Abhinava, Music and Purvi Kalyani by Markji

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Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 7.58.53 PMCentering, Equilibrium, Madhyama, equipose, point of repose – There are the words that come to our mind when studying Abhinava’s contribution to Indian thought, music and Natya sastra (Abhinavabharati). While being a master in propounding the dynamism of the observable and unobservable universe, he constantly comes back to the mystic core of repose. The “Hrydam” he often refers to, balances the otherwise seemingly fleeting fluctuations of the opposites of manifestation and involution.

In his traslation of Paratrisika Vivarana, Dr. Jaideva Singh explains how the 16 Kalaas, i.e. The phonemes  ‘A’ through ‘Ah’ are called Svara on the account of their revealing the delightful mental state.

“Thus the word Svara means those which trasmitting theh essential nature to the highet experient (i.e. anuttara) offer  themelves ie. get dissolved in anuttara (as vowels, in the aspect of Samhara or withdrawal) and offer their form as consonants like “ka” etc externally (in the aspect of Prasaara or expansion)…. Thus everyone in all kinds of knowledge, these phonemes from “A” to “Ksa”, ingenious in bringing about varied acts, coming together in their several, distinctive forms, fundamentally appearing without succession displaying the transition of forms one after the other by their effectuating powers bring about spatial and temporal distinction” (Dr. Jaideva Singh, Paratrisika Vivarana).

Abhinava applies this integral vision to musicology. In his paper (Abhinavagupta’s contribution to the solution of some problems in Indian Musicology), Dr. Jaideva Singh explains beautifully Abhinava’s point of view on Svara.

vayaṃ tu śruti-sthānābhighāta-prabhava-śabda- prabhāvito’nuraṇanātmā snigdha-madhuraḥ śabda eva svara iti vakṣyāmaḥ |

“The natural tendency of the mind is only towards plain sound. A musical note or svara has the power to obtrude itself on the mind, to set aside its natural tendency towards mere sound, and by its excess of pleasantness makes the mind susceptible to emotion, and thus imposing itself on it makes its presence felt. This is not a literary tour de force on the part of Abhinavagupta. He has drawn our attention to a patent psychic state aroused by a musical note, and in this consists his originality.”

Finally, when introducing Taala, Abhinava describes

I offer threefold praise to this octoform body (Shiva), whose essence is illusion, holding a token of enjoyment, in whom there is perfect equilibrium of all worldly activity by means of divisions (kalaa), time (kalaa), and rest (laya). Abhinavagupta, Abhinavabharati 31.1 (trans. Rowell, p. 188).

One can see how the master is packing his core philosophy into music and his introductory verse on Taala. Equilibrium seems to be the focus and raison de’erte of  his thinking which encompasses the divided activity of tone divisions (srutis), timing and the rest in between.

Hope this provides a taste of Abhinava’s genius in applying a consistent and cogent narrative to all areas – philosophy, music, drama etc.

With this in mind, we present you a very special music delight from Markji. The recording is bit dated and not of best quality but  Markji’s virutuso is fantastic. We welcome you to download and immerse yourself in the Abhinavan universe.

1. A short introduction and speech by Kishor Kumar Misra, the great tabalist who worked as a faculty at The Center for Performing Arts for over 30 years and now retired
2. Raga Purvi Kalyan – Full performance
3. Raga Bhairavi – Short performance

Development of Tantras in the Context of Buddhism and Upanishads

 

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“The mother is glorious, she is the ever new creation, and her foundation the pure energy of consciousness that manifests manifoldly”

Trident3On June 15, 2010, Dr. Dyczkowski gave a talk at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. In the talk, after his introduction, he covered the first verse of Tantraloka, followed by short but some fantastic readings on the Tantra of Three Headed Bhairava, 12 Kaalis and concluding with a Q&A.

In the introduction, he presented a birds eye view of how the tantric traditions provided a philosophical system which ultimately became an exegetical model through which subsequent tantric traditions developed a theory of consciousness, a theory of self and a theory of deity that can be considered as the most sophisticated analytical model that developed in the Indian sub-continent.

To elucidate this, he presents how the Shaiva masters had to fully leverage the tools of classical Indian philosophy to tackle the objections of Buddhists while accommodating the best of Upanishads.

To sum up, the thinking can be categorized into process theories of reality and the non-process theories of reality. We can associate non-process theories (Upanishad) with space and process theories (Buddhism) with time. Kashmir Shaivism bridges these two. One, the insubstantial indefinable that developed in some schools – a kind of streaming consciousness that is engaged in perception that constantly streams until it stills in a condition that is ineffable and that is insight. And on the other side the other view in which consciousness is a fundamental empirically indefinable pure witnessing consciousness that also escapes the relationship between subject and object ultimately and comes to rest in the ineffability of its absolute nature transcending empirical definitions. Both of these views mostly led to understanding the world as being transitory, phenomenal and its phenomenal nature inexplicable, equated in some way not fully real.

At this point, by this time, by the 6th 7th century AD when these discourses had developed to quite a complex level and had been understanding each other and variously criticizing each other and stimulating one another, the Tantras developed. That presupposed a kind of implied notion and perception of reality, the nature of reality which draws dynamic self regenerating manifesting kind of perpetually in an amazing proliferation of forms, divine forms, and at the same time remaining without contradiction as it were insubstantial, formless and non-empirically definable and both of these situations considered simultaneously to be deity.

ATK is delighted to present the first 35-minute of the audio recording to fellow seekers.

OM SAUḤ PARĀYAI NAMAḤ

downloadv5

Time and Eternity

KĀLACHAKRA AND THE 12 KĀLĪS: Time and Eternity.

 

The Dynamism of Movement and Rest, Becoming and Being, in the Oneness of Consciousness.

Movement and rest are the primary polarities of existence, whether physical, mental biological, or the one divine consciousness of which they are all manifestations. The complex multi-layered expansion of the actuality of the Present is motion in time, and the interrelation between each aspect of the wonderfully varied picture present within and through it, is their repose in space. Together, each distinct and yet inseparably one, movement and rest encompass every possibility and each actuality. Such is the Freedom of the act of Being, such is the sublime and wonderful expression of Shiva’s consciousness. As space, consciousness rests in its Being; as Time it unfolds in the perennial movement of Becoming. The interface between Being and Becoming is the One. The wonderfully interlocking multi-layered activity of consciousness rests within itself as the entire process in each and every of even the most tiny parts of its expansion. Awareness is the door that connects the mundane world of our individual existence in which we and all things are confined within their own fixed form, to a world of wonderful possibilities in which everything is like a mirror that reflects within itself the entire processless process of movement and rest, Becoming and Being. Thus whatever we observe attending to this Movement and Rest reveals in the clarity of the immediacy of awareness the Plenitude of the One. As Rumi so beautiful puts it:

“Oceans disappear and reappear,

Inside the pearl that you are.”

In two immersions to be held in August in Northern California–the first in Grass Valley and the next in San Francisco–we will learn about the many wonderful details of this dynamism and how to participate in it in two domains.  In the first we will learn to observe the wonderful activity of the One in the cycle of the breath, the microcosm of the Wheel of Time; in the second we learn to recognize its activity in the domain of perception.

As the Master Abhinavagupta teaches:

Creation and absorption are established all together within the vital breath. This also (rests) within cognitive consciousness and that in pure consciousness, free of objectivity. Pure consciousness is the Goddess. She is Parā, the Supreme Goddess… Therefore, the essence of cognitive consciousness is, by its very nature, this (perpetual) pulsation. (This manifests) in the vital breath as the (countless) mergers and emergences (of all things).  . . . This awareness of the wonderful diversity of action brought about by the power of Time is established in the pure will alone. Thus, in the outer world, (the power of Time) has no fixed form. We observe that even a tiny particle of time appears to be immense when we dream of dreaming, in a dream, in deep sleep, or when (immersed) in the sphere of thought, or in deep meditation, or when discerning (and contemplating) the process of withdrawal and creation of the universe. (TA 6/179-184)

The Wheel of Time and the Cycle of the Breath. Chapter Six of the Tantraloka.

As the following passages from the Atharvaveda so beautifully testify the Breath of Life and Time were experienced in India centuries before the Buddha at least three millennia

Praise to the Breath of Life!

He rules the world,

Master of all things,

On which all things are based. 1

 

Praise to you, Breath when you come

And praise when you go!

When you stand up

And when you sit still, to you praise. 7

 

Breath of Life is Queen, is guide,

Revered by all things;

He is sun, he is Moon

He is also the father of all. 12

AV 10, 4 Prāṇasūktam

 

Time drives like a horse,

a thousand-eyed unaging Stallion.

Him the inspired poet mounts.

All beings are his chariot wheels.

Above time is a set a brimful vessel.

Simultaneously we see Time, here, there, everywhere.

Set face to face with all existences,

Time has gathered together all beings that are.

From time comes the Self-existent,

energy likewise from Time derives

–Pūrṇaḥ kumbhaḥ AV 19.53

Shining as all things, consciousness sparkles radiantly with its countless manifestations. Deployed and witnessed within it each one is all of it. A single process, it manifests in two aspects. One is the sequence of Space. This is the deployment of the worlds within the cosmic order and the body, which is taught in detail in chapter eight of the Tantraloka. The other is the sequence of Time. This is taught in chapter six. Just as the world orders, each with their own thickness, layered one upon the other, span the expanse of Space, so cycles of Time, small and extensive, span the Great Creation that encompasses them all. In the outer world time is measured by the cyclic procession of celestial beings embodied in the sun and moon, the planets and constellations. These were seen to correspond to the cycles of the breath.

The movement of the breath and its correspondence to the lunar cycle was perceived already in Vedic times and carried over into the Tantras centuries later. We find it extensively in the Tantra of the Three-headed Bhairava, an extensive and important work in Trika Tantra (sadly lost) that Abhinavagupta quotes often in his Tantrāloka. So too we find it the Tantras of the Kalikrama, which is as we would expect, as Kali is above all the embodiment of the power of time (kāla) which consumes and creates all things. But it is only in the Svacchandabhairavatantra, to which Abhinava refers as his main source, that we find its most extensive expression. Its clear and systematic exposition indicates that it is not amongst the earliest Bhairava Tantras. Moreover, it is a major source for several Tantras of several schools, amongst which is the Tantrasadbhāva, a Trika Tantra and the Tantras of the goddess Kubjikā that draw from here the same teachings regarding the Wheel of Time and the cycle of the breath. Although they fell into relative obscurity subsequently, there was period when they were popular. The yantra of Śrīvidyā is also a Wheel of Time, replete with the constellations and planets. Viṣṇu’s solar discus figures as such in the Vaiṣṇava Tantras. Most notable of all is the Buddhist Tantra and the school of which it is the prime authority, namely, Kālacakra, the Wheel of Time.

A day and a night, the waxing and waning lunar fortnights, the two halves of the year, cycles of sixty years, extending out into the breath and lifespans of the gods, all are mirrored in the cycle of the breath. Everyday we breath 21,600 times and with every breath, of only we knew it, we span the all these cycles of time. Here then is a method of observing the movement of the breath with great attention, a practice which can be said without a doubt to be amongst the most ancient and important of all in the religious traditions of India, one we find also in the other great religions of the world. We are taught not only to feel the flow of time in the breath but, above all, its origin and end in the juncture between, its ascending and descending phases. If they are Day and Night we are directed to dawn and sunset, midnight and midday; if they are the lunar fortnights the Full and New Moon. Particular important internally, as in the outer world are the eclipses, lunar and solar. If the cycle is the year the junctions are the solistices and so on. With the invaluable help of Freedom Cole, learned and renowned astrologer, we will trace these cosmic parallels in the breath, the Wheel of Time.

The Vision of the Eye: The Ascension and Transformation of Kaula Union and the Wheel of the Twelve Kālī. Chapter Four of the Tantrāloka.

In this immersion we examine the central teaching of chapter four of the Tantrāloka, which deals with the Empowered Means. Here we focus our attention on the polarities and phases of perception. Just as we attend to the phases of the cycle of the breath – where it begins, how it flows and where it comes to rest, similarly we learn to pay attention to the world outside and within, the activity of the senses and mind and ourselves as phases of the sacred dynamism of consciousness as it arises, persists, recedes, and encompasses all in transcendental oneness. In one of the most brilliant sections of the Tantrāloka, Abhinavagupta expounds the teachings of the Twelve Kālīs, who he presents as the hypostases of these phases. Significantly he introduces them as the twelve signs of the zodiac to remind us that each instant of perception is a moment of time and that Kālī is the power of time which is the inexplicable dynamism of consciousness. Their flow is the pulse of the Heart of consciousness which is the abode of Kālī who is Kālasaṁkarṣiṇī. Abhinava introduces these teachings which are at the very core and apex of Anuttara Trika with a beautiful and rich passage from the Yogasaṁcāra Tantra. It teaches how to wander (saṁcāra) through and out of the subtle body alone and with a partner. Transformed by the ascents and downward purifying flows of the essence of the bliss of the emission of the spiritual energy of Śiva consciousness, we learn to experience its outpouring from the body, senses and mind as that essence. Thus prepared we enter the dynamism of the Twelve Kālīs.

The dynamism of consciousness that manifests through the body as action, here manifests as the flow of the activity of the mind and senses especially the flow and resting of the breath.  In all states of consciousness, whether awake, dreaming or even in deep sleep, every moment of our lives we are engaged in this activity.

 

The Doctrine Of Vibration in a New Light

Ganapathi

As we all know, The Doctrine of Vibration is a very popular book on Kashmir Shaivism (KS), specifically as an introduction to its core concepts. Its publication was based on Dr. Mark Dyczkowski’s doctoral thesis at Oxford. This book, along with The Stanzas on Vibration and The Aphorisms of Siva (Siva Sutra) serves as an essential introductory trilogy for any serious student entering into the world of KS.

While the book is very accessible to everyone, Markji  has commented on several occasions that he had several new insights since he wrote the book when he was 28. These insights came over decades of study and practice in the mandala of KS – both its core and the retinue including Kula, Krama and Abhinavagupta’s magnum opus, The Tantraloka. It is in this context he delivered detailed exposition on the doctrine on a weekly basis at Beneras over several months starting October 2013. ATK is delighted to make the recordings available to the extended ATK community.

In the first lecture, Markji begins by providing a detailed developmental context where he weaves epistemology, phenomenology and the ontology into the notions of the integral monism of KS. He presents this by observing the development of forms of Hinduism in the context of individual teachers and groups. For KS, he observes the importance of “Scholar Practitioners” like MM Gopinath Kaviraj, Pt. Rameshwar Jha, Pt. Tripathi etc, in shaping the development of modern KS through traditional scriptural studies. The traditional method, in contrast to modern Hinduism, focuses on continuous reflections on the text which leads to deepening insight that sculpts the very life of the person engaged in the sadhana.

 “(Scriptural) study is an initial, but necessary springboard (to deepen spiritual practice)” –  Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

He explains the arrival of new forms of tradition centered on Puja (as opposed to traditional Vedic fire sacrifices) around the 5th century C.E, which coincided with the emergence of Shiva to the frontier as the great God along with Vishnu. This further developed into pantheons of systems that included Mantra, Yantra and specific rituals. The upanishadic discussions on ethics and the quest for freedom were interpreted in this new context where impurity is considered as a craving for something more which leads to a delusion where things of no value takes on importance. Thus, as an example, the transitoriness of life takes on importance as permanence. This directly correlates to the ethical dimension that concerns our actions. In these traditions, the regular performing of rituals is meant to remove this impurity. Once a person gets initiated into the Shaiva tradition, he/she continues a lifelong practice to carefully ensure that the impurity does not redevelop.

 “The sacred is veiled to our perception because of the barrier of impurity between us and the deity” – Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

In parallel there were notions of the distance between man and God. This distance was considered as a function of the fear of the might of God. As purity develops, the fear and the distance reduces in a virtuous cycle. It is as though as the deity intervenes through grace and frees the individual through purification from ethical darkness. The central concept here is the importance of God as a giver of grace which is also understood as empowerment as impurity renders as powerless. Thus the act of initiation is seen as God empowering the individual through grace thus allowing to maintain the state of purity.

 “What is most important is our spiritual state – if our behavior is not up to what it should be in ethical norm,  then the solution is to look at our spiritual condition” – Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

Again in parallel, Markji explains that there was another development which developed the courage to go after God’s immense power directly by disregarding the rules of purity and impurity yet to be steadfast with absolute determination. They might

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go to the most impure places like cremation ground to invoke the great God and face death directly. It is as if by becoming Tantric, they take the quickest path so they could help others for centuries. This might require special initiations (visesa diksha) above and beyond the basic Shaiva diksha. A form of monism inter threads through these traditions with a clear non-dualism with the deity through the immense vision of God with the help of their master. Such a transmission becomes a tradition for that particular teacher which runs through a lineage.This Markji refers as Integral Monism – an affirmation of oneness of the most intimate and profound relationship with God. By around 8th century C.E, the scriptural traditions advanced to such a degree that there are specific lineages of teachers who chose particular form of revelations. The knowledge in this context can be summarized as “knowledge of the divine” which cannot be accurately expressed (as faith). This also aligns with the way of mastery of yoga which is participating in the expanse of the lord (aishwarya).  Thus, the approach of knowledge, yoga and puja/devotion converges into epistemology, phenomenology and ontology. The subject, object and the means of knowledge is seen as the flow of creative consciousness caught up in the interrelationships. It is possible to consider this as an articulation of  phenomonlogy through a theory of perception – For Shaivas, God creates through his genius, his Pratiba and the representation /  manifestation (world) is the reflection of his genius of creativity.

 “In India, metaphysics serves as theoretical framework supporting a body of spiritual discipline. It indicates seekers attitude to his own experience”  – Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

For the KS masters, it was important to salvage the reality of the world in order to salvage the reality of God. A phenomenology of appearance and perception of being which is fundamentally expressed in the analogy, the metaphor and the concrete reality of the “Mystic of Light”, a light that is aware of itself in all its tiny details and collectively. With respect and reverence to our teacher, we welcome you to this opportunity through this course.

OM SAUḤ PARĀYAI NAMAḤ

Tantraloka Ch.1 Satsang with Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

Trident3We had a rare opportunity and treat last Sunday, March 9th. A very uplifting Satsang with Dr. Mark Dyczkowski.

There was a full blown power outage in Varanasi. It was late in the night in India (~11P). Markji’s family was about to travel the following day. In spite of all these challenges, Markji was kind to spend over an hour addressing a dozen of students spread across the world via a telephone line.

Fortunately, we were able to record the session and for the benefit of all, we are delighted to share them in this post. A warm thank you to all who joined and also to folks who sent questions in advance. And on behalf of this Kula, our small group, we’d also like to thank the students who purchased Chapter 1 and made financial contributions. While we consider this as a service, the contributions help us help you and the humanity.

The satsang itself can be broadly categorized in three inter-threaded topical areas (1) About the course in general (2) Harmonizing understanding and practice (3) Mantras – specifically Sauh and SoHam and (4) Morality in Trika context and other traditions. Finally, the participants also shared their perspectives on the course with Markji. Without further ado, here are the recordings for your personal reflection only.

1. Course in general  -> downloadv5

2. Harmonizing understanding and practice  -> downloadv5

3. On Mantras – Sauh and SoHam -> downloadv5

4. Moral codex in Trika  -> downloadv5

5. Students’ comments  -> downloadv5

 

OM SAUḤ PARĀYAI NAMAḤ

The Three Supreme Goddesses of Trika

During our online satsang session with Dr. Mark Dyczkowski last Sunday (March 9th 2014), we were given some fantastic meditative practices around Sauh and SoHam Mantras. He also stressed on the importance of breath and how and why we must bring attention to the breath. When he mentioned this, I couldn’t help but recall that we cannot speak while we inhale. Just try saying something while inhaling – it is impossible. This connects to the deep Trika concept of breadth and the flow of Prana and Apana.

Markji also highlighted the concept of chief Goddesses of Trika – Para, Parapara and Apara. A discussion ensued in Facebook. There were also several pictures floating on the net which are primarily sourced (or inspired) from Prof. Sanderson’s original work. So I conferred with Markji and he was very kind to send me his short electronic reply which ( I shared in FB ) is provided at the bottom of this thread. I asked him if it was OK for me to share the goddess pictures from his big book on this site to which he kindly agreed. I felt deeply and was moved by his audacity and love for the scriptures. So with his blessings and kindness, I am sharing the pictures of the goddesses according to SYM, along with a short extract (MBT, KuKh Vol 2.). Please treat and tread with respect and appreciation.

MBT, KuKh Vol 2 – Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

“The Three Goddesses described in the following passages from the Siddhayogeśvarīmata, seated on the prongs of Śiva’s Trident are white, red and yellow-black. They represent, as their colours suggest, the three qualities (guNa) of Nature (prakti) which the one goddess, Mālinī, embodies. Mālinī sits on the middle prong of the Trika Trident. Above her, in her topknot, is an eight-petalled lotus within which is seated the goddess Parā. She is beautiful and brilliant white, ‘like the best crystal and she pours nectar everywhere . . . (She) promotes welfare and bestows success.

The SYM describes Parā as follows:

ParaOne should visualize Parā with her own form, sitting on a lotus in the air, with the book of all knowledge in her left hand, O Beautiful One, and holding a beautiful, heavenly rosary of crystal in her right hand. One is to visualize a garland on her neck, a garland of heavenly beauty, made up with beads which are round like the buds of the Kadamba tree and which shine forth like fire. This garland reaches down to her feet and is as spotless as crystal all over. One should then visualize her as pouring out the divine nectar of immortality1 in the middle of the Kadamba grove. One should see her pouring forth the nectar of all knowledge in great floods and one should see this nectar enter one’s own mouth, and that one’s Self has the same form. After this, the best of sādhakas should visualize that this nectar comes out of his mouth as the flow of Śāstras. If one has done this visualization, he will be able to produce fascinating ornate poetry within a month. He will be a teacher of all doctrines; and after six months, he will produce Śāstras himself.2

According to the SYM Parāparā is worshipped on the right prong of the Trident. There we read that she is red

Parapara and Apara. . . as blazing fire, wearing a garland of skulls glowing with three eyes. She sits with trident and skull-staff in her hands on [Sadāśiva] the ‘Great Transcended’. Her tongue [flickers in and out] like lightning. She is gross-bodied and is adorned with great serpents. Her mouth yawns wide and has huge fangs. Ferocious, with her brows knitted in rage, wearing a sacred thread in the form of a huge snake, adorned with a string of human corpses round her neck, with the [severed] lotus hands of a human corpse as beautiful ear-rings, her voice like the thunder of the clouds at the world’s end, she seems to swallow space itself.3

Aparā, ‘the destroyer of the pains of the humble’ is seated on the left prong of the Trident. She looks the same as Parāparā except that she is yellow- black.”

—–

Orignal post from Dr. Mark Dyczkowski

“Prof.Sanderson has published a detailed study of the numerous variant forms of Paraa both in the Trika tradition and outside. The reference is: Sanderson 1986 : Mandala and the Aagamic Identity in the Trika of Kashmir. In Mantras et Diagrammes Rituels dans l”Hinduisme. Éditions du CNRS Paris. pp. 169-214

You will find all of Sanderson’s publications on his site (search Alexis Sanderson). It was my very great good fortune to study for over 10 years with Prof.Sanderson.

The name Paraa means ‘Supreme’. In a broad sense all Great Goddesses, such as Durgaa, can be considered to be Paraa. But it is a name / epithet applied to Kaula (i.e. Tantric “Saakta) Godddess. Kaalii, Kubjikaa, Tripuraa are all Paraa. She also appears in her own right in several Kaula traditions. There are two basic forms. One she has two arms and the other she has four. In both cases she is radiant white and is clearly remaniscent of Sarasvatii. Not much is known about the history of Sarasvatii and, given her widespread popularity, she appears surprisingly little in the texts (whether Tantric or Paura.nic). She clearly has Vedic roots as the goddesss of speech (or ‘language’). Her secondary Tantric associations are through Paraa, who is also Speech. But note that the appearance of Paraa in the Tantras much precedes that of Sarasvatii in the public domain.”

Drinking The Nectar of Tantrāloka

Tantrāloka is a dream come true, a cave of gems, a wish-fulfilling cow.  For a thirsty seeker after truth who is mad with love for Lord Shiva and his magnificent Śakti shining as this world, this is Lake Manassarovar.  How foolish not to take a dip, to drink deeply of this draught that has been proffered by one of the greatest spiritual minds of all time.  This exquisite palace of gems, illuminating every corner of Hindu philosophy with overwhelming light, dripping with the rasa of the bliss of full awareness, and pulsating with radiant love, has been hidden for a thousand years.  Somehow at this moment, after decades of toil and devotion by a great and humble soul, we have the amazing good fortune to hear and try to understand the sublime Ācārya Abhinavagupta’s teachings in our own language, conveniently in our own home, any time we wish, simply by pushing a few buttons on a screen.  What miracle is this!

Tantrāloka in 37 comprehensive chapters teaches the entire path of true devotion, recognition, and self-knowledge.  It instructs in the highest truth and offers direct guidance on how to attain self-realization through a multitude of paths, from which one can choose the most suitable.  From the structure of the universe to esoteric breathing practices, elaborate explanations of the Wheel of Time (Kālacakra), rapturous eulogies of the Divine Mother, profound and secret practices of visualization and meditation, complete instructions regarding initiations and ritual, the entire corpus of tantric mantras, enlightened reworking of Vedanta, Samkhya, and Shaiva Siddhanta philosophical schemes, married to the wild view of the Bhairava tantras; masterful explanations of kundalini, nadis, cakras, and all the magical path of “piercing,” to the truly thrilling mystical emanation of the cosmos through the energies of the Sanskrit alphabet; this is a work beyond any ever written in the field of yoga, tantra, and spirituality.

After 35 years and countless lifetimes of wandering and searching, like a scorched traveler in the desert of samsara, I arrive weeping tears of gratitude for the amrita of Abhinava’s profound teaching.  I touch the feet of Sadaashaya, Dr. Mark Dyckzowski, by whose selfless, uncompromising sacrifice this cup is now offered to the world.  I invite everyone who shares this thirst to join the Anuttara Trika Kula and enjoy the fruit of this toil.  This gift is being offered to each and every one of you as Lord Shiva and Śri Parā Devī, so that you may enjoy the marvelous play of awakening to your own unbounded, perfect, blissful nature.  Won’t you join us for this feast?

For more on how to participate in the Tantrāloka Home Study Program, please visit http://www.anuttaratrikakula.org/tantralokaoverview/.   To preregister for the first FREE lesson on Verse One, the opening of Tantrāloka, please email us at anuttaratrikakula12@gmail.com.  We look forward to sharing this adventure together with you.

 

OM SAUḤ PARĀYAI NAMAḤ

Locating Trika, Locating Oneself

The release of the first modules of guided teachings on the philosophies of Kashmir Śaivism signals a new beginning for our Kula.  New beginnings are times when it is important to recall fundamentals and reaffirm commitments.  This is especially true, perhaps, for the worlds of the Tantras, in which– as Mark reminds us in the first lecture– immense dimensions of tremendous beauty and profound inspiration are to be realized.  It can be tempting to lose oneself amid such splendors and to forget that both the purpose and fundamental teaching of the Tradition are actually very simple.  But, as someone once said in another context, the simplest things are always the most difficult.

 The purpose of the Tradition is to achieve liberation.  “Liberation from what?” you may ask. The best answer to that question is another one: “Well, what have you got? What is it that seems to limit or constrain you?”  Whatever that is, liberation means liberation from that. Do you feel constrained by the round of birth and death?  Then liberation is liberation from the round of birth and death.  Do you feel constrained by poverty or illness? Then liberation is liberation from poverty or illness.  Do you feel constrained by grief over suffering or by fear for the future of humanity on this planet? Then liberation is liberation from these things. Do you feel constrained by the Lord Śiva? Then liberation is liberation from the Lord Śiva. For in point of fact the Lord Śiva is Himself constantly seeking to free Himself from Himself.  And since He is the Lord Śiva He is constantly succeeding.  The means of his success is his power, that is, the absolute freedom and autonomy of the Goddess, his Consort.  And you yourself – you living your individual life — are the result of His success, along with everything else that does or can exist.  For every element and aspect of the entire manifest universe is nothing more or less than the expression of the Lord’s absolute freedom—even and perhaps especially his freedom from Himself.  That, after all, is what “absolute freedom” means: that, or nothing.

The Masters of the Tradition began with a single simple insight:  no matter what the object of their awareness, it is always accompanied by that awareness itself.  Awareness is always self-aware.  But then they noticed something else, something equally simple and obvious.  The objects of their awareness, whether internal to themselves or external in the world, did not seem to share in this self-awareness.  But this is rather puzzling.  Because whenever we become aware of anything, we become one with it in the very act of knowing it.  But how is it possible for two things of such fundamentally different nature to become so unified?  How is it possible for awareness to become one with lack of awareness in the act of knowing? Pondering deeply, the Masters came to their remarkable, even stunning, conclusion: it is simply not possible for this to occur.  Therefore that must not be what in fact does occur.  Rather, what must occur in the act of knowing is that self-awareness becomes one with self-awareness.  Everything must be self-aware.  Everything must be Consciousness.  Moreover, there must be only one such Consciousness, because if there were really two, each of them would be separate from the other’s awareness in the act of knowing and that is just what has been shown to be impossible.  But this is perhaps even more puzzling.  For if everything is in fact one Consciousness, how is it that it appears as many and insentient?  Working out the answer to this question and actually experiencing that answer –along with all of its quite extraordinary ramifications–is the essence of the Tradition itself.

Abhinavagupta’s Dehastha Devata Chakra Stotram

This is a two part blog (second one follows right below) on residing divinities praised by Abhinava in his Dehastha Devata Chakra Stotra or “The Goddess Within, Hymns to the Divine Mother”.

In this unique stotram, Abhinava explicitly indicates that the human body is of divine origin and should be worshipped as the location of pithas (seats) where various divinities reside. With moving poetics, he indicates how these various deities are constantly offering obeisance to the presiding deity, the heart or hrdaya represented by Ananda Bhairava with his consort Devi, the guru, and two gatekeepers: Ganapati and Vatukanatha. According to Abhinava, the human body is not to be rejected but to be revered as residing place of wonderful deities who can be felt and experienced. This occurs subtly at first, but becomes more established with regular attention and practice.

We’d like to share the original stotra in this post which we suggest that seekers read and reflect.

Perspectives on Abhinavagupta’s Dehastha Devata Chakra Stotram

Abhinava’s intended message embedded in this poem is this – Everything is consciousness which is ever engaged in perception, awareness and action. He encourages us to cultivate our body and its sensual apparatus so that it tunes our anthakaranas (i.e. Mind, Intellect and Ego) to see the wonder of yoga. Every act of perception, small or big presents us an opportunity to experience the sweet bliss of the lord. Wouldn’t we want to choose carefully and use the opportunity in the right manner so we commune with the lord?

Verse 1: is ascribed to Ganapati – traditionally a smarta practice ascribed to the remover of obstacles but more deeply, Ganapati is represented both as a gatekeeper and as prana. Using the power of poetic suggestion, Abhinava explains that human body being a temple, requests Ganapati to grant entry. Note the beautiful double-entendre here – in one way, Ganapati is the pati of bhuta ganas but more subtly he is the master of all the pithas (hosts) in the body.

Verse 2: is ascribed to Vatuka (Vatukanatha) – he is the incoming breadth, the apana vayu which is also a gatekeeper. As we are about to engage with the deities residing in our body, we also pray that the worship bears fruit. Subtly put, “knots and doubts of the mind” indicates doubts that arise during the process of worship and we pray Vatuka to protect us from such doubts.

From the first and second verse, it is explicit that the whole human body is supported by the two primal life-currents, the prana and apana. They hold the human body together and Ganapati and Vatuka are the hosts.  Having paid attention to the gatekeepers, Abhinava draws us into the temple of our body.

Verse 3: is ascribed to the supreme presiding deity ananda-bhairava – who is wonderfully situated in the center of the heart as chakreshvara. The poet connects the prana and apana from previous verses directly to heart, who is ananda bhairava or ever blissful. Why? Because, the goddesses of indriyas (Karmendriyas and Jnanendriyas) surrounding him are constantly worshiping him with things pleasing to the senses. Whatever happens in the body, whatever we do to our body, good or bad, the goddesses render them into beautiful things for Bhairava. This Bhairava situated in the core of our being is of nature “chinmayam”, the supreme consciousness. The stress here is that our core being is ever blissful and contains supreme godhead just like it is said in the Vedas and Upanishads. In this stotram, the heart-center is portrayed as Bhairava as opposed to the classical para Siva because he is aghora i.e. power and grace that raises and liberates (Udyamo Bhairava – Siva Sutras). As such he is transcendental and above human plane of existence still residing in the core.

Verse 4: is ascribed to the Guru as the giver of the grace in the previous verse. Guru is prayed here for the intellectual strength by which we can approach pleasure, pain and sorrow to be pathways to Siva. This “intellectual” strength is not mere aspect of some intelligence or brain power. This is what is referred to as “Suddha Vidya” or the rise of true knowledge which happens after long loving approach to life.

Verse 5: is ascribed to Ananda Bhairavi as the consort of Ananda Bhairava – The devi is Aham Vimarsa or the supreme energy of awareness. As such she is no different from Siva (the classic explanation is that the heat or energy of fire is no different from the fire itself) and represents the Svantantrya Shakthi. All the sense data and experience is nothing different from Siva but is identical to him. She is the aggregate of all the awareness and is filled with that bliss. She resides in the core of our being, the hrdaya in perfect union.

The lotus of the heart has eight petals and so now the stotram proceeds to each petal pointing to different directions.

Verses 6 through 13 – Each of the directional deities represents buddhi, ahamkara, manas and the five tanmatras respectively. One cannot but connote the association of these eight principles to puryastaka, the baggage that is packaged up during transmigration. Abhinava deftly indicates that the human body is essentially organs of the lord and that by having the right bhavana, right attitude, our body-mind apparatus can be attuned to the saving grace of Siva and be liberated from transmigration.

Verse 14: he situates Atma very beautifully with several dimensions – as the Kshetrapala who protects the body, as the ever pervading aura of the body, as the content of six systems of philosophy, as the sum total embodiment of all the 36 principles. So who is this Atma the integral of everything? It is none other than consciousness itself (Chaitanyam Atma – Siva Sutra). Abhinava’s genius of suggestion is evident here. As Kshetrapala, he both protects and watches the plethora of activities of the pinda – a tantric parallel to the two birds of the Upanishads – without ever mentioning Advaita, monism etc. As a master poet, he leaves it to the imaginations of the experient.

Sources:

  • The Goddess within, Hymns to the Divine Mother – http://abhinavagupta.net/hymns1.05.html
  • Workshop on Tantraloka Chapter 1, Dr. Mark  Dyczkowski, Berkeley August 2012
  • Lecture on the 12 Kalis, Dr. Mark Dyczkowski, Berkeley June 2010
  • Abhinavagupta, An historical and philosophical study, Dr. K.C. Pandey
  • Śaivism and the tantric traditions, Dr. Alexis Sanderson
  • The Triadic Heart of Śiva, Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-Dual Shaivism of Kashmir; Paul Eduardo Muller-Ortega