From the book Kashmir Shaivism, The Secret Supreme, chapter 16, The Seven States of Turya.
“Between the three states of the individual subjective body, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, there is a gap.” ~Swami Lakshmanjoo
The Seven States of Turya
The practical theory of the seven states of turya, also known as the seven states of ānanda (bliss), which I will now explain to you, was taught to the great Śaivite philosopher Abhinavagupta by his master Śaṁbhunātha.
Between the three states of the individual subjective body, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, there is a gap. This gap is a junction between the waking state and the dreaming state. There is also a junction between the dreaming state and dreamless sound sleep and there is a junction between sound sleep and the waking state. These transitions take place automatically within every human being.
Whenever you pass from wakefulness to the dreaming state, you touch that junction and then enter into the dreaming state. Whenever you pass from the dreaming state to wakefulness, you touch that junction first and then you open your eyes and experience the waking state. This junction is touched whenever you pass between any of the three states of the individual subjective body. This junction is actually the fourth state, turya.
“This turya, however, cannot be experienced by focusing on it, because, whenever you gaze on this junction, waiting for it to happen, it will never happen.”
You will remain waiting in the waking state. It is when you fall asleep and enter into the dreaming state that you will find it. And yet ordinarily you remain absolutely unaware of the experience of this junction.
The only way to experience this junction is to concentrate on any center of the heart while breathing, while talking or while moving about. You must concentrate on the center. You should watch the center of any two movements, any two breaths. Concentrate on that junction. After some time when that concentration is established, then whenever you go to bed to rest, you will automatically enter the dreaming state through that junction. In this case though, you will not enter into the dreaming state. Instead, you will be aware at that point, at that junction. This junction is only a gate, the entrance to turya. Your awareness of this junction occurs only by the grace of your previous practice of centering your mind between any two movements or any two breaths.
This is the first state of turya, called nijānanda1 which means “the bliss of your own Self.”
You first experience that junction while practicing on any center, such as that found between any two breaths, between any two movements, or between any two thoughts.
“When you concentrate in continuity with great reverence, with love, affection, and devotion, then your breath becomes very fine and subtle.”
Automatically, you breathe very slowly. At that moment, you experience giddiness. It is a kind of intoxicating mood. And when, during the experience of this giddiness, you do not destroy your alertness of concentration, the giddiness becomes firm and stable.
This is the second state of turya, known as nirānanda2 which means “devoid of limited bliss.” Here you do not lose awareness, even though you feel intoxicated.
And when that giddiness becomes stable and remains for a longer period, then the aspirant falls asleep at once. Yet at this point he does not enter into the dreaming state; rather, he enters that gap, that junction.
This junction is known to be the start of turya. In entering this junction the aspirant enters into another world. It is not wakefulness, nor is it the dreaming state, nor is it sound sleep, but a fourth world. Here, the organs of this aspirant do not function at all. He does not experience moving about nor does he hear or see. If, with great effort he were to open his eyes, he would feel that he is still sitting in his house; however, actually he cannot move any part of his body and can only slightly move his eyelids.
At that moment, the aspirant hears hideous sound and sees furious forms. Those aspirants who are frightened by these things try at once to come out from this state and, after exerting great effort, they come out and are again in the waking state. On the other hand, there are those aspirants who try to tolerate these hideous and terrible things.
“For example, he may experience that the whole of the house has collapsed upon him or he may experience that there is a fire burning outside and this fire will burn everything including himself.”
These experiences, if endured and tolerated, will pass away. If the aspirant cannot tolerate them, then he will be thrown out into the waking state and must begin again. The aspirant, in order to continue his journey, must tolerate these hideous and terrible experiences. Here, only one thing is predominant and must be maintained, and that is breathing. The aspirant must breathe in and out with devotion and great love towards his Self. This means to breathe in and out while reciting the name of the Lord, as he was instructed by his master when he was initiated, all the while ignoring these terrible sounds.
He may actually think that he is going to die, that he is really gone. These thoughts are wrong thoughts and he must ignore them. When the aspirant desires to move from individuality to universality, all of these experiences occur because individuality has to be shaken off. When this movement toward universality begins, this kind of struggle takes place.
“If you continue with tolerance, breathing and internally reciting your mantra according to the instructions of your master, then these terrible sounds and forms vanish and pulling and pushing in your breathing passage begins to occur.”
You feel as if you are choking and that you cannot breathe. This experience you must also tolerate. It will only vanish if you intensify your devotion for the Lord. You must insert more love and affection for your practice. If this is done, then after some time, this choking sensation will pass. If, however, at this point you do not intensify the devotion for your practice, then you will come out from this state and will need to begin again afresh. If this occurs, you will feel foolish and realize that by not tolerating these experiences you have caused a great loss to yourself. Because of this, you will be anxious to begin again.
This state of hideous sounds and forms, followed by the sensation that you are choking and that your breathing is about to stop, is called parānanda,3 which means “the ānanda (bliss) of breathing.” When you breathe in and out with great divinity, it is not ordinary breathing.
Here, your breathing becomes full of bliss and joy, even though you are experiencing terrible forms and sounds or the reality that your breath is about to stop.
If you maintain your practice continuously with intense devotion, your breath does stop. What happens is that four passages meet at the center of what we call lambikā sthāna, which in English is known as the “soft palate.” This lambikā sthāna is found on the right side near the pit of the throat. In ordinary breathing, two passages are open and two passages are closed. When your breath is about to stop, the passages of ordinary breathing close. You experience this symptom when you feel that you are choking and that your breath is about to stop.
“At this point, your breath becomes centralized and moves about one point, just like a whirlpool.”
The aspirant experiences that his breath is neither moving out nor coming in. He feels that his breath is moving round and round, that it is rotating at that one point which is the junction of the four passages. This state is called bhramānanda,4 which means “that bliss which is all-pervading.”
Here, the yogin must maintain the continuity of his devotional practice. As his breathing has stopped and he cannot watch his breath, he can only recite mantras. He must put his mind on his mantra, and only his mantra, with great devotion to Lord Shiva.
“If he continues this practice with great devotion, then, after some time, yawning takes or his mouth becomes crooked, just as at the moment of death.”
These stages are the same stages which take place when your breath has stopped and you are about to die. The myriad of changes that take place on his face are those that take place at the moment of death. The apprehension of death then arises in the mind of this yogī. He feels now that he is really dying. He is not afraid, he is apprehensive.
This is the kind of death which takes place when individuality dies and universality is born. It is not a physical death; it is a mental death. The only thing the yogī must do here is to shed tears of devotion. He must pray for the experience of universal “I.” After a few moments, when the whirling state of breath becomes very fast, moving ever more quickly, you must stop your breath at once. You must not be afraid. If your master is there, he will tell you at that moment to just stop your breath. When there is the whirling of breath, then there is the possibility that you may start breathing again. At this point, it is in your hand to stop it or to let it go. When it has come to the extreme intensity of whirling, then you should and must stop it at once!
When you stop your breathing, then what happens next is that your breath immediately rushes down in the central vein. Your breath is “sipped” down and you actually hear the sound of sipping.
“The gate of the central vein (madhyanāḍī) opens at once and your breath reaches down to that place called mūlādhāra, which is near the rectum. This state of turya is called mahānanda5 which means, ‘the great bliss’.”
From this point on, everything is automatic. There is, however, one thing that the aspirant should observe and be cautious about and that is that he should not think that “everything is now automatic.” The more he thinks that everything will be automatic, the more surely he will remain at the state of mahānanda. This is why masters never tell the aspirant what will take place after mahānanda.
From the Śaiva point of view, from mahānanda onwards, you must adopt bhramavega.6 Bhramavega means “the unknowing force.” Here you have to put your force of devotion, without knowing what is to happen next. You cannot use your mantra because when your breath is gone, your mind is also gone, as the mind has become transformed into the formation of consciousness (cit). Here, breathing takes the form of force (vega). It is this vega which pierces and penetrates mūlādhāra cakra so that you pass through it.
When the penetration of mūlādhāra cakra is complete, then this force rises in another way. It is transformed and becomes full of bliss, full of ecstasy, and full of consciousness. It is divine. You feel what you are actually.
“This is the rising of cit kuṇḍalinī, which rises from mūlādhāra cakra to that place at the top of the skull known as brahmarandhra.”
It occupies the whole channel and is just like the blooming of a flower. This state, which is the sixth state of turya, is called cidānanda,7 which means, “the bliss of consciousness.”
This force then presses the passage of the skull (brahmarandhra), piercing the skull to move from the body out into the universe. This takes place automatically; it is not to be “done.” And when this brahmarandhra is pierced, then at once you begin to breathe out. You breathe out once for only a second, exhaling from the nostrils.
After exhaling, everything is over and you are again in cidānanda and you again experience and feel the joy of rising, which was already present. This lasts only for a moment and then you breathe out again. When you breathe out, your eyes are open and for a moment you feel that you are outside. You experience the objective world, but in a peculiar way.
Then once again, your breathing is finished and your eyes are closed and you feel that you are inside. Then again your eyes are open for a moment, then they close for a moment, and then they again open for a moment. This is the state of krama mudrā, where transcendental “I” consciousness is beginning to be experienced as one with the experience of the objective world.
The establishment of krama mudrā is called jagadānanda,8 which means “universal bliss.” This is the seventh and last state of turya.
“In this state, the experience of Universal Transcendental Being is never lost and the whole of the universe is experienced as one with your own ‘transcendental I-Consciousness’.”
All of the states of turya from nijānanda to cidānanda comprise the various phases of nimīlanā samādhi. Nimīlanā samādhi is internal subjective samādhi. In your moving through these six states of turya, this samādhi becomes ever more firm. With the occurrence of krama mudrā, nimīlanā samādhi is transformed into unmīlanā samādhi, which then becomes predominant. This is that state of extroverted samādhi, where you experience the state of samādhi at the same time you are experiencing the objective world. And when unmīlanā samādhi becomes fixed and permanent, this is the state of jagadānanda.
In terms of the process of the fifteen-fold rising, the sakala state is the waking state. Sakala pramātṛi is the first state of turya, which is the state of nijānanda. Vijñānākala9 is the state of nirānanda. Śuddhavidyā is the state of parānanda. Īśvara is the state of brahmānanda. Sadāśiva is the state of mahānanda. Śiva is the state of cidānanda. And Parama Śiva is the state of jagadānanda.
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 the pushes about the throttle,
All those shalt thou tolerate.
Close all ingress and egress,
Yawnings there may be;
Shed tears—crave—implore, but 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!
~Swami Lakshmanjoo Brahmachari
1 nijānande pramātraṁśamātre hṛidi purā sthitaḥ Tantrāloka: V;44
2 śūnyatāmātraviśranternirānandaṁ vibhāvayet Tantrāloka: V;44
3 prāṇodaye prameye tu parānandaṁ vibhavayet Tantrāloka: V;45
4 samānabhūmimāgatya brahmānandamayo bhavet Tantrāloka: V;47
5 udānavahnau viśrānto mahānandaṁ vibhāvayan Tantrāloka: V;48
6 tāvadvai bhramavegena mathanaṁ śaktivigrahe | vedattu prathamotpannā viṅdavaste’tivarcasaḥ ||
quoted in Śiva Sūtra Vimarśinī II:3
7 nirupādhirmahāvyāptirvyānākhyopādhivarjitā | tadā khalu cidānando yo jaḍānupabṛiṁhitaḥ ||
8 yatra ko’pi vyavacchedo nasti yadviśvataḥ sphurat || yadanāhata-saṁvitti paramāmṛita bṛiṁhitam | yatrāsti bhāvanādīnāṁ na mukhyā kāpi saṁgatiḥ || tadeva jagadānanda ……|
9 From the state of vijñānākala, the process of rising is automatic. Though there may be something to be done, this something is neither physical nor mental. Once the aspirant has attained the vijñānākala state, he will never fall. If, for example, the aspirant once enters the state of vijñānākala between waking and sleeping, then during his lifetime he will never lose that state. Whenever he does his practice in continuity with devotion, he will enter the vijñānākala state. This is because once the vijñānākala state has been experienced, it leaves a permanent impression. At this point, you are not in the state of pramātṛi; you are in the state of vijñānākala. Vijñānākala pramātṛi is much higher than the state of vijñānākala. Vijñānākala pramātṛi takes place after śuddhavidyā. The difference between vijñānākala pramātṛi and the state of vijñānākala is that the state of vijñānākala is ordinary, while vijñānākala pramātṛi is special and more significant. This is also the case with all of the states and their pramātṛins. When you unknowingly experience a state, then you are in that which is called a “state.” When you knowingly experience any state, which means that you are active in that process, that is the state of pramātṛi. For example, when you enter in samādhi, you are not in the pramātṛi state of samādhi, rather you are simply in the state of samādhi. At this point, you have no control over this state. You will enter into this state according to the choice of your master or Lord Śiva. Sometimes you will wish to enter this state and you do enter it, and sometimes you will wish to enter this state and yet you cannot enter it. You can be said to be in the state of pramātṛi only when you have the full authority of going to that state and returning from it whenever you wish to do so.
Source: Kashmir Shaivism, The Secret Supreme,
chapter 16, The Seven States of Turya,
revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo
All content copyright © John Hughes