The Singular Essence of Awareness in Shavism
By Sharon Bauer
The Singular Essence of Awareness in Shavism
A little bit about Shavism, Shavism is said to be one of the oldest traditions in India—There is evidence to support Shavisim some 5000 years ago. Kashmir Shavism a particular lineage of Shavism developed in the state of Kashmir somewhere around the 7th to 9th centuries. The Shavites considered everything to be consciousness…. that every form, every particle arises out of the same consciousness.
So a Shavite might say “There is nothing that is not Shiva.” Shiva being the metaphor for the Ultimate reality
They understood that one of the easiest ways of entering awareness was by focusing on the energetic aspects of awareness which they called spanda. They would use external objects and internal subtle objects such as breath and mantra but they were especially interested in the energetic aspects of awareness or spanda. Spanda or the subtle energy is one of the qualities of the awareness field which help us know the light within. Initially we open the space of our bodies into spaciousness. We let go of thoughts, feelings, our schedules and enter into the space between the thoughts. This space is not simply empty space, but filled with energy and light So now we focus on the energy of the field and we amplify it. Basically we are now focusing on the subtle universal energy behind the mind. As we become focused on the energy behind the mind, the energy of the field, we absorb ourselves in that energy, the energy now leads us into the light…that clear light of awareness within us, our essence. First we hold spaciousness and energy in our mind , then we begin to rest in the energy and spaciousness and finally we become completely absorbed in the field , as we do that the light reveals itself.
There is a verse in Shavism which describes “Understandings such as “I am happy; I am miserable” have their being in another. They are like a garland strung together on the common thread of the awareness.”
Its this common thread of the awareness is what we will be focusing on today, that awareness of awareness.
Another way of saying this is an aphorism from the Shiva Sutra which says the mind when focused on the objects of the world become those objects… … For example, if the mind is focused on thoughts and feelings it becomes those thoughts and feelings. (The mind is a bit like water, when it reflects red it becomes red; when it reflects blue it becomes like blue water.) The Sutra goes on to say that if the mind is focused on the inner self, it becomes that (that being the clear light of awareness).
The mind has many possibilities. It can be the clear light of awareness or it can reflect the objects of the world. In the initial stages of meditation practices, we begin to experience the knowledge of the inner consciousness; we become aware of our own awareness in meditation. We begin to feel the bliss of the inner state; the clear light of awareness. As we experience this bliss in meditation, we begin to become more devoted to this energy and light – to this awareness of awareness. And as the devotion arises, we may experience oneness with our own self and others. We enter the thought-free state and we begin to stabilize and attain the inner meditative absorption. We become filled with the luminous light of awareness.
As we practice, we attain the internal Samadhi or complete absorption during meditation. This is the first stage of meditation practice. In this stage we use the laboratory of our meditation practice to learn and stabilize in the clear light within us.
In the 2nd stage of practice we begin to make a shift from the absorbed, inner meditative state into incorporating all objective phenomena into the awareness field. So we learn to focus our mind on the inner awareness while at work, at home with friends and family. We learn to think and feel and go about our life drawing on this resource of the inner awareness.
In this phase, we focus on the recognition of the light of awareness in all objective phenomena. So we begin to integrate all experience into the awareness field. The inner recognition of objective phenomena is a melting or burning of outer appearances to experience the essence of light which is at the core of all phenomena.
Abinavagupta, the 10th century Shavite master likened this process of inner recognition to the process of a violent digestion.
The heart center, in the center of the chest, not the organ of the heart, is seen as the place where this digestion takes place. For it is in the heart where the light of consciousness continuously blazes and flames. It is in the heart that the melting and inner recognition take place. When all phenomena have been digested, all that is left is the the nectar of the awareness of awareness. So all phenomena are incorporated into this fire in the heart; both good and bad experiences are dissolved into one taste, into oneness… The Shavite yogi on attaining the inner recognition of all objective phenomena proclaims, “All this is nothing but the supreme light of consciousness.”
So from Shavism we understand that the light penetrates into every form in the universe and yet we don’t perceive our oneness with the light all the time. Our thoughts, our feelings our histories, our stressful lives can easily obscure the experience of the light. The light is easily obscured when we don’t feel the love of the other… we feel ourselves separate and unconnected. This sense of separateness comes with the territory of being human.
Developmentally the child begins to feel himself as a separate being from his mom as early as nine monthes. Separation anxiety begins to arise within the baby. Shavism describes this sense of separation to be one of the three Malas that contract our consciousnesss and make it to feel separate from the light; we are ignorant of our own nature.(Anava Mala)
The second mala is the sense of “Me” and mine. (Mayiya Mala) The baby learns who his parents are, his or her name, his relatives, his toys and so on.. When my grandson was about a year and half, he was sitting in his highchair and he looked up at me and said” Nana” and then he said very affectionately “My Nana”. So we become part of a family, a community, a country. We now have my stuff, my house, my car, my religion, etc. It all comes with the territory of becoming human beings. And with the development of me and mine, Shavism says the light diminishes as we become attached to our thinking mind and all our possessions. This mala causes us to create a sense of difference in everything.
The third mala is limitation of action, we feel limited in what we can or cannot do.I was watching Sanjay Gupta yesterday and he was interviewing this wonderful man who has done several iron man contests. The man had two prosthetic legs and a one prosthetic arm; he’d been born with undeveloped bones.. Sanjay was asking how was he able to do these iron man contests. His reply was “Sweat is better than tears” From Shavism we understand that “effort is itself the Self” That this is one way out of this sense of limitation in action. Right now we experience a global limitation in our response to the famine in Somalia. Will the world come together to address the humanitarian crisis in Somalia and transcend our political limitations.? We can support efforts towards a response so that an estimated 600,000 children don’t die in the next few months.
Shavism explains that the cause of the Malas is due to the self concealing power of the light which is called Matrika Shakti or Matrika Energy. Matrika is the energy of the universe).”Matrika becomes every form in the universe. It gives each form it’s innate, unique qualities. She is described as the universal Mother who pervades all the letters of the alphabet. She pervades all objects. Any object is known by words (by the combination of letters.) Because of the density of the words we find ourselves lost in a sea of letters. Our minds become fixed on ideas, affects, worries, reactions and passing thoughts. The Spanda Karika, a text on Shavism describes one way out of this dilemma.
‘’Be alert to the Spanda principle.( the energy principle) Such an alert person soon attains an experience of his essential nature, even while in ordinary waking consciousness.”What Shavites understood is that consciousness – our own awareness, has an energy dimension ( the Matrika shakti) and that when we enter into awareness we get in touch with the universal energy beyond the letters. By focusing on the universal energy we are drawn back into the light of our essential nature. So it is recommended that we become alert to the spanda principle all day long. In paying attention to the spanda we are able to experience the oneness in all experience.Now we’re going to get more specific. Focus on a particular thought, it can be any thought. Now focus on the energy vibration in back of the thought…
Pull the energy from the thought… pull the energy away from the words…. From the letters….Now simply focus on the energy of the thought…The energy of the thought may dissolve into your awareness, into the light. One of the reasons we might consistently want to focus on pulsation, on the Spanda or Matrika shakti, is that it frees us from the content of the mind… and as we focus on pulsation more and more, we begin to experience a greater freedom from our thoughts. This is the power of the Spanda. It can give us the power to think what we want to think, rather than being compelled by our thoughts.
Another spanda karika helps us to deal with our feelings:“The spanda principle is firmly established in that state a person enjoys when he is very angry or completely overjoyed, when he is in a state of impasse wondering what to do or when he is in terror and running for his life.”
One method of dealing with our feelings might be to becoming aware of a particular feeling and then focusing on the energy vibration within the feeling. As one focuses on the energy vibration of a feeling, we ignore the story and simply feel the energy of the feeling. In this way we fully taste the energy of the feeling, As we fully taste the energy of the feeling, the feeling spontaneously begins to be dissolved into the awareness field….the charge of the emotion has dissipated. In this way, one can gain mastery over the feeling state and allow it to merge back into the awareness field.. We are freed from the power of being swept away by affect field..In dealing with feeling states it is recommended that one fully taste the energy of the feeling state deeply and at the same time hold awareness of the experience – be completely uninvolved in the affect. By focusing on the energy of the feeling one is able to become more detached from the story of the feeling. So remembering to hold awareness is very important rather than just being swept away by the feeling state. Shavism describes nine fundamental mental and feeling states. These states all arise out of the primordial awareness and dissolve back into it. They are: Delight (erotic), laughter( comic), sorrow( pathetic), anger (furious), heroism(heroic) , fear (terrible), disgust (odious), wonder (marvelous), and serenity (tranquility). We can work with these feelings now.
The exercise is to hold awareness and then fully taste the affect no matter what the affect is. Don’t run from the affect or act it out, simply hold it. For example, you might find yourself in a situation where you don’t like something, so you hold awareness and allow yourself to get angry, to taste it fully… feel the energy of the anger. As you hold your anger in awareness, there is a moment that comes in which you feel the anger being dissolved into the primordial field. This is truly the moment to pay attention! because in this moment there is a “flashing forth” and opening appears. The divine reveals itself. As one dissolves the affect into the primordial field, one can now experience the field as vast and infinite. This is the experience of moving from the immanent aspects of the divine to the transcendent aspects of the divine. For in Shavism it is understood, “There is nothing that is not the self. There is nothing that is not divine.”
Now, focus on your worst affect. Maybe you get swept away, always hurt, always angry, always suffering from loneliness, always starving, always sequenced and muted. Stay present and do not dissociate (most people dissociate and are only left with the affect). Hold awareness. Experience the affect fully and in that moment when the affect is dissolving into the field, pay attention, the field reveals itself now more fully.
Now focus on your favorite, positive affect. This can be even harder, “to be positive and to be present.” Focus on happiness, complete sensuousness, clarity, being uplifting, completeness of integrity, confidence. Stay present to the energy of the feeling. Feel it dissolving into the one taste of awareness field. What is that one taste.? It is the taste of the inner feeling ,of being itself.
Still another way to develop living in awareness is to to focus on a particular energy center in the body. Or the movement and flow of energy throughout the body.‘’Be alert to the Spanda principle. Such an alert peson soon attains an experience of his essential nature, even while in ordinary waking consciousness.”Be alert to the energy all day long. Ask yourself throughout the day, where is the energy? Right now focus on the energy. It may go spontaneously to the energy center in the body where it is working right now. As each energy center opens in the body, one may experience the qualities inherent in that center. Ex: in the heart, one might begin to feel more love and compassion and the capacity to heal : Focus now for awhile in the heart center. The yogis say there is only one heart in all of us. Focus on the one heart. If you like you can put your hand on your heart. Focus on the pulsation there, in the heart…
Feel the energy rising even higher into the throat center at the nape of the neck. Focus on the pulsation in the throat center; As this center opens, one may experience the power of knowing past, present and future.Move now to the space between the eyes, the 3rd eye. Focus on the space between the eyes, feeling the pulsation here. Intuition opens and expands in this place. Focus on the 3rd eye and feel the pulsation. Feel the pulsation of the Spanda.
Now focus on the crown chakra, like a crown on your head with bliss and energy. Focus the pulsation in the crown chakra. Focus on one point initially and gradually the pulsation will expand…As the Shavite yogi says, “Everything is only one consciousness… one Spanda…one light.Focus on that pulsation that moves inside of you, that creates you, sustains you, illuminates you, and that will ultimately dissolve you into itself…
When we focus on the universal energy as energy, the Matrika will bring us into the awareness state and we become one with the field of spaciousness, energy and light. When we focus on the differentiated knowledge of form, the Matrika energy becomes the letters, the words, the thoughts and the feelings. As this happens, we forget our nature as light. We enumerate and evaluate our possessions and actions. We become attached to our particular designated knowledge. And this all comes with the territory of being human. We can’t avoid it. What we can do is recognize the energy- the spanda and in that recognition open ourselves to the oneness of BOTH form and the formless, ….the oneness of the awareness field.
‘’Be alert to the Spanda principle. Such an alert person soon attains an experience of his essential nature, even while in ordinary waking consciousness.”And the Shavite yogi on attaining this awareness of his own essential nature in constant way exclaims as he experiences the world “All this is nothing but the splendor of my own awareness” And the bliss of the samadhi state becomes the bliss of the world.
Sharon Bauer,MSN Author