The 162 verses or sutras of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra include 112 foci for an enlivening meditation practice that take any possible sensory and experiential gateway as a current to ride in realizing one’s basic nature and the heart of existence.
Translations into English of this approximately 1300 year old text from the tantrik practitioners of far northwest India are now available from multiple sources.
The version reported on here is a living demonstration of a true creative alchemical dance with each syllable of these terse sutras (consisting usually of several Sanskrit words, each rich in imagery and meaning). The process of translating this classic work is described by Lorin Roche in the last section of his book.
And, Roche shares his deep appreciation for all the existing other translations, describing each version in some depth.
This text is a long time passion of Roche’s, going way back to the late 1960’s when hearing someone read a verse from it at a meeting. This verse was from a section of Paul Rep’s popular book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (in the section called Centering where this Kashmiri Shaivite text written by Kaula Tantriks stood distinctly from the other Zen material).
Roche had recently participated in a university bio feedback lab experiment and, as a control subject, received no task or instruction. Simply sitting in the quiet dark, he naturally discovered the “practice” of meditation.
The primary realization of our essential nature and of all existence is revealed in this Shiva (here Bhairava) and Goddess dialogue, and in fact, this revelation entails realizing the dance of Shiva and the Goddess as a seamless singularity, or “not-two” in a dance. Shiva is the very heart of all that is, bare Consciousness or Awareness and the bare sense of Being, and the Goddess is the energetic manifestation of all that appears in the Cosmos, a vibrant pulse arising out of the ungraspable heart of existence and being.
As sung in verses 17-19:
“Sacred texts sing of my reality,
But I cannot be found in them,
For I am the one listening.
I am closer than breath.
Heat and fire are not two separate things.
These are just verbal distinctions.
The Goddess and the One who holds Her
Are one and the same.
We are inseparable.
The way to me is through Her.”
Each verse in Roche’s English words is accompanied by the original Sanskrit script, then the Roman letters of the Sanskrit, and finally a phonetic spelling!
If left with having to do with a small library of say a dozen books, this is easily one making the cut.