An elucidation upon the impermanence and bondage of earthly life and the compelling need for the soul to find and serve a genuine satguru
The following is a translation of the Kularnava Tantra, chapters 7-9, which discusses the ephemeral nature of life’s attainments and the urgency with which one should seek the help of the holy guru to find liberation.
AND LORD SIVA SAID: “IF ATMA ITSELF does not keep atma from injury, then where in the world is the benefactor who can deliver atma from this sea of samsara? He who in this world does not undergo treatment for that disease which leads to lower-worldly states, what will he do with such disease when he goes to the next world, in which there is no medicine for this ailment?
“The Supreme Truth should be sought from the satguru so long as this body exists. Who is there so perverse as to commence digging a well with the goal of extinguishing a fire that has already engulfed their house? Like a tigress, old age waits with open mouth to swallow the jiva.
“As water continuously exudes from a broken vessel, so is this life constantly being shortened. Diseases continually inflict wounds like enemies laying siege to a fortress. Hence one should, as early as possible, engage in the working of good to oneself and satguru. Good work should be done in times when there is no sorrow or danger, and when the senses are not faded.
“Time passes in various involvements, but the jiva remains unaware of its passing. Happiness and sorrow born of samsara slay the jiva, but even then he does not awaken to the path of the welfare of the atma. How many jivas are born, fall into dangers, become subject to suffering and sorrow, and die? Even the sight of such does not enlighten the jiva, maddened as he is by drinking the wine of delusion as to what is his own good. Prosperity is like a dream, youth is short-lived like a flower and life passes like a flash of lightning.
“How can one be satisfied who has seen all of this? The utmost period of one’s life is a hundred years. Half of it is passed in sleep, and the remaining half is made useless by childhood, disease, old age, sorrow and other causes.
“Utterly indifferent to the spiritual work which ought to be begun by every means, the jiva sleeps during the time he should be awake, and imagines danger when he should have firm faith. Alas, how can such a jiva, cherishing the fleeting samsara so dear to him, live without fear in this body which is as evanescent as a bubble of water, enduring no longer than the stay of a bird on the branch of a tree?
“He seeks benefit from things which do him injury, thinks the impermanent to be permanent, sees the highest good in that which is evil, and yet he does not see that death is coming upon him.
“Deluded by the great maya, the jiva looks and yet sees not, reads and yet knows not. The whole of this world is at each moment sinking into the deep sea of time infested with the great alligators of death and disease.
“We speak of ‘my son,’ ‘my wife,’ ‘my wealth’ and ‘my friend,’ but even as we indulge in such senseless talk, death seizes the body like a tiger. Death seizes a person while still engaged in doing this thing or that thing. Seeing all this, the awakened jiva does today the works of tomorrow, and in the forenoon the work of the afternoon, for death is indifferent to any work’s completion.
“The slumbering jiva does not see approaching him, before his very eyes, death’s terrible army of diseases guided by old age and with orders from Lord Yama himself. Death devours people after piercing them with the skewer of thirsting desire, smearing them with the ghee of mundane objects, and searing them in the fire of attachment and aversion. Death brings all under Yama’s rule, whether boy or youth, old man or child in the womb. The visible world and all classes of beings therein thus remain vulnerable to death and subject to Yama, My emissary.
“Therefore, jivas awakened to the path should be prompt in doing with all their heart such things as are calculated to benefit their satguru and themselves in this world and hereafter.
“How can My subtle perfection, which is one, omnipresent, without attributes, indifferent, undecaying, unattached like space, beginningless and unending, be an object of worship for the dualistic mind? Hence it is that I as the Supreme Guru have entered into the bodies of human satgurus.
“Even My gross aspect, being full of light and energy, is imperceptible to human eyes. For this reason I have assumed the form of the satguru in the world, and thus protect the sishyas.
“As Mahesvara in human body I secretly wander on the Earth in order to favor shishyas. As Sadasiva, I assume the modest and merciful form for the protection of sadhakas. I remain above samsara, yet I appear and act in this world as though I were a man of samsara.
“When the fruits of sin predominate, the satguru is seen as a person, and when the fruits of virtuous acts prevail, the satguru is seen as Siva. Like blind men deprived forever of seeing the sun, unfortunate jivas are unable to see the real satguru, the embodiment of Mahesvara, though He is present before their eyes. It is undoubtedly true that satguru is Deva Sadasiva Himself, for who is it that grants Liberation to seekers if satguru be not Siva Himself?
“O Beloved, there is not the least difference between Deva Sadasiva and Shriguru. Whoever makes a distinction between them commits a sin. For by assuming the form of a preceptor, the gurudeva severs the multitude of bonds which bind jivas to the state of pashu (bondage) and enables them to attain the Self, Parasivam.”
The Kularnava Tantra is an authoritative text of the Shakta Agamic tantra tradition and a major statement of Hindu spiritual thought, focusing unequivocally on the quest for God Realization. This is part of a translation completed in 1916 by Sri M.P. Pandit and Sir Arthur Avalon in North India. These verses have been edited for clarity.