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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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)
22 - 26. Five motor organs (karmendriyas)
Five subtle elements (tanmatras)
32 - 36. Five gross elements (mahabuthas) - The prithvi tattva shown below is part of the next and final layer, the Prithvi Anda.
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.
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