Verse 119, Radical poverty

Verse 119, Vijñānabhairava-tantra   Radical poverty

The śloka reads as follows:

“Whilst looking at a landscape, he should put his mind aside with regard to objects and memories. Once the body is without support, the Universal Lord appears.”

वस्तुषु स्मर्यमाणेषु दृष्टे देशे मनस् त्यजेत्।

स्वशरीरं निराधारं कृत्वा प्रसरति प्रभुः॥ ११९॥

vastuṣu smaryamāṇeṣu dṛṣṭe deśe manas tyajet |

svaśarīraṃ nirādhāraṃ kṛtvā prasarati prabhuḥ || 119 ||

 The hermit goes out to the desert or the mountains, into a landscape broad and vast, without any particular feature to capture the mind. All objects and memories are put aside (tyajet). Fond memories as well as traumas, traditions and customs, resentments and angers, desires and fears, reputation and self-image, sorrows and joys: all are abandoned. The recollection of past lives, the inherited lives of one’s ancestors, the whole furniture of the memory bank: all are set aside. Egoity and body-image, impessions (vāsanā), and prejudices are let go. It is a return to the essence of one’s being, prior to all formation and deformation; it is a purification.

The word tyajet, ‘put aside’, is connected with the act of sacrifice. All things present and past and future are sacrificed.

The first words of Jesus’ first sermon in the first gospel, are concerned with this śloka: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’, namely those who are ‘poor’ in every sense. They have set all aside. It is a radical poverty.

Every support disappears. Our body, that is our limited self, is formed by the experiences of life on the formation of the past so it is painful to be without support. Prior to his crucifixion Jesus is stripped naked, stripped in every sense, and reduced to nothing. Even the divine support is removed. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me.’” (Mk 15:34)

When this occurs, then the Universal Lord (prabhuḥ) appears, literally ‘he flows out’ (prasarati). The Lord is not static but flowing, not changing but dynamic. The stability is in fact constant dynamism and energy, like the gleaming light, the flowing water, and the moving wind. All limitation is abandoned; there is a sense of universality, the ‘oceanic consciousness’, a phrase used by Romain Rolland to describe the profound experience of Ramakrishna.

The śloka has a play on words. The term nirādhāraṃ (without support) is taken from ādhāra which can also mean ‘source’ or ‘spring’. The word prasarati is based on the word sara which means ‘flow’, ‘river’. This, those who abandon every other source find a new spring rising in them, the divine Lord himself.

The Universal Lord appears clearly in the end but he has been present from the beginning, for it is not possible to abandon all support without first being supported by a greater reality.

The promise is made: that the Kingdom of Heaven will be given to those who are truly poor. That is, the power and influence, the reality and dimension of the Kingdom belong to them. They have become identical with the Universal Lord. The one to whom all authority in heaven and earth is given, (cf. Mt 28:18) is apparent to them because they have become him. There is deepest unity. They are one Body. To see one is to see the other, in identity of nature and diversity of persons. Having abandoned all, they become all.

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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