The Shiva Sutras / Part 1
I began to read the Shiva Sutras in 1997 and as I have stated many times here, I am not a scholar. I am an ordinary person seeking Liberation. At first read I was overwhelmed with the Sanskrit technical terms, which in those early days seemed a monumental obstacle to me. In some sort of stubborn determination, I told myself that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t understand the terminology in the beginning. I resolved to simply plow through the text and get whatever I could out of it.
So I did and from the first verse on there was an abundance of inspiring wisdom to contemplate, wonderful insights into the process of enlightenment that are clearly stated for the seeker, granted with some spiritual experience.
In my view, the Shiva Sutras are for the person who is already a bit along on the Path Home. I would recommend the Bhagavad Gita to anyone who is just beginning to practice. The Bhagavad Gita explains everything and does have the power to enlighten you. You don’t need anything else --- and the Shiva Sutras will fill in your understanding of what you are experiencing and what you may experience.
The first translation I studied was the Jaideva Singh version, published by Motilal Banarsidass in Delhi. Jaideva Singh, a highly respected scholar who translated other Kashmir Shaivite texts, thankfully includes a 28 page ‘Glossary of Technical Terms’ which is useful, or more precisely crucial and indispensible in your study of Kashmir Shaivism.
I have not yet assimilated all the Sanskrit words in the glossary, but the ones that have permeated my limited western mind have revealed a depth of understanding and insight into the secret meanderings of the soul that has changed my consciousness and the way I think over time.
Sanskrit is said to be a sacred language, the language of the gods and the metaphysical principles they embody. English is a language of commerce. Sanskrit has words that can describe various states of consciousness, of moods of surrender to the God-within you, and the obstacles we place in our path.
There are endless metaphysical concepts that are painfully difficult to describe in English, but are easily expressed in Sanskrit. I believe that you will find it well worth your time and effort to slowly gain a familiarity with these sacred terms.
Take the Sanskrit word SPANDA. Jaideva Singh’s glossary defines SPANDA as: “Apparent motion in the motionless Shiva which brings about the manifestation, maintenance and withdrawal of the universe.” The simple contemplation of the suggestion of the omnipotent power of ‘apparent motion within the motionless’ eternal immeasurable immensity is enough to move you toward a higher way of being.
Another superb example is the Sanskrit word BHAIRAVA: “This is an acrostic word, BHA indicating bharana, maintenance of the world; RA, ravana or withdrawal of the world; and VA, vamana or projection of the world.” In one sublime word the principles that create, support, and destroy our universe are contained.
Often a word will have various meanings, for example BINDU:
1. A point, a metaphysical point.
2. Undivided Light of Consciousness.
3. The compact mass of Shakti (power) gathered into an undifferentiated point ready to create.
4. Parah pramata, the Highest Self or Consciousness.
5. Anusvara or nasal sound … suggesting that Shiva in spite of the manifestation of the universe is undivided.
6. A specific teja or light appearing in the center of the eye-brows by the intensity of meditation.
Gaining even a cursory familiarity with these sacred Sanskrit terms will enhance and refine your consciousness. Kashmir Shaivism is a brilliant system of thought and in my view, well worth the effort. The Shiva Sutras are one of its primary texts.
There were many ideas within the Shiva Sutras that thrilled me right away, even before I had acquired some feeling for its language. One of these is the understanding that rejecting the world is perhaps not as efficacious as we have been led to believe. After all, the world is the expression of the Oneness, of the God permeating the All we are seeking. If we cannot find our way Home through the labyrinth of the Divine Creation, it may mean we are not masters at all.
“… it is not necessary for the aspirant to lock himself up in a room and plunge into a trance in order to realize the delight of Self [Atma, the God-within]. He can find this delight in the ordinary, normal course of life if he is mindful … he looks within, he will have a feel of the Self … In that feel of the Self, he will experience the perennial joy of I-consciousness … the ever-present joy of SAMADHI [bliss].”
In fact it may prove more challenging to lead an ordinary life while maintaining a high consciousness in union with the One, than isolating ourselves in some monastic cell.
Sutra I.2: Jnanam Bandhah
A very basic idea to Kashmir Shaivism, which is clearly stated in the Shiva Sutras, is the understanding that we are all Veiled portions of the Oneness, the Creator. This Creator in termed as Shiva in Kashmir Shaivism; the word implies the “good” and “the name of the Divine in general; the foundational prakasha or divine light; the Absolute; the transcendent divine principle.”
The entire mystery of life revolves around Shiva’s “wonderful power of veiling his real nature … This Self-veiling is His technique or stratagem for the play of life in varied, multiple forms. Man is bound to transmigratory existence, to sense-life, to the life of his own vehicles or bodies only so long as he allows himself to be confined to the limited knowledge of his senses and mentation. When he recognizes his real nature, he is free.”
The Creator is playing at not being all-powerful omniscience as us. Everyone and everything in this temporal holographic universe is a form of the Creator, the Oneness manifested in innumerable forms. You and me and everyone on this earth, in this universe, the beings in all the Myriad Realms, the creatures of Nature, even the rocks and sea are the Veiled forms of the Creator – in this case identified as Lord Shiva or Para Bhairava.
When we realize this – not just mentally, as an intellectual abstraction, but as a very deep way of Being, when we Become that Realization – we are Liberated. Game over! We are the actor on the stage, all the other players; we are the stage itself, and the audience that observes. We remain in the Play only as long as we want to. When we are weary of our adventures in Time and Space, we call out – perhaps in anguish, perhaps in Love – we call out for our Source. We long to go Home.
That-which-we-are, and always have been all along, waits patiently for our return. Our Home longs for us, for our Return as much as we long for that which is always missing, something that haunts us all our lives, leaving little tender aches in our hearts, and casts its shadow over our cherished moments of fleeting happiness.
Sutra I.4: Jnanadhisthanam matrika
One of the most fascinating ideas clearly expounded in Kashmir Shaivism and the Shiva Sutras is the idea that the universe is the product of sound. The Power of Sound is said to correspond to the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet.
“This Power is called Mother, because it produces the entire universe. It is the un-understood Mother or Power of Sound inherent in the alphabet that is the basis of the limited knowledge … which brings a sense of difference in everything.”
The great Kashmir Shaivite saint and sage Abhinavagupta weaves these ideas into an expression of genius in his text the PARATRISIKA VIVARANA, The Secret of Tantric Mysticism, also translated by Jaideva Singh.
The verses at the end of the Shiva Sutras are particularly intriguing as they elucidate what may happen to one who becomes Liberated - and what death means to such a being.
This book will be a source of great knowledge and inspiration to any sincere seeker. Over the years my understanding of the Shiva Sutras has grown and I imagine that process will continue until I leave this form.
I highly recommend the Shiva Sutras to all those who long for your Freedom. I will speak of the Swami Lakshmanjoo translation in Part 2.
SIVA SUTRAS, THE YOGA OF SUPREME IDENTITY; Text of the Sutras and the Commentary Vimarsini of Ksemaraja Translated into English with Introduction, Notes, Running Exposition, Glossary and Index; by Jaideva Singh; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, Delhi, 1979, 6th reprint 1991.
Abhinavagupta: Paratrisika-Vivarana, The Secret of Tantric Mysticism; English Translation with notes and running exposition by Jaideva Singh; Sanskrit text corrected, notes on technical points and charts dictated by Swami Lakshmanjee (Laskhmanjoo); Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 2000.
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