By Acharya Nihar Purohit
The ancient Sanskrit text titled ‘Pratyabhijnahrdayam’, the Heart of Self-recognition, is the culmination of a long phase of evolution of spiritual thought in Kashmir. Kashmir Shaivism, as this tradition of philosophical inquiry came to be known, is an Advaita or non-dualistic Shaiva philosophy that elaborates on older revealed scriptures called Agamas or Tantras.
The text, a small compendium containing the essence of the Pratyabhijna, recognition system, was written by Ksemaraja, a disciple of Abhinavagupta, the foremost Shaiva master of Kashmir.
In his ‘Pratyabhijnahrdayam’, Ksemaraja explains: “In this world, there are some devoted people who are undeveloped in reflection and have not taken the pain to study difficult works like Logic and Dialectics, but who nevertheless aspire for Samavesa, identification with the highest Lord, which blossoms forth with the descent of Shakti. For their sake, the truth of the teachings of Ishvara-pratyabhijna is being explained briefly.”
The study of this text triggers a desire within the reader to understand his true Self. It also suggests a spiritual discipline by which one can recognise the ‘madhya’, the centre or the Ultimate Reality.
Through the study of this text, the understanding of our own real nature, as well as the nature of the world around us can be reshaped. It also imparts one readily available practice to experience this reality.
Of all the aphorisms in the ‘Pratyabhijnahrdayam’, the one that stands out is sutra 17: ‘Madhyavikasac chidanandalabhah – With the unfoldment of the centre, the bliss of consciousness is attained.’
‘Vikasa’ in this sutra means unfoldment or expansion. It also means the illumination or shining of the centre. It’s understood as the spontaneous growth or expansion of our awareness to experience the scintillating light of the Self. It’s also seen as the creative unfoldment of various preceding states to reveal the centre.
Ksemaraja states in his commentary that ‘Samvit Shakti’, Universal Consciousness, is present as the innermost reality of all. Without it as the base, no form can exist on its own. Therefore, Samvit Shakti herself is known as madhya.
The commentary further states that the all-pervasive Shakti takes the form of ‘sushumna’ or ‘madhyama nadi’, the central channel in our body. After a seeker receives ‘shaktipata’, divine initiation by the Guru, the Samvit Shakti unfolds, expands and illumines herself, and one experiences ‘chidananda’, supreme bliss. The goal of a seeker is to become established in a constant experience of chidananda.
We can easily practise this aphorism in our everyday lives. The ‘centre’ is always within us. We just need to become aware of it. If we become aware of this centre, then we become centred in the power within us, and connecting with this shakti helps us lead a fruitful and enriching life.
One technique to find the centre is to focus on the space between the two breaths. It can open us to a vastness that seems to encompass everything and makes us realise that this experience of vastness and fullness was very much within and that we always had access to it.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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