The Radiance Sutras: The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is one of the early teachings on yoga and meditation. The name, loosely translated, means “the terror and joy of realizing oneness with the Soul.” I say it is little because it is only about three thousand words in the original Sanskrit, perhaps 40 minutes of chanting. It is astonishing that in so few words it describes the essence of many of the world’s meditation techniques. I call it The Radiance Sutras because it is so luminous.

A tantra is not poetry, although it may sound that way in the original and in translation. A tantra is a manual of practices. This one is a book of yoga meditation instructions, set as a conversation between lovers. The focus is on full-body spirituality and accepting every breath, sensual experience and emotion as a doorway into deep and intimate contact with the energies of life.

The text feels as though it was composed by a couple, a man and a woman who sang the verses to each other as they co-composed. They lived this teaching. The techniques that are described here occurred to them naturally, as an evolution of the questions they were asking of life, and their explorations of the body of love.

As was the convention of the time, they frame the conversation as the Goddess and the God in them speaking. Their inquiry is about how to enter into the vibrant essence of the world with the dual balance of passion and detachment.

A translation of this tantra came into my hands more than forty years ago, when I was 18, and I have worked with the methods every day since then. It has been a love affair, and I am blessed. One day I started to write a fresh version and it evolved into this book.


vayu dvayasya samghattat
antah va bahih antatah
yogi samatva vijnana
samudgamana bhajanam

Pour one breath into the other,
Out-breath into the in-breath
Into the out-breath.

In the harmony of this fusion
Where one rhythm turns into the other,
Awaken into equilibrium.

Tend to breath in this way,
Claim the power
Of oneness with the Self.


yatra yatra manas tustir
manas tatra-eva dharayet
tatra tatra para ananda
svarupam sam-pravartate

Wherever, whenever you feel carried away,
Rejoicing in every breath,
There, there is your meditation hall.

Cherish those times of absorption—
Rocking the baby in the silence of the night
Pouring water into a crystal glass
Tending the logs in the crackling fire
Sharing a meal with a circle of friends.
Embrace these pleasures and know,
This is my true body.

Nowhere is more holy than this.
Right here is the sacred pilgrimage.
Live in alertness for such a moment, my Beloved,
As if it were your one meeting with the Creator.

asane shayane sthitva
niradharam vibhavayan
svadeham manasi kshine
kshanat kshena-ashaya bhavet

Sitting on a soft seat,
Or lying on your mat,
Experience the space below
As offering no support.

You are simply suspended,
Floating in space.

Structures of the mind release,
The reservoir of habits dissolves.
In an instant, lifetimes of patterns


chitti adi antah kritih nasti
mama-antah bhavayet iti
vikalpanam abhavena
vikalpaih ujjhitah bhavet

People talk about mind and ego.
Let’s just drop this whole conversation.

Consider instead:
There is no mind.
There is no ego.
There is only the incandescent reality.
At play, beckoning.

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 practicing meditation since 1968. He is the author coauthor of eight books, including The Radiance Sutras and Meditation Made Easy.

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