given a different meaning in my commentary on śloka 70.

This entry (aveśa) can be practised at three levels: objective,  (sthula), subtle (sukṣma), and supreme (para). The purpose of the practice at the levels of sthula and sukṣma is to arrive at the level of para, for Śiva dwells supremely at the para level. There the emotion is most intense, the awareness of Śakti most complete, the penetration most full.

The term sukha alone is used in śloka 69 while sukha is contrasted with ānanda in śloka 70.  The difference is significant, as will be seen.


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

Vijñānabhairava-tantra (Shloka 116)

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

Vijñānabhairava-tantra 116

yatra yatra mano yāti bāhye vābhyantare ‘pi vā |
tatra tatra śivāvāsthā vyāpakatvāt kva yāsyati || 116 ||

“Wherever the mind is directed, whether outside or inside, there Śiva is found. Since he is all-pervasive, where could one go?”

The śloka ends with a rhetorical question: “where could one go” (kva yāsyati). The answer of course is ‘nowhere’, since Śiva is everywhere. Indeed, in the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism, Śiva acts in five ways, by emanation (sṛṣṭi), maintenance (sthiti), dissolution (samhāra), concealment (tirodhana) and grace (anugraha). Śiva is therefore everything and everywhere. Because he pervades (vyāpakatvāt) all, he is present (avāsthā) in every place.

In the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism, Śiva is ‘I am’ (aham). Therefore the state of Śiva is essentially personal. All is ‘I am’. Śiva does not say ‘I am not’. There is nowhere where he is not present, in the external world (bāhye) as in the internal forum (abhyantare). He does not say that he is not in this chaos, in this turmoil, in this evil, in this injustice. He is every state and is found in every state, even in the wretchedness of our lives, or the evil that humans do to each other.

The mind (mano) is powerful, and the more it focuses on an object the more that object is transformed and becomes the ‘I’, as Abhinavagupta teaches in his commentary on Paratrimsika verses 3–4.[1]  The mind gradually evolves in itself and also changes the object on which the gaze is directed. By focusing the mind on every circumstance (yatra yatra), that circumstance is turned to good. It is transformed by the power of the mind. This attentiveness is the grace of Śiva at work. Thus our pain is transformed when the mind is able to focus on it.

The mind that cannot focus because it is craving and confused does not perceive the reality of things and remains in its illusion.

The enlightenment that is wrought by the 112 methods of the Vijñānabhairavatantra is to be able to see Śiva in every circumstance.


[1] ‘Person-to-Person: vivarana of Abhinavagupta on Paratrimsika verses
3–4.’ In Indo-Iranian Journal 44: 1-16.