Prelude to Centering

My good friend Ed Kelly, whom I can always count on to guide me towards the source, sent me the following dialogue from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, a Kashmir Shaiva scripture. He suggested that it might fit well with this blog, and he was right. Thank you, Ed!

Many of you who have been on a spiritual path are familiar with the powerful little book by Paul Reps, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, published in 1961. Centering, the last section of the book and body of the Bhairava scripture, ‘presents the 112 ways to open the invisible doors of consciousness.’ (Endless gratitude to Paul Reps and Lakshman Joo).

These Banter Verses 1-23, which we were given only a glimpse of in ZF, ZB, are a prelude to the 112 ways, and introduce us to the Goddess (Devi) and her lover Bhairava (Shiva) as she questions him about Life. The beguiling eloquence of this mystical and majestic exchange is more than enough to end the search for good – an unequivocal pointing to our true self.

One day the Goddess sang to her lover, Bhairava:

Beloved and radiant lord of the space before birth,

Revealer of essence,

Slayer of the ignorance that binds us,

You, who in play have created this Universe

And permeated all forms in it

With never-ending truth, I have been wondering . . .

I have been listening to the hymns of creation,

Enchanted by the verses,

Yet still I am curious.

What is this delight-filled universe

Into which we find ourselves born?

What is this mysterious awareness

Shimmering everywhere within it?

I have been listening to the love songs of

Form longing for formless.

What are these energies

Undulating through our bodies,

Pulsing us into action?


And this “matter” out of which our forms are made—

What are these dancing particles

Of condensed radiance?

What is this power we call Life,

Appearing as the play of flesh and breath?

How may I know this mystery and enter it more deeply?

My attention is enthralled by a myriad of forms,

Innumerable individual entities everywhere,

Flashing into existence and fading away again.

Lead me into the wholeness beyond all these parts.

Do me a favor, my love.

Let me rest in your embrace.

Refresh me with the elixir of your wisdom.

Ravish me with your truth.

Bhairava replies,

Beloved, your questions

Touch the heart of wonder,

The path of intimacy with all life—

Weaving together body and soul,

Sex and spirit, individuality and universality.

This is my Cave of Secrets.

Your inquiry has led you here.

I feel your fingers on my pulse.

Come with me.

Leave behind everything you know.

The teachings about me are

A light show put on by the celestial musicians,

As beautiful and insubstantial as clouds.

Elaborate rituals and garish images

May be useful in meditation when your mind is whirling with thoughts

Of sex, money, and power, wandering like an elephant in heat.

Go ahead and use these tools, yet know,

Beating drums and blaring trumpets

Cannot summon the One who is already present.

I am not a collection of incantations

Known only to experts.

I am not a ladder to be climbed,

A sequence for piercing energy centers in your body.

I am not to be found at the end of a long road.

I am right here.

All the stories about me

Are like tales you tell naughty children—

The goblin is going to come gobble you up!

Or else soothing fables mothers spin

As they hand out sweets.

Leave these fantasies behind.

Let me tell you of the luminous path.

I am beyond measure. I cannot be calculated.

I am beyond space and time.

I am beyond ancient and beyond the future.

There are no directions to me.

I am always here.

I am the embrace

Of your most intimate experience.

Though I am beyond the intellect,

I am not beyond your daring.

I am the nourishing state of fullness

That is the essence of soul.

You belong to me, and I am yours.

My nature is spotless, completely uncontaminated.

I am not covered up, not even by a billion galaxies.

So who is there to worship and adore?

There is no one to appease.

Sacred texts sing of my reality,

But I cannot be found in them,

For I am the one listening.

I am always closer than breath.

Heat and fire are not two separate things.

These are just verbal distinctions.

The Goddess and the One who holds Her

Are one and the same.

We are inseparable.

The way to me is through Her.

I am everywhere, infusing everything.

To find me,

Become absorbed in intense experience.

Go all the way.

Be drenched in the energies of life.

Enter the world beyond separation.

The light of a candle reveals a room.

The rays of the sun reveal the world.

So does the divine feminine

Illumine the way to me.


She Who Shines Everywhere (Devi) sings,

You who hold the mysteries in your hand—

Of will, knowledge, and action—

Reveal to me this path of illumined knowing.


I long to merge with you,

Be filled with your nourishing essence.

Lead me into joyous union

With the life of the universe,

That I may know it fully,

Realize it deeply,

And breathe in luminous truth.