PRACTICE in Kashmir Shaivism
This is a discourse on the ways which will lead an aspirant to one-pointedness in meditation and to the Awareness which he aspires.
The first requirement is an absolutely clean mind which knows no duality and has feelings of sameness for everyone. This “sameness” means you do not over or under-express love for any one person in particular, nor should you possess animosity against any person. If you do not possess this sense of feeling sameness towards everyone, your efforts to achieve the Truth and Absolute in meditation will be totally wasted and will go unrewarded, like carrying water in a wicker basket to nowhere.
In meditation there is no room for coarse feelings. The mind must be absolutely clean and purged of the acts of “seeming love” and “showing hate.” Both are evils. Only when the mind has been purged of them can you meditate with confidence. At that point you will be glorified by the fruits of this divine exercise of meditation.
Now I shall explain how to enter this domain of meditation – this is my advice.
When you have decided to meditate, the first important thing that has to be settled is the seat (asana), i.e. the place where you choose to sit for meditation. Here on this seat you have to sit absolutely motionless like a rock, with no movement of your body. You should not twitch your eyelids, move your lips, scratch your ears or nose, yawn or belch. You should be like a frozen body, absolutely motionless.
It matters little in the beginning if thoughts continue to stream through your mind, rising and passing away. At this point you should simply avoid physical distractions such as moaning and sneezing. In an hours time you will feel your mind has started settling softly into a subtle state of thought and mood. Gradually you will experience your mind moving quickly into the domain of meditation filled with peace and rest. Here your mind will become one-pointed and subtle.
In the Bhagavad Gita the Lord says:
“As the wandering mind will never remain on one point You must be ever vigilant, and whenever it strays bring it under control and fix it again towards God Consciousness.”
You need not struggle to fix your mind upon that point from which it has begun to waiver. You need only sit still with one-pointed effort, and in one hour’s time you will understand and experience the bliss of the dawning of awareness.
“You must sit erect for meditation with enough strength to maintain that position, and at the same time you must fix your gaze in the direction of the tip of your nose in order to restrain your eyes from wandering.”
The posture has to be quite steady, straight and motionless. It must be one-pointed, with the mind fully concentrated on the guru-shabda or guru-dharana. Though the literal meaning of the text is that the aspirant should direct his sight in the direction of his nose, it may also be taken to refer to concentration on the word of the Master (guru-shabda), the resonance of unlimited I-consciousness which He embodies and which is to be found in the junction (sandhi). This state of concentration can be achieved if you have freed your mind of all domestic worries, finished your daily routine activities, and have had your full dose of sleep. Your mind must be absolutely free from all preoccupations, then alone will you be able to see inside yourself and meditate without deviation.
“At the time of meditation your mind must be serene and free from the intimidation to meditate. You must be determined with devotion to discover God Consciousness. In this state your mind is to be continuously directed toward God Consciousness.” (Bhagavad Gita)
In this verse the Lord is telling you that you must be serene, fearless, and determined in order to achieve your goal. You should be subdued in mind, at harmony and in peace; with devotion you should meditate with vigor. There should be no outside pressure for you to meditate. It should be an out-flowing of your own desire.
From the above verse observance of Brahmacarya means full of devotedness and engrossment in thought. It does not mean you have to embellish yourself with a saffron robe, keep a long tuft of hair on your head or a large mark on your forehead; or wear a garland and cover your forehead and body with ashes. “Continuously directed towards God Consciousness,” refers to full devotion in the act of meditation leading to one-pointedness and ultimate Awareness. But this is only the physical posture for meditation. There is also an internal posture, which enables the mind to be one-pointed towards and in awareness.
“On the pathway of your breath maintain continuously refreshed and full awareness on and in the center of breathing in and breathing out. This is force and this is internal asana.” (Netra Tantra)
Concentration has to be on the center, i.e. you must practice on the junction-(sandhi). You must concentrate on guru-shabda in the center, with full devotedness. You should be aware of the center at the points of inhaling and exhaling the breath. You should not only concentrate on the center when the center is reached; but from the beginning until the end point of exhaling, the effort is to be one-pointed in the center. If you do not meditate in this way all your efforts will be wasted.
In further explanation, exhaling and inhaling also refer to day and night. That is, you should not practice meditation in the day or during the night, but in the center points between day and night, i.e. in the morning when the Goddess of dawn meets day, and in the evening when dusk meets night, i.e. when the sun seems to kiss and sink into the horizon. I swear by Absolute Reality that if you practice meditation in this manner you will never fail.
There can be no one-pointedness of continuously fresh awareness in absolute day or absolute night. Even if you remain conscious while exhaling and inhaling you will achieve nothing.
“Do not worship the Lord during the day, do not worship the Lord during the night; the Lord must be worshipped at the point of the meeting of day and night.” (Abhinavagupta – Tantraloka)
Do not worship God during the day or the night; do not meditate during the day or the night; do not maintain awareness upon exhaling (day) or inhaling (night). Concentrate on the CENTER. The Lord of Gods must be worshipped where day and night meet. This is meditating on the junction-(sandhi).
When my Master first told me about this meditation I immediately started doing it hurriedly and abruptly without understanding it completely. Like when I tell one of my devotees to go and do something for me, he hurriedly runs to accomplish what I have ordered him to do. Without understanding what I really meant, he simply rushes to do it in excitement. So, in the same way, when my Guru said I must meditate, I immediately rushed off to begin in hurry and haste. I didn’t wait to ask my Master the means and method for doing it, I just did it. I was exhaling and inhaling but to no avail. I became dismayed and cried in my failure. I felt so sad for not having achieved anything.
Once, in this disappointment I felt drowsy and quickly fell asleep. I had a dream in which I felt myself thinking, “Let me go to the ashram and seek the guidance of my Master.” In this dream I went to the ashram, but saw not my Master, but my Grandmaster Swami Ram. I appealed to Him saying, “Sir, I feel as if I am achieving nothing, my efforts are going to waste.” My Grandmaster told me, “You should practice sandh.” My dream abruptly ended and I opened my eyes.
The next day I went to my Master and told Him about my dream. I wanted to know the meaning of the words, “You should practice sandh.” My Master said, “Yes . . . you started in hurry and haste, without proper understanding. You have to learn this practice properly.” In Kashmiri language the word sandh is used for the Sanskrit word sandhi-(the junction). Sandh is called meditation, and being aware is not an ordinary affair. You have to be aware at the door of the ‘Brahmapuri‘ the center of the two.
“If you meditate upon your Self ceaselessly, remaining always attached to Me, thinking of Me only, you will gain
that peace which is residing in My own nature and which will effortlessly carry you to liberation.” (Bhagavad Gita)
You must have full and complete attachment to meditation, it must not become routine-like. When you are about to meditate you must feel excitement, and be thankful to God that you have received this opportunity of beginning meditation. Unless you fall in love with meditation with total infatuation, attachment, and longing, you cannot really enter into the realm of Awareness. All your efforts to achieve Awareness are bound to fail. They will be useless and futile. The aspirant thus pledged to such a glorified state, by maintaining peace and harmony, will attain that nirvana-(liberation) which abides in the Kingdom of the Lord.
You must unravel all the various knot’s which exist in your mind. For example, if you feel jealously, thinking that,
“Swamiji is concerned with him and not me,” you are thinking improperly. You should not think this way. You have to see Me and not him. You must concentrate on your Guru and not on your Guru brother. Thoughts of this kind are full
of avarice and jealousy. Through these you will deviate and wander adrift in the desert. You should not see who your Guru is looking at. You should concentrate on your Guru alone. Keeping your mind absolutely pure you should follow what I have just said.
Now I shall instruct you regarding the nature of asana or seat. Although by ‘asana‘ is generally meant the erect posture assumed in meditation, this is not its central or essential meaning. When I use the word ‘asana‘ I do not mean the various forms of asana’s such as Padmasana, Vajrasana, Svastikasana, or Bhadrasana. By ‘asana‘ I mean something else, and this is what I want to explain to you.
First let me speak to you about breath; about the inhaling breath-apana, and the exhaling breath-prana.
Breath is extremely important in meditation; particularly the central breath-madhyama-pranan, which is neither prana nor apana. It is the center of these two, the point existing between the inhaling and exhaling breaths. This center point cannot be held by any physical means, as a material object can be held by the hand. The center between the two breaths can be held only by knowledge-jnana – not discursive knowledge, but by knowledge which is awareness. When this central point is held by continuously refreshed awareness – which is knowledge and which is achieved through devotion to the Lord – that is, in the true sense settling into your asana.
“On the pathway of your breath maintain continuously refreshed and full awareness on and in the center of breathing in and breathing out. This is internal asana.” (Netra Tantra)
Asana, therefore, is the gradual dawning in the spiritual aspirant of the awareness which shines in the central point found between inhaling and exhaling.
This awareness is not gained by that person who is full of prejudice, avarice, or envy. Such a person, filled with all such negative qualities, cannot concentrate. The prerequisite of this glorious achievement is, therefore, the purification of your internal egoity. It must become pure, clean, and crystal clear. After you have purged your mind of all prejudice and have started settling with full awareness into that point between the two breaths, then you are settling into your asana.
“When in breathing in and breathing out you continue to maintain your awareness in continuity on and in the center between the incoming and outgoing breath, your breath will spontaneously and progressively become more and more refined. At that point you are driven to another world. This is pranayama.” (Netra Tantra)
After settling in the asana of meditation arises the refined practice of pranayama. ‘Pranayama’ does not mean inhaling and exhaling vigorously like a bellow. Like asana, pranayama is internal and very subtle. There is a break less continuity in the traveling of your awareness from the point of asana into the practice of pranayama. When through your awareness you have settled in your asana, you automatically enter into the practice of pranayama.
Our Masters have indicated that there are two principle forms of this practice of ‘asana-pranayama’, i.e.
cakrodaya and ajapa-gayatri. In the practice of ajapa-gayatri you are to maintain continuously refreshed full awareness-(anusandhana) in the center of two breaths, while breathing in and out slowly and silently. Likewise in the practice of cakrodaya you must maintain awareness, which is continually fresh and new, filled with excitement and vigor, in the center of the two breaths – you are to breathe in and out slowly, but in this case with sound.
Ajapa-gayatri is therefore anusandhana along with the slow and silent movement of the breath. The inhaling and exhaling should be so slow and so utterly silent that even he who is breathing cannot hear his own breath.
To illustrate this form of pranayama Paramananda has said:
“You must ascend that mountain known as Pancala. This mountain composed of the glory of God Consciousness is the mountain of Bhairava, and is filled with the mantra so’ham. And this ascent, which is begun after establishing your mind in God Consciousness, must be accomplished very slowly so that the jewel which is your goal and which lies on the peak of this mountain is preserved and not destroyed.”
Your awareness during this climb must be strong, fresh and held in continuity. You must maintain an undisturbed movement of the breath. It should be slow, inaudible, and without break or pause. The continuity of this movement is extremely important and must be maintained with complete awareness in the middle of the two breaths. You must maintain full awareness at the point where the inhaling breath reaches its completion, the birth place of the exhaling breath. And so, also, you must maintain awareness at the end point of exhalation, the birth place of the inhaling breath. The practice of ajapa-gayatri does not allow the missing of a single breath. Your awareness must be break less, continuously refreshed, and fixed in the center of the two slowly and silently moving breaths. This is ajapa-gayatri anusandhana.
The second form of the practice of asana-pranayama is cakrodaya.
“This cakrodaya, which I have described according to my own experience, the teachings of my Master, and the explanation of the scriptures, must be undertaken with the most refined awareness.” (Abhinavagupta – Tantraloka.)
You must maintain that awareness which is most subtle. This is neither external awareness nor internal awareness, but is rather in the center of the depths of these two. This is “sūkşmaparimarśīlanīyaḥ” – the most refined awareness.
There is a difference between cakrodaya and ajapa-gayatri. If, in the beginning, you attempt to practice ajapa-gayatri, you will fail and subsequently fall. You will only fall asleep during meditation. The practice of ajapa-gayatri is very difficult. You will no sooner try to hold it than you will fall. In the beginning, therefore, you should practice cakrodaya and in the final stages you can practice ajapa-gayatri. To practice ajapa-gayatri you should:
“Ball your fists, clench your teeth, tense all the muscles of your body, but conquer your mind.” (Yoga Vashistha.)
This is the advice Vashistha gave to Rama. He tells him that he must first conquer his mind. Unless you have courage you cannot conquer your mind, and unless you have conquered your mind you cannot dare to practice ajapa-gayatri. According to the Shaiva shastras cakrodaya is easier than ajapa-gayatri.
In cakrodaya exists the gross state of breath, the gross movement of breath. It is breath with sound. Through practice this gross movement of breath is refined and with the passage of time becomes more and more subtle. This can only be accomplished through your own will and concentration. Even the Guru’s Grace will not help you unless you yourself are determined, with full devotion and attachment, to maintain awareness and concentration. This Grace of the Guru helps those who are simple, and simple are those who have awareness and consciousness. The spiritual aspirant who waivers and becomes disturbed gains nothing.
If you undergo these practices without full awareness and concentration for one thousand centuries you will have wasted all one thousand of those centuries. The movement of breath has to be filled with full awareness and concentration.
“God Consciousness is not achieved by means of the scriptures, nor is it achieved by the Grace of your Master. God Consciousness is only achieved by your own subtle awareness.” (Yoga Vashistha.)
The scriptures will not lift him nor can his Master elevate him, but when his consciousness is fixed in his own awareness then his soul becomes visible.
After you have settled in your asana, through the practice of either ajapa-gayatri anusandhana or cakrodaya anusandhana, then commences pranayama. By maintaining the constantly refreshed continuity of your awareness in the center of the two breaths you settle in your asana, and the movement of your breath becomes very subtle, very refined, as if thin. At this stage you feel like going to sleep, but it is not really sleep. You are proceeding towards the subtle state of awareness. Your awareness will not allow you to fall asleep. At this point you enter the fourth state-turya, which is neither the waking, the dreaming, nor the deep sleep state. This is the beginning of parama-spanda-tattva.
Shankaracarya has said:
“If you maintain your awareness at that point which is found between waking and sleeping you will be focused to that supreme felicity which is the supreme bliss of God Consciousness.” (Shloka ashtaka.)
This is the point through which you pass in the fourth state (turya). It is that point, which is found at the ending of wake-fullness and the beginning of sleep, the point between waking and sleeping. This point or junction is very important, it is the entrance into the state of Turya, which has become open through settling in your asana and undergoing pranayama.
In this connection I have also composed these lines long ago:
“There is a point between sleep and waking
Where thou shalt be alert without shaking.
Enter into the New World where forms so hideous pass.
They are passing, endure, do not be taken by the dross.
Then the pulls and pushes about the throttle,
All those shalt thou tolerate.
Close all ingress and egress, yawnings there may be;
Shed tears, crave, implore and thou will not prostrate.
A thrill passes and that goes down to the bottom,
It riseth-may it bloom forth. That is Bliss.
Blessed Being! Blessed Being! O greetings be to thee!”
I have explained that there are two means for settling in your asana commencing with pranayama, i.e. ajapa-gayatri and cakrodaya. Asana must be understood to mean maintaining full repeatedly refreshed awareness on and in the center of the two breaths. Pranayama–the automatic refinement of the breath–takes place through settling your asana and results in gaining entry into Turya, the fourth state.
I have told you that settling in your asana through ajapa-gayatri is extremely difficult, if not well neigh impossible. I do not advise you, therefore, to pursue ajapa-gayatri. I suggest instead that you practice cakrodaya. In this practice there is real hope. It is practical.
In the practice of cakrodaya you must inhale and exhale in long breaths with sound. Long breaths do not occupy as much space in the movement of breath. Inhaling and exhaling quickly, in short breaths, occupies much more space. The longer the breath the less space it occupies; the less space it occupies the quicker the results.
“By decreasing the span of your breathing by just one tuti you will become omniscient and omnipotent.” (Kallata)
The movement of breath occupies sixteen tutis; from its internal beginning point at the heart to its external ending point, the dvadashanta. One tuti is equivalent to the space occupied by 2-1/4 fingers laid side by side. At certain times the breath may occupy 17 tutis. When you are being chased by a tiger, for example, and are very much afraid and running very fast, the breath occupies more space.
In the practice of cakrodaya the breath is to occupy a minimum of space. At the time of practice you must be able to hear the sound of the inhaling and exhaling breath. The sound of your breathing should be loud enough so that even those sitting near you can hear it.
There are two understandings of how cakrodaya is to be practiced. Some say, “that the breath is to be inhaled and exhaled by the throat.” Others say, “that the breath is to be inhaled and exhaled by the heart.” Those that say that the breath should be inhaled and exhaled by the heart are wrong. It is a very dangerous and deadly procedure to adopt. To practice in this manner will produce such powerful and intense heat that the heart will be adversely effected and severely damaged. You will die in as short a time as a few weeks. The practice of cakrodaya, therefore, must be practiced by inhaling and exhaling by the throat, not by the heart.
When, through the practice of cakrodaya, your asana is established, your breath (prana) becomes more refined, more subtle, as if thinner. At this point begins pranayama. As I told you previously, you might, at that time, feel that you are on the verge of sleep, but your ‘awareness’ will not allow you to sleep. You may nod, but you will not be allowed to sleep, your ‘awareness’ will see to that. As I have explained, you will enter instead into that state called simply, turya–the fourth state. It is neither wakefulness, dreaming, nor deep sleep. In reality it exists in the junction between any of these three states, i.e. between waking and dreaming, between dreaming and deep sleep, and between deep sleep and waking.
At this point you gain entry into this state automatically. Your breath, though extremely subtle and refined, continues to move in and out. At that moment your awareness is full. You have no opportunity to be giddy or feel lazy. These feelings pass the moment you gain entry into turya and, therefore, at this point you practice your meditation whole-heartedly. In your spiritual journey you are now at the point of pranayama moving towards pratyahara. Here action does not exist for you, the organs of action (karmendriyas) are rendered powerless. You cannot move your hands or fingers; nor can you move your legs or feet, open your eyes, or even wink. From the point of view of action and activity you can do nothing. You hear external sounds but only indistinctly, they don’t capture your attention, you don’t become involved in them. They appear to you as a far off whisper.
“When walking on a path, you perceive all the features of the landscape, grass, trees, clouds; but they don’t leave impressions in your mind. In this manner you must act in the world. Do everything but leave the impressions behind.”
When you are walking, you don’t notice the falling of leaves or the movements of the clouds in the sky. So also the spiritual aspirant who has entered turya does not concern himself with external events occurring around him. This is the full state of pranayama. The external travel in waking, dreaming, and deep sleep has ended and internal travel in turya, the fourth state has begun. This internal voyage will be long and arduous. I advise you, therefore, not to envy each other. Be without avarice and hate. This distant path is tortuous like the path of a maze or a labyrinth. Concentrate only on your journey. Do not concern yourself negatively with others.
Love is the answer and the key. Through Love you can find the way through this maze. This is a very difficult journey and the goal is not easily achieved.
“Ancient saints and wise men have taught that traveling on the path of Spirituality is very difficult. It is just like walking on the edge of an extremely sharp sword.” (Upanishads)
At the beginning of this internal journey, in the state of pranayama, you will vividly experience the five subtle elements (tanmatras), i.e. subtle hearing, subtle touch, subtle sight, subtle taste, and subtle smell. These elements attack your five senses and you perceive them vividly and clearly even as you are breathing slowly in and out with full awareness as your Master has instructed you. The experience of these five elements is unbelievably attractive and filled with sensual enjoyment. It is the experience of the most wonderful sound, the most enjoyable touch, the most lovely sight, the most delicious taste, and the most fragrant smell. Being so attractive these experiences are extremely distracting. But by these you must not be distracted. You must continue on your journey toward pratyahara.
Bhagavan Shankara (Lord Shiva) has said:
“When during meditation you experience the divinely produced internal Tanmatras pass them through un-minding your mind with great awareness, and enter into the Supreme state of God Consciousness. This is pratyahara.” (Netra Tantra)
In the state of turya you perceive mentally the presence of the five subtle elements (tanmatras). You must not indulge in these five attractions. You must ignore them completely and settle ever more deeply into your own one-pointed awareness. This settling is called pratyahara. It is winding up of the external world and entering into the Supreme internal world. Your breath is traveling towards pratyahara. You must try vigorously to gain entry into that supreme state of meditation. You cannot enter it by physical force but only by mind. No darkness exists there. It is light itself. “Pratyahara cuts the bondage of samsara. (Netra Tantra)
“There you will find your intellect filled with ultimate Truth.”
(Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras)
Here the intellect-(buddhi) is filled with Truth-(ritambhara prajnana). Whatever is untrue cannot exist there. Here you will find only Truth and Light.
Your journey in turya continues. At this point your breath is moving in meditation (abhyasa). Now your journey turns toward contemplation (dhyana).
“When you pass the internal divine sensual field you must focus your mind on that supreme all pervading God Consciousness. Then spontaneously Supreme God Consciousness will shine before you. This is contemplation-dhyana.”
You will remember that I told you, when you enter into the state of turya the five organs of action-(karmendriyas) are rendered powerless, they cease to function. Upon gaining entry into the state of pratyahara the five subtle elements (tanmatras) are eliminated. And when the breath enters into the central vein (sushumna), and is thereby annihilated, at this point in your journey meditation ceases. This state cannot be concentrated upon; it is held automatically.
A Kashmiri proverb says:
“Let me have the power to do where there is nothing to be done. Let me have the power to contemplate where there is nothing to contemplate.”
When the breath enters the sushumna nadi, this is the beginning of the journey of contemplation-dhyana.
“When the yogi confirms internally that he will do whatever the State of God Consciousness wills, and when he takes hold of Spanda tattva, his breath enters the central vein and rises again in the urdhvamagra as kundalini. And here also he must remain alert and aware or he will enter the state of sleep.” (Spanda Karika)
Here the small self, the limited ego has been subdued. The state of breathing, inhaling and exhaling, enters into and becomes the state of breath itself (pranan). The aspirant becomes the embodiment of breath (pranan). His blood circulates so slowly that doctors cannot detect a pulse. At this point the aspirant is charged as if by an electric shock. But the shock that the aspirant experiences at this stage is not charged with fear and death but with bliss and joy. Different aspirants may experience this in various ways and, therefore, you must be aware and cautious so that you are not misled.
In the Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta has said, “if the Master is elevated and the discipline is endowed with complete qualifications, then the Master can assist his disciple. But, on the other hand, if his disciple is not really complete, then the Master cannot properly help him or elevate him.
The shock of bliss and joy experienced by the aspirant is called the initiation of piercing (vedha-diksha). This initiation is just like drilling a hole in an object with a drill. The experience of this blissful shock is one form of realization, and is one of the phases passed through on the path of liberation. It is called pervasion of the Self (atma-vyapti).
Our Masters have taught us that the aspirant can experience this shock of Bliss as six different qualities of piercing: shakta-vedha, bindu-vedha, bhujanga-vedha, bhramara-vedha, nada-vedha, and mantra-vedha. These all reside in the supreme movement of breath known as prana kundalini.
This piercing by the blissful force of breath is experienced as energy in shakta-vedha. In bindu-vedha it is experienced as sexual bliss. If the pleasure experienced by a couple at the climax of their lovemaking is multiplied and intensified one billion times, even then this pleasure will hardly approximate the Bliss felt by one who experiences bindu-vedha. In bhujanga-vedha this piercing is experienced as the rising of a cobra. In bhramara-vedha as the buzzing of a black bee. In nadavedha it is experienced as sound, and in mantra-vedha it is experienced as the knowledge of the mantra “I”-(aham). The movement of dhyana exists only in these six vedhas.
There is also a seventh supreme vedha. This vedha, known as para-vedha, does not exist in dhyana. This piercing resides in the supreme awakening known as a cit kundalini. Here you reside in the state of complete God Consciousness.
“When you establish your mind in the internal reality of God Consciousness, that is dharana. This dharana is not only to be established in internal God Consciousness but also in all the activities of your worldly life. This is true dharana.” (Netra Tantra.)
Here, with the completion of the initiation of piercing of whatever quality, begins the journey of dharana. This initiation sentences you to the journey of dharana, the journey of adjustment. Your consciousness becomes filled and adjusted with the reality and truth that this whole universe is only God. Nothing is experienced as being outside of God. This is the unification of your individual God Consciousness with Universal God consciousness.
Here, the organs of action are again infused with power, they are reactivated. Your breath heaves and you move out into external experience – yet, while moving out you remain in the turya state. The action of moving out into experience while remaining in the turya state is known as krama-mudra. You begin to experience the state of Universal God Consciousness. You will only experience this, however, if you remain filled with active awareness.
This unification of individual God Consciousness and Universal God Consciousness leads to that Supreme state where God Consciousness is experienced without break in all the states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. This is the supreme state of fullness while in the body and is called Jagadananda.
Om Namah Shivaya!
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