Shakti & Shiva: Vigyana Bhairava Tantra

by | Oct 22, 2019

Let me share with you my limited understanding of Vigyana Bhairava Tantra, a potent tantric text of 112 meditations, over the next many blog posts. Do read Ascent from Bihar school of Yoga and Book of Secrets by Osho to drill deeper into this fascinating subject. Let me be merely the usher who opens the door for you.

In the beginning, Shakti asks Shiva: What’s your Reality? Is your Consciousness, the Bhairava nature, defined by the mantras, tantras and yantras? By sounds, images and feelings?

Shiva says: You are the face of my Reality. I am not separate from you.  I am not defined by any form, tantric, yogic or otherwise.

Then  Shakti asks again: How do I become your face?

Thus begins the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra, Shiva’s exposition to his own Self of Shakti in very practical terms of how to discover that Self. These 112 sutras, or verses, are classified by our senses, from breath, sound, sight, smell, taste, touch and so on, so that the seeker can very easily practice the techniques.

Bihar School of Yoga classifies these techniques as dharana or sense focusing techniques because of this reason. These techniques, with a little understanding and practice move the seeker into the realm of dhyana, meditation , and then on to samadhi, the witnessing , non subjective, non-dual state that Osho focuses on brilliantly in his book.

Om Namashivaya! I salute the Auspicious One!

I salute He, whose consciousness is Bhairava, and he who becomes Rudra, wailing at being separated from his own Reality.

The first four verses and to some extent the next four as well, of  VBT are about breathing, about reaching Shiva by focusing on one’s breath. I believe that all pranayama techniques as well as vipassana are derived from these four verses. Shiva’s opening verse is:

Shakti revealed in the breath up and down

Focus the mind on these and be fulfilled

Prana, breath energy, forms a sheath or kosha over our physical body. In all, we live in five koshas, annamaya, the gross physical sheath; pranamaya, the breath sheath; manonmaya, mind sheath; vigyanamaya, knowledge sheath; and anandamaya, bliss sheath. The movement from the gross physical sheath, through three subtler sheaths of breath, emotions and thoughts, to the final formless, thoughtless bliss sheath  is the journey of the seeker and seer.

The energy of prana, is further split into five parts: prana, apana, udhana, samana and vyana.

In this verse, Shiva advises Shakti to be mindful of prana and apana to discover herself as Shiva’s face.

Breath is the link between body, mind and spirit. Each breath is a reflection of our desire to live. When that desire to live stops, we stop breathing. Our thoughts and emotions are reflections of the breath and the desire to live. As long as we live in this body, we retain breath, desire, thoughts and emotions.

There are those who talk about a no thought state. Our scriptures do not talk about such a state. Patanjali says meditation is focusing on a thought and samadhi is the non dual state of witnessing that thought as an observer. Sunya or zero meditations, supposedly leading to a no thought zone, are just that, zero.

Within the pranamaya kosha, prana breath operates in the chest region and apana breath in the navel region. Prana is the upward or inhaling breath and apana, downward or exhaling breath. Shiva advises Shakti to be mindful of these two breaths to discover herself and be fulfilled.

This technique is not pranayama. There is no effort to control the breath. There is no need to count or watch the length of each breath. That will be counter productive. All that’s required is awareness. This is dharana, far subtler than pranayama. This is part of samyama, when the three states of dharana, dhyana and samadhi merge.

So, do not , dear reader, lapse into and indulge in kriyas that you may have learnt. They are useless in Shiva’s and Shakti’s context. Just watch the two breaths for now, as you inhale and exhale. As thoughts arise, and for sure they will, neither try to kill them or nurture them, merely observe them and be aware that thoughts are there. Shift your attention to the breath. Let the next thought arise and shift awareness again.

From the dharana of watching the breath, you will soon move into the dhyana of the thought and awareness of the breath, and finally into the samadhi of witnessing that breath independent of you, the breather.

Good luck with Shiva and Shakti!


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Ram Ramanathan
Ram Ramanathan


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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