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How to practice with the 36 elements in your own body

How to practice with the 36 elements in your own body

dhāraṇā 31 elements tattvas Jun 28, 2023

In the Vijñāna Bhairava, Bhairava sets out one hundred and twelve techniques of spiritual practice to be used by an aspirant eager to realize the divine universal reality. In this excerpt, Swami Lakshmanjoo explains practice on the thirty-six elements (tattvas).

This is Dhāraṇā 31, verse 54, of the one hundred and twelve techniques from the Manual for Self Realization: 112 Meditations of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra.

How to practice with the 36 elements in your own body

Dhāraṇā 31

स्वदेहे जगतो वापि 

सूक्ष्मसूक्ष्मतराणि च ।

तत्त्वानि यान्ति निलयं 

ध्यात्वान्ते व्यज्यते परा ॥५४॥

svadehe jagato vāpi

sūkṣmasūkṣmatarāṇi ca /

tattvāni yānti183 nilayaṁ

dhyātvānte vyajyate parā // 54 //

Actually, your world is your body,184 and it is attached with your own world. Or, jagataḥ; jagataḥ means, you can concentrate on the world of others, not your world. Svadehe jagato vāpi sūkṣma sūkṣmatarāṇi ca tattvāni yānti nilayaṁ,  those elements which are existing in your body or in the body of the universe, sūkṣma sūkṣmatarāṇi ca, you have to think in your body, . . .

Because the body consists, your own body consists, of thirty-six elements, and this whole universe also consists of thirty-six elements. So you can do, you can concentrate, on the world or in your body (svadehe). That is the indication of vāpi. Vāpi means, either you concentrate in your body or you concentrate in the outside jagat185 (jagato vāpi, sūkṣma sūkṣmatarāṇi tattvāni).

. . . yānti nilayaṁ, you have to . . . 

For instance, there is earth, the element of earth. The element of earth should be concentrated [upon, and one should inquire] wherefrom this earth has come. There must be some subtle formation of earth. And that too, there must be a subtle formation of jala,186 because the subtle formation of earth is jala, and the subtle formation of jala is fire, and the subtle formation of fire is vāyu,187 and the subtle formation of vāyu is ākāśa.188 In the same way, then the tanmātras and karmendriyas, jñānendriyas, manas, buddhi, and ahaṁkāra, and prakṛti and puruṣa, and then the ṣaṭ kañcukas, then māyā, then śuddhavidyā, īśvara, sadāśiva, and śakti and śiva in the end. The subtlest is Śiva, the grossest is earth.189

. . . and, in this body, you must find out that the grossest element existing in your body has to touch its original state of its manifestation, wherefrom it has manifested.

[For example, earth] manifests from jala, and, in the same way, you must find out jala, you must find out agni, you must find out vāyu, [and] ākāśa. And, in the same way, you must find out where is śakti, wherefrom śakti has risen. In the end, you will find Śiva. 

Yānti nilayam, by this process, [the elements] become dissolved in one another.

JAGDISH: Is this śāktopāya, sir?

SWAMIJI: It will be śāktopāya and āṇavopāya also, because there is so much, so much botheration. As long as botheration is concerned, it is śāktopāya and āṇavopāya. It can’t be śāmbhavopāya. Wherever there is botheration, it is either śāktopāya or āṇavopāya. Without botheration is śāmbhavopāya. And total negation of botheration is anupāya.190 That is found in the second āhnika of the Tantrāloka.

JAGDISH: So, “tattvāni” here are the thirty-six elements?

SWAMIJI: Tattvāni, thirty-six elements.

JAGDISH: Not the five states of the individual?

SWAMIJI: No, no, no, that is incorrect. I saw that written in that. It is [written that] the five states of the individual, i.e., jāgrat, svapna, suṣupti, etc.? No, that is not [correct]. 


* “The word “upāya” in Kashmir Shaivism is used to indicate the means to enter into Universal God Consciousness from individual consciousness. . . . It is important to realize that though there are different upāyas, all lead you to the state of one transcendental consciousness. The difference in these upāyas is that āṇavopāya will carry you in a long way, śāktopāya in a shorter way, and śāmbhavopāya in the shortest way. Although the ways are different, the point to be achieved is one.” Kashmir Shaivism–The Secret Supreme, Swami Lakshmanjoo, ed. John Hughes, (Universal Shaiva Fellowship).

183 Here Swamiji preferred yānti instead of yāni, and commented that the word “yānti makes it very clear.” Vijñāna Bhairava, additional audio (USF archives).

184 Svadehe.

185 World.

186 Water.

187 Wind or air.

188 Ether or space.

189 The elements are listed in ascending order from the grossest to the subtlest, from the effect to its cause. Check out our online course on the 36 elements, Tattvas; The building blocks of creation in Kashmir Shaivism.

190 Lit., “no means”.

Source: Manual for Self Realization: 112 Meditations of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, by Swami Lakshmanjoo

All Content is subject to Copyright © John Hughes.

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