This book presents the oral teaching of the twentieth century’s great Kashmir Shaivite master. The last of his long lineages, Swami Lakshmanjoo preserved, as did his predecessors, the oral knowledge that illuminates this ancient philosophy – that clarifies the often deliberately obscure tantric texts.
Swami Lakshmanjoo reveals the essence of the way and the means to self realization. Here in his won original discourses, as well as in his English renderings of Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja, he unveils the essential teachings of this yoga philosophy.
Swami Lakshmanjoo reveals the tantric understanding of the purpose and reason for creation. He offers instruction on the greatness and importance of the supreme mantra sauh. In his presentation of effective practice, he explains why meditation is both effortless and, at the same time, difficult. In his discussion of discipline he clarifies why personal habits and dispositions play an important part in spiritual growth. Finally, in his unveiling of the path of Kundalini yoga, he is intent on exposing and thereby preserving this hidden elevated process while warning of its pitfalls.
I still vividly recall coming across, as an undergraduate during the late sixties, a small book by Paul Reps entitled Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. This genuine spiritual classic continues to have wide appeal today. What most especially stuck in my mind then, in addition to Reps’s sensitive retelling of 101 delightful Zen stories, was the account of his visit to the Kashmir Valley, known because of its mountainous beauty as the “Switzerland of India.” There he discovered what he felt was an important pre – Zen text, the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a central scripture of Kashmir Saivism. I remember being fascinated and, in a mysterious way, elevated by Reps’s paraphrase of that short but profound work, which he called, from the practice it describes, “Centering.” Somehow, however, I was even more captivated by Reps’s description of his encounter with a translation, Swami Lakshmanjoo. As I reread Reps’s words now, I experience again the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual pull that led me eventually to graduate studies in Indian philosophy. Reps begins:
Wandering in the ineffable beauty of Kashmir, above Srinagar I came upon the heritage of Lakshmanjoo. It overlooks green rice fields, the gardens of Shalimar and Nishat Bagh, lakes fringed with lotus. Water streams down from a mountaintop.
Here Lakshmanjoo – tall, full – bodied, shining – welcomes me. He shares with me this ancient teaching…I see Lakshmanjoo gives his life to its practice.
This was my first encounter with this extraordinary Saiva saint.
A Spiritual Magnet in the Vale of Kashmir
During my years in graduate school, I made a point of keeping close tabs on developments in the modern Hindu tradition. Again the presence of Lakshmanjoo crossed the horizon of my concern as I became aware that a number of Hindu spiritual leaders, including Swami Muktananda Paramahamsa and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, were making a point of visiting and paying their respects to this Saiva master during visits to Kashmir. My curiosity was aroused.
Although my research focus was on Advaita Vedanta, of which I had made a thorough study, I was becoming increasingly aware of nondual Kashmir Saivism as expressing a more profound mystical realization. Put briefly, classical Advaita achieves its nonduality by denying the reality of objective existence, which is excluded from its statically conceived Absolute. It aims ultimately for a state of isolation (kaivalya) in pure spirit, from which the world is obliterated. Saivism, on the other hand, offers a more thoroughgoing nondualism in which the universe is accepted and experienced – as divine Consciousness itself in dynamic motion. This allows the Saiva yogin to enjoy the Infinite as a vivid, vibrant reality at the level of the senses.
As I continued my study of the literature on Kashmir Saivism, I began to notice Lakshmanjoo’s name appearing regularly in prefaces, dedications, and footnotes in the works of scholars writing in various languages. They were acknowledging, however briefly, their indebtedness to this Saiva master. Among the who’s who of Western scholars of Saivism who spent time studying with Lakshmanjoo were the late Lilian Silburn and her colleague Andre Padoux, both of whom had distinguished careers as scholars of Tantrism at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris; Alexis Sanderson, currently Spaulding Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics at Oxford University; and Mark S.G. Dyczkowski, an important younger scholar of Saivism associated with Sampurnananda Sanskrit University, Benares. Other South Asianists who made the pilgrimage to Lakshmanjoo’s Ishvara Ashram on the shores of Dal Lake include Professors Harvey P.Alper, J.G.Arapura, Bettina Baumer, Gerald J.Larson, and K. Sivaraman. In addition, I became aware that in India itself Lakshmanjoo was held in high esteem by a distinguished circle of Hindu scholars in the holy city of Benares, several of whom traveled to his ashram seeking a more profound understanding of Saiva doctrine and practice. This group of Tantric savants included Pandit Rameshwar Jha and Thakur Jaideva Singh, the latter well – known for his valuable translations of Kashmir Saiva texts. For many years, both scholars were in the habit of going to Kashmir during the summer to study with Lakshmanjoo.
Silburn, who dedicated her life to the study of Hindu Tantrism, produced several important translations and studies of Kashmir Saiva texts, including Kundalini: The Energy of the Depths. In preparing her translations, she studied with Lakshmanjoo during visits to Kashmir over a period of some twenty years. During that time she came to regard Lakshmanjoo as her “master in the science of Bhairava (Supreme Reality). Her description of her first visit to Kashmir conveys something of her feeling for the place and her relationship with Swamiji:
In 1948 I journeyed to India for the first time and met Swami Lakshmanjoo in Kashmir. I received from him some help in understanding the Sivasutra, its commentaries, and also the Spandakarika and the Vijnanabhairava, which I had attempted to translate.
That year I lived near him in an abandoned hut of beaten earth on the uninhabited hills that dominate Dal Lake, toward which the terraces of the garden of Nishat descent [from the hills] by stages. I lived several months by myself at the heart to this exceptional site, in which the starkness of the rocky mountains, the subtle softness of the light, and the often hazy stillness of the lake joined together to create a harmony stillness of the lake joined together to create a harmony and a peace that was profound, yet pregnant – it seemed – with the presence of the great Saiva masters who probably frequented that place.
Acknowledging that she had benefited greatly from Lakshmanjoo’s vast knowledge of the Tantric tradition, Silburn expressed her profound gratitude to him for this untiring help with her work.
As the result of his visits to Kashmir, Pandit Rameshwar Jha developed a profound devotion to Swamiji, to whose spiritual power he attributed certain spiritual realizations that he enjoyed. This is evidenced in his “Hymn to the Preceptor” (gurustuti), a Sanskrit poem filled with lavish praise of Lakshmanjoo and his lineage of masters. For example: “I bow to the feet of the divine Laksmana nectar to [my] eyes, whose glorious power as the great Lord Siva is incomprehensible to the intellect. Blessed by his compassionate glances, I shine here with the form of the universe. Elsewhere in this hymn, Jha expresses his belief that Lakshmanjoo was a reincarnation of Laksmanagupta, a guru of Abhinavagupta himself), this hymn is still chanted daily by followers in Kashmir and elsewhere.
The extent of Jaideva Singh’s indebtedness to Lakshmanjoo can be gauged by looking at the dedication pages of his translations. Attesting his esteem, Singh wrote that Lakshmanjoo “unsealed my eyes.” He spent hours with Swamiji – whom he regarded as “the doyen of Saivagama” – going over text word by word before submitting them for publication. Singh’s translation of the Pratyabhijnahrdayam is dedicated “with profound respect to Svami Laksmana Joo, to whom I owe whatever little I know of Pratyabhijna philosophy.” At the time he studied with Lakshmanjoo, Singh was in his seventies, a respected scholar with already more than half a dozen books to his credit. Still, we are told, he gave reverent attention to the teachings of one whom he evidently regarded as his spiritual preceptor. “It was a moving sight,” Dyczkowski reports, “to see this fine old man sit before his revered teacher with the simplicity of a young child. A photo of Singh with Lakshmanjoo appears after the title page in the Indian edition of his translation of Abhinavagupta’s Paratrisikavivarana.
Perhaps the most vivid description of a scholar’s encounter with Lakshmanjoo comes from Dyczkowski, who spent a good deal of time with Swamiji, beginning in the mid – 1970s. His account reveals something of the attraction that Lakshmanjoo exerted ever serious students of Tantrism: “Swamiji would rise early [in the] morning and we, his few Western disciples, would come to try and share, as best we could, in Swamiji’s immense profundity. His exposition of the great works of the ancient Kashmiri masters – Abhinavagupta, Utpaladeva, and Ksemaraja- would fill us with wonder.
Kashmir Saivism is a magnificent system of spirituality which, since its inception, has emphasized not only the understanding of its concepts but the direct realization of its truth. According to its devotees, truth cannot be grasped by mere intellect; it can only be apprehended through direct experience. Because Kashmir Saivism regards itself as a practical system of spiritual realization, it has come to place great emphasis on its oral tradition, preserving and passing on the understanding that is indispensable as a guide to the direct, living apprehension of its truth.
Most recently, the oral tradition of Kashmir Saivism has been preserved and strengthened in the person of Swami Lakshman- joo Raina. Swamiji (as he is known to his devotees and students) had a profound understanding of this great spiritual way; he was an extraordinary man whose whole life was dedicated to his beloved Saivism. Swamiji fully imbibed the teachings and prac- tices of Kashmir Saivism and was looked upon as the embodi- ment of kindness, compassion, and generosity. He was a selfless devotee of God. His life was marked by a continual remembrance and outpouring of love for Lord Siva, whom he worshiped in the form of Amritesvara Bhairava, the lord of the nectar of liberation. Swamiji was born as Lakshman Raina in Srinagar, Kashmir, on May 9,1907. He was the fifth child in a household off our boys and five girls. Swamiji's birth came about through unusual cir- cumstances. By the time Swamiji's eldest brother Manju Das had reached the age of eighteen, his mother had given birth to three more daughters but no sons. His parents wanted to have another boy. They approached Swami Ram, their family guru, and asked him to give them something special, something magical, so they could have another son. Wanting very much "to help, Swami Ram blessed an almond and gave it to Swamiji's mother to eat. Having great faith in Swami Ram's spiritual powers, she ate the almond and soon afterwards became pregnant. When she gave birth to a son everybody was overjoyed. Hearing about this birth, Swami Ram became very excited and immediately asked to be taken to their house. It was common knowledge that Swami Ram had lost the use of his legs, but upon taking the baby in his arms he entered into an ecstatic mood and began dancing about singing, "I am Rama and he is Lakshmana.
Swami Lakshmanjoo was a great being who truly lived an exemplary life in perfect accordance with the spiritual path of Kashmir Saivism. But he was also human. By understanding his human side the teachings in this book will resonate more power- fully for the reader whether he or she comes out of intellectual curiosity or with the desire to realize Kashmir Saivism in their own lives.
Meeting the Master
My wife and I first journeyed to Kashmir in the spring of 1969, along with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and a group of his Western students. During our stay Swami Lakshmanjoo gave a discourse to our group on Kashmir Saivism. As a graduate student of Indian philosophy and religious studies, I was intrigued by this impressive speaker and the relatively unknown philosophy he spoke about.
In 1971 I returned to Kashmir along with my wife Denise and daughter Shanna to learn from Swamiji the philosophy and prac- tical teachings of Kashmir Saivism. Although I still knew very lit- tle about Kashmir Saivism I knew it was a tradition that emphasized realizing and experiencing the supreme truth in the context of one's own life. Furthermore, I knew deep down that if I wanted to learn the secrets of Kashmir Saivism I needed to study with a teacher who not only understood the tradition, but had practically experienced its fruit and truth in his own life and being. My research convinced me that Swami Lakshmanjoo was such a man. He was, at the time, the last living master of the Kashmir Saivaite tradition; that is, he• was the last in a line of masters/disciples whose spiritual genealogy was marked by direct oral transmission of the secrets of Saivism. Being the last living guru of Kashmir Saivism meant that Swamiji held the pure distillation of a rich spiritual tradition.
I traveled with my wife and daughter to India, harboring the profound hope that Swamiji would share the philosophy and secrets of Kashmir Saivism with me. Of course, I did not know what to expect from such a great philosopher and saint. Although I hoped that he would respond to my heartfelt request, I was totally unprepared for, and even overwhelmed by, the deep kind- ness, consideration, and enthusiasm with which he honored our visit and my request.
After we had arrived in Srinagar and settled into our hotel, I told Denise that I was anxious to meet with Swami Lakshmanjoo as soon as possible. I had written him six months earlier about my intention to travel to Kashmir to learn Kashmir Saivism. In the letter I said that I hoped he would agree to teach me. Here I was in Kashmir, and I still had not received a reply from him. For all I knew he would refuse my request. Perhaps he would not even meet with me. My mind was filled with unpleasant possibil- ities. I was really nervous and had no idea what to expect. It was Sunday afternoon when I took a taxi around the edge of Dal Lake to Swamiji's ashram (hermitage).
Sunday was a public day. When I arrived the ashram was filled with people of all ages and genders. The devotees of Swami Lak- shmanjoo were sitting and standing in groups talking among themselves. Swami Lakshmanjoo, whom everyone referred to simply as Swamiji, was nowhere in sight. When I asked his whereabouts I was told that he had just gone up to his room and would be returning shortly. As I waited for his return my excite- ment and nervous apprehension increased. Some of the devotees waiting in the garden were quite friendly and expressed a keen interest in my situation. They began to shower me with ques- tions-who I was, how old I was, what I wanted, how long I was going to stay, how I had heard of Swamiji, and so on. Being involved in this intense session of questions and answers, I hardly noticed that quite a bit of time had passed. Then off to my right in the direction of Swamiji's house I noticed a commotion. One of the devotees standing with me said that Swamiji had come down.
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