God is the Self: the secret teaching of the Trishirobhairava

This is part of a series of posts translating Chapter One of the 1000-year-old masterpiece called 'Light on Tantra' (Tantrāloka). This post continues from the previous post on 'The Nature of God/dess' and concludes the present section. After citing the more conservative, orthodox Saiddhāntika texts (see previous posts), Abhinavagupta now cites a lost Kaula Trika scripture that appears (from the scattered citations we have of it) to have been a mysterious, powerful, even astounding work. This whole section, which climaxes the teaching on The Nature of God, is based on this scripture:

The sacred Triśirobhairava-tantra teaches that the indestructible nature of the entire collection of Principles of Reality (tattvas) is simply the Self, for they have the Self as their essential nature. || 82 

My commentary: the nature of all the thirty-six tattvas (see Tantra Illuminated pp. 124-49) is the Self in the sense that the Self is Awareness (caitanyam ātmā, Śiva-sūtra 1.1) and all phenomena are simply forms of that singular divine Awareness. In other words, everything is internal to Consciousness and nothing but Consciousness.

“The exceedingly subtle collection of Principles situated in the Heart, in the whole body, in the essence-nature (svabhāva), is known [in this tantra] by the word grāma (the 'village' or 'community' or 'collectivity'). || 83 

“Its nature (dharma) is simply the Self, it is taught, [the awareness of which is] flooded with the immortal nectar (amṛta) of Śiva. True insight (jñāna) has its abode in the Light of Awareness (prakāśa), in the Center (madhya) between Being and Non-being, between feeling and absence of feeling, and [between all other pairs of opposites]. || 84 

My comm.: the view of reality from the Center of the Self is very different from all other views. There crystal-clear insight into the ineffable nature of things arises, and we experience everything flooded with śivāmṛta, the divine nectar -- which refers to the experience of awareness blissfully relishing itself in the form of whatever it perceives, moment-to-moment. (Kinda like what this guy describes in his blog.) As the verse implies, one way to access the Center is letting go of attachment or aversion to both of any pair of opposites, such as existence/nonexistence, pleasure/pain, love/loneliness, etc.

“That which must be known is [the state of] abiding in one’s true home, which is a state of seeing free of all obscurations. One who has become ‘stainless’ (= free of mala) by virtue of this pure insight (śuddha-vijñāna) — described as clear naked Reality — is said [in this tantra] to be one whose conduct follows the 'way of the village' (i.e., the collectivity of tattvas)." Everything is achieved for him. || 85-86ab  

My comm.: that-which-must-be known refers always to the goal of spiritual practice, usually equated with God, but here said to be "abiding in one's true home" or "abiding in one's natural state" (sva-sthāna), a state of clear seeing, free of 'stories' and mental projections. 'The way of the village' translates grāma-dharma, which could also be rendered (in this context) as 'upholding the Whole', because of the special definition of grāma noted above. The phrase grāma-dharma-vṛtti is intentionally multilayered: such an awakened being is "engaged in commmunity-dharma"; s/he "moves in alignment with the Whole"; his "activity upholds the Whole". 

Note also that the original text of the Triśirobhairava (as quoted by Jayaratha) has a different reading than the one paraphrased by Abhinava: “. . . an abiding which is said to be an activity (vṛtti), but an activity which is described as [abiding in] the state of the Seer, having recognized one’s own abode (svapadaṃ jñātvā draṣṭṛtvam).” And it adds, before the next line Abhinava quotes, “One should know that fully awakened [state], free from external coverings, liberated from [thoughts of] higher and lower . . .”  The last phrase in the verse above ('Everything is achieved for him') seems to be Abhinava’s addition, if we follow Jayaratha. 

Abandoning the upper and lower [breaths (prāṇa and apāna)], he should enter [the Center]. He [then] abides in beauty & delight (rāma), situated in the Center. [Then, even while] moving about, staying still, opening or closing [the eyes?], dreaming or in the waking state, running, jumping, toiling, feeling [currents of inner] energy (śakti-vedana), and likewise [in] countless diverse states of mind, feelings, thoughts, and actions, this delight & beauty (rāma) pervades.”  It is God (śiva) [who is] the supreme cause in all this. || 86cd-88 

My comm.: Abhinava plays with the words here, equating rāma with śiva (note that Sanskrit has no capital letters which would distinguish the literal meanings of the words from the names of the deities). 
      The original text (or Jayaratha’s version) of the Triśirobhairava has “Frequenting the upper and lower [breaths], his mind ascends due to [the fusion of] prāṇa and apāna. Abandoning the upper, he should enter [the Center]. Here, by virtue of doing so, he abides in delight.” The Center, yogically speaking, is the central channel (madhya-nāḍī), as Jayaratha suggests. Another text quoted by him at this point teaches that "meditating on it as the Inner Void which is the Goddess causes God to manifest."  On the use of the word rāma, which the Goddess queries, Triśirobhairava explains, “Abiding in rāma (delight/beauty) is proclaimed by Me as [the attainment of] yoga, O Great Queen.” This delight, adds Jayaratha, is "not different from the divine play which manifests the whole universe." The Triśirobhairava teaches “This is known as the 14-fold delight, pervaded by Śiva, the supreme Self, existing within all bhāvas (entities and states of being), and characterized by countless forms.”

“With the mind’s impurities having waned, and due to [his ability to] restrain [the activity of] memory, he meditates on the supreme goal of meditation, [that] which remains steady in [all] coming and going. || 89 

My comm.: The correspondence of this verse with Ramaṇa Maharṣhi's teaching — "Thoughts come and go. Feelings and experiences come and go. Sit and find out what is it that remains." — is startling! Commentator Jayaratha adds that memory is the basis of all thought-constructs. This is a good point — without your memories, who are you? Sit for a moment and sense/feel yourself without reference to your memories. Are you still there? If so, how can your real self be dependent on, or formed from, memories?

“He then attains supreme Śiva, who is called Bhairava, through his japa. Japa is taught to be Śiva’s own form, free from the states of existence and non-existence.” || 90

My comm.: 'Japa' usually means mantra repetition, but here it probably means repeated connection with the ground of one's being: that which remains still & steady as everything else comes and goes. This verse (90) seems to conclude the Triśirobhairava quote (Abhinava almost never tells us exactly when a quote or paraphrase concludes). If so, the following words are his.

Thus, here too, any [apparent] divisions such as [imagining one's true nature to be] ‘distant’ or ‘close’ are conceived out of His Freedom, relying [solely] upon the [absolute] Autonomy of Awareness. Thus, due to the all-encompassing fullness of his Freedom, he accomplishes what seems impossible. Indeed, in what form does the Highest Divinity not shine? || 91-92 

My comm.: "what seems impossible" -- i.e. that God can appear as something that seems not Divine; that one's ever-present true nature can appear to be near or far. The last question is of course rhetorical.

He shines without veils; [yet] veiling his own nature, he appears [to the senses, as whatever is perceived]. He appears veiled and unveiled, [becoming] manifold by joining with differentiation. || 93 

My comm.: the Divine, the ultimate Reality, is simultaneously immediately apparent and yet veiled. The truth of Being is right in front of you (and is you) every moment, yet it can go unrecognized. The paradox is that there is no paradox. Isn't that the damnedest thing? :)

Thus the triad of Powers within the Lord—Willing, Knowing, and Acting—are [collectively] known by another name, that is, Freedom, as was made clear by the gracious Masters [of our lineage]. || 94

Abhinavagupta argues that the highest (= most all-encompassing) śakti is svātantrya-śakti, the Power of freedom or autonomy, because it is the context in which all the other śaktis operate.

This concludes the passage on the Nature of God.  

Next: 'The Divine Name: Bhairava'.