When I translated the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra for this blog, i translated verse 27 or dharana 4 as Shiva saying:

As you pause between breaths 

Become tranquil

Experience Me in that stillness

Paul Reps in his inimitable translation of VBT in his Zen Flesh, Zen Bones says:

Or, When the breath is all out (up) and stopped of itself, or all in (down) and stopped – in such universal pause, one’s small self vanishes. This is only difficult for the impure. 

Osho in his celebrated Book of Secrets uses the Paul Reps translation. Osho then takes us on a global trip focusing on the second part of Paul’s translation about the difficulty for the impure.

I studied the Sanskrit text several times, using several dictionaries and translations, in addition to my usual reference of Ascent by Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati from Bihar School of Yoga. I could find no correspondence between the original Sanskrit text and Paul’s translation. I found no reference to impure and small self vanishing.

Nowhere does the word impure, or anything even remotely connected, figures in the original. There is nothing about the small self or ego vanishing. Moreover, equating out breath or exhalation with up, and in breath or inhalation with down, is not in conformity with any yoga description that i know of.

Yet, Paul Reps’ translation is reputed. Even Osho used it in his classic. Paul Reps studied with Laxman Joo, an acknowledged master of Kashmir Shavism and VBT.

To what extent have Paul Reps and Osho been authentic?  Who or what are they talking about?

I am sure there was  a reason for Paul to translate as he did. He must have had an insight. I value his integrity. However, while he may have been authentic to his own experience , he has not been authentic to Shiva and VBT. Ditto with Osho. The small self, instead of vanishing, took over.

This is a problem with many translators and commentators. It’s about their view, map, and experience and not the original. It’s their ego being translated.

I believe that when dealing with a scriptural work, one must transmit the original as faithfully as possible. Individual interpretations are not relevant. Individual experiences can be presented as one’s own views but not as a translation. Readers should not confuse the mental map of the translator with the original territory. The translator’s map is ego’s fiction.

I read several versions of the teachings of Laxman Joo, including that of his student Jaideva Singh. Though these transmissions are close to original, i found them difficult to follow, especially the dialogues with Joo, without knowing the context. This was my limitation, not Joo’s.

For these posts, i have followed The Ascent, which is matter of fact, lucid and firmly based on Shiva’s sutras, something my simple brain could understand and assimilate. Bihar School of Yoga follows the lineage of Swami Sivananda, a master of yoga and a great tantric scholar. Their books of tantra and yoga are faithful representations of originals, not flights of imagination or devotion. I acknowledge this book by its cover in this post.

I love Osho. I see him as a maverick, who thumped his nose at all forms of authority and never a hypocrite, as several spiritual teachers are. I am sure his version in Book of Secrets is his authenticity. It’s not Shiva’s authenticity.

Why is this authenticity important?

Whenever i say that there is no thoughtless state in a living being, many question me and quote Patanjali and Buddha. Those who know their Yoga Sutra as well as Sanskrit, know that the word nirodha that Patanjali uses to define yoga only means control of thoughts and not cessation of thoughts. Patanjali defines meditation and samadhi not as thoughtless zones, but as single thought and thought witnessing zones.

When Buddha talks about sunya or sunyata, he talks about a disengaged zone, not a thoughtless zone. The small still center where the big Self resides is still thoughtful. It’s thoughtful of others and a witness. Every breath we own is a thought. As long as breathe we are in thought. The thoughtless zone, to paraphrase Shankara, is maya, an illusion.

Look at it this way. If you experience a thoughtless state and remember it, how do you remember it without thoughts? If you were in deep sleep you would not remember, as this state would be akin to death. Mandukya Upanishad says that even this dep sleep state of susupti can in fact be an aware of state of prajna. This is the causal layer or karana sareera, where thoughts emerge as samskaras and vasanas. This is yoga nidra. Yoga Nidra leads to turiya, the witnessing state.

A Zen Koan for those who affirm the thoughtless state:

If you were thoughtless, and knew you were thoughtless, who knew? How?

When readers of translations question my saying that there is no thoughtless zone, they question the scriptures. They should read the Sanskrit originals using multiple dictionaries. And then they should meditate on the verses that relate, whether from Yoga Sutra or VBT or Dhammapada or any other scripture. The experiences they own are relevant, not the intellectual concepts.

If a guru talks about a thoughtless zone he or she has experienced, try to experience it yourself. If some one has experienced it , you too can and should. When you don’t, it’s not that you’re deficient. The other person, however great a scholar or a guru, is lying. This lie makes you feel inadequate. The truth that this state is only an illusion liberates you.

The purpose of VBT and all true scriptures is to liberate you, not to enslave you in knowledge.

In the first four dharanas of VBT, Shiva deals with breathing. He then moves on to energy. That will be my next post.