Exploring the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra: Unveiling the Path to Transcendence
The following compilation represents my notes from the philosophical discussions during our Teacher Training sessions, where we delved into the profound teachings of the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra. Within this sacred text, we witness a dialogue between the first Yogi Shiva and his divine consort Parvati.
While attempting to organize my notes coherently, it is important to note that they predominantly consisted of concise bullet points. Nonetheless, I have endeavored to convey the essence of our discussions and hope that the overarching message shines through.
It is important to acknowledge that the opinions and interpretations presented here are solely my own. I do not assert that these viewpoints represent the definitive or universal message of the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (VBT). It is common for individuals to claim to possess the ultimate understanding, but I believe such claims are unfounded. Instead, we encounter a myriad of perspectives, including cultural, academic, intellectual, as well as simple honest opinions. It is through this diverse range of viewpoints that we can explore and engage with the teachings of the VBT.
The Vigyan Bhairav Tantra is an ancient text that serves as a guide to transcending consciousness. It explores techniques and methods to surpass the limitations of the mind and connect with a deeper reality. This profound text, believed to be dated thousands of years ago, emphasizes the essence of love, unity, and self-discovery through 112 dharanas (techniques). Although not as widely recognized as texts like the Yoga Sutras, the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra holds immense cultural and spiritual significance, providing valuable insights for contemporary yoga practitioners.
There is much commentary that suggests the transmission of the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra (VBT) can only be truly comprehended in the hands of a master. It is important to note that a master is distinct from a guru, as anyone can claim to be a guru. A master, on the other hand, is a self-realized teacher who has experienced the depths of the teachings for themselves. The seeker is encouraged to develop a deep and non-romantic love for their master, akin to Parvati's devotion to Shiva. This love goes beyond our conventional understanding of love and opens the door to profound wisdom and self-discovery.
While many commentators emphasize the importance of receptivity to the master's teachings, I personally hold a different viewpoint. I believe it is essential to think for oneself and form individual opinions. The Vigyan Bhairav Tantra speaks to me in a unique way, offering insights that resonate personally.
For me, the VBT serves as a self-help manual, where one's willpower is the primary requirement. It suggests that no priest, pundit, or master is necessary to embark on the journey. Shiva emphasizes the significance of surrendering oneself to the process and believing in the power of the techniques. This approach allows us to honor and discover our true selves rather than blindly following a master and losing our sense of identity.
The Journey of Parvati:
Something magical has entered Parvati's heart, akin to the piercing of Cupid's arrow through her tough exterior. It has taken her by surprise, engulfing her in an overwhelming experience. Parvati feels as if she has fallen into the emptyness of space. A huge void that somehow still pulsates with life. There is fear and confusion, moments where she feels detached from her own body, experiencing an "out of body" sensation. In her own words, Parvati seeks Shiva's guidance, expressing her metaphorical fall into this captivating emptiness. She is intoxicated by its boundless nature, yet she fears losing herself in its vastness.
In her quest for understanding, she implores, "Oh Shiva, what is this Reality?"
Parvati's journey is one of love, not a descent into an empty abyss, but a surrender to the realm of love itself. In Tantra, love is equated with God, and God with love. Love cannot be fully grasped through intellectual analysis, theories, or arguments alone. It must be experienced, felt deep within. Parvati, a loving mother and a devoted householder, initially experiences this love as a deep infatuation, driven by a sense of longing in her heart. She believes she has a soul connection with Shiva from a previous life, a profound separation since the beginning of time itself (which is what mythologically occurs).
However, Parvati's infatuation transforms into pure love, becoming an integral part of her nature and being. She no longer tries to express love or be loving; she simply embodies love. Her love encompasses her children and extends deeply towards Shiva. It is from this place of love that her questions arise, filled with curiosity and a genuine desire to know more. Sitting on Shiva's lap, stroking his face, in a moment of intimacy (hence the tantric association with sex), Parvati gently and lovingly asks, "Oh Shiva, what is your reality?" She perceives the abyss she has fallen into as Shiva's home, where he resides and where this reality thrives. While Parvati experiences fear and occasional disorientation, Shiva appears intoxicated by this reality, almost intoxicated by love itself.
Parvati's yearning for deeper understanding persists. She continues to seek knowledge from a place of love. Her questions transcend the realm of "why" and delve into the realm of "what." What is Yoga? Her genuine inquiry reflects her willingness to follow Shiva, to walk hand in hand with him on the path of discovery. She seeks clarity for her doubts, opening herself to the teachings of Tantra/Yoga. It is essential to remember that Tantra is not mere philosophy; it is a science of self-exploration. Devi, representing the seeker, poses these philosophical questions, and Shiva responds not with philosophical discourse but with techniques. Through practice, Devi will come to know the answers. In Tantra, knowing comes from doing, from direct experience.
In Tantra, the language of love defies conventional expressions. Words, poetry, and philosophical discourse fall short in capturing its essence. Love, God, and the ultimate reality, Brahman, remain unexplained. Various interpretations of the Upanishads define Brahman as eternal, conscious, infinite, omnipresent—a spiritual core underlying the universe of change and finiteness.
The Unity of Shiva and Parvati:
In the realm of love, words and philosophy prove inadequate. Parvati's intimate union with Shiva leads to a state where they become one, transcending duality. They absorb and merge with each other, where arguments, logic, and reason hold no place. In the depth of love, two individuals gradually transform into a single entity, their inner unity surpassing external appearances. It is as if Parvati is speaking to her own self, engaging in a journey of self-discovery. To truly comprehend love, Parvati must first know herself and embark on a path of self-understanding, leaving behind past resentments and fears. Only then can she find true freedom.
Parvati's journey includes confronting her own limitations. Shiva once playfully ridicules her when she attempted the Paschimottanasana pose, questioning how she can reach for the stars (her inquiry) if she cannot yet touch her toes. He encourages her to practice Savasana (corpse pose), inviting her to confront her inner demons and shed her fears like a snake shedding its skin. Parvati must discover her true self amidst the chaotic crowd of her own mind, realizing that she alone is her own enemy and her own demon. By shedding her skin, letting go of the control of her mind, her heart opens. It becomes receptive, ready to receive the seed. Love is the seed, and her loving nature bears fruits and flowers. She is on the cusp of freedom, yet a thin veil still clouds her vision, prompting her questions.
"Oh Shiva, what is your reality?" Why does this question arise? While anyone can ask this question to Shiva, its meaning may differ for each person. Our minds dictate who we are based on our pasts and futures, leaving us lost in the crowd, like a simple lotus flower amidst the mud. If we ask Shiva, he might respond with philosophical discourse that momentarily satisfies us or chooses to ignore us altogether. Many masters throughout history have evaded deep questions about reality and spirituality, instead urging us to act and experience for ourselves.
In conclusion, Parvati finds herself through introspection, delving into the abyss of reality, reaching the very threshold of a thoughtless mind. Her mind falls silent, while her heart rejoices. Though Shiva does not explicitly state it, he affirms that her luminous and omnipresent being was always her reality. Parvati has always been the goddess, a divine manifestation in human form. Having shed her skin, she has discovered Bhairavi, a state beyond perception. Although she is yet to fully perceive this truth, she only needs to engage wholeheartedly in the final techniques. By practicing with devotion, she will come to know herself.
Oh Shiva, What is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
What constitutes seed?
Who centers the universal wheel?
What is life beyond form?
How can we enter it fully above time and space?"
Tantra stands apart from conventional notions of morality. It asserts that no particular moral framework is necessary since the disturbed mind itself engenders immorality. Tantra refutes the notion that one must first attain morality before engaging in its practice, deeming it absurd. Authentic transformation can only occur when one is provided with genuine techniques, not through preaching alone. Despite the abundance of moralizing preachers worldwide, the world remains engulfed in ugliness and immorality.
Understanding the philosophy of Tantra/Yoga requires first understanding oneself—knowing who you truly are. As Aristotle eloquently put it, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."
The Vigyan Bhairav Tantra is a remarkable self-help manual that provides practical techniques for going beyond consciousness. Parvati's journey from infatuation to genuine love exemplifies the transformative power of love. Love is not merely an intellectual concept but a profound experience that transcends theories and philosophies. Through introspection and self-acceptance, one can shed past resentments and fears (the evolution of Sati to Parvati), allowing the heart to become open and receptive. By asking the question, "What is your reality?" we seek to understand our own existence. Tantra offers practical techniques for direct experience and self-realization. In the pursuit of self-discovery, knowing oneself is the beginning of wisdom. Just as a lotus flower blooms in a muddy pond, we can find our true selves and embrace our inherent strength.
Zahir Akram - eternal seeker
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