Hinduism,Cosmos ,Sanatan Dharma.Ancient Hinduism science.



– How to acquire knowledge of the Self

A new translation and commentary


Vijñānabhairava is a short manual about the Self and the means to acquire direct knowledge of the Self and ultimately reach Self-realization. Thus it is a manual of meditative practices.

Vijñānabhairava is a central text of Kashmir Shaivism. It is an ancient tantric text of unknown origin and date, but it is older than the first millennia A.D. It deals with Self-realization and with a large number of practices (112+1) that can be understood and performed once one has a sense of Shakti and Spanda. “Spanda” is usually translated as “vibration”, but it refers to the world as Shakti and the sense of Shakti in the world as a vibration or tremor. To be able to sense Spanda and Shakti in the world, one must have the ability to merge with it within. In other words one must have not only the ability to enter samadhi, but also to perceive all subtle layers within as Shakti/Spanda. This is of course a little advanced. The 112 practices, plus the additional one at the end, are therefore advanced practices. They seem deceptively simple, but without the ability to sense Spanda/Shakti, the practices will not yield the desired result of merging into Oneness with the Self in a non-dual Oneness with the world.

The title “Vijñānabhairava” is composed of the words “vijñāna” and “bhairava”. Vijñāna means knowledge. Bhairava, in Hindu mythology, is one of many manifestations of Shiva. However, in Kashmir Shaivism Shiva/Bhairava means the Absolute, the Self. In Kashmir Shaivism Bhairava also refers to the threefold activity of the Absolute (Shiva): Projection of the world, maintenance of the world and dissolution of the world. Bhairava means Shiva, the Absolute, since Bhairava is masculine. Bhairavi is feminine and refers to Shakti. Bhairava is the goal of the yogi and the book Vijñānabhairava offers knowledge about this goal and offers a number of practices one can do to deepen ones realization of Bhairava (the Absolute). In fact the book Vijñānabhairava is said to be spoken by Bhairava in reply to Devi’s questions.

Devi is another name for Shakti, which is one with Shiva, so one may ask how it can be that Devi does not already know the answers to her questions. This question is similar to the question: Since we all are already the Self, how come we do not know it? The ambiguous answer is that the small self appears of the Self in the Self — and that the individualized awareness-structures of the small self identify with each other and create ignorance. These structures are Shakti and never will be anything but Shakti, hence they are the Self, but they think they are limited individual ego-structures and thus a massive structure of ignorance builds up. Since this structure is Shakti, the quickest means to Self-realization is to awaken Shakti in such a manner, that it comes to realize itself in the world. Without awakening Shakti, the way to Self-realization is a cumbersome fight with ones ignorance, once identifications, ones desires and habits, and worst an attempt at accelerated evolution which is bound to fail since there is nothing to evolve in the first place. When Shakti awakens to realize herself in and as everything, enlightenment dawns very quickly. The practices in Vijñānabhairava are about this awakening. So why does Shakti ask these questions, when Shakti is the ultimate already? Because it is Shakti that plays the game of life, of ignorance getting dissolved, and ultimately who is the giver of Self-realization. You can get Self-realized without awakening Shakti, of course, since Self-realization is a matter of realizing ones own nature as pure Being. But getting Self-realized with Shakti is so much more fun since you perceive the divine in everything and live in a state of perpetual bliss. Self-realization without Shakti is empty, it is void. Vijñānabhairava first and foremost teaches how to get Self-realized with Shakti, but it also addresses practices aimed at void for those, who do not have an awakened Shakti and want to follow the path of void.

The practices need an awakened kundalini to give best results. Such an awakening, when bestowed from a teacher to a pupil, is called shaktipāt. Shaktipāt is the central initiation in Kashmir Shaivism. When kundalini is awakened and active, you will soon begin to experience the stage of meditation where the practices given here really begin to work. This is the Spanda stage called “Spanda-mānatā” and here one feels as if the body vibrates though it is not moving. It is a tingling sensation in the skin. It is like a mild electric fire. You can’t reach the Spanda level unless your kundalini is awakened and active.

The practices are arranged in a descending order of effectiveness. First there are superior practices, then there are inferior practices, then there are mental practices. Finally a practice is added which is said to be superior to all.


Verses 1-8 are introductory. Devi list a number of questions concerning the highest reality based on the contents of now lost books (tantras). These are regarding the nature of the highest reality and how to reach it. The questions are full of technical terms and concepts which one does not need to understand in order to benefit from the rest of the text.

1-8a. Shri Devi said: O Deva, I have heard in detail the teachings of Rudrayāmala Tantra and the complete divisions of the Trika school, which form the quintessence of knowledge. Yet even now my uncertainties are not dispelled. What is the essential nature of the divine? Is it the creative energy of the garland of letters making up mantras? Is it the nine different ways of reaching the Self as taught in the Bhairava path? Is it different from the Trishira Tantra? Or is it the three kinds of energy? Or is it full of the forms of nāda and bindu? Or that which obstructs the half moon? Or the ascending chakras? Or the unstruck sound? Or is it of the sense of energy? Is it both transcendental and immanent, or purely one or the other? If it is purely immanent, then transcendence is negated, because transcendence can not exist as color, divisions and forms. Transcendence must be indivisible and without composite parts. O master, bless me by completely removing my confusions and doubts.

“Rudrayāmala Tantra” is a now lost book about the oneness of Shiva and Shakti.

“Trika” is a most important school of Kashmir Shaivism.

“Garland of letters” refers to the sanskrit alphabet.

“The nine different ways of reaching”. Actually the expression is “piercing the nine small selves” and the idea is that the small self can be pierced in nine different ways in order to access the Absolute. The nine different sheaths to be pierced are: Shiva conceived as with form, Shiva conceived of as separate from ones Self, godhead, learning, illusion, dividing into parts, sense of destiny, the individual soul, natural dispositions.

“Trishira tantra”. This work deals with the three flows of Shakti through the three channels idā, pingalā and sushumnā. Sushumnā is inside the spine and idā and pingalā are on either side.

“The three different kinds of energy” are doing, willing and knowing. They may also refer to the energy flows in the channels idā, pingalā and sushumnā.

“Nāda and bindu”. These two concepts are technical terms for the primary manifestations from the Absolute. Bindu is the first point of constriction and nāda is the vibration, or sound, this constriction has. Prior to both is Spanda, which refers to the throb or vibration of Shakti out of which everything manifests.

“Obstructs the half moon”. This seems odd, so we must understand it as a metaphor. idā is often called “chandra nādī”, the moon channel, so it could refer to blocking the flow of shakti in idā and directing kundalini up sushumnā. It could also refer to obstructing thoughts in the mind as an aid in meditation.

“The unstruck sound” could refer to the mantra “ha” said to resound spontaneously with the breath. It could also refer to “nāda”, the primal sound of the first individualized manifestation from the Absolute.

“The sense of energy” refers to the sense of energies rushing in the body, known as prāna.

8b. Bhairava replied: O dear one, your questions are auspicious and address the essence of tantra, which I will now explain. 

– – – On what the Self is not – – –

9. That which is identified with form is to be considered insubstantial and of no spiritual value. It is like Indra’s illusory web (māyā) or the illusory city of celestial musicians.

First sentence is very interesting.The second sentence refers to Vedic mythology. Basically the second sentence attempts to clarify the first through examples, but since its mythology is obscure today it merely has the opposite effect. The message of this verse is that everything, no matter how great and wonderful, that is identified with form is within the sphere of illusion (māyā). It is therefore of no spiritual value, since true spirituality seeks to get out of illusions.

10. Meditation on form is only prescribed for people of deluded understanding. Such people are prey to complex thoughts and drawn to ostentatious performance of rituals.

11. In fact Bhairava is neither the nine forms, the garland of letters, the three flows nor the three powers of Shakti.

The nine forms are either the nine sheaths mentioned in verse 1-8, or they are: time, ascension, name, knowledge, awareness, sound, seed-form or impulse, wave, individual soul. The garland of letters is the sanskrit alphabet. The three flows refer to the three flows of vital force (prāna) through the the most important channels (nadis): idā, pingalā and sushumnā. Usually Shakti is translated as power, but in reality power is a manifestation of Shakti. According to Kashmir Shaivism, Shakti manifests as power of action, power of intention and power of knowledge; in other words: doing, willing and knowing. Sometimes two more powers are added: Power of awareness and power of bliss. Elsewhere kundalini is mentioned as the most important manifestation of Shakti. So in short, the number of Shaktis is not really important. What is important in this verse is to understand that Bhairava is nothing phenomenal what so ever, no matter how subtle or how powerful.

12. Nor can He (Bhairava) be found as primal sound or the source point of creation (bindu). Nor in the halfmoonlike obstruction. Nor the piercing of the chakras. Not even as any form of power.

“Halfmoonlike obstruction” is discussed in verse 1-8. It probably refers to obstructing thoughts as a spiritual discipline.

13. All such things have been told to people of immature intellect to entice them to practice. Just as mothers discipline children with scary tales and entice them with candy.

– – – On what the Self is – – –

14. Ultimately That (the Self) is free from direction, time and measure. It is free of any designation. It can neither be indicated nor described.

15. Internally one may realize That (the Self) as supreme bliss when one is free of the fluctuations of consciousness. That state is the fullness of Bhairavi, it is the Self realized as Bhairava.

“Bhairavi” is Shakti and “Bhairava” is Shiva. The verse says that the Self is realized both as Shakti and pure Being.

16. That (the Self) should be know as all pervasive in essence and stainlessly pure. Such being the case, who is to be worshipped?

17. As just described, that Bhairava-state is the highest state. It is also known as Paradevi, the highest Goddess.

“Paradevi, the highest goddess” is Shakti.

18. Shakti and the possessor of Shakti are One. Shakti is the essence of the Absolute and thus known as parashakti. Parashakti can never be separated from dharma or the possessor thereof. 

“Dharma” is a word with many meanings. It is best known in ethics as meaning righteousness or correct conduct, but in classical yoga it also meant the form or quality of things. Thus this verse has numerous meanings. But the main point is that the Absolute is both pure Being and Shakti at once and that this Oneness not only pervades everything, but is everything.

This verse actually makes it clear that Shakti is the essence. This is very important. The ultimate reality is Shakti. The essence of pure Being is Shakti. Self-realization understood as pure Being only, without Shakti, is empty void. He who fully knows Shakti and is one with Shakti also fully knows pure Being, but not necessarily so the other way round.

19. Just as the power to burn can not be separated from fire (so Shakti can not be separated from pure Being). Shakti is only imagined as separate in the beginning, as an entry point to real understanding.

20. Upon merging with Shakti one realizes undivided Oneness, then one becomes like Shiva. Thus Shakti is said to be the face of Shiva.

“Face of Shiva” means the entrance to pure Being. Shakti is the direct entrance to pure Being.

21. O dear one. Just as a direction or things are known by the flame of a candle, or the rays of the sun, so similarly Shiva is known through Shakti.

Shiva is of course pure Being, the Self. Verses 18-21 are very important because they flatly state that Shakti is identical with Shiva and that Shakti is both the means and the opening to Shiva. It is important to bear this in mind when reading the many practices that will be mentioned in the rest of the text 

22-23. Devi then asked: O God of Gods, who bears the trident and craniums as ornaments. (The Self) is devoid of direction, space and time and is also indescribable. Tell me the means by which the full state of Bhairava can be reached. In what way is Paradevi, the highest Shakti, the face of Bhairava? Please tell me in plain language so I may understand.

Devi asks about how to reach the state where Shiva and Shakti are realized as one. Bhairava then replies by describing 112 practices. Bhairava even adds an extra practice as conclusion, so there are 113 practices in all.

– – – On meditation on breathing – – –

24. Bhairava replied: Paradevi, the highest Shakti, whose nature is to create, manifests as the upward flow called prāna and the downward flow called apana. By fixing the mind at the two places of their generation, the state of fullness ensues.

The two places of generation are the root chakra, situated just above the perineum, and the crown chakra, situated in the top of the brain. However, when Shakti reaches the uppermost center, you will feel the entire brain suffused with radiant energy-bliss.

Practice. Focus your attention at the root chakra. There visualize a ball of light about the size of your fist. After a few minutes sense the ball expanding on the in-breath and contracting back to the fist-size on the out-breath. After a few minutes go to the crown of the head do the same there. Go back and forth between the two chakras spending a few minutes with each individually. After awhile you will have the peculiar experience that the two centers are one. Despite their different locations in space, you will feel it is the same energy and the same state in both of them and working with one center will have effects in the other. It will feel as if there is no distance between them. Then fullness ensues.

25. When both the inward and outward flows of prāna are held in their space with uninterrupted awareness, the essence of Bhairava, which is one with Bhairavi, manifests.

Bhairava means Shiva or pure Being resting in itself as itself, Bhairavi means Shakti, or the dynamic and creative aspect of pure Being. The verse says the essence of pure Being is one with Shakti and that this oneness manifests while doing this prānāyama.

Practice. Feel the entire body for a while, then gently follow your breathing rhythm. On the in-breath sense as if your body is filled with prāna expanding through every pore of the skin. On the out-breath just let go and merge with pure Being. Keep on at it and the fluctuations of the mind will cease. At a point one will feel no difference between the in- and out-breath and will just feel like a bubble of energy, larger than but permeating the body, which vibrates more and more intensely with every in- and out-breath. It doesn’t move, it just is there, vibrating, blissful.

26. When Shakti, in the form of breath, does not move, Bhairava develops in the middle through cessation of mind-stuff (nirvikalpa).

“The middle” refers to the central nādī inside the spine, through which kundalini rises. “The middle” could also refer to the state where the flows associated with in- and out-breath are merged. This is not about holding the breath, that comes in the next verse. It could also refer to the void between thoughts, expanding as mind stuff ceases to be present.

Practice. Feel energy rising up the spine on the in-breath and descending on the out-breath. At some point there will be no difference between in- and out-breath, shakti will no longer move up or down and the spine will feel like a stable channel full of vibrating, hot shakti, becoming more and more intense on every in- and out-breath. Alternatively feel the channel in the middle of the spine expand with the in-breath and contract with the out breath. Soon the difference between in- and out-breath will dissolve and the spine will feel like a hot wire of Shakti growing more and more tangible and intense on every breath.

27. When kumbhaka takes place after the in breath or out breath., the Shakti known as Peace is revealed.

“Kumbhaka” is to hold the breath while moving Shakti. Just holding the breath is pointless, you have to use the generated energy and concentration to further move Shakti about in the system, in order to dissolve contractions of consciousness and expand awareness into blissful peace.

Practice. The methods in verses 24-27 add up to the following practice, called shakti prānāyama, or kundalini prānāyama. Follow your breath and get into its natural rhythm. Then find a rhythm where you breathe in, hold your breath in a relaxed manner and breathe out in equal time. You could count your heart beats and count three on the in breath, count three while holding the breath and count three while breathing out. The breathe in again without holding your breath. Only hold your breath when the lungs are filled. On the in breath sense energy is rising up your spine from the perineum and into your brain. When holding the breath sense energy radiates in all directions from your brain. On the out breath. either continue the same radiation, or just let go and merge with the shakti. It is important to find a nice, relaxed rhythm and there is no benefit what so ever in competing with yourself about prolonging the phases. It is very important this prānāyama is relaxed and that the sense of Shakti moving is very real and most important to you. If three is too long, count two heartbeats. Do this simple and relaxed prānāyama as long as you like, but do not interrupt the rhythm and flow. Do it 45 minutes twice every day and kundalinishakti will soon begin to flow and bliss will emerge.

Swami Lakshman Joo suggests the verse means the following practice: When you have exhaled, hold the breath gently for ten to thirty seconds, depending on what is comfortable for you. Then inhale and take the breath to the heart. After inhalation hold the breath for a similar period as after the exhalation. Lakshman Joo recommends practicing this six hours a day to get results.

– – – On meditation on kundalini – – –

28. Meditate on the Shakti, shining like rays, that rises from the root and becomes subtler and subtler until it reaches the top of the brain and dissolves in the Self as Bhairava appears.

This is of course Kundalinishakti. The verse does not say “top of the brain” but “dvishatkānte”, which is a mysterious phrase . “Dvishāt” means two times six, or twelve, and “kāntha” means “dear” or “beloved”. It refers to the ultimate found when kundalini reaches the crown of the head. Kundalini passes through the six shat-chakras on her journey to the brain, so it is safe to assume that the twelve spoken of here are the dual nature (inner and outer) of the six chakras. See also verse 30 for a deeper discussion of the twelve.

Practice. Warm-up: Observe your body breathing. Do not interfere with the rhythm and do not hold your breath unless it stops by itself. Just let the body breathe and observe. Sense a channel from a little above the perineum that enters the spine between the upper sacral vertebrae and the lowest lumbar vertebrae and goes up inside the spine and terminates at the top of the brain. On the in-breath sense energy rising in the entire channel at once. On the out-breath. sense energy radiating from the brain in all directions. Continue like this for a while and you gradually sense both the rising and the radiating going on during both the in-breath and the out-breath. This will soon awaken kundalini and give you access to the Self.

29. Meditate on the lightning-like Shakti moving upwards through all the chakras one by one till it reaches the crown chakra where at last the great dawn rises.

The Shakti here described is kundalini. The “great dawn” is of course to reach the Self. Again the crown chakra is not mentioned, but it is hinted at with the word “mushitrayam”, which means “three fists”. Cryptically a fist is four fingers wide and three fists refers to twelve.

Practice. This practice is designed with the seven major chakras in mind. Follow your breathing throughout. Root chakra: Sense a ball of energy a few centimeters wide just above the perineum. On the in-breath sense energy rising about 10-15 centimeters, on the out-breath sense the energy going down again. Do this ten times. Then stop moving up and down and instead sense the root chakra as a ball that expands on the in breath and contracts on the out-breath. Do this ten times. Then simply sense the chakra expanding on both the in- and out-breath. Do this for ten breaths. Then on the in- and out-breath sense energy moving from the root chakra to the second chakra (swadistana, about ten centimeters below the navel) via the spinal channel. Do this for ten breaths. 2nd to 6th chakra. On the in-breath sense energy moving forward from the spine to the front of the body, on the out-breath sense energy moving back to the spine. Do this ten breaths. Then sense the chakra expanding on the in-breath and contracting on the out-breath. Do this for ten breaths. Then feel the chakra expanding on both the in- and out-breath. Do this for ten breaths. Then move the energy up to the next chakra on the in-breath and down again on the out-breath. Do this for ten breaths. When you reach the crown chakra, you do the same, but rather than moving back and forth, you move up and down out and in of the scull. Once the process is finished for the crown, you work your way back down to the root chakra one chakra at a time as described.

30. Successively the twelve should be pierced one by one through right understanding and the twelve letters. From the gross to the subtle and beyond where one finally becomes one with Shiva. 

What “the twelve” are is not clear, but the previous verse spoke of “all the chakras”, so it is perhaps reasonable to assume that this verse specifies that there are twelve such chakras or at least that there are twelve points to pierce.

Common spirituality teaches there are seven chakras, but in fact there are six (called shat-chakras) while the crown is rather the trigger of a phase-shift. If we understand “two times six” of verse 28 to refer to the dual aspect of the six shat-chakras then we can understand it to be the same as the twelve mentioned here. It then makes sense that the inner and outer aspect of the six chakras should be pierced and that the “beyond” mentioned in the verse refers to the crown (sahasrara). Each chakra is said to have a certain seed mantra associated with it, which consists of a single letter. From the bottom up the six shat-chakras have these mantras: lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, om. The crown does not have such a mantra since mantras are transcended here. This, however, only makes six letters, not twelve. For a practice, see verse 29.

There are numerous chakras, but the six shat-chakras and the crown are the most important ones. There is a chakra located at the top of the palate called moordha. There are four chakras between the ajna chakra (between the eyebrows) and sahasrara chakra (at the top of the brain): Manas chakra (om), indu chakra (hang), nirvana chakra (hang-sah) and guru chakra (om, aing). Guru chakra is also called lalana chakra. There is also a chakra located just below the heart chakra (anahata), called hridaya or hrit. With the six shat-chakras and the crown this makes twelve. In practice the six major chakras plus the crown are sufficient to work with and it turns out that once kundalini has risen to the ajna chakra, the rest takes care of itself.

Swami Lakshman Joo specifies these twelve points: 1) The anus, “a”, 2) Muladhara (root chakra), “ā”, 3) Kanda, placed above the root chakra, “i”, 4) The navel, “ii”, 5) The heart, “u”, 6) The throat, “uu”, 7) The palate, “e”, 8) Between the eyebrows, “ai”, 9) Lalata, in the forehead, “o”, 10) Brahmarandhra, top of the head, “au”, 11) Shakti, meaning kundalini, piercing the crown, “am” or “aing”, 12) Vyapini, the shakti operating in the system after kundalini has dissolved in the Self, “ah”. Jaideva Singh locates the first point in the genitals rather than in the anus. It is problematic that Lakshman Joo specifies vyapini as the twelfth because vyapini is not a point to pierce, but the residual shakti after the last point has been pierced. It is also problematic that Lakshman Joo’s point 11 is merely a repetition of point 10. Thus Lakshman Joo’s list actually only comprises 10 points.

31. Then, having crossed the bridge between the eyebrows and having filled the crown of the head, the mind becomes free of fluctuations and a sense of omnipresence arises.

“Having filled” refers to kundalinishakti having risen to the crown of the head and filled the brain completely.

“The bridge between the eyebrows” is the passage through ajna chakra, located between the eyebrows, and beyond. “Having crossed the bridge between the eyebrows” is a translation of “bhanktvā bhrookshepaetuna” which literally means “having crossed the bridge of frowning eyebrows”. It means to cross the bridge by one pointed concentration on the point between the eyebrows, the ajna chakra. Some take this “frowning” metaphor literally and think you should contract the eyebrows, but that will do no good unless it helps you focus attention in the ajna chakra. “Frowning” is meant to specify the point between the eyebrows, rather than a contraction of the eyebrows themselves. Also the main point of the verse is to fill the brain with Shakti, not to do gymnastics with the eyebrows.

Once one has opened and transcended the Ajna chakra, awareness will rest in itself and the mind will be free of fluctuations and thus a sense of omnipresence arises. Omnipresence may also refer to the curious fact that when kundalini reaches beyond ajna chakra it fills the entire brain and thus can be described as omnipresent; even more so since at this point one begins to sense Shakti in everything, even outside objects, so omnipresence of Shakti in the real sense of the word begins to dawn.

This is a very important and difficult passage and getting kundalini from the spine and into the brain is a bit tricky. Kundalini may flow on the outside of the scull rather than enter the brain. This outside flow is delightful and one may think it is the opening of the crown chakra, but it is not. Once kundalini enters the brain it is on “the bridge at the eyebrows” and it has to pass the chakra between the eyebrows and reach the top of the head, then it will suffuse the entire brain.

– – – On meditation on void – – –

32. There are five voids similar to the variegated circles on a peacock’s feathers. One should meditate on these voids and by following them to the end, one will enter the heart and become That.

“The heart” means pure Being, the Self.

In Kashmir Shaivism the number five is not only associated with the five elements and the five senses, but also with the five “kanchukas” which are the five coverings of illusion (māyā). These five are: 1) creative phase of manifestation, 2) knowledge, 3) desire and attachment to objects, 4) time, 5) spatial limitations and causal relations. Neither has substantial reality and meditation on either will reveal it to be covering a void. Upon entering the void and merging with the void, one enters pure Being (the heart). Similarly one can meditate on any one of the senses and discover it also covers a void. Finally, one can speak of five coverings with which one can be identified and which also cover a void: 1) the physical body, 2) the thoughts, 3) the mind, 4) the ego, 5) the I-ness. Either can be used as an object of meditation provided one transcends it and enters the void it covers.

33. In the same way mindful awareness can be absorbed in anything, like void, a wall or an excellent person, and this will gradually bestow blessings.

The examples are of a general nature and any empty or blank object will do, not just a wall. The person one selects for meditation, however, should be “excellent”, meaning self-realized.

34. Close the eyes, fix your attention on the inside of the scull and hold it there. Gradually the mind will become stable and one can concentrate on the highest goal, as it becomes more and more discernible.

If your shakti is awakened, you will feel anything from a tingling sensation in the brain or at the top of the head to bliss pouring down into the body. Meditate on this source and you will enter the Self.

35. The central channel is situated in the center (of the spine) and is as thin as a fibre of a lotus stem. One should meditate on it by imagining it filled with the inner space. Then by the grace of Devi the divine is revealed.

“Devi” is a synonym of Shakti – and here more specifically kundalinishakti. By the grace of kundalini rising up the center of the spine, one will realize the divine. This energy channel begins just above the perineum, enters the spine between the upper sacral vertebrae and the lowest lumbar vertebrae, continues up through the entire spine, enters the brain and terminates at the top of the scull. When meditating, one should on the one hand imagine it like a thin thread, on the other hand one should not imagine it as substantial, but rather as a void. With a little practice one soon understands this seeming paradox and as kundalini rises through the channel, it becomes very tangible. The name of this central channel is “sushumnā”.

36. Use the hands to close all openings (of the head). By blocking all entrances and piercing the eyebrow center, one sees the bindu and becomes gradually absorbed. Then inside That, one becomes the supreme state.

“Bindu” literally means a dot, but it is used as a synonym for the source point or origin of all manifestation. Some translate bindu with light and it is likely that bindu here means seeing a dot of light in the third eye. Some maintain bindu is a center located at the back of the scull. The technique of blocking the openings of the head with the hands is known as “shanmukhi mudra”. Take a deep breath, then close the ears with the thumbs, the eyes with the index fingers, the nose with the middle fingers and the mouth with the ring fingers and the little fingers.

Swami Lakshman Joo explains that you have to have onepointedness before doing this practice, or else you will just suffocate.

– – – On meditation using agitation – – –

37. When in the state produced after agitation, there is a subtle fire between the eyebrows similar to a small dot, or similar to the point at the end of the lock of hair. Become absorbed in the heart of this. Whenever one meditates like this one dissolves (into pure Being).

“The lock of hair” could refer to the lock of hair brahmins leave at the back of the head, and Swami Satyananda does speak of a center located there which he calls bindu. I have translated “ākritim bindum” as “similar to a small dot”, and the previous word “tilaka” locates it to between the eyebrows. Jaideva Singh maintains it refers to the crown of the head. Swami Lakshman Joo interprets this verse to mean agitating the eyes by pressing the pupils of the eyes with the fingers; one then sees a subtle dot of light within and uses this as an object of meditation. This verse is also sometimes translated that one should meditate on the “cave of the heart”. But heart is here a metaphor for pure Being, as it most commonly is. Since the verse states one should meditate on the heart after one has transcended meditation on the contraction produced by agitation, it makes most sense to understand heart to mean utter freedom from contraction, which means the Self.

My opinion is that bindu refers to the source, to the primal borderline to pure Being. This is also what Bindu technically refers to, despite that it literally means “dot” or “drop”. In the aftermath of agitation one may merge into pure Being by meditating on the sense of contraction which the agitation has left as an imprint on consciousness. In the midst of agitation one should focus on the third eye. One can then look at the contraction inherent in agitation from a witness stance, disengaged. Then one should recognize the contraction as Shakti, as the bliss of the Self in an agitated and contracted state. Then one should move from the contraction to the heart, which means to move from contraction and limitation to freedom and the Self. The contraction will then dissolve. Any agitation will do: physical or emotional, though emotional agitation is typical.

— On meditation on sounds —

38. One who has mastered listening to the causeless sound, reminiscent of a rushing river, may realize Brahman as sound, then he reaches the Absolute.

The word translated as “causeless sound” is “anahata”, which literally means unstruck, but which also could mean “in the heart chakra” (called anahata in sanskrit). In meditation one may hear sounds within, and concentrating on these may absorb one to such a degree, that one transcends I-ness and realizes pure Being via the sound. At that point one should let go and merge with pure Being, called Brahman or the Absolute. The heart chakra has its name because it is the source of such unstruck, or uncaused, sounds.

39. O Bhairavi, repeat OM perfectly and concentrate on the void after the protracted mmm, by that void one may reach the transcendental void that is one with Shakti.

“Pranava” is here translated as the mantra OM, which is common. The mantra OM is also spelled AUM but is pronounced (ohm). When pronouncing it in this meditation, one should prolong the mmmm at the end and fade it out into the void. By concentrating on this void one may become so absorbed in it, one loses identification with I-ness and enter the great void that is one with Shakti. It is important to note that the verse does not recommend meditation on a mantra, it advocates meditation on what remains once the mantra has disappeared. Swami Lakshman Joo mentions that pranava can mean three mantras: “om”, “hrim” and “hum”. Whatever mantra you choose, the point is that the mantra, no matter how perfectly pronounced, is just noise on the field of consciousness, and that once the noise is over, there is a void which can be used as an entrance to the Self. The more you manage to enter this void, the longer there will be between each repetition of the mantra. Soon you will cease repeating it out loud and will just repeat it mentally — while still meditating on the void between each repetition. In fact you can skip repeating it out loud altogether.

40. Whoever contemplates the beginning or end of any of the letters of the alphabet in the form of void, such a spiritual seeker becomes the void.

The previous verse specified Om for meditation, but this verse assures us that any letter can be used for meditation if only one uses it as an entrance to the void. The void is present just before you utter the letter and just after you have uttered it. The void is the space between two thoughts. Meditate on this void.

41. By meditating with more and more one-pointed awareness on the prolonged sound of musical instruments, whether string, wind or other, one will finally become the beautiful supreme space. 

Not only letters and mantras can be used for meditation, one may use prolonged sounds of instruments in the same way.

42. By meditating on the void within the sound of each of the successive gross letters of the seed mantras, including the ‘mmm’ at the end, one may reach the transcendental void and become Shiva.

The basic seed mantras are: Aum, aim, hrim, klim, shrim, vam, lam, ham and ksham, but there are many others, for example ram and yam. To become Shiva means to become one with the Self.

Unlike verses 39 and 40, which stated one should not meditate on the sound, but on the void before and after uttering a sound, here one is asked to meditate on the void inherent in the sound. If there is void before and void after uttering a mantra, there is also void while uttering a mantra. here you are asked to meditate on this. One mentally repeats the mantra in a softer and softer way, dwelling on the void after the prolonged mmm at the end. Gradually one merely remembers the mantra rather than pronouncing it mentally and finally one merges with void that exists uninterrupted from beginning to end of the mantra.

— On meditation on the body —

43. By contemplating ones body as void in all directions simultaneously, the mind becomes free of fluctuations and dissolves, then one becomes the void.

“Nirvikalpa” means “without fluctuations and constructs of consciousness”. It simultaneously means the absolute void and also radical freedom. See the practice described in verse 25.

Practice. Imagine void all around the body and as you do so merge the mind with the void so it gradually fades into silence. Also fade the body into the void. Become the void and leave everything else aside and let it fade out.

44. By simultaneously contemplating the void of the top and the void of the root, the Shakti that is independent of the body will make one void-minded.

The Shakti that is independent of the body is again kundalinishakti, the void at the bottom is the root chakra and the void at the top is the crown chakra.

Practice. Sense the root chakra as a ball of energy or light just above the perineum. Do this for some minutes until you ave a good sense of it. Then spend a few minutes feeling shakti rush up the spine on the in-breath and down on the out-breath. Then meditate on the brain as a mass of energy and light for a few minutes until you get a good sense of it. Then do the actual meditation of sensing both the root and the brain as energy-void.

45. By steady contemplation of the void of the top, the void of the root and the void of the heart, there simultaneously arises freedom from fluctuations of consciousness.

See the practice of previous verse, here is added the heart chakra. The point in this verse, though, is not so much Shakti as it is void.

46. If even just for a moment one concentrates on any point of the body as void, without any fluctuations of consciousness, one verily becomes free. 

Practice. Sit in a comfortable posture and go through the body limb by limb from the feet up to the top of the head. Once one has gone through the entire body, one can shift to the practices mentioned in verses 25 and 43, and sense the entire body as void. Or one can go to the practice in next verse. The present method is a very good way to begin meditation. Also it is good to do this if your meditation becomes distracted so you can get back into meditation. 

47. O gazelle-eyed one, sense the constituents of the body as pervaded by void and your meditation becomes steady.

Here, rather than limb by limb, one meditates on the substances of the body: Fluids, solids, flesh, bones, etc. as void.

48. Meditate on the entire skin of the body as a thin membrane with a sense that there is nothing inside. By meditating thus one becomes the void which can not be meditated upon directly. 

Practice. After you have done the warm-up described in verse 46, put your attention to the entire skin of the body. For a while follow your breath as described under verse 50 until you have a sense of vibrating presence (spanda), then let go of the awareness of the breathing and just feel the entire surface of your body. Feel every cell of the skin and feel that you are a void that not only fills the body, but which permeates the skin and stretches out from the body. You can get a feeling that divine grace is pouring into the body from all directions, just merge this into the void and finally you will understand that this void and this divine grace is one and the same and is the Self. See verse 50 and 65.

– – – On meditation on the Self – – –

49. O beautiful one, the highest realization will be achieved by one who with closed eyes repeatedly meditates with one pointed awareness on the Self in the space of the heart lotus.

The lotus is a classical metaphor for the chakras, so we here have a meditation somewhat concerning the heart chakra in the middle of the chest. One should actually not meditate on the chakra, but on the “hrid-akasha”, the “ethereal heart-radiance”. Hrit means heart and akasha is a complex word that literally means radiance, but usually means ethereal space, and in classical Indian spirituality metaphorically meant the Self. Thus the Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad (II.1.17) speaks of the seat of the Self as the akasha of the heart. This verse is sometimes translated as advocating meditation on the heart chakra, but since the verse makes a distinction between the space in the heart and the heart-lotus, and advocates meditation on the hridakasha (space in the heart), and only uses the lotus as a reference point in the body, it is safe to understand hridakasha in its traditional meaning as referring to the seat of the Self, if not actually the Self.

Practice. Sit for meditation and close your eyes. First do a little warm-up to get in contact with the heart chakra. Place your attention in the center of your chest and carefully follow your breathing. Feel as if you are breathing from this center and feel the center expand with the in-breath and just let go on the out-breath. You might feel like a physical pressure there, but that is normal. After a while you will sense a void there. Withdraw your awareness from the heart chakra and the breathing and let it merge with that space. It will give rise to great bliss and temporary oneness with the Self. By repeated oneness with the Self, Self-realization is achieved.

This practice is similar to the practice in verse 48 and 50, but rather than using the entire skin or the body as an object and entry-point to the void and the Self, one hear uses the void that can be sensed inside the heart chakra.

– – – On meditation on the highest Self – – –

50. Dissolve the mind in the crown chakra, and throughout the entire body. Do so with steady awareness and steady practice, then the true nature of the goal becomes present. 

“Crown chakra” is a translation of “dvadasante” which is a mysterious word. “Dvādasa” means “twelve” and “anta” means “limit” or “terminus”, so we get an expression mentioning an outermost limit reached after twelve steps. In verse 30 we are told to pierce “the twelve” in order to reach the Absolute. In verse 28 we are told to go beyond “twice six” in order to bring kundalini to the crown chakra. “Dvadasante” thus often refers to the crown chakra. However, Jaideva Singh maintains it refers to the four spaces between the five upper chakras (each called a dvadasante, he maintains), especially the area from the eyebrow chakra to the crown chakra. It is important to remember that dvadasante refers to the highest. The idea is to merge the mind into the void of pure Being that arises when the motion of the in-breath and the motion of the out-breath are merged throughout the body. It is important that the verse stresses the entire body, not some particular spot. Using the breath in the following practice is simply a means to give the awareness access to meditating on Spanda, which means meditating on Shakti, which, as verse 20 explained, is the entrance to the Self. This is what dvadasante means: moving to and meditating upon the Self as the Self (rather than as an object of awareness).

Practice. This is a very important meditation. Do it daily for 45 minutes. It has three parts. You do one part for as long as it takes you deeper into Shakti and pure Being, then you switch to another part that takes you deeper. There is no fixed order of switching, just do one that takes you deeper, it is a matter of trying ans staying with what works.

1) Sit in a meditative pose and do the warm-up as described in verse 47. Then feel the entire body, inside-out, and imagine it is a void filled with vibrating energy. Follow your breathing without interfering with the body’s spontaneous rhythm. Gradually sense that not just the lungs are breathing, but the entire body, and do this in such a way that you feel like the body expands in all directions on the in-breath and contracts again on the out-breath. Feel the body as a mass of subtle energy. On the in-breath sense that this mass of shakti expands out through every pore of the skin. On the out-breath let go and merge with the void. Keep at it for a while in a calm, steady breathing rhythm Gradually your awareness will slip into an intense feeling of presence in the entire body as vibrating pure Being. When the mind thus dissolves into this dynamic void in and around the entire body, let go of the awareness of the breathing rhythm and merge with this vibrating presence of pure Being…. When you are out of pure Being, once more pick up the practice until you again merge, and so forth for the entire meditation period.

2) The meditation described under verse 28.

3) Let go og all methods and practices and simply merge into pure Being and bliss.

If you have had your kundalinishakti awakened through shaktipāt, or by good fortune from practice, then this practice will fill your body with blissful, vibrating Shakti, known as Spanda. If not, you will feel the void as empty, not as a throb of bliss.

See verse 48.

Swami Lakshman Joo interprets dvadasante in this verse as referring to the void of the ajna chakra (between the eyebrows). He advises to first feel the void between the eyebrows, then to feel it permeating every cell and pore of the body. One should then fill the mind entirely with this void and let the mind merge with it. He does not involve breath but basically it is the same practice since the focus only initially is on the ajna chakra and the main meditation is on the void permeating the entire body. With reference to the explanation above and verse 28 and 30 it is more likely to mean the crown chakra, rather then the eyebrow chakra.

51. By surrendering the awareness to the highest Self every moment, however and wherever, then day by day the fluctuations of the mind will diminish and one acquires an extraordinary state.

“The highest Self” is a translation of “dvadasante”, which has been explained in the previous verse. The verse says one should focus on dvadasante “however” one finds fit, which means dvadasante here can not be a specific practice linked to a specific location, but that it must be a special condition or state of being. The practice suggested below will bring this state of being to ones awareness and one should then hold on to that state. Remember dvadasante really means transcending the highest limit and merging with the Self. So this verse instructs one to merge with the Self whenever and however.

Practice. Right now, while reading this, follow your breathing in and out. Get a sense that the entire body is breathing and is expanding on the in-breath and contracting on the out-breath. Gradually get a sense of a dynamically vibrant void that contains both motions, let this fill your awareness. Do this as often as possible during the day. Make it a habit to have this awareness when ever opportunity arises.

– – – On meditations for dissolving identifications – – –

52. Imagine the passing time as a fire that consumes your entire city, and contemplate that. Finally one will feel tranquility and become That.

“City” is a metaphor for everything you identify yourself with: your body, your mind, etc. You are asked to give it up.

Practice. The point is, only pure Being is left when your body and mind is gone. In meditation, you can imagine parts of the body vanishing one by one: Begin with the toes and the feet, then the legs, arms, torso and finally the head. Then finally give up the mind. Only pure Being will remain.

53. Similarly imagine the entire universe as burnt up. Having meditated thus with unwavering and one-pointed awareness one becomes the supreme.

Here the focus is not on the process of burning up, as in the previous verse, but rather on the vividly imagined situation that the entire universe has already been burnt up.

– – – On meditating on more and more subtle elements – – – 

54. By meditating on subtler and subtler principles of ones own body, the world or the universe, one finally arrives at the supreme. 

Practice. Do the warm-up described under verse 47. You then have begun meditation on the gross elements of the body. Then consider that you are perceiving or sensing the body and let your awareness become filled with the observation, the sensing, of the body. Then turn your awareness to the observer, the sense of an I which receives the observations. Let go of the observing and simply let your awareness be filled with the I-ness that previously observed. It is not a matter of reflecting on the various manifestations and structures of personality, it is a matter of sensing the innermost sense of being an individual entity, not the I, but the I-ness. As you meditate on this, you will realize it is also a construct and by letting go of that, you enter freedom. By absorption into this freedom you merge with the Supreme, which is the Self in the absolute sense.

The above practice is known as “atmavyapti”. You can begin with any object, not just the body. You could also begin with a mental object, a mantra, and proceed as described till you reach atman, the Self.

55. After meditating on the gross and subtle shakti in the range of twelve, one enters the heart and meditates there. Then one becomes free and attains liberation. 

“Range of twelve”: The word used is not “dvadasante” but “dvādashaochare” which means “range of twelve”. The “gross and subtle shakti” covers the entire range of energy from the energy-flow with breathing to the most subtle oneness with the Self. This practice is reminiscent of the previous, but here one meditates on subtler and subtler shakti, rather than subtler and subtler principles. “Range of twelve” thus means from the most gross to the most subtle and finally to the Self.

Practice. Follow the breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils. Feel as if it moves down to the heart on the in-breath and up to the nostrils on the out breath. In the beginning the energy associated with this will be a little crude, but it will soon be sensed as more and more subtle. As you sense it more and more subtly, you will discover it gains in intensity. Soon you will feel a warm pressure in the heart chakra. Gently shift your focus of attention to this and enter into the center of it. Sense the warm pressure grow and expand on both the in- and out-breath. Then, as you sense a very subtle yet strong energy in the heart and you have entered the heart-space (hridakasha, see verse 49), let go of breath-awareness and merge with the shakti and space in the heart. Finally let go of I-ness and be free. Remember “to enter the heart” is used as a metaphor for to enter the Self.

56. By meditating first on the course of the entire world, go from the gross form to the subtle and beyond, then finally the mind dissolves into the Self.

Practice. The entire world is ever changing — and so are you as part of the world. As you contemplate the ever changing nature, you realize the universe is not substantial, but is a fluctuation of energy. Then meditate on the fluctuating energy until finally you realize the fluctuation is not substantial either but is like a wave in an utterly unmanifest and silent energy. Realize you are also this, then the mind dissolves. (See verse 54).

57. In this was one realizes that everything in the universe is Shiva-tattva, by meditating on that the highest state arises.

“Shiva-tattva” is the ultimate, the Absolute. By meditating on that, one merges with the highest reality. This is very advanced, you see Shakti in everything and it is very blissful.

– – – On meditation on void – – –

58. O great goddess, one should concentrate on the entire universe as void and like this also dissolve the mind. Then one will experience absorption in the Absolute.

“Absorption in the Absolute” is a translation of “laya”. Laya simply means absorption or dissolution, but is a technical term in yoga that is synonymous with samadhi and signifies the absorption of limited awareness of I-ness into the Self. There are several stages of laya, but undoubtedly atyantika laya is meant, which is the ultimate absorption of the subject into the Self. This absorption is the same as freedom from identification with the limited I-ness in Self-realization, then laya is not absorption, but dissolution of ignorance. “Absorption” is dual: there is a subject that gets absorbed into an object, in dissolution this duality gets dissolved.

59. Look inside an empty pot in such a manner that you fix your attention on the void inside and leave the enclosure aside. Dissolving the enclosure will at once lead the mind to become absorbed in void.

You could do this with anything or anybody. Look at the outer form, then imagine the interior as void, then dissolve the form. Interestingly you will soon meet your own I-ness. You will see your self as observer. Once you see your self as observer, imagine it as a hollow shell, then remove the shell and you will be left with the basic duality of ignorance, which means a subject-object relationship without a subject and an object, just pure duality based on I-ness and It-ness. Let go of this duality and you are in the Self.

60. By gazing at treeless rocks or mountains, where there is nothing for the mind to dwell on, the fluctuations of the mind become less.

It could also be an open stretch of land, where there are no trees, nor rocks or mountains. In fact nothing for the mind to dwell on, so preferably no houses or roads either. When there is nothing to think about, fluctuations of the mind ceases. Of course, mind could become occupied with itself, so you have to remain extroverted.

61. Think of two things. When you succeed, give up both and dwell in the middle between them. As you master this, the essence arises.

“The essence ” is a translation of “tattva”. This word can mean many things from the Absolute to subtle layers of creation. Here it undoubtedly means the essence, the Self.

Think of two things, anything will do. Take an apple and an orange for example. You can think of both as a unit, but that would not be thinking of two things. First think of the apple, then skip the apple and think of the orange. What happened in between, as your attention went from one to the other? There was a short instance of blankness. Hold on to this blankness, it is the middle where awareness may become aware of itself. When awareness becomes aware of itself, it is an entrance to the essence, to the Self.

You could also mentally repeat a mantra once, then skip it and mentally repeat it again. What happened between the two repetitions? There is a small void which is “the middle between them” and where you should do your best to dwell. With a little mastery of this, one may enter the middle at will and use it as an entrance to the Self.

62. Casting aside any dispositions, the restrained mind is no longer like the changing conditions or feelings. In this middle stance true meditation blossoms.

“Dispositions” is a translation of “bhava”, which means any sentiment or feeling. Here you take anything that already is in the mind, then you give it up. Then something else pops up and you give that up too. Between each you find the middle, also spoken of in the previous verse. You should meditate on that middle stance of freedom from dispositions, where awareness becomes aware of itself and there is an opening to the Self.

This verse is sometimes translated as meaning one should focus on a single feeling and that within its center awareness blossoms. This, however, is in contradiction of the first line of the verse. The first words of the first line are “Bhāve tyakte niruddha”, meaning “dispositions of the mind should be given up, or restrained”. The famous definition of yoga, found in Patanjali’s Yoga-sutras (I,2), states “chittavritti niruddhah”, meaning yoga is “giving up, or restraining, the fluctuations of the mind”. The similarity is striking. It is reasonable that the second line does not refer to the center of an emotion or disposition, but to the center as mentioned in the previous verses, which lies between two thoughts or feelings.

63. Concentrate, with an unwavering mind, simultaneously on the body and the world as pure consciousness. Then the supreme arises. 

Once your Shakti as awakened and it fills the upper chakras, you will begin to see everything as Shakti. Then this meditation comes naturally and will lead you into unity consciousness.

– – – Fusing in- and out-breath – – –

64. By the fusion of the in-going and the out-going breath the yogi attains equilibrium and becomes able to properly manifest ultimate wisdom.

This verse is sometimes taken to refer to the point between the two breaths (in- and out-breath), however, the instruction is to fuse both the breaths, it is not to be aware of the absence of breath in between. This fusion comes about by reversing the flows of prānāshakti normally associated with the in- and out-breath. See also verse 50.

Practice 1. Follow the body’s natural breathing rhythm; breathe through the nostrils. Focus your attention at the ajna chakra, located at point between the eyebrows, and imagine the nostrils beginning from there and also merging there. Feel the breath pouring into the chakra on both the in-breath and the out-breath. Feel the chakra expand on both the in-breath and the the out-breath. On the in-breath imagine shakti being pulled up through the nostrils and into the chakra. On the out breath. imagine shakti being pushed upwards through the nostrils and into the chakra. Here the fusion happens on the out-breath. It is beneficial to make the out breath. twice as long as the in breath

Practice 2. Breathe through the nostrils. Feel the heart chakra in the middle of the chest. Feel the ajna chakra between the eyebrows. Feel a connection between them. Now follow the natural rhythm of your body breathing. On the in-breath sense air rising from the heart chakra to the ajna chakra, on the out-breath sense air descending from the ajna chakra to the heart chakra. Love and bliss will arise.

– – – Stabilizing bliss – – –

65. When one with the bliss of the Self one should contemplate ones own body, or the entire universe, as filled with bliss. Then, through ones own nectar, one becomes able to live the supreme bliss.

This is a very important verse. It teaches how to stabilize the bliss that fills you in meditation. The practice is straightforward. See also verse 48.

– – – A good laugh – – –

66. O gazelle-eyed one, when seeing a great trick performed, great joy arises which illumines the essence.

This is a difficult verse. The meaning of “kuhanena” is debated, though the root of the word plainly means “juggling” or “trickery”. “Kuhanena prayogena” has been translated as differently as “when seeing a great trick performed”, “when tickled under the armpits” and “by applying the performance of austerities”. The latter translation is problematic, since “kuha” is “a rogue”, “a cheat”, and “kuhana” mainly means “hypocritical and false sanctity”, though it can mean “interested performance of religious austerities”. Swami Lakshman Joo holds to the armpit translation. The word “kuhara”, though, does not mean “armpit”, but merely “cavity”, and “prayogena” means “to perform a trick on stage” or “to apply”, not “to tickle”. Undoubtedly the meaning of the verse is: “When you get a good laugh, great joy arises which illumines the essence”. If you get a good laugh from being tickled under the armpits, that is fine. If you get it from watching somebody perform a trick, that is fine too. See also verses 70 and 71.

Practice. When you sit with a group of friends who are into spirituality, and when you all laugh heartily at something, feel the energy of the laughing pervade the room. When the laughing fades out, sit with the intensity of joy in the atmosphere around you. All be quiet and meditate on it by feeling it, by merging with it, then you will experience an illumination of the essence. Not the essence, but an entrance to it. If you get hold of it, merge with it and then let go, you can enter the essence.

– – – Shakti in the spine – – –

67. By blocking all the channels prānāshakti slowly crawls upwards (through the spine). When it feels like an ant, enhance it and supreme bliss arises. 

“Channels” is usually understood to mean the senses, but it undoubtedly means all the channels which vital force, “prānāshakti”, can leave the body through, which should include the anus and genitals. Considering that prānāshakti arises from the root center and that the anus and genitals are the main channels through which prānāshakti may flow instead of flowing up the spine, it is likely that “channels” includes these. But first sentence is merely a prerequisite to get prānāshakti to rise up the spinal column. Once it rises and feels like an ant crawling inside the spine, one should enhance the flow of energy and will then be about to enter supreme bliss. This enhancement is the main practice.

Practice. Sit in a meditative posture. Close the eyes and mouth. Slightly contract, hold and release the muscles in the perineum. This blocks the channels to the anus and genitals and forces the prānāshakti to rise up the spine. Do this repeatedly until you get a sensation in the spine like an ant crawling there. Then focus one-pointedly on this feeling in the spine and enhance it. This will give rise to a greater surge of shakti rising up the spine and lead towards supreme bliss.

See also verses 28, 29.

68. Throw the joyful mind into the middle of the plant-stem, filled with fire or air, and be united with the recollected bliss.

This verse is a continuation of the previous verse. “The middle of the plant-stem” is the innermost channel in the spine. As the tickling sensation in the spine intensifies with the stronger flow of shakti, it can change to a feeling of fire in the spine or a rushing stream of hot air. One should unite ones already joyous mind with this and merge in supreme bliss as kundalini rises and fills the brain. The phrase translated as “united with the recollected bliss” is sometimes translated as “bliss of sexual union”. The words used is “smarānandena yujyate”. “Smarānanda” means to remember or once again recollect (smara) pure bliss (ananda), but “smara” can sometimes mean sexual love. “Yujyate” means “to be yoked” or “desired union”. The “desired union which is pure bliss”, is the union of Shiva and Shakti, meaning the merging of kundalini into pure Being in the brain. In contexts such as this, “yuj” means “union with the Self” and “yujyate” means “the wish to be so absorbed in meditation that one enters union with the Self”.

69. Initially union with Shakti causes excitation, but absorption into Shakti finally leads to that bliss which is the essential nature of Brahman and is ones own Self.

Brahman is the Absolute, pure Being. As Shakti rises in the spine, as described in the two preceding verses, one gets excited if unaccustomed to it. But one has to ignore the excitation and merge with the Shakti.

– – – On meditating on joy when Shakti is absent – – –

70. O queen of gods. By hugging, kissing or embracing joy is felt. By one-pointed remembrance of this, even in the absence of Shakti, bliss arises.

This verse and the next four are meant for those who do not have Shakti awakened and therefore can not meditate on Shakti. These verses say that bliss can be experienced even in the ab sense of Shakti if one meditates one-pointedly on the remembrance of pleasure. It is important to note the instruction is to meditate on the remembrance of the sense of pleasure, not on that which causes the pleasure, nor to indulge. This, and the following, are somewhat similar to the practice mentioned under verse 66, where one meditates on the energy of a good laugh, rather then the laugh, and uses this as an entrance to void and the Self.

71. When in great joy from obtaining something or seeing relatives, or when ever bliss arises, one should meditate so as to absorb the mind in that bliss and merge with it.

See verses 70 and 66.

72. By meditating on the joy of taste that was obtained from eating and drinking, and filling your awareness with it fully, the joy then becomes supreme bliss.

Again the point is to meditate on joy, not on the actual eating or drinking. You have to transcend the subject-object relationship. If you do this while eating and drinking, you are somewhat likely to becomes distracted by the eating and drinking and lose the ability to become absorbed in the joy. In that case remembrance of the joy will work better, as advised in verse 70.

73. As a result of concentration one will experience the same joy in a song as in other pleasures of the senses. Yogis, by being absorbed in that and ascending beyond the mind, become one with the Self.

This verse clarifies the practices described above by stating that it does not matter what sensual pleasure gives rise to the joy. It also clarifies by stating that it is by ascending beyond the mind that oneness with the Self occurs. In other words, there is no point in staying in a joy to which the mind and senses are attached; it is the concentration and absorption in the joy that opens the door to the self, not sensuality.

Practice. Lay down on a bed and listen to some nice music, preferably with headphones so you won’t be distracted. Relax completely and just listen to the music. Listen attentively. Be aware of what each individual instrument is playing. Don’t thinks about it, just listen and be very, very aware. Don’t compare this passage with a past passage, or a passe you know will come, just be utterly in the present moment and be fully occupied with listening to as many facets of the music as possible. Continue with uninterrupted awareness of the totality of the music. The mind will eventually surrender to just listening and even body consciousness will fade. In such moments there is an entrance to the Self and bliss may arise. 

74. Whenever the mind is satisfied and the mind is held one-pointedly there alone, there the nature of supreme bliss will manifest.

This verse concludes the above verses by summing up the principle to apply. It also makes it clear that the above specifics, food, music, etc., were just examples, for we are now told that “wherever the mind is satisfied” and “is held one-pointed” is suitable for meditation. If tending to your flowers absorbs you, fine use that as a meditation, but be prepared to let go of the tending of flowers as soon as Shakti emerges and you sense the Self.

This verse is about a special kind of meditation, it is not about living life in a narcissistic and irresponsible manner.

– – – Prior to sleep (turiya) – – –

75. Before falling asleep, but after awareness of the outer sense objects has faded, bring the mind into that state which Paradevi illumines.

“Paradevi” is another name for supreme Shakti. You of course need to know and have access to this “state which Parashakti illumines” before you can benefit from this practice. This state between sleep and wakefulness, that is neither, is known as “turiya”, which means “the fourth”. The other three are waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep. Turiya can be accessed between either. To access turiya before falling asleep, you should be acquainted with it by habitually entering samadhi during meditation.

– – – On using illumination for meditation – – –

76. Gaze into a space that appears variegated by the rays of the sun or a lamp, as if it is illuminated by your own Self.

This practice is not what is known as tratak, in which one fixes the gaze at a steady flame for a prolonged period. In tratak one stares at the flame for a while until the image of the flame is imprinted on the mind. then one closes the eyes and visualizes the flame in the third eye. This verse, however, speaks of “variegated” (“shabaleekrite”) space or light, not the steady light used in tratak. On should gaze into the room with the sense that the light illuminating the various things in the room, is the light of the Self. This is somewhat similar to the practice described under verse 73, only there it was music, hear it is light.

Practice 1). Sit in an illumined room and move your attention from the objects to the light illumining everything. There is no need to stare or to avoid blinking, just relax and turn your attention from the objects to the sense of sight. Cease reflecting on the things you see, just fill your awareness one-pointedly with the unified sense of light falling on everything. Imagine this light permeating everything, even yourself. See everything as the light. Imagine the light is the Self, then be the Self.

Practice 2) . Sit in a room and meditate a while. Enter samadhi and open the eyes. Feel the light illumining the room is the light of the Self, then the bliss inside will extend to the outside. This practice will help stabilize samadhi into everyday activity.

– – – On mudras and asanas- – –

77. When seeing the supreme attainment, light is thrown on (the yogic practices of) karankini, krodhanā, bhairavi, lelihānā and khechari.

“Seeing the supreme attainment” means when in samadhi due to Shakti having merged with the Self in the brain. “Light is thrown on” is here a metaphor for understanding the real meaning of. The mentioned five yogic practices are so called “mudras”. “Mudra” literally means “seal” and is commonly known as a special class of postures somewhat reminiscent of the more well known yogic postures called asanas. The importance of a mudra, however, is not the posture — otherwise mudras would have been a class of asanas and not a class of their own. The word “asana” simply means posture and mudras are distinct from these. This verse explains that when in deep samadhi, one will realize the real meaning of a number of mudras. This real meaning is that a mudra is a state of consciousness where the outgoing flow of awareness, or shakti, is stopped, or sealed, and the awareness rests in the Self. Hatha yogis have developed a number of practices that try to create conditions in the body conducive to these states, and these practices are mundanely known as mudras. This verse also indicates that these mudras may occur spontaneously during deep meditation, which anyone with a truly awakened kundalini will testify to. The mentioned mudras are as follows:

Karankini mudra. One views the entire body, down to the skeleton, as dissolved into the space of pure consciousness.

Krodhana mudra. This is a distinctly psychological mudra where the energy of anger is drawn into the Self. Any emotion, not just anger, will do.

Bhairavi mudra. Here one has open eyes, but awareness is totally in the Self.

Lelihānā mudra. The entire universe is seen as pure consciousness. This is actually a Shakti mudra because seeing the entire universe as pure consciousness is the same as seeing everything as Shakti.

Khechari mudra. The entire universe is seen as containing pure Being. This is actually a Shiva mudra because seeing everything as containers of pure Being is the same as seeing everything as containers of Shiva.

Once your Shakti is awakened there is no need for the above mudras as they occur spontaneously within and effortlessly.

78. Sit on a soft seat with the weight on one buttock and hands and legs relaxed. Then the mind becomes full of the transcendental.

The posture is basically to fold one leg and place the foot under the thigh of the other leg… If you place the other leg on top of the first and fold it too, and then place the hands on the knee, then you have the hatha yoga posture known as dhyana veerasana. This is a strange verse, and to the best of my knowledge no one has become full of the transcendental merely by adopting this posture. The posture is, however, conducive to meditation. it is important that the verse does not say your become the transcendental, as in the initial verses. We are here dealing with inferior practices.

Swami Lakshman Joo interprets this verse to mean you should sit on both buttocks with your hands and feet without any support… and that by “doing this act your individual consciousness will rise to the supreme full state of universal consciousness”. I think Lakshman Joo is imagining results here, also this practice is in the category of inferior practices.

79. Sitting in a proper posture, curve the arms and hands into half circles and join them into a circle. By absorbing the mind into the space under the armpits peace will come. 

“Proper posture”, means a posture for meditation. Place the back of one hand on top of the palm of the other and rest them in your lap, then you have formed the described circle. Some say you should hold the hands out in front of your, others, over the head. By letting the mind become absorbed into the encircled space, peace soon comes to the mind. It is noteworthy that the verse does not speak of transcending or becoming the transcendental, but speaks of peace… a state of mind conducive to meditation. Lakshman Joo maintains that the verse proposes to find the space under the armpits and see what vacuum there is, then to let the mind become absorbed in that vacuum.

– – – One-pointed awareness – – –

80. Gaze steadily at an object while filling your attention with it. Thus removing the minds base, pure Being is acquired.

“Pure being” is a translation of “Shiva”. Removing the minds base means that awareness becomes free of identification with the mind. You can trick the mind into this state by turning your attention totally towards a single object. Then when there is no other thought in the mind, awareness can become aware of itself and by letting go of the object and diving into the pure awareness, one may enter into pure Being, the Shiva state.

Practice. Sit comfortably and calmly look at an object without staring. Some say your should not blink, but that is wrong. Do not get into any self-competing about how long you can avoid blinking, because that is a distraction. Just let your eyes blink when they want to and ignore the blink. The practice is not a matter of how well you can control the eyelids, but of filling the mind totally with a single thought-object and then letting go when the mind is no longer self-centered.

– – – Miscellaneous practices – – –

81. Open the mouth and place your awareness in the middle of the tongue. Mentally think of the consonant “hhh” in that space and let the mind be dissolved in peace.

Some say this verse refers to khechari mudra, but I think not. In khechari mudra the tongue is folded back and pushed up behind the palate. This is not something many can do and yogis, bent on performing this, usually have to cut the root of the tongue and also massage and stretch the tongue. This operation takes six months according to Shivananda. The verse, however, does not say anything about folding the tongue backwards, it merely speaks of the middle of the tongue in the middle of the open mouth. Swami Lakshman Joo maintains the mouth should be closed and only the space inside the mouth made large.

82. In the posture one adopts while sleeping, or any other posture, one should imagine the body as without support and concentrate on that. By thus destroying one’s mind one instantly destroys intents and other dispositions.

“Body without support” means first imagining the seat or bed is gone and then giving up the body altogether. Even remove the support the body has in the mind. When the body no longer has any support in the mind, it is gone. Then when the mind meditates on no body, the mind is full of void and there is no mind, so ultimately destroy the mind also. Then dispositions and intentions are destroyed and there is just pure Being.

83. O Devi, when slightly rocking the body, or when it is rocked by sitting in a moving vehicle, be peaceful and meditate on the feeling of a divine stream and it will be be achieved.

The “divine stream” is undoubtedly a stream of kundalinishakti up the spine. What will be “achieved” is the actual flow of kundalinishakti up the spine. Jaideva Singh maintains the word “augha”, meaning “stream, flood, rush”, is meant as a metaphor for the continuation of yogic teachings. This just makes the verse cryptic. I see no reason to understand the phrase “augha” metaphorically when it makes clear sense literally. Understanding the stream as a stream of shakti is supported by the methods of the first verses and by the fact that the present verse is dealing with rocking the torso. Anyone with an awakened shakti will recognize the practice below.

Practice. Sit in a meditation posture. Close the eyes and meditate for a while. Raise your kundalini. Then very slightly rock the spine from side to side. You rock the torso, of course, but center your awareness in the spine. Imagine and sense a flow of shakti up the spine and it will soon flow. You could also slightly rock back and forth or make small circular motions.

– – – On the supreme vision of the Blue Being – – –

84. O Devi, having clearly seen pure akasha with continuous and steady awareness one will at once reach the body of Bhairava.

If you have had this experience, the meaning of the verse is immediately clear. If not, one will feel compelled to translate the word “akasha” as “sky”. In the latter case the verse will read something like “reach the body of Bhairava by gazing upon a clear sky”. This verse, however, describes the highest and most mystical and sublime of all spiritual experiences. Here is how I experienced it: I meditated upon an intense longing for God. I became utterly absorbed in this longing; it had no object and no subject, there was just longing for God and a massive state of bliss. In this deep meditation, I saw a small blue dot against a blackish background in the forehead. This blue dot is what Muktananda calls the blue pearl, so we will stick to that name. I had never seen this blue pearl before nor heard of it. I was drawn into the blue pearl and suddenly I entered an infinite space of pure consciousness. To my amazement it was the exact cyan-blue color of a clear mid day sky. I was in infinity, this infinity was pure and extremely intense bliss and love. It is pure lovebliss. This is the level of consciousness that is referred to by the word “akasha”. I was in IT, pure Being, Self-realization I could have stopped here and been content, but the longing for God was with me and I in this pure akasha brought forth my longing for God. Then out of the blue pure consciousness a blue Being emerged. This Being, I much later learned, is he who is called Bhairava. I focused on him and surrendered to him completely, then we merged as one and I became unconscious. During this unconsciousness I was imparted knowledge of spiritual practices and was given the ability to give shaktipāt. Only much later did I come across the scriptures of Kashmir Shaivism and recognized the insights I had been given in an instant. To the best of my knowledge Muktananda is the only one to have had and mentioned this experience before.

This verse is usually understood as a meditation on the sky (“akasha”). However, such a meditation is described in the next verse.

– – – Meditation on the clear blue sky – – –

85. Enter the clear light of the Self by contemplating the space of the entire clear sky as if it is situated in the crown of the head and is the size and stature of Bhairava.

This meditation mimics the experience described under previous verse. However, the word used here is “viyat”, meaning “sky”, and not “akasha” as in the previous verse. As you can see from the comment to the previous verse there is no translation for the word “akasha”, though it is usually translated as “space”. The phrase “the size and stature of Bhairava” does not mean in the mythological anthropomorphic form known in hinduism, it means to sense the infinite blue space permeating the brain as pure Being. Some translators understand “moordhni” to mean “the forehead” rather than the crown of the head, and this is also a good meditation.

Practice. Look at the clear, blue sky for a while. Then close the eyes and visualize it permeating the brain and the top of the head. Imagine it to be pure Being, the Self.

– – – Various methods – – –

86. When again of limited knowledge, in duality and engrossed in the outer world of ignorance, one should consider the manifest world as Bhairava’s gestalt and as an experience of the infinite. This dispels the clouds of ignorance.

When the wisdom gained in meditation is diminished during the day, one can help stabilize it by considering the entire world, and everything going on in it, as a play of consciousness or as the divine.

87. Similarly one should consider the terrible darkness of the moonless night as the gestalt of Bhairava.

Literally it says “the dark fortnight” which is a reference to the moons darkest phase.

88. Also one could consider the extreme darkness inside, when the eyes are closed, as spreading in front of the eyes. Contemplate it as the gestalt of Bhairava. Be one with that and become the Self. 

“Spreading in front of the eyes” should be understood to mean spreading everywhere outside. Again Bhairava stands for the Absolute. One should not visualize the personified hindu deity, but should imagine the darkness as permeated with the absolute to the utmost degree.

89. Similarly one could restrain any sense from stimulation and from that obstruction enter the non-dual void where only the Self shines.

Actually, the word “indriya” not only means the five senses, but also the associated five organs of action (tongue, hands, feet, anus and genitals). So the stanza advises restraint of both the senses and the activities. This amounts to meditating and turning the attention inwards. Once one has let go of the outer world and has let go of any urge to act, one can enter the non-dual void that is the Self. Without something to experience and without something to act upon or with, there is only non-dual void left. Even the urge to meditate must be given up along with the urge to enter the void. Actually, you are the void already, so there is nothing to enter. You just let go of distractions. 

90. O Devi, by reciting a great “a”, without any trailing “m” or “h”, there spontaneously arises a torrent of insight into the supreme Lord.

“The supreme Lord” means the Self. This recitation should be uninterrupted, since it is to be “great” and there is no end to the “a”. This means it should be mental, otherwise the recitation will be terminated by the lack of breath. Such a meditation will make the mind one-pointed, will withdraw awareness from the senses and will eventually lead to an opening to the Self.

91. Recite a letter ending with “h” with one-pointed concentration. In the void when “h” is over, the mind becomes supportless and touched by the eternal Brahma.

“Eternal Brahma” means the absolute Self. Such a letter could be “ah”. It is the trailing “h” that one lets the awareness be absorbed in, and it is the void when it ends that is the important point of meditation. Again it is recommended to do it mentally. When a thought ends and before another begins, there is the void in which the Self is accessible.

92. When one meditates on ones own self as limitless space in all directions, then it is revealed that the gestalt of ones consciousness is chiti shakti. 

“Chiti-shakti” is difficult to translate. Patanjali in Yoga-sutras (IV, 34) describes it as the transcendental Self acting as awareness without ever being involved in the phenomena of awareness, but this is only half the story, the other half is that chiti shakti never has been anything but pure Shakti. From this meditation one realizes that one is one with Shakti. This realization is in the nature of Self-realization.

93. If one pierces any limb of the body with a needle, then fill your awareness with the sensation and use that to move into Bhairava.

You can either use the pain caused by an accident or you can create a small pain yourself.

– – – On transcending the psyche – – –

94. Contemplate that you are not any aspect of the psyche what so ever. In the absence of such notions and thoughts you become free of the fluctuations of the mind

This includes the mind, feelings, ego and even I-ness. When you are free of any such false identifications, you also become free of the fluctuations of the mind in both senses: the fluctuations will temporarily cease and when they return, you will not be caught by them.

95. Name and parts reside within the delusive māyā and are caused by māyā. By reflecting thus on the nature of the different constitutive principles, one becomes inseparable from the Self.

“Parts” is a translation of “kalā” which means a constituent part. Kalā is, however, one of the five “kanchukas” (coverings of the Self, aspects of ignorance). All five catch, or engross, awareness and cover the Self. The five kanchukas are:

1. Kalā limits the power to do.
2. Vidyā limits the power to know.
3. Rāga creates likes and dislikes.
4. Kāla creates a sense of time.
5. Niyati limits free will.

“Māyā” is commonly translated “illusion”. It refers to the strange situation that though everything is the Absolute and vibrating Shakti, one merely sees things as limited phenomena. In particular one identifies with ones name and psyche, rather than with the Self. The five kanchukas together with māyā veil the Self.

The stanza suggests one reflects on every aspect and level of creation as being a play of consciousness, an illusion.

96. Having seen a flash of desire spring up, observe it and pacify it. Thus what has arisen will be reabsorbed.

Reabsorbing a desire means realizing its original nature as Shakti. When the desire is calmly observed, and one sees it as Shakti, there is opened a door to the Self. If one gets caught in the flash of desire, one will not be able to reach the Self, so one has to calm the desire and step out of it. The desire does not have to be extinguished, but one needs to step out of it and witness it. Then it will naturally be seen as a fluctuation of Shakti and one can reach the Self, which ultimately is pure, unmanifest Shakti.

97. Ask yourself: When I have no desire and no knowledge, then what am I? Indeed you are pure Being! Absorbed in such contemplation, identifying with pure Being, you ultimately become pure Being.

This verse asks the question: When you remove everything you identify with, what is left? It then answers: The Self is left. Question yourself in a similar manner: Who am I? Who is asking this question? If I find an answer to the question, I can still ask who is accepting that answer. So I must be pure Being alone. What is pure Being and how can I realize it? If I realize it as something separate from me, it can not be my Self, for I can still ask: Who realized it? If it is something I must grow into, it must be of a changing nature, and therefore I can ask: Who witnesses the change?

98. When desire or knowledge arises, fix the mind on it with one-pointed awareness and consider it a manifestation of the Self, then realize the ultimate.

This practice is very good to do during meditation when your samadhi gets disturbed by a desire or thought.

99. As knowledge is without a cause, it is baseless and deceptive. In reality knowledge does not belong to anybody. Contemplate like this and reach the Self, o dear one. 

The ultimate reality of anyone is not the knowledge they possess, though people generally identify themselves as possessors of knowledge and beliefs. The ultimate reality is pure Being. If you contemplate knowledge and remove its apparent cause, you understand knowledge is deceptive. All knowledge is bound to phenomena relating to each other, either objective phenomena, subjective phenomena or phenomena of language. If you remove the relationship, the knowledge becomes baseless. Identification with the possessor of knowledge then falls away and one realizes even the possessor of knowledge is an illusion. One may then reach the Self.

100. Everybody’s nature is pure consciousness, not some particulars. Therefore contemplate that all persons are pervaded by That and transcend relative existence.

“That” refers to the ultimate, to pure Being.

101. When feeling lust, anger, greed, delusion, pride or jealousy one should fix the mind motionlessly on it. Then the underlying pure Being alone remains.

“Pure being ” is a translation of “tattva”. This word can mean many things from the Ultimate to subtle layers of creation.

When in the grip of strong emotions the mind is restless and agitated, so the easiest thing to concentrate on is the present emotion. One should concentrate so completely on the emotion that the mind no longer wanders or thinks about the cause of the emotional turmoil. Then “tattva” remains and here we can understand tattva both as the underlying energy of the emotion or as the Self, since it is possible to enter into either (but understand they are not the same). In either case awareness is withdrawn from the drama and freedom is attained. It is not a question of seeking to get out of the emotion, nor of seeking to get completely into it, it is a question of one pointed awareness on the emotion as an object separate from one self. Once that is achieved the Self can be realized. The emotion itself is immaterial, just as its justification and raison d’être is. The emotion is solely an object of concentration and the concentration is what one should surrender to and go completely into. Then one will attain freedom from the emotion, the emotion may still be there, but one will be free and will have generated an opening to the Self.

102. Meditate on everything as imagined, like a magic trick or a painting. Thus seeing everything as transient, happiness arises. 

Once one begins to sense Shakti or pure Being in everything, this practice will give rise to happiness. If, however, one does not have access to Shakti, bliss and pure Being, this practice may give rise to a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. Such is of course not desirable and it is therefore recommended that one first engages in practices to awaken Shakti and bring one in contact with pure Being and bliss.

103. O Bhairavi, awareness should not dwell on pain or pleasure, but on the center where only the essence remains.

“Essence ” is a translation of “tattva”, which means ones essence or the ultimate. Tattva can also mean various subtle layers of manifestation, but that meaning is unlikely in this context.

104. Having abandoned identification with one’s body, one should contemplate “I am everywhere” with a firm mind. When one sees beyond duality, one becomes happy.

“Identification” is a translation of “āsthā” which literally means “consideration”, “regard” or “zeal”. Thus some translate the verse as suggesting to abandon consideration for the body, but disregard of the body does not lead to the non-duality spoken of. The phrase may also be translated as abandoning attachment to the body, but such attachment can only be given up when identification with the body has been abandoned. This is a matter of giving up the I-ness associated with the body, not of disregarding the body.

105. Contemplate that at the very beginning of being intently occupied with something, knowledge or desire does not yet exist within. Indeed such are born everywhere else (than in the Self). Contemplating thus one arrives at the universal soul.

“Being intently occupied with” is translated from “ghat, ghata” in “ghatādau”. Often the verse is translated as saying “knowledge and desires reside everywhere, also in jars”, which is quite peculiar. “Ghata” does also means “jar” or “pot”, but together with “ādau” (meaning “at the very begriming”), translating “ghatādau” merely as “a jar ” seems reductive. “Ghata” could also be read as meaning “a cluster” and the verse then reads that “initially clusters of knowledge or desire do not reside within”, which amounts to the same meaning as the present translation. “The universal soul” is a metaphor for the Self, it is translated from “sarvagah”, which literally means “omnipresent”.

– – – On non-duality – – –

106. Everybody’s consciousness divides between subject and object. Yogis, however, are very mindful of this relation.

A “yogi” is either one who strives for union with the Self and is well on the way, or one who has reached such union. In either case, the Self will be recognized in everything, both subject and objects. Initially, if the yogi has merely realized the Self as pure Being, or void without Shakti, the yogi will know from inner experience that everything is the Self and will therefore be very mindful of the relationship between himself and others or objects. Such a yogi will se others as objects, but know them as Self and will most likely consider this tantamount to seeing the Self in others, but there is still a duality between manifest and unmanifest. A more advanced yogi with a well awakened Shakti will directly sense Shakti in and as everything and will know from experience that Shakti and pure Being are one and the same. With progress the relationship between pure Being and Shakti becomes less and less distant and ultimately they are one. At that point the yogi will recognize everything as Self, it no longer is a question of Self in other, it is other as Self. Here the duality between unmanifest and manifest is gone.

107. Contemplate all consciousness as your own, even in another’s body. Abandoning consideration of ones own body, one soon becomes all pervasive. 

What is abandoned is identification with one’s body. As this deepens, one progressively becomes aware of pure Being.

108. Having made the mind supportless, one should not engage in thinking. Then, o gazelle-eyed one, the limited self will merge in the Self and the state of Bhairava will be attained. 

It is important that the verse states the prerequisite to not engaging in thinking is a mind without supports. Most commentaries will say that a supportless mind is a mind without thoughts, but that contradicts the verse which clearly makes a division between the minds supports and the minds contents. The verse says that to disengage in thinking, you must first have removed the minds supports. The second sentence of the verse makes it clear that the main point is to merge the limited self into the Self. You can of course not merge the limited self into the Self unless you are somewhat familiar with both the limited self and the Self. You step out of the small self by first removing the minds supports, then by being disengaged in thinking and stopping thoughts and fluctuations of consciousness.

To make the mind supportless is to step out of it and into pure Being, the Self. You do not have to merge with the Self, but you let go of involvement with the activities of the mind and, most importantly, you let go of identification with the mind. Once identification with the the mind is gone, the mind no longer has any support. You can then disengage thinking. Disidentification and disengagement will go back and forth between each other, and progressively awareness will rest more and more in its own purity of being. With disidentification and disengagement, the awareness merges back into its source: the Self.

109. Parameshvara is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, hence my nature is Shiva. By meditating thus one becomes Shiva. 

“Parameshvara” means the most supreme and highest divinity. It is a synonym for Shiva, or Bhairava, which is a synonym for the absolute. Contemplate this: If God is omnipresent, there is no part of you that is not God. If the absolute is omnipresent, there is no part of you that is not the absolute. It is not oneness by participation, because that participation will in itself be the absolute. You are the absolute, and with this realization it becomes clear that Shiva and Self are not only inseparable, they are one and the same.

110. Just as waves arise from water, flames from fire and light-rays from the sun, so all the different aspects of the universe arise from me, Bhairava. 

We see waves as separate individual phenomena, yet they are inseparable from the ocean. Similarly with flames from fire or the suns light. In the same way everyone is inseparable from the Self. Everyone is already Self-realized, already enlightened; ignorance is like a wave that has forgot it is the ocean and thinks it is a separate little self.

– – – Various practices – – –

111. Whirling the body round and round, suddenly fall to the ground and be motionless. By stopping the energy of commotion the supreme state appears.

“Whirling round” is a translation of “bhrāntvā” which also means “having roamed about”. You could also walk for an extended period, until your body is in a state of commotion. Then stop, lie down and become motionless.

112. When the energy of mental agitation is dissolved, due to being unable to comprehend something or when the mind is dissolved, then at the end of the dissolution Bhairava’s form remains.

The mind is active when trying to comprehend something, and this can be considered an energy of agitation. This energy of agitation can be dissolved when one is unable to comprehend the matter at hand and gives up, or when one directly dissolves the mind. When this dissolution is accomplished, there is no mind and only pure Being remains. This does not mean one should try to develop a state where one gives up trying to understand anything at all, for that in itself is an agitation of the mind.

113. O Devi, listen, for I am telling you this tradition in its entirety. Merely by fixing the eyes in a steady gaze, Kaivalya will arise at once.

“Kaivalya” is absorption into the Self.

114. Contracting the openings of the ears and also the lower openings, meditate on the place of unstruck sound and enter the eternal Brahman.

You contract the lower openings by contracting the muscle of the perineum. To contract the openings of the ears, simply close them with your fingers or the palms of your hands. The unstruck sound is a sound that arises of itself; it is neither a vowel or a consonant. “The place of the unstruck sound” is “anahata”, the heart chakra in the middle of the chest.

115. While standing at the top of a well or abyss look steadily into the deep hole. Free your mind of fluctuations and immediately the mind will dissolve.

116. Wherever the mind goes, outside or inside, there the state of Shiva is. Since Shiva is all-pervasive, where else could the mind go?

The state of Shiva as all-pervasive refers to the curious fact that once your Shakti is fully awakened and has reached the brain, you begin to perceive Shakti in and as everything around you. This perception is of course perceiving the state of Shiva as all-pervasive since Shiva and Shakti on this level are one. Creation is a manifestation of the dynamic principle of the absolute; this principle is Shakti. The unmanifest aspect of the absolute, known as Shiva, remains unmanifest and omnipresent.

117. No matter where your awareness is led through the sense of sight, by contemplating that alone as Shiva and letting the mind be absorbed you become full of your essential nature. 

“Shiva” means the Self, pure Being. Any sense will do, not just sight.

118. At the beginning and end of sneezing, in terror or sorrow, at an abyss, fleeing from a battle, in curiosity or at the beginning or end of hunger; such states resemble the state of Brahma.

“Gahvare” is translated as “at an abyss”, but can also be translated “in confusion” or “before an impenetrable secret” or “in a cave”. The point being that one is confronted with something impenetrable and is stuck. In all the examples given, there is either a momentary or prolonged stopping of the mind. When you sneeze, the mind goes blank for an instant and there is only the dynamic presence of vibrating shakti. The verse does not advocate immersing yourself in fear or sorrow as such, but rather immersing yourself in the mindless state of shakti out of which the intense and overwhelming emotion or action springs and by which it is driven.

119. When memorable objects arise in the mind, such as a country one has seen, let the mind go. Thus making the body supportless, the mighty Lord who pervades all may be sensed. 

What makes this practice work is the time gap between the presence of your body and the mind. When you engage completely in the memory, the body’s presence in the now and the minds presence in the past can open a gap in consciousness. Give this gap your full awareness and find pure Being. The phrase “manas-tyajet” is sometimes translated as “leave the mind”, but it is rather in the sense of leaving the mind to itself, letting it focus on the memories, and disregarding it. The body becomes “supportless” when the mind leaves it and identification with the body goes away. When the mind is engaged in the past, it is currently disidentified with the body and this disidentification opens the mentioned gap into which one can let ones awareness become aware of itself. As the next verse explains, one can do this with present objects also, not just memories.

120. Momentarily gaze at some object, then cancel the impression and stay in pure consciousness. Then, o goddess, you become the void. 

“Nivartayet” is translated as “cancel”, it means to annul, wipe-out. Some translate it as “slowly withdraw from”, however, there is no mention of speed, nor of withdrawal. You simply give up the impression and notions associated with it.

Practice: Shortly gaze at an object, then close your eyes and have the object in your awareness. Wipe out the impression of the object and you are left with void which is pure Being. … When you do this, you will find that the object is soon replaced by some other object by the mind. Either a visual object or a thought. But notice the gap between the initial object and the new one. It may last only a fraction of a second, but it is there. Go after that.

121. From the devotion of one who is completely detached emerges a kind of intuitive understanding known as Shankara shakti. By regularly meditating on that shakti, such a one finds Shiva.

Devotion here is intense devotion to god. Shiva, Shankara and the Self are synonymous and Shankara Shakti means the pure Shakti of the Self. It is a common misunderstanding that devotion in itself will lead to Self-realization. Devotion in itself is inherently dualistic and in order to reach the Self, this duality must be given up. What this verse makes clear is that it is not the devotion as such, but the shakti released as an effect of devotion that is a doorway to the Self. The devotee should meditate on that Shakti.

122. When perception is on a particular object, then other objects fade into void. By meditating on that very void, even whilst the particular object is still perceived, one attains tranquility.

The void underlies all mentation, therefore one can meditate on void even though there is an object in the mind. The mind does not have to be blank in order to meditate on void.

123. Inferior knowledge, which some consider pure, is considered impure by those who have experienced the Self. In fact it is neither pure nor impure. Only freedom from all thoughts gives happiness. 

“Experienced the Self” is a translation of “Shambu darshane”. “Shambu” is Shiva or the Self. “Darshan” means “vision” in both a literal and metaphorical sense. “Shambu darshane” is to merge with the Self. It could also refer to meeting the blue being, who is Shambu/Shiva. Also it could refer to the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism. “Freedom from all thoughts” is an understatement; it is a translation of “nirvikalpa” which means absence of any kind of fluctuations of consciousness.

124. The spirit of Bhairava is everywhere, even in people. Apart from that nothing exists. Merge with that and attain it. 

“Spirit of Bhairava” is translated from “Bhairavo bhāvah”, which means more than Bhairava’s “spirit”, it also means “state” or “being”.

Repeatedly merge with Bhairava, which is the Self, and you will attain the state of Bhairava, which is Self-realization

125. Treating friend and foe equally. Preserving equanimity in honor and dishonor. Realizing Brahma is totally full, one becomes happy.

Brahma is the Absolute, the Self.

126. One should neither dislike nor like. Being liberated from likes and dislikes, one finds the fullness of Brahma in the middle.

“Dvesha” means “dislike” or “hate”. “Rāga” means “desire”, “affection”, “longing”, “passion”. Once you find the Self, you rest between these extremes.

127. That which is unknowable, that which is ungraspable, that which is void, that which is unimaginable … all that is Bhairava. By contemplating thus realization will eventually come.

This is a description of pure Being by negations. Likewise by radically rejecting every notion about what Bhairava is and by rejecting everything that negates Bhairava, one will eventually arrive at Bhairava.

128. By fixing the mind on the external space, which is eternal, supportless and omnipresent void beyond comprehension, one enters non-space. 

“Non-space” is pure Being. It is remarkable that Bhairava is described simultaneously as non-space, omnipresent and as void, but it is so.

129. Wherever the mind dwells, instantly leave it aside and thus make the mind supportless. Then one becomes waveless.

“Waveless” is a metaphor for absence of fluctuations of awareness.

130. Pervading the entire universe, resounding everywhere with fear and peril. By constantly repeating the word Bhairava with this understanding, one becomes Shiva.

“Fear and peril” means the ego and ignorance is in danger. Losing identification with the ego can cause fear, but in reality there is nothing to be afraid of.

131. When I-ness, my-ness, etc. assert themselves, be inspired to meditate on that which is supportless and let the mind go there.

When assertions like “I am” or “this is mine” arise, let go of such notions and other similar supports and let the mind dwell upon its own nature of awareness. Thus awareness watches awareness.

132. Attain fulfillment by meditating every moment on the meaning of: Eternal, omnipresent, supportless, all-pervasive lord of everything.

133. By being firmly established in the understanding that everything that exists is as groundless as a magic trick, one achieves peace.

134. How can the changeless Self be captured in knowledge or action? Knowledge concerns external objects. Thus the universe is empty. 

Knowledge and action change; the Self is unchanging. The Self is awareness, Shakti and pure Being. The verse specifies that the universe in truth is empty since its knowledge can not capture the Self.

135. For me there is neither bondage nor liberation, they only frighten the cowards. This is a reflection in the mind like a reflection of the sun in water. 

“Me” is the Self speaking.

136. On contact, all the senses produce pain and pleasure, etc.. Considering thus, leaving the senses aside and abiding in the Self, one stays in the Self.

The pleasures of the senses are inseparable from pain. Only the bliss of the Self is stable and in order to reach this bliss, one should keep the senses from contact with their objects during meditation. In other words one should withdraw the awareness from the senses and turn it inwards towards the Self. Since the Self is pure awareness, this turning awareness towards the Self is letting awareness become aware of itself. It is also transcending the innermost limits of awareness. It is also becoming silent and it is becoming saturated with vibrant Shakti, which is lovebliss.

137. Knowledge elucidates everything and this elucidation is of the Self. Since by nature they are the same, one should contemplate the unity of knowledge and known.

“Knowledge” is a translation of “jnāna” which can mean knowledge in a secular, dualistic sense, but also the highest wisdom of Self-realization. The point here is that the known is structured in consciousness and that the cognition, or “elucidation”, inherent in knowledge is of the Self. Since consciousness is of the Self, there is no difference between knowledge and known. If one realizes this fully, the mind with all its knowledge will be realized as vibrant Shakti, which is the Self. 

138. O dear one, that state of Bhairava is when the set of four dissolves: the mind, consciousness, energy and small self.

Pure being does not need a mind to be, nor does it need consciousness, energy or an ego. Pure Being simply Is and it is your essential Self.

– – – Finale – – –

139. O Devi, I have summarized 112 means to becoming waveless and by which people become enlightened.

“Waveless” refers to absence of fluctuations of the mind and of the awareness. This verse summarizes the essence of the 112 means as “becoming waveless”. This reminds of Patanjali’s famous definition of yoga as absence of fluctuations of consciousness.

140. If established in even one of these one becomes Bhairava. Ones speech will be able to confer curses and blessings.

“Confer curses and blessings”. One established in Bhairava will not be disposed to curse anybody, since his nature as lovebliss will be fully realized. Such a person will, however, be disposed to give blessings and one of the most interesting blessings is shaktipāt. When established in Bhairava, one can give shaktipāt through speech — as well as through other means.

141-142a. O Devi, such a one becomes free from old age and mortality, he acquires special powers, like the ability to become infinitely small. He becomes the darling of yogis and the master of spiritual gatherings. Such a one becomes liberated while alive, and unaffected by karma.

The verse lists a number of results of awakening. First the simple results are listed, then the more and more important ones. 1) One loses identification with the ageing body. 2) “Animā” is one of a number of special yogic powers, it is the ability to become infinitely small. Whether such powers are to be understood as referring to the mind or the body is unclear. 3) One becomes a true teacher, able to teach even devoted yogis. 4) One is liberated while alive and unaffected by karma. Karma is the law that every action will have a reaction, even across several lifetimes.

142b-144a. Devi replied: O Shiva, if such is the embodiment of the supreme, then according to the established rules, who is to be invoked and what is the invocation? Who is to be worshipped or meditated upon? Who will be gratified by such worship? To whom should invocations be made and to whom should oblations be offered during sacrifice? How should these be done? 

144b. Bhairava replied: O gazelle-eyed one. Such practices are exterior and a gross form of spirituality.

145. By repeatedly merging with the Self in meditation, that is also a form of mantra repetition. The sound of ones Self is the highest mantra. 

“Sound of ones Self” is a metaphor, the Self does not have any sound. Next verse clarifies this by reminding that true meditation is awareness without any form or support. If the Self had a sound, that would act as a form and support.

146. True meditation is an absolutely steady awareness without any form nor support. Meditation is not imagining some body with eyes, face, hands, etc.

This verse makes it clear that all the verses in Vijñānabhairava, when speaking of Bhairava, Shiva, etc., do not mean the mythological anthropomorphic form, but pure Being. What is meditation with support? Virtually every kind of meditation has some method or other and is therefore with support, but the goal of all meditation is to transcend the method and become supportless. In other words: a meditation method that does not incorporate getting rid of the method will not lead to the supportless state and will not lead to Self-realization.

147. True worship is not offering flowers etc., but making ones mind firm in nirvikalpa. This happens in the supreme void where true worship indeed is dissolution.

“Nirvikalpa” means “nirvikalpa samadhi”, which is the meditative state where awareness is supportless. In this there are no fluctuations (vikalpas) of the mind or of awareness. Since there are no fluctuations, it is equivalent to void. Similarly dissolution is described as devoted surrender to the Self in void.

148. Whatever the current effect, by being established in any of the practices, day by day the state of fullness develops to absolute satisfaction.

This a very encouraging verse. It says that no matter what level ones practice may be at, if one perseveres, then it will surely lead to the goal.

149. Real oblation is when all the elements, all the senses, the sense objects and the mind are offered in the fire of the supreme void using awareness as the means.

“Oblation” is a translation of “homa” which is a traditional hindu fire offering. “The means” is a translation of “sruchā” which means the ladle used in a homa to pour offerings into the fire.

The point here is that there is no higher spiritual endeavor or religious ritual above surrendering oneself totally to the void of the Self. How should one do this? With the help of ones awareness; by making it turn back on itself and making it supportless.

150. O supreme goddess, here real sacrifice is characterized by the pleasure of supreme bliss. O Parvati, this bliss arises from the destruction of all sins and protects all. 

Mythologically “Parvati” is the consort of Shiva; Parvati is thus another name for Shakti.

This verse supplements the previous one by explaining that even though one offers oneself into void, it is not empty, but is supreme bliss. The Self is bliss. It is not that some meditative act gives rise to a joyful emotion, it is simply that supreme bliss is the nature of the Self and that Self-realization is supreme bliss in and of itself. There is no duality in this bliss. One is not blissful because of something. There is just bliss and that is that. There is not someone having or experiencing this bliss; you are that bliss.

151. The most supreme meditative state is the state of being absorbed into the Shakti of Rudra. How can there be any other worship and anyone else to be gratified? 

“Rudra” is another name for Shiva. “The state” is a translation of “kshetram” which literally means a field or an area. Some translate this as “place of pilgrimage”, but “bhāvanā parā”, meaning “most supreme meditative state” modifies the word “field” and makes it a metaphor for a state of being.

This verse continues the line of thought in the previous verses. Now we are informed that the highest meditative state is to merge with Shakti. In this state there is neither worshipper, worship or worshipped (verse 153 makes this explicit). It is very important to understand that there is no difference between what is designated by the words: the Self, void, supreme bliss and Shakti.

152. Bliss beyond description is the essence of the Self. Ones own Self is verily everywhere. Absorption into ones Self as such, is said to be the real bath of purification.

Again we are reminded that the Self in its essence is supreme bliss. There is no difference between the supreme bliss and the Self and the supreme bliss is not an emotional reaction to something. Therefore there can be no higher purification than to merge oneself into that bliss again and again.

153. The worshipper and the objects offered in worship, by which the transcendental is worshipped, are all really one only, so what is this worship?

The worshipper refers to the small self, which one ultimately realizes to be a manifestation of the Self. What is offered is the small self and the fluctuations of the mind and awareness. What is worshipped is the transcendental Self. Ultimately the small self, the fluctuations of the mind and the transcendental Self are one in and as Shakti. This being the case, how can one really speak of a worship? The next two verses explain what is really meant with sacrificial worship.

154. Having swiftly moved breath and life, by ones will the curled up form of the supreme goddess stretches out and goes to the supreme space of all transcendent and immanent.

This is about awakening and rising kundalini through use of breathing techniques. “Breath” is a translation of “prāna”. “Life” is a translation of “jiva” and is often used for the in-breath, while “prāna” designates the out-breath and not just breath in general. Thus the meaning is to move the in-breath and out-breath in a special way. By controlling breath in special ways, the vital force is controlled and moved. However, “jiva” also means “small self” and to move the small self is to rid oneself of identifications. “The supreme goddess” is a name for Shakti. Shakti is here described as curled up, which refers to the state of Shakti known as kundalini. Kundalini lies curled up in the root chakra and it is the goal of yogic manipulation of the breath to awaken kundalini and straighten it out, get it into the spine and bring it into the brain. How to achieve this awakening and straightening is described in the methods of verses 24 – 29. Basically it is control of in-breath and out-breath, while giving up identifications in surrendering to supreme bliss. “The supreme space ” is the crown chakra, which is the goal of the awakened kundalinishakti and where kundalini finally makes her supreme resting place. 

155a. By attending this sacrifice and staying in it full of supreme bliss, then by Devi one enters the supreme and attains Bhairava.

“This sacrifice” refers back to the previous verse and is the awakening and arousal of kundalini. “Devi” is a name for Kundalinishakti, thus the verse says that by the grace of kundalini one attains the Self. When one can stay focused and without any fluctuations of the mind, and then uses the breath to awaken and rise kundalini, then kundalini will take one to the supreme.

155b-156. Repeatedly the out-breath makes the sound “Sa” and the in-breath the sound “Ha”. This particular mantra “Hamsa” is always repeated by the soul. It is repeated 21600 times during a day. As here indicated such a mantra repetition of Devi is easily available, however it is difficult to perform for the ignorant.

The last sentence indicates that an awakened kundalini is the prerequisite to getting benefits from such a mantra repetition, more so as Devi is synonymous with kundalini shakti.

157. O Devi, this which I have told you is the best of all teachings and leads to paramāmritam. Do not ever reveal all this to just anybody.

“Paramāmritam” literally means “supreme ambrosia” but it is a metaphor for the state one is in when kundalini has reached the brain and merged with pure Being.

158-161a. Especially do not reveal it to cruel or evil disciples with no devotion to their guru. Only reveal it to excellent disciples whose minds are free of fluctuations and who are spiritually well advanced. It should without doubt or delay be given to devotees of enlightened teachers. O deer-eyed one, those who have renounced their village, country and homeland, who have renounced sons, wives and relatives, to all these initiation should be granted. All is temporary, but this supreme wealth lasts forever. Even life may be given up, but paramāmritam should never be given up. 

“Paramāmritam” , see verse 157.

161b-162. Devi replied: O Shankra, I am now fully satisfied. Today I have understood the essence of Rudrayāmala Tantra and also the heart of all the forms of Shakti.

“Rudrayāmala Tantra” is a now lost book about the union of Shiva and Shakti.

163. Having spoken thus, the goddess, steeped in delight, embraced Shiva. 


Lakshman Joo, Swami: Commentary on Vijñāna Bhairava, Indica, India, 2002.

Singh, Jaideva: Vijñānabhairava, Motilal Banarsidass, India, 1981 (1979).

Satyasangananda, Swami: Sri Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, Yoga Publications Trust, India, 2003.

Odier, Daniel: Yoga Spandakarika, Inner Traditions, USA, 2004.

Shivananda, Swami: Kundalini Yoga, The Divine Life Society, India, 1980.

Satyananda, Swami: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriyā, Bihar School of Yoga, Monghyr, India 1989, (1976).

Goswami, Shyam Sundar: Layayoga, Inner Traditions, USA 1999.

Dvivedi, M.N.: The yoga-sutras of Patanjali, Sri Satguru Publications, India, 1983 (1890) . 

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