- Paperback: 207 pages
- Publisher: Indica; 2002 edition (January 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8186569359
- ISBN-13: 978-8186569351
- Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,058,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Vijnana Bhairava The Practice of Centering Awareness Paperback – January 1, 2007
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1: Paul Reps' very loose translation in his book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. He learned the text from Swami Lakshmanjoo. I am hesitant to say that he "learned" it because it seems that it was more of a gift from Lakshmanjoo to Reps when he visited him in Kashmir. His translation fits with the style of his book, but it wanders far from its original home in the esoteric heart of Kashmir Shaivism. Instead of being a manual for the union of individual consciousness in universal consciousness, it was reduced to a laconic text resembling other traditions - i.e., generalizing the text to make it suitable for a wider audience. This is not a fault in itself but it proves to be a poor source of practical information and more a source of poetic inspiration. I have read that Lakshmanjoo was pleased to have it released in Reps' book, so naturally it serves a wider purpose in that it will surely attract its readers to further explore the sophisticated philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism.
2: Osho [Rajneesh, etc]'s loose commentary, The Book Of Secrets, on the already loose translation provided by Paul Reps. It seems that Osho was a big fan of Reps' book, and he must've been introduced to the Vijnanabhairava [which he calls 'Vigyan Bhairav Tantra'] through it. It is not clear whether he had read other works on Kashmir Shaivism and this particular text. His commentary certainly displays a massive ignorance as to the philosophical backing of the text and in the details of the processes enumerated therein. It is difficult to maintain this view, however, when one looks at various statements in his commentary and decades later in one particular video which I have seen. In the latter he says, vaguely, to one of his followers, that he has 112 techniques [obviously referencing The Book Of Secrets and the source text, Vijnanabhairava] and that each technique consists "only of two lines". This is interesting, because it is only in the Sanskrit-including publications of the text where there are two lines per each technique. Reps' translation is sometimes less and sometimes more. Does this mean Osho had access to a translation and commentary that was not Reps'? I think this is likely. If this theory is accepted then one can understand his generalizations of the techniques to be a respectable effort on his part towards making the techniques available to all people. There is one major problem here: the text, Vijnanabhairava, is part of the Spanda School of Kashmir Shavism. This teaches three main means: superior means, medium means, and inferior means. The individual capable of only inferior means will fail in the realm of medium and superior means. This means that, in the absence of any clear distinction regarding which category each technique belongs to, the techniques are likely to be chosen due to personal affinity or aesthetic delight and not in light of what is actually most suitable for each individual. Thus many people will find them ineffective for anything but a very general sort of 'centering' meditation practice. Something also worth noting - Osho's commentary on the Siva Sutras - another key text of Kashmir Shaivism - is absolutely poor and also displays much ignorance regarding the source philosophy. Was this, again, a necessary generalization? Or did Osho simply use ancient texts to form the basis of authority from the past to encode his own opinions in them? I think it's a mix of both.
3: Now we leave the realm of the poets and the posers and enter the world of the intellectual. Jaideva Singh - Vijnanabhairava or Divine Consciousness - a very scholarly, intellectual treatment of the original source text. Taught directly to him by Swami Lakshmanjoo, both in the meaning of the text itself and its traditional commentary by Ksemaraja and Sivopadhyaya. Here we have the Sanskrit, a transliteration, an English translations, copious notes, etc. Singh is already an established author on Kashmir Shaivism's rich philosophy and practice, and his profound understanding is quite clear. His translation is technical, meaning that it often sides with accuracy rather than poetic beauty [the original source text blends both], and can be difficult to get used to at first, especially if one is coming from Reps' translation. The introduction to the book is excellent and filled with knowledge. This is probably the best one to get if you are looking for a highly technical and comprehensive translation and commentary of the text.
Now we go to the source. Swami Lakshmanjoo. Evidently a mystic and a saint, a yogi and a scholar, and apparently the last great master in Kashmir Shaivism. The text would not be available without him, as it seems every author relied on him in elucidating the text in light of his profound understanding and own experience. This system emphasis both sides of the coin - the fullness of one's own realization and also the intellectual understanding that accompanies it. The former is given more importance but never to the exclusion of the latter. So with Lakshmanjoo we are dealing with two things at once - a mystic and a scholar. One minute he's correcting minute errors in Sanskrit manuscripts and the next he is speaking about "the Transcendental Voidness of God-Consciousness" and such things.
There are two main books which directly utilize his exposition and commentary on the text.
4: Vijnana Bhairava - The Manual For Self-Realization. This is an expensive edition brought about by the Universal Shaiva Fellowship. It is the wonderful child of John Hughes' efforts. Decades ago he began recording Lakshmanjoo's lectures in order to preserve the teachings. A faithful scribe. At present it is only available as a large manual and 7-CD set. It's over $100 but considering the profoundness and importance of the work it seems worth millions. There is a very special feature about this work. The manual is a direct transcript of the audio recordings. Nothing has been altered. Sometimes Lakshmanjoo's disciples and students ask for clarification and he gives it. That is all here. This adds greatly to one's understanding of the text because many of the questions are essential to our understanding. In contrast with Singh's translation and commentary, Lakshmanjoo is more concerned with the practical aspect of the text and does not dwell long on abstruse technical points unless it is entirely necessary or asked of him. And unlike Osho, his commentary bears the mark of a lifetime of immersion in Kashmir Shaivism, both in its philosophy and practice. He does not generalize the techniques or the outcome of the techniques. He does not waste words and yet nothing feels lacking.
5: Vijnana Bhairava - The Practice of Centring Awareness. This is the page we're on here. One reviewer gave it a 1 star review and I also agreed with him in the comment section. I have since had a change in perspective. The main problem with this edition is that it is a heavily edited version of the previous manuscript. John Hughes in his preface to The Manual For Self-Realization raises some claims about his work being published hastily and without his permission, etc. Obviously his claims are legitimate and come from a good place - i.e., his work as a scribe is to be as faithful to the master's word as possible, not taking the liberty of editing it where he sees fit. And yet, complaints aside, this edition is actually quite useful. It is printed nicely, and in a smaller [regular] book format. It IS heavily edited, various words have been changed to help the flow for English readers, others entirely omitted, and the question-answer segments which are featured in the original recordings and manuscript are blended within Lakshmanjoo's overall commentary. An example would be if I said the first ten letters of the alphabet, then you asked what the next ten were, then I said them, and the conversation was edited to seem as if I said ten successively without being questioned to do so. This is not a big thing in itself, and it helps the flow and compactness of the work significantly. It is only a problem when you consider which Lakshmanjoo would've preferred. As to the errors, they seem mostly insignificant. one reviewer mentioned the mistake of writing "right foot" instead of "left foot" [which Lakshmanjoo clearly said] in a certain verse. Yet Jaideva Singh also makes the same mistake. It may be that it is no mistake and the right and left feet are interchangeable in the practice outlined in that verse. If you're looking for Lakshmanjoo's commentary on the text and can't afford the John Hughes edition, or only want the book and not the audio recordings of Lakshmanjoo speaking, then it would not be a mistake to get this edition. This and Jaideva Singh's would be quite helpful.
The other partial translation I have read is Lorin Roche's which, I believe, is now available to purchase on his site. He has been working with the source text for many years, first being introduced to it by Reps' translation while he was in college. He, like Reps and Osho, has stripped the source text of its esoteric roots and generalized it for a wider audience. His translation is more exotic than Reps', yet carries the spirit of Osho's gloss on the text, i.e., takes the techniques out of context to make them applicable for all meditation students. The one major problem, as mentioned before, is that no mention is given regarding the nature of the techniques. They are all lumped together with no distinction made between them as to the means. Thus it is reduced to a generalized text that bears little resemblance to its source. The author seems averse to respecting the tradition as it is and has been, and instead shapes it as to his liking, which includes omitting or changing more 'difficult' verses. I find this unacceptable but it is understandable, like the case with Osho, when the audience is a New Age-type.
I hope this review has been of help to some people.
I have had the good fortune of reading the original transcript and listening to the original Vijnana Bhairava audio recordings by Swami Lakshmanjoo, and have the following to say about this book by Betina Baumer and Sarla Kumar.
1. Out of courtesy, Baumer should have clearly stated on the cover that her book is NOT a commentary by Swami Lakshmanjoo, but rather, a more than edited version by herself and Sarla Kumar, based on an incomplete transcription made from the original audio recordings of Swami Lakshmanjoo.
2. After listening to the original audio recordings, and reading the original transcript, one finds many mistakes in Baumer's book.
3. For example, in verse 24, (the first and possibly the most important dharana or practice for the beginner), Baumer has completely misunderstood the meaning of visarga (ah). She has not understood that the outward breath ends in visarga (ah) and not (sah) as she has stated. Furthermore, she has not understood that dvadashanta in this verse means bahya dvadashanta (the outward dvadashanta), and therefore gives no reference to where this dvadashanta actually is.
More dramatically; verse 52 states that, "one is to imagine the fire of Kalagni rising from the big toe of your right foot. In the original transcript, Swami Lakshmanjoo clearly indicates that kalagni actually rises from the big toe of the LEFT foot and not the right.
In any case, the mistakes are numerous, and are enough to change the overall meaning and flavor of this divine text.
4. What is most perplexing is that in the 'forward' of this book, Prabha Devi states that she had studied the text of Vijnana Bhairava with Swami Lakshmanjoo on a number of occasions, adding that, "the Master revealed some intricate secrets of this divine text in great depth...". If that were true, why did she not point out the numerous mistakes in the original transcript before passing it on to Baumer to publish?
Prabha Devi also states that Baumer and Kumar "had Gurudev's inspiration and silent inner guidance in this endeavor." If that were true, why did they not receive His inner guidance to correct some of the mistakes, especially something so important as the difference between the LEFT and right foot?
5. For the record, although it is briefly mentioned in the introduction, it is Baumer's responsibility to inform the reader that this is an edited version based on an incomplete transcript. The innocent reader should be made aware of the fallibility of Baumer and Kumar as editors, and not of Swami Lakshmanjoo, who lived and breathed this precious teaching.
Failure to do so would be an injustice to Swami Lakshmanjoo, because the book as it stands, is quite misleading to sincere aspirants who may adopt some of the practices that are blatantly incorrect.