ANIL MITRA JUNE 2014—October 2014

From Tantra Illuminated by Christopher D. Wallis


Preliminary Material

Nondual Invocation to the Divine

Dedication and benediction



Uinqueness of the present volume

Need for this book

The purpose of this book

Scope of the present volume

How to read this book

Note from the illustrator

List of illustrations

Key to symbols

Quick ‘n’ easy pronunciation for Sanskrit words

Forward: for scholars and academics


An orientation to Tantra

Why study the history of Tantra?

What’s in a name? — the meaning of the word “Tantra”

The tradition’s own definition

Western definitions and categorical lists


Questions and answers

How does all this fit into “Hinduism”

So as a practitioner of Yoga or Tantra, I’m somehow not connecting to Hinduism?

What’s the connection between Tantra and Yoga?

What is the Kāma-Sūtra? What does it have to do with Tantra?

But Tantra is about Divine sexuality, right?

Outline of the rest of the book

Part One: The Philosophy of Nondual Śaiva Tantra

Preface—What you’re gettogm yourself into

Definition of nondual Śaiva Tantra

Orientation to the view

The view

Unpacking the view

The names of ultimate reality

The essential nature of the divine

The activity of the divine

Reflection (vimarśa) and recognition (pratyabhijñā)

Thoughts to live by—the basic philosophical framework of Nondual Śaiva Tantra





The role of desire in a nondual view


The categories of Tantrik thought p91


—The Five Layers of the Self-The Five Acts of God—The Five Powers—
—The 36 Tattvas—The Three Impurities—The Four Levels of Speech—
—The Five States of Awareness—The Seven Perceivers—

Introduction to the categories

Nested layers of consciousness—the Tantrik five-layered self

Before the five the author discusses ‘stuff’ which seems to be material circumstance. Thus if you identify with your economic circumstance you may think ‘I am poor’ or ‘I am rich’.

The physical body

The heart-mind/energy body

The prāņa, vital energy or life-force

The transcendent Void

The Power of Awareness

Here the author discusses ‘the core layer’, the ultimate center of being—nondual nonlocal Conscsiousness (cit or samvit).

The five (+1) powers of God

The Power of Consciousness—Chit Śakti

The Power of Bliss—Ānanda Śakti

The Power of Will or creative impulse—Icchā Śakti

The Power of Knowing-Jñāna Śakti

The Power of Action—Kriyā Śakti

The five acts of God


Sŗşşți—creation, emission, the flowering forth of Self-expression

Sthiti—stasis, maintenance, perseveration, perdurance

Samhāra—dissolution, resorption, retraction

Tirodhāna—concealment, occlusion, forgetting

Anugraha—revealing, remembering, grace

Ābhāsa theory part one: The status of “external” objects

Ābhāsa theory part two: Many shinings of the one light

The 36 (37) Tattvas—principles of reality

The five elements

Tattva #36: Earth (prthvi)

Tattva #35: Water (āp or āpah)

Tattva #34: Fire (tejas)

Tattva #33: Wind (vāyu)

Tattva #32: Space (ākāsa)

The five tanmātras or “subtle elements” that make things perceptible to the senses

Tattva #32: Odor (gandhu)

Tattva #31: Flavor (rasa)

Tattva #30; Appearance or form (rūpa)

Tattva #29: Tactilicity (sparśa)

Tattva #28: Sound vibration (śabda)

The five action capacities or karmendriyas

Tattva #26: Evacuation (bowels)

Tattva #25: Reproduction (genitals)

Tattva #24: Locomotion (feet)

Tattva #23; Manipulation (hands)

Tattva #22: Speech (mouth)

The five sense capacities or jñānendriyas (correlates of the subtle elements above)

Tattva #21: Smelling (ghrāņas)

Tattva #20: Tasting (rasana)

Tattva #19: Seeing (cakşus)

Tattva #18: Touching (tvak, literally—skin)

Tattva #17: Hearing (śrotra)

Three aspects of ‘mind’ (this begins the higher and subtler tattvas)

Tattva #16: Mind (manas—faculty of attention and sense producing)

Tattva #15: Ego (ahańkāra—literally, identity-constructor)

Tattva #14: Discerning faculty (buddhi)

Foundation of the universe

Tattva #13: Secondary materiality (prakrti—matter-energy—all objects of consciousness—source of previous lower tattvas)

Tattva #12: Individual soul (puruşa, knowing subject, self, the witness, embodied knower of the field—atman, jiva, kşetrajña)

The five shells or veils (kañcukas)

Tattva #7: Limited power of action (kalā)

Tattva #8: Limited power of knowledge (vidyā)

Tattva #9: Desire (rāga)

Tattva #10: Time (kāla)

Tattva #11: Causality (niyati—the binding force of karma)

Tattva #6: Māyā

The pure universe

Tattva #5: Pure mantra-wisdom (Śuddha-vidyā)

Tattva #4:The Lord (Īśvara)

Tattva #3: The ever-benevolent one (Sadāśiva)

Tattva #2: Power / the goddess (Śakti)

Tattva #1: The benevelont one (Śiva)

Tattva #0: The heart (Śiva/Śakti in perfect fustion)

The three impurities—with an excursus on the descent of power

The impurity of individuality

Śaktipāta: the descent of power

The unfolding of one’s awakening

The impurity of differentiation

The impurity of action

Vāk: the four levels of the word (& the six-fold path)

Supreme Word

Signifier (vācaka), the inner Path

Signifier (vācya), the outer Path

1. varņa (phonemes, subtle pulsations)

4. kalā (five major divisions of reality)

2. mntra (morphemes, thought units)

5. tattva (36 principles of reality)

3. pada (words and phrases)

6. bhuvana (118 planes of reality)

Table 1 The six-fold path

Vaikharī vāk: the corporeal level of the word

Madhyamā vāk: the intermediate level of the word

Paśyantī vāk: the visionary level of the word

Parā vāk: the supreme level of the word

The five states of awareness

Jāgrat: the waking state

Svapna: the dream state

Sushupti: the deep sleep state

Turya: the fourth, or transcendental state

Turyātīta: beyond the fourth

Non-dual concept—transcendence in everyday activity

The innate structure of reality—the Triku/Krama synthesis of Abhinava Gupta

PART TWO: A History of Śaiva Tantra

Early history—framing the tradition in time and space

The social context of Shaivism

The origins of the Tantra

Connections with pre-Tantrik Shaivism

Early Śaiva Tantra: befor sectarian developments

Left current—Non-dual Śaiva Tantra or NŚT—or kaula tradition; emphasized worship of female deities and fierce deities; taught that liberation can be achieved in any life (not just at the end or as the result of an infinite sequence of lives); that liberation occurs spontaneously and is not earned or the result of practice but may be enhanced by practice and openness and, especially, transmitted by a guru; chose to challenge the social order in many ways, e.g. by empowering women and performing rituals with transgressive elements.

Right current—a dualistic tradition, the Śaiva Siddhānta which means established doctrine—that emphasized worship of Śiva without Śakti; held that liberation was solely the result of powerful ritual initiation and subsequent ritual practice; accepted and did not wish to challenge the social norms prescribed by the brāhmin priests of Vedic society.

Early Śaiva Tantra: two streams

The common core doctrines of Śaiva Tantra

The key differences

Differences in the social sphere

Early shamanistic roots and their Kaula reinterpretation

The nine main sects of Śaiva Tantra

The nine sampradāyas of original śiva- śakti Tantra

v      Śaiva Siddhānta—the Orthodox Doctrine

v      Vāma—the Feminine

v      Yāmala—the Couple

v      Mantrapīțha—the Throne of Mantras

v      Amŗteśvara—the Lord of Nectar

v      Trika—the Trinity

v      Kālīkula—the family of Kāli

v      Kaubjika—Kubjikā’s Tradition

v      Śrīvidyā—the Goddess of Auspicious wisdom

Sampradāya 1: Śaiva Siddhānta—the Orthodox Doctrine

Deity: Sadāśiva

Visualization: white-bodied, five faced, three eyed, and ten-armed in the posture of a meditating yogī

Mantra: HAUM

Principle Texts: Kiraņa-tantra, Parākhya-tantra, Kālottara (there are many Saidhāntika texts and no main one so the author lists the ones available in English)

Sampradāya 2: Vāma—the Feminine

Deities: the four sister-goddesses Jayā, Vijayā, Jayantī, and Aparājitā, with their brother Tumburu-bhairava

Principle Text: Vīņāśiksā (the only surviving text)

Sampradāya 3: Yāmala—the Couple

Deities: Aghoreśvari (also known as Caņdā Kāpālinī) with her consort Kāpāliśa-bhairava

Visualization: pale yellow and white respectively, naked and waring ornaments of human bone


Principle Text: Brahma-yāmala (also known as Picu-mata)

Sampradāya 4: Mantrapīțha—the Throne of Mantras

Deities: Svacchanada-Bhairava (also known as Svacchanada-lalita-Bhairava (independent of Bhairava or Bhairava of autonomous play) with consort Aghoreśvari

Visualization: white, five-faced ad three-eyed, eighteen-armed, wearing dreadlocks and a garland of human skulls

Mantra: HŪM

Principle Text: Svacchanada-tantra

Sampradāya 5: Amŗteśvara—the Lord of Nectar

Deity: Amŗteśvara—the Lord of Nectar

Visualization: white, one-faced and four-armed with his consort Lakşhmī

Mantra: OM JUM SAH

Principle Text: Netra-tantra (The Scripture of the Eue)

Sampradāya 6: Trika—the Trinity

Pan Indian but often associated with Abhinava Gupta who was from Srinagar. So, the philosophy of this school is often called Kashmir Shaivism.

Unusual sampradāya because in its later phase its doctrine encompassee duality, nonduality, and the inexpressible teaching beyond both duality and non-duality.

Abhinava Gupta embraced the more strongly nondualist version of the Trika known as Kaula Trika.

Deities: the three goddesses Parā, Parāparā, and Aparā

Visualization (of Parā): white, radiant, two- or four-armed, displaying cin-mudrā, a manuscript, a mālā, and a trident

Mantra: SAUH; also HRĪM

Principle Text: Mālīni-vijaya-uttara-tantra; Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra

The Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra

Sampradāya 7: Kālīkula—the family of Kāli—especially Krama

Deity: Kālī-Kāla-sańkarşiņī (the Dark One, the Devourer of Time)

Visualization: no anthropomorphic form


Principle Texts: Jayadratha-yāmala; Kālikula-pañca-śataka

The mahārtha: the final phase of the krama

The mahārtha moves South

The teachings of the Krama lineage

The teachings of the manuscript

Sampradāya 8: Kaubjika—Kubjikā’s Tradition

Deity: Kubjikā (the Crooked Goddess)

Visualizations: dark blue, twelve-armed, and six-faced, including the faces of Parā, Kāli, and Tripurā


Principle Texts: Kubjikā-mata-tantra; Manthāna-bhairava-tantra

Sampradāya 9: Śrīvidyā—also known as Traipura—the Goddess of Auspicious wisdom

Deity: Tripurasundarā, also known as Lalitā

Visualization: young and beautiful, red, four-armed, with goad, noose, sugarcane bow and flower arrows


Principle Text: Nityāşodaśikārņava; Yoginī-hŗdaya

The structure of the Śaiva canon

Kashmir Shaivism—the refinement of th tradition in its post-scriptural phase

The spanda lineage

The pratyabhijñā lineage

Abhinava Gupta: polymath, scholar aesthete, poet, and siddha

Light on the tantras

Contents of the Tantrāloka

The Kaula lineages

Post-classical Tantra and the advent of hațha yoga

Evidence of the tantrik roots of hatha-yoga

Other elements of post-classical tantrism

Modern postural yoga

Part Three: An Introduction to the Practice of Śaiva Tantra

The context of practice: śaktipāta and dīkşā

Legend: red font indicates my comments | green font shows text comments or paraphrase I have emphasized.


NŚT—non dual Śaiva Tantra (1) emphasis on direct experience of divine reality that has two aspects, Śiva (pure consciousness, the ultimate ground of being) and Śakti (the flowing energy making up the entire universe (2) initiation into a guru-disciple relationship and an egalitarian kula (spiritual community) (3) spiritual practice aimed at worldly success and spiritual liberation: contemplation of View teachings, meditative ritual, yogic techniques of the subtle body, and aesthetic cultivation of the senses.

Śaktipātadescent of grace, influx of God’s power; liberation; in NŚT this is identity with God (only god can worship god)

Dīkşa—initiation (Dī—giving, kşa—destroying)

Bhakti—loyal devotion to the tradition

Sevā—selfless service

Dāna, dakşhina—financial offerings (proportional to ones’ income)

Śiva—pure consciousness, ultimate ground of reality

Śakti—flowing energy making up the entire universe

Kundalinī-śakti—latent innate Goddess power

Samsāra—repeating cycle of birth, life, and death

Kāla—particular time

Kalanā—particular activity


Japa—mantra repetition

Kriyā śakti—power of action

Karma—principle of causality in which actions determine fate

Samāveśa—any infusion of divine power (in contrast Śaktipāta occurs once or twice in one’s life)

Sadguru—ture guru

Mokşa—radical freedom

Diksā: the rite of initiation and its effects


Achārya—instructor in religion

Samaya-dīkşā—probationary initiation


Samaya—code of conduct

Nirvāna-diksa—initiation on the irrevocable path to nirvāna

Mandala—sacred diagram

Śiva-hasta-vidhi—rite of laying on a mandala empowered hand

Susumnā—central chanel of the subtle body

Mudrā—symbolic or ritual gesture; may be performed with the entire body but usually performed with hands and fingers

Ankuśa-mudrā—in the context of initiation (diksā), the guru draws the samayin’s consciousness from his/her heart and draws it out from the top of his/her head with the ankuśa-mudra…

Samhāra—dissolution or retractrion

Samhara-mudrā—then breathes it down into the guru’s own heart with the samhara-mudrā; holds…

Kumbhaka—static holding of breath (e.g., at  the same time as vibrating a special seed mantra—the kundālinī-bīja—and then the breaths fuse in timeless simultaneity and surge up the central channel)… while meditating on the central mantra… and raises the consciousness to his…

Dvādaśanta—point above the head… and then with a gesture of throwing forward from the upturned fist… the

Bhava-mudrā—incarnates the consciousness simultaneously in all the wombs in which the consciousness is destined to be incarnated; and then with fire offering the guru rapidly fast-forwards through the life cycles of all those incarnations simultaneously, performing their life-cycle rituals, causing their karmas to fructify and then dissolve harmlessly.

Ānava-mala—the impurity of individuality (one of three impurities)

Māyīya-mala—the impurity of differentiation

Karma-mala—the impurity of action

Vagisi-puravāk—Goddess of the supreme word

Sivā-yojanikā—divine absolute

Rudra-śakti (divine grace)

Abhiseka (consecration for ‘office’ of guru—from a guru)

The role of the guru



Guru-kula—community of samayin or co-initiates

Satsang—the company of the highest truth, guru, or spiritual community

Upāya: the three skillful means to liberation

Upāya (method)

Operative power

Experiential level



Śāmbhava Upāya (divine means)

Icchā-śakti (willing)

Abheda (unity)

Spirit / intuition

Akrama (non-sequential

Śākta Upāya (empowered means)

Jñana- śakti (knowing)

Bhedabheda (uniti in diversity)


Kramākrama (sequential cum non sequential)

Āņva Upāya
(individual means)

Kriyā-śakti (acting)

Bheda (plurality)


Krama (sequential)

An-upāya the non means

The rarest upāya. So intense as to be the stable permanent śaktipata awakening by a single teacthing from a sadguru (true guru); therefore a ‘non means’.

Who was the first guru?

“Such beings are said to have done extremely dedicated sādhanā in previous lives”

Śuddha-vikalpa (pure truth statement)

Tat-tvam-asi—you are that (reality)

From Abhinava Gupta:

The very highest divinity, the self-manifest Light of Consciousness, is always already my very own Being—when that is the case, what could any method of practice achieve? Not the attainment of my true nature, because that is eternally present; not making that nature apparent, because it is constantly illuminating itself; not the removal of veils, because nothing other than it exists to enter It. What method can ther be here, when ther is an impossibility of anything separate from That?

Therefore, this whole existence is One reality: Consciousness alone—unbroken by time, uncircumscribed by space, unclouded by attributes, unconfirmed by forms, unexpressed by words, and unaccounted for by the ordinary means of knowledge. For it is the cause, through its own Will alone, by which all these sources of limitation—from time to the ordinary means of knowledge—attain their own natures. This Reality is free and independent, a mass of bliss, and that alone am I; thus the entire universe is held as a reflection within me.

The Divine Means (śāmbhava-upāya)

In teachning the “practice” of śāmbhava-upāya we can emphasize three aspects (the terms are defined sequentially in what follows): (1) that it is the way of grace—the practice of opening to grace at every moment, allowing the creative upsurge of cidākāśa and svatantriya-śakti via pratibhā (2) the Spanda teachning of unmeşa daśā nişevaņa (3) an aspect that is very important in the Trika—working with mantras on non-conceptual levels… these are mantras with no specific meaning as such but are considered to be vibrations of the divine. These result in nir-vikalpa—states of dwelling in the subtle vikalpa of non-conceptual meditation


Svatantriya-śakti—the metapower of autonomy


Cidākāśa—pure consciousness

Unmeşa daśā nişevaņa

Unmeşa daśā nişevaņa—catching hold of the first moment of perception / bringing attention to the intial arising of an energy state

From Abhinava Gupta’s Light on the Tantras:

“That which shines forth and is directly grasped in the first moment of self-aware perception, the single ground free of differential thought constructs, is said to be the pure impulse [to directly perceive consciousness]. Just as an object appears directly to one whose eyes are open without the intervention of any determinate cognition, so for some does Śiva’s nature.”

Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra—an atypical scripture that includes some Zen-like techniques to transmit / get the listener to arrive at ‘what cannot be explained’—to begin with the intellect (intellectual understanding) so as to begin the process of negating the intellect

Accessing Nir-vikalpa

Nir-vikalpa—states of dwelling in the subtle vikalpa of non-conceptual meditation

OM, AIM, HRÍM—subtle mantras considered to be vibrations of the divine—and phonetic means of access to the divine

Pūrņa—whole and complete (awareness, dawning of)

Paśyantī—the visionary stage of language

Pratyakşa—direct perception of the ground of being as manifest in every moment of awareness

Parāmarśa—the word Abhinava Gupta uses for both phoneme and self-awareness

The Empowered Means (śākta-upāya)

Āsana—posture; the postures of haţha-yoga

Haţha-yoga—yoga derived from Tantra but devoid of philosophy; for persons without time or inclination toward theory; emphasizing practice, especiall the āsanas; forerunner of modern yoga as practiced in the west

Vikalpa—mental construct or ‘story’ of reality

Aśuddha-vikalpa—vikalpa that is not in alignment with reality

Śuddha-vikalpa—vikalpa in alignment with reality

Jñāna-śakti—power of knowing

Essence of śākta-upāya

The view recognizes citta-vŗtis—vibrations of mind-stuff—as vibrations of heart-mind: cognition-emotion are an essential unity and neither is privileged

The process is aśuddha-vikalpa ® śuddha-vikalpa ® nirvakalpa

Background to this view

Citta—heart-mind; in Tantra heart and mind are not distinguished, are part of one entity in which neither feeling nor cognition is privileged but function in unison

Hrdaya—‘heart’, the essence of our being

Citta-vŗtis—vibrations of mind-stuff

Samsāra—repeating cycle of birth, life, and death

Tāntrika—true practicioner of Tantra

Vira—hero; used in reference to tāntrikas because it takes heroic courage to look at our pain, not push it away

Tantrāloka—(Light on the Tantras, A. Gupta): monumental, coherent, encyclopedic ‘treatise’ on the Tantric views and practice

Tantrasara—(Essence of the Tantras, A. Gupta): summary, with new material, of the Tantrāloka… the essence of Tantrāloka therefore sometimes thought better and truer than the Tantrāloka

Nirvikalpa—non-conceptual experience of the real; lying in the series: aśuddha-vikalpa ® śuddha-vikalpa ® nirvakalpa

Paśyanti—visionary (as inpPaśyanti vak or visionary level of the word)

Bhava—god, deity

Śākta-upāya in practice

Svātantriya śakti—power of autonomy

Abhinava Gupta:

“When a person chooses to gradually purify and refine his mental constructs of reality, as the means for attaining experiential realization of the true nature of things, then he employs a process of contemplation [bhāvana] that presupposes sound reasoning [sat-tarka], true scriptures [sad-āgama], and instruction by a true guru [sad-guru].”


Sat-tarka—sound reasoning

Sad-āgama—true scriptures

Sad-guru—true guru

Abhinava Gupta:

“Due solely to the power of differential mental constructs, sentient beings imagine themselves alone, and this very egoic conception is the cause of the repetitive bondage of the cycle of worldly suffering. Hence, when a mental construct that opposes that conception has arisen and become established, it crushes that mental construct that is the cause of samsāra; thus it [indirectly] causes salvation.

Just as the man who thinks intensely that he is a sinner becomes such, just so one who thinks himself to be Śiva, and none other than He, becomes Śiva. This certainty, which penetrates and affirms itself in our thoughts, concides with an awareness free of thought-constructs engendered by a series of [refined and purified] differentiated mental representations, the object of which is our identity with Śiva.”

An example of purified thought-form from Abhinava Gupta:

“That pure unlimited consciousness—transcending all principles of reality, that are limited by nature, from Earth to Śiva—alone is the supreme reality. That is the ground for the establishment of all things. That is the vital essence [ojas] of the universe. By That the universe lives and breathes, and That alone am I. Thus I embody the universe and yet transcend the universe.”

Here is an alternate version by me.

That pure unlimited consciousness that is all being—and is, subsumes, and transcends all limited including local principles and forms of reality and principles that are otherwise limited by nature, i.e. constitution—alone is the supreme reality. That is the (vital essence of the) universe. That is the life and breath of the universe and That alone am I. Thus I am and embody the self-transcending universe that is all being and that has no other.

The author suggests contemplating such passages so as to absorb their essence rather than reading it ‘just to feel good about ourselves’. Some stages of meditation are (1) Ensure that the passage resonates with you, (2) Look up words you don’t know, become comfortable with the meaning of the passage at the Vaikharī level; memorize it (3) Ponder it deeply and contemplate its meaning “How would you experience the world if you felt the truth of the passage fully?” This is the Madhyamā level (4) When you think you understand it fully and it has become commonplace (‘slightly boring’) use it as a mantra in meditation. Invoke the power of grace, ask for deeper understanding and sit and wait quietly (this is the Paśyanti level) (5) Sleep with it, wake with it, stay with it; examine resistance to receiving its true meaning at the deepest level of your being and inquire into the causes of the resistance (6) Let it go but observe how the true meaning, now internalized, show up in daily experience.

More from Abhinava Gupta:

“A bound soul has convictions such as “I am only inert matter; I am completely bound by my karma; I am impure; I am a victim.” When he succeeds in attaining the firmly rooted conviction of the opposite of these views, he immediately becomes the Lord whose body is the whole universe and whose soul is consciousness.”

“In whatever manner such a conviction may be attained, a superior yogī must cultivate it at all times. He should not be led into doubt by the mass of foolish teachings in the world; i.e., by any point of view not grounded in the real nature of things.”

Śiva—pure consciousness: ultimate ground of being

Śakti—goddess, flowing emerging making up the entire manifest universe


Ojas—vital essence

Vaikharī-vāk—level of the literal word

Madhyamā-vāk—living the truth level

Paśyanti vāk—visionary level

Parā vāk—supreme level

Siddha—a siddha guru is one who can initiate a samayin via śaktipāta (practice)

Mahāsiddha—‘mahā’ means great so ‘mahāsiddha’ should mean ‘great siddha’. However, the term refers to someone whose enlightenment is especially great (and even historically recognized) and who may function as siddha in virtue of the enlightenment.

Kālī—goddess kālī; emphasis on dissolution

Kaula—goddess worship

Krama—the krama is a Tantric sampradāya or lineage; ‘krama’ means process and in this context signifies worship of the cognitive process as forms of the goddess; the krama is the most radical, non-dualistic, feminine oriented, and spiritual of the kaula systems

Yoga—its limbs = meditation, ritual, the yamas, the niyamas, etc

Below are some descriptions from Abhinava Gupta on traditional practices describing their significance in a sādhanā (practice) of Consciousness


Pūjā emphasizes creation.

PŪJĀ—worship is the offering of all existent things and states of being [bhāvas] into their Highest Divinity, in order to attain the firm understanding that they all subsist withing the Highest Divinity alone, and there is nothing other than That.

Because they are so pleasing to the heart, we begin by offering those things that tend to spontaneously dissolve into blissful awareness and are thus easefully offered to god. For this reason, we are taught [in scripture] to use in external practice those things that delight the aesthetic senses, such as flowers, libations of fragrant wine, and scented unguents.”

The aim is to feel unity with all things; the point is that it is easy to begin with the pleasing. Padma Sambhava had a complementary point of view—that of emphasizing what is repugnant until one overcame repugnance-as-distinct.

Bhāva—god, deity

Viśrānti—repose within innate awareness


Tejas—radiant energy

Homa—fire offering: dissolution of all being into effulgent energy of fire consciousness

Sāmrasya—substance, essence

Homa emphasizes dissolution.

A look at the inner meaning of the fire-offerings:

HOMA—all existent things and states consist of the radiant energy [tejas] of the highest divinity. It is to attain a firm understanding of this fact that one makes fire-offerings [homa], which are the dissolution of all existent things and states into the effulgent energy of the the fire of consciousness that is the highest divinity—which longs for the aesthetic rapture of “devouring” all existent things and states—such that all that remains is that energy.”

Notice the analogy to the Phoenix. Dissolving out being symbolically into fire.

Parā—the goddess parā is the goddess of creation (parā and kālī are dual)

Mantra—many significances, especially as vibrations of the divine

Shuddhya-vidyā—pure wisdom

Japa—practice of awareness of the ground of both creation and dissolution

Japa emphasizes creation and dissolution.

JAPA: In the same way, mantra repetition has the purpose of giving rise to the state of awareness that underlies both [the creating and dissolving functions of consciousness]. It consists of having the inner awareness: “The supreme Reality that exists as my own innermost essence remains just as it is, unaffected by the differentiated entities or states that constitute the various objects of consciousness, whether internal or external.”

Now Abhinava Gupta offers an “intriguing and, as far as I know, unique definition of yoga”.

YOGA—In this context, yoga is a special kind of vikalpa that is in essence an investigation into the true nature of That (Reality), in order to attain nothing less than its constant and uniform manifestation.

“Since ‘yoga’ nearly always denotes a psycho-physical practice aimed at dissolving the mind as we understand it, it is surprising that Abhinava describes it as a ‘special kind of vikalpa’… This is the Tantric paradox: adopting a yogic frame of mind frees us from the belief that we are nothing but the mind.“ Yogic practicd entails reconditioning of the mind to conform it to the deep structure of reality, the innate patterning of Consciousness.

Finally, from from the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra, a scriptural basis for Abhinava’s “overcoding his mystical gnostic interpretation of these practices”.

“The revered Goddes said: “If, O Lord, this is the true form of Parā [the supreme Goddess], how can there be mantra or its repetition in the [nondual] state you have taught? What would be visualized, what worshipped and gratified? And who is there to receive offerings?” The revered Bhairava said: “In this [higher way], O doe-eyed one, external procedures are considered coarse [shtūla]. Here ‘japa’ is the even-greater meditative absorption [bhāvanā] into the supreme state; and the ‘mantra’ to be repeated is the spontaneously arising resonance [of inner experience] which aligns with That. As for ‘meditative visualization,’ [dhyāna] it is a mind that has become motionless, free of forms, and supportless, not imagining a deity with a body, eyes, face and so on. Pūjā is likewise not the offering of flowers and so on. A mind made firm, which through careful attention dissolves into the thought-free ultimate Void [of pure Awareness]: that is pūjā.

Dhyāna—meditative visualization

Spanda—the spanda teaching is ‘vibration’ teaching

Viśeşa-spanda—particular pulsations

Sāmānya-spanda—universal rhythm

Samskāra—subliminal impressions of past experiences that influence how we perceive the present

Vikalpa-samskāra—practice of seeing through samskāra to the truth

The Individual, Embodied Means (āņava- upāya)



Karaņa: postures of the body and awareness

Pūja: ceremony of worship

Excursus on gods, spirits, and the traditional world view

Only god can worship god: theory of ritual in nondual Śaiva Tantra

The structure of Tantric Ritual

Ourline of tantrik ritual based on the original sources

I. Worship of the door-guardians and removal of obstacles

II. Five types of purification / divinization

III. External worship


Undertaking a Tantrik sādhanā in the Modern World

Afterword: Modern Survivals of Śaiva Tantra, or “Where can I learn more?”

Select list of teachers of original Śaiva Tantra

Dsogchen: the tantrik yoga of the nyingmapas and bönpos

Final Blessing

Reference material

A note on Sanskrit terms and their pronunciation

Appendix 1: the opening verses of the Tantrāloka

Appendix 2: the structure of Krama worship

Appendix 3: texts—with commentaries and authors—sorted by Sampradāya