Gateway to the Higher Self
Let’s talk about your favorite food—maybe a burger; your favorite patty with fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce, loaded with gooey overflowing cheese wrapped with soft fresh organic buns. Are you drooling already? Have you ever pondered over what happens when you look at advertisements with pictures of tempting food? How does that image draw you to it even when you know the health costs of it? It helps to notice that the thought of having that food originated from a scenery outside—not from inside of you.
There is a famous story about an ancient Indian sage who was going to renounce his worldly life and go into the forests as a renunciant. After a teary farewell from his wife, he leaves and gets about a meter away from his house, before he retraces his steps and knocks at the door. His wife opens the door and for once has a smile on her face. She imagines her husband has had better sense prevail upon him and has decided to come back. Her husband says, “I am here to collect my silver begging bowl. I left it behind.” The story conveys a simple truth—you can escape, but the mind will go with you wherever you go. It is harder to renounce things in the mind.
We are often running on an autopilot, almost as slaves to our thoughts and desires, without realizing that we are not our thoughts and desires. And so instead of us enjoying the gift of our senses, the senses end up controlling us. But, there are certain meditative practices that take us beyond this!
Going Beyond Perception with Dharana
When the names and forms do not impact you, and when the scenery and the sound cease to bother you, meditation begins to happen. Many of us might have experienced this while listening to knowledge or music, or while simply watching a waterfall or a flowing river. The sound and the scenery fades and we enter into deep silence—that is when meditation happens. Once we come out of it, we feel revived and fresh. This is how dharana works. Dharana means to fix one’s mind by focusing all the attention on one place or idea and then letting go. Here, the attention may be on a physical experience, a sound syllable, or on an object of visual perception. Dharana is described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as one of the eight limbs of yoga.
Vigyan Bhairav Tantra: Tool to Meditation
Vigyan Bhairav Tantra is an ancient Indian text that essentially describes various techniques that help you go beyond time and space and attain the state of Samadhi by means of dharana. Vigyan simply means science. Science is what gives answers to how things work. Science is based not just on logic, but on experimentation and empirical evidence. Bhairav here stands for the eternal all pervading supreme consciousness that makes everything in the universe. It is what makes you and me and yet it is beyond the bounds of our perception. Bhairava is that consciousness which destroys ignorance. When you are one with the universal consciousness, in a state of total surrender, then you become bhairav. In that heightened state of awareness, you are highly receptive to knowledge.
Tantra translates to technique. Yantra and mantra are also helpful in transcending body consciousness and making us eligible to get in touch with the supreme consciousness. Yantras are physical energy diagrams which attune to various qualities of the consciousness and mantra stands for the sound vibrations that can elevate us to the space of the self. Tantra is the skill of combining physical diagrams or postures often with sound in order to get a particular and definite result.
The Vigyan Bhairav tantra includes 112 such experience-based techniques which can work as a gateway to a deep meditative state, under the guidance and grace of a master. You can read about them in ancient texts but the ability to receive such deep and subtle knowledge emerges only in a state of total surrender and with faith on the master, the guru tattva.
The knowledge of Vigyan Bhairav is said to be given by Hindu deity, Lord Shiva to his consort Parvati. Shiva tattva is what we describe as the supreme consciousness, or the bhairav; it is your innermost truth, the purest self. Parvati, on the other hand is shakti- believed to be the supreme universal energy that permeates everything in the creation. Here, Parvati is the one who is seeking knowledge and truth by surrendering to Shiva; she represents us- the seekers. Shiva and shakti- the consciousness and energy together govern the universe. The relationship of a husband and wife is of intimacy, faith, total trust, love and surrender and it has no place for doubt; doubt cannot exist when there is a sense of closeness. It is when you are close to the master, to the consciousness, that you are able to internalize the Vigyan Bhairav. The Master uplifts our consciousness and it is his presence that knowledge is known to effortlessly translate into experience. When the seeker is absorbed in the master’s presence, he is able to transcend ego and enter a heightened state of awareness.
Samadhi: Beyond an Experience
Samadhi means equanimity. When the body drops you, it is called death; samadhi is when you are able to drop the body. Dropping the body here really means dropping the attachment with physical sensations, feelings, or with any sense organs and consciously resting in an equanimous, meditative state.
It is said that the pleasure derived from samadhi is a thousand times more blissful than even sex. Meditation makes our mind fresh and delicate, and sharpens our intellect. The state of samadhi is the deepest relaxation possible while we are alive. Such a deep rest not only balances, calms and nourishes you at all levels, but also cleanses the past impressions, or karma, that become the root for future actions. In deep meditation, you don’t feel time—you become the time and everything is happening in you. Samadhi is when you are one with the whole universe. Everything happens in you, thoughts come and go like the clouds come and go in the sky.
In ancient times, meditation was used for gaining knowledge and enlightenment, but in today’s busy and chaotic lifestyles, it is all the more relevant. Meditation brings deep relaxation, balances mental and emotional health, cleanses and strengthens the nervous system, relieves stress and fatigue, and increases intuition and creativity. Meditation is food for the soul and energy for the mind. When the sense organs are attached to the sense objects, the mind is lost in cravings and aversions and intelligence takes a back seat. Notice that the peak of every experience leads you to the Self? When you see something very beautiful you become wonderstruck and that makes you silent for a while. The same thing happens when you smell or taste something amazing. Without realizing that the fountain of joy is inside us, we cling on to the sense objects. When the senses are away from the self, stuck in objects, misery follows. The moment you realize that you are bigger than the sense organs, you come out of that inertia and petty desires disappear. Meditation brings all the senses to the Self—the mind rises above cravings and aversions.
Different people have different experiences of meditation. but science is objective and stands the test of time. It does not rely on any belief system in order to exist. On spiritual paths, sometimes people get stuck in maya, or illusions. Science is refined and devoid of all illusions and assumptions. Science experiments bring out the real truth, shattering all the illusions and doubts. The experiment-based nature of Vigyan Bhairav Tantra is what makes it unique. The 112 techniques described in the text use various objects and senses for dharana to discover the doorways to samadhi. Some of these involve focus on breath, focus on particular points in the body, use of sound syllables, and focus on external objects and emotions. Each of these techniques is complete in itself and there is no addition or manipulation required in them. They are effective in calming one’s turbulent mind and bringing one to the present moment. One needs to first understand the techniques using intellect and then the same techniques are used to transcend the intellect. The variety and nature of these techniques are such that everyone will find at least some techniques, if not all, which will help him dive deep into consciousness and attain the ultimate truth.
Using Dharana on the Blue Sky
Gazing at the sky is described in one of the sutras (techniques). Staring in the blue sky, not getting stuck in the clouds and their shapes, only gazing is the key, until it is not combined with any words to describe it. Sky is infinite and yet it is full of nothingness. When we gaze continuously towards the infinite, without praising its beauty or describing its color even in the mind, forgetting all words, we forget our own mind and merge with the infinity. In a clear sky, there is nothing that our sense organs can hold on to—there is vast nothingness. One cannot hold on to nothing, nor can one capture nothing. The mind expands into the infinite sky and that is when we lose ourselves into the vastness and nothingness and become empty. That is when we become one with the self, transcending the body consciousness.