Śāmbhavopāya (Shambhavopaya) - The way of will
Hi, this is Gabriel Pradīpaka once again. Another chance to keep learning Meditation according to Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir. This time we will be studying Śāmbhavopāya, the means or method (upāya) of Śambhu or Śiva (God). Śāmbhavopāya techniques are based on the Power of Will. Remember that there are four upāya-s (means or methods): Anupāya, Śāmbhavopāya, Śāktopāya and Āṇavopāya. Anupāya is not really a means but rather the culmination or final stage of Śāmbhavopāya. That's why I have not included a document about it. By "Will" I mean the "manifesting" Power of Śiva, not the ordinary "stubbornness", which most people call "a strong power of will". The use of that Will in Śāmbhavopāya does not imply any "knitting of the eyebrows" either. It is simply to tune oneself in that creative Power of Śiva, nothing else.
Let us get down to work.
This is the most important path in the philosophical system known as Trika or Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir. Śāmbhavopāya is very simple but at the same time it is the highest Upāya (remember that Anupāya is not actually a upāya but rather the culmination of Śāmbhavopāya). Most people get confused about this upāya and thereby they understimate it . The most relevant techniques are the simplest ones as well. Nevertheless, as mind loves the complicated and colorful techniques the following two upāya-s (Śāktopāya and Āṇavopāya) are the most popular indeed.
The word Śāmbhavopāya is composed of "śāmbhava" and "upāya". The former means "pertaining to Śambhu" and the latter "means or method". "Śambhu" is an epithet of Śiva. It literally means "being or existing (bhu) for happiness and welfare (śam)".
The first section of Śivasūtra-s (the foremost scripture in Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir -- Go to Trika: Part 1) deals completely with Śāmbhavopāya. The fifth aphorism of this section reads:
Bhairava --Śiva-- (bhairavaḥ) is a sudden emergence or flash (udyamaḥ).
Bhairava is another epithet of Śiva. It literally means "frightful, terrible, horrible, etc.", but it is often interpreted acrostically like this: "He who maintains -bharaṇa-, withdraws -ravaṇa- and projects -vamana- (the entire universe)".
Then, this is the essence of Śāmbhavopāya. The yogī should address his power of will (Icchāśakti) to the inner Witness, and thus a sudden and spontaneous emergence of divine consciousness will shine forth by itself. This natural and sudden flash is Bhairava or Śiva, the essential nature in everyone. Therefore, the practice in this Upāya is simply to be on the alert, with one's power of will oriented toward the inner Witness. When you stay like that, a sudden flash of divine energy will appear and you will experience a surge of bliss throughout your whole being. In order to achieve the aforesaid "sudden flash", vigilance is very important. You neither accept nor reject any thoughts, but rather do you stand as a Witness to all of them.
Śāmbhavopāya is a blissful path for everyone. Besides, it is extremely easy to practice. Still, it seems "too easy" and mind often understimates it. It is that simple because it is directly related to our natural and spontaneous state of being. Since we are witnesses all the time, it is easy to meditate as a witness. But at the same time, it is very difficult. It is difficult due to one's mind. Our minds just cannot believe that it is so easy and they give up the practice. How stupid attitude!
A fragment of the commentary of Kṣemarāja (a great sage) on the aforesaid fifth aphorism states that:
-भक्तिभाजामन्तर्मुखैतत्तत्त्वावधानधनानां जायत इत्युपदिष्टं भवति।
... bhaktibhājāmantarmukhaitattattvāvadhānadhanānāṁ jāyata ityupadiṣṭaṁ bhavati|
... (That "udyama" or sudden emergence of Consciousness) appears (jāyate) in those who are devoted (bhājām) to Devotion (bhakti) and possess the Treasure (dhanānām) of the attention (avadhāna) on this (etad) Inner (antarmukha) Principle (tattva). This is what has been (iti... bhavati) taught (upadiṣṭam) (in the fifth aphorism of the Śivasūtra-s).
(a portion of the Kṣemarāja's commentary on Śivasūtra-s I.5)
Two requirements to experience the sudden flash of Divine Consciousness have been stated:
1) Devotion: By this word, the author is not necessarily meaning that you must be praising loudly the Lord all the time. No, devotion is not necessarily with external signs. It is simply something like this: "You value what you have received from your own guru. Your guru have explained the spiritual truth to you, and you listened attentively to him. Then, you have put his teachings into action. Thus, you are doing your guru's bidding". This is an example (not the only one, of course) of Devotion. Obviously, I am talking about a "true" spiritual guru.
Devotion is simply to keep devoted to the Lord in any way you may do this. To do your guru's bidding is Devotion. To keep reading sacred Scriptures and trying to put their teachings into action is also Devotion. To be reading this document is a kind of Devotion as well. There are many examples of it.
2) Attention on the Inner Principle: The Inner Principle (antarmukhatattva) is the Witness (the Lord). You use your Power of Will to meditate on that Witness or Inner Principle. Everyone can --theoretically at least-- meditate on the inner Witness; but as a matter of fact, only those who possess Devotion can do it. The Devotion is the engine impelling you inward. The aforesaid attention is maintained by Devotion or strong interest. People with little or no Devotion should firstly become conscious of their own position in this world. They should contemplate like this:
"I am actually a slave. I am under the control of my mind. Because of this slavery I am completely dominated by the external circumstances. I am a puppet and ignorance is the puppeteer. My apparent happiness lasts just for a little while, because the external circumstances are changing all the time. When they are favorable, I am happy, but when they are unfavorable, I am unhappy. Who is going to help me out of this ignorant way of living?" and so on.
When a person understands his helplessness, his "nothing-ness", Devotion arises in him spontaneously. He will then value the teachings given by a guru. And these teachings when put into action will gradually help him out of his previous nescient way of living. He will understand that his apparent individuality is just an illusion since only the Lord is everywhere. In sum, he will get absorbed into the inner Witness who is God. This is Śāmbhavopāya.
Remember again: Śāmbhavopāya is the most important path in Trika. The remaining two upāya-s (Śāktopāya and Āṇavopāya) lastly "flow" into Śāmbhavopāya. Śāmbhavopāya is simply a path in which a sudden flash of Divine Consciousness occurs in those who are devoted to Devotion and have the treasure of the attention on the Witness (the inner Principle). Those people are vigilant, and neither accept nor reject any thoughts. They stay as witnesses. Nothing else is to be done, just being on the alert. If you have this state, no further practices are needed. Just stay so and in due course you will experience the sudden flash emerging from the inner Principle. Well, I think you have understood me.
Let us go deeper into the subject! Icchāśakti or Power of Will is the "core" of Śāmbhavopāya. And what is Icchāśakti? It is the Creative Power manifesting all around you! You are Śiva, and through this Icchāśakti you are projecting the entire reality denominated "universe". Let us take the field of vision, for example. In it you are now experiencing three zones: distinct universe, indistinct universe and unmanifested universe --visually speaking, of course--. You can see "distinct or sharp" things in front of you, "indistinct or foggy" things in the corners of your eyes and "nothing" beyond these (behind). Review Trika: Part 3, to understand fully this teaching.
Śāmbhavopāya leads you to the "indistinct or foggy universe" in all of your senses (not only regarding your eyes) and mind. In a word, you are predominantly conscious of this kind of universe and not of the other two kinds (distinct and unmanifested, respectively). The indistinct zone is composed of Icchāśakti itself. Your own Will, your own Creative Power take on the form of the undifferentiated (foggy, uncondensed) matter. For example, say, you are seeing now an indistinct table in the corners of your eye. The foggy table is Icchāśakti or Power of Will, is matter not being still condensed or "congealed" into a visually "solid" table. Since it is not condensed, that matter is really energy, pure energy of will. A Will to create and project things and people.
You may think, are you crazy, man? The things and people are over there all the time as a "solid" reality. No, no. A big mistake! When you do not see John (use the name you wish), for example, John is not a "solid visual reality". He remains as a sound (his beatiful voice), or a smell, or a memory, etc. Likewise, when you see John but no sound is coming from him, he is not a "sonorous" reality to you. And when you neither see nor hear nor smell nor touch nor taste (yes, he is also a flavor) nor think of him, he is "completely unmanifested" to you. In fact, the real "he" is always "You", dear Śiva, but through your tremendous Power of Will (Icchāśakti) you manifest him outside as being associated with a certain physical body which you call "John". As a matter of fact, the real "he", "you" and "me" are always the only Śiva (One without a second). Only the physical bodies associated with these so-called "identities" are being constantly manifested and unmanifested. As you know, you are not your body... but, do you understand this?
OK, the teachings I am expounding here are, well... a real madness! A madness maybe from a mental viewpoint, but Śiva is not within the mind's scope. He is a reality beyond it, He is a Witness to the thought-constructs (how difficult term!). And yes, Śiva is really funny indeed! The entire universe is born from this Funny Reality known as Śiva. He is the only living being here, there is no room for anybody else. Who are you to claim to be "another living being"? Only He is, and He is You right now. To understand that You are Him is the fruit of a continuous vigilance, without accepting or rejecting thoughts. When you merge into Him, you will not retain any longer your separated individuality, but at the same time you will be able to lead your life as before anyway. I will explain this apparent contradiction later on... yes, yes, later on. It is a contradiction at the level of mind but not at that of Śiva's (the Witness to mental processes). So, do not think of it too much because you will not can understand it by using your ordinary mind. Just be happy and trust! My future explanation will draw the veil of this apparent contradiction, no doubt.
So, the Icchāśakti or Power of Will is the "indistinct" universe in all the five senses and mind. Therefore, in Śāmbhavopāya you use the concentration on the "foggy" as a helpful resource. That concentration helps you to be on the alert, to be vigilant, ready to experience the sudden emergence of the Divine. You also may use an auspicious mudrā or seal, known as "Bhairavamudrā". It is very easy:
"After sitting cross-legged for meditation, you simply place the right hand over the left hand on your lap. Both of hands should form a kind of bowl, with the palms up. You stay so --in Bhairavamudrā--, with your spinal column completely straight and your eyes seeing nowhere. Your sight is apparently focused outward but it is really focused on the inner Principle or Witness --the real You--."
This is a very important practice of Śāmbhavopāya. I will give more techniques, but this is the core of them all. If you cannot cross the legs, never mind, just keep your spinal column straight.
When you practice using this technique or any other one, your essential nature will shine forth as a sudden flash of Bliss. I have called this "sudden flash of Bliss" Udyama previously. But "Suddhavidyā" or "Pure Knowledge" is a more appropriate name for it, I think. "Vidyā" is Śakti, in fact. Śakti is the Power of Śiva. Śiva manifests the world through Śakti, and Śiva is because of Śakti too. Śakti is the "AM" in "I AM". The sacred Scripture known as Svacchandatantra says the same in the following stanza:
तस्मात्सा तु परा विद्या यस्मादन्या न विद्यते।
विन्दते ह्यत्र युगपत्सार्वज्ञ्यादिगुणान्परान्॥
वर्जनापरमात्मत्वे तस्माद्विद्येति सोच्यते॥
तत्रस्थो व्यञ्जयेत्तेजः परं परमकारणम्।
परस्मिंस्तेजसि व्यक्ते तत्रस्थः शिवतां व्रजेत्॥
Tasmātsā tu parā vidyā yasmādanyā na vidyate|
Vindate hyatra yugapatsārvajñyādiguṇānparān||
Varjanāparamātmatve tasmādvidyeti socyate||
Tatrastho vyañjayettejaḥ paraṁ paramakāraṇam|
Parasmiṁstejasi vyakte tatrasthaḥ śivatāṁ vrajet||
Therefore (tasmāt), as (yasmāt) there is (vidyate) no (na) other (anyā) (like Her), She --the Śakti-- (sā) is the highest (parā) Vidyā or Knowledge (vidyā) indeed (tu). In this (atra) (that is, on the appearance of the flash of bliss known as Vidyā, the Yogī) certainly (hi) acquires (vindate) the greatest (parān) qualities (guṇān) like Omniscience (sārvajñya), etc. (ādi) all at once --simultaneously-- (yugapad).
(Since) She brings about investigation (vedanā) of the beginningless (anādi) characteristic (dharmasya) (of Śiva); (since) She brings about the knowledge (bodhanā) of the Highest Self (paramātmatva) and (since) She excludes (varjanā) all that is not the Supreme Being (aparamātmatve); She (sā) is thus (tasmāt) known as (iti... ucyate) Vidyā (vidyā).
Established (sthaḥ) in That (tatra), (the aforesaid Yogī) can manifest (vyañjayet) the highest (param) Splendor (tejaḥ), the supreme (parama) Cause (kāraṇa). Established (sthaḥ) in that (tatra) manifest (vyakte) highest (parasmin) Splendor (tejasi), he can attain (vrajet) to the state of Śiva (śivatām).
(Svacchandatantra, IV, 396-7)
The word "Vidyā" is derived from the verbal root "vid" (to inquire about, to know). Thus, when She is said to bring about investigation of the beginningless characteristic of Śiva, the first meaning --to inquire about-- is being brought out. And when She is said to bring about the knowledge of the Highest Self, the second meaning --to know-- is being brought out. Therefore, "Śakti" is "Vidyā", and this Vidyā is "pure". By the word "pure" I mean that it contains Absolute Unity. In Trika, "purity" is a synonymous with "unity", and "impurity" is a synonymous of "lack of unity". Obviously, this terminology has nothing to do with moral codes about purity and impurity. "Suddha" means "Pure". In consequence, "Suddhavidyā" --"Pure Knowledge"-- is the more appropriate word to be used when we want to speak of that experience.
All attributes or qualities like Omniscience, Omnipotence, etc. are bestowed on the Yogī when he experiences Śuddhavidyā. However, he should not feel attachment toward those ephemeral powers. And then, this Vidyā will lead him to inquire about the "beginningless characteristic" of Śiva. In sum, he will lastly realize that Śiva is not within the Time's reach. Because of being Transcendent, He is beginningless and, in fact, endless as well. He is eternal, everlasting. In turn, the same Vidyā will bring about the Highest Knowledge to him. Through this Knowledge, the Yogī is now established firmly in that Vidyā and he can manifest the Highest Splendor or Primordial Cause, which is his own essential nature (the Witness). And finally, Vidyā will exclude all that is not Śiva, and as there is nothing else but Śiva, the hidden purport behind this statement is that the Yogī will experience unity with all. The Supreme Goal has been achieved.
I will now summarize the teachings about Śāmbhavopāya.
The Yogī undergoes five stages when practicing Śāmbhavopāya:
1) He practices a technique given by his guru and put the teachings into action. He is on the alert, all the time vigilant without accepting or rejecting thoughts.
2) He has the experience of a sudden flash of Blissful Consciousness known as Śuddhavidyā or Vidyā.
3) Through Śuddhavidyā, he acquieres the power to inquire about his inner Self, who is an eternal Witness (both beginningless and endless).
4) Śuddhavidyā brings about in him the Knowledge of the aforesaid Witness. In a word, he understands that he is this very Witness. However, the Yogī still experiences his essential nature as an "inner" witnessing Principle.
5) And the same Śuddhavidyā lastly reveals to him that this Witness is within and without, and simultaneously is far beyond this pair of opposites. The Yogī then realizes Śiva. He understands that he is Śiva and Śiva is all. The experience is undescribable by means of words.
Very good. Practice now, dear Śiva.
I have selected a set of 3 techniques for you to practice meditation according to Śāmbhavopāya:
निर्वृक्षगिरिभित्त्यादिदेशे दृष्टिं विनिक्षिपेत्।
विलीने मानसे भावे वृत्तिक्षीणः प्रजायते॥६०॥
Nirvṛkṣagiribhittyādideśe dṛṣṭiṁ vinikṣipet|
Vilīne mānase bhāve vṛttikṣīṇaḥ prajāyate||60||
(The yogī) should cast (vinikṣipet) his eyes (dṛṣṭim) on a region (deśe) in which there are no trees (nirvṛkṣa), on a mountain (girí), on a wall (bhitti), etc. (ādi). When his mental (mānase) state (bhāve) is dissolved (vilīne), it will arise (prajāyate) a condition in which all fluctuations of his mind (vṛtti) have ceased to function (kṣīṇaḥ).
When the mind is concentrated for a certain period of time on a vast vacant space, it will become like this: vacant. Mind will become that which is placed before it for a long time. And when my mind is vacant, you are able to realize your essential nature because all those confusing thoughts are gone at that moment. This technique belongs entirely to Śāmbhavopāya because there is no "ālamba" or Supporting It is truly "nirālamba" (without any support). Experience by yourself.
इच्छायामथवा ज्ञाने जाते चित्तं निवेशयेत्।
Icchāyāmathavā jñāne jāte cittaṁ niveśayet|
When a desire (icchāyām) or (athavā) knowledge (jñāne) arises (jāte), (if the yogī) --with his mind (cetāḥ) one-pointed (ananya)-- fixes (niveśayet) his mind (cittam) (on that desire or knowledge) considering it (buddhyā) to be the Self (ātma), then (tatas) (he will have) a vision (darśanam) of the Truth (tattvārtha).
Before practicing you will have to calm down your mind. Sit down with your spinal column straight and concentrate on your breathing. This simple concentration will become your mind one-pointed. An one-pointed mind is that which has been withdrawn from all objects. It is completely introverted. All these desires or knowledges arising in your mind are related to objects. So, when you can withdraw your mind from those objects, only the desire or knowledge will remain. At that time, if you consider desire or knowledge to be Yourself (the Self), you will get rid of them all. They get control of you because you exist separated from them. When you become united with desire or knowledge, they will not be able to catch you any longer, since there is nobody to be caught. You got the idea?
बुद्धिं निस्तिमितां कृत्वा तत्तत्त्वमवशिष्यते॥१०१॥
Buddhiṁ nistimitāṁ kṛtvā tattattvamavaśiṣyate||101||
(If the yogī) immobilizes (nistimitaṁ kṛtvā) his intellect (buddhim) when he is under the sway (gocare) of desire (kāma), anger (krodha), greed (lobha), infatuation (moha), arrogance (mada) or envy --and jealousy-- (mātsarya), that (tad) Principle (tattvam) (who is a Witness to the aforesaid mental states, alone) subsists (avaśiṣyate).
To be under the sway of a strong emotion may be auspicious if you are intelligent enough. You should make the most of this chance. Things are moving fast in your mind and tons of energy are available if you have the right knowledge. For example, let's take the emotion known as "mātsarya". This Sanskrit term has two meanings: envy and jealousy. You surely know the feeling of jealousy: so much energy moving throughout your body and mind. It is really unpleasant and many mistakes may be made if you let this tremendous energy be extroverted (that is, if you allow jealousy to speak by your mouth or act by your entire body). You might even come to kill people if this harmful feeling gets full control of you. A real calamity indeed.
One technique to fight against this jealousy and, in fact, against all alike emotions is to immobilize your intellect by dissociating your mind from the object of this emotion. Then, you concentrate directly on the jealousy itself "without accepting it or rejecting it". You are an impartial Witness to the emotion. You act as a tortoise that withdraws all its limbs within its shell on the ocassion of a great danger. When you practice this method, all energy pertaining to jealousy will boost you, as it were, to your essential nature. You will use all that energy, which is generally projected outward, to get an additional impulse which will allow you to get to your goal --the real You--. Instead of becoming upset by these dangerous emotions, you will experience bliss. But, you must be vigilant and cautious to take advantage.
Use these techniques wisely.
Dear friend, you must always remember that knowledge implies responsibility. You should use all these teachings to uplift yourself and mankind, not to delude innocent people. This knowledge is very important because when you get it you are not any longer so powerless before the all-pervasive ignorance. Now you have tools to start getting rid of it. Just as the author of Vijñānabhairava (the scripture used by me to give you meditation techniques) was not selfish, so you should not be egoist either. You should give these techniques to all people who ask you for spiritual help. Since knowledge is always flowing, if you attempt to make "your" own lake, the very nature of the knowledge will prove your worst enemy. Many people tried to be the owner of knowledge, but all of them failed to do it. Therefore, you must let it flow and spread everywhere. Thus, knowledge will be your best friend, no doubt about it.
That's why we want to give you all knowledge we are momentarily managing. No secrets are being kept. If we could publish this knowledge all at once, we would do it, be sure. When you have this attitude, you are not interfering with the flow of knowledge. And, as a by-product, new and fresh knowledge will come to you. Knowledge is infinite. No end to it. So, remember this: "Knowledge is a river, not a lake. Let it flow and you will be immensely happy. Not only that, other people also will".
This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.
For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.