From the Jacket :
The theme of Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is dharana, or concentration, a subject most relevant today. This new translation and commentary of a classical tantric text sheds much light on the practice of dharana, which until now has been revealed only by pheripheral explanations. The text comprises 112 different dharanas, or techniques of concentration, which can easily be incorporated into one's daily life. Although dharana is a practice intended for an adept, whose mind is steady and controlled, the techniques contained within this book provide a way even for the aspirant with a distracted mind to gradually develop concentration and meditation.
This work is the result of an in-depth study of dharana in relation to the tantric view of meditation, substantiated by the personal experience of the author. Included is a detailed introduction followed by the original Sanskrit slokas, with transliteration, translation and extensive commentary.
The knowledge of history, geography, astrology, astronomy, languages and other subjects that we study is recorded in their respective texts. Similarly, the knowledge of the mind and consciousness is recorded in the texts of the Tantras, Vedas and Puranas. These texts were written in Sanskrit, which was the language of their time, but this factor now limits the access to information contained within them to a very small minority who know that language. However, there are students of the science of the mind who have studied these texts and explained them in modern languages so that sincere seekers can avail themselves of this valuable information. This is not an easy task as these texts are written in a coded and abbreviated way, which only the discerning and enlightened can shed light on. On account of this limitation very few texts are available today that elucidate these ancient forms of spiritual knowledge.
It is often said that when the student is ready the teacher appears, and also when the time is right conditions conducive to spiritual dissemination arise. In that sense the subject of dharana, or concentration, which is the theme of Vijmnana Bhairava Tantra (VBT), is most relevant today. Spiritual seekers the world over, who have maintained personal disciplines for the evolution of consciousness, are now in need of this knowledge. For this reason the time is now ripe to introduce the tantric system of dharana as it was practiced by the ancients. Of course, the techniques of dharna are not new to practitioners of meditation, yet very few are aware of the full scope of the tantric system and its application.
Whether one is a materialist or a spiritualist, it is important to realize that the practice of dharana is most vital for progress in all spheres of life. Even the materialists pay homage to energy, because they realize that this whole world is nothing but a play of energy. The materialists exploded the atom through a physical process in order to harness its immense energy for the benefit of mankind. In the same way, the practice of dharana explodes the atom of energy within the mind through a spiritual process, so that it can be harnessed to accelerate the evolution of individual consciousness. For this reason dharana is as valuable as the nuclear sciences and should, therefore, receive the same recognition and status.
Very few translations and commentaries of VBT are currently available. Therefore, the publication of this work is very significant as it will shed a great deal of light on the practice of dharana, which until now has been revealed only by peripheral explanations. The main aim of this text is to convey the relevance of dharana and the means or techniques to incorporate it into one's life. It also reassures that this can be done quite easily, even if one does not have any expertise in this field. Although dharana is a practice intended for a practitioner whose mind is steady and controlled, this book provides a way even for those of unsteady mind to gradually develop one-pointedness.
All the wealth, assets, luxuries and comforts that one can have in this world are of no use if the mind is uncontrolled and dissipated. In this sense a mind that travels on the desired path is the most valuable asset that a man can possess. If one has such a mind, nothing more is needed.
The great poet-saint Kabir Das has rightly said, "Mein to unsantan Ka dass jinhone man maar liya": I bow only before that saint who has conquered his mind. Although we may not realize it, we are all slaves to our minds. Throughout the day we do whatever the mind directs us to do. If the mind is worried, we feel anxious; if it is happy, we are pleased if it is envious, we are ridden with jealousy; if it is furious, we become violently angry. Is there ever a moment in our life when we put our foot down and say, "No, I will not be angry, or happy, or vengeful?"
We simply cannot put an end to this process without knowing the practice of dharana. There is no other way to gather the vagrant tendencies of this powerful substance known as mind, except by the practice of dharana, the path of concentration. Dharana is a practice with generates the momentum to override the dissipated energies of the mind and convert them into a stream of awareness. Therefore, we are very happy to present this work, which is the result of an in-depth study of dharana in relation to the tantric view of meditation, substantiated by the personal experience of the author.
About the Author :
Swami Satyasangananda (Satsangi) was born on 24th March 1953, in Chandorenagore, West Bengal. From the age of 22 she experienced a series of inner awakenings, which led her to her guru, Swami Satyananda. From 1981 she traveled ceaselessly with her guru in India and overseas and developed into a scholar with deep insight into the yogic and tantric traditions as well as modern sciences and philosophies. She is an efficient channel for the transmission of her guru's teachings. The establishment of Sivananda Math in Rikhia is her creation and mission, and she guides all its activities there, working tirelessly to uplift the weaker and underprivileged areas. She embodies compassion with clear reason and is the foundation of her guru's vision.
The loftiest dictum pronounced by the sages and seers of
the upanishadic and vedic era was Aham Brahmasmi, "I
am That." Their search was within; they explored the vast
dimensions that constitute the inner life. Mentally they
dissected the body and discovered its subtle essence to be
the senses. Through meditation on the senses they discovered
the corridors and avenues of the mind. By reflecting on the
mind they realized the potential energy that was dormant
within. By awakening that energy they discovered consciousness, and by uniting the inherent energy with the individual
consciousness they realized that they were indeed intimately
connected to and a part of the cosmic consciousness. This
was realized by the tantrics a long time ago, even before the
vedic era. The entire spectrum of vedic and tantric
philosophy is based on this realization; whether Shaivism,
Vaishnavism or Shaktism, the subject is exploring the
substance that man is composed of.
Several hundred thousand years later, the unified field
theory which physicists talk about uncannily points in the
same direction. According to this theory, the entire creation
is one composite whole and all of life, whether animate or
inanimate, manifest or unmanifest, is intimately connected.
In other words, whatever you think, feel, say or do spreads
like ripples into unending space, mixing, merging and
colliding with ripples from other sources. This is a very
dynamic idea, which lends universality to each and every
human being and gives life an importance and status that
goes far beyond one's imagination and expectation. Through
the dark ages of history, the average man has found himself
severely limited whenever he has tried to delve into areas of
life that extend beyond what the senses can see, hear, taste,
touch and smell. The range of human perception is limited
to this dimension.
Although man has amassed enormous wealth, luxuries
and comforts, and has fortified himself with immense power
to protect himself from enemies, imaginary or real, he still
finds himself unprotected and vulnerable. He knows that
the span of life is short. When he has to bid farewell, he
cannot take the armour which has protected him throughout
life; he has to go empty-handed. So this proclamation of
Aham Brahmasmi gives man hope and sustenance. Not only
that, the vedic and tantric sages have generously shared
their meditative experiences with mankind, revealing vital
clues about the real purpose of human life. Although man
lives to amass wealth, power and status, these goals give only
limited satisfaction. There is no permanence in the joy
derived from material gains. The real joy and everlasting
bliss can be had only when man realizes himself.
Realize the self
What does it mean to realize the self? I know that I am male
or female, Indian or American, Hindu or Muslim, Christian
or Jew, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or dull,
black or white, educated or illiterate, saint or sinner, atheist
or believer, compassionate or cruel, generous or mean.
However, the tantric and vedic sages say that all of these
criteria are irrelevant, immaterial and unimportant as far as
the quest for the self is concerned. In this quest one's sex,
nationality, class, creed, social status, dogma and religious
beliefs hold no sway. The self relates to a different dimension
altogether. Exploring the self, they say, is not a social,
cultural or religious affair.
The emphasis of the sages was on the innate qualities of
man, not (he acquired ones. They realized that the spectrum
of human awareness ranges from demonic to human to
divine, on account of the interplay of the three qualities, or
gunas, which constitute his being. These three qualities are
known as sattwa, rajas and tamas. Sattwa denotes divinity,
lamas the demonic quality, and rajas the human endeavour.
Of course, this is a very broad classification, but it is true
that all of these traits are a part and parcel of our nature.
The three gunas are present in each one of us and continually
direct our thoughts, actions, feelings and, in fact, the totality
of our lives. They determine the temperament of each one
of us as well as our inclinations in life. We make all of our
choices on the basis of these gunas.
However, no matter what choices we make in life, we
should not forget the purpose for which we have come into
this world. That purpose is to realize the self. Human birth
has been given great importance, because it is only as a
human being that we can know our true essence. It is the
seed of individuality that has been sown in human beings
which gives us knowledge of our existence. Other forms of
creation live without any knowledge of their existence. It is
man alone who has knowledge of each and every act that he
performs and thereby of his existence.
Man is aware of time, space and object. Although animals,
plants and minerals are sentient beings, they do not have
this awareness. A dog barks, but he does not know that he is
barking. A tree bears fruit, but it does not have the knowledge
that it does so. Many forms of life have feelings, likes and
dislikes, acute responses and memory as well, yet they do
not know of their existence in time and space nor do they
have any knowledge of the objects around them. Man is
exceptional because he can have knowledge of his existence
within time and space and beyond time and space as well.
He can voluntarily transcend the objective self and travel
into the realm of timelessness to experience the unified
awareness of which he is an integral part and from which he
has evolved into the gross body and mind that he is. (VBT
Evolutes of consciousness
Ironically, that same tattwa or principle which gives man the
knowledge of individuality and differentiation is responsible
for the experience of unified awareness, or knowledge of
unity with the rest of creation. That principle is known as
ego or ahamkara. The word aham means 'I am'. Other forms
of life, both inferior and superior, do not have ahamkara. In
the lower forms of life thi principle is latent, and in the
higher forms it has been transcended. Therefore, in the
vedic and tantric traditions human life is much sought
after, even by those who have attained divinity, becau e only
man can know the creator. In that sense the human birth is
considered to be most valuable.
According to tantra, the universal consciousness de-
scends towards manifestation as individual consciousness,
assuming four states, known as buddhi, chitta, ahamkara
and manas. Buddhi represents the higher intellect with its
activity of viveka, or discrimination, and sadvichara, or right
thinking. Manas is the lower mind with its characteristic
activity of sankalpa and vikalpa, or thought and counter-
thought. Chitta, or memory, is the storehouse of past actions
in the form of samskaras, or archetypes. Ahamkara, or ego, is
the notion of self-existence, conditioned by the above three.
This is the arc of avaroha, or the descent of the dynamic
universal consciousness into human life. It is only at the
human stage of evolution that unmesha or aroha, the a cent
towards higher life, is possible. Inner realization dawns
when manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara are dissolved
into universal consciousness through the medium of shakti,
or energy. This is the highest yajna, or sacrifice, man can
offer. (VBT sI. 138) Other forms of life do not have this
privilege because they do not have these four aspects, which
are collectively known as antahkarana, or the inner instrument.
The ascent of consciousness from its association with
gross matter and base emotions to the effulgence of spirit is
the focal point of tantric and vedic thought. Other
philosophies speak of the descent of universal consciousness,
whereas tantric and vedic thought upholds that ascent from
matter to spirit is the inherent design which prakriti or
nature has woven into all creation. Tantra says that the
descent of universal consciousness in its pure form is a
possibility which occurs very rarely. This descent of universal
consciousness into matter while retaining its pure form is
known as avatar. The avatar represents universal conscious-
ness on earth and, therefore, the laws of nature are well
within his control. Sri Krishna was such an avatar and so was
Sri Rama. However, very few such persons have descended
to earth. So, it is the ascent and not the descent of
consciousness that we have to understand in relation to our
meditative practices and spiritual evolution.
The supra-mental state which Sri Aurobindo, the
twentieth century yogi, often referred to also points in this
direction. At present, man is functioning with a mere fraction
of the potential power of the brain. It is only the tip of the
iceberg. The higher faculties of the brain, which are latent,
have to be illumined and awakened through two important
practices of tantra, known as dharana and dhyana. These
two practices strengthen the electro-magnetic circuits of the
brain so that it becomes accustomed to handling the high
voltage energy that is a consequence of inner illumination.
These practices form channels and pathways for the energy
to be transmitted to all points of the brain, leading to total
illumination. If illumination occurs before these preparations
are complete, short circuits may occur and fuses may blow,
as the 'wiring' of the brain cannot withstand the influx of
powerful currents generated by total illumination of the
Different vedic and tantric traditions offer lucid and
incisive dialogues and debates on this very subject. Their
enquiries were both subjective and objective, leaving no
stone unturned. They dissected thoughts, ideas and
experiences, analyzed feelings and emotions, and subjected
themselves to intense and rigorous scrutiny in search of the
real and the permanent. In the science of alchemy a substance
is rarefied until it becomes pure and refined. Similarly,
through the alchemical process of meditation the mysterious
ocean of thoughts, desires and passions surging within is
churned by the practice of dharana. In this way, the yogis
uncovered layer after layer of mind stuff and with each
uncovering they discovered more and more refined
substances. Each degree of refinement brought greater
illumination and the discovery of a new set of attributes.
Technically, these attributes are classified a siddhis, or
perfections. Sage Patanjali, who gave us the invaluable
aphorisms, or sutras, on yoga, calls them vibhootis, or
accomplishments of yoga. These special attributes are the
hidden potential within man that makes him more and
By this inner process, the yogis discovered that the
source from which the gross body has evolved is pure
consciousness, reverberating with energy. This consciousness
is cosmic in nature and has no limitations. It is neither
bound by time nor confined to any particular space. It
pervades each and every form of life and is present in each
and every being. The yogic alchemists were also curious to
know which part of the body this consciousness inhabits, so
they searched further and found that it is the indweller of all
hearts. As jivatman, or individual consciousness, it rests in
the heart cavity, or anahata chakra.
The form of individual consciousness is three-dimensional, luminous, laser-like light, which oversees everything
and awaits the moment when it can reunite with shakti or
energy from whom it has separated for the purpose of
creation. At the transcendental level it exists as bindu, the
primal point, and nada, the primal sound, which reverberates
through the stratosphere as cosmic vibration and within us
as anahad nada, the unstruck sound. (VBT s1. 38) The yogis
experienced this nada in many forms, such as the melodious
notes of the flute (VBT s1. 41), the call of the peacock, the
roaring of thunder and also in the various mantras. There
are countless descriptions of their experiences in the tantric
texts from which it is clear that the consciousness has many
degrees of manifestation, whereby it can be experienced as
sound, light, form and idea.
When a substance refines itself by separating from or
uniting with another substance, either inherent or apart
from itself, this is known as alchemy. The tantric seers were
the most proficient alchemists of all time. They refined
highly subtle forms of matter, such as the human mind,
intellect, ego and individual consciousness. The product
that emerged from such internal refinement was an
experience. This form of experience was so subtle that the
human mind could not comprehend it until the attention
was turned completely away from matter and focused on
spirit. This experience superseded all the varying stages of
realization that the ascending shakti had passed through
before reuniting with consciousness.
Principle of reunification
This reunification led to the realization of oneness of jivatma
with paramatma, the cosmic consciousness or highest spirit,
which inhabits the cranium at a psychic centre known as
sahasrara chakra. When the jivatma, or individual conscious-
ness residing in the heart cavity, unites with mahashakti, the
highest energy, which inhabits the cavity at the base of the
spine known as mooladhara chakra, it sets the ground or
foundation for this reunification. It is mahashakti who sets
the wheel of creation into motion at the behest of
consciousness. Her physical form is that of a coiled serpent,
thus she is known as kundalini. When she unites with the
individual consciousness in the region of anahata chakra,
the resulting explosion completely overrides the electro-
magnetic circuits of the brain and total illumination occurs
in sahasrara chakra, the abode of Shiva, which has been
described as a thousand-petalled lotus. (VBT sl. 28)
When the matter that constitutes man explodes, an
enormous inner detonation occurs and immense heat is
generated. This inner fire purifies the physical matter t?
such a degree that it liberates the inherent energy or shakti,
which in turn frees the consciousness from it clutches. The
equation is thus matter into energy into consciousness, and
vice-versa. The resulting experience of this energy conversion
was so subtle that the yogis were speechless and had no
words to convey it. When asked to describe their experience,
all they could say was, "Neti, neti": not this, not this. The
highest spiritual state cannot be described, explained or
understood; it can only be experienced. Whatever one may
say about that experience, the words fall short. Something
remains unsaid, because there are no words in our vocabulary
to describe that spiritual reality.
The yogis called it light and they were not wrong, but it
was more than that. They also called it sat-chit-ananda or
satyam-shivam-sundaram, which mean truth, consciousness
and bliss. However, these remain just words until we
transform ourselves and attain that experience. Therefore,
the aim of human life is not mere intellectual understanding
of these sublime truths, but to expand the frontiers of the
mind and liberate the energy in order to have the experience
of that supreme consciousness. The source from which all
matter has evolved is consciousness. The body is gross
matter, the mind is subtle matter and each vibrates with
energy. However, on account of their mundane state, the
potential to experience that pure consciousness from which
they have evolved is lost.
Expansion and liberation
In order to achieve this experience, the science of tantra
postulates two theories: expansion and liberation. By boiling
water, the particles of hydrogen and oxygen are expanded
and liberated from the gross form of water and become
subtle vapour. In the same way, by expanding the awareness
tantra liberates the energy that is locked up in the body and
mind. Energy is the link between matter and consciousness.
Once it is released from the clutches of matter, it unites with
consciousness and a resulting awakening occurs.
In physics the same principle is applied to explode the
atom bomb. Through the process of fission or fusion the
energy is released from matter and united with its opposite
polarity to create this explosion. When the scientist and
philosopher, Oppenheimer, watched this event for the first
time, he was moved to tears and spontaneously recited
aloud a verse from the Bhagavad Gita, in which Sanjaya
describes this same cosmic experience to the blind monarch,
Were a thousand suns to light up the sky,
still they could not match the light of absolute consciousness.
Although these two types of explosions are remarkably
similar, the difference between them is vast. One takes place
externally and the other internally. One destroys, the other
creates. One is a part of nature's plan for the destiny of
mankind, the other is man's plan for the destiny of mankind.
But one thing is clear: the process of alchemy that the
tantric and vedic seers employed for this experience was
taken from the laws of nature, which are perfectly scientific
and apply to all levels of creation. Matter is continually
breaking up and transforming into different forms and
substances. For example, over a period of time coal changes
into diamond and fossils into petroleum and gas. The
practices of tantra have been derived through strict
observance of these natural processes and their application
to man, who is also a product of nature.
Man is destined to awaken this experience at some point
of evolution, even if no conscious effort is made to liberate
the energy and expand the awareness. This is the natural
heritage and birthright of every human being, but without
applying a specific procedure it will take a long, long time.
The practices of tantra hasten the natural process of evolution
and allow that experience to unfold in this life itself, here
and now, at this very moment. This experience bestows
ananda and jnana, bliss and knowledge, which man seeks
through external objects, but never finds. On account of
this, human life is full of misery, frustration and depression.
The experience that arises through expansion of consci0.us-
ne ss and liberation of energy is the only permanent solutlOn
to human suffering.
Sadhana, the means to realize oneself
In order to liberate the mind from the clutches of matter and
turn towards the effulgence of spirit, tantra lays great emphasis on sadhana, or practice. Sadhana is a process of internal refinement, which allows man to move towards perfection.
What exactly does sadhana refine? Does this process refine
just the body or does it extend beyond the body as well? What
is the level of perfection that can be attained through sadhana?
What is the level of perception of a person who attains that
perfection? These are some of the questions that VBT answers.
But these answers are not explained; they are provided
through a set of practices which leads you to the answer.
Each of these practices is complete in itself. One practice
does not necessarily lead to another. Each is independent
and, at times, even completely different to the preceding or
following practice. Often they complement each other, but
never do they contradict one another.
It has been the experience of all who have practised
sadhana in its pure form that this refinement takes place on
several levels. Even on the physical level there are many
degrees of refinement. What can be said of the mental and
supra-mental levels of perfection? The sadhanas prescribed
by tantra are said to bestow the three qualities of omnipotence,
the power to do all, omnipresence, the power to be everywhere, and omniscience, the power to know all. These
are the qualities of that highest reality. Tantra says that
these qualities are attained only when the inner awareness is
streamlined and refined. Every form of life is continuously
refining itself and moving towards perfection. Sadhana is a
way of hastening this process and ensuring that it takes
place in a controlled manner.
The basis of sadhana is abhyasa, which means regular
and uninterrupted practice. If sadhana is interrupted for
any reason, it has to be commenced right from the beginning,
and not where you left off. This is because the area that you
are trying to reach through sadhana is beyond your control.
It does not listen to your mind or intellect. How are you
going to interact with that which is beyond you? This
interaction is only possible through abhyasa. Remember the
saying, "Practice makes perfect." Just as you master material
knowledge, or apara vidya, through constant practice, in the
same way, para vidya, or transcendental knowledge, is
mastered through constant, unbroken practice. The principle
is the same, although the subjects differ.
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