Shakti: What is puryaṣṭaka? Is it anything related to liberation? Is the wheel of birth, death and rebirth separate from spirituality?
Shiva: Why have you suddenly changed your focus? I will explain this to you. How can birth, death and rebirth be separated from human existence? Why men pursue spirituality? They do not want to undergo the pains of birth, death and rebirth (all the three put together is known as transmigration) again and again. That is why they put in their best efforts to attain me through you. Their efforts are known as sādhana or spiritual practices. Only in order to stop the wheel of transmigration, spirituality is pursued. The ultimate goal of transmigration is liberation or cessation from transmigration.
Shakti: Do you mean to say that spirituality and transmigration cannot be separated?
Shiva: How can they be separated? At the end of spiritual knowledge, one should definitely know about transmigration. Truth always pains, but truth alone prevails.
Shiva: Yes, puryaṣṭaka means eight constituents of a human body and can be explained both grossly and subtly. On the grosser side, it consists of organs of action, organs of perception, antaḥkaraṇa (mind, intellect and ego), five types of prāṇa-s, five principle elements, ignorance (avidyā) and karma. But there is more realistic and subtle interpretation given in Trika philosophy, which too has eight components and they are five tanmātra-s (sound, touch, etc), mind, intellect and ego. At the time of death, all the three bodies, gross, subtle and causal bodies die and only the soul, prāṇa and karmic bags exit the body. If subtle body also transmigrates, then in the next birth, one will remember the impressions of previous births. There are exceptions to this and such exceptions are restricted only to great sages and saints. What we are discussing here is only for ordinary humans who pursue the spiritual path. (Alternate opinion can be read here. Detailed explanation on puryaṣṭaka can be read here.)
Shakti: Can you explain further about hell, heaven and transmigration? This is where we have left during our last session.
Shiva: I remember. There are no places such as heaven and hell. They are only comparative in nature. Hell can be compared to a congested and cramped place and heaven can be compared to a peaceful and boundless place.
Shakti: Why this difference?
Shiva: The difference is due to their mentality or mental ability. As I have already said, human mind is the only place through which they can reach me. When a mind is filled with ego or thought of doership, such thought processes transform into karmic imprints and at the time of death, these karmic imprints are packed in a bag and exit along with us. Rest I have told you already.
Shakti: When are these individual souls reborn?
Shiva: From death to rebirth, there is a time gap and the duration of time gap depends upon the quality of the karmic bag. If they are heavy, they are born immediately, as they are not far away from the earth’s sphere. When the time is ripe for its rebirth, you as prakṛti pull that soul down and both of us unite to form yet another body. This also explains how interdependent we are. This is also known as law of nature or law of prakṛti, which is in no way different from the eternal law of karma.
Shakti: What about the souls which are in the higher planes of the cosmos?
Shiva: They take a long sojourn and once their time is ripe to be reborn, they descend to the earth and the rest I have already told you. Such souls will mostly get liberated in the ensuing birth by bringing perfect alignment between their prāṇa, mind and consciousness. To attain mastery in spiritual practices, one has to perfect this alignment. These three, prāṇa, mind and consciousness form a powerful triangle. If the alignment is not perfect, realising you and later on realizing me is not possible.
Shakti: I don’t get this concept of triangle.
Shiva: Every side of a triangle depends upon the other two sides. All the three sides of a triangle are always similar. Similarly, men have to work on prāṇa, mind and consciousness. With prāṇa, mind is purified and with purified mind, consciousness is purified. When consciousness is purified, you and I are realized, which is the object of human birth. Every spiritual practice ultimately leads to this triangle.
Shakti: How we are realized through this triangle?
Shiva: The centre of any triangle is called incentre or bindu. When all the three sides of the triangles are hyperactive, they expand; when they are subdued, they shrink and come closer to the bindu. Expansion is called creation and contraction is called absorption or liberation. Expansion happens from the bindu and contraction happens towards the bindu. Former is known as birth and the later is known as liberation.
Shakti: Are Liberation and Self-realization the same?
Shiva: No they are not the same. Spiritual path is very simple and sadly projected as something that it very difficult to practice and achieve.
Shakti: Can you explain this please?
Shiva: Though there are several spiritual stages before realizing me, let me explain only important aspects. The one who seriously wants to realize me has to begin his or her spiritual career with rituals, move on to mantra japa and finally `meditation. Meditation is often hyped; but in reality it is a simple process. As I said earlier, one has to work with his prāṇa, mind and consciousness. Using the first two, consciousness can be purified and purified consciousness is the place where one can realize me. In fact, purified consciousness is me only.
Shakti: Can you briefly tell me the difference between Self-realization and liberation?
Shiva: Liberation is the ultimate. After liberation, one is not reborn. There are various stages that lead to liberation. Though knowledge is essential, practice is more important. Once a person believes that I am within his body as the soul, he is known as sthitaprajña. When he is able to unite his individual consciousness with my supreme consciousness, he is known as a yogi. This is the stage of self-realization.
Shakti: How is this self-realization?
Shiva: When a realized person says self, he means me. When an unrealized person says self, he also means me only, but he refers to my form veiled by you, which is known as māyā. When a yogi unites with me, you remove the veil and reveal me to him and in the case of others, you don’t remove this veil. The first step of realization is approved by you and hence people seek you more than me. They know very well that they cannot reach me without realising you first.
Shakti: Why this is so?
Shiva: Because I am the soul and you are the causal body or prāṇa body. Unless you are realized, how can they realize me as you are always with me? This is known as Śiva-Śakti aikya. This is also called Śiva-Śakti sāmarasya.
Shakti: How does a person behave after realization and after liberation?
Shiva: As you know, realization and liberation are penultimate and final stages of human existence, the former leading to the latter. He continues to live like any other person and in the same way he lived before liberation or realization. In both these instances, he does not accrue further karmas. What is realization? Affirming his true and essential nature as me is realization. Once he realizes me, how can he accrue karmas? A realized person is born again to get liberated in subsequent births; but a liberated person is not born again. His transmigration ceases after his death. There are two types of liberation. One is getting liberated while he is alive, which is known as jīvanmukta and another is getting liberated after death.
Shakti: Is it necessary to practice to attain these stages, and if so, what should be practiced?
Shiva: I have already explained this. Realization happens only in mind. Human mind by nature is prone to all sorts of afflictions to the material world. The only practice is to effectively control the mind; but it cannot be controlled that easily. Breath and mind are interdependent and mind can be controlled by working on one’s breathing. Under normal circumstances, one’s breath rate could be between 12 and 15. Therefore, one has to bring down the respiratory rate to lower levels. Ideal rate under active state would be 7 to 9 per minute. The quality of meditation can also be ascertained by the pace of breath rate. In the highest quality of meditation, the respiratory rate could be around 1 – 3 respiration per minute.
Shakti: What happens when respiratory rate is reduced?
Shiva: His mind becomes pure. Again there are two types of human mind. The first one is conscious mind and the second one is sub-conscious mind. A human mind consists of 90% sub-conscious mind and only 10% as conscious mind. Sensory organs cause affliction on the conscious mind and certain impressions of the conscious mind percolates into subconscious mind and get embedded here. Some of these impressions turn into karmas that are accrued in the present birth. Not all the impressions in the subconscious mind turn into karmas. Those impressions that are not transferred as karmas can be eliminated by meditating on a point between pineal and pituitary glands. This is place is called third ventricle and around this point cerebrospinal fluid is secreted, which is known as amṛta and its flow into the throat prepares one’s body to get our grace. If this point is located using one’s consciousness and if one is able to get deeper into this point, he or she can reach his or her subconscious mind. The moment one enters subconscious mind, past experiences in this life come back to his conscious mind and they are to be burnt. This can be learnt by practice. This way one can purify both conscious and subconscious minds. When these two minds are purified, he will be able to increase the quality of his consciousness and when his consciousness becomes absolutely pure, I am realized.
Shakti: What happens after realization?
Shiva: The next logical stage would be to get liberated. However, liberation depends upon one’s karmic account and intensified practice. At the end of intensified practice, his individual consciousness goes out of his physical body and traverses towards mahāśūnya or the great void. When he enters mahāśūnya, his consciousness travels at the highest speed in this darkness only to come back to his body. When his consciousness enters mahāśūnya and returns back, he is a liberated person.
Shakti: What is mahāśūnya?
Shiva: It is Parabrahman, the origin of the universe. This is the simple process towards liberation. Now I will show you how these facts are twisted and misinterpreted. They are not aware of the sins they accrue when true spiritual seekers are misguided. Attaining me is not a commercial transaction. One has to work on his body, mind and soul to attain me and all one needs, is a realized teacher.