Sutra 9 The Heart of Space



From the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra


शिखिपक्षैश् चित्ररूपैर् मण्डलैः शून्यपञ्चकम्।
ध्यायतोऽनुत्तरे शून्ये प्रवेशो हृदये भवेत्॥ ३२॥

śikhipakṣaiś citrarūpair maṇḍalaiḥ śūnyapañcakam |
dhyāyato'nuttare śūnye praveśo hṛdaye bhavet|| 32 ||



The senses declare an outrageous world —
Sounds and scents, ravishing colors and shapes,
Ever-changing skies, iridescent reflections —
All these beautiful surfaces
Decorating vibrant emptiness.
The god of love is courting you.

Every perception is an invitation into revelation.
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Ways of knowing creation,
Transmissions of electric realization.
The deepest reality is always right here.

Encircled by splendor,
In the center of the sphere,
Meditate where the body thrills
To currents of intimate communion.
Follow your senses to the end and beyond —
Into the heart of space.





sikhipaksais - like the feathers of a peacock. National Geographic photo.

Sikhi - a peacock, name of Indra, the god of love

(Indra is
god of the senses, the senses are called Indriyas)

Peacock - National bird of India, symbol of grace, pride and beauty, a sign of
joy; associated with Lakshmi and Saraswati. In some depictions, the peacock waits by the side of Saraswati, wanting to be her vehicle, but she uses a swan as her ride because the peacock is thought to be moody and unpredictable and influenced by the weather.

Śikhipuccha - peacock’s tail. In the tradition of the Siddhas, Shaktipat is sometimes given with the touch of a feather from a peacock.

citra - excellent, bright, clear, variegated, spotted, speckled, a bright or extraordinary appearance, the ether, sky, wonder, strange, wonderful, variety of color, picture, sketch, punning in the form of question and answer, also leaping to and fro.

rupa - outward appearance, phenomenon, color, shape, figure, consisting of, dreamy or phantom shapes, handsome form, loveliness, grace, beauty, splendor, nature, character, peculiarity, feature, mark, sign, symptom, likeness, image, reflection, mode, manner, way, trace of, a single specimen or exemplar (and therefore a term for the number "one "), a show, play, drama, (in alg.) the arithmetical unit, integer number, known or absolute number, a known quantity as having specific form, (in dram.) a reflection or remark made under partic. circumstances when the action is at its height, a sound, word.

mandala - circular, round, the path or orbit of a heavenly body, a halo around the sun or moon, a division or book of the Rig Veda. “Mandalaih means the five-fold organs of the senses,” LMJ.

sunya - empty, void, hollow, barren, desolate, deserted, vacant, absent, vacuum, desert, space, heaven, atmosphere.

pancha - five, --- (therefore the five voids); Pancha Tanmatra, the five states of nature: shabda (sound), sparsha (touch), rupa (form), rasa (taste), gandha (smell). And also -- the five tanmatra as akasha, space; vayu, air; agni, fire; apas water; prithvi earth.) Pancha tattva - the five elements. Pancha Tattva Dharana - meditating on the qualities of the tattvas. The five jnanendrias, the senses. (five fingers). Panchagni-the five sacred fires. Pancha kosha, the five sheaths. Pancha Mahabhuta. Panchamakara - five elements used in tantric ritual sacrifice: mudra, mamsa (flesh), maithuna (sexual union), matsya (fish) and madya (wine.) Pancha Prana (apana, prana, samana, udana, vyana). LMJ: pancha also refers to the five organs of the senses, the jnanendriyas. Panchanga - having 5 parts or limbs, the astrological calendar.

“Sunya pancakam means the totality of universality, to feel the universal svarupa everywhere.” - LMJ.

dhyayatah - meditate, thus meditating upon

Anuttara - not having a superior, best. (Lanman). The Highest, the Supreme, the Absolute (lit, one than whom nothing is higher). “This all-inclusive Universal Consciousness is also called Anuttara i.e. The Reality that which there is nothing that can be called higher - the Highest Reality, the Absolute. It is both transcendental (visvottirna) and immanent (visvmaya). Anuttara Shakti - the Spanda or pulsation of Supreme Creative Consciousness known as Shiva. Incomparable (Gavin Flood, in Tantric Body).

anuttare - follow to the end (anu, follow.)

Uttara - “higher, superior, following, the last part of a compound,” + an, not. “There is nothing more or additional.” Mark D, on Abhinava, “None higher.” “No limits.” “Anuttara means the supreme heart of Shiva,” LMJ.

sunya - empty, void, hollow, barren, desolate, deserted, vacant, absent, vacuum, desert, space, heaven, atmosphere.

pravesha - entering, entrance, penetration or intrusion into, entrance on the stage, the entrance of the sun into a sign of the zodiac, coming or setting in (of night), interfering with another’s business, obtrusiveness, employment, use, income, revenue, tax, toll, intentness on an object, engaging closely in a pursuit or purpose, manner, method, a place of entrance, door.

Hridayam (hṛdaya) - heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations), soul, mind (as the center of mental operations); the heart or interior of the body, the heart or center or core or essence or best or dearest or most secret part of anything. True or divine knowledge, the veda. Science.

bhavet - becomes. Bhava - becoming, being, existing, turning or transition into, state, condition, true condition, reality, manner of being, temperament, any state of mind or body, way of thinking or feeling, sentiment, intention, love, affection, attachment; the seat of the feelings or affections, heart, soul, mind; wanton sport, dalliance.


All definitions from the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (M-W), with interpretations added from Swami Lakshmanjoo (LMJ) and Jaideva Singh (JDS).


or


The senses declare an outer world of
Outrageous sounds and scents,
Ever-changing colors and shapes,
Wonderful skies, reflections.
All these beautiful surfaces
Decorating vibrant emptiness.
The god of love is courting you.

Encircled by splendor
Accept each sense
As an invitation into revelation,
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Ways of knowing creation,
Transmission of electric realization.
The deepest reality is always right here.
Every perception is a doorway
Into the play of form and freedom.

In the center of the sphere,
Meditating here 
Where the body thrills
To currents of intimate knowing,
Follow your senses to the end and beyond —
Enter the heart of space.





or:

The senses declare
An outer and outrageous world of sounds and scents,
Wonderful colors, strange shapes,
Ever-changing skies, splendor, reflections,
Specimens of every type,
And all these beautiful surfaces
Decorating vibrant emptiness.
The god of love is courting you.

Encircled by brightness
Accept each sense
— Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
As an invitation into revelation,
A way of knowing creation,
A transmission of electric realization.
The deepest reality is always right here.
Every perception is a doorway
Into the play of form and freedom.

Follow any path, light any fire,
Pursue the trails that call you.
In the center of the sphere,
Meditating here 
Where the body thrills
To currents of intimate knowing,
Follow your senses to the end
And beyond. . .
Enter the heart of space.



So far, I have done 50 different translations of this very densely coded text. Here are a few of the earlier ones.

a.

Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
These are feathers of the god of love,
Transmitting electric realization,
Awakening intimacy with creation.

Listening is immersion in the ocean of sound.
Seeing is receiving waves of light.
Inhaling, the scent of the world
Comes into our bodies.
Tasting, the substance of earth
Dissolves on the tongue and
Becomes one with the body.
In touch we receive and give embrace, everywhere.
The richer your sensuous experience,
The richer your spaciousness.

In the center of the sphere,
Meditating here 
Where the body thrills
To the currents of revelation,
Follow your senses to the end
And beyond into heaven.
Enter the heart of space.



b.

Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
These are feathers of the god of love,
Iridescent, rippling everywhere,
Transmitting electric realization,
Awakening intimacy with creation.

You are the center of a circle
That is everywhere.

Follow any path, light any fire,
Pursue the trails that call you.
The richer your sensuous experience,
The richer your spaciousness.
The Highest Reality is right here.

In the center of the sphere,
Meditating here 
Where the body thrills
To the currents of revelation,
Follow your senses to the end
And beyond into heaven.
Enter the heart of space.


c.

Wings of sensing
Extend in all directions
To every point of the compass.
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching
Each a way of knowing creation
a portal of initiation.

The secret of creation
The divine knowledge
Want to unfold itself to you.
The Highest Reality is always here
Inviting you into freedom.
Follow your senses to the very end
And beyond into heaven
Enter the Heart of Space.


d.

Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Each sense a current of divinity,
Initiation by the god of love,
Awakening intimacy with creation.
Take any sensation as a portal,
Step through into the spacious freedom.

Follow any path, light any fire,
Pursue the trails that call you.
The deepest reality is always right here.

In the center of the sphere,
Meditating here 
Where the body thrills
To the currents of revelation,
Follow your senses to the end
And beyond. . .
Enter the heart of space.


e.


Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Currents of splendor, circles of divinity.
Initiations by the god of love.
Awakening intimacy with creation.
This whole universe is my home.

Follow any path, light any fire,
Pursue the trails that call you.
Take any sensation as a portal
Step through into spacious freedom.
The deepest reality is always right here.

In the center of the sphere,
Meditating here 
Where the body thrills
To the currents of revelation,
Follow your senses to the end
And beyond. . .
Enter the heart of space.


The senses declare the outer world —
Outrageous sounds and scents,
Ravishing colors and shapes,
Ever-changing skies, iridescent reflections.
All these beautiful surfaces
Decorating vibrant emptiness.
The god of love is courting you.

Every perception is a doorway,
An invitation into revelation.
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Ways of knowing creation,
Transmissions of electric realization.
The deepest reality is always right here.

Encircled by splendor,
In the center of the sphere, meditate
Where the body thrills
To currents of intimate communion.
Follow your senses to the end and beyond —
Into the heart of space.




Being in the Heart
A meditation on gratitude inspired by The Radiance Sutras
By Lorin Roche, Ph.D.

Hṛ́dya (herd-ya) means “being in the heart” in Sanskrit — and also “inward, innermost, beloved, cherished, grateful.” Many of the meditation practices we receive from the yoga tradition invite us to go inward and inhabit our hearts in a profound way. The path inward is that of cherishing and being grateful. Dare to be intimate with life, find the courage to be tender, and move through this world in touch with the innermost soul. When we do this, our senses open up and drink in the mystery of creation.

Meditation makes my senses vibrantly alive, so I am in awe of existence. The intensity is hard to take. In this state of heightened appreciation, there is a sense of being continually stretched open, my heart stretched as if I am in a heart-yoga class. It is odd to think of gratitude as something almost painful, like the sweet reverent, aching, tingling sensation of extending in asana. I’ll come in from surfing to see babies playing on the beach and dozens of 5-year old girls and boys boogie boarding in the shore break, laughing in the foam. It is a scene from heaven. I feel privileged just to witness it. The delight sends a flash of light through my entire being. I receive such a profound blessing in that moment that I wonder, have I done enough to give back to the world?

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a classic yoga meditation text, describes over a hundred practices for entering divine perception right here in the midst of daily life. This is one:

The senses declare an outrageous world —
Sounds and scents, ravishing colors and shapes,
Ever-changing skies, iridescent reflections —
All these beautiful surfaces
Decorating vibrant emptiness.
The god of love is courting you.

Every perception is an invitation into revelation.
Hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching —
Ways of knowing creation,
Transmissions of electric realization.
The deepest reality is always right here.

Encircled by splendor,
In the center of the sphere,
Meditate where the body thrills
To currents of intimate communion.
Follow your senses to the end and beyond —
Into the heart of space.


śikhipakṣaiś citrarūpair maṇḍalaiḥ śūnyapañcakam |
dhyāyato'nuttare śūnye praveśo hṛdaye bhavet || 32 ||

The Sanskrit here is like a chocolate cluster of improbable combinations, like bittersweet chocolate sprinkled with chili pepper and sea salt, wrapped around almonds, crispy rice, and cinnamon. The mind is boggled - how could these flavors possibly go together? As it melts in your mouth, wildly different tastes hit you. So take an easy breath and let these words with their rich clusters of meaning dissolve on your tongue.

Sikhi, the first word of this sutra, has wide semantic range: “A peacock. A name of Indra. The god of love.” Taking the hint, we see that the peacock is the national bird of India, a symbol of grace, pride, joy, and extravagant beauty; Indra is the god of the senses; and “The god of love” may refer to Krishna, who is depicted as having a peacock feather in his crown. The Hare Krishnas say peacocks are “evidence of the sublimely spiritual quality inherent within material beauty.” Peacock feathers are sometimes used in Shaktipat, a transmission of divine energy, from the teacher to the student, in the tradition of this text.

Citra - excellent, bright, clear, variegated, speckled, extraordinary appearance, the ether, sky, strange, wonderful, variety of color, picture, sketch; punning in the form of question and answer.

Rupa - outward appearance, phenomenon, color, shape, figure, dreamy or phantom shapes, loveliness, grace, beauty, splendor, nature, character, peculiarity, image, reflection, mode, manner, way, trace of; a show, play, drama, a remark made under particular circumstances when the action is at its height; a sound, word.

Mandala - circular, round, the path or orbit of a heavenly body, a halo around the sun or moon, a division or book of the Rig Veda.

Sunya - empty, void, hollow, desolate, deserted, vacant, vacuum, desert, space, heaven, atmosphere.

Pancha - five. Refers to the five voids and the source of the five senses: gandha, smell; rasa, taste; rupa, vision; sparsa, touch; shabda, hearing.

Dhyana - meditation, thought, reflection.

Anuttare - follow to the end; the Supreme, the Absolute. The Highest Reality, both transcendental and immanent. In the tradition of this text, anuttara refers to “The Supreme heart of Shiva,” and Anuttara Shakti is the pulsation, the spanda, of the Highest Creative Consciousness.

Pravesha - entering, a place of entrance, a door, entrance on the stage, entrance of the sun into a sign of the zodiac, employment, use, income, intentness on an object, engaging closely in a pursuit or purpose, manner, method.

Hrdaya - (herd-aya) the heart (or region of the heart as the seat of feelings and sensations), soul, mind (as the center of mental operations); the heart or interior of the body, the heart or center or core or essence or best or dearest or most secret part of anything. True or divine knowledge, the veda. Science. Note the related word hrdya - being in the heart, inward, innermost, beloved, cherished, grateful, proceeding from or produced in the heart; a Vedic mantra.

Bhavet - becomes, representing a possibility, a hoped-for state, a potential, “It could become.” Bhava is “becoming, being, existing, turning or transition into, true condition, reality, manner of being, temperament, any state of mind or body, way of thinking or feeling, sentiment, intention, love, affection, attachment; the seat of the feelings or affections, heart, soul, mind; wanton sport, dalliance.”

Whew. Reading this glossary, even for the five hundredth time, just flattens me. How could anyone possibly pack so much meaning into thirty-two syllables, about fourteen seconds of chanting? Oversimplified, the instruction is “meditate on the five voids — the five voids that are the ultimate sources of the five senses. Follow them to the end, and enter the heart.” Reverse-engineering the sentence, we could say, “The Supreme Heart of I AM consciousness is right here, in the heavenly space inside of your senses.”

There are thousands of techniques here. Explore each and every one of your senses hearing, touch, taste, smell, vision — individually and in combination. Find the hrdya, “that which captivates your heart,” in each sense, to make your quest interesting. What makes your heart throb? Search out experiences that make you glad to be alive - great art, music, poetry, comedy, dance, food, fragrance, and then meditate on that. Learn to follow each sense beyond itself into shunya - space, heaven. Whatever your practice pranayama, asana, mantra, visualizations, meditating on the chakras — follow your sensuous experience into the beyond, and be at home in the Heart of Space. An iridescent, shimmering beauty appears when you are perceiving spaciousness simultaneously with the sensuous, the transcendent with the immanent.

Hrdya is also the name of “an intoxicating drink made from honey or the blossoms of Bassia Latifolia,” (an Indian tropical tree.) This refers to the nourishing, delicious quality that arises in us as we practice gratefulness. The nectar of gratitude sustains us on our journey. There is also a blessing and a warning: hrdya is a a divine drunken quality that comes from living in the heart, a sober intoxication that emerges from seeing eternity shining through this fleeting moment.

This sutra is saying, “You want initiation? You are longing to experience the Grace of God? The feather of Shaktipat is always touching your forehead. God is always here, inside your moment-by-moment experience, inviting you to receive the transmission of divine electricity that awakens you to live in your essence.”





* Thanks to Melanie Foust for the notes on the sensation of asana, Camille Maurine for line-by-line editing, and Dr. John Casey for Sanskrit notes.

Most of the definitions above are simply the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary, by Sir Monier-Monier Williams, published in and put online by the dedicated scholars at the University of Cologne.