The Science of Shiva – My Favorite Thin Spiritual Book

shiv shakti

कहें न तुमसे तुम्हारी बात तो किससे कहें हम?

Shivji is one heck of a cool dude. You see, I have a teenage crush on Shivji that endures. So when he says, “O Beloved, put attention neither on pleasure or pain but between these, I feel this warm glow all inside.

He’s addressing me as beloved! Oh how nice!

What are you talking about Vani??

My favorite thin (ultra-thin) spiritual book. It’s called “Vigyaan Bhairav”, which means “Science of Shiva”.

The original is in Sanskrit, but hold on, don’t go away yet. We aren’t going to get all high brow, scholarly and stuff. In fact it’s because of its utter simplicity that I love this book – and there are many kind and sweet ways that it is accessible to us without having to bother about the Sanskrit.

Shakti (Durga, Parvati, The Supreme Feminine Force) poses a question –

“O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
Who centers this universal wheel?
How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?”

Essentially she is asking him to spill the beans. She is asking him to tell us “the theory of everything”, the one final answer to all questions anyone may ever have.

And then Shiva answers –

He gives 112 short simple ways whereby we may know the answer ourselves by experiencing it. In short, his answer just boils down to this –

Be aware. Experience completely. Receive fully.

He does not directly answer the question ‘What is your reality? Who centers the universal wheel?’ – for if we just heard that, bereft of experience it would just be information and theory to us. He tells us ways in which we can enter his reality, ways in which we can arrive at the center of the universal wheel – above space and time, names and descriptions – and thereby we can directly reach the answer experientially. Nowhere in the book does he say, “I center the universal wheel. This is my reality. Worship me (or anyone or anything for that matter)”. I told you, he’s a cool dude.


Observe. That is the bedrock of science. Observe as much as you can, as minutely as clearly as you can. On a personal level that converts to – be aware, experience completely. Be as acutely aware, of as much in you, around you, as you can.

Scientists use various instruments to observe – be it the grand Hadron Collider at CERN or the hapless rickety Voltmeter in the school lab. We too have been bestowed with superb instruments to observe with. The grandest, big daddy of them all being – our mind. And a plethora of other superb instruments too – eyes, ears, skin…

We just have to tune our instruments and use it completely. When we do that, we directly reach the reality of what is Shiva, along with resolutions to life problems required enroute.

To solve a problem, we have to know the problem. To know the problem, we have to observe the problem. And that applies to whatever hassle we may be experiencing. And even if everything is hunky dory and you are filled with wonder at our wondrous universe and want to know what drives it all – the ultimate question of science, “the theory of everything” – Shiva tells us how you can straight away, bang on, arrive at it. At the center of it all. Not only do you get to know the theory of everything, you get to directly connect with everything, you get to become everything.

It all boils down to tuning our instruments and using it. One simple way that Shivji gives to tune our big daddy instrument, our mind, is – be aware of your breath.

The first four verses of his answer are all different ways of saying, be aware of your breath. Here is the first –

1. Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) – the beneficence.

Whenever I do that, whenever I choose to become aware of my breath, I feel a sense of calm. Ok, relative calm. Things do not feel as overwhelming. I feel his presence. Be aware of your breath.

Imagine a rickety voltmeter gone rogue, jumping all over the lab. That’s what our mind is like most of the time. What kind of an answer to anything will we get using that instrument? What kind of problem solving will it manage to do? Even if someone is blaring the answer we seek at top volume, we won’t be able to hear it. Cause the voltmeter (which has a radio transmission receiver built into it) won’t be able to receive any radio transmission. We gotta tune the radio.

A way to do it – be aware of your breath.

Dear reader, I invite you – pause a second, become aware of your breathing – no need to close your eyes, take on a posture or any such thing – be aware of the movement in your chest, or your tummy – whichever moves more. Just five breaths. In and out.

Being aware of just five breaths, in and out, being aware of just one breath, has tremendous power.

Then Shivji, in Vigyaan Bhairav, gives some further ways to arrive at the center of the universal wheel, above space and time. Here are some that I particularly like. It all boils down to – Use your instruments! See! Listen! When eating something, taste it completely. When having sex, experience it so completely that the fire burns in you forever. Feeling like a rag doll? Well experience that completely.

16. In the beginning and gradual refinement of the sound of any letter, awake.

17. While listening to stringed instruments, hear their composite central sound; thus omnipresence.

22. Consider any area of your present form as limitlessly spacious.

27. When in worldly activity, keep attentive between two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew.

37. Look lovingly on some object. Do not go on to another object. Here, in the middle of this object – the blessing.

41. While being caressed, sweet princess, enter the caressing as everlasting life.

43. At the start of sexual union, keep attentive in the beginning, and so continuing, avoid the embers in the end.

45. Ever remembering union, without embrace, the transformation.

46. On joyously seeing a long-absent friend, permeate this joy.

47. When eating or drinking, become the taste of the food or drink, and be filled.

50. At the point of sleep when sleep has not yet come and external wakefulness vanishes, at this point being is revealed.

51. In summer when you see the entire sky, endlessly clear, enter such clarity.

52. Lie down as dead. Engaged in wrath, stay so. Or stare without moving an eyelash. Or suck something and become the sucking.

59. Simply by looking into the blue sky beyond clouds, the serenity.

62. In rain during a black night, enter that blackness as the form of forms.

67. Feel yourself pervading all directions, far, near.

79. Toss attachment for body aside, realizing I am everywhere. One who is everywhere is joyous.

82. Feel the consciousness of each person as your own consciousness. So, leaving aside concern for self, become each being.

91. Wherever your mind is wandering, internally or externally, this.

92. When vividly aware through some particular sense, keep in the awareness.

96. Devotion frees.

98. The purity of other teachings is as impurity to us. In reality know nothing as pure or impure.

100. Be the unsame same to friend as to stranger, in honor and dishonor.

101. When the mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centered.

104. Wherever your attention alights, at this very point, experience.

108. Here is a sphere of change, change, change. Through change consume change.

109. As a hen mothers her chicks, mother particular knowings, particular doings, in reality.

110. Since, in truth, bondage and freedom are relative, these words are only for those terrified with the universe.
This universe is a reflection of minds. As you see many suns in water from one sun, so see bondage and liberation.

112. Beloved, at this moment let mind, knowing, breath, form, be included.



Did you sense a deep silence and wide expanse in those words?

There is tremendous transformative power in receiving our experiences completely. As we do it (even if just sometimes) over time it creates a shift, a transformation within. We start seeing the same things that have been in our life all along, in subtle but significantly different ways. There is power shining everywhere and every once in a while we are able to connect to it. A wide expanse opens up and our mind gets transformed in unimaginably gorgeous ways. We feel unlimited. We become unlimited.

Then, in the original Sanskrit, at the end of all his answers, Durga “कण्ठे लग्ना” – i.e. filled with gratitude, she embraces him, she hugs him tight.

That is exactly what happens. We are overcome by gratitude.

That sure is what happens to me. उनके बस गले लग जाना, ज़ोर से – और क्या चाह सकती हूँ मैं?

विस्तृत होकर मन मुस्काया
छा जाती नभ सी यह काया
मैं बस वाणी – मन भरमाया
मैं तो हूँ ब्रह्माण्ड समाया

Zen Flesh Zen BonesDear reader, the excerpts that I have shared with you here are from the book Zen Flesh Zen Bones which consists of four parts (it is not 4 parts as in 4 printed separate books – there are 4 parts within this one book Zen Flesh Zen Bones).

This, a very simple, extremely pared down translation of Vigyaan Bhairav is the last, 4th part of Zen Flesh Zen Bones titled “Centering”. 18 printed pages. That’s all.

There are other ways in which Vigyaan Bhairav is accessible to you too. There is a version available from Bihar School of Yoga / Bihar Yoga Bharati where the original Sanskrit is given with short explanations in English after each shloka. Osho Rajneesh has written a commentary on Vigyaan Bhairav where he has extensively expanded on each of the 112 shlokas and ways of going beyond space and time that Shivji gives. I have cursorily glanced at both these versions. Both are very nice. There are others too.

Book of Secrets - Osho
Vijnana Bhairav - Lakshmanjoo

Personally, I am satisfied with these 18 pages in Zen Flesh Zen Bones and do not feel the need to delve into other more scholarly discourses. I really like the way the authors of Zen Flesh Zen Bones (with the help of a teacher Lakshmanjoo, in Kashmir), have pared down the verses to bare minimum words. It makes the spirit of the message that much more accessible to me. It enables me to stay near silence, near him – unentangled with words and form.

The Science of Shiva – Observe. Experience. Receive fully.

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Image credit: Shiv Shakti by Updendra Ratra

Art: My First Observe Teacher (SAM Series)

Life has bestowed many blessings upon me. Among them is my first and very excellent Observe teacher. He came to me during my crucial formative years in high-school.

Summary of previous post of the SAM Series: To do Science, Observe. That is the duty of the scientist. Problem statements and solutions follow from that.

Life has bestowed many blessings upon me. Among them is my first and very excellent Observe teacher. He came to me during my crucial formative years in high-school.

We had to choose an additional subject in grades 9 and 10, in addition to all our regular subjects. The additional subject options were: Economics, Psychology, Art.
I chose Art.

Then on, for grades 11 and 12, we had to choose a stream: Science, Commerce or Humanities. While subjects were clearly specified for each of these streams, two options were offered for the Science stream:
Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Biology
Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Art
I chose the latter: Physics, Chemistry, Maths & Art.

The result: heaven for 4 years – grades 9-12.

There she goes again. Heaven? What does that have to do with Science?

Sorry sorry (garam kachauri). We are here to talk of Observe- the duty of the scientist, and my first observe teacher.

So, surprise of suprises! My art teacher taught me to observe.

Again and again, via his words, via the exercises he asked us to do, he gave us this message and hands-on training: to observe. It was there everywhere in our art classes. In those hours, we lived and breathed observe as an explicit action to be performed.

“When your parent buys fruits and vegetables and brings it home – pick it up, see it. Pick up the apple, turn it around, see it.”, he used to say.

Most of our drawing exercises consisted of “still life” or “nature study”. This meant drawing models sitting on the table in front of us. The model sitting on the table would be a vase, pot, bottle (still life) or simple arrangements of flowers, leaves, fruits, vegetables (nature study).

From blog: One hundred drawings

This was a science lab of a different kind. The lab apparatus: our eyes, pencil, paper and a thing to be observed.

So, on the one hand, in my Physics class I learned about light, optics and that mankind has identified two regions of shadows and named them “umbra” and “penumbra”. On the other hand, in my Art class, I directly experienced the impact of shadows. I experienced the combined effect of light and the curvature of objects. I learned to look out for and be aware of the predominant direction of light on my model. I experienced how light and shadows highlight form, depth and also the texture of surfaces.

Science classes talked of properties of materials. Their brittleness or malleability. How light interacts with materials via different refractive indices. Internal atomic structures. In my Art class, while drawing clay pots or glass bottles, I experienced these materials and their stark characteristics in a direct intimate way. Making a shaded sketch of objects of different materials can be a very fascinating experience. I did not learn of their atoms. However, when a person has to do a realistic large size drawing of a model, full pencil shading and all, she does end up penetrating that model and its behavior in a very real way. Add just one drop of water to the model, and she gets to learn and experience the impact of surface tension of liquids.

Flowers Pencil Sketch

In Biology class there was talk of compound leaves and other kinds of leaves (I’ve forgotten) and the count of petals on flowers. We tore the hibiscus apart and saw its tummy where new baby hibiscus eggs are laid. In Art class, we experienced those leaves and petals directly, touching it intimately all over with our eyes. To tune into leaves, petals, barks – their shape, texture, shades – has become a part of my being and years after those years it continues with me even now.

I could, if I am so inclined, write a P.G. Wodehouse series with a casting of all the quirky leaves and petals that are there out there.
I am not inclined. Typing on a keyboard while I keep my body inclined is tough. Right-angle works better. Inclined keyboards are fine though.

Art classes taught me to observe and gave me hours and hours of hands-on practice doing it. This learning via observing is so direct, experiential and intense, one does not forget it. One may forget technical scientific terms and concepts – refractive index, surface tension etc. that mankind has labeled nature and its dance with, but this experiential learning beyond words does not go away. The knowledge or experience garnered by observing is important, yes. The practice inculcated of observing itself is even more important.

It is only in the last few years that I am beginning to understand the many ways in which art impacts my life. All of them contributing in the scientific pursuit. I may visit some in future posts. Right now, only this –

Art was my first explicit observe teacher and an excellent one at that!

Thank you Mr. Mishra!

Drawing by Sir
Drawing by my art teacher for me, at the time of graduating from high-school.

Dear Reader, please give me feedback, share your thoughts – on the point made, the writing style, or whatever else catches your fancy (other than Nirvana inducing drugs). There are question marks blinking top-speed in my head: is it ok? is it good? is there another perspective? etc. etc. etc.

Observe. The Duty of The Scientist. (SAM Series)

I wanna join the Science club. It is a mighty prestigious club I hear. So how do I join Science the club? How do I “do Science”?

So Science is beautiful. It has the beauty of open-mindedness. It is beautiful in other ways too …

Ok ok. Cut out the preamble. I wanna join the Science club. It is a mighty prestigious club I hear. How do I join the Science the club? How do I “do Science”?

You are so sweet. Asking such nice questions!

What was the question again: How do I “do Science”?

Here is the answer: Observe.
girl observing
That is what you have to do, to do Science. Observe.
Just simply, observe.

That’s it? Really? What about Physics and Math? And Biology? I like Biology. And Chemistry? Don’t I have to do Chemistry?

Hmm… they are nice sorts. Physics, Math and all that. You are hereby granted permission to make friends with those guys. They indeed are nice sorts. Very good company to keep.

But to do Science, you must observe. No getting around that one. Its a big plain in-the-face secret about Science. People don’t say it in school or at college. We are friends. Sharing secrets is our way of cozying up. So here we are, in our pyjamas, away from admonishing voices asking us to go to sleep, we whisper in each others’ ears: To do Science, you must observe.

What about problem solving? Analysis? Strategic thinking? Deductions? Don’t I have to do any of those? And think? Don’t I have to “think”? That guy Descartes, he said “I think therefore I am”. That means if I do not think, I am not? If I don’t think, I won’t exist? That’s scary! I must analyze. I must think! Else, I won’t even exist! Forget about doing Science. I wanna exist. I must think!

Easy does it. Let’s not get pulled away by our own pant straps.

There was this other guy too. He was called Krishna. He said, “कर्म कर, फल की चिन्ता मत कर”.
Ya, that sounds greek. Not to worry. English translations are available.
Translation: Do your duty. Don’t worry about the results.
Book reference: Bhagavata Geeta.

Duty of the scientist: observe.
Results: problem statements, solutions, strategies, deductions …
One duty, so many results. How cool is that! But do not worry about the results. Don’t gun for the results directly. Observe.

If we gun for the results directly (as often people do), if we explicitly try to analyze, try to solve, chances are we will get all entangled in with our own two left feet, dancing a never-ending dance drama. That is not exactly the Science dance idea. Gunning for analysis, gunning for solving, chances are we will miss the target altogether! It will seem like we are doing something, but the actual solution will be sitting elsewhere, happily tapping its fingers on the table. Why? Because the thought in our mind was, “I must solve/analyze”, rather than, “I must observe”.

When we observe, the problem states itself (half the problem solved!), the solution emerges (yay!), the analysis self-happens (and you will get to strut and feel, I am a smart dude!), the deductions deduce. Plop! You shall find them all in your palms. Like mangoes. And then you can place the mango in front of the world: Here. This is the result I got. Tan-ta-dang!

(Btw, go ahead – eat some of the mango yourself. Mangoes are tasty.)

This is the way I see it. Krishna did not say this, so we’ll keep that dear innocent guy out of this. With me, you are welcome to disagree. (Btw, with Krishna too, you are welcome to disagree.)

We spoke about replicating results, right? What if there are no results? What do you replicate? You are the only scientist here. Everyone else has lost it. The world is looking up to you. She shall produce “results”! How do you get results? Bang. From scratch.

This is what I have to say. To do Science: observe.

That’s it. Its really simple. Anyone can do it. You, I, anyone. We can all be cool dudes.

boy observing

Image credits:
Mama Smiles. Reliving Childhood.
Kids Gardening
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