The Pratyabhijna Hrdayam is one of the foundational texts of Tantric Shaivism. It was written in the eleventh century by the sage Kshemaraja and comprises twenty sutras, or aphorisms, which describe the experience of Divine Life in the context of our individuality. The Pratyabhijna Hrdayam presents God’s perspective that the magnificence of Consciousness is always expressing itself in its perfection.
The sutras also elucidate why there is no conflict between that highest understanding and our own unfolding experience: that life is not about us, and yet we have the ability to perceive from the Divine perspective. in other words, in order to truly allow that magnificence to express itself in our lives, we must first come to the place of total surrender where we realize that our life is not about us. For a glimpse into the wisdom of the Pratyabhijna Hrdayam, let’s look at Sutra One, which states:
Autonomous Consciousness is the source of the entire universe.
Tantric philosophy describes God as the unity of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is the unbounded, eternal field of consciousness; inherent within that consciousness is the power to create. consciousness is expressed and made manifest through energy, and that power is called Shakti, Kundalini, or the Goddess. there have been endless philosophical debates about the relative importance of Shiva versus Shakti, but the highest understanding is that there is only the union—what is called Paramashiva—or Shiva and Shakti as One. Divine reality is a singular, autonomous state of consciousness containing within it the potential to manifest everything in creation.
There are two aspects of consciousness that we have to consider: the power to know or perceive, and the capacity to be aware of our self-knowing. the capacity to enjoy knowing makes it an active experience. the foundation of all awareness is the capacity to be conscious; and to recognize our state of consciousness. So immediately the discussion moves from the highest— from Paramashiva, Shiva- Shakti— directly to us, because, of course, there is no separation between God and ourselves.
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Using Self-Awareness to Change Our Lives
The extraordinary thing about being alive is that we are conscious. This capacity for Supreme Consciousness to know itself is the same capacity for us to know our Self. that includes knowing ourselves at whatever frequency of contraction we might find ourselves in. the first step in spiritual growth is having the ability to recognize our state, so that we can transform it.
As we engage in the world, we have the power of will to create whatever life we want, and it is always on the field of God’s will. Divine will is an expression of God’s freedom, and it is therefore ours as well. the universe emerged from the bliss of Shiva’s desire—from his will to express and experience his own freedom. this is worth remembering. if this Divine magnificence created the universe out of Divine will, what does that say about you and me? We are here because God willed it.
The question is which are we experiencing: our limited perspective, needs, and desires, or the unrestricted field of Divine consciousness and will? are we using our will to free ourselves from the illusion of separation from God? if we are truly attempting to allow Divine will to express itself through us, our own willfulness is going to be exposed. that is the recognition of our own state. then, we have the choice to surrender and say, “May my will be your will. May I live in your Grace.”
If we don’t surrender our will, we only get bogged down in our limited field of vision. We keep having the same experience over and over in our lives. and what’s more, we keep doing the same things over and over in life to try to change the experience, to try to pull more happiness from it. as the saying goes, “if you keep doing what you have always done, you keep getting what you have always gotten.” Who will change it for you but yourself? We only change by expanding our vision beyond the ego’s comfort zone, beyond the ego’s fundamental belief in duality and separation. and we can do this because we have free will and the capacity to be conscious.
Your Life is Your Means to Liberation
The same Divine consciousness, that unfolds from within itself to create the universe, is within each of us. God’s inherent consciousness and freedom exist in us every moment of our lives, and from that freedom we each create our experience. Understand how powerful that is! But the question is: What do we use that power for? normally, we use that extraordinary power to reinforce our separation, to solidify the ego and its limitations.
In its highest sense, liberation is freedom from yourself; freedom from thinking your life is about you. the extraordinary thing is that this means nothing has to change in your life— although everything can—and it still has nothing to do with you. Life is not about you as an individual. Why not change your perspective? What do you have to lose, except your unhappiness? We hold on to the things that make our life unbearable and then we are angry because our life is unbearable.
We have a lot less control over what comes and goes in life than we want to imagine. in fact, the things that leave us, or the things that come to us are always happening to wake us up, to bring us back to freedom. Freedom has no condition attached to it. none. Day by day, we always face the perfect opportunity to realize this. Whatever situations we encounter, we choose our experience of those conditions on a moment-by-moment basis, by focusing on openness or by focusing on limitation. Understanding life from this perspective, we learn that everything that is presented to us is a gift, the chance to grow. then, how we react to that gift is up to us. that is what i mean when i say we choose our experience.
If we are creating an experience of bondage, it is because we are choosing to do so. We think, “i shouldn’t have to experience or be doing this.” Who said? Let God be the judge instead of you. any judgment from a lower perspective will at best be incomplete, if not totally wrong. We have to be willing to really suspend our beliefs, let go of that which we don’t know, and stop trying to understand from the place that will never understand.
From the highest viewpoint, if the Divine created us as part of the play of experiencing him/her/itself, then our duty is to allow that to happen—to allow that consciousness to fully express itself in our lives. We have the power of that choice within us. Who are we to deny God the experience of his own joy? that would be a bit arrogant. Be grateful that you have the possibility of expressing Divine consciousness in your life, and choose to live in freedom. if your consciousness is a means to your liberation, use it for that and don’t accept anything less.
The One-Year Practice: Selflessly Serving, Selflessly Receiving
In order to make this understanding a reality in your own life, i’d like to offer a one-year practice that you can undertake. a great deal of stillness, simplicity, and surrender is required in order to penetrate through duality to Unity. this exercise will help you tune in to that place in yourself. this practice is completely internal work – independent from any action you do or do not take in the world. it is designed to help you experience that you are not the doer as you surrender to the Grace that God bestows in every moment of life.
Here are the keys to this work:
- Selflessly serve, giving what is wanted without being asked.
- Selflessly receive, accepting what is given, without asking for that which was not.
Let your life show itself to you by surrendering your will to God’s will. Find the resonance of the still point that continually repeats, “if it’s asked, give it—if it is not given, don’t reach for it.” You have your life; live it. Be engaged in whatever you are responsible for and do it with depth, joy, and simplicity.
Whenever you are not sure if something is your will or God’s will, surrender your will. if there is any struggle about this, it reflects your own misunderstanding. God is crystal clear. if you function from a place of simplicity and stillness, you won’t be confused. if there is confusion, it is because you haven’t gotten still enough inside to see the reality of what is being shown.
The primary instruction can also be stated this way: Don’t reach and don’t reject. Stop trying to change what you are doing because you think it’s necessary in order to feel fulfilled. Whenever the impulse to reach or reject starts to arise, let it go. if any part of you starts questioning and repeating the mantra of stupidity—“What’s going to happen to me?”—that is the very part of you to let go of. Whenever an opportunity arises, simply open, be quiet, and don’t immediately reach out and grab it. Just open, wait, and surrender even what’s being given until it becomes crystal clear that it is a situation that will truly support your growth. if you are not sure, don’t do anything. Wait for the clarity.
Although this yearlong practice is an internal effort, it will happen on the screen of your life. it will show you what it means to surrender the illusion that you are the doer. When you become still, “you” will stop doing. You will start to witness that you are not the doer, because (a) your life will go on, and (b) it just might be a lot more extraordinary than what you would have created if left to your own devices.
Within the day-to-day flow of life we all make hundreds of choices, and that level of activity is not the issue because it is insignificant. most of these decisions don’t have an effect on our state, unless we get caught up in them and project our needs onto everyone and every event. God doesn’t really care whether you have granola or rice crispies for breakfast. Only you know when you are using your will in a way that prevents God’s will from flowing through you.
Walk A Year in God’s Shoes
How willing are you to remain still, surrender, and not need anything? can you surrender every need that comes up and open to whatever life is asking of you in order for you to change? Sit in stillness, and let your life unfold from within you. if you think, “nothing is unfolding,” you are not paying attention to what is happening. in other words, if nothing in your day-to-day life changes in the next 365 days, perhaps everything that was truly significant within you would change.
Don’t wait for your Divine life to show up someday. it is here, right now, as the life you are actually living. if you understand the possibility for transformation inherent in this yearlong challenge, you will be so busy not reaching, and so busy receiving, you won’t have time to think about what you did or did not get. if some part of you has to get rearranged in the process of giving what is asked, or stopping your incessant reach, be grateful.
Truly allow the simplicity and the magnificence that is available to you to show itself. the part of you that is afraid to do this is the part of you that will always reinforce the veils of duality. You have to be willing to walk in stillness, in a state where you serve and receive in simplicity, knowing that what is needed is attracted and what is not needed perhaps falls away. if you can find that place of completeness in yourself and the willingness to surrender, your freedom will show itself. this is not theory. this isn’t what somebody else does. this isn’t what we do after we are free. this is what we do to become free.
We need to pay attention to whatever is trying to change us, to reveal that we are already complete as we are. Look at the dynamics that are requiring you to open up and get bigger—or requiring that you let go, so that you can get bigger. Bhagavan nityananda, one of the great teachers in my lineage, said, “Surrender everything that keeps you separate from Shiva.” Believing that we are the doer is the field upon which we act out all of our limited impulses. i encourage you to surrender being the doer, because this is the only way to understand that your life is not about you—it’s about living as the expression of God.
When most of us think about Unity, what we are really doing is trying to understand duality and how it works. So do this: Stop trying to understand duality. reach for Unity. You cannot understand the experience of Oneness through a dualistic experience. the veils of separation and differentiation, of thinking, “i am the agent,” are very powerful. they contain the energy behind the transmigration of our soul.
This is your work. the consciousness that you have to bring to it has many levels, both in your internal practice and in your engagement with your day-to-day life. You don’t stop meditating or stop your normal activities, but you must focus on doing all of that from a place of surrendering your will. See what happens. and if, a few months down the road, you think nothing has happened, find a deeper stillness. Look for a change in your internal experience instead of a change in your life. Your understanding of, “i am not the doer” should have deeply penetrated within you.
There’s a term called Bhairava Mudra, which means “external gaze, internal focus.” We are engaged in seeing the world, while our focus is inside. See what the world shows you, but understand it from within. it requires a continuous gaze to see what the Divine will is for you in each situation. allow your consciousness to be changed by stopping the incessant need to change everything. maybe life is perfect the way it is. By not engaging the part of you that needs to change it, you will see the perfection in what actually exists.
Seeing life with this clarity, without feeling the need to change anything, requires a great surrendering of will. We must let go, again and again, and let God’s will show itself. this is a powerful practice that will awaken your own heart. it will transmute your experience of duality—bringing you to the recognition of the Unity of all life and the unwavering awareness that God lives as you. Selflessly serving and selflessly receiving is living from stillness and profound surrender. this is the doorway to liberation. there is no greater treasure than your own heart, for that is where you will recognize your Divinity.