Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta :
Chapter Nineteen: Creation as Explained in the Non-dualist Tantras
A Psychological analysis of our worldly experience ordinarily gives us both the feeling of persistence and change. This personal experience expresses a cosmic truth. An examination of any doctrine of creation similarly reveals two fundamental concepts, those of Being and Becoming, Changelessness and Change, the One and the Many. In Sanskrit, they are called the Kutastha and Bhava or Bhavana. The first is the Spirit or Purusha or Brahman and Atman which is unlimited Being (Sat), Consciousness (Cit) and Bliss (Ananda). According to Indian notions the Atman as such is and never becomes. Its Power (Shakti) manifests as Nature, which is the subject of change. We may understand Nature in a two-fold sense: first, as the root principle or noumenal cause of the phenomenal world, that is, as the Principle of Becoming and secondly, as such World. Nature in the former sense is Mulaprakriti, which means that which exists as the root (Mula) substance of things before (Pra), creation (Kriti), and which, in association with Cit, either truly or apparently creates, maintains and destroys the Universe. This Mulaprakriti the Sharada Tilaka calls Mulabhuta Avyakta, and the Vedanta (of Shamkara to which alone I refer) Maya.
Nature, in the second sense, that is the phenomenal world, which is a product of Mulaprakriti is the compound of the evolutes from this root substance which are called Vikritis in the Samkhya and Tantra, and name and form (Namarupa) by the Vedantins, who attribute them to ignorance (Avidya). Mulaprakriti as the material and instrumental cause of things is that potentiality of natural power (natura naturans) which manifests as the Universe (natura naturata).
Touching these two Principles, there are certain fundamental points of agreement in the three systems which I am examining -- Samkhya, Vedanta and the Advaitavada of the Tantra. They are as follows. According to the first two systems, Brahman or Purusha as Sat, Cit and Ananda is Eternal Conscious Being. It is changeless and has no activity (Kartrittva). It is not therefore in Itself a cause whether instrumental or material; though in so far as Its simple presence gives the appearance of consciousness to the activities of Prakriti, It may in such sense be designated an efficient cause. So, according to Samkhya, Prakriti reflects Purusha, and in Vedanta, Avidya of the three Gunas takes the reflection of Cidananda. On the other hand, the substance or factors of Mulaprakriti or Maya are the three Gunas or the three characteristics of the principle of Nature, according to which it reveals (Sattva) or veils (Tamas), Consciousness (Cit) and the activity or energy (Rajas) which urges Sattva and Tamas to operation.
It also is Eternal, but is unconscious (Acit) Becoming. Though it is without consciousness (Caitanya) it is essentially activity (Kartrittva) motion and change. It is a true cause instrumental and material of the World. But notwithstanding all the things to which Mulaprakriti gives birth, Its substance is in no wise diminished by the production of the Vikritis or Tattvas: the Gunas which constitute it ever remaining the same. The source of all becoming is never exhausted, though the things which are therefrom produced appear and disappear.
Passing from the general points of agreement to those of difference, we note firstly, those between the Samkhya and the Vedanta. The Samkhya is commonly regarded as a dualistic system, which affirms that both Purusha and Prakriti are real, separate and independent Principles. The Vedanta, however, says that there cannot be two Principles which are both absolutely real. It does not, however, altogether discard the dual principles of the Samkhya, but says that Mulaprakriti which it calls Maya, while real from one point of view, that is empirically, is not real from another and transcendental standpoint. It affirms therefore that the only Real (Sadvastu) is the attributeless (Nirguna Brahman). All else is Maya and its products. Whilst then the Samkhyan Mulaprakriti is an Eternal Reality, it is according to the transcendental method of Shamkara an eternal unreality (Mithyabhuta Sanatani). The empirical reality which is really false is due to the Avidya which is inherent in the nature of the embodied spirit (Jiva). Maya is Avastu or no real thing. It is Nishtattva. As Avidya is neither real nor unreal, so is its cause or Maya. The kernel of the Vedantik argument on this point is to be found in its interpretations of the Vaidik Mahavakya, "That thou art" (Tat tvam asi). Tat here is Ishvara, that is, Brahman with Maya as his body or Upadhi. Tvam is the Jiva with Avidya as its body. It is then shown that Jiva is only Brahman when Maya is eliminated from Ishvara, and Avidya from Jiva. Therefore, only as Brahman is the Tvam the Tat; therefore, neither Maya nor Avidya really exist (they are Avastu), for otherwise the equality of Jiva and Ishvara could not be affirmed. This conclusion that Maya is Avastu has far-reaching consequences, both religious and philosophical, and so has the denial of it. It is on this question that there is a fundamental difference between Shamkara's Advaitavada and that of the Shakta Tantra, which I am about to discuss.
Before, however, doing so I will first contrast the notions of creation in Samkhya and Vedanta. It is common ground that creation is the appearance produced by the action of Mulaprakriti or principle of Nature (Acit) existing in association with Cit. According to Samkhya, in Mulaprakriti or the potential condition of the Natural Principle, the Gunas are in a state of equality (Samyavastha), that is, they are not affecting one another. But, as Mulaprakriti is essentially movement, it is said that even when in this state of equality the Gunas are yet continually changing into themselves (Sarupaparinama). This inherent subtle movement is the nature of the Guna itself, and exists without effecting any objective result. Owing to the ripening of Adrishta or Karma, creation takes place by the disturbance of this equality of the Gunas (Gunakshobha), which then commence to oscillate and act upon one another. It is this initial creative motion which is known in the Tantra as Cosmic Sound (Parashabda). It is through the association of Purusha with Mulaprakriti in cosmic vibration (Spandana) that creation takes place. The whole universe arises from varied forms of this grand initial motion. So, scientific "matter" is now currently held to be the varied appearance produced in our minds by vibration of, and in the single substance called ether. This new Western scientific doctrine of vibration is in India an ancient inheritance. "Hring, the Supreme Hangsa dwells in the brilliant heaven." The word "Hangsa" comes, it is said, from the word Hanti, which means Gati or Motion. Sayana says that It is called Aditya, because It is in perpetual motion. But Indian teaching carries the application of this doctrine beyond the scientific ether which is a physical substance (Mahabhuta). There is vibration in the causal body that is of the Gunas of Mulaprakriti as the result of Sadrishaparinama of Parashabdasrishti; in the subtle body of mind (Antahkarana); and in the gross body, compounded of the Bhutas which derive from the Tanmatras their immediate subtle source of origin. The Hiranyagarbha and Virat Sound is called Madhyama and Vaikhari. If this striking similarity between ancient Eastern wisdom and modern scientific research has not been recognized, it is due to the fact that the ordinary Western Orientalist and those who take their cue from him in this country, are prone to the somewhat contemptuous belief that, Indian notions are of "historical" interest only, and as such, a welcome addition possibly for some intellectual museum, but are otherwise without value or actuality. The vibrating Mulaprakriti and its Gunas ever remain the same, though the predominance of now one, and now another of them, produces the various evolutes called Vikritis or Tattvas, which constitute the world of mind and matter. These Tattvas constitute the elements of the created world. They are the well-known Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas (constituting the Antahkarana), the ten Indriyas, five Tanmatras and five Mahabhutas of "ether", "air", "fire", "water" and "earth", which of course must not be identified with the notions which the English terms connote. These Tattvas are names for the elements which we discover as a result of a psychological analysis of our worldly experience. That experience ordinarily gives us both the feeling of persistence and change. The former is due to the presence of the Atma or Cit-Shakti, which exists in us in association with Mulaprakriti or Maya-Shakti. This is the Caitanya in all bodies. Change is caused by Mulaprakriti or Maya-Shakti, and its elements may be divided into the subjective and objective Tattvas, or what we call mind and matter. Analyzing, again, the former, we discover an individuality (Ahamkara) sensing through the Indriyas, a world which forms the material of its precepts and concepts (Manas and Buddhi). The object of thought or "matter' are the varied compounds of Vaikrita creation, which are made up of combinations of the gross elements (Mahabhuta), which themselves derive from the subtle elements or Tanmatras. Now, according to Samkhya, all this is real, for all are Tattvas. Purusha and Prakriti are Tattvas, and so are Vikritis of the latter.
According to the Vedanta also, creation takes place through the association of the Brahman, then known as the Lord or Ishvara (Mayopadhika-Caitanyam Ishvarah), with Maya. That is, Cit is associated with, though unaffected by Maya which operates by reason of such association to produce the universe. The unchanging Sad-vastu is the Brahman. The ever-changing world is, when viewed by the spiritually wise (Jnani), the form imposed by Avidya on the Changeless Sat. It is true, that it has the quality of being in accordance with the greatest principle of order, namely, that of causality. It is the Sat however, which gives to the World the character of orderliness, because it is on and in association with that pure Cit or Sat that Maya plays. It is true, that behind all this unreal appearance there is the Real, the Brahman. But the phenomenal world has, from the alogical standpoint, no real substratum existing as its instrumental and material cause. The Brahman as such, is no true cause, and Maya is unreal (Avastu). The world has only the appearance of reality from the reflection which is cast by the real upon the unreal. Nor is Ishvara, the creative and ruling Lord, in a transcendental sense real. For, as it is the Brahman in association with Maya, which Shamkara calls Ishvara, the latter is nothing but the Brahman viewed through Maya. It follows that the universe is the product of the association of the real and the unreal, and when world-experience ends in liberation (Mukti), the notion of Ishvara as its creator no longer exists. For His body is Maya and this is Avastu, So long however as there is a world, that is, so long as one is subject to Maya that is embodied, so long do we recognize the existence of Ishvara. The Lord truly exists for every Jiva so long as he is such. But on attainment of bodiless liberation (Videha Mukti), the Jiva becomes himself Sacchidananda, and as such Ishvara does not exist for him, for Ishvara is but the Sat viewed through that Maya of which the Sat is free. "The Brahman is true, the world is false. The Jiva is Brahman (Paramatma) and nothing else."
The opponents of this system or Mayavada have charged it with being a covert form of Buddhistic nihilism (Maya-vadam asacchastram pracchannam bauddham). It has, however, perhaps been more correctly said that Sri Shamkara adjusted his philosophy to meet the Mayavada of the Buddhists, and so promulgated a new theory of Maya without abandoning the faith or practice of his Shaiva-Shakta Dharma.
All systems obviously concede at least the empirical reality of the world. The question is, whether it has a greater reality than that, and if so, in what way? Samkhya affirms its reality; Shamkara denies it in order to secure the complete unity of the Brahman. Each system has merits of its own. Samkhya by its dualism is able to preserve in all its integrity the specific character of Cit as Niranjana. This result, on the other hand, is effected at the cost of that unity for which all minds have, in some form or other, a kind of metaphysical hunger. Shamkara by his Mayavada secures this unity, but this achievement is at the cost of a denial of the ultimate reality of the world whether considered as the product (Vikriti) of Mulaprakriti, or as Mulaprakriti itself.
There is, however, another alternative, and that is the great Shakta doctrine of Duality in Unity. There is, this Shastra says, a middle course in which the reality of the world is affirmed without compromising the truth of the unity of the Brahman, for which Shamkara by such lofty speculation contends. I here shortly state what is developed more fully later. The Shakta Advaitavada recognizes the reality of Mulaprakriti in the sense of Maya-Shakti. Here in a qualified way it follows the Samkhya. On the other hand, it differs from the Samkhya in holding that Mulaprakriti as Maya-Shakti is not a principle separate from the Brahman, but exists in and as a principle of the one Brahman substance. The world, therefore, is the appearance of the Real. It is the Brahman as Power. The ground principle of such appearance or Maya-Shakti is the Real as Atma and Power. There is thus a reality behind all appearances, a real substance behind the apparent transformations. Maya-Shakti as such is both eternal and real, and so is Ishvara. The transformations are the changing forms of the Real. I pass now to the Advaitavada of the Shakta Tantra.
The Shakta Tantra is not a formal system of philosophy (Darshana). It is, in the broadest sense, a generic term for the writings and various traditions which express the whole culture of a certain epoch in Indian History. The contents are therefore of an encyclopedic character, religion, ritual, domestic rites, law, medicine, magic, and so forth. It has thus great historical value, which appears to be the most fashionable form of recommendation for the Indian Scriptures now-a-days. The mere historian, I believe, derives encouragement from the fact that out of bad material may yet be made good history. I am not here concerned with this aspect of the matter. For my present purpose, the Shakta Tantra is part of the Upasana kanda of the three departments of Shruti, and is a system of physical, psychical and moral training (Sadhana), worship and Yoga. It is thus essentially practical. This is what it claims to be. To its critics, it has appeared to be a system of immoral indiscipline. I am not here concerned with the charge but with the doctrine of creation to be found in the Shastra. Underlying however, all this practice, whatever be the worth or otherwise which is attributed to it, there is a philosophy which must be abstracted, as I have here done for the first time, with some difficulty, and on points with doubt, from the disquisitions on religion and the ritual and Yoga directions to be found in the various Tantras. The fundamental principles are as follows.
It is said that equality (Samya) of the Gunas is Mulaprakriti, which has activity (Kartrittva), but no consciousness (Caitanya). Brahman is Sacchidananda who has Caitanya and no Kartrittva. But this is so only if we thus logically differentiate them. As a matter of fact, however, the two admittedly, ever and everywhere, co-exist and cannot, except for the purpose of formal analysis, be thought of without the other. The connection between the two is one of unseparateness (Avinabhava Sambandha). Brahman does not exist without Prakriti-Shakti or Prakriti without the Brahman. Some call the Supreme Caitanya with Prakriti, others Prakriti with Caitanya. Some worship It as Shiva; others as Shakti. Both are one and the same. Shiva is the One viewed from Its Cit aspect. Shakti is the One viewed from Its Maya aspect. They are the "male" and "female" aspects of the same Unity which is neither male nor female. Akula is Shiva. Kula is Shakti. The same Supreme is worshipped by Sadhana of Brahman, as by Sadhana of Adyashakti. The two cannot be separated, for Brahman without Prakriti is actionless, and Prakriti without Brahman is unconscious. There is Nishkala Shiva or the transcendent, attributeless (Nirguna) Brahman; and Sakala Shiva or the embodied, immanent Brahman with attributes (Saguna).
Kala or Shakti corresponds with the Samkhyan Mula-prakriti or Samyavastha of the three Gunas and the Vedantic Maya. But Kala which is Mulaprakriti and Maya eternally is, and therefore when we speak of Nishkala Shiva it is not meant that there is then or at any time no Kala, for Kala ever is, but that Brahman is meant which is thought of as being without the working Prakriti (Prakriteranyah), Maya-Shakti is then latent in it. As the Devi in the Kulacudamani says, "Aham Prakritirupa chet Cidanandaparayana". Sakala Shiva is, on the other hand, Shiva considered as associated with Prakriti in operation and manifesting the world. In one case, Kala is working or manifest, in the other it is not, but exists in a potential state. In the same way the two Shivas are one and the same. There is one Shiva who is Nirguna and Saguna. The Tantrik Yoga treatise Satcakranirupana describes the Jivatma as the Paryyaya of, that is another name for, the Paramatma; adding that the root of wisdom (Mulavidya,) is a knowledge of their identity. When the Brahman manifests, It is called Shakti, which is the magnificent concept round which Tantra is built. The term comes from the root "Sak," which means "to be able". It is the power which is the Brahman and whereby the Brahman manifests itself; for Shakti and possessor of Shakti (Shaktiman) are one and the same. As Shakti is Brahman, it is also Nirguna and Saguna. Ishvara is Cit-Shakti, that is, Cit in association with the operating Prakriti as the efficient cause of the creation; and Maya-Shakti which means Maya as a Shakti that is in creative operation as the instrumental (Nimitta) and material (Upadana) cause of the universe. This is the Shakti which produces Avidya, just as Mahamaya or Ishvari is the Great Liberatrix. These twin aspects of Shakti appear throughout creation. Thus in the body, the Cit or Brahman aspect is conscious Atma or Spirit, and the Maya aspect is the Antahkarana and its derivatives or the unconscious ( Jada) mind and body. When, however, we speak here of Shakti without any qualifications, what is meant is Cit-Shakti in association with Maya-Shakti that is Ishvari or Devi or Mahamaya, the Mother of all worlds. If we keep this in view, we shall not fall into the error of supposing that the Shaktas (whose religion is one of the oldest in the world; how old indeed is as yet little known) worship material force or gross matter. Ishvara or Ishvari is not Acit, which, as pure sattva-guna is only His or Her body. Maya-Shakti in the sense of Mulaprakriti is Cit. So also is Avidya Shakti, though it appears to be Acit, for there is no Cidabhasa.
In a certain class of Indian images, you will see the Lord, with a diminutive female figure on His lap. The makers and worshippers of those images thought of Shakti as being in the subordinate position which some persons consider a Hindu wife should occupy. This is however not the conception of Shakta Tantra, according to which, She is not a handmaid of the Lord, but the Lord Himself, being but the name for that aspect of His in which He is the Mother and Nourisher of the worlds. As Shiva is the transcendent, Shakti is the immanent aspect of the one Brahman who is Shiva-Shakti. Being Its aspect, It is not different from, but one with It. In the Kulacudamani Nigama, the Bhairavi addressing Bhairava says, "Thou art the Guru of all, I entered into Thy body (as Shakti) and thereby Thou didst become the Lord (Prabhu). There is none but Myself Who is the Mother to create (Karyyavibhavini). Therefore it is that when creation takes place Sonship is in Thee. Thou alone art the Father Who wills what I do (Karyyavibhavaka; that is, She is the vessel which receives the nectar which flows from Nityananda). By the union of Shiva and Shakti creation comes (Shiva-Shakti-sama-yogat jayate srishtikalpana). As all in the universe is both Shiva and Shakti (Shivashaktimaya), therefore Oh Maheshvara, Thou art in every place and I am in every place. Thou art in all and I am in all." The creative World thus sows Its seed in Its own womb.
Such being the nature of Shakti, the next question is whether Maya as Shamkara affirms is Avastu. It is to be remembered that according to his empirical method it is taken as real, but transcendentally it is alleged to be an eternal unreality, because, the object of the latter method is to explain away the world altogether so as to secure the pure unity of the Brahman. The Shakta Tantra is however not concerned with any such purpose. It is an Upasana Shastra in which the World and its Lord have reality. There cannot be Sadhana in an unreal world by an unreal Sadhaka of an unreal Lord. The Shakta replies to Mayavada: If it be said that Maya is in some unexplained way Avastu, yet it is admitted that there is something, however unreal it may be alleged to be, which is yet admittedly eternal and in association, whether manifest or unmanifest, with the Brahman. According to Shamkara, Maya exists as the mere potentiality of some future World which shall arise on the ripening of Adrishta which Maya is. But in the Mahanirvana Tantra, Shiva says to Devi, "Thou art Thyself the Para Prakriti of the Paramatma" (Ch. IV, v. 10). That is Maya in the sense of Mulaprakriti, which is admittedly eternal, is not Avastu, but is the Power of the Brahman one with which is Cit. In Nishkala Shiva, Shakti lies inactive. It manifests in and as creation, though Cit thus appearing through its Power is neither exhausted nor affected thereby. We thus find Ishvari addressed in the Tantra both as Sacchidanandarupini and Trigunatmika, referring to the two real principles which form part of the one Brahman substance. The philosophical difference between the two expositions appears to lie in this. Shamkara says that there are no distinctions in Brahman of either of the three kinds: svagata-bheda, that is, distinction of parts within one unit, svajatiya-bheda or distinction between units of one class, or vijatiya-bheda or distinction between units of different classes. Bharati, however, the Commentator on the Mahanirvana (Ch. II, v. 34) says that Advaita there mentioned means devoid of the last two classes of distinction. There is, therefore, for the purposes of Shakta Tantra, a svagata-bheda in the Brahman Itself namely, the two aspects according to which the Brahman is, on the one hand, Being, Cit and on the other, the principle of becoming which manifests as Nature or seeming Acit. In a mysterious way, however, there is a union of these two principles (Bhavayoga), which thus exist without derogation from the partless unity of the Brahman which they are. In short, the Brahman may be conceived of as having twin aspects, in one of which, It is the cause of the changing world, and in the other of which It is the unchanging Soul of the World. Whilst the Brahman Svarupa or Cit is Itself immutable, the Brahman is yet through its Power the cause of change, and is in one aspect the changeful world
But what then is "real"; a term not always correctly understood. According to the Mayavada definition, the "real" is that which ever was, is and will be (Kalatrayasattvavan); in the words of the Christian liturgy, "as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be world without end"; therefore that which changes, which was not, but is, and then ceases to be is according to this definition "unreal," however much from a practical point of view it may appear real to us. Now Mayavada calls Mulaprakriti in the sense of Maya the material cause of the world, no independent real (Avastu). The Shakta Tantra says that the Principle, whence all becoming comes, exists as a real substratum so to speak below the world of names and forms. This Maya-Shakti is an eternal reality. What is "unreal" (according to the above definition), are these names and forms (Avidya), that is, the changing worlds (asat-triloki-sadbhavam svarupam Brahmanah smritam, Ch. III, v. 7, Mahanirvana Tantra). These are unreal however only in the sense that they are not permanent, but come and go. The body is called Sharira, which comes from the root Sri -- "to decay", for it is dissolving and being renewed at every moment until death. Again, however real it may seem to us, the world may be unreal in the sense that it is something other than what it seems to be. This thing which I now hold in my hands seems to me to be paper, which is white, smooth and so forth, yet we are told that it really is something different, namely, a number of extraordinarily rapid vibrations of etheric substance, producing the false appearance of scientific "matter". In the same way (as those who worship Yantras know), all nature is the appearance produced by various forms of motion in Prakritic substance. (Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.) The real is the Brahman and its Power. The Brahman, whether in Its Cit or Maya aspect, eternally and changelessly endures, but Avidya breaks up its undivided unity into the changing manifold world of names and forms. It follows from the above that Brahman and Ishvara are two co-being aspects of the One ultimate Reality, as Power to Be and to Become. For as Shamkara points out (Comm. Svetasvatara Up. I. 2) Devatmashakti, the cause of the world, is not separate from the Paramatma, as Samkhya alleges its Pradhana to be. And thus it is that Shiva in the Kularnava Tantra (I. 110) says, "some desire dualism (Dvaitavada), others monism (Advaitavada). Such however know not My truth, which is beyond both monism and dualism (Dvaitadvaitavivarjita)." This saying may doubtless mean that to "the knower (Jnani) the arguments of philosophical systems are of no account, as is indeed the case." It has also a more literal meaning as above explained. The Shastra in fact makes high claims for itself. The Tantra, it has been said, takes into its arms as if they were its two children, both dualism and monism affording by its practical method (Sadhana) and the spiritual knowledge generated thereby the means by which their antinomies are resolved and harmonized. Its purpose is to give liberation to the Jiva by a method according to which monistic truth is reached through the dualistic world; immersing its Sadhakas in the current of Divine Bliss, by changing duality into unity, and then evolving from the latter a dualistic play, thus proclaiming the wonderful glory of the Spouse of Paramashiva in the love embrace of Mind-Matter (Jada) and Consciousness (Caitanya). It therefore says that those who have realized this, move, and yet remain unsoiled in the mud of worldly actions which lead others upon the downward path. It claims, therefore, that its practical method (Sadhana) is more speedily fruitful than any other. Its practical method is an application of the general principles above described. In fact, one of its Acaras which has led to abuse is an attempt to put into full practice the theory of Advaitavada. Shamkara has in his transcendental method dealt with the subject as part of the Jnana Kanda. Though the exponent of the Mayavada is esteemed to be a Mahapurusha, this method is not in favor with the Tantric Sadhaka who attributes much of the practical atheism which is to be found in this country, as elsewhere, to a misunderstanding of the transcendental doctrines of Mayavada. There is some truth in this charge, for, as has been well said, the vulgarization of Shamkara's "Higher Science" which is by its nature an esoteric doctrine destined for a small minority, must be reckoned a misfortune in so far as it has, in the language of the Gita, induced many people to take to another's Dharma instead of to their own, which is the "Lower Science" of the great Vedantin followed in all Shastras of worship. Such a Shastra must necessarily affirm God as a real object of worship. Dionysius, the Areopagite, the chief of the line of all Christian mystics said that we could only speak "apophatically" of the Supreme as It existed in Itself, that is, other than as It displays Itself to us. Of It nothing can be affirmed but that It is not this and not that. Here he followed the, "neti neti," of the Vedanta. Ishvari is not less real than the things with which we are concerned every day. She is for the Indian Sadhaka the highest reality and what may or may not be the state of Videha Mukti has for him, no practical concern. Those only who have attained it will know whether Shamkara is right or not; not that they will think about this or any other subject; but in the sense that when the Brahman is known all is known. A friend from whom I quote, writes that he had once occasion to learn to what ridiculous haughtiness, some of the modern "adepts" of Sri Shamkara's school are apt to let themselves be carried away, when one of them spoke to him of the personal Ishvara as being a "pitiable creature". The truth is that such so-called "adepts" are no adepts at all, being without the attainment, and far from the spirit of Shamkara -- whose devotion and powers made him seem to his followers to be an incarnation of Shiva Himself. Such a remark betrays a radical misunderstanding of the Vedanta. How many of those, who to-day discuss his Vedanta from a merely literary standpoint, have his, or indeed any faith'? What some would do is, to dismiss the faith and practice of Shamkara as idle superstition, and to adopt his philosophy. But what is the intrinsic value of a philosophy which emanates from a mind which is so ignorant as to be superstitious P Shamkara, however, has said that faith and Sadhana are the preliminaries for competency (Adhikara) for the Jnanakanda. He alone is competent (Adhikari) who possesses all good moral and intellectual qualities, faith (Shraddha), capacity for the highest contemplation (Samadhi), the Samkhyan discrimination (Viveka), absence of all desire for anything in this world or the next, and an ardent longing for liberation. There are few indeed who can claim even imperfectly all such qualifications. But what of the rest? There is no Vaidik Karmakanda in operation in the present age, but there are other Shastras of worship which is either Vaidik, Tantrik or Pauranik. These provide for those who are still, as are most, on the path of desire. The Tantra affirms that nothing of worth can be achieved without Sadhana. Mere speculation is without result. This principle is entirely sound whatever may be thought of the mode in which it is sought to be applied. Those to whom the questions here discussed are not mere matters for intellectual business or recreation will recall that Shamkara has said that liberation is attained not merely by the discussion of, and pondering upon revealed truth (Vicara), for which few only are competent, but by the grace of God (Ishvara Anugraha), through the worship of the Mother and Father from whom all creation springs. Such worship produces knowledge. In the Kulacudamani, the Devi says: Oh all-knowing One, if Thou knowest Me then of what use are the Amnayas (revealed teachings) and Yajanam (ritual)? If Thou knowest Me not, then again, of what use are they?" But neither are, in another sense, without their uses for thereby the Sadhaka becomes qualified for some form of Urddhvamnaya, in which there are no rites (Karma).
With this short exposition of the nature of Shaktitattva according to Shakta Tantra I pass to an equally brief account of its manifestation in the Universe. It is sufficient to deal with the main lines of the doctrine without going into their very great accompanying detail. I here follow, on the main theme, the account given in the celebrated Sharada Tilaka a work written by Lakshmanacarya, the Guru of Abhinava Gupta, the great Kashmirian Tantrik, about the commencement of the eleventh century, and its Commentary. by the learned Tantrik Pandit Raghava Bhatta which is dated 1454 A.D. This work has long been held to be of great authority in Bengal.
Why creation takes place cannot in an ultimate sense be explained. It is the play (Lila) of the Mother. Could this be done the Brahman would be subject to the law of causality which governs the Universe but which its Cause necessarily transcends.
The Tantra, however, in common with other Indian Shastras recognizes Adrishta Srishti, or the doctrine that the impulse to creation is proximately caused by the Adrsta or Karma of Jivas. But Karma is eternal and itself requires explanation. Karma comes from Samskara and Samskara from Karma. The process of creation, maintenance and dissolution, according to this view, unceasingly recurs as an eternal rhythm of cosmic life and death which is the Mother's play (Lila). And so it is said of Her in the Lalita Sahasranamam that, "the series of universes appear and disappear with the opening and shutting of Her Eyes". The existence of Karma implies the will to cosmic life. We produce it as the result of such will. And when produced it becomes itself the cause of it.
In the aggregate of Karma which will at one period or another ripen, there is, at any particular time, some which are ripe and others which are not so. For the fruition of the former only creation takes place. When this seed ripens and the time therefore approaches for the creation of another universe, the Brahman manifests in Its Vishvarupa aspect, so that the Jiva may enjoy or suffer therein the fruits of his Karma and (unless liberation be attained) accumulate fresh Karma which will involve the creation of future worlds. When the unripened actions which are absorbed in Maya become in course of time ripe, the Vritti of Maya or Shakti in the form of desire for creation arises in Paramashiva, for the bestowal of the fruit of this Karma. This state of Maya is variously called by Shruti, Ikshana, Kama, Vicikirsha.
It is when the Brahman "saw," "desired," or "thought" "May I be many," that there takes place what is known as Sadrishaparinama in which the Supreme Bindu appears. This, in its triple aspect, is known as Kamakala, a manifestation of Shakti whence in the manner hereafter described the Universe emanates. This Kamakala is the Mula or root of all Mantras. Though creation takes place in order that Karma may be suffered and enjoyed, yet in the aggregate of Karma which will at one time or another ripen, there is at any particular period some which are ripe and others which are not so. For the fruition of the former only creation takes place. As creation will serve no purpose in the case of Karma which is not ripe, there is, after the exhaustion by fruition of the ripe Karma, a dissolution (Pralaya). Then the Universe is again merged in Maya which thus abides until the ripening of the remaining actions. Karma, like everything else, re-enters the Brahman, and remains there in hidden potential state as it were a seed. When the seed ripens creation again takes place.
With Ikshana, or the manifestation of creative will, creation is really instantaneous. When the "Word" went forth, "Let there be light", there was light, for the ideation of Ishvara is creative. Our mind by its constitution is however led to think of creation as a gradual process. The Samkhya starts with the oscillation of the Gunas (Gunakshobha) upon which the Vikritis immediately appear. But just as it explains its real Parinama in terms of successive emanations, so the Shakta Tantra describes a Sadrishaparinama in the body of Ishvara their cause. This development is not a real Parinama, but a resolution of like to like, that is, there is no actual change in the nature of the entity dealt with, the various stages of such Parinama being but names for the multiple aspects to us of the same unchanging Unity.
Shakti is one. It appears as various by its manifestations. In one aspect there is no Parinama, for Sacchidananda is as such immutable. Before and after and in creation It remains what It was. There is therefore no Parinama in or of the Aksharabrahman as such. There is Parinama, however, in its Power aspect. The three Gunas do not change, each remaining what it is. They are the same in all forms but appear to the Jiva to exist in different combinations. The appearance of the Gunas in different proportions is due to Avidya or Karma which is this apparent Gunakshobha. It is Samskara which gives to the Samya Prakriti, existence as Vaishamya. What the Tantra describes as Sadrishaparinama is but an analysis of the different aspects of what is shortly called in other Shastras, Ikshana. This Sadrishaparinama is concerned with the evolution of what is named Para Sound (Parashabdasrishti). This is Cosmic Sound; the causal vibration in the substance of Mulaprakriti which gives birth to the Tattvas which are its Vikritis: such Cosmic Sound being that which is distinguished in thought from the Tattvas so produced.
The Sharada says that from the Sakala Parameshvara who is Sacchidananda issued Shakti that is, that power which is necessary for creation. God and His power are yet more than the creation which He manifests. Shakti is said to issue from that which is already Sakala or associated with Shakti, because as Raghava Bhatta says, She who is eternal (Anadi-rupa) was in a subtle state as Caitanya during the great dissolution (Pralaya), (Ya Anadirupa Caitanyadhyasena Mahapralaye Sukshma Sthita).
With however the disturbance of the Gunas, Prakriti became inclined (Ucchuna) to creation, and in this sense, is imagined to issue. Shakti, in other words, passes from a potential state to one of actuality. The Parameshvara is, he adds, described as Sacchidananda in order to affirm that even when the Brahman is associated with Avidya, its own true nature (Svarupa) is not affected. According to the Sharada, from this Shakti issues Nada and from the latter Bindu (known as the Parabindu). The Sharada thus enumerates seven aspects of Shakti. This it does, according to Raghava Bhatta, so as to make up the seven component parts of the Omkara. In some Shakta Tantras this first Nada is omitted and there are thus only six aspects. The Shaiva Tantras mention five. Those which recognize Kala as a Tattva identify Nada with it. In some Tantras, Kala is associated with Tamoguna, and is the Mahakala who is both the child and spouse of Adyashakti; for creation comes from the Tamasic aspect of Shakti. In the Saradatilaka, Nada and Bindu are one and the same Shakti, being the names of two of Her states which are considered to represent Her as being more prone to creation (Ucchunavastha). There are two states of Shakti-bindu suitable for creation (Upayogavastha). As there is no mass or Ghana in Nishkala Shiva, that Brahman represents the Aghanavastha. The Prapancasara Tantra says that She, who is in the first place Tattva (mere "thatness"), quickens under the influence of Cit which She reflects; then She longs to create (Vicikirshu) and becomes massive (Ghanibhuta) and appears as Bindu (Parabindu). Ghanibhuta means that which was not dense or Ghana but which has become so (Ghanavastha). It involves the notion of solidifying, coagulating, becoming massive. Thus milk is said to become Ghanibhuta when it condenses into cream or curd. This is the first gross condition (Sthulavastha); the Brahman associated with Maya in the form of Karma assumes that aspect in which It is regarded as the primal cause of the subtle and gross bodies. There then lies in it in a potential, undifferentiated mass (Ghana), the universe and beings about to be created. The Parabindu is thus a compact aspect of Shakti wherein action or Kriya Shakti predominates. It is compared to a grain of gram (Canaka) which under its outer sheath (Maya) contains two seeds (Shivashakti) in close and undivided union. The Bindu is symbolized by a circle. The Shunya or empty space within is the Brahmapada. The supreme Light is formless, but Bindu implies both the void and Guna, for, when Shiva becomes Bindurupa He is with Guna. Raghava says, "She alone can create. When the desire for appearance as all Her Tattvas seizes Her, She assumes the state of Bindu whose characteristic is action" (Kriyashakti). This Bindu or Avyakta, as it is the sprouting root of the universe, is called the supreme Bindu (Parabindu), or causal or Karana Bindu, to distinguish it from that aspect of Itself which is called Bindu (Karya), which appears as a state of Shakti after the differentiation of the Parabindu in Sadrishaparinama. The Parabindu is the Ishvara of the Vedanta with Maya as His Upadhi. He is the Saguna Brahman, that is, the combined Cit-Shakti and Maya-Shakti or Ishvara with undifferentiated Prakriti as His Avyaktasharira. Some call Him Mahavishnu and others the Brahmapurusha. He is Paramashiva. "Some call the Hamsa, Devi. They are those who are filled with a passion for Her lotus feet." As Kalicarana the Commentator of the Shatcakranirupana says, it matters not what It is called. It is adored by all. It is this Bindu or state of supreme Shakti which is worshipped in secret by all Devas. In Nishkala Shiva, Prakriti exists in a hidden potential state. The Bindu Parashaktimaya (Shivashaktimaya) is first movement of creative activity which is both the expression and result of the universal Karma or store of unfulfilled desire for cosmic life.
It is then said that the Parabindu "divides" or "differentiates". In the Satyaloka is the formless and lustrous One. She exists like a grain of gram (Canaka) surrounding Herself with Maya. When casting off (Utsrijya) the covering (Bandhana.) of Maya, She, intent on creation (Unmukhi), becomes twofold (Dvidha bhittva), or according to the account here given threefold, and then on this differentiation in Shiva and Shakti (Shiva-Shakti-vibhagena) arises creative ideation (Srishtikalpana). As so unfolding the Bindu is known as the Sound Brahman (Shabdabrahman). "On the differentiation of the Parabindu there arose unmanifested sound" (Bhidyamanat parad bindoravyaktatma ravo, 'bhavat). Shabda here of course does not mean physical sound, which is the Guna of the Karyakasha or atomic Akasha. The latter is integrated and limited and evolved at a later stage in Vikriti Parinama from Tamasika Ahamkara. Shabdabrahman in the undifferentiated Cidakasha or Spiritual Ether of philosophy, in association with its Kala, or Prakriti or the Sakala Shiva of religion. It is Cit-Shakti vehicled by undifferentiated Prakriti, from which is evolved Nadamatra ("Sound only" or the "Principle of Sound") which is un-manifest (Avyakta), from which again is displayed (Vyakta) the changing universe of names and forms. It is the Pranavarupa Brahman or Om which is the cosmic causal principle and the manifested Shabdartha. Avyakta Nada or unmanifested Sound is the undifferentiated causal principle of Manifested Sound without any sign or characteristic manifestation such as letters and the like which mark its displayed product. Shabdabrahman is the all-pervading, impartite, unmanifested Nadabindu substance, the primary creative impulse in Parashiva which is the cause of the manifested Shabdartha. This Bindu is called Para because It is the first and supreme Bindu. Although It is Shakti like the Shakti and Nada which precede It, It is considered as Shakti on the point of creating the world, and as such It is from this Parabindu that Avyakta Sound is said to come.
Raghava Bhatta ends the discussion of this matter by shortly saying that the Shabdabrahman is the Caitanya in all creatures which as existing in breathing creatures (Pram) is known as the Shakti Kundalini of the Muladhara. The accuracy of this definition is contested by the Compiler of the Pranatoshini, but if by Caitanya we understand the Manifested Cit, that is, the latter displayed as and with Mulaprakriti in Cosmic vibration (Spandana), then the apparently differing views are reconciled.
The Parabindu on such differentiation manifests under the threefold aspects of Bindu, Nada, Bija. This is the fully developed and kinetic aspect of Parashabda. The Bindu which thus becomes threefold is the Principle in which the germ of action sprouts to manifestation producing a state of compact intensive Shakti. The threefold aspect of Bindu, as Bindu (Karyya), Nada and Bija are Shivamaya, Shivashaktimaya, Shaktimaya; Para, Sukshma, Sthula; Iccha, Jnana, Kriya; Tamas, Sattva, Rajas; Moon, Fire and Sun; and the Shaktis which are the cosmic bodies known as Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, and Virat. All three, Bindu, Bija, Nada are the different phases of Shakti in creation, being different aspects of Parabindu the Ghanavastha of Shakti. The order of the three Shaktis of will, action and knowledge differ in Ishvara and Jiva. Ishvara is a11-knowing and therefore the order in Him, is Iccha, Jnana, Kriya. In Jiva, it is Jnana, Iccha, Kriya. Iccha is said to be the capacity which conceives the idea of work or action; which brings the work before the mind and wills to do it. In this Bindu, Tamas is said to be predominant, for there is as yet no stir to action. Nada is Jnana Shakti, that is, the subjective direction of will by knowledge to the desired end. With it is associated Sattva. Bija is Kriya Shakti or the Shakti which arises from that effort or the action done. With it Rajoguna or the principle of activity is associated. Kriya arises from the combination of Iccha and Jnana. It is thus said, "Drawn by Icchashakti, illumined by Jnana shakti, Shakti the Lord appearing as Male creates (Kriyashakti). From Bindu it is said arose Raudri; from Nada, Jyeshtha; and from Bija, Vama. From these arose Rudra, Brahma, Vishnu." It is also said in the Goraksha Samhita, "Iccha is Brahmi., Kriya is Vaishnavi and Jnana is Gauri. Wherever there are these three Shaktis there is the Supreme Light called Om." In the Sakala Parameshvara or Shabdabrahman in bodies (that is, Kundalini Shakti), Bindu in which Tamas prevails is, Raghava says, called Nirodhika; Nada in which Sattva prevails is called Ardhendhu, and Bija the combination of the two (Iccha and Jnana) in which Rajas as Kriya works is called Bindu. The three preceding states in Kundalini are Shakti, Dhvani, and Nada. Kundalini is Cit-Shakti into which Sattva enters, a state known as the Paramakashavastha. When She into whom Sattva has entered is next pierced by Rajas, She is called Dhvani which is the Aksharavastha. When She is again pierced by Tamas, She is called Nada. This is the Avyaktavastha, the Avyakta Nada which is the Parabindu. The three Bindus which are aspects of Parabindu constitute the mysterious Kamakala triangle which with the Harddhakala forms the roseate body of the lovely limbed great Devi Tripurasundari who is Shivakama and manifests the universe. She is the trinity of Divine energy of whom the Shritattvarnava says: "Those glorious men who worship in that body in Samarasya are freed from the waves of poison in the untraversable sea of the Wandering (Samsara)". The main principle which underlies the elaborate details here shortly summarized, is this. The state in which Cit and Prakriti-Shakta are as one undivided whole, that is, in which Prakriti lies latent (Nishkala Shiva), is succeeded by one of differentiation, that is, manifestation of Maya (Sakala Shiva). In such manifestation it displays several aspects. The totality of such aspects is the Maya body of Ishvara in which are included the causal, subtle and gross bodies of the Jiva. These are, according to the Sharada, seven aspects of the first or Para state of sound in Shabdasrishti which are the seven divisions of the Mantra Om, viz.: A, U, M, Nada, Bindu, Shakti, Santa. They constitute Parashabdasrishti in the Ishvara creation. They are Ishvara or Om and seven aspects of the cosmic causal body; the collectivity (Samashti) of the individual (Vyashti), causal, subtle and gross bodies of the Jiva
Before passing to the manifested Word and Its meaning (Shabdartha), it is necessary to note what is called Arthasrishti in the Avikriti or Sadrishaparinama: that is the causal state of Sound called Parashabda; the other three states, viz.: Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari manifesting only in gross bodies. As Parabindu is the causal body of Shabda, It is also the causal body of Artha which is inseparately associated with It as the combined Shabdartha. As such, He is called Shambhu who is of the nature of both Bindu and Kala and the associate of Kala. From Him issued Sadashiva, "the witness of the world," and from Him Isha, and then Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma. The six Shivas are various aspects of Cit as presiding over (the first) the subjective Tattvas and (the rest) the elemental world whose centers are five lower Cakras. These Devatas when considered as belonging to the Avikriti Parinama are the Devata aspect of apparently different states of causal sound by the process of resolution of like to like giving them the semblance of all-pervasive creative energies. They are Sound powers in the aggregate (Samashti). As appearing in, that is, presiding over, bodies they are the ruling Lords of the individual (Vyashti) evolutes from the primal cause of Shabda.
The completion of the causal Avikriti Parinama with its ensuing Cosmic vibration in the Gunas is followed by a real Parinama of the Vikritis from the substance of Mula-prakriti. There then appears the manifested Shabdartha or the individual bodies subtle or gross of the Jiva in which are the remaining three Bhavas of Sound or Shaktis called Pashyanti, Madhyama, Vaikhari. Shabda literally means sound, idea, word; and Artha its meaning; that is, the objective form which corresponds to the subjective conception formed and language spoken of it. The conception is due to Samskara. Artha is the externalized thought. There is a psycho-physical parallelism in the Jiva. In Ishvara thought is truly creative. The two are inseparable, neither existing without the other. Shabdartha has thus a composite meaning like the Greek word "Logos," which means both thought and word combined. By the manifested Shabdartha is meant what the Vedantins call Namarupa, the world of names and forms, but with this difference that according to the Tantrik notions here discussed there is, underlying this world of names and forms, a real material cause that is Parashabda or Mulaprakriti manifesting as the principle of evolution.
The Sharada says that from the Unmanifested Root-Avyakta Being in Bindu form (Mulabhuta Bindurupa) or the Paravastu (Brahman), that is, from Mulaprakriti in creative operation there is evolved the Samkhyan Tattvas.
Transcendentally, creation of all things takes place simultaneously. But, from the standpoint of Jiva, there is a real development (Parinama) from the substance of Mula-bhuta Avyakta Bindurupa (as the Sharada calls Mulaprakriti) of the Tattvas, Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas, the Indriyas, Tanmatras and Mahabhutas in the order stated. The Tantra therefore adopts the Samkhyan and not the Vedantic order of emanation which starts with the Apancikrita Tanmatra, the Tamasik parts of which, on the one hand, develop by Pancikarana into the Mahabhuta, and on the other, the Rajasik and Sattvik parts of which are collectively and separately the source of the remaining Tattvas. In the Shakta Tantra, the Bhutas derive directly and not by Pancikarana from the Tanmatras. Pancikarana exists in respect of the compounds derived from the Bhutas. There is a further point of detail in the Tantrik exposition to be noted. The Shakta Tantra, as the Puranas and Shaiva Shastras do, speaks of a threefold aspect of Ahamkara, according to the predominance therein of the respective Gunas. From the Vaikarika Ahamkara issue the eleven Devatas who preside over Manas and the ten Indriyas; from the Taijasa Ahamkara are produced the Indriyas and Manas; and from the Bhutadika Ahamkara the Tanmatras. None of these differences in detail or order of emanation of the Tattvas has substantial importance. In one case start is made from the knowing principle (Buddhi), on the other from the subtle object of knowledge the Tanmatra.
The abovementioned creation is known as Ishvara Srishti. The Vishvasara Tantra says that from the Earth come the herbs (Oshadhi), from the latter food, and from food seed (Retas). From the latter living beings are produced by the aid of sun and moon. Here what is called Jiva Srishti is indicated, a matter into which I have no time to enter here.
To sum up, upon this ripening of Karma and the urge therefrom to cosmic life, Nishkala Shiva becomes Sakala. Shakti manifests and the causal body of Ishvara is thought of as assuming seven causal aspects in Sadrishaparinama which are aspects of Shakti about to create. The Parabindu or state of Shakti thus developed is the causal body of both the manifested Shabda and Artha. The Parabindu is the source of all lines of development, whether of Shabda, or as Shambhu of Artha, or as the Mulabhuta of the Manifested Shabdartha. On the completed ideal development of this causal body manifesting as the triple Shaktis of will, knowledge and action, the Shabdartha in the sense of the manifested world with its subtle and gross bodies appears in the order described.
From the above description, it will have been seen that the creation doctrine here described is compounded of various elements, some of which it shares with other Shastras, and some of which are its own, the whole being set forth according to a method and terminology which is peculiar to itself. The theory which is a form of Advaita-vada has then some characteristics which are both Samkhyan and Vedantic. Thus it accepts a real Mulaprakriti, not however as an independent principle in the Samkhyan sense, but as a form of the Shakti of Shiva. By and out of Shiva-Shakti who are one, there is a real creation. In such creation there is a special Adrishta-Srishti up to the transformation of Shakti as Parabindu. This is Ishvara Tattva of the thirty-six Tattvas, a scheme accepted by both Advaita Shaivas and Shaktas.
Then by the operation of Maya-Shakti it is transformed into Purusha-Prakriti and from the latter are evolved the Tattvas of the Samkhya. Lastly, there is Yaugika Srishti of the Nyaya Vaisheshika in that the world is held to be formed by a combination of the elements. It accepts, therefore, Adrsta Srishti from the appearance of Shakti, up to the complete formation of the Causal Body known in its subtle form as the Kamakala; thereafter Parinama Srishti of the Vikritis of the subtle and gross body produced from the causal body down to the Mahabhutas; and finally Yaugika Srishti in so far as it is the Bhutas which in varied combination go to make up the gross world.
There are (and the doctrine here discussed is an instance of it) common principles and mutual connections existing in and between the different Indian Shastras, notwithstanding individual peculiarities of presentment due to natural variety of intellectual or temperamental standpoint or the purpose in view. Shiva in the Kularnava says that all the Darshanas are parts of His body, and he who severs them severs His limbs. The meaning of this is that the six Darshanas are the Six Minds, and these, as all else, are parts of the Lord's Body.
Of these six minds, Nyaya and Vaisheshika teach Yaugika Srishti; Samkhya and Patanjali teach Yaugika Srishti and Parinama Srishti; Mayavada Vedanta teaches Yaugika Srishti, Parinamasrishti according to the empirical method and Vivartta according to the transcendental method. According to the Vivartta of Mayavada, there is no real change but only the appearance of it. According to Shakta-vada, Ultimate Reality does in one aspect really evolve but in another aspect is immutable. Mayavada effects its synthesis by its doctrine of grades of reality, and Shakta-vada by its doctrine of aspects of unity and duality, duality in unity and unity in duality. Ultimate Reality as the Whole is neither merely static nor merely active. It is both. The Natural and the Spiritual are one. In this sense the Shakta system claims to be the synthesis of all other doctrines.
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