Alert To Relationship

by Dr. Lorin Roche
Sutra 83 From The Radiance Sutras, A New Translation Of The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra

Lately I have been painfully aware that every relationship in my life calls for careful tending, and I am always blowing it. Not a huge amount, usually, but enough to be painful. It seems like I am either giving too much or too little to each person. At the end of the day, I have these little sensations in my body, tiny aches, that say, “You spent too much time and energy on that connection and not enough on the other one.” Equally demanding is the challenge of listening to each person, seeing things through their eyes and not losing my own perspective.

The number of people I relate to in a day has doubled in the last year, so I am having to learn a new level of the game. Meditation, pranayama (breath techniques) and asana (posture) help a lot – they tune my attention to make better choices about where to put my love and attention. Each person, each project, is saying, “Show me some love.” When I get it just right, the feeling is exquisite.

I am surprised at how much Yoga it takes to keep me well-tuned. Two forty-five-minute sessions: one in the morning, and one in the evening, are needed. I was kind of hoping that by now, after forty years of practice, my groove would be permanent. That I would be, you know, enlightened. But no, I need all the tools of Yoga, and I need to work them daily.

This is Sutra 83 of The Radiance Sutras, a dharana on relationship:

Everyone knows, there is me,
And then there are all these others.
This is common to all.

Lovers know, there is me,
And the source of this me
Is ever mysterious.

Lovers know, each contact with another
Is a spark of the Divine.
Lovers move through this world
Awake to intimacy,
Each touch a revelation
Never to be repeated.

grāhyagrāhakasaṃvittiḥ sāmānyā sarvadehinām |
yogināṃ tu viśeṣo ‘sti sambandhe sāvadhānatā ||

Looking in the Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary, we see some touchy-feely words, and some abstract ones: grahya – that which is grasped, seized, objects; grahaka – the grasper, the seizer, subject; samvittih – awareness, consciousness; samanya – common, in common; sarva dehinam – in everyone; yoginam – yogis, those who practice Yoga; visheshah – differentiation, distinction; asti – there is; sambandhe – with regards to relationships, connections, bonds; savadhanata – attentive, alert, mindful, heedful, careful.

If we wanted to make this verse sound really dry, we could say: “Object-subject consciousness is common to everyone. What is different about a yogi is attentiveness to this relationship.” That is the way my translation read for years, until I realized that this is a boring way to elucidate a very interesting topic.

The Sanskrit text uses dynamic physical terms – grahya and grahaka – that imply, “When we come into relationship, I am seizing you, grasping you, and you are grasping me.” The sutra seems to be saying: any relationship is a kind of embrace, whether we are physically touching or holding them in our heart. Yogis need to be aware at all times of the texture, the feeling tone of this touch. So be skillful, be alert to the magic of what you are creating.

Practicing Yoga, especially pranayama and meditation, heightens our awareness of the space between things. Currents of energy flow between the chakra (energy centers) in the body, and, startlingly, between our body and other bodies. Yoga amplifies the power of our attention, so that when we listen to someone, and look at them, there is more going on than we may otherwise be used to experiencing. A transmission of prana (life-force) is going back and forth. On the level of energy, it is as if we are touching them or holding them. In Tantra, the attitude is that this contact of “me” and “the others” is sacred and powerful for everyone involved.

We all have many relationships – friends, family, co-workers, teammates, lovers, dogs, cats, horses, the ocean. Each requires its own precise way of holding and has its own rules for what an embrace is. Each friend needs a different kind of greeting. Men need to be hugged differently than women. The hug you give a tearful child is very different from the hug you give your spouse. A hug held for a heartbeat too long can feel smothering. Turning away from an embrace too quickly can feel cold or dismissive. Great alertness is called for. Each bond, each connection, each relationship in our life requires the best we can bring, and each moment of contact is surprising. When I have noise in my head during meditation, I can always trace it back to some conversation that wants to be resolved or advanced to the next step. Once I get this, the mental chatter turns into a background hum, and then some version of OM, the song of life.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra describes 112 Yogas of wonder and delight for touching the divine in the midst of daily life. The teaching is 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.