In the 8th century source text of Kahmir Shaivism, the Śhiva Sutras, it declares:
“dānam ātma-jñanam” “Knowledge of the Self is the gift.” (III.28)
The highest and most complete knowledge of the very nature of life and of reality, the knowledge of our own Self, this is what is called realization. The self-authenticating knowledge born of the wholeness of our own direct inner perception is that which banishes all doubt, all partiality and erroneous perspectives. It is this refinement of our knowledge which sets us free.
The refinement of our knowledge, of our understanding of our own circumstances in life altogether, is informed by the transcendent non-conceptual knowledge, the “spiritual” knowledge, that is accessed so easily and directly via our daily Neelakantha meditation practice. Day by day in successive stages of higher understanding, we are refined and we rise.
This is a core teaching in non-dual Shaivism, as articulated by its greatest proponent, the 11th century Kashmir teacher Abhinavagupta in his masterwork, the Tantrāloka. (“Light on the Tantras”). In the very first chapter he writes:
“Here, in our system, we hold that ignorance is the cause of saṁsāric transmigration, (that is) within the relative worlds of embodied and bound existence. Moreover, we understand knowledge to be the one cause of liberation. This is what is proclaimed in all the treatises.”
So it is only our own limited knowledge that stands between us and liberation, What is called “enlightenment” is nothing other than attaining full knowledge of our always-already-present highest Self. That limitation in knowledge is what is called “bondage”. Its character is the perception of ourselves as limited imperfect and small (rather than whole and universal), as separate and defined by difference (rather than abiding in underlying unity) and of being separate “actors” in life (rather than as unique expressions within the unbroken totality of existence.)
Later in 5th Chapter, Abhinavagupta provides the argument for just how knowledge is the direct path to liberation:
“Indeed bondage consists of the habitual enactment of a persistent double false presumption that is persistently enacted in ordinary awareness:
First, we take what is not our True Self to be the authentic self. (the body, the mind, our roles in life and other partial identifications, etc.)
“Secondly, we persistently animate the opposite false habitual presumption: We fail to recognize that which actually is our true and authentic Self (perfectly full Consciousness) as being our true and abiding Self.
“Liberation consists of the dissolution and eradication of this double erroneous presumption. First there must occur the dissolution of the false and ignorant limited identifications. Only then can we proceed to release the blindness that prevents the full realization of the highest, imperishable and authentic Self.
“This is what is known as the Great Fusional Pervasion (mahā-viapti) and is how it is established.”
The sequence of these two processes being highlighted is important. Meditation dissolves progressively the false identifications arising from limitation, separation and arrogation that is the cause of all spiritual suffering. These forms of ignorance or limited knowledge are dissolved and seen to be false. Then we can be pervaded by the supreme and extraordinary direct knowledge of ultimacy, of the highest and universal Consciousness. This is the great span of our practices. And the knowledge of the Self is indeed the gift.
(If anyone would like to have direct personal instruction in Neelakantha Meditation please contact me. I am currently teaching in the Los Cabos area of Baja, Mexico.)