Vijnana Bhairava

The Vijnana Bhairava is one chapter from the ancient Rudrayamala Tantra. As a Bhairava Agama it is a purely monistic teaching where Bhairavi (Parvati) asks Bhairava (Lord Shiva) to reveal the essence of the way one has to tread on the path to the realization of the highest reality – the state of Bhairava. In his answer Bhairava describes 112 ways to enter into the universal and transcendental state of consciousness.

Traditionally regarded as a manual for masters, the Vijnana Bhairava is a comprehensive aid to students of meditation from any tradition since it deals with the most profound underlying principles of spiritual practice. Because it contains a vast library of techniques, from the most elementary to the most advanced, the Vijnana Bhairava is relevant to aspirants at every stage of spiritual development.

The Text

Vijnana Bhairava first appeared in year 1918 in the Kashmir Series of Text and Studies (‘’KSTS’’). [cite web|url=|title=Mutktabodha Institute|accessdate=2008-02-16] The Kashmir Series published two volumes: eight (VIII) with a commentary partly by Kshemaraja and partly by Shivopadhyaya; and nine (IX) with a commentary called Kaumadi by Ananda Bhatta. Apart from the above two volumes, references to verses from the Vijnana Bhairava appear throughout the literature of Kashmir Shaivism, indicating that it was considered to be an important text in the monistic school of Kashmir Shaiva philosophy.

The Means – "upayas"

Kashmir Shaivism proclaims that there are three means for entering into universal God consciousness: "shambhavopaya", the supreme means; "shaktopaya", the medium means; and "anavopaya", the inferior means.

Shambhavopaya – supreme means

Aspirants of "shambhavopaya" are able to enter the state of God consciousness by mere will. For this reason, "shambhavopaya" is also known as "icchopaya", because it originates from "iccha shakti", the energy of will. But this is not ordinary gross will, for these aspirants have highly developed awareness and naturally reside in the state of thought-lessness ("nirvikalpa"). Aspirants of this "upaya" must reach the state where only the master shines for them. The prerequisite for this "upaya" is the grace of the master. Here the disciple merges with the master’s consciousness, which is why it is said that, in "shambhavopaya" the master functions more than the disciple.

Shaktopaya - medium means

Aspirants of "shaktopaya" are able to enter the state of God consciousness by means of knowledge. For this reason "shaktopaya" is also known as "jnanopaya", because it originates from "jnana shakti", the energy of knowledge. But this is not gross knowledge, for the aspirants of "shaktopaya" have to have such velocity or firmness of awareness that their awareness remains in continuity. Only by maintaining an unbroken chain of awareness are they able to discover the gap or junction between two thoughts, or two actions. All actions and all thoughts are the proper framework for the practice of "shaktopaya".

Anavopaya - inferior means

Aspirants of "anavopaya" are able to enter the state of God consciousness by means of action. For this reason "anavopaya" is also know as "kriyopaya", because is originates from "kriya shakti", the energy of action. Once again, this is not gross action, but the more refined action of concentration on breathing ("uccara"), organs of senses ("karana"), contemplation ("dhyana"), and concentration on a particular point ("sthana prakalpana"). These processes existing in "anavopaya" are called the "upayas" of "anu" or "jiva", the means concerned with the individual.


Beyond the three "upayas" there is another called "anupaya". Although it is not actually an "upaya", yet it is mentioned in Kashmir Shaivism. Because "anupaya" is attributed to the "ananda shakti" (energy of bliss) of Lord Shiva it is also called "anandopaya". The word "anupaya" means “no "upaya", therefore the "anupaya" aspirant has only to observe that nothing is to be done. Be as you are. If you are talking, go on talking. If you are sitting, go on sitting. Do not do anything; only reside in your being. This is the nature of "anupaya".

Understanding the "upayas"

"Shambhavopaya" is the means which exists in the world of pure monism, "shaktopaya" is the means which exists in the world of mono-duality, and "anavopaya" is the means found in the world of duality.

The difference between aspirants of "shambhava", "shakta" and "anavopaya" is this. "Shambhavopaya" aspirants have such strength of awareness that there is no need for support. They reside in the "meant" and therefore there is nowhere to go. The rest is automatic. The strength of awareness of "shaktopaya" aspirants is such that they need only one point – the center – as a support for concentration. They begin with the center and become established there. "Anavopaya" aspirants have to take support of everything as an aid to maintaining and strengthening awareness. Though they concentrate on the center, their strength of awareness is such that they must take support of two things for concentrating on that center.

It is important to realize that although the ways are different, the point to be achieved is one – the state of one transcendental consciousness. The difference is that "anavopaya" will carry you in a long way, "shaktopaya" in a shorter way, and "shambhavopaya" in the shortest way.

An essential prerequisite to success in any of the 112 practices is a clear understanding of which "upaya" is most suitable to the practitioner. For example, without this understanding, an aspirant who is suitable only for practices in "anavopaya" might easily become disillusioned by their failure to experience the results of a "shaktopaya" or "shambhavopaya" practice, and since the majority of practices in Vijnana Bhairava are in these higher "upayas", [Vijnana Bhairava – The Manual for Self Realization, ed. John Hughes. Contents pp. vii-xi.] it could easily lead to disillusionment of ones abilities, or in the text as a whole.

Translations of Vijnana Bhairava

:1957 Paul Reps – "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones". [ Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (New York: Anchor Books, n.d.) ISBN 0804806446] :1961 Lilian Silburn – "Le Vijnana Bhairava". [ Le Vijnana Bhairava. Texte traduit et commente par Lillian Silburn. (Publications de l’Institute de Civilisation Indienne, serie in 8, fascicule 15). Paris, 1961.ISBN-10: 2868030157; ISBN-13: 978-2868030153] :1979 Jaidev Singh – "Vijnana Bhairava or Divine Consciousness". [Motilal Banarsidas, New Delhi, 1979. ISBN 0-7914-1073-0, ISBN 0-7914-1074-9] :2002 Bettina Baumer – "Vijnana Bhairava, The Practice of Centering Awareness". [ Indica Books, Varanasi, 2002. ISBN 81-86569-35-9] :2003 Swami Saraswati Satyasangananda – "Sri Vijnana Bhairava Tantra: The Ascent". [Bihar School of Yoga, 2003. ISBN-10: 818633632X.] :2007 Swami Lakshmanjoo – "Vijnana Bhairava, The Manual for Self Realization". [ Revealed by Swami Lakshmanjoo, ed. John Hughes, Universal Shaiva Fellowship, Los Angeles, 2007. ]


External links

* [ Muktabodha Online Library] - containing many Text of the Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies.
* [ Swami Lakshmanjoo, USA]
* [ Swami Lakshmanjoo, India]

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