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jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:06 PM

Kashmir Shaivism - The 36 principles and the 4 spheres
A post from a friend from here.

I am going to start first with the deity Shiva(n) vs. the principle of Paramashiva. The following posts will explore the 36 principles and the 4 spheres that make up the cosmos.

We can see this distinction spelt out in almost all Shaiva traditions. The Shivam is referred to as Param Shiva or Parameshvara in other Shaivite traditions such as Kashmir Shaivism.

Shiva(n) is a supreme deity who is considered as the earliest to come out of the primordial. It is pronounced as Shivan ending with the 'n' in Tamil works to denote clearly there is individuality associated with the term. The deity Shiva is a tangible (in some ways) with characteristics. Whereas the Shivam is the principle of formless reality that can't be described or explained by words. In my opinion the Shivam can be compared to the Holy Father in Christianity or generally as God. The Tirumular defines it as 'Anbe Shivam' in Tamil. It simply means Love is Shivam or God.

Here is a description of the principle from Kashmir Shaivism.

Kashmiri Shaivism describes all of reality, with all of its diversity and fluctuation, is the play of the single principle, Paramashiva. The two aspects of this single reality are inseparably united: Shiva and Shakti.[9] Paramashiva appears as the world through his creative power, Shakti.[10] The ontological nature of Paramashiva is beyond human knowledge and articulation, yet it can be experienced directly through mystical intuition.[11]

Paramashiva is the ultimate reality who either (according to Kashmir Shaivism) construct himself or (according to Shaiva siddhanta) beyond 36 tattvas, the whole elements of reality. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parameshwara_(God)

The Shivam or Param Shiva is beyond the 36 tattvas. Similar concept is found in Vaishnava and Shakta traditions also. There is Maha Vishnu (or Narayana) vs the supreme deity Vishnu in Vaishnavism. There is Para Shakti (Parashakti) vs the supreme deity Shakti in Shaktism or Sri Vidya traditions that worship the Goddess as the primary deity.

The following picture depicts the 36 tattvas from KS. It is from the same Wikipedia page referenced above. Just included for reference to the whole picture.

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:10 PM

I was reviewing and contemplating on the 36 tattvas or the principle aspects of nature in Kashmir Shaivism. Wanted to share my understanding of tattvas and how they relate to the Anda or different layers of the cosmos or the dimensions. Please use the picture in the post above for reference. These principles are not some abstract terms coined to describe some vague theory a long time back. Each one of these principles apply and operate right now in this moment and will continue to do so. These are ingredients that make us the sentient beings, the universe that we see and perceive including the astral realms and various dimensions that we perceive. Time itself is one of the cloaks or veils preventing us from seeing our true nature.

These tattvas are just so fascinating and they explain the origin, function and demise of the entire cosmos. They can also help solve our current predicament and with the suffering that we undergo because our true nature is obscured. I feel it is best to go through and understand this top down. We also need to have a basic understanding of the lowest level tattvas to start with this such as the mind, sense organs, sense perceptions that make up this worldly experience. Everything starts with the Paramashiva in Kashmir Shaivism. This Paramashiva descends into the jivas, the sentient beings or the multitudes step by step with the 36 tattvas. All of us started as Paramashiva and got to wherever we are at this point. How did we get to become the local independent person or xyz? It is through the descent of these 36 tattvas or principles. We can understand our story or origins with the help of these. Self-realization is about tracing our way back from the lowest principles to the highest ones to find ourselves as Shiva in the end.

The first tattvas (after Shiva tattva) emerge in the Shakti Anda/layer or cosmos, which is part of the shudda or pure layer. Meaning these tattvas are not influenced by the maya yet, the veiling force of Paramashiva with the 5 cloaks (kanchukas).

From the Paramashiva emerges the:

1. Shiva tattva (Light or consciousness but without awareness)

2. Shakti tattva (awareness of the light), or the polarities of the male and female principles in the creation.

Followed by these 3 tattvas.

3. Sadashiva tattva - Self-awareness of this, and there was no self awareness before this point. Also corresponds to the iccha-shakti or the power of will of Paramashiva.

4. Ishwara tattva - the objectification of self-awareness such as, this is myself. This layer corresponds to the jnana-shakti or the power of knowledge/knowing of Paramashiva.

5. Suddha vidya tattva - this-ness becomes balanced at this layer. This layer corresponds to the kriya-shakti or the action/active power of Paramashiva.

There is no individual separation of a sentient being or jiva (Purusha + Prakriti) yet. Will expand and see more in the next post.

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:11 PM

1. Shakti Sphere (Anda)

The 4 tattvas or principles that we reviewed earlier starting from the Shakti tattva to the Suddha vidya tattva (2 through 5) are part of the Shakti Anda or the Shakti Sphere. This is the first sphere to form from Paramashiva after the emergence of Shiva and Shakti. These 4 tattvas and this entire sphere is under the 'pure' (shudda) tattvas layer. That is because the prapancha or the entire created cosmos at this point of reference is still not under the influence of maya or the veiling force of Paramashiva

In this initial stage, the divine nature of Shiva is still not obscured. Pure Ananda shakti or bliss further descends into the 3 iccha, jnana and kriya shaktis described

Tattvas in Shakti Anda:

Shakti tattva
Sadashiva tattva
Ishwara tattva
Shudda vidya tattva

There is no duality at this stage, it is a state of diversity in unity. There is no individuality or separation also since we are above the maya, purusha and prakriti layers.

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:11 PM

I am hesitant to use the word enlightenment anywhere in reference to Kashmir Shaivism concepts because the definition of such enlightenment in the modern world falls much shorter of the higher realizations stated in trika, pratyabhijna and in KS. A state of calm mind or attaining early samadhi levels of silence like savikalpa or nirvikalpa samadhi states, or in some cases just a mere perception or basic understanding of awareness with some heart opening is considered as 'enlightened' or fully awakened state these days. In the framework of Kashmir Shaivism, they are not even at the Purusha level. This is just the 25th layer in KS. But many traditions stop right there and think this 25th layer is the highest state and declare 'it's done' and the person has attained moksha. They don't go all the way up to the 36th layer of Shiva and to even beyond to realize the state of Paramashiva.

Well, how can a person who has not penetrated or overcome the maya-layer or opened the veils (kanchukas/cloaks) to truly realize that we are beyond time, space and limitations, claim they have the full realization? Yet, we see this happening everywhere these days just because it is the new fashion to say, "You know what, I read a book and went to a talk and I am spiritually awake now!". Then they go on to describe enlightenment is simple (it is truly even simple, but not what they think it is!!!), there is nothing mystical or magical about it. Essentially, they are discounting their own true nature, their own luminosity in ignorance. They either fail or refuse to see that their true nature is beyond any and all limitations. Each one of them can reach the state of realize they are none other than Shiva and can create worlds of their own at will with the iccha shakti (power of will). Such statements may shock and terrify those who think they are already done and enlightened, they think whoever states this is behind powers or siddhis. My dear friends, we don't have to go running behind and seeking powers or siddhis, this is not about that. The veil of the maya is powerful indeed, but when it does come off with the anugraha/divine grace, we realize our all powerful and unlimited true nature. The force of maya makes us feel small and limited, even confine our ideas of enlightenment to a limited state of inner silence. Without realizing the worldly ego is now replaced by some residual spiritual ego, some go on to conclude they are done and start to even teach others!

It is not possible to penetrate or overcome the maya tattva and to realize one's true nature without the divine grace or anugraha, no matter how advanced a person is (or think how advanced they are).

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:12 PM

2. Maya Sphere (Anda)

The next sphere or layer of descendancy is called Maya Anda and it is part of the pure-impure layer (Suddhasudhha). The veiling force of maya starts in this layer. There are 7 tattvas or principles in this layer. The Maya itself is further split into 5 sub divisions called cloaks (kanchukas), each one of them veiling an unbounded or unlimited aspect of Shiva to create the illusion of limited and tangible experience. Together with the maya there are 6 cloaks.

This pure-impure layer is made up of: Maya tattva + 5 divisions of maya/cloaks + Purusha tattva.

Maya Tattva and the 5 cloaks:

Maya Tattva - The divided experience and the feelings of a limitations arise because of the Maya tattva. The following 5 cloaks described below altogether make up the limited worldly experience and all of this are part of the Maya. Since our true nature of bliss and contentment is hidden by the Maya tattvas, the resulting feel of incompleteness prompts various desires to arise.

1. Kāla tattva - Limitation of time. There is no concept of time, past present or future before this layer. Our nature was unbounded eternity before this, but this layer creates an impression of being bound in time.

2. Vidyā tattva - From the all knowing state, this layer leads to the impression of limited knowledge
3. Rāga tattva - This layer causes the feeling of lacking and leads to attachment and desire. Buddha describes our clinging nature as the cause of samsara leading to births and deaths.
4. Niyati tattva - This layer hides or cloaks our all pervading nature and leads to the limitations of space, distance, form, etc.
5. Kalā tattva - This layer forms the limitation of activity and authorship. Our universal nature gets hidden and a sense of limited agency appears. Unlimited creativity becomes limited.

Even after the maya and the 5 cloaks, the question remains these bondages and cloaks apply to who? It certainly does not apply to Shiva, Shakti, Sadashiva, Ishwara or any principle described earlier. The answer comes with the next tattva, which is the Purusha tattva.

Purusha Tattva (also called jiva, pashu, anu or nara) - The 'this' awareness that started earlier turns into 'I' consciousness (not to be confused with the ahamkara/ego at this point), further reduced into a finite jiva, sentient being or separate person. It is the purusha to whom those cloaks or 5 limitations apply. Purusha is also equated with the individual soul concept, jivatma (jiva's soul) or atman in hindu terminology. The purusha by himself is not activated, the individual separate being is still a concept, or just a placeholder (anu). Only when the Prakriti (The individual Shakti with the 24 attributes to be described below) joins with the Purusha it becomes a fully operational entity.

We are about to descend into the impure tattvas territory after this which is mainly made up of mind and it's various components.

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:13 PM

I borrowed the following image with some descriptions from shaivism.net link pasted below. It explains the 5 cloaks with some brief but good examples to illustrate how each one of them translate into our worldly experience.


jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:15 PM

The power or force of maya that veils and creates limited experience is not something external or involuntary act of mistake. From the five acts or powers of Shiva, we know that the forth act of obscuring grace (Tirodhana) is a voluntary act done to create the worldly experience. It is the Leela or the play of the divine. Whenever the purusha or the individual jiva or the sentient being has had enough of the divine play and wants to return back (to their original nature), the act of obscuring grace is reversed by the act of anugraha/shaktipat (divine grace) letting the jiva trace the way back the tattvas to realize they are essentially Shiva, not just a separate and limited entity.


4. Obscuring grace (tirodhana) - The most intriguing of all the acts that hides the truth from souls, thereby permitting the worldly

"is represented by His right foot upon the prostrate person, apasmarapurusha, who symbolizes the principle of ignorance, or anava."

(I read in another book, that it is Shiva's right left hand that is going across the chest thereby covering his heart, which results in the tiodhana or ignorance)

Here is the link to the topic about the five acts of Shiva in detail.

There are two more spheres. The Prakriti Anda, the sphere that contains the shakti of the individual jiva. This sphere falls entirely under the impure tattvas since it is made up of the local mind and it's limitations. We will explore this layer and the 4 components of the mind in more detail in the next post. Finally there is the Prithvi sphere which is the physical layer or the solid substance of the manifested world.

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:20 PM

Sharing couple of posts from another KS topic to describe what gives rise to maya tattva/principle. It is the 3 impurities (malas) as described in the following posts that gives rise to the maya. We can also conversely state that the maya principle causes the impurities to appear.


Here are some comments on the first sutra that I found interesting and insightful from the text.

(Note: These paragraphs are taken from different parts of the commentary for the first sutra)


"The independent state of consciousness is the self. It is the self of everything, because whatever exists in the world is the state of Lord Siva. So Lord Siva is found everywhere."


"Now, if all individual beings are filled with consciousness, then where is the difference in these beings? There can be no difference. So, all individual beings are one universal being."


"Ksemaraja talks about those aspirants who are on the path, who meditate day and night, and do not achieve anything. He says these aspirants are the same as ignorant people. This is not the real state of Siva. The real state of Siva is full realization. When full realization takes place, that is the fullness - the reality - of independent God consciousness. Until then, nothing has happened. Aspirants who practice day and night and do not achieve anything are just like ignorant worldly persons bound up in samsara. The reality of the self only exists when you are filled with the independent state of supreme God consciousness (caitanya). Until then, everything is useless and worthless.

So, there are not individual states of being, there is only the universal state of being, and that is one. This is why, in the very first verse, the author has explained that God consciousness is one in many."


"The independent state of God consciousness is also found in the individual states of body (Sarira), breath (prana), intellect (buddhi) and void (Sunya). In the body, he is above the body. In breath, he is above the breath. In intellect, he is the super intellect. In voidness, he is full. In nothingness, he is everything. This is the reality of universal I (aham)."


"The Vijnana Bhairava says the same thing.

In each and every being exists the independent state of God consciousness. You must find this state of God consciousness. To accomplish this, concentrate on the totality of individuality, the state of universal consciousness. If this is done, you will conquer the differentiated state of world and will be carried above the individuality of consciousness. (Vijnana Bhairava 100)"


"Ksemaraja now gives another exposition of this first sutra. He says that, in the verse, the word atma means "form." Thus the meaning is: "This supreme independent state of God consciousness (caitanya) is the form." But the author has not revealed whose form. He simply says that this supreme independent state of God consciousness is form. If it is not said whose form it is, you must conclude that this is the form of everything. So, the independent supreme state of God consciousness is the form of everything. It is the form of the nose, it is the form of the eye, it is the form of the face, it is the form of the arm, it is the form of the limbs. And even more than that: It is the form of an animal, such as a sheep; it is the form of a tree; it is the form of everything in this world."



From the first sutra commentary, there is a discussion about the existence of ignorance that I found interesting and wanted to share before moving on to the second sutra. The conclusion: Ignorance was really non-fullness of knowledge. Yet this non-fullness of knowledge results in getting caught up with the entire worldly experience.

Does ignorance exist before realization?

"Let us examine the theory of the malas, the veils of ignorance. Where does this ignorance exist? How can we say that ignorance exists? If ignorance is removed from God consciousness, it does not exist at all. So where does it exist? If ignorance is filled with the independent state of God consciousness, then it is not ignorance at all, but fullness of God consciousness. So ignorance cannot be found. Then what is it that remains? What is left? There is only independent supreme God consciousness - which is the reality of the self.

What if, for the time being, we were to say that the veil of ignorance exists before you are realized, and that afterwards, when you are realized, it does not exist? Then, if ignorance does not exist after realization, it is the truth that it did not exist at all. Why? Because at the time of realization, the aspirant realizes and knows that ignorance does not exist at all. So that ignorance never exists. Whatever he called ignorance existed, but it was not actually ignorance; it was really non-fullness of knowledge."

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:21 PM

How does maya unfold?

(The following steps and text were compiled form The Siva Sutras by Swami Lakshmanjoo)

apurnammanyata - The feeling of incompletion that starts from the anava mala. Ignorance of the oneness of Siva. The sign of bondage is the feeling that you are incomplete (apurnammanyata). You agree that you are incomplete, that you are not full. That is the impurity (mala) known as anavamala. It is shrunken knowledge and it is ignorance. Why? It is shrunken knowledge because it is knowledge of the differentiated world and it is ignorance because it is ignorance of the undifferentiated state. When you do not know your undifferentiated state, that is ajnana (ignorance), and when you know your differentiated state, that is also limited jnana (knowledge). Jnana is bondage and ajnana is also bondage.
bhinnavedyapratha - The differentiated knowledge that arises due to the mayiya mala. He is mine, he is not mine. This is beautiful, this is not beautiful. This is good, this is bad. All these statements are examples of the knowledge that is yonivarga. This kind of knowledge is the impurity known as mayiyamala.
subhasubhavasana - The impressions of pleasures and pain that result from karma mala. This is done, this is to be done. This is half done, this is well done. These statements are examples of knowledge that is kala sarira. This kind of knowledge is the impurity known as karmamala. It is bondage and yonivarga, separated knowledge, is also bondage.

(For the definition of the 3 impurities/malas, please check the second link from the post above)

jonesboy 03-01-2020 03:26 PM

3. Prakriti Sphere (Anda)

At this point we have stepped down from the universal God consciousness state to the common human or sentient being level of consciousness after going through the maya layer (anda). The pure tattvas the part of universal consciousness and in combination with the maya tattvas they are mixture of 'I' (subject) and 'this' (object). Whereas this prakriti layer represents the 'this-ness' or the objective part of the manifested universe (while the object is still at the core).

This layer is made up of the following 23 impure tattvas/principles or components. There are totally 24 impure tattvas, the last one Prithvi tattva falls on the last layer which is the Prithvi layer.

Here is a break-up image of the 24 impure tattvas from Wikipedia.

13. Prakriti tattva - This principle is the root or the one that gives birth to the rest of the 23 elements or principles that follows.

14 - 16. Antahkarana (3 tattvas) - In Kashmir Shaivism the mind is made up of 4 components. a) The buddhi (intellect) that discerns or has the ability to judge and discriminate, b ) the manas (mind) which is the seat of emotions and has the faculty of imagination, c) the ahamkara (personal ego) or the part of the mind that gives rise to the individual 'I' feeling and d) the chitta which is the storehouse of all subconscious impressions.

14. Buddhi (intellect) tattva - Intellectual part of the mind that has the ability to judge and discriminate

15. Manas (mind) tattva - the seat of emotions and the faculty of imagination

16. Ahamkara (personal ego) tattva - gives rise to the separate individual and personal ego

17 - 21. Five sense organs (jnanendriyas)

The five sense organs (jānendriya) are the most sattvic functions of manas and include:

ghrāna (nose), i.e., the medium to experience smell
rasana (tongue), i.e., the medium to experience taste
caksus (eye), i.e., the medium to experience colour and shape
tvāk (skin), i.e., the medium to experience touch
śrotra (ear), i.e, the medium to experience sound

22 - 26. Five motor organs (karmendriyas)

The five motor organs (karmendriya), each corresponding to a sense organ, represent the physical organs of action. They are the most rajasic functions of manas.

pāyu (anus) - the organ responsible for excretion
upasthā (sexual organ) - the organ that enables procreation and sexual enjoyment[13]
pāda (leg) - the organ that makes ambulation possible
pāni (hand) - the organ that enables grabbing and touching
vāk (mouth) - the organ that makes sound/speech possible

Five subtle elements (tanmatras)

The five subtle elements (tanmātra) are the most tamasic functions of manas and represent the reflection of the corresponding five gross elements in the mind:

gandha (smell)
rāsa (taste)
rūpa (form)
sparśa (touch)
śabda (sound)

32 - 36. Five gross elements (mahabuthas) - The prithvi tattva shown below is part of the next and final layer, the Prithvi Anda.

The five gross elements (mahābhuta) represent the final point of manifestation:

prthvi (earth)
jala (water)
tejas (fire)
vāyu (air)
ākāśa (ether or space)
While mahābhūtas are the basis for the material world, tanmātras are but limited aspects and views of it, in no way able to fully describe it. We cannot actually perceive the reality, all we can access are limited "bands" of information that form a description of reality. These bands of information are the five tanmātras.

This restriction however applies only to the limited beings (jiva, or aṇu). For one who has gone beyond māyā, in the realm of the pure tattvas, there can be direct perception of reality, because as one's self is Ātman, so are the external objects. In such a state an enlightened being can perceive the world beyond the five senses (direct perception), in a state of diversity in unity and unity in diversity.[14]

4. Prithvi Sphere (Anda) - This sphere contains the Earth principle which is shown as part of the 5 mahabuthas or gross elements in the previous quote. This concludes the 36 tattvas and the 4 spheres of KS.

Pṛthvī aṇḍa is the terminal point of creation – solid matter. There is only one tattva in this sphere: Pṛthivi tattva. This tattva has a special statute because it contains in essence all the other tattvas and is the home of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti.[2]

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