Attaining oneness with Shiva

The Path to Pure Consciousness

Shiva in meditation

by Jayaram V

Summary: This essay explains a few spiritual practices of Shaivism to attain the pure consciousness of the self or oneness with Shiva in wakeful and dream states also.

The state of liberation or pure consciousness is not a mere theory. You can bring it into your mundane states of consciousness and experience it as your natural state. In Shaivism, yogis attempt to do this through yoga, mantra and tantra. According to Shaivism, beings are caught in samsara (the cycle of births and deaths), because they are filled with maya and subject to egoism, attachments and delusion, which create karma. Their consciousness is clouded, and their energies and abilities (shaktis) are limited due to the maya shaktis.

The beings who have fallen thus into their animal nature (pashu vritti) are but Shiva only in their ignorant state. The self which exists in them is pure consciousness, filled with infinite shaktis, which is also the original and pure (sahaja) state of Shiva only. However, it remains hidden due to the power of maya shaktis and does not participate in worldly activities, but remains passive as a witness.

Becoming one with that pure consciousness without duality and bringing its illumination, knowledge and potency into our wakeful, dream and deep sleep states as our essential and natural state, this is the ultimate goal of life and liberation, which Shiva yogis aim to achieve. In other words, they do not want the transcendental state of turya (blissful nonduality) to remain confined to transcendental states, but bring it into the other three states also namely jagrat (wakeful), svapna (dream) and deep sleep states and make it a continuous and uninterrupted condition of their existence upon earth.

As liberated beings (jivan muktas) they want to live in oneness or nonduality with Shiva in their mortal bodies, until they complete their time upon earth. They do not want to attain liberation or oneness with Shiva in rare moments of self-absorption or keep it confined to transcendental realm. Whether their minds and bodies are active or inactive and whether they are awake or asleep, they aim to experience it in all states and conditions as their natural (sajaja), continuous, pure and experiential state.

How can it be done? Shaivism suggests three main approaches. The first one is to be practiced keeping the main focus upon the pure consciousness of Shiva; the second one, with the help of shaktis, who are hidden in the mind and body and the universe; and the third one through persistent, self-effort. As their names imply, they are known as Shambhavopaya, Shaktopaya and Anavopaya respectively.

Of the three, the last one is considered the most difficult and inferior, and the first one the most excellent. In all the three approaches, the guidance and help of an enlightened guru are imperative since many problems can arise on the path, as the shaktis play their own tricks to prevent the escape. Sometimes, if you are lucky or if you made great progress in your past lives and earned merit and grace, Shiva may voluntarily become your divine guru and open your mind to illumination and supreme knowledge.

In Shambhavopaya, you meditate upon your essential nature as eternally indestructible, independent and infinite, pure consciousness, and try to make it your natural state by merging into it without duality or distinction. You bring that awareness not only into your wakeful state but also your dream and deep sleep states, so that your transformation as a pure being is complete in all respects and remains so in all states and conditions. It is not easy because you have to overcome your limited identity (anavatvam), which is defined and limited by your name and form and your belief that it represents your true self.

As the pure self, you have to remember constantly that you are the effulgent pure consciousness, which is eternal, infinite and indestructible, with infinite power to will (iccha shakti), know (jnana shakti) and act (kriya shakti). In your deepest aspect, you are Shiva himself, with the world as your extension and creation. You do not know it because you are veiled by a thick cloud of gross and subtle impurities. With your mind and senses and other tattvas in your body, which are instruments of maya and ruled by maya, you cannot look through them to know your true nature.

However, although your true nature is hidden behind a cloud of maya and you cannot see it in wakeful condition, occasionally it may manifest in you in rare moments when there is a sudden shift or opening in your consciousness and you experience strange sensations, otherworldly, psychic or mystic states. Just as the light of the sun appears through the openings in a clouded sky, these brief moments of illumination arise when the light of your pure consciousness manifests through the crevices in your wakeful or dream states, when you are lost in some activity or when your defenses are down and your mind enters a trance like reverie or condition.

Those moments may arise spontaneously or naturally in unexpected moments of quietude, or through specific yogic practices, mudras, mantras or the use of mind-altering and intoxicating substances. They are used by Shiva yogis for contemplation to cultivate equanimity and grow nearness to the pure self which is hidden in them. Contemplating upon them and upon the nature and consciousness of Shiva, they dissolve their limited selves in its knowledge and illumination and become absorbed in it. Once they experience the awakening (Bhairava udyama) in a state of nonduality, they gradually bring its light and bliss into their wakeful consciousness and become stabilized in it.

There are other practices which produce similar results. For example, you can create an opening in your consciousness by freezing you mind when you are about to jump from thought to another or by remaining focused upon the silence which arises in the small space between one thought and another or between one activity or modification of the mind and another. You can use them as the doorways to enter the supreme state of your pure self.

Yogis also try to access the ocean of pure consciousness by meditating upon blissful states which they may occasionally experience during mundane activities such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc. The pleasure or happiness which you experience in your body in your wakeful state is but a faint form of the transcendental bliss of turya only. By meditating upon it, you can open your mind and bring the illumination of your blissful, pure consciousness into your wakeful and dream states.

These experiences grow in intensity and the illumination of pure consciousness begin to manifest frequently in your consciousness, as you engage in self-purification, invoking the shaktis who are hidden in your mind, body, speech, breath, nadis, intelligence and consciousness. Since the same shaktis are also hidden in creation in various aspects as sacred sounds, mantras and letters, names and forms, etc., yogis contemplate upon them to awaken them within themselves. They harness their power to transform their minds and bodies so that they become the living embodiments of Shiva.

Thus, by purifying their minds and bodies with pure shaktis, and removing the clouds that surround them, yogis drown themselves in the bliss of pure consciousness. Pure and blemishless, they become the lord of their shaktis and develop many siddhis. Pure knowledge (sahaja vidya) which is natural to them manifests in them as the illumination of their pure nature and spreads into their being and consciousness as they become firmly established in the supreme state of Shiva himself, which is nondual, self-existent, independent and blissful. As they remain so in all the four states of consciousness namely jagrat, svapna, susupta and turya with firm control over the shaktis, they develop immense power. When the transformation is complete, they go beyond turtya (turyatita) which is indescribable and inexplicable. In the end when they depart from their bodies, by their will, they merge into Shiva without a trace.

From the above it is clear that for a Shiva yogi, liberation or the pure state of Shiva is not a theoretical fantasy or a speculative possibility or a mirage, but a reality which can be brought down from the heights of heaven into an ordinary, mundane experience as one’s essential nature and see the world with the eyes and ears and the consciousness of Shiva himself.

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