Vijnanabhairava-tantra sloka 108 Identification with the Self
The question is about becoming identified with the supreme Self (paramātmatve). The śloka teaches that by giving up every support (nirādhāraṁ) and every thought (vikalpān), when there is identity between the limited self and the supreme Self, one becomes Bhairava.
निराधारं मनः कृत्वा विकल्पान् न विकल्पयेत्।
तदात्मपरमात्मत्वे भैरवो मृगलोचने॥ १०८॥
nirādhāraṁ manaḥ kṛtvā vikalpān na vikalpayet|
tadātmaparamātmatve bhairavo mṛgalocane || 108 ||
“After removing all support from the mind, and entertaining no thoughts, when one has identified one’s self with the supreme Self, one becomes Bhairava, O Lady whose eyes are like those of a doe.”
This is an issue raised in our Neo-Vedanta discussions where Shri Ramana Maharshi asks people who they are and will not give up his questioning till such time as they acknowledge that they are essentially the Self. This seems to be the aim of all religions, to acquire union with the divine in some way and to some extent. This is problematic, however, in the context of Islam, which does not use phrases like ‘partakers of the divine nature’. Even when Hallaj says ‘I am the Truth’, he means that he is so aware of the truth that it forms the core of his being. Christianity, however, does not hesitate to propose divinization, theosis, as in the famous saying of St Athanasius (c. 296–298 – 373), “God became man so that man might become God.”
The śloka speaks of having no support, yet the rituals are of value since they are like doorways that lead beyond themselves. This is true also of images. It might be one aspect of the deity, the sword of Kalī or the sweetmeats of Ganesh for example, which attracts because it reflects something in ones’ character, but these limited aspects are given so as to go beyond limitation. It is like seeing a beautiful woman. At first the beauty the eyes or the fairness of the skin attracts, but then the gaze is taken further to see the full beauty of the woman. Or the ski jumper who uses the slope as his support but only so that he can leap into the air, and go beyond all support. Similarly in the worship of Islam the moment of prostration is the moment when the person reaches to the Infinite.
The question still arises about identity with the deity. How far can we go? At the heart of Islam there is the sense of obedience, the fulfillment of one’s obligation. As a result there is a sense of the blessing of God, spiritual more than material, the sense of closeness and presence, of peace and satisfaction. One has done one’s duty. In Christianity the sense of closeness is taken to the highest level, as Jesus ‘sits at the right hand of God’. There is fullest unity, the identity of nature and difference of persons.
This identity of nature goes hand in hand with the process proposd in the śloka, for Jesus is bereft of every support, and cries out at the end that he is abandoned by all, even it would seem by the One who sent him. He is reduced to silence, for nothing makes sense any more. All human words fail and his final utterance is one great cry, both of horror and triumph.
The practitioner, as Kameshvara, worships the goddess Tripurasundarī, and so experiences her beauty and energy. He does not become the goddess but is one with her. This is a different sort of identity. It is union without identity of nature. It is complementarity where one implies the other so that both are involved in each.
The śloka particularly emphasizes the sense of one’s divinity, one does become Bhairava. This fits in perfectly with Jesus’ statement ‘I am’. He knows that he is of one substance with the Father, not that he takes His place. Precisely because he is fully in the Presence of the One, he is all that the One is. They are of one substance and mind, of one will and being. They are consubstantial.