‘A Spirituality of Pleasure: Deciphering Vijñānabhairava Verse 68’, International Journal of Tantric Studies Vol. 9 No. 1 September 19, 2013.
The “non-dual” (abheda) school of Indian thought later known as Kashmir Shaivism reached its apogee about the year 1000 CE and then largely disappeared. It was rediscovered by Georg Bühler, who in 1877 published his “Detailed report of a tour in search of Sanskrit MSS : made in Kashmir, Rajputana & Central India“.[i] This led to the publication of the Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies starting in 1911, with the last volume relating to that school being published in 1947. The first studies of Kashmir Shaivism in the Western style began in the 1950s. It came to prominence through Laxman Joo (1907-1991 CE), who taught in his native Srinagar and initiated Westerners as well as Indians.
The Vijñānabhairava-tantra is a short text of only 163 verses (śloka), which comprise 112 techniques related to the wider philosophical discussions of that school. The techniques are roughly grouped into themes, of which one concerns the “bliss” (ānanda) that derives from music and food and family reunion but also from sexuality. The fact that only three ślokas relate to sexual activity means that not only is sexual activity given its due place but it is also relativised as just one of a whole range of different techniques. There are, for example, a series on the breath (śl. 24-31) and a series on sound (śl. 38-42); there are techniques such the contemplation of an empty pot (śl. 59) or even the act of sneezing (śl. 118): all give the same result.
[i] Georg Bühler. Detailed report of a tour in search of Sanskrit MSS: made in Kashmir, Rajputana & Central India. Bombay: Royal Asiatic Society’s Library, 1877.