कहें न तुमसे तुम्हारी बात तो किससे कहें हम?
Shivji is one heck of a cool dude. You see, I have a teenage crush on Shivji that endures. So when he says, “O Beloved, put attention neither on pleasure or pain but between these”, I feel this warm glow all inside.
He’s addressing me as beloved! Oh how nice!
What are you talking about Vani??
My favorite thin (ultra-thin) spiritual book. It’s called “Vigyaan Bhairav”, which means “Science of Shiva”.
The original is in Sanskrit, but hold on, don’t go away yet. We aren’t going to get all high brow, scholarly and stuff. In fact it’s because of its utter simplicity that I love this book – and there are many kind and sweet ways that it is accessible to us without having to bother about the Sanskrit.
Shakti (Durga, Parvati, The Supreme Feminine Force) poses a question –
“O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
Who centers this universal wheel?
How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?”
Essentially she is asking him to spill the beans. She is asking him to tell us “the theory of everything”, the one final answer to all questions anyone may ever have.
And then Shiva answers –
He gives 112 short simple ways whereby we may know the answer ourselves by experiencing it. In short, his answer just boils down to this –
Be aware. Experience completely. Receive fully.
He does not directly answer the question ‘What is your reality? Who centers the universal wheel?’ – for if we just heard that, bereft of experience it would just be information and theory to us. He tells us ways in which we can enter his reality, ways in which we can arrive at the center of the universal wheel – above space and time, names and descriptions – and thereby we can directly reach the answer experientially. Nowhere in the book does he say, “I center the universal wheel. This is my reality. Worship me (or anyone or anything for that matter)”. I told you, he’s a cool dude.
Observe. That is the bedrock of science. Observe as much as you can, as minutely as clearly as you can. On a personal level that converts to – be aware, experience completely. Be as acutely aware, of as much in you, around you, as you can.
Scientists use various instruments to observe – be it the grand Hadron Collider at CERN or the hapless rickety Voltmeter in the school lab. We too have been bestowed with superb instruments to observe with. The grandest, big daddy of them all being – our mind. And a plethora of other superb instruments too – eyes, ears, skin…
We just have to tune our instruments and use it completely. When we do that, we directly reach the reality of what is Shiva, along with resolutions to life problems required enroute.
To solve a problem, we have to know the problem. To know the problem, we have to observe the problem. And that applies to whatever hassle we may be experiencing. And even if everything is hunky dory and you are filled with wonder at our wondrous universe and want to know what drives it all – the ultimate question of science, “the theory of everything” – Shiva tells us how you can straight away, bang on, arrive at it. At the center of it all. Not only do you get to know the theory of everything, you get to directly connect with everything, you get to become everything.
It all boils down to tuning our instruments and using it. One simple way that Shivji gives to tune our big daddy instrument, our mind, is – be aware of your breath.
The first four verses of his answer are all different ways of saying, be aware of your breath. Here is the first –
1. Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) – the beneficence.
Whenever I do that, whenever I choose to become aware of my breath, I feel a sense of calm. Ok, relative calm. Things do not feel as overwhelming. I feel his presence. Be aware of your breath.
Imagine a rickety voltmeter gone rogue, jumping all over the lab. That’s what our mind is like most of the time. What kind of an answer to anything will we get using that instrument? What kind of problem solving will it manage to do? Even if someone is blaring the answer we seek at top volume, we won’t be able to hear it. Cause the voltmeter (which has a radio transmission receiver built into it) won’t be able to receive any radio transmission. We gotta tune the radio.
A way to do it – be aware of your breath.
Dear reader, I invite you – pause a second, become aware of your breathing – no need to close your eyes, take on a posture or any such thing – be aware of the movement in your chest, or your tummy – whichever moves more. Just five breaths. In and out.
Being aware of just five breaths, in and out, being aware of just one breath, has tremendous power.
Then Shivji, in Vigyaan Bhairav, gives some further ways to arrive at the center of the universal wheel, above space and time. Here are some that I particularly like. It all boils down to – Use your instruments! See! Listen! When eating something, taste it completely. When having sex, experience it so completely that the fire burns in you forever. Feeling like a rag doll? Well experience that completely.
17. While listening to stringed instruments, hear their composite central sound; thus omnipresence.
22. Consider any area of your present form as limitlessly spacious.
27. When in worldly activity, keep attentive between two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew.
37. Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here, in the middle of this object – the blessing.
41. While being caressed, sweet princess, enter the caressing as everlasting life.
43. At the start of sexual union, keep attentive in the beginning, and so continuing, avoid the embers in the end.
45. Ever remembering union, without embrace, the transformation.
46. On joyously seeing a long-absent friend, permeate this joy.
47. When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled.
50. At the point of sleep when sleep has not yet come and external wakefulness vanishes, at this point being is revealed.
51. In summer when you see the entire sky, endlessly clear, enter such clarity.
52. Lie down as dead. Engaged in wrath, stay so. Or stare without moving an eyelash. Or suck something and become the sucking.
59. Simply by looking into the blue sky beyond clouds, the serenity.
62. In rain during a black night, enter that blackness as the form of forms.
67. Feel yourself pervading all directions, far, near.
79. Toss attachment for body aside, realizing I am everywhere. One who is everywhere is joyous.
82. Feel the consciousness of each person as your own consciousness. So, leaving aside concern for self, become each being.
91. Wherever your mind is wandering, internally or externally, this.
92. When vividly aware through some particular sense, keep in the awareness.
96. Devotion frees.
98. The purity of other teachings is as impurity to us. In reality know nothing as pure or impure.
100. Be the unsame same to friend as to stranger, in honor and dishonor.
101. When the mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centered.
104. Wherever your attention alights, at this very point, experience.
108. Here is a sphere of change, change, change. Through change consume change.
109. As a hen mothers her chicks, mother particular knowings, particular doings, in reality.
110. Since, in truth, bondage and freedom are relative, these words are only for those terrified with the universe.
This universe is a reflection of minds. As you see many suns in water from one sun, so see bondage and liberation.
112. Beloved, at this moment let mind, knowing, breath, form, be included.
Did you sense a deep silence and wide expanse in those words?
There is tremendous transformative power in receiving our experiences completely. As we do it (even if just sometimes) over time it creates a shift, a transformation within. We start seeing the same things that have been in our life all along, in subtle but significantly different ways. There is power shining everywhere and every once in a while we are able to connect to it. A wide expanse opens up and our mind gets transformed in unimaginably gorgeous ways. We feel unlimited. We become unlimited.
Then, in the original Sanskrit, at the end of all his answers, Durga “कण्ठे लग्ना” – i.e. filled with gratitude, she embraces him, she hugs him tight.
That is exactly what happens. We are overcome by gratitude.
That sure is what happens to me. उनके बस गले लग जाना, ज़ोर से – और क्या चाह सकती हूँ मैं?
विस्तृत होकर मन मुस्काया
छा जाती नभ सी यह काया
मैं बस वाणी – मन भरमाया
मैं तो हूँ ब्रह्माण्ड समाया
Dear reader, the excerpts that I have shared with you here are from the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones which consists of four parts (it is not 4 parts as in 4 printed separate books – there are 4 parts within this one book Zen Flesh Zen Bones).
This, a very simple, extremely pared down translation of Vigyaan Bhairav is the last, 4th part of Zen Flesh Zen Bones titled “Centering”. 18 printed pages. That’s all.
There are other ways in which Vigyaan Bhairav is accessible to you too. There is a version available from Bihar School of Yoga / Bihar Yoga Bharati where the original Sanskrit is given with short explanations in English after each shloka. Osho Rajneesh has written a commentary on Vigyaan Bhairav where he has extensively expanded on each of the 112 shlokas and ways of going beyond space and time that Shivji gives. I have cursorily glanced at both these versions. Both are very nice. There are others too.
Personally, I am satisfied with these 18 pages in Zen Flesh Zen Bones and do not feel the need to delve into other more scholarly discourses. I really like the way the authors of Zen Flesh Zen Bones (with the help of a teacher Lakshmanjoo, in Kashmir), have pared down the verses to bare minimum words. It makes the spirit of the message that much more accessible to me. It enables me to stay near silence, near him – unentangled with words and form.
The Science of Shiva – Observe. Experience. Receive fully.
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Image credit: Shiv Shakti by Updendra Ratra