Great Joy Rising

What we call our “environment” is made up in part of other beings – both people and animals. Tantric meditations invite us to pay deep attention to all our relationships and inter-relationships, and dare us to become capable of greater intimacy. We are called to appreciate, with tenderness, what happens when we unite, separate, and come together again.

I love this meditation from the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, an ancient yoga text. My heart often aches, and this practice somehow puts me right with the world.

ānande mahati prāpte dṛṣṭe vā bāndhave cirāt |
ānandam udgataṃ dhyātvā tallayas tanmanā bhavet || 71 ||

In the great joy of seeing
A loved one after a long absence,
A flash of recognition ignites you.
Space becomes charged,
The bond between you shimmers,
And a surge of delight arises in your being.

Find within you the source of this surge.
Melt into that place of upwelling,
A wave rolling in a vast ocean of delight.

The original Sanskrit is extremely succinct. As part of the oral tradition, it was crafted to be memorized and chanted. The words have dozens of layers of resonance, and mean, approximately:
Ananda: bliss, joy. Mahati: great. Prapta: realized, obtained. Drishte: having seen. Va: or. Bandhave: kin, friend, relative. Chirat: a long time. Anandam: bliss. Udgatam: rises, ascends, is born. Dhyatva: by meditating. Tat-layah: in that melting, absorption. Tat: that. Manah: intelligence, perception, mind-heart. Bhavet: becomes.

These words speak of an experience we all know, a very human moment. The teaching suggests we dive deeper into the joy and cherish it with the total power of our attention. Take this rising bliss, this anandam udgatam, as a gift of the divine, meditate on it, and merge with it. Ananda is also a dimension of the divine – a vast oceanic experience, an ocean of delight. Even though we as souls are incarnate, we are also in oneness with eternal consciousness bliss, sat-chit-ananda. When we see someone we love, a gateway to this divine bliss opens up. Each separation and re-union with a loved one reminds us of the union of body and soul. One of the meanings of yoga is “union,” and therefore a reunion teaches us something about yoga.

Bandhave refers to bonding, and resonates with bandha, a realm of yoga techniques which involve “containing” the vital energies or pranas of the body. Thus the word suggests that a human attachment, a bond, if approached with skillful awareness, is a way of touching the divine. Our relationships are pathways to enlightenment.

You can do this practice in the very moment you see a loved one, in the flash of recognition. Dive into that rising bliss with the mind of a yogi. Use the powers of perception you have developed by yoga to notice that first split-second when you know, This is one I love. This technique is part of a whole series that train you to notice the space between your body and other bodies. Space is not empty – especially the space between lovers. Space is vibrant, pulsing with longing and radiance, a shimmering emptiness that is full of potential.

Make a practice of meditating on the joy you feel when you think of someone you love. This is your personal gateway to ananda. Each person you love or have loved is a doorway to the divine. When you think of them, it is as if you are thinking a mantra, a name of God. When you unite with them, even by cherishing their memory in your heart, you are practicing a kind of bhakti, love yoga.

Dogs are masters of this dharana. When a dog sees someone they love, they don’t hold back. They levitate with bliss, it rises in them and they leap. Lately, part of my practice has been to meditate on the uninhibited joy dogs express. Teachers are everywhere in our environment, and in the connections we have with all other living beings. Who are your teachers?

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra describes 112 yogas of wonder and delight for touching the divine in the midst of daily life. The teaching is framed as a conversation between lovers, Shakti and Shiva, the Goddess Who is the Creative Power of the Universe, and the God who is the Consciousness That Permeates Everywhere. Dr. Lorin Roche has been practicing and teaching these methods since 1968. He has a Ph.D. from the University of California at Irvine, where his research focused on the language meditators generate to describe their inner experiences. The Radiance Sutras, a new version of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, is available from Lorin’s web site, Feel free to email your comments and questions,