Verse 109, Vijñānabhairava-tantra becoming Śiva by means of reflection
“The Supreme Lord is all-knowing, all-doing, and all-doing, pervading. I am He indeed, the reality of Śiva. As a result of dwelling on this thought, one becomes Śiva.
सर्वज्ञः सर्वकर्ता च व्यापकः परमेश्वरः।
स एवाहं शैवधर्मा इति दार्ढ्याच् चिवो भवेत्॥ १०९॥
sarvajñaḥ sarvakartā ca vyāpakaḥ parameśvaraḥ |
sa evāhaṁ śaivadharmā iti dārḍhyāc civo bhavet|| 109 ||
At the first stage, a threefold description is given of the Supreme Lord (parameśvaraḥ), “all-knowing, all-doing, and all-doing, pervading”, which recalls the three faculties, of knowledge, action and will, not in their limited human sense but ‘all-knowing’ etc. Even these are concepts (vikalpa) and therefore are in one sense limited. They prepare for next stage which is to realize that “I am he indeed” (sa evāhaṁ), which is similar to the famous mantra so ’ham (“I am he’). This is reinforced by the next phrase “the reality of Śiva” (śaivadharmā). All that the Lord is, so am I. It is the moment of recognition and realization. It is a moment of grace, for the knowledge of the Lord ‘out there’ is only a step the prelude to the realization of one’s inner being.
This reminds us of the famous saying of St Paul in Galatians, “I live or rather not I but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20). It is reflected again in th phrase, “you are the body of Christ” (I Cor 12:27), or the image of the vine and the branches (Jn 15). The vine is all branches; one can only see separate branches but the reality is the vine. All together constitute a diversity and a unity. This teaching of identity is significant.
The practitioner dwells on this thought (dārḍhyāt), on this realization. It is an act of focusing the attention (dhāraṇa). The practitioner reflects during the time of meditation but also at all times, according to the level of grace. The more a person realizes this the more she can realize it at every moment so that it informs all her actions.
The question arose about the meaning of identity. The theme of divinization (theosis) is found in Christianity as when Athanasius famously says, “God became man so that man might become God”, or St Peter speaks of becoming “participants in the divine nature.” (2 Pt 1:4) or St John, “we will be like him, for we will see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).
The question arises about devotion. When the Kari Krishna has devotion to Krishna, there is at first a separation, a devotion to someone ‘over there’, but as the devotion progresses, the man realizes that he is Krishna and the woman realizes she is Radhā, and they join as Krishna and Radhā. The purpose of devotion is to become one, so that there is no ‘other’.
The issue of identify of nature and diversity of persons is at the heart of the Trinitarian concept, but this śloka is dealing with the identity of nature only. The purpose of the Christian faith and of tantra is to realize one’s true nature. I am not this limited individual or rather, my inner essence is Christ himself. “I am he indeed”. Therefore, one becomes all-knowing all-pervading, all-doing, separate from nothing, foreign to nothing.
Is such a consideration possible in Islam? In Sufi tradition, it is entirely possible, for in the act of adoration and intimacy there is identity of the worshiper with Allah, so that they are no longer divided but one, indeed. There is no sense even of ’one’, for that is a concept. There is the experience of complete union without ideation. The Qu’ran was given because people had come to darkness, and needed the light of the Qu’ran. It is in the deepest darkness that light appears in all its beauty and brilliance; it is when one is completely lost in the dark forest that the light of some welcoming house is most beautiful and comforting.
Similarly, in the moment of greatest darkness, when Jesus utters one great cry from the cross, he gives his greatest teaching, beyond words. In the moment of greatest darkness, the greatest revelation occurs. It is the moment when light and dark come together. So in the darkness of the Kalī age, the great teaching is given, the ‘Fifth Veda’, which is another name given to the tantric system.
This is divine teaching. It is eternally true but revealed in time. This is said also, Islam teaches, of the Qur’an which is uncreated but which has been expressed in material form in the Arabic words of the holy book. Likewise, the Word of God has existed from the beginning, uncreated, and is made manifest in flesh and we call him ‘Jesus’. Again, the teaching of the tantra is eternal but made manifest here.
According to Christian teaching, the revelation is given but not necessarily fully understood. It is only by the inspiring effect of the Holy Spirit that at last the full mystery of Christ is revealed. The Spirit does not add to what Jesus taught but shows what he means. Thus there is no new revelation but progressive understanding of the revelation. So too in Islam the Qur’an is given but must be read and reflected upon and understood and applied to life. The Qur’an cannot be taken as fully understood, as do some fundamentalists.