The gateways to wonder and delight are open wide for all to enter.

At once a beautiful love song and an encyclopedia of yogic techniques, the cherished text known as the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra shimmers with new effulgence in Lorin Roche’s The Radiance Sutras. Lorin brings us his unique perspective on each of 112 Sanskrit teachings, along with his one-of-a-kind guidance in how to meditate with, embody, and practice them— what he describes as “answering the call of the sutras you love.”

Here is an invitation to experience directly the ecstatic depths of yoga as revealed by the divine partners Shiva and Shakti, through an intimate exploration of:

  • The divinity that is permeating your body at this very moment
  • The alchemical power of Sanskrit
  • Yoga meditation—harmonizing all the elements and levels of your being
  • The depths of your connection to the energies of life

Taken as a whole, this teaching is startling in its breadth and the huge range of human experience that it encompasses. This is a book to savor one phrase at a time, over a period of days or years or a lifetime. With The Radiance Sutras, yoga and meditation students everywhere can nurture their own relationship with these living wisdom teachings. 

 

 

 

The language of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is intricately woven and saturated with the power of bliss (anandashakti). Each verse resonates with clues of many kinds pointing to multiple layers of revelation, suggesting dozens of complementary translations. Many types of translations—academic, literary, historical, etymological—can be done of this tantra, and yet each conveys only a small part of its meaning. Each verse of the text is only thirty-two syllables, and yet the Sanskrit is so richly encoded that it would take a book to unfold the meaning. In exploring a verse, I often do twenty to fifty different versions, then let dancers, musicians, yogis and meditators select the ones they like the best. The translation is not complete until you behold and cherish the meaning, and translate it into your own living experience. 

This version is a bhashantaram, a transmigration and reincarnation of the text into the vernacular—the text wants to be thought in English, whispered, sung, chanted, delighted in, danced to. I am letting the text sing itself back into the spoken word. The Sutras remember they were once a song.

Sanskrit is Enchanting

The original Sanskrit of the Bhairava Tantra has a mantric quality that massages and thrills the nerves like music. Like no other language I have ever heard, Sanskrit is a song of the union of opposites. The opposites embrace each other, as lovers do, as the eternally fascinating polarity of male and female, day and night, sun and moon. Tantric meditation is an integration of the opposites, not obliteration or mere transcendence of them. It is an alchemical union in which each exists in its fullness and in a relationship of complementarity with the other. Sanskrit sings of rhythm, vibrancy, and the transmutation of terror into ecstasy, fear into movement, stasis into electricity. It evokes flow, tenderness, intimacy with oneself and the universe, informality, attentiveness, and responsiveness. 

Devi’s opening statement to Bhairava gets my vote for one of the most enchanting phrases I have ever heard in any language. Chant it softly to yourself and listen: Shrutam deva maya sarvam Rudra yamala sambhavam. “Beloved, I have been listening to the Songs of Creation.” 

As part of its charm and utility, Sanskrit is condensed to say as much as possible in a few syllables. This is accomplished through engineering the language to have multiple layers of meaning, in what is called polysemy—“the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase,” (poly, “many” + sema, “sign”). 

For example, rasa is “the sap or juice of plants, fruit juice, any liquid, the best or finest part of anything, essence, liquor, drink, syrup, an elixir or potion, nectar, an essential juice of the body, semen, taste, flavor, any object of taste, spice, seasoning, the tongue as the organ of taste, the taste or character of a work – the feeling prevailing in it, the prevailing sentiment in human character, the disposition of the heart, a kind of meter in music, and a name for the sacred syllable, OM.” Whew. 

Bhakti, the first word in Sutra 98, does not just mean “devotion” — it has a field of meaning having to do with the relation of the part to the whole: “distribution, partition, separation; a division, portion, share; that which belongs to or is contained in anything else, attachment, devotion, fondness for, trust, homage, worship,” and “faith or love or devotion as a religious principle or means of salvation.” This definition resonates beyond itself to more than a thousand years of Bhakti Yoga —distribution of the energies of life, the pang of separation, the longing of the part to feel related to the wholeness, the longing to belong to someone, to belong to God, the mystery of attachment and bonding. 

Shakti—or if you prefer, śakti—means power, ability, strength, might, effort, energy, capability, and also “the energy or active power of a deity personified as his wife and worshipped.” Shakti is “the primordial power of the universe, the Divine Feminine,” and “the power of a word, the creative power of imagination, a particular configuration of the stars and planets, the female organ.” 

Looking at these dictionary listings for rasa, bhakti and shakti, we see that the definition of a Sanskrit word is a poem, full of sensuous imagery. These metaphors are called rupaka (having form, figurative, metaphorical), and are yuktarūpaka (appropriate metaphor,) because each image is a hint for practice and an intimation of experiences you may encounter along the way. 

Sanskrit is a song of experience

In this wordplay, the Sanskrit of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra is luscious, passionate, electrifying, and full of jokes, as the lovers sing the dance of creation. There is music in the words, and a driving impetus. Sanskrit is a song of experience. 

The language is intricately woven and saturated with the power of bliss (anandashakti). Each verse resonates with clues of many kinds pointing to multiple layers of revelation, suggesting dozens of complementary translations. Many types of translations—academic, literary, historical, etymological—can be done of this tantra, and yet each conveys only a small part of its meaning. Each verse of the text is only thirty-two syllables, and yet the Sanskrit is so richly encoded that it would take a book to unfold the meaning. In exploring a verse, I often do twenty to fifty different versions, then let dancers, musicians, yogis and meditators select the ones they like the best. The translation is not complete until you behold and cherish the meaning, and translate it into your own living experience. 

This is a performance-oriented version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. It is meant to inspire practice and is written in such a way that when reading it quietly to yourself, you may feel invited in to a practice, and become more intimate with yourself. You may find yourself in the midst of a practice just in reading. This is antar yoga, where antara is “interior, intimate, the interior part of a thing, Soul, heart, supreme soul.” Feel free to speak it out loud, share it with a friend or class, jump up and dance, jump in and do one or more of the practices. Tantric texts want to leap off the page and be performed, and become a useful part of your life.

This version is a bhashantaram, a transmigration and reincarnation of the text into the vernacular—the text wants to be thought in English, whispered, sung, chanted, delighted in, danced to. I am letting the text sing itself back into the spoken word. The Sutras remember they were once a song.