The Stanzas on Pulsation (Spanda-karika)

PLEASE NOTE: this is a partial and provisional translation that will be revised and improved. 

yasyonmeṣa-nimeṣābhyāṃ jagataḥ pralayodayau |
taṃ śakti-cakra-vibhava-prabhavaṃ śaṅkaraṃ stumaḥ
|| 1

We praise the Beneficent Source of the all-pervasive activity of the Wheel of the Powers [of Consciousness], the expansion of which is the arising of the world [of one's experience] and the contraction of which is its dissolution. 

Author's commentary on his own verse: "This reverent invocation teaches that the cause of the creation and dissolution of the world [of your experience] is none other than your own true nature, which is Divine; and that this true nature, whose body is Consciousness, [in due course] gives rise to the state of sovereignty over the Wheel of Powers (i.e. realization)."

My commentary (brief version):
In this verse, the awakened master Kallata (of 9th cen. Kashmīr) uses the metaphor of a wheel, the 'hub' of the wheel being the uncreated essential nature of all beings, which expresses most fundamentally as awareness itself, and the spokes of the wheel being the various powers (such as will, cognition, and activity) that are innate to awareness. He praises the center or Source of the all-pervasive dynamic activity of the Wheel of Powers because the expansion of that 'Wheel' is the creation of the world of conscious experience (which is all that actually exists) and its contraction is the periodic dissolution of that world (such as, on one scale, when you go to sleep). In other words, the whole universe of your experience arises in dependence on what you are, and as an expression of what you are. There is no universe apart from you, and *everything* you experience is an expression your true nature.

Secondly, and this teaching appears only in Kallata's commentary (based on a double meaning of the key phrase in the verse), you must inevitably realize your true nature and thereby claim your innate sovereignty over the Wheel of Powers -- in other words, you will inevitably realize directly for yourself that all you experience flows forth from you, exists in dependence on you, and dissolves back into you again, in an endless pulsation.

That in which all this rests and from which it has come forth as an effect--since It has an unveiled nature, there is no obstruction of It anywhere. || 2 ||

Kallata's explanation of his own verse:
"But how can one's essential nature be described as Divine in this teaching, when one is subject to aging, decay, death, and rebirth? If this is asked, we reply: that by which this world is supported and from which it arises has an essence-nature that is not obscured even in the state of being one subject the conditions of aging, death and so on. Since it has such a nature, it is never obstructed (nirodha), nor does it ever cease to be (nirodha), and thus is said to be Divine."

My commentary:
Like many Tantrik texts, the Stanzas start from the highest/ultimate truth, and later step down to address the apparent issues of socio-linguistically constructed daily life experience. So verse 2 says that in truth, your Divine nature is never truly veiled nor obstructed (I like to say "The Truth is hidden in plain sight. There's nowhere else to hide it!") As a corollary of this, you can experience the fullness of your Divine nature even while subject to the conditions of aging, illness, or decay, just as much as you can experience it in the bloom of youth and health. In fact, that constitutes an effective test of whether you have recognized your true nature: if illness or age rob you of the experience of your innate Divinity, then it wasn't the real thing in the first place, but rather a conceptual construct thereof. The ultimate test, of course, is death: only for one who abides in their innate Divinity does death hold no fear, nor sense of wrongness.

Your essence-nature, the Source of all you experience, flows equally in all three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and deep sleep, none of which are other than It. [In all these states,] the Perceiver never departs from Its own essential nature. || 3 ||

My commentary:
This verse touches on themes found in many nondual treatises: 1) that the waking state is no more important than the states of dream or deep sleep, since all three are equally manifestations of the one Awareness, or rather frequencies at which it vibrates; and 2) that the nature of Awareness can be discovered through investigating that which is the same in all three states.

Another, perhaps easier, method to discover your essence-nature is to investigate what aspect of 'you' is the same in the three conditions of happiness, boredom, or misery. Since the underlying Perceiver, formless Awareness-Presence, never deviates from its true nature (nija-svabhāva) in any given mental-emotional state, this contemplation is powerfully effective. Anyone who becomes temporarily obsessed with the question of what aspect of their experience remains the same in every possible state inevitably discovers that subtle yet fundamental Reality.

“I am happy,” “I am suffering,” “I am attached,” and so on--those experiences clearly operate within another [larger Being], in which states of happiness etc. are strung together [like beads on a string]. || 4 ||

Kallata's explanation of his own verse:
"There must be something that threads through all different states [of consciousness], by virtue of which one might claim to be the same one who is happy [in one moment] and miserable [in another], or desirous and then after, at peace; something else distinct from the states themselves. As scripture declares: ' …that essence-nature is most [to be] dwelt upon.'"

Wherein there is no suffering, no happiness, no object, no subject, nor numbness either: THAT exists ultimately. || 5 ||

Kallata's explanation of his own verse:
"And this is the essence-nature of the One [that you are]: that which is untouched by the mental-emotional states of happiness, sorrow, object, subject, numbness, and so on exists in an ultimate sense, because it is [the only] constant. Happiness and so on, arising from desire & imagination, apt to vanish in an instant, are external to the fundamental nature of the Self [and] are comparable to the sense-objects such as sound. If the Self did not exist when a cognition of a specific nature (like happiness) is absent, then it would be [not Consciousness, but rather] something like a stone."

That underlying Reality due to which this group of faculties, though insentient in themselves, spontaneously come to possess sentience and along with the Inner Circle [of Powers], are able to move forth (thereby creating experience), remain, and withdraw (thereby dissolving it) is worthy of investigation with diligence and care, since natural & innate Freedom inheres in it in completeness. || 6-7 ||

Kallata's explanation of his own verses:  "There exists that [inner] Potency which infuses consciousness in that which is by itself unconscious, such as the group of [ten] sense-faculties, due to which they, along with the Inner Circle, [are able to] move forth, remain, and withdraw [sensual experience]; so how [can the doctrine of] essenceless [stand]? Therefore, that reality is worthy of investigation with effort by the yogī. Just as consciousness is conferred on the faculties through its innate freedom, even so it is brought into relationship with other bodies [as well]. Due to repeatedly and thoroughly cultivating the unconstructed freedom [of Awareness] that is one’s essence-nature, it manifests [in one’s experience]."

[Note: we find different views on what the Inner Circle is: Kṣemarāja argues that it is constituted by the 10 karaṇeśvarīs + the antaḥkaraṇa. If Kṣema is right, the as the ‘Inner Circle’ the Karaneśvarīs actually manifest the sense-objects, whereas the senses themselves only contact what is manifest.]

For a person (puruṣa) does not function through [independently] instigating an impulse of will, but rather by contacting the strength of the Self, and [thus] becoming equal to that. || 8

Kallata's explanation of his own verse: One does not send forth the sense-faculties through an impulse of will [alone], but rather only by abiding [for a moment] in one’s essence-nature does one’s will operate [effectively at all]. In precisely the same manner one produces external and internal effects. Thus one’s potency does not only have the sense-faculties as its scope, but indeed everything.

When the agitation of one who is incapacitated by his own Impurity and [yet] who wishes to do those things that ought to be done dissolves, then there is the Supreme State. || 9

Kallata's explanation of his own verse: Due to being pervaded by innate ‘impurity,’ contact with the inner strength of the Self may not occur, despite being desired. But when the agitation that takes the form of the cognition and felt-sense “I am so-and-so” dissolves, then one is established in the Supreme State.

Then, one's unconstructed nature, characterized by [spontaneous & free] Knowing and Acting [is revealed], by which one knows and does all that one desires. || 10

Kallata’s explanation of his own verse:  When the agitation [associated with the constructed egoic self] dissolves, one’s natural & unconstructed nature, consisting of the felt-sense of [pure] Cognition and Agency [is revealed]. At that time – in brief, when yoga is attained, one knows whatever one wishes to know, and does [whatever one wishes to do], but not at any other time in the condition of being a saṁsārin (one caught in the cycle of ignorance and suffering).

How can [the cycle of] wrongdoing & suffering apply to one who remains surveying his essence-nature with the felt-sense that it indeed presides over [the whole universe of one’s experience], abiding (as it were) in a state of wonder? || 11 

Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: Since one’s essence nature threads through all [experiences & cognitions (see verse 4 above)] and is innately conjoined with all the potencies & capacities [of embodied Awareness], when one sees that essence-nature with the sense that it sustains & presides over [the universe of one’s experience] and pervades the whole [universe of phenomenological experience], one remains as if overcome with wonder & astonishment—for such a one, the vile cycle of aimless wandering no longer exists.

And non-existence cannot become an object of contemplation: in [what appears to be unconsciousness] there is no lack of stupefaction, since when one comes to one’s senses, one has the conviction ‘It was’. || 12

Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: Non-existence is not to be contemplated, as taught by some yogis with the words, “Non-existence should be contemplated until one becomes of that nature.” This conclusion is not sound, since to engage in meditation on nonbeing is nothing but a state of stupefaction. For after such a meditation, when one comes to one’s senses and reports it, he recalls “My state of emptiness is now gone.” This cannot be one’s essence-nature, since the nature of awareness is not remembered in this way, like a state of stupefaction; it is experienced constantly as the experiencer, since it is ever-present (nityodita).

Thus that [state of nonbeing] should be understood as ‘artificial’, like that of deep sleep. That Reality [taught above] is never perceived as something that is [merely] remembered in this way. || 13

Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: The state of one whose ‘level’ was attained through meditation on nonbeing is artificial and impermanent, just like that of deep sleep. Awareness is the ever-present nature of the self. One should constantly attend to that truth, by the instruction of one’s teacher. Here [in this world] there are two states, called Agency and Effect. The latter is perishable, whereas the source of agency is imperishable. || 14 Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: The two states known as agency and effect (all that is acted upon) are also known as ‘experiencer’ and ‘experienceable’. Of these, all that is experienceable arises and passes away again, but the Experiencer, which is Awareness, is unborn and undying; therefore it is constant. Only effort towards effect(s) can disappear in this [spiritual practice]. When that disappears, the foolish person feels as if he is no more. || 15 Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: Only the capacity for accomplishing effects, which manifests as the activity of the outer senses, disappears. When this capacity is interrupted or occluded, the foolish person believes “My essential nature is gone!” – but no destruction of Being is possible. There can never be any injury, violation, or destruction of one’s innermost nature, which is the abode of omniscience; for no Other may be perceived. || 16

Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: There can never be destruction of the innermost nature which is ‘mounted’ upon the Inner Circle and is the abode of qualities like omniscience. Therefore, because there is no other, one experiences only one’s true nature as awareness everywhere, like space.

Realization of that is constant and undeviating in all three states for the fully awakened one, whereas for others [it is perceived] at the beginning and ending. || 17 [2.1]

Kallata’s explanation of his own verse: Realization/perception of one’s essence-nature as all-pervasive awareness is constant in all three states for the fully awakened one (suprabuddha). For others who are awake, it is perceived in the transitions between waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. The transition between waking and the Fourth [samādhi state] must be learned about from tradition (āgama).

~ ~ ~

Enraged or overjoyed, panicked or confused and wondering what to do: when one fully enters into states like these, the innate vibrancy of Awareness is demonstrated. || 22

Taking the support of that state [of Spanda], one abides [in it], making the sankalpa "I will certainly do whatever it tells me." || 23

~ ~ ~

Mantras, attaining that innate power, become suffused with Divine force, enabling them to perform their respective functions, like the senses of embodied beings. || 26

[Then] they completely dissolve into that same [power], becoming quiescent and stainless, along with the mind of the one who worships them. Therefore, these mantras have the nature of Śiva [himself]. || 27

The embodied soul consists of all things since all states/beings arise [within it alone], and because it [can] perceive its oneness with the awareness it has of all those things. || 28

Therefore, that state which is not Śiva does not exist in word, thing, or thought. The Experiencer is everywhere and always existing as the very substance of that which is experienced. || 29

One who has this kind of realization, seeing the whole world as a divine play, permanently connected [to reality], is liberated while embodied, without a doubt. || 30

~ ~ ~

When one is occupied with one cognition, and another (unrelated) cognition arises (spontaneously)], that should be known as the ‘unfolding’ (unmeṣa); one should focus on that in oneself. || 41

When, with the desire to see all things [as they really are], one abides, pervading them [with one’s awareness], then what is the use of much discussion?—You will experience it for yourself. || 43

~ ~ ~

But when he is firmly rooted in the One, then [he is capable of] bringing about the arising and dissolving of his [subtle body/mind-and-sense-faculties (puryaṣṭaka), cf. 3.17c], he attains the state of the Experiencer, and consequently becomes Lord of the Wheel. (i.e. he is liberated). || 51