Yoga of Vijñāna Bhairava

By Boris Marjanovic

Vijñāna Bhairava is a part of the Rudrayāmala Tantra which belongs to the group of the nondual
Bhairava Tantras. This is a book containing Yoga practices which follows the principles of
the non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir. As, according to this system, the knowledge and practice
go hand in hand it is necessary to explain some of these principles: two-in one reality, Śiva
and Śakti, prakāśa (Light of Consciousness) and vimarśa (knowledge of that Light), IConsciousness
(aham), mantra its nature and applications, determinate (vikalpa) and
indeterminate (nirvikalpa) awareness, and so on. As we explain these basic principles, when
more clarity is needed, we will seek the help of the other texts, such as Abhinavagupta's
Tantrasāra and the Tantrāloka.


Like other Tantric texts Vijñāna Bhairava is written in the form of a dialogue between
Bhairava and his energy, the goddess Bhairavī. In verses 22 and 23, she asks Bhairava, how
can that supreme goddess, who is inexpressible, beyond time, space and the gateway into
Bhairava, be known? Most of the rest of verses (from 25-137) are instructions in 112 yogic
practices called dhāraṇas, each of which, when properly mastered, lead to the supreme
state.

 

The supreme consciousness is not only transcendent in nature but is also found in the
beginning and end of each perception, in-between two breaths, between two states of
consciousness, as for example between waking and dreaming, but also at the time when one
experiences extreme emotions like happiness or fear. It is for this reason that one can always
and at any moment experience that supreme state. However, the problem is that we are
always preoccupied with our thoughts (vikalpas) and thus are enveloped by the self-imposed
problems. These practices direct our attention (avadhāna) away from these problems and
enable us to experience deeper aspects of vimarśa leading to the forth state (turīya), the goal
of all yoga practices.

 

It is for this reason that the practices found in the Vijñāna Bhairava
could be practiced not only in the sitting position with closed eyes but also while walking,
talking, even running, or while engaged in any other activity. When it comes to breathing
practices, it is important to say that many are done in the course of regular breathing.
The verses of the Vijñāna Bhairava could be arranged in at least two different ways. One is
the classical order that we find in the book and the other is based on the nature of practices,
that is whether a particular dhāraṇa is concerned with the breath (prāṇa), purification of
thought constructs (vikalpa saṁskaraṇa), creative meditation (bhāvanā), emptiness (śūnya),
mantra repetition (japa), etc.
During this retreat, we will practice some of these dhāraṇas related to the above-mentioned
categories. Occasionally, especially in cases when a given practice is more clearly explained in
other texts, such as the Tantrāloka or the Tantrasāra, we will refer to these texts. At the end
of this retreat, a participant will be able to adopt a given practice that best suits her or his
nature and prior experience.