The Vijnana Bhairava

This great classic text of Tantric Shaivism describes 112 ways to catch sight of Reality beyond the mind.
Shiva and Parvati

Translated by Paul Reps and Lakshman Joo

Devi says:

O Shiva, what is your reality?

What is this wonder-filled universe?

What constitutes seed?

Who centers the universal wheel?

What is this life beyond form pervading forms?

How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?

Let my doubts be cleared!

Shiva replies:

This text is reprinted from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. (Yes, really, this Zen book contains a Hindu text.)
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

1. Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) — the beneficence.

2. As breath turns down from down to up, and again as breath curves from up to down — through both these turns, realize.

3. Or, whenever in-breath and out-breath fuse, at this instant touch the energyless energy-filled center.

4. Or, when breath is all out (up) and stopped of itself, or all in (down) and stopped – in such universal pause, one’s small self vanishes. This is difficult only for the impure.

5. Consider your essence as light rays rising from center to center up the vertebrae, and so rises livingness in you.

6. Or in the spaces between, feel this as lightning.

7. Devi, imagine the Sanskrit letters in these honey-filled foci of awareness, first as letters, then more subtly as sounds, then as most subtle feeling. Then, leaving them aside, be free.

8. Attention between eyebrows, let mind be before thought. Let form fill with breath-essence to the top of the head and there shower as light.

9. Or, imagine the five-colored circles of the peacock tail to be your five senses in illimitable space. Now let their beauty melt within. Similarly, at any point in space or on a wall — until the point dissolves. Then your wish for another comes true.

10. Eyes closed, see your inner being in detail. Thus see your true nature.

11. Place your whole attention in the nerve, delicate as the lotus thread, in the center of your spinal column. In such be transformed.

12. Closing the seven openings of the head with your hands, a space between your eyes becomes all-inclusive.

13. Touching eyeballs as a feather, lightness between them opens into heart and there permeates the cosmos.

14. Bathe in the center of sound, as in the continuous sound of a waterfall. Or by putting the fingers in the ears, hear the sound of sounds.

15. Intone a sound, as a-u-m, slowly. As sound enters soundfulness, so do you.

16. In the beginning and gradual refinement of the sound of any letter, awake.

17. While listening to stringed instruments, hear their composite central sound; thus omnipresence.

18. Intone a sound audibly, then less and less audibly as feeling deepens into this silent harmony.

19. Imagine spirit simultaneously within and around you until the entire universe spiritualizes.

20. Kind Devi, enter etheric presence pervading far above and below your form.

21. Put mindstuff in such inexpressible fineness above, below and in your heart.

22. Consider any area of your present form as limitlessly spacious.

23. Feel your substance, bones, flesh, blood, saturated with cosmic essence.

24. Suppose your passive form to be an empty room with walls of skin — empty.

25. Blessed one, as senses are absorbed in heart, reach the center of the lotus.

26. Unminding mind, keep in the middle — until.

27. When in worldly activity, keep attentive between the two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew. [Lakshmanjoo says this is his favorite.]

28. Focus on fire rising through your form from the toes up until the body burns to ashes but not you.

29. Meditate on the make-believe world as burning to ashes, and become being above human.

30. Feel the fine qualities of creativity permeating your breasts and assuming delicate configurations.

31. With intangible breath in center of forehead, as this reaches heart at the moment of sleep, have direction over dreams and over death itself.

32. As, subjectively, letters flow into words and words into sentences, and as, objectively, circles flow into worlds and worlds into principles, find at last these converging in our being.

33. Gracious one, play the universe is an empty shell wherein your mind frolics infinitely.

34. Look upon a bowl without seeing the sides or the material. In a few moments become aware.

35. Abide in some place endlessly spacious, clear of trees, hills, habitations. Thence comes the end of mind pressures.

36. Sweet-hearted one, meditate on knowing and not knowing, existing and not existing. Then leave both aside that you may be.

37. Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here, in the middle of this object — the blessing.

Shiva and Parvati

Shiva and Devi, artist unknown, 1700‒1725

38. Feel cosmos as translucent ever-living presence.

39. With utmost devotion, center on the two junctions of breath and know the knower.

40. Consider the plenum to be your own body of bliss.

41. While being caressed, sweet princess, enter the caressing as everlasting life.

42. Stop the doors of senses when feeling the creeping of an ant. Then.

43. At the start of sexual union keep attentive on the fire in the beginning, and, so continuing, avoid the embers in the end.

44. When in such embrace your senses are shaken as leaves, enter this shaking.

45. Even remembering union, without the 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.

48. O lotus-eyed one, sweet of touch, when singing, seeing, tasting, be aware you are and discover the ever-living.

49. Wherever satisfaction is found, in whatever act, actualize this.

50. At the point of sleep when the sleep has not yet come and external wakefulness vanishes, at this point being is revealed. [Lakshmanjoo says this is another of his favorites.]

51. In summer when you see the entire sky endlessly clear, enter such clarity.

52. Lie down as dead. Enraged in wrath, stay so. Or stare without moving an eyelash. Or suck something and become the sucking.

53. Without support for feet or hands, sit only on the buttocks. Suddenly, the centering.

54. In an easy position gradually pervade an area between the armpits into great peace.

55. See as if for the first time a beauteous person or an ordinary object.

56. With mouth slightly open, keep mind in the middle of tongue. Or, as breath comes silently in, feel the sound HH.

57. When on a bed or a seat, let yourself become weightless, beyond mind.

58. In a moving vehicle, by rhythmically swaying, experience. Or in a still vehicle, by letting yourself swing in slowing invisible circles.

59. Simply by looking into the blue sky beyond clouds, the serenity.

60. Shakti, see all space as if already absorbed in your own head in the brilliance.

61. Waking, sleeping, dreaming, knowing you as light.

62. In rain during a black night enter that blackness as the form of forms.

63. When a moonless raining night is not present, close eyes and find blackness before you. Opening eyes, see blackness. So faults disappear forever.

64. Just as you have the impulse to do something, stop.

65. Center on the sound a-u-m without any a or m.

66. Silently intone a word ending in AH. Then in the HH effortlessly, the spontaneity.

67. Feel yourself as pervading all directions, far, near.

68. Pierce some part of your nectar-filled form with a pin, and gently enter the piercing.

69. Feel: My thought, I-ness, internal organs — me.

70. Illusions deceive. Colors circumscribe. Even divisibles are indivisible.

71. When some desire comes, consider it. Then suddenly, quit it.

72. Before desire and before knowing, how can I say I am? Consider. Dissolve in the beauty.

73. With your entire consciousness in the very start of desire, of knowing, know.

74. O Shakti, each particular perception is limited, disappearing in omnipotence.

75. In truth forms are inseparate. Inseparate are omnipresent being and your own form. Realize each as made of this consciousness.

Shiva and Parvati

Shiva and Devi, artist unknown, 1775‒1799

76. In moods of extreme desire, be undisturbed.

77. This so-called universe appears as a juggling, a picture show. To be happy look upon it so.

78. Oh Beloved, put attention neither on pleasure or pain but between these.

79. Toss attachment for body aside, realizing I am everywhere. One who is everywhere is joyous.

80. Objects and desires exist in me as in others. So accepting, let them be translated.

81. The appreciation of objects and subjects is the same for an enlightened as for an unenlightened person. The former has one greatness: he remains in the subjective mood, not lost in things.

82. Feel the consciousness of each person as your own consciousness. So, leaving aside concern for self, become each being.

83. Thinking no thing, will limited-self unlimit.

84. Believe omniscient, omnipotent, pervading.

85. As waves come with water and flames with fire, so the universal waves with us.

86. Roam about until exhausted and then, dropping to the ground, in this dropping be whole.

87. Suppose you are gradually being deprived of strength or of knowledge. At the instant of deprivation, transcend.

88. Listen while the ultimate mystical teaching is imparted: Eyes still, without blinking, at once become absolutely free.

89. Stopping ears by pressing and rectum by contracting, enter the sound of sound.

90. At the edge of a deep well look steadily into its depths until – the wondrousness.

91. Wherever your mind is wandering, internally or externally, at this very place, this.

92. When vividly aware through some particular sense, keep in the awareness.

93. At the start of sneezing, during fright, in anxiety, above a chasm, flying in battle, in extreme curiosity, at the beginning of hunger, at the end of hunger, be uninterruptedly aware.

94. Let attention be at a place where you are seeing some past happening, and even your form, having lost its present characteristics, is transformed.

95. Look upon some object, then slowly withdraw your sight from it, then slowly withdraw you thought from it. Then.

96. Devotion frees.

97. Feel an object before you. Feel the absence of all other objects but this one. Then, leaving aside the object-feeling and the absence-feeling, realize.

98. The purity of other teachings is an impurity to us. In reality, know nothing as pure or impure.

99. This consciousness exists as each being, and nothing else exists.

100. Be the unsame same to friend as to stranger, in honor and dishonor.

101. When a mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centered.

102. Suppose you contemplate something beyond perception, beyond grasping, beyond not being, you.

103. Enter space, supportless, eternal, still.

104. Wherever your attention alights, at this very point, experience.

105. Enter the sound of your name and, through this sound, all sounds.

106. I am existing. This is mine. This is this. O beloved, even in such know illimitably.

107. This consciousness is the spirit of guidance of each one. Be this one.

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.

111. Each thing is perceived through knowing. The self shines in space through knowing. Perceive one being as knower and known.

112. Beloved, at this moment let mind, knowing, breath, form, be included.

Text copyright © 1957, 1985 Charles Tuttle Company, Inc.

First painting: Shiva and Parvati Playing Chaupar by Devidasa of Nurpur 1694‒95. Opaque watercolor, ink, silver, and gold on paper. 8 x 12-1/4 in (20.3 x 31.1 cm). Accession number 57.185.2. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Second painting: Shiva and his Wife Parvati at Home in the Himalayas. Artist unknown. 1700‒25. Opaque watercolor and gold on paper. Made in Mankot, Himachal Pradesh, India. 9 × 6 1/8 inches (22.9 × 15.6 cm). Accession number 1994-148-509. Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Third painting: An illustration depicting Shiva and Parvati. Artist unknown. Ca. 1775–1799. Watercolor heightened with gold on paper. 17.5 x 12.7 cm. (6.9 x 5 in.). Artnet auction.

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This page was published on June 3, 2017 and last revised on June 3, 2017.


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