Cherishing your own radiant beauty (Tantrasaara Chapter Four, Part 5)

This post presents the fifth and final part of Chapter Four of Abhinavagupta's Tantrasāra (“The Essence of the Tantras”), titled “Illumination of the Empowered Method (śākta-upāya)”.

I’ve been working on this text for over sixteen years, and finally have reached a translation that I’m satisfied with. Like Chapter Three, Chapter Four requires extensive explanation for full comprehension, and that explanation will appear in the forthcoming book version of this translation. In this post, all the words that follow are those of the great master Abhinavagupta (translated by Christopher Wallis—all rights reserved). Enjoy! 



Of these five practices that have been taught above (yāga, homa, japa, vrata, and yoga), one should practice whichever of them makes natural sense. One should practice in exactly whichever mode presents itself [as compelling and effective].  But one should not weary oneself with distinctions of what should and should not be eaten, what is pure and impure, and so on; for such distinctions are in reality only mental constructs, they are not qualities that inhere in those things themselves—such is taught in the sacred Scripture of the East (the Mālinī-vijayottara-tantra) and other sources. For ‘purity’ is not intrinsic to a thing the way blueness is, because the very same thing may be declared as impure in another context, as in the case of giving a charitable donation when one has been initiated [for a Vedic sacrifice, which is disallowed by the Veda].   

If it be argued that it really is impure for him in that context because of the applicable Vedic injunction, then the same applies in the case of other, non-Vedic injunctions. If it be argued that the non-Vedic injunction is false & unreal because it is overridden by the Veda, we will say “No, the capacity to supersede belongs to Śiva’s injunctions alone, as established by reason and countless scriptures such as the Sarvajñānottara.”[1]

Therefore, it is established that whatever restriction, whether injunction or prohibition, that is taught in the Vedic texts, or even in the treatises of the Śaiva Siddhānta, the Bhairava-tantras, the Kula system, and so on, is entirely powerless on this level of practice. This is exactly what is taught in the sacred Scripture of the East and other sources; it may be investigated in more detail in my Tantrāloka.

Chapter Four Summary verses:
A bound soul who has any of these convictions—‘I am dense, I am inert matter,’ or ‘I am completely bound by my karma,’ or ‘I am impure,’ or ‘I am a pawn of others’—may seek to attain the steady conviction of the opposite of these views. If s/he succeeds in this, s/he immediately becomes the Lord whose body is the whole universe and whose soul is Awareness (cid-ātmā). || 8 [4.1]

In whatever manner such a conviction may be attained, a superior yogi should cultivate it at all times. He should not allow his perspective to become divorced from the real nature of things and thus be led into doubt by the mass of foolish teachings in the world. || 9 [4.2]

Vernacular summary verses:

‘I am a filthy sinner,’ ‘I am a bound creature,’ ‘I am separate from all other beings,’/‘I transcend all things’—when such firm beliefs are stains on the heart, how indeed for such a one can [the experience of] supreme reality manifest? || [4.1a]

Whenever and whatever causes the vibration of resolute effort [towards the goal] to arise for him, should be taken as just such an empowerment for him at that very moment. || [4.2a]

In the Heart-lotus [of awareness] that has blossomed due to an intense Descent of a ray of light from the sun of Supreme Śiva, [the power of] awakening pours forth the exquisite fragrance of the Self, revealing its secret nature: there the bee of self-awareness buzzes, cherishing its own radiant beauty, humming “I am Lord Śiva, overflowing with the reality of all beings!” || [4.3a]

Thus ends the fourth day’s teaching in The Essence of the Tantras, composed by the revered master Abhinavagupta, entitled “Illumination of the Empowered Means (śākta-upāya).


[1] See the final chapter of the work cited, where the rationale is given that the Śaiva scriptures have a greater degree of specificity, hence following the grammatical model of exceptions to a rule, they logically supercede more general (i.e., Vedic) injunctions.