A version of the vijnana bhairava tantra
by Lorin Roche
One day The Goddess sang to her lover Bhairava,
Beloved and radiant Lord of the space before birth,
Revealer of essence,
Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,
You, who in play have created this universe
and permeated all forms in it with never-ending truth.
I have been wondering . . .
I have been listening to the songs of creation,
I have heard the sacred sutras being sung,
and yet still I am curious.
What is this delight-filled universe
into which we find ourselves born?
. . .
The One Who is Intimate to All Beings replied,
Beloved, your questions require the answers that come
through direct living experience.
The way of experience begins with a breath
such as the breath you are breathing now.
Awakening into the luminous reality
may dawn in the momentary throb
between any two breaths.
The breath flows in and just before it turns
to flow out,
there is a flash of pure joy -
life is renewed.
Awaken into that.
As the breath is released and flows out,
there is a pulse as it turns to flow in.
In that turn, you are empty.
Enter that emptiness as the source of all life.
by Lorin Roche
The Bhairava Tantra is a conversation between The Goddess Who is the Creative Power of the Universe, and the God who is the Consciousness That Permeates Everywhere. For short, they call each other Devi and Bhairava, or Shakti and Shiva. They are lovers and inseparable partners, and one of their favorite places of dwelling is in the human heart.
The teaching emerges from their love-play, reminding us that we are educated from within our own hearts in the spirit of love. The secrets of how to meditate are revealed as one friend or lover would to another. What Devi and Bhairava sing to each other in this conversation are called sutras, and every sutra is an invitation to freshly appreciate what it is to be alive, to breathe, to exist and express and feel.
The conversation begins with the Goddess asking, “Beloved, tell me, how do I enter more deeply into the reality of the universe?” In reply Bhairava describes one hundred and twelve techniques for awakening into reality through everyday life experience. Each of these is a way of attending to the rhythms, pulsations and sensuousness of the divine energy flowing through us always - and out of which we are made.
Through these techniques, we are alerted to the presence of the sacred that is always permeating our bodies. All of these methods involve savoring the incredible intensity underlying the most common experiences and they work by activating the senses, extending their range further into the inner and the outer world. The basic dynamics of life such as breathing, falling asleep, waking up, walking, loving, all of these are used as gateways into alignment and enlightenment.
Each meditation is a dive deeper into life, into the underlying reality of what life is. Balance is there at every step: the unshakable serenity of the depths is used as a foundation so that we can tolerate the electrifying vastness of the universe. We are invited to cross the threshold, walk through the guardians of the gateway, face the terrors and make our way into the immense and timeless depths that are always calling us.
Many of these meditations are surprisingly informal: notice a moment of powerful emotion, or hunger, or desire, and enter into the awareness of that with total abandon, so that you go with it right into the root of the movement of the universe. When making love, put your awareness into the flame of desire flowing through the body, and become that flame. When falling asleep, pay attention to the transition from waking consciousness to unconsciousness, and catch a glimpse of what consciousness is in itself. Or go outside on a moonless night and be there for a long time, simply merging with the darkness and vastness of space. The text also describes what we think of as traditional sit-down meditation techniques, ways of savoring breath, sound and internal luminosity. The informality and intimacy with the self implied in this teaching means that meditation is not a technique imposed from outside. Rather, the techniques emerge naturally from one's relationship with the Self and with Life.
Taken as a whole, this teaching is startling in its breadth, in the huge range of human experience that it encompasses. It shatters the picture we have of what meditation is, or how meditation teachers too often present it - as a way of dissociating from the human experience and trying to rise above it. There is not a hint of the usual life-denial which permeates and distorts spirituality East and West. This tantra is about going deeply into experience, embracing it fully, without reservation. Nature is embraced as is all of human nature. Lust and passion become fires that illumine, and gusto is taken to its most refined degree possible. Meditation is presented as the nexus or meeting ground of light and matter, spirit and flesh, and the meeting is to be consummated with great joy.
You'll find here in one place many of the essential techniques that are utilized in the meditation traditions of the different cultures. If some of the experiences the sutras describe seem familiar to you as you read this book, it may be because you tend to invent your own private meditation techniques (that you probably never tell anyone). Or you may have had inexplicable realizations in the midst of some life experience. I am pretty much continually astonished at how frequently people who come for instruction in meditation already have one or more of these techniques going on spontaneously. It seems to me that it is an awakening-in-progress that gives a person the desire to study meditation. Sutras like these are there to remind us of what we already know. And they are there to remind us to go more deeply into the experience of being human.
It is likely that the same meditation techniques are invented or discovered independently around the world in different cultures, whenever people start paying attention to the subtle energies of the body. If this is true, then the Bhairava Tantra (its full name is vijnanabhairavatantra) is a syllabus of the types of techniques that could be discovered anywhere. The hundred and twelve techniques that are presented are those that are used all over the world in many different traditions.
vayu dvayasya samghattat
antah va bahih antatah
yogi samatva vijnana
Pour one breath into the other,
Out-breath into the in-breath
Into the out-breath.
In the harmony of this fusion
Where one rhythm turns into the other,
Awaken into equilibrium.
Tend to breath in this way,
Claim the power
Of oneness with the Self.
sane shayane sthitva
svadeham manasi kshine
kshanat kshena-ashaya bhavet
Sitting on a soft seat,
Or lying on your mat,
Experience the space below
As offering no support.
You are simply suspended,
Floating in space.
Structures of the mind release,
The reservoir of habits dissolves.
In an instant, lifetimes of patterns