Verse 145, Vijñānabhairava-tantra The essence of the mantra
The śloka reads as follows:
“The act of contemplation, while it is being progressively brought to the supreme level, is a ‘recitation’. Sound arises there spontaneously, sound that is the essence of the mantra. That sound is to be recited.”
भूयो भूयः परे भावे भावना भाव्यते हि या।
जपः सोऽत्र स्वयं नादो मन्त्रात्मा जप्य ईदृशः॥ १४५॥
bhūyo bhūyaḥ pare bhāve bhāvanā bhāvyate hi yā |
japaḥ so ‘tra svayaṃ nādo mantrātmā japya īdṛśaḥ || 145 ||
Contemplation (bhāvanā) develops progressively (bhūyo bhūyaḥ). When it reaches the supreme level (pare bhāve) it is in fact the mind of Śiva himself. While there are methods and techniques to help the beginner on the road of contemplation, the act of contemplation becomes increasingly natural and effortless. This is because the Divine lies at the very heart of each human, essentially. To discover one’s centre is to discover Reality, which is both divine and the source of one’s humanity.
The guru perceives this inner essence of the disciple and brings it into the open. The guru does not give what was not there, but brings into the open and into effect that which lay concealed. This teaching is found in St Paul: “[God] has let us know … the hidden plan he so kindly made in Christ from the beginning”. (Eph 1.90)
This process of becoming increasingly contemplative enables the individual to reach the divine state, which is in fact the interplay of light (prakāśa) and auto-illumination (vimarśa), of self and self-knowledge. The relationship between self and self-knowledge is a vibration, and in this sense is a recitation (japa). In fact it is the highest form of recitation of which all other forms are a preparation.
From the state of the Self there arises the awareness (vimarśa) ‘I am’. This is the primordial ‘sound’ (nado), which arises spontaneously (svayaṃ) from the Self (‘tra). It is not so much an audible sound as the perfection of the Word. It arises of its own accord, in all freedom, and is not a distraction to be avoided. It is also called the ‘unstruck’ sound (anāhata). It is also called ‘the essence of the mantra’ (mantrātmā), since all other mantras are imbued with it just as the sesame oil permeates through all parts of the seed. It is not a product of the contemplator’s will, for it is spontaneous. He (she) surrenders to it, not unwillingly but in full freedom.
The contemplators will progressively come to a state where they too say ‘I am’, for they are Śiva.
How does this relate to Christianity? The aim of Christian spirituality is theosis, namely divinisation. As St Athanasius famously said, ‘God became man so that man might become God. The Christian acquires not just the mind and heart, but the very being of God, becoming “a participant in the divine nature”. (2 Pt 1:4) God can be known fully only by those who have acquired the fullness of his being. Then there is no division between contemplator, contemplation and contemplated. All are one.
When a person reaches the heights of contemplation their whole person is suffused with the divine reality, such that even “ordinary language becomes a recitation” (kathā japaḥ).