The Vignan Bhairav Tantra: Gateway to Meditation
The Vignan Bhairav Tantra (VBT) is an ancient text which teaches us ways to bring the mind to the present moment and to states of deep meditation. Its theme is often dharana, which refers to “one-pointed attention” or concentration, and is itself a gateway to meditation.
Dharana is the important sixth limb of the yoga system. It teaches us how to focus our attention on the present moment. In dharana, we bring something to our attention before we release into the practice of meditation (dhyana) or samadhi (absorption into bliss).
The Vignan Bhairav Tantra
In the VB Tantra, tantra means sipmly “technique.” The book contains 112 different techniques of consciousness. These are 112 guided ways for the aspirant with a distracted mind to enter into the field of samadhi, of restful awareness. these practices can then blossom into meditation. Vignan refers to “higher knowledge” and vignan bhairav refers to a state of consciousness where one achieves a state of union or expanded consciousness.
The VBT teaches simple yet powerful practices that help to provide this inner knowledge, knowledge of Oneness. The practice of dharana gives us the ability to overcome the scattered energies of the mind. We can then convert them to a steady stream of awareness.
Dharana means one-pointed focus on something. That something could be an object, like a candle flame, or on a mantra or the breath. The practitioner is first asked to fix his or her mind on an object so that he remains focused in the present moment. The state of dharana is attained when you are able to hold an object in the space of consciousness.
Success in dharana can lead to dhyana, or deeper meditation.
The practice of dharana, the important sixth limb of the Yoga system, helps us to regain control of our minds and our emotions. The VBT teaches us how to do dharana — how to gather up the scattered waves coming from the mind and fix them at one point. Unlike asana and pranayama, dharana is not a physical exercise. Dharana requires just the attention of the mind.
Although there are 112 dharanas, you don’t need to learn them all. Choose one or two that are most suitable for your disposition. And you can go deep with a simple dharana practice, like the one presented later in this blog.
Experience of Bhairava
Bhairava means feeling connected with the Universal Spirit. Bhairava is a state of surrender, a state of high receptivity, where knowledge is received without any obstructions. It is a state that the consciousness passes through during its journey from the outer to the inner experience. It is the state that just precedes the experience of universal consciousness. In the state of bhairava, individual consciousness is still present, while the proximity to universal consciousness is felt. Dharanas help us feel more connected to the universe and to each other. Here is a dharana that is not only fun but easily incorporated into everyday practice:
Dharana on the Sky
Verse 84: Having fixed the gaze continuously on the clear sky without blinking and with steady awareness, at once the nature of Bhairava is achieved.
In this dharana, the sky signifies vastness – endless, limitless space. As soon as we turn our gaze toward the infinite, the awareness perceives vastness and starts to identify with that. By gazing continuously at the infinity of the sky, one starts to expand the mind beyond its constraints to feel the infinite nature of the sky. This method is akasha bhavana or “contemplation on the vastness.”
Too often we live as servants to our own minds. Throughout the day, we do whatever our minds direct us to do. If the mind is worried, we feel anxious. If the mind is envious, jealousy comes in. If the mind is disgruntled, anger may take over. The practice dharana can continue to free us from our own limits and help us regain control of the monkey mind.
Review Question: What is dharana?
What object of attention helps you to feel expanded and connect with oneness?
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