practice pages: meditation
The Radiance Sutras
In Love with the World
By Dr. Lorin Roche
The first time I meditated, I fell in love with the world. I didn’t mean to, it was a surprise.
As part of a brain wave experiment at the University of California in 1968, I spent several hours sitting in a totally dark and completely silent room. I had EEG wires all over my head, so I couldn’t move. The researchers gave me no instructions about what to do, they just left me in there to fend for myself. I had never heard of meditation, so I simply noticed what was going on. Gradually my senses opened up in ways that I had no words to describe, and somehow I merged with the blackness and silence and entered a world of utter peace. I felt at ease, free, and at home. After a couple of hours, it seemed like space itself was made out of harmony, and my body was just some dancing particles lightly layered over that space. The lab assistant came in to remove the wires, and it took me a few minutes to assemble myself, condense into human form again.
Walking out of the lab into a golden California afternoon, I felt refreshed and wonderful. My senses had rebooted themselves, and I was seeing the world as if for the first time. Everything was glowing, as if lit from within. Light itself seemed soluble, an elixir I was drinking in through my eyes and the pores of my skin. All the senses – seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing, were shimmering with the beauty of the world. This state of illumination lasted for months, leaving me in awe, and with a desire to explore yoga, which I was beginning to hear about. Then I came across the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, which speaks of this experience.
In The Radiance Sutras, Sutra 42, Shiva sings to his beloved, Shakti:
With one sweep of attention
Gather in the whole universe
And remember it as your body of bliss
The deep rhythms of life
As they pulsate
Stir an ambrosia
Flowing and overflowing everywhere.
Drink the nectar
Of this all-pervading joy
From the radiant cup
That is this very body.
sarvaṃ jagat svadehaṃ vā svānandabharitaṃ smaret |
yugapat svāmṛtenaiva parānandamayo bhavet ||
sarvam – all; jagat – the world, the universe; sva – one’s own, innate, inherent; sva deham – your own body; va – or, and, even; sva ananda – your bliss, the inherent bliss of the self; bharitam – filled, nourished; smaret – remember, meditate on; yugapad – simultaneously, side-by-side, all at once; sva amrita – your amrita or nectar-essence of life; tena – by means of that very (nectar); eva – so, indeed, truly, really; para – far, distant, extreme, ancient, supreme; anandamaya – made of bliss; bhavet – become (alive with bliss).
“The whole world and your body are filled with innate joy and nourished by eternal bliss. In one sweep of attention, embrace this as your true reality. Remember it as your essence, your nature. Meditating in this way a nectar arises from the deepest levels of reality. Attend to this nectar and become radiantly alive.”
I love the sound of the word amrita, and it has many layers of meaning. At one level it means “not dead, immortal, imperishable; eternal.” Amrita is also “a nectar-like food,” the ambrosia produced by the churning of the ocean of creation. In the mythic story of Samudra Manthan, the gods and the titans are churning the cosmic sea; treasures arise, including amrita, the drink that confers eternal life. In this tradition of Tantra, it is held that when we focus on the deep rhythms of creation, the subtle waves in the cosmic sea, our senses drink the amrita as it arises, become illuminated and more capable of perceiving the celestial beauty all around us.
This is a party to which we are all invited. The invitations are everywhere, all the time. Learn to pay attention – that is how you attend the party. One function of Tantra is to train us to recognize and be filled with our sva ananda, our personal gateways into bliss, for we can come across these moments spontaneously in the course of our life adventures. We can fall in love with the world when walking the baby, paddling out to catch a wave, running at dawn, sipping wine at sunset, hiking a hill then looking out over the horizon, looking up at the stars on a clear night or lying in bed in the afterglow of lovemaking.
Over the last forty years of teaching, most people I’ve met have already had spontaneous realizations and have tasted this ambrosia – for a few seconds, hours, days or weeks. This is what spurs on their desire to learn Yoga and meditation. My role as a meditation teacher is to help them develop a daily practice that suits their unique inner nature, so they can continue to connect with the deep rhythms of life.In the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Shiva calls this a yukti. The word has multiple meanings, including “a Yoga technique” and “a skillful means for union with the Divine.” You can practice a yukti intentionally. And you can catch yourself in a moment and improvise – use your Yoga skills to extend and intensify something wonderful that is happening naturally.
We all have our personal, sensory gateways into bliss. What are yours?
*A case of amrita, on my tab, to Dr. John Casey for consulting with me on nuances of Sanskrit grammar, and a round to Denise Kaufman, Camille Maurine, and Felicia Tomasko for meditating with me on both the Sanskrit and the English.
Dr. Lorin Roche holds a PhD from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to describe their inner experiences. He does one-to-one coaching and trains Yoga teachers in how to teach meditation. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from his website: lorinroche.com