From the Vijñāna Bhairava

Translated by the Kashmiri Saint Swami Lakshmanjoo

and Kashmiri Pandit Dina Nath Muju

Edited by Jim Powell


In the Land of Blue Forests, as Lord Buddha called Kashmir, dreams a chain of mountains known as the Himalaya, Abode of Snow, elevated slopes white all year 'round.

Those mountains have also preserved a field guide to finite infinities: a compendium of dozens of Modes of Meditation, 112 modes of courting unbounded consciousness.

These Modes have been carried down in an oral tradition and a scripture known as the Vijñāna Bhairava (The Scripture of Divine Awareness).

Each of  the 112 ways is called a dharana or yukti, a technique or way of doing something. Herein, however, I use the term Mode or Meditation (rather than "technique" or "way") because both Mode and Meditation can designate a way of doing something and a state of being.

A mode, for instance, may be a way of plucking a stringed instrument. It may also be, as in String Theory, a distinct state of a vibrating system: both an electron and an E being a mode of vibration.

Each Mode or Meditation of the Vijñāna Bhairava behaves according to a silent law inscribed within all of nature: the Principle of Minimal Action.

Consequently, for beginners each of the 112 Modes of Meditation can be prescriptive: an activity, a way of doing something, such as intoning a mantra. Yet, in any chosen Mode's simplest state, the Mode describes a condition or state of being, a state that escapes the semantic reach of the term "technique."

Over time, any Mode or Meditation experienced at first as an Activity might next present as Energy, and finally as a State of Being.

Swami Lakshmanjoo, the last great master in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, and one of the two co-translators, explains that process here.

It is said that Shiva imparts each of these 112 Modes of Meditation to his better half, Shakti, in expressions breathed in breathless, starlit air, upon a star that marks a hidden pole  . . .  in an exchange some have deemed a "dialog" . . .

Its monological character, however, is understandable from the outset if one recognizes that in this tradition Shiva is not the mischievous divinity of subcontinental myth desporting himself with the wives of sages in a pine forest, but merely a marker, a metaphor for one's own unbounded awareness: one's own shoreless consciousness in infinity mode, a soul admitted to itself . . .  a Self unvisited of shores . . . for Shiva and his better half form a wonderous One . . .  a spaceless space wherein the duality of adoration melts into waves of union. . . 

At Shiva and Shakti can even switch roles, with Shakti becoming the Quiescent One while Shiva assumes the active role of teacher. They do reverse roles at the opening of the Scripture.   

When I was in my twenties and a Religious Studies otaku with an Indological bent (at UC Santa Barbara), with all the naïve and panoptic optimism of a child writing off to Santa — I sent a letter addressed to Swami Lakshmanjoo, Kashmir, India.

Assuming that the saint, basking in infinite Being, had nothing much else to occupy his eternity, I expressed a yearning for him to translate the Vijñāna Bhairava.

My reasons for making that request to this Shaiva savant in particular were multiple. First, he was at that time recognized by Kashmiri Shaivites as the living embodiment of their tradition. Consequently, I trusted that he had himself realized the truth illumining the text. Third, I trusted that if anyone’s voice — like the sound of a clear bell sounding through mist — could penetrate the text’s veiled meanings, it would be his. 

Some months after sending off my request, an envelope arrived. It was the year India issued a large, colorful postage stamp of Michelangelo’s Cistine Chapel painting of God reaching out, extending his animating touch to Adam.

As my fingers reached inside the envelope, onion-skin paper, as translucent as monsoon-soaked silk, met my touch.

The paper bore the inscriptions of a collaborative translation of the scripture. The collaboration had taken place between Swami Lakshmanjoo and his friend and devotee, a Kashmiri Pandit who frequented the saint's abode . . .  Pandit Dina Nath Muju.

Both were steeped within the teachings of the scripture and the tradition's yogic depths. Their discussions had taken place within their most intimate and subtly nuanced language, their mother tongue, Kashmiri. Within Sanskrit. And within their local dialect of English. They dared to assume, four years before the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism, that Kashmiri yogis were capable of representing Kashmir Shaivism with some degree of fidelity.

I found their translations to be straightforward, though not staunchly philological, succinct to the point of abbreviation, ontologically anchored (because grounded in experience) rather than in rote textuality alone, and tailored for transmission. As Kashmiri yogis, their embodied immersion in their tradition and in consciousness had shaped their translation as one responsive both to eternity and to the evolution of what had been found to work in their tradition through the community's long history.

Kashmir, straddling a branch of the ancient Silk Road, had long participated in that silk and cultural route's religious syncretism. Kashmiri thinkers were thus supremely positioned to notice the universal truths underlying the diverse waves of religious floating by in the arrival of each new caravan. Furthermore, in the same way that in China a conventional garden-variety Confucian could present, at the same time, as a bovinely placid Taoist, or a Buddhist, or Confucian, the translators, while being Shaiva savants, were also steeped in the Vedic tradition. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, a grand shift had been taking place in the religious sphere. In general, in the United States and elsewhere ultimate-meaning orientations where shifting orbit from the religious sphere to the spiritual sphere: from organized religion(s) to Spirit.

Thus, the translators left out the theology of the scripture found in the opening verses. Instead, they present only the 112 Modes of Meditation, eliding every one of the introductory 23 verses of the scripture, which Shiva himself more or less dismisses anyway.

Furthermore, and tellingly, the translation also elides all the scripture's vocatives addressing the Goddess: such as "O gazelle-eyed one," and "O Goddess."  This in effect helps to de-mythologize  and humanize the translation so that it reads as though it were written for a general human reader of either gender and of no particular religious persuasion, and in language more all-embracing, more meta-religious than narrowly religious.

Contributing to the general de-mythological drift of the times and the translation was Pandit Dina Nath Muju's long and dedicated association with Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti, some fifteen years the pandit's senior was, many will remember, a man with a uniquely clear mind.

It had become clear because he had been groomed from childhood to play the role of Messiah. Then at a an age when many young people seek their independence, he was no longer able to stomach this messianic role nor the attendant adulation it brought to him. So he set about divesting his followers of their illusions. Thinking broadly, he generalized his statements to resonate with believers of all faiths. He was quite serious about the realization of freedom and articulated it in words that anyone who watches the news might feel tempted to agree with. To wit:

When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you  are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.

Krishnamurti, proceeding from an awareness beyond boundaries, especially the cntrapment of thought, observed that the world was suffering from a chronic war of mentally impelled -isms. Yet he was certain that anyone was capable, through one's own simple awareness, of observing any thought, and thus any    -ism, and thus capable of ceasing to identify with and cling to it.

By simply observing one's own mind and behavior, anyone could become free of one's slavery to systems of thought: liberated from the group-think blindness of tribal thinking. And for Krishnamurti, this demanded not indulging in any form of Krishnamurti-ism either.

Krishnamurti wanted us to become aware of the -ism games we have been enculturated into, relentlessly play within, identify with, and impart to or inflict upon others. He wanted us to become free from the tyranny of thought, and therefore free of the past and better able to live in the moment, with unconditioned minds, emotions, and behavior.

Many of those who met with Krishnamurti were inspired by his crystalline clarity. Yet many would nevertheless continue grooming their pet -ism(s).

Krishnamurti's point is compelling. After all, as humans we do not want anything at all interposing itself between ourselves and our beloved. So why should we allow religious authorities to interject themselves between our souls and Spirit?

Rather than endlessly parroting sophistries from scripture X or Y or Z, how much better to simply orient ourselves in the way of San Juan de La Cruz, who in one of his more independent moments wrote, "I had no other light nor guide, than the fire, the fire inside!"

En la noche dichosa 
en secreto, que nadie me veía 
ni yo miraba cosa, sin otra luz y guía, 
sino la que en el corazón ardía.

Inspired by Krishnamurti's clarity about how blind acceptance of any -ism helps perpetuate a world of suffering and conflict, Pandiji, if he was called upon to help translate a scripture of Kashmir Shaiv-ism, wanted to do so in a way that was as non-theistic, as non-authoritarian, as meta-religious as possible. Similarly Lakshmanjoo wanted to make the teachings in the scriture available to everyone.

Both he and Swamiji wanted to paraphrase and frame the scripture's techniques as universal truths that serious persons of any faith or -ism could benefit from: like 112 doors to step through into ultimate reality.

Also influencing the translators' orientation towards universality was the fact that a few years before Lakshmanjoo and Dina Nath collaborated on this translation, Lakshmanjoo had befriended Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who, trained as a physicist, encouraged scientific research on the effects of meditation. Maharishi did not want to present the dignity of the transcendental state as something "shrouded in the garb of mysticism," but as something universal, objectively verifiable, and of practical use to anyone in any culture, to anyone of any philosophical or religious persuasion.

Maharishi's emphasis on objectivity resulted in the first published scientific research on Transcendental Meditation, conducted by Robert Keith Wallace at UCLA and published in the February 1972 issue of Scientific American.

Hundreds of other studies followed, some of the most impressive being Wallace's compilation of various correlates of brainwave coherence: The Neurophysiology of Enlightenment.

Maharishi Mahesh enjoyed keeping company with illumined souls. One of these was Tat Wale Baba, of Rishikesh. I've not known of anyone who met Tat Wale Baba who was not uniquely impressed by him. For instance, the maker of this 1950s Italian film made in Rishikesh, India, after interviewing many in Rishikesh, introduces Tat Wale Baba with the words, "Finally, a real yogi."

Maharishi Mahesh with Swami Lakshmanjoo.

It is important to mention that Lakshmanjoo advised those transcending through Transcendental Meditation to continue on that path, explaining that "Kashmir Shaivism is exactly the truth explained by Mahesh Yogi, nothing else. It is why we [Maharishi and myself] have come very near [have become very close], both of us." 

Maharishi, responding to the question of duality being an illusion:

MAHARISHI MAHESH YOGI: "If duality is an Illusion, then unity will not be established. Both have their value; without duality unity has no substance. As I said, it is natural and both are true.
Both are opposed in characteristics, yet both are so full of affinity, that they cannot exist without each other. So much so that one is just the other, and there is no difference, yet the difference is so great that one is not like the other at all. A hundred percent diversity and hundred percent unity, both performing their work at the same time. That is the nature of the work of creation. This is true reality. One seems unreal, the other seems real. The reality is that both are real, and the greater reality is that both are real at the same time."
---cited in the book "The Way to Maharishi's Himalaya" by Elsa Dragenmark
(Thanks to Mario Ursin)

Similarly, on the question of the relationship between Yoga and Vedanta.

"Without Yoga, Vedanta is incomplete. Without Vedanta, Yoga is unfulfilled."  

(Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Rishikesh, 1967)

Lakshmanjoo elaborated on the effortlessness of Transcendental Meditation, saying that because Maharishi's teaching proceeds from the crowning energy center, those who do Transcendental Meditation "have nothing to [do] . . . . You are there, established there." He added that when your Teacher is there, you are spontaneously, effortlessly established in that reality, and that blessing is the greatness of having Maharishi as one's teacher.

Effortlessness in meditation is also a feature of Lakshmanjoo's tradition. He states in his introduction to this translation that these 112 practices, these Modes, are really meant for advanced seekers who have reached that state where the need for laying down any formal discipline or technique ceases.

It is important to keep in mind that each of the Modes or Meditations is not merely some epiphanic window to peer through like the stained-glass of an inner sanctum, but a door to walk through--and leave behind.

Or, each of these modes is like a magic trick.

As one of the few meta-Modes in the scripture suggests: The True Self harbors no change. But all these actions and knowings (including the ones in this scripture) are changing. Therefore, realize that all these actions and knowings are empty, shunya, like the tricks in a magic show.

I use the term meta-Mode because, if all actions and knowings have the status of a magic trick, so also do all the Modes in the scripture, including this particular mode, or trick.

It is, however, one of the more effortless, mode-less Modes, belonging to Sham-bhava, the Way or Phase of Shiva: as a mere trace, mark, or linga of the Trika Trickster.

Both Swami Lakshmanjoo and Pandit Dina Nath Muju, then, took seriously a truth about these practices that Lakshmanjoo emphasizes in his introduction to the scripture:

▶▶ Any method, however subtle, can be only a result of a thought process—a product of mind. Hence it cannot touch that which is beyond thought, beyond mind. The mind can penetrate, at best, up to its own frontiers. Do what it will, it cannot go beyond its limits of time and space.

A method implies duality—a seeker and an object of search, a devotee and an object of
devotion. The ever-present, all-pervading, all-knowing Totality does not need to be beseeched or coaxed. It arrives unsought, like a fresh breeze from the mountaintop, when the mind is free from thought and seeking.

When an aspirant comes to the clear realization of this fact, the Shambhav-upaya (Way of Shiva) becomes An-upaya (No-Way, No-Method), or what may be translated as Beyond-Method.
In this state of non-dependence and effortless awareness, there is neither acceptance nor rejection, neither justification for nor identification with any feeling or thought.

In this void, the worshiper becomes the worshiped. This state is not beyond action and wisdom only, but beyond will, as well.

It simply is. ◀◀

This truth was important to Lakshmanjoo because as an enlightened being his existence was stationed beyond mere mind. And it was important to Dina Nath because as an educator who had brought education to hordes of superstitious and untutored Kashmiri children of divergent cultural backgrounds, he had been inspired by J. Krishnamurti's point that Truth cannot be realized through the structure of any thought or method or system.

Krishnamurti, quite simply, had encouraged Pandiji as he had encouraged the young students attending his classes: to observe their own minds the way they might observe anything in nature, such as a lizard.

That passion for rapt observation of the behavior of one's own mind, that choiceless awareness, even of one's own lizard-mind, constitutes, according to Krishnamurti, meditation.

Swamiji, and Pandiji, each thought to frame the scripture in a universally applicable light.

The pandit’s Indian English was far better than Lakshmanjoo’s, and my American English, quite arguably, more suitable than the pandit's for lending the translation an American English tone: something like Cole Porter in Delhi at dawn.

One senses that their collaborative attempt was not to march in philological lockstep with some assumed Golden Age text, but to distill its Sanskrit expressions down to practical and practicable phrases useful even to “barbarians” in distant, English-speaking lands.

I, being a Santa Barbarian, was invited to perform the final editing: to wrest the manuscript into that mythical beast sometimes called American Standard English, while seeking to maintain the text’s yogic uniformity--and diversity.

The West at that time was not yet overflowing with postural yoga practitioners flexing into various forms of neo-Hinduism. The fact that the Goddess-feminist movement was gaining a following in America was unknown to the translators.

They did know, however, that the United States was overflowing with those practicing meditation overflowingly.

And so it was that I sat down with these ancient nuggets of yogic wisdom as I would with a freshly opened box of chocolates.

One does not, however, edit chocolates.

I recognized that each of the 112 Modes of the scripture opens to a luminous pool of awareness wherein waves of form fold into and pulse forth from formlessness.

I began to perceive that the scripture's Modes of knowing arise resonantly and luminously from this pool, so that when one of the waves rests lightly upon the mind and begins to ripple across the space of the Heart, one suddenly and unexpectedly passes beyond wave into a state where no technique is even possible.

That is to say, with any one of the Modes, one progresses from the Mode in the sense of a Way of Doing Something, to the Mode as a Form of Energy. And that Form of Energy transforms into the Mode as a State of Being. That Being indwells each wave of wonder, delight, awe, rapture . . .

Often, this sweet spot reposes between any two impulses of action: such as the vertiginous gap between rising and falling  . . .

I learned, in this way, that any one of the scripture's Modes of Meditation is a finite infinity familiarizing one with the most tender, nascent, infant impulses of pure consciousness between any two points of awareness.

Any one Mode then, fully realized, yields the infinite fruit of all the others.

Thus it is not at all necessary to pursue each and every mode. Plumbing the depths of any one Mode suitable for oneself is necessary and sufficient for spiritual fulfillment. This is the Truth behind Swamiji's statement that "Maharishi is teaching Kashmir Shaivism, nothing else."

Now I invite all to tag along as I carry this translation over into the universe of the mythical being known as American Standard English and its cosmos of rules and, like, eccentricities. . .

I offer here my thanks to Swami Lakshmanjoo, to Dina Nath Muju, to all the Kashmiri Pandits and  all of Swamiji's closest circle: who are part and parcel of all those who have transmitted this wisdom down through the ages.

Chief among these now are John and Denise Hughes and family, who long ago uprooted themselves from their activities at Maharishi International University and UCSB, replanting themselves in Kashmir, where for decades they studied under the able aegis of their Swamiji.

Following the link below you can read here, in Swami Lakshmanjoo's own words, how he began imparting his knowledge of the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism to John and Denise Hughes. You will also be able to study those lessons yourselves.

I am also impressed with the efforts of Lilian Silburn, Bettina Bäumer, Christopher Wallis, Mark Dyczkowski, and others.

I am saddened, however, to tell you that due to an ongoing war of -isms religious and national, many Kashmiri Pandits have been forced yet again out of their ancient homes and even homeland. Because Kashmir acts as a buffer zone between India and Pakistan, like the hyphen between the compound adjective Indo-Pak, this ancient haven of spirituality is currently riven with traumatic strife. Many Kashmiri Pandits have fallen victim to violence perpetuated by religious extremists. (This is why the teachings of my former and beloved professor Raimundo Panikkar are so essential in our age. Uniquely, they address the possibilities of interreligious dialog.)

My friend and mentor Dina Nath Muju, a husband, a father, and one of the translators of this work, is, quite sadly, one of the victims of Kashmir's religious strife.

Not only have surviving Kashmiri Pandits had to relocate, but they have also been ravaged by floods and an earthquake.

Swamiji and Dina Nath wanted this translation to be available to as many as possible. For this reason, the translation will be appearing for free on this blog, verse by verse, as time allows. I will also be providing a note for each Mode, some notes on translation in general, some notes on Orientalism, some on the Kashmiri Pandits, and some on other topics related to the scripture and its translation.

No translation, however, will ever be entirely finished. This is because every translation is an act of faith, an act of writing dependent on an act of reading. For every translation involves authors, texts, and readers, and evolves within an ever-changing linguistic universe.

The flow of meaning from the original author to the reader who is the translator depends on the knowledge and level of consciousness of each. After all, each supplies half the meaning. Each particular reader reads differently, bringing a different storehouse of impressions and thus different pre-understandings and misunderstandings. Each translator has a different readership, and their translation will become, to an extent, a reflection of the gaze of their readership.

As poet Jose Emelio Pacheco reminds us, reading is a meeting.

This meeting between writer and reader involves intimacies exchanged in a private place, and usually between two strangers.

In this meeting on the page, the writer sketches a few lines. The reader fills in the sketch -- even if the "writer" is assumed to be Shiva.

If the author is Shiva speaking to his better half, Shakti, she listens patiently, politely, and without much comment. Then, at long last, she simply throws her arms around Shiva's neck to share meaning in a more unitive mode.

On more mundane levels of understanding, each reader reads herself in to what she is reading. And that defines the miracle of reading: that by reading the words of an author the reader has never met, she can sometimes see her very own most intimate self mirrored in the writer's words.

As already mentioned, in this blog I will be sharing many thoughts on the art of translation. For now, however, let me offer just a few.

First, translation is always already haunted by the ghosts of its own inadequacy.

Each translation is haunted by ghosts of the original, source language (Sanskrit in this case) that have failed to be carried across into the target language (English in this instance). The ghosts are all those echoing semantic intricacies that have failed to be carried over from the source language and conveyed cleanly and allusively into that impossibly different and equally intricate web of meanings within the target tongue.

Also, no translator alive today lived in medieval Kashmir.

Therefore, all translators, all interpretive communities, all translations, find themselves afloat in a space somewhere between their images of Sanskrit in ancient Kashmir and their own universe of meanings, which dwell within their own mother tongue and the mother tongues of the compilers of the Sanskrit-English dictionaries in which they place their trust. 

They must remain patient and, most of all, humble. They must learn how to talk with these ghosts, how to commune with them, how to be patient and allow them to speak their own hearts, which may take forever . . . and may be unstraslatable.

And translators must learn how to talk with one another.

No translator can transmit meanings in the way Shiva and Shakti exchange meaning when the two embrace as one: producing infinitely faithful, self-referential, intersubjective transmission. No translator is capable of reproducing that secret language. The very act of translation bans us from that intimacy.

Each translator must instead embrace the art of self-erasure: the loss inherent in any attempt to carry the whole across perfectly.

Translators must also come to the realization that translation of any given source is an ongoing process, a play of the mind. It is never finished. It involves countless translators, countless interpretive communities, all playing slightly or dramatically different language games, and all learning, hopefully, from one other. And like languages themselves, all continually evolving, or at least changing. It is good if these translators remember that the different language games they are playing, are play. It is good if they remember that from a linguistic standpoint, some of the most "unreliable" translations from a philological point of view are the most aesthetically compelling.

I will be sharing much more on these topics.

I have great respect for translations grounded in the staunchly methodological protocols of Western philology. Yet, they attempt to achieve the impossible: to bring everything across by focusing on what a text means rather than in how it means. Their goal and the attempt, though impossible, beguile.

And I have deep respect for those translators who are members of the actual, living tradition of a scripture. For a scripture is only a text. An oral tradition, though, is a living tradition. Scriptures are not complete within themselves but merely as tools within a living oral tradition.

That is why I, as a lad, wrote off to Lakshmanjoo. I had learned that some spiritual masters transmit their traditions transcendentally.

Nandini Iyer, mommy of globe trotter Pico Iyer, was my first Sanskrit teacher. Sanskrit at that time was reputed to be UCSB's second-most demanding subject, after Quantum Physics. Demanding only because it is exceedingly difficult to find young minds stupid enough to tangle with it.

On the first day of class, Gerry Larson, our Sanskrit Teacher To Be, if we survived the first year of immersion, poked his head through the door of the seminar room. He spread his mischievous, gleaming Cheshire Cat grin. It spred like a hand of poker filled with aces. From between his lips escaped precisely two words: sarvam dhukam.

After a dramatic pause, his head retreated. The door snapped shut.

We were all Religious Studies majors, so we recognized that his words were those of Buddha's First Noble Truth. We realized that we were going to suffer.

That was our very first Sanskrit sophistry.

In the 4th century BC, when the Romans were building their first aqueduct, Pāṇini (not the Italian sandwich but the grammarian) came up with his Ashtadhyayi (Eight Chapters): the very first grammar of the Sanskrit language. Its 4,000 verses form something that every Brahmin child would remember by the age of ten. Doing so formed the basis for all that would follow.

In writing his grammar, Pāṇini created the world's first axiomatic system: a metalanguage to formulate the rules of Sanskrit. Pāṇini's Grammar is now considered to be one of the crowning achievements of the human mind.

It was axiomatic in more than one sense. For some twenty-four hundred years later, when 19th century Europeans "discovered" Pāṇini's Grammar, they soon adopted it to form the basis of modern linguistics.

Then, in the 1950s, computer scientists discovered that Pāṇini's metalanguage is similar to what today are called the Pāṇini-Naur-Backus-Form (BNF) grammars used to describe modern programming languages. It is for this reason that Pāṇini is important in Artificial Intelligence research, which, among other things, attempts to shed light on the computational structure of nature and of the mind. 
⛛⛛For more on Pāṇini's contributions to modern linguistics, computational science, and Artificial Intelligence: this Rabbit Hole ~ http://www.ece.lsu.edu/kak/bhate.pdf ⛛⛛
Any mature system of thought, however, is self-transcending. It lacks ego. Once it has done its job, it, wave-like, washes way. 

Thus, the Sanskrit story closest to Indian hearts is not the one extolling Pāṇini's genius but the one advising an elderly Sanskrit grammarian to forsake Sanskrit grammar and turn his mind and heart to worshiping Divinity. For that is the best use of language.

The one who gave this advice was a great teacher known as Shri Adi Shankaracharya. The reason he gave this advice is that one day, accompanied by his disciples, he was walking along a street when he came across an aged scholar repeatedly reciting the rules of Sanskrit grammar.

Out of compassion, Adi Shankara walked over to the scholar and advised him not to waste his time on grammar at his age but to turn inward.

Shankara is said to have composed the popular hymn "Bhaja Govindam" on this occasion.

On that same first day of class when the fellow who was to be our second-year teacher poked his head through the door, we were relieved to find that Nandini, our charming first-year teacher, espoused a spiritual philosophy of language similar to the worshipful one extolled by Shankara.

She allayed our fears of the daunting task that lay ahead. With her laughing eyes she told a tale of a mythical yogi of yore who, wishing to master Sanskrit, prayed so ardently to Saraswati, Goddess of Learning, that the Goddess entered the yogi’s mouth, granting him—in one luminous vision—complete knowledge of the tongue.

Her message was that the essence of language reveals itself through heartfelt worship, rather than mere intellect.

She reinforced her point through her ever-mirthful air of serenity, with which she lured her entire class headlong into the first lesson: a plunge into the tangled jungle of Sanskrit's daunting but beautiful script.

Thus emboldened, we felt we could tackle anything.

It is no accident that her son is an esteemed author.

Though positioned within the confines of the University of California in Santa Barbara, a kind of temple to the rational mind, the Religious Studies department was a great place to study because of the spiritual quality of our professors.

One who left a deep impression was Raimundo Panikkar. He was not a professor who just came to class and went home and collected a paycheck.

He was a professor who in the dead of night would hike with a horde of us, guitars and blankets slung across our shoulders, to the top of the highest peak overlooking Santa Barbara, where we would then celebrate dawn on Easter mornings.

He devoted his intellect to suggesting that peoples of various faiths spend more time building bridges of understanding between one another rather than erecting towers of babel, something that those in every religion would do well to consider.

Had Kashmir's Shaivists and Muslims possessed Panikkar's vision, they might well have averted their present fate.  


                                                                 More on Raimundo Panikkar Here