The Exegesis of Kṣemarāja on the Vijñānabhairava-tantra: Observations on the Śiva-Devī Tantric Dialogue

Abstract


The paper presents some observations on the nature of the Devī-Śiva dialogue in the famous Vijñānabhairava-tantra based on the interpretation of it given by K ùemarāja in the extant portion of his Uddyota commentary on the text, especially in the initial passages of that commentary. K ùemarāja interprets the traditional tantric dialogical form as a mystery of Parā, the Supreme Speech-Goddess, in which She generates the process of ‘bringing down’ the sacred text-the tantra-thus embodying the highest truth about the Supreme. The paper contains translations of some important places in K ùemarāja’s commentary that have not been thoroughly studied yet.

Vladimir Ivanov The Exegesis of Kùemarāja on the Vijñānabhairava-tantra: Observations on the Śiva-Devī Tantric Dialogue Abstract: The paper presents some observations on the nature of the Devī-Śiva dialogue in the famous Vijñānabhairava-tantra based on the interpretation of it given by Kùemarāja in the extant portion of his Uddyota commentary on the text, especially in the initial passages of that commentary. Kùemarāja interprets the traditional tantric dialogical form as a mystery of Parā, the Supreme Speech-Goddess, in which She generates the process of ‘bringing down’ the sacred text-the tantra-thus embodying the highest truth about the Supreme. The paper contains translations of some important places in Kùemarāja’s commentary that have not been thoroughly studied yet. Key words: tantric dialogue, Vijñānabhairava-tantra, Kùemarāja, Parādvaita, Kashmir Shaivism Kùemarāja-a renowned disciple of Abhinavagupta and a prolific 11thcentury writer-was the author of a large body of texts that, along with the works of his famous teacher and some other important sources, form the basis for our understanding of the Parādvaita scriptural tradition and the Indian tantric tradition as a whole. Among his works are commentaries on old tantras that are of paramount importance for the tradition. These are the commentaries on the Svacchanda-tantra, the Netra-tantra and the Vijñānabhairava-tantra (VBT). While the commentaries on the first two texts are available to us today, the commentary on the last-the Uddyota on the VBT has survived only for the first 23 verses of the tantra. The main content of the VBT,1 starting from verse 24 onwards, is a description of 112 practical means for the attainment of the universal Supreme Nature that are revealed by Śiva-Bhairava to his spouse Devī. The first 23 verses serve as a preface to the main body of the text. It is really strange that the extant portion of Kùemarāja’s commentary, as ill luck would have it, cuts off exactly at the © Vladimir Pavlovich Ivanov, Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences 1 We are not discussing in the paper the importance of the VBT for the tradition of monistic tantric thought or the issues of the text’s origin and dating, for they were thoroughly highlighted in many research works known to specialists in this field. 23rd verse, when the preliminary part of the text ends and the main exposition is about to start. This “amputation” of the rest of Kùemarāja’s commentary seems quite enigmatic. We know that it was not Kùemarāja’s intention to restrict himself to commenting only on the initial part of the tantra. Indeed, we can be sure from his own remarks in another of his texts that he also commented thoroughly on the rest of the tantra. This fact was ascertained by Bettina Bäumer, who determined that Kùemarāja is referring to his Uddyota on the rest of the VBT in his other commentary on the Netratantra.[28] In spite of its incompleteness, the extant portion of the Uddyota is worth studying as the oldest commentary on the VBT and a fine specimen of Kùemarāja’s exegesis on some important tenets of Parādvaita.[29] It could be viewed in a certain sense as a separate text-a sort of prolegomenon to the VBT itself, since it is well known that the initial verses of any Sanskrit text are of paramount importance as they present in a condensed form the core ideas of the whole text, provide the context and give keys to the understanding of the subsequent exposition. Besides, in his commentary, Kùemarāja highlights an important feature in the composition of any Parādvaita tantric text-the ‘tantric dialogue’. This highest type of communication, in which the Supreme converses with Itself, is actually the act of generation of this world by the unfolding of the intrinsic nature of the Supreme-the Highest Speech-energy (Parā-vāk). This energy is the dynamic truth of this world and a way for the seeker to attain the Supreme. As the VBT text puts it:[30] This state of Bhairava, which is differently praised [here], is [nothing but] the Highest [Energy], because of [her] superior form [she is] renowned as the Highest Goddess [Parā] /17/… When the [contemplative] experience (bhāvanā) of [a person], who has entered the state of Śakti, [becomes that of unity and] without any differentiation, he thus becomes [one] with Śiva’s nature, [for] here [in this tantra] Śaivī is considered to be the entrance [into Śiva]. /20/.[31] Let’s turn now to Kùemarāja’s commentary. The author precedes his Uddyota in a traditional manner with beautiful maïgala verses where he glorifies the essence of this world-the union of the interplay of the Supreme and its Energy-Bhairava and Bhairavī:[32] [Who] is causing the tears [of living beings], who are afraid of existence, [and at the same time] makes [these] frightened [ones] free of fear;[33] [Who] expands [himself] in the abode of the heart [of all and every being]-the Master of [the] fiercely sounding [energies],[34] [who] puts an end to the end-bringing [death]; Let [Him] be victorious-that Supreme [Being], whose [essential] form is Consciousness, [who] realizes [the activities of] maintenance etc.[35] in everything, [who] is Bhairava-the Lord of the assembly of yogis, [who have realized] the nature [of the Supreme reality and] dispel [all] intimidation![36] //1//. I take refuge in [the great consort] of Śiva, [who] by expansion (unmeùāt) of Her [real] Self leads [us finally] to the Śаmbhava [type] of absorption[37] by revealed methods of aõu etc.,[38] which are manifested by the lights of [Her] clear and free [radiant] vibration.13 //2// By the [streams] of ambrosia of the [initial] tradition etc. a series of cloud [bursts] of the voice of Guru conceives the student’s mind and conquers [its] foundations destroying [thus] the unique suffering [of this existence]. //3// Whatever shines forth from the ocean of the Highest Tradition churned by the Mandara rock of [energy] of Wisdom is [verily] the highest ambrosia. Let it be permanently tasted by truthful people, [who are] purified by the Supreme Śakti in order to attain the nature of Śiva in this life and beyond! //4//.[39] In the spirit of the non-dual paradigm of the Trika teachings[40] and following the lead of Abhinavagupta, Kùemarāja in his Uddyota interprets the usual tantric dialogical form at the outset of the VBT as the mystery of Parā-the Supreme Speech generating the process of ‘bringing down’ (tantrāvatara) the sacred text embodying the highest knowledge about the Supreme. Using the technical philosophical apparatus of the monistic Śaiva tradition Kùemarāja presents the mystery of generation of the sacred tantra text as an interplay of the two sides of the Universal Consciousness (Saüvit)-the light of consciousness (prakāśa) and Its Self-awareness (vimarśa).[41] This interaction is depicted in the tantra by the dialogue between Śiva-Bhairava and his divine spouse Parā-Devī. As it is presented by Kùemarāja, in this conversation between the inquiring Devī and the responding Śiva, the Supreme is actually addressing Itself in a request to elucidate what should be considered Its essential nature among the various forms taught in different tantras and what should be the way for the bounded aspect of the Supreme which is the limited sentient being (aõu) to reach this very nature. As Kùemarāja puts it: Thus having expressed the majority of chief [tantric] principles [by means of] deliberation (vicāreõa), [that is full of] awareness (vimarśinā) of the essential meaning (arthahçdaya) of the entire [tantric] tradition,17 the Goddess of the Supreme Consciousness (Saüviddevī), desiring to manifest Her own form of the absolute Consciousness of Bhairava,18 addressed [Śiva]… So, ‘revealed’19 by force of awareness, [this] ‘self-sufficient’ (nirākāïkùā) Goddess,20 [displaying] the previously depicted nature of her own Self (svasvabhāvoktarūpā) and possessing the state of Bhairava, started speaking (in the described manner). [And She performs] thus everywhere: as in everyday communication (sarvavyavahāra), [the Goddess] of the Supreme Consciousness reveals in Herself the ability to become both questioning, [as well as] answering side; but here [in this dialogue between Devī and ŚivaBhairava] the specific [character of the conversation is that it] elucidates the Utmost subject (anuttarārthaviùayā). So, the Śrī Svacchanda-[tantra] reads [as follows]: Having assumed the roles of guru and śiùya, [it is] the Lord Sadāśiva Himself through the phrases [of] asking and answering sides [in a dialogue] made the tantra descend.21 This conversation of the Supreme with Itself is, according to Kùemarāja, the establishment of the specific highest type of relation (parasaübandha)- the identity of the highest Subject with Itself: …thus [by this dialogue is demonstrated] the very life (prāõatā) of the highest type of relation in this śāstra. So, the very nature of the highest 17 This refers to the deliberation of Devī upon the nature of the Supreme, based on the dif-ferent tantric concepts presented in VBT’s verses 2-6. 18 “…form of the… Consciousness of Bhairava…” (vijñānabhairavarūpatām) means here also the text itself-the Vijñānabhairava-tantra, for this text is the form, i.e., the embodiment of the Supreme Vāk-Devī. 19 unmeùa lit. means ‘the act of opening eyes’. 20 Devī is the embodiment of svātantrya-śakti, i.e., the energy of the absolute, not depending on anything else, freedom of Śiva. 21 evaü samagrāgamārthahçdayavimarśinā vicāreõābhimukhīkçtaprāyatattvārthā saüvid devī svāü saüpūrõavijñānabhairavarūpatāmāvivikùurāha… itthamāmarśanavaśonmiùannirākāïkùā svasvabhāvoktarūpā devyeva prāptabhairavabhāvā uktanītyā uvāca, sarvasya cedçśyeva prāyaþ sarvavyavahāreùvapi svayaü praśnaprativacanacaturā saüvit, iha tu anuttarārthaviùayā iti viśeùaþ/ taduktaü śrīsvacchande: guruśiùyapade sthitvā svayaü devaþ sadāśivaþ / pūrvottarapadairvākyaistantraü samavātārayat // (Kùemarāja on VBT 6-7(a)). Cf. SvT 8.31(b)-32(a): …pūrvottarapadairvākyaistantramādhārabhedata tajjñānamīśvare 'dāt. type of relation [becomes] the direct meaning of [this] honorable [text]- Vijñānabhairava[42]…[43] Ontologically, this dialogue is the everlasting process of the coming into being of the universe through the very essence of the linguistic substrate of this world-the interplay of the two sides of the linguistic symbol-vācya (‘expressed’) and vācakа (‘expression’). The vācya is the ‘highest’ supreme Anuttara and the text itself is vācakа-the embodiment of the supreme VākDevī. This interplay is the essence of tantra-the means through which ‘expands’[44] the manifestation of hierarchically organized levels of Being supported by the activity of Speech-energy. Kùemarāja formulated this in a rather complicated manner using semantically dense scholar-Sanskrit phrasing overloaded with compounds.[45] Here, [in this text, the Absolute] Consciousness-Bhairava [inseparable from his] divine Spouse[46] on the surface (bhittau) of [his] supreme potent (paraśākta) [vibratory] radiance, [which is of the] nature (ātma) of the full-‘I’ reflective awareness (vimarśa) [displays his essential] form of the flow of [his] powers of Will, Knowledge and Action [thus luminously] manifesting (avabhāsana) the states (pada) of Anāśrita[Śiva], Sadаśiva, Īśvara [and others[47] in a sequence in which] every succeeding state [is included in every] preceding one [and] expands (unmiùad) [itself] by the force of contractive including (nimeùaõavaśa)[48] of an endless inherent [in him] (antaþkçta) and distinct [from each other] levels of being (daśā), [where every] preceding [one is merged in every] succeeding one, [and each has] the manifestations of creation etc. (sargādiprapañca).[49] Having become the very seed of [all] these [respective] levels of being, secretly sustaining [them] as the inherent subject of the experience (satattvagrāhaka), by His energy through the succeeding manifestations of Paśyantī etc.,[50] via the inner throb (antasphuraõayā) [of consciousness Bhairava thus] manifests objects as if maintaining [this] world (jagadvyavasthāmiva). Through the force of [his] contracted [form] of Vaikharī etc.[51] [and] through the expansion [of Himself] as a vibrant [manifestation] of Īśvara etc., [He] by the activity of his energy reveals (unmajjita) the absorption into the union of Rudra [and Śakti] by the grace, [which] is hidden in the limited subject (mitamātç)-Such are the five activities determined by the Lord [and described] in the non-dual teachings.[52] Following Parātrīśikāvivaraõa[53] of Abhinavagupa Kùemarāja tries to present, in terms of logic and grammar, the mystery of the tantric dialogue-the initial moment of the conversation of the Supreme with Itself, when Its omniscient Energy-the Goddess of the Supreme Consciousness (Saüviddevī)-as if possessing no universal knowledge presented herself as the questioning side and started to speak (devyuvāca): There the Goddess of the Supreme Consciousness [whose] very nature is to illuminate etc., being awakened on the levels of Paśyantī etc.[54] is an inquirer. In herself, [She] is not different from the Supreme Bhairava, [but] the level of the Highest [Speech] (Parābhūmiü), [though it is manifested by her] own light (svābhāsām), because [it] is beyond grasping by inner or outer organs of senses [is presented to Her at the level of Paśyantī etc.] always as if [something] beyond (parokùāmiva)[55] as well as if [something] ‘was’ [in the past] (bhūtāmiva), because of the [activity of the limiting factor] of time [at the levels of] Paśyantī etc.; and [also] because [it is] impossible [to set any] concord (anvaya) [in terms] of days and months in the limits of kalpa-[period] regarding [an infinite number of] different [superior] subjects (rudra) [and] [inferior] subjects (kùetrajña),[56] [whose life activities are rooted in the] subtle [and] subtlest particles of prаõa, [this Highest level is presented to her] as if [something happened] right now (adyatanīmiva). When [She tries] to conceive [her Supreme form], it is like [She recalls it waking up from a sleep]: ‘I have talked when I was sleeping![57] [But it was actually] the same I [who talked], [so verily I am] the Goddess of Supreme Consciousness, the Supreme Mistress [of the Highest Speech descended] (parābhaññārikā) to the levels of Paśyantī etc. wishing to awake the progressive states of clearness, [who] ‘has said’ (uvāca) [and thus] reflectively presented (amamarsa) the shining secret of oneness (cakāsadrahasyam).’ Thus, [because of the state] of absolute completeness [Devī], being fully awakened [in Her] form of [the union] with Bhairava, [whose name should be] ‘etymologized’ [as ‘one that] makes everything sound by fury’, [and experiencing the state of the absolute] ‘I-ness’ the honorable Goddess said…[58] So, starting with the words śrī devyuvāca (‘the honorable Goddess said’), the actual process of ‘bringing down’ the tantra begins. It is mediated by the dialogue of Devī and Śiva-the explicit linguistic form of the inner interplay of the two sides of the Supreme, which through the multitude of words and things permanently reconstructs the oneness of the meaning of Itself thus eternally testing the nectarous blend of unity and diversity. Abbreviations VBT: Vijñānabhairava-tantra NT: Netra-tantra PTV: Parātrīśikā-vivaraõa SvT: Svacchanda-tantra TĀ: Tantrāloka References DYCZKOWSKI, Mark S.G. 1994: The Stanzas on Vibration. Translated with Introduction and Exposition by Mark S.G. Dyczkowski. Varanasi: Sunny Press. Netratantra with Commentary ‘Uddyota’ by Kùemarāja. Bombay: Tatva-vivechaka Press, 1926-1939 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 46, 61). PANDIT Balajinnatha 1989: History of Kashmir Saivism. Delhi: Utpal Publications. PANDIT Balajinnatha 2005: Encyclopaedia of Kāśmīra Śaivism. Jammu: Sri Ranbir Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha. SINGH Jaideva 1979: Vijñānabhairava or Divine Consciousness. A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga. Sanskrit Text with English Translation, Expository Notes, Introduction and Glossary of Technical Terms by Jaideva Singh. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. SINGH Jaideva 1988: Parātrīśikā-Vivaraõa. The Secret of Tantric Mysticism. English Translation with Notes and Running Exposition by Jaideva Singh. Sanskrit text Corrected, Notes on Technical Points and Charts Dictated by Swami Lakshmanjee. Ed. by Bettina Bäumer. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. Svacchandatantra with Kùemarāja’s ‘Uddyota’. Bombay: Nirnaya-Sagar Press, 1921-1935 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 31, 38, 44, 48, 51, 53, 56). Tantrāloka of Abhinavagypta with Rājānaka Jayaratha’s Commentary. Allahabad/Bombay: Indian Press/Shri Venkateshvar Steam Press/Tatva-vivechaka Press/Nirnaya-Sagar Press, 1918-1938 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 3, 28, 30, 35, 36, 29, 41, 47, 59, 57, 58). The Parā-Trimshikā with Commentary. The Latter by Abhinava Gupta. Bombay: Tatvavivechaka Press, 1918 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 18). The Vijñāna-Bhairava with Commentary Partly by Kùemarāja and Partly by Shivopādhyāya. Bombay: Tatva-vivechaka Press, 1918 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 8).

Vladimir Ivanov

  1. DYCZKOWSKI, Mark S.G. 1994: The Stanzas on Vibration. Translated with Introduction and Exposition by Mark S.G. Dyczkowski. Varanasi: Sunny Press
  2. Netratantra with Commentary ‘Uddyota’ by Kùemarāja. Bombay: Tatva-vivechaka Press, 1926-1939 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 46, 61)
  3. PANDIT Balajinnatha 1989: History of Kashmir Saivism. Delhi: Utpal Publications
  4. PANDIT Balajinnatha 2005: Encyclopaedia of Kāśmīra Śaivism. Jammu: Sri Ranbir Kendriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha
  5. SINGH Jaideva 1979: Vijñānabhairava or Divine Consciousness. A Treasury of 112 Types of Yoga. Sanskrit Text with English Translation, Expository Notes, Introduction and Glossary of Technical Terms by Jaideva Singh. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
  6. SINGH Jaideva 1988: Parātrīśikā-Vivaraõa. The Secret of Tantric Mysticism. English Translation with Notes and Running Exposition by Jaideva Singh. Sanskrit text Corrected, Notes on Technical Points and Charts Dictated by Swami Lakshmanjee. Ed. by Bettina Bäumer. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass
  7. Svacchandatantra with Kùemarāja’s ‘Uddyota’. Bombay: Nirnaya-Sagar Press, 1921-1935 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 31, 38, 44, 48, 51, 53, 56)
  8. Tantrāloka of Abhinavagypta with Rājānaka Jayaratha’s Commentary. Allahabad/Bombay: Indian Press/Shri Venkateshvar Steam Press/Tatva-vivechaka Press/Nirnaya-Sagar Press, 1918-1938 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 3, 28, 30, 35, 36, 29, 41, 47, 59, 57, 58)
  9. The Parā-Trimshikā with Commentary. The Latter by Abhinava Gupta. Bombay: Tatvavivechaka Press, 1918 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 18)
  10. The Vijñāna-Bhairava with Commentary Partly by Kùemarāja and Partly by Shivopādhyāya. Bombay: Tatva-vivechaka Press, 1918 (Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies 8)

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