Vijnana Bhairava Tantra Part 12: verses 45-48
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra Verse 45: Skill 22
This verse gives importance to void. One should simultaneously contemplate void on both upper and lower sides of the body and in the middle of the heart (the place of soul). If he contemplates like this, his consciousness becomes free of all vilkalpas (vikalpa means alternatives). In this state of nirvikalpa (absence of vikalpas) Bhairava is realized.
This is known as śaktopāya. This means the repeated contemplation of pure thought construct (vikalpa) of oneself being essentially Shiva or the Supreme ‘I’ consciousness. Thoughts apply immense pressure on the mind causing a phenomenon called forced thinking. When the mind is devoid of thoughts, reality is exposed.
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra Verse 46: Skill 23
Contemplate that the body is seated on nothingness or void. This contemplation leads to thoughtless mind or nirvakalpa state. This verse is a continuation of the previous verse. Previous verse mentioned about thoughtless body. This verse goes further and says that one should contemplate that he is seated on void. Now, not only void is contemplated inside the body, but also outside the body as well. This leads to a thoughtless stage of mind which is known as nirvikalpa stage. This is the beginning stage of Samadhi. The śaktopāya stage that was discussed in the previous verse now leads to śāmbhavopāya stage. This is the stage where sudden emergence of Shiva consciousness happens without any mental or any other extraneous aids in a fraction of a second. Realization always happen this way.
Upaya mean ‘come to any state or condition’ or ‘approach’. There are three types of upayas. Shiva Sutras are based on these three types of upayas. In this context upayas mean the three level of consciousness. Shambavapoya is the highest level of consciousness where Self-realization takes place. The next lower level of upaya is Shaktopaya, a stage prior of Shambavopaya. The third is āṇavopāya, the lowest level of consciousness connected to self. Apart from the three, there is one more upaya known as anupāya. In this stage, realisation happens on its own without any upayas.
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra Verse 47: Skill 24
Shiva knows that contemplating void all-round is difficult. He now gives alternate methods. Shiva address His consort as lustrous eyed. If visualising total void (both inside and outside his body) is not possible, one should contemplate that beneath his skin there is void. Body provides shapes and forms. If visualization is done this way, his consciousness becomes limitless (not limited by flesh and blood). By practice, the contemplation of śunyā becomes firm and he enters nirvikalpa Samadhi.
The state of thoughtlessness is known as nir-vikalpa Samadhi, the egoless state. Mind reaches the state of suspended animation. Patanjali says in his yoga sutra (I.18) that “nir-vikalpa Samadhi is attained by constant practice of cessation of all mental activity, in which mind-stuff retains only the unmanifested impressions.”
For further reading: Samadhi literally means joining or combining with. During meditation all kinds of thoughts cease to exist. Once this is achieved, single pointed concentration sweeps in to centre on the primary object of intense concentration. The feeling of extreme happiness known as bliss is realized, which is not the end but only a beginning. After having reached the highest stage of bliss, the level of blissfulness starts to decrease and ultimately fades altogether. Now the mind reaches the stage of equanimity. Further consolidation of single-pointed focusing takes place. At this stage bliss is totally dissolved and body sensations are lost. Void or shunya begins to unfold as the object of meditation. Finally he is absorbed into nothingness or void. This is the highest stage of meditation called nirvikalpa Samadhi that is attainable only by determination, dedication and intense commitment. Such absorptions could be either internal or external depending upon where one’s concentration is fixed. It is important that one should decide in the initial stages of practicing meditation whether to fix his purest form of consciousness either internally or externally. Either way, the ultimate result remains the same. More on this is being discussed on the series “Understanding Meditation”.
Vijnana Bhairava Tantra Verse 48: Skill 25
One should fix his awareness on the external skin of his body visualising shunya beneath. This is on the lines of previous verse only. Skin is the limiting factor for the body. When this limiting factor is mentally dissolved, he becomes part of cosmos, where Shiva alone prevails. When he merges his consciousness with Shiva Himself, the ultimate stage of meditation, he needs to do nothing more. This is how shakthopaya leads to shambhavopaya. This is the process of Shakthi leading to Shiva. This process is also discussed in Lalitha Sahasranamam nama 727. Shiva-jnana-pradayini.