Kala Bhairava Ashtakam – Verse 1

Translation: Kala – time, Bhairava – unmanifested, Ashtakam – 8 verses. While I agree time is formidable, especially when things don’t go our way, I don’t believe “Kala Bhairava” translates to “Time the formidable”, I think it translates to “Time unmanifested”. These verses basically talks about the “unmanifested” that has manifested itself as time. It is strange how we take anything and everything and give it a human form and imprint human characteristics on them.Rather than understand them for the concepts they really are, we either make them divine Gods or formidable monsters. I think, “Kala Bhairava” is also one such highly mis-interpreted concept.

In this blog, I will explain the first verse of this Ashtakam as I understand it:

vyAlayagnasUtramindushekharam krupAkaram
nAradAdiyogivrundavanditam digambaram
kAshikApurAdhinAthakAlabhairavam bhaje

deva + rAja + sevyamAna + pAvan + adhri + pankajam = 
energy + prime + being used + pure + unrestrained + mud-born (??)
vyala+yagna+sUtra+minda+kshetaram + krupakaram = 
resistance + give up + direction (threads going through everything) + blemish + environment + thanks to
nArad+Adi+yogi+vrunda+vanditam digambaram = 
questioning thought + beginning + joining + multitude + salute + clean
kAshika+purA+ adhya+nAtha+kala+bhairavam+bhaje = 
fist full of + before + now + owner + time + unmanifested + play(??)

The first to note here is the word “pankajam” in the first sentence. “Pankajam”, is a usually a translation for “lotus”. Possibly, splitting it can take us to “panka + ajam” which is “mud + born”. Yet, this does not fit with the context of that sentence. The sentence seems to say, “The prime energy (Note, I have translated deva to energy as I have said in Aitreya Upanishad translation here) used pure unrestrained (mud born form?)”. I find the “mud-born” is definitely something that needs pondering in this context.

Searching for a possible meaning, I am wondering if looking at the depictions of “Brahma”, may give us some clues as to what “pankajam” might have meant. “Brahma, the creator” is always featured sitting on a “lotus” in all pictures. I have wondered why. But, if we start working backwards and try to reason it out, it is quite possible that this depiction could possible have been a much diluted version of something very different. Let me explain how:

Let’s look at how things get created around us. Every creation in nature happens this way and the best is visible in the computer world. At the centre of the whole IT innovation that has evolved around us, is the creation of only one thing called “processor” that can execute a set of instructions. Around this processor was built the CPU, using the processor’s machine instructions was written the OS, using the OS was written compilers, using the compilers was written the programs and so on it goes in concentric circles, each circle having small pieces parallels or alternatives to each other for eg., there are C compilers, C++ compilers and so on. Break the inner cycle and the cycles from there on just comes apart just like a lotus. What if this “concentric cycles” was really called “pankajam”, it is quite possible that someone used a lotus to explain and the lotus stuck on, rather than the concept.

If we now add this into our first line, we get “The prime energy used pure unrestrained concentric cycles” …

Going to the second line, again a few things here, while “vyala” is typically translated as hostile, I believe we need to remove the subjectiveness or the human character to it, which means it become “resistance” rather than “hostile”. But, the more important change in here is kshetaram vs shekaram. While shekaram means “highest point”, kshetaram means environment. I think here, repetition has changed “kShe” to “she” and hence the difference.

If we put it back to kShetaram, we get the meaning for the second line as “giving up resistance that runs through everything like a blemish, thanks to the environment”

Now, the third line, as I have explained in Chandogya upanishad , “Narada” is that which spoils equilibrium, which is the “questioning thought”. “digambaram” while is translated as “naked”, removing the human element to it, we get it as “clean”.

Hence the third line translates to “Beginning with the questioning thought that joins together the multitude, I salute that clean” ….

In the last line, there are a few points to note. “kAshi” while everyone says this is the place “kAsi” and says that “kala bhairava” is from there, again I find it makes no sense. As I have said, it really assumes that, the place was called Kashi from times immemorial and has not changed and “kala bhairava” was a person. But, if we rise above that and ask ourselves what it could mean, “kAshi” also means “fist full of”. Why this makes sense needs to be understood from the next two words.

“pura” means “before”, but the next word is currently written as “adhi” which means “base”, but, I believe this needs to actually be “adhya” which means “now”. Hence “puraadhyanAtha” then becomes the “owner of the before and the now” who is then “kala bhairava” which is “time unmanifested”.

“baje” is another word which needs thinking again, standardly it can be translated as “to play”, “to enjoy” and so on. But, I believe this is a words that changes it’s meaning with the context of what is “played”, an instrument is “played”, but the “unmanifested” manifest. Hence, “baje” here must mean “manifested”.

Putting these in, the fourth line translates to “A fist full of before and now, owned by the manifested of the time unmanifested”

Now, the “fist full” starts to make sense, because it is a quantity of “before and now” or just “time” as we call it. But, what is important to question here is why “fist full”? Even the Vijnana Bhairava as I have translated here, talks about fist full. Where it says that the “unmanifested starts getting a form when a fist full of such concentric circles are created”.

My take is that fist full must have been a rough explanation of some quantity measure which seems to have been forgotten. So, I will have to leave it at a fist full for now here.

So, taking it all the first verse translated to:

The prime energy used, pure, unrestrained concentric cycles, giving up resistance, that runs through everything like a blemish, thanks to the environment, beginning with the questioning thought that joins together the multitude, I salute that clean fist full of time (before and now), owned by the manifested of the time unmanifested.

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