#100 What is your real nature? and Non-Dualism

What is your real Nature? and Non-Dualism

O God, what is your real nature? Is it a collection of words?Verse 2

This is the first question the Devi or the Goddess, asks God what is your real nature? Without waiting for a reply, the Goddess gives her own answer. Her answer is from some of the other texts of Kashmir Shaivism. It is important to understand that the Goddess is not separate from God. She has taken on a separate form here, to help genuine seekers of the Truth. She is asking those questions that all students of yoga and tantra would ask, even those who have read all the required tantric texts. Is it a collection of words ?This refers to the Theory of the Alphabet of Kashmir Shaivism. The theory explains how from letters, the various constitutive elements of the universe are formed.

Or does the nature of God consist of nine different forms? Or is it a combination of three different heads, or three energies?Verse 3

Nine different forms refers to nine forms of God described in the Netra Tantra. three different heads is a reference to the Trishiro Bhairava Tantra , a text which is now lost. three energies refers to the three energies of God – Supreme energy, medium energy and inferior energy. Energy is the creative aspect of God. It is through Energy that God creates the universe and all forms in it. In tantra, the Goddess is Energy. The word shakti used in Sanskrit, is translated sometimes as Energy and sometimes as the Goddess. The words Energy and Goddess are frequently used interchangeably. Supreme Energy is when the God and the Goddess are one. There is no distinction between the two. Medium energy is energy that is used as means for the individual to return to God. Inferior or lower energy refers to the individual and all the individual forms of the universe. The three energies are more commonly known as God, Goddess and individual, or Consciousness, Energy and matter. It is important to understand all of it is one Energy. This one Energy takes on different forms or characteristics. In its highest form, it is known as Supreme Energy. When it takes on the form of an
individual or an object, it is lower energy. But it is all one Energy displaying its different aspects.

Or are you consisting of sound, or point, or half moon? Is your nature that of energy ascending the chakras, or is it the voweless sound?Verse 4

Sound refers to the energy present in all words. Point is a reference to the light that is present in all objects. Some spiritual traditions believe that all created matter comes from sound and light. Half moon refers to energy that appears in a curved form energy ascending the chakras and voweless sound is a reference to meditation techniques used to reach God.

Is medium and inferior energy divisible in parts? If that is also the nature of supreme (transcendent) energy, then it is inconsistent with transcendence.Verse 5

The Supreme Being is certainly not a division of color or bodies. How can the Supreme Being be indivisible and yet be a composite of parts? O Lord, be gracious on me, and remove my doubts completely.Verse 6

In these two verses, the Goddess is getting to the core belief of tantra- the philosophy of non-dualism. ls medium and inferior energy divisible in parts? The Goddess is asking whether individual life forms (inferior energy) are separate from each other. Are they divisible? Are they distinct or separate from each other? We certainly look separate and distinct from each other. If the answer is yes, we are separate from each other, then how can you say that God is within us? That in essence we are only God (Supreme Energy)? God cannot be divided into separate
parts, into different colors or bodies. God is the Whole, indivisible. Therefore, how do you reconcile these two opposing truths. On the one hand, tantra says we (individual forms) are all part of God, or are all filled with God. Yet each form or life form is separate from each other (it appears that way). And God cannot be divided into separate forms or parts.

How can the Supreme Being be indivisible and yet be a composite of parts? Therefore, the Goddess is implying that if individual forms are separate from each other, you cannot say that we are composed of God, because God cannot be divided. These individual forms must be composed of something else. Are we therefore separate from God and separate from each other? The Goddess has basically presented the argument of dualistic traditions. These traditions or religions teach that we are separate from God, and distinct from each other. To put it simply, the Goddess is asking that, as God is indivisible, how can individual forms be separate and yet be a part of God.

God Said:

Excellent! Excellent! Dear one, you have asked the essence of tantra.Verse 7

The Goddess has asked two questions: What is your real nature (Verse 2), and how can individual forms be part of God when they are separate (divisible), because God is indivisible.

Dear one, even though the subject is very difficult to understand, I will explain it to you. Whatever has been declared as the divided forms of God –Verse 8

Know that 0 Goddess to be insubstantial, like a magic show, like an illusion or dream, or as an imaginary city in the sky.Verse 9

What God is saying here, is that what you are seeing is not real. It is an illusion. Whatever has been declared as the divided forms of God – know that 0 Goddess to be insubstantial, like a magic show, like an illusion. The key words here are divided forms. The divided forms are an illusion. They are not real. We are not separate from God and from each other. For example: While watching a movie we see images of separate human beings and other life forms on a screen. These images are not real. They are just images. In actual fact, there is only a screen, and a projector, creating those images on the screen. The world is something like that. Images on the screen of God, where God is all three, the projector, the screen and the images on it.

Two questions now arise. If this world is an illusion or dream, then what is its purpose? Tantra says that the world is God’s play (Shiva’s lila). However, the world is important. It is necessary, so that God can experience his own nature. A contrasting field is necessary to experience the Ultimate Reality. Without “large”, we would not be able to experience “small”. Similarly, without “pain”, we would not know “pleasure”. If there is a place in this world where everybody is large, nobody is actually large because they do not know what small is.
Essentially, no definition or description can exist without its opposite. It cannot exist in a vacuum. A person cannot be “good” unless you know what “bad” is. Yoga says God’s essential nature is joy. For God to experience his own joy, the relative world is necessary. Without the world of opposites, God would not be able to experience his/her nature. There would only be void, shunya . This is the difference between the Hindu and Buddhist concept of God. Hindus say God is Joy and Consciousness. Buddhists say the Ultimate Reality is Void. They are both correct. They are two sides of the same coin. God is Joy and Consciousness, but without the relative world, the illusion, God is Void. Interestingly, this text uses a number of words for God. Shiva, Deva, Bhairava, Supreme Reality, Supreme Space, Supreme, Brahman, and yes, also Void.
This theory would also explain why the concept of heaven and hell, as expounded by some religions, would never work. If a person was in hell experiencing never-ending pain, after a while pain would not be pain, it would be nothing. If one continuously experiences pain and nothing else, then after a while pain would lose its meaning. In order to experience pain, one also has to experience its opposite, pleasure. Without its opposite, pain is no longer pain. It becomes nothing. For the same reason, heaven would never work. If you continuously experience pleasure without experiencing any pain, then after a while the experience of pleasure becomes nothing.
The second question that arises is that if the world is an illusion, how can we experience or know the Real? The answer to that is given in Verse 15. The
sages of India were always concerned with finding the truth behind the illusion separating the Real from the unreal. There is a beautiful prayer in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad on this search for truth. As far as spiritual poetry goes, there is very little to surpass its beauty:

From the unreal lead me to the Real.
From darkness lead me to Light.
From death lead me to ImmortalityBrihadaranyaka Upanishad

These concepts are used as a support for meditation for people of confused minds, who are interested in performing external actions. It is only for those people who are stuck in dualizing thoughts.Verse 10

God now addresses the concepts put forth earlier by the Goddess. As to whether God consists of nine different forms, sound, point, etc. or not are for
people stuck in dualizing thoughts. For those people who see themselves as separate from God and who cannot reconcile to the idea of God and themselves being One. Such people are more interested in performing rituals and external actions, than in meditating or going within .

In reality, God is neither of nine different forms nor a collection of words. Not of three heads and nor of three energiesVerse 11

Not sound or point, nor half moon. Ascending the chakras is not my essence, and nor is energy my nature.Verse 12

God is now beginning to address the Goddess’s first question- what is your real nature? In these two verses, the suggestions made by the Goddess
are refuted. The real nature of God is not what the Goddess has suggested. Not sound or point, nor half moon. The Goddess can now well ask that if all these concepts are not God’s nature, then why have all these concepts been mentioned in some tantric texts, as being God’s essence. The reply is given in the next verse.

These concepts are for those whose intellect is not mature enough to understand Ultimate Reality. They are just like a mother who frightens children away from danger, and encourages everyone to commence their spiritual practices.Verse 13

Some people are not able to understand God’s true nature. The concepts of God’s nature as suggested by the Goddess are meant for such people. They help these people, who are unable to grasp Ultimate Reality, to start their spiritual journey. These concepts lead one towards God. Once these people start their spiritual practices, their understanding of God increases. These concepts are then no longer required, and can be discarded.

I am free of all concepts of time or direction. I am not at a particular place. It is impossible to accurately represent or describe God in wordsVerse 14

Before explaining what God’s real nature is, God is first explaining what it is not. The past few verses have stated that God’s nature is not what the Goddess has suggested. This verse continues on the theme of what God is not. God cannot be described in terms of time or direction. God is beyond all concepts of time or direction. I am not at a particular place. God is not some superior being, residing at a particular place. God is everywhere, filling everything completely. This verse is saying that it is not possible to limit God. To confine God to a particular place or time. It is impossible to accurately represent or describe God in words. Words in any language would not be able to accurately describe God. This is because words and descriptions belong to the mind. To know God, we have to go beyond the mind. To know God, we have to experience God. Words are only a poor substitute. It is for this reason that the words and teachings of masters who have experienced God, are easily misunderstood. Their words attempt to describe experiences that cannot be described in words. We do not have words in our languages that can fully describe their experiences.

One may experience the joy of God within oneself, when the mind is still and free of thoughts. That state of God full of bliss, is the Goddess.Verse 15

Verse 15 is one of the most important verses in the entire text. It explains the basic philosophy of yoga and tantra. In the past few verses, God has explained God’s nature in a negative manner- in terms of what God is not. In this and the next verse, God’s nature is being explained in a positive manner- by describing what God is.
One may experience the joy of God within oneself. God’s nature is joy. The key word here is within. We can experience the joy of God within ourselves. Human beings are similar to the Musk deer. The male Musk deer emits the musk scent from a pouch located in it. It searches frantically all over for the source of the scent. Sometimes, this search leads it to slip and fall over mountain cliffs, to its death.
If only the deer had looked within, it would have found what it had been looking for- the source of the scent. Human beings are like that. We search frantically for happiness in the external world instead of within. We strive endlessly for fame, fortune and security, falsely believing that they will bring us eternal happiness. Achievement has also now become very important for us. Many people believe that unless they achieve something material in their lives (usually quantifiable in money), they will not be happy.
The greatest joy we can experience is the joy of union with God. In this verse, God is teaching us that this joy can be experienced within oneself. It is millions of times more than any joy we can experience in the external world. It is pure bliss and ecstasy. Any individual .who experiences this joy for even a fraction of a second, would not give it up for anything in the world. Not for money, fame or anything else. ·
A very important spiritual truth is being stated here. We need nothing external to ourselves to be joyful. We don’t need money, jobs, security, fame, or the approval of other people to be happy. We are truly individuals without need. The greatest joy we can experience, we experience within. Once experienced, nothing in the external world matches it. People who understand this truth, find their lives changing dramatically. They stop competing with others and start sharing more. Material achievements cease to be their primary concern. Instead, they focus their attention on seeking the true source of joy within. They work more productively without stress, and their lives become more joyful.
When the mind is still and free of thoughts. This is the key. The key that unlocks the door to eternity. To experience the bliss of union with God, one has to still the mind. Under normal circumstances, we are not able to control our thoughts. Our mind jumps from one thought to another. To know God and to unite with God, one has to control the mind. The mind is like a layer of dirt on a mirror. When there is dirt on a mirror, we are not able to see ourselves. When the dirt is removed, we are able to see ourselves clearly. Similarly, when the mind is stilled, we see our True Self. Verse 9 mentioned that our world is an illusion. We see the True Reality beyond the illusion, when we still the mind. Yoga is not interested in improving or sharpening the mind. Rather, it is interested in transcending the mind. When we gain control of the mind, then we are no longer subject to its whims and fancies. If we want to think, we think. If we don’t want to think, we don’t. People who are not in control of their minds are not able to do that. They cannot stop the flow of thoughts. Try it out yourself now. Try to stop thinking for five minutes- not to allow a single thought to creep in for five minutes. If you succeed, you will be fully enlightened.
Awareness is required to reach God. When we think, we cannot be aware. Thinking and awareness do not go together. That is why all spiritual traditions emphasize stilling the mind. Buddha used to teach that conquering one’s own self is better than conquering the whole world. Yoga says the same thing in a different way. Yoga teaches that it is better to change oneself, than to change the world. If this simple advice was followed by everyone, most of the violence and terrorism prevailing in the world today, would end.
The mind is an essential part of our ego. When our mind is stilled, our ego disappears. We become pure Awareness. In Kashmir Shaivism, union with God is not a meeting of two. When we achieve liberation, we do not meet God, embrace God and then unite with God. It is a meeting of One. When the ego disappears, God appears . When the ego appears, God disappears. Abhinavagupta, the greatest of the Kashmir Masters, used to teach that liberation (moksha), was nothing but the awareness of one’s true nature. Our true nature is something that is uncovered. God is within all of us. God needs to be uncovered. We realize this when our mind is stilled or our ego is dissolved. “Is it not written in your law,
I said, We are Gods?” (Bible, John 1 0:34)
Lord Shiva lays down the key requirement for liberation in this verse- stilling the mind. He does not go into any further detail after this. He instead expounds on techniques that can be used for achieving this objective. That state of God full of bliss, is the Goddess. There is no difference between
the God and the Goddess. This is a point that is explained in the following verses.

One should know my essential nature to be that joy, pure, and pervading the entire universe. As this is the nature of the Supreme Reality, who is to be worshipped and who is to be satisfied?Verse 16

In yoga and tantra, the essential nature of God is joy (or love), and consciousness. Joy is mentioned in this verse, consciousness is mentioned later
in the text. The joy of God pervades the entire universe. The universe is nothing but a part of God. Thus, the joy of God pervades the universe and everything in it. Our essential nature is also joy. We are not born in sin, as some religions claim. We are born in joy. Joy is not just our birthright. Joy is who we are.

God js joy: for from joy all beings have come, by joy they all live, and unto joy they all return.Taittiriya Upanishad

If our essential nature is joy, why is it that we don’t always feel joyful? Why are our lives sometimes filled with tension, pain, suffering, fear and sadness. The answer is given in the previous verse. We suffer because of the non-stop chatter of the mind. When our mind is stilled, we experience the joy of our true nature . There are moments in life when the mind suddenly stops working. It does not have to only happen when you are meditating. It can happen when you are walking alone, or driving a car. You experience a surge of joy spreading all over you. You can’t stop smiling. External events no longer have any effect on you. Someone cutting you off in traffic, or being rude to you, has no impact on you. You feel incredibly light and happy. It is a wonderful experience! Even if a person experiences this joy for a brief moment, he/she longs to recapture this feeling.
As this is the nature of the Supreme Reality, who is to be worshipped and who is to be satisfied? In Ultimate Reality there is only One, there is only God. God pervades and fills the entire universe. There is nothing apart from God. Therefore, who is there to worship? Who is there to satisfy or please with our worship? The worshipper and the worshipped are not separate from each other. They are one and the same. God needs nothing. God is everything and has everything. When there is only God, why would God need anything? Some religions talk of an angry God who demands things/ certain behavior from us. If we fail to meet God’s demands or expectations, we will be punished for all eternity, it is believed. However, the God of yoga and tantra is a God of joy or love. A God who is content in its own joy, and needs or demands nothing.

In this way, God’s highest state is celebrated. Through that highest form of mine, the highest form of the Supreme Goddess is also being celebrated.Verse 17

There is no difference between the God and the Goddess. In yoga, God is said to be joy and consciousness. Energy (shakti), the creative aspect of God, is the Goddess. The differentiation is made to help one understand the different aspects of God. In Ultimate Reality, there is no difference between God and Goddess . . God and Goddess are also part of dualism. There is only one Supreme Reality that is neither male nor female. It is for this reason that the Vigyan Bhairava Tantra sometimes refers to God as Supreme Reality, Supreme, and Supreme Space.
It is for the same reason that sculptures and pictures of Lord Shiva sometimes depict Him as Ardhanariswara , half male, half female. In these sculptures, half of the body of Shiva is shown as male and half as female. This is done to show that God is neither male nor female. Some of the tantric texts (particularly those of the Krama School) emphasize this point further. In these texts, God asks the questions and the Goddess gives the answers.

No difference ever exists between energy and the possessor of energy, between duty and being dutiful. For this reason, there is no difference between Supreme Energy (Goddess) and God.Verse 18

Some of the dualistic philosophies of India show God’s energy as being separate from God. In these philosophies, the created world, which is nothing but God’s energy, is seen as separate from God. Verses 18 and 19 refute these dualistic philosophies. There is no difference between Energy (Goddess) and the possessor of Energy (God). Therefore, there is no difference between Goddess and God.

The burning power of fire cannot be considered separate from fire. It is only described separately in the beginning, to enable one to learn its essential nature.Verse 19

The Goddess is Energy. She is the creative aspect of God. Through Energy the entire universe is created. Energy is in all matter. Matter is nothing but energy vibrating at a certain frequency. Yoga and tantra have been saying this for centuries. It is only recently that science is beginning to accept this truth- that all matter is created by energy.

The burning power of fire cannot be considered separate from fire. Therefore the creative aspect of God (the Goddess), cannot be considered as separate from God. It is described separately, so that one can learn the different aspects of God. For this reason, the entire universe and everything in it(which is nothing but energy), is not separate from God. It is all a part of God .

When one has entered the state of Divine Energy, one is in the state of God. For it is stated here that the Goddess is the entrance to God.Verse 20

Just as, by the light of a lamp and the rays of the sun, portions of space, etc., are perceived. Similarly, 0 Dear One, through the Goddess (Energy], God is known.Verse 21

These two verses state that God is known through Energy (Goddess). There are two things implied here. Firstly, each person has dormant energy called Kundalini located near the end of the spine, at Mooladhara Chakra . Kundalini and the chakras are discussed in greater detail later on. Some of the meditation techniques attempt to raise this dormant energy through the spine, to the top of the head. When this event occurs, we are said to be in the state of Divine Energy mentioned in Verse 20. This state is also the state of God. This means that in this state there is full awareness and total joy. When we raise this energy of life up our spine, we find awareness and joy increasing. Therefore, through the Goddess (Energy), we reach God (Awareness and Joy). These concepts are discussed in greater detail in the meditations. Verse 21 also states that through the Goddess (Energy), God is known. There is a more important meaning here, not just the one given in the preceding paragraph. When God’s energy is dormant, God is inert. It is through Energy, the creative aspect of God, that God’s nature is known. The example of a lamp is given. If a lamp is unlit, then one would not be able to see anything. Once the lamp is lit, then one can see the lamp and other objects in the room, and examine their nature. God is similar to the lamp and ·everything else in the room. The light of a lamp is like God’s energy. When the light of the lamp is on, then the nature of the lamp and every object in the room, can be known. In the same way, only when God’s energy is active, can God’s nature be known. It is through God’s energy (the Goddess) that God is known. The entire world is Energy. It is through the world that God’s true nature is known. ·This is a concept that was explained in Verse 9. The relative world is necessary in order to experience Supreme Reality. In the absence of darkness, light could not be experienced. Similarly, to experience the joy of God, we have to experience something that’s not joy. If we continuously have one experience (without its opposite), then that experience would lose its meaning. If we continuously won in every situation in life, the feeling of winning would become meaningless. We need the experience of losing to give value to the experience of winning. Similarly, to experience the joy of God, we have to first experience something less than joyful. That is why the world is important. Without it, God would not be able to experience the joy of his/her nature. Therefore, through the world (Energy), God is known.

O God of Gods, having a cup as an ornament and a trident as an emblem, devoid of direction, place, time and description.Goddess Verse 22

By what means can one acquire and be filled with that form of God? In what way is the Supreme Goddess, the entrance to God? O God, explain it to me in such a manner, that I may understand it fully.Goddess Verse 23

The Goddess asks two more questions. By what means can one acquire and be filled with that form of God? In reply to this God gives 112 methods. The second question relates to how the Supreme Goddess is the entrance to God. The Goddess then wants the questions explained in a manner, so that she can understand it fully . Shiva does not answer the second question directly. But what an answer He gives! Instead of getting drawn into further philosophical discussions, He gives 112 methods to reach God. 112 techniques for uncovering the God within us. Words cannot explain Ultimate Reality, only experience can. Philosophical discussions can only take one thus far. To truly understand God, one has to reach God, become God. The experience is what is most important. It is only when we experience God that we fully understand Him .When the Goddess asks God in Verse 23, to answer Her questions in a manner so that She can understand it fully, He does just that. But it is not the answer we expect. We would expect God to expand on the answers He has give in the previous verses. But God does not do that. Instead God shows us how to reach God, achieve liberation. Once we reach the state of God, then we will understand everything about God. It is not necessary to understand everything about God, before starting one’s spiritual journey. It is important to start. Once we progress on the spiritual path, we will automatically understand and know
more about God. Buddha gave a beautiful example to explain this. He said that if a man is shot by an arrow, the doctor will first try to save the man by pulling out the arrow, and then treat the wound. But if the man stops the doctor, and says, “Wait. I first want to know who shot the arrow, how the arrow was made, and what wood the arrow was made from”- then that man will die. Therefore, it is important to start one’s spiritual quest, and not wait for all the answers before starting.

Difference Between religion and spiritualism

The way Shiva answers the Goddess’s questions (by giving techniques), underlines one of the major differences between religion and spiritualism. In
religion, we are asked to accept other people’s beliefs and experiences about God. In spiritualism, we are encouraged to have our own experiences of God. To enable us to do that, 112 different methods are given in this text. Shiva replies to the Goddess’s questions by giving 112 meditation techniques. These techniques are for liberation. It is not necessary to understand every technique. It is necessary to understand and practice one technique. That one method will be sufficient for enlightenment. While reading these meditations, you will find a few that you are inclined towards. You may experiment with these few, maybe practicing each for a week at a time. The one that takes you the deepest, or gives you the most peace or joy, is the technique for you. When you feel a sense of peace or joy while practicing or even reading a meditation, you will know that that is the meditation for you.