The Radiance Sutras
A Language of Love
One day the Goddess sang to her lover, Bhairava:
Beloved and radiant lord of the space before birth,
Revealer of essence,
Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,
You who in play have created this universe
And permeated all forms in it
With never-ending truth,
I have been wondering
I have been listening to the hymns of creation,
Enchanted by the verses,
Yet still I am curious.
What is this delight-filled universe
Into which we find ourselves born?
What is this mysterious awareness
Shimmering everywhere within it?
—Lorin Roche, The Radiance Sutras
The Bhairava Tantra is set as a conversation between the Goddess Who Is the Creative Power of the Universe and the God Who Is the Consciousness that Permeates Everywhere. For short, they call each other Devi and Bhairava, or Shakti and Shiva. They are lovers and inseparable partners, and one of their favorite places of dwelling is in the human heart.
This text feels as though it were composed by a couple, a man and a woman who sang the verses to each other as they co-created. As was the convention of the time, the authors chose to be anonymous and frame the conversation as one between the Goddess and the God in them. The text has the feeling of one richly experienced body speaking with love to another body.
Their inquiry is about how to enter into the vibrant essence of the world with the dual balance of passion and detachment. The teaching emerges from their love-play, reminding us that from within our own hearts we are educated in the spirit of love. They lived this teaching. The secret pathways in the body and the flow of delicious energies are revealed in words that one friend or lover would speak to another. The text invites us to be at home in the universe by accepting every intense experience, every sensual delight, every ordinary moment, as a gateway to the divine.
The conversation begins with Devi asking, “Beloved, tell me, how do I enter more deeply into the reality of the universe?” In reply, Bhairava describes 112 techniques for becoming enlightened through everyday life experience. Each of these techniques is a way of attending to the rhythms, pulsations, and sensuousness of the divine energy that we are made of and that flows through us always. As we engage with these meditation techniques, we are alerted to the presence of the sacred that permeates our bodies. All of these methods involve savoring the incredible intensity underlying the most common experiences. They work by activating the senses, by extending the range of the senses further into the inner and the outer world. The basic dynamics of life—breathing, falling asleep, waking up, walking, loving—are all used as gateways to alignment and enlightenment.
Each meditation is a deep dive into aliveness, into the underlying reality of what life is. Balance is there at every step; the unshakable serenity of the depths is used as a foundation so that we can tolerate the electrifying vastness of the universe. We are invited to cross the threshold, to walk by the guardian of the gate, to face our terrors, and make our way into the immense and timeless mystery that is always calling.
Many of these meditation techniques are surprisingly informal: Notice a powerful emotion, sensation, or desire, and enter into that awareness with total abandon, so that you go with it right into the root movement of the universe. When making love, put your awareness into the flame of passion pulsating through the body and become that flame. Falling asleep, pay attention to the transition from waking consciousness to unconsciousness, and catch a glimpse of what consciousness itself is. Or go outside on a moonless night and simply merge with the darkness and vastness of space.
The text also describes what we think of as traditional yoga meditations—ways of savoring breath, sound, and internal luminosity. The intimacy with the self implied in these teachings means that tantra is not a set of techniques imposed from outside. Rather, the method emerges naturally from one’s relationship with the self and with life. Lose yourself in intense experience, and find your Self. In this text, the word yoga is used in its etymological sense, “the act of joining, linking together.” Yoga is connecting—connecting all the elements and levels of your being.
The tone of the text is playful and exploratory—jump in and feel everything. Lila is Sanskrit for “play,” “amusement,” and the sense that the universe has been manifested as an act of play by the divine. Through play, find your way. In play, find freedom, revelation, illumination.
Adapted from The Radiance Sutras: 112 Gateways to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight, by Lorin Roche. Copyright © 2014 by Lorin Roche. Sounds True, August 2014.
Lorin Roche, PhD, has been teaching meditation since 1968 and has a doctorate from the University of California for his work on the subjective experience of meditation. He is author of The Radiance Sutras, Meditation Made Easy, Breath Taking, and Whole Body Meditations. www.lorinroche.com