In this retreat we explore the teachings of the fundamental tantric text the Vijñānabhairava-tantra; a profound practice-oriented gem of the non-dual tantric tradition. Rich with philosophical and metaphysical content, the text offers 112 skillful means (yukti) to focus one's mind in order to access a non-conceptual mode of awareness.

During the retreat we will read and contemplate the teachings contained within the text, following 5 broad themes: Energy, spaciousness, dissolution, bliss and unity. Rather than treating all of the teachings as distinct methods we will identify the essential threads and apply them in our meditative practice. The meditation practices taught are simple and effective, accessible to both beginners and advanced meditation practitioners alike. 

This is not an academic course and thus we will not be scrutinizing each verse in detail, but rather using the teachings as a source of inspiration for deepening our own meditative experience and creating the space for genuine insight to arise within us. 

Jñāna means knowledge and Vijñāna means experiential knowledge, or the practice that leads to spiritual knowledge. The fusion between knowledge and experience is a key aspect of tantric practice. Neither knowledge nor experience on their own will suffice to produce true, lasting transformation, it is only through the synergy of these two that one becomes able to transform the quality of their lived experience and reach the goal of all tantric practice - Embodied Liberation. One may have profound mystical experiences but if those experiences are not grounded and integrated within a framework of understanding they will gradually begin to erode and eventually remain as superficial impressions in one's memory. Likewise, one may study all the great philosophical / spiritual works of this world but without the actual experience of what the authors of those works were referring to, all that learning only amounts to intellectual speculation and rationalization.

Creative contemplation is one possible interpretation of the tantric practice known as bhāvanā. Meditation is usually conceived of as either stilling the fluctuations of the mind through one-pointed concentration, or as mindfulness, the practice of witnessing all phenomena whilst becoming dissociated from them. In bhāvanā however the mind is employed as a tool for it’s own dissolution. In the practice of bhāvanā we use the imagination, not in the sense of creating a fantasy, but rather to 'image', visualize, or cultivate a mental / emotional state that leads to the experience of some fundamental truth and ultimately the experience of Bhairava - the non-conceptual totality of Being.

"Bhāvanā is the power of spiritual attention, a total dedication of the mind to one central thought, a nostalgia of the soul, a spiritual thrust towards the source of one's being" - Jai Deva Singh

Bhairava is a name which the non-dual Tantric Shaiva’s used as a personification of Śiva as the undefinable, indescribable and awe-inspiring Absolute; Beyond the notions of transcendence or immanence; beyond the mind altogether - Bhairava cannot be known through study, ritual or pious deeds. To know Bhairava is to exist in an ego-dissolved, wonder-struck state; the fundamental ground of Being. This can only be known through practice; by the establishing of one’s awareness in a state which is free from the identification with body or mind. It is a condition which requires the utmost surrendering of one sense of individuality, separateness and limitations. It demands that all attachment to our differentiated and limited sense of ourselves, others and the world be dissolved in the light of pure awareness.

Truth is only made apparent through direct perception; through the mystical intuition that arises spontaneously when the fluctuations and superficial levels of thought have been transcended. By progressively refining and expanding the silent center within us we aspire to actualize the revealed truths of the non-dual tradition within ourselves. Transforming our mode of perceiving ourselves and the world around us from something separate and conflicting to a holistic vision filled with significance and the scent of divinity.

Meditation Bhavana Contemplation Samadhi

“One should contemplate Bhairava as the spaciousness of the entire sky merged within one's own head, and thus one will enter into that state where eveything shines with the radiance of Bhairava's true form” - Sloka 92 Vijñānabhairava Tantra

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