by Virendra Qazi
full moonlit night, devotees of Swami
Vivekanand were gazing at the resplendent sky from
the yatch in the mid sea. They invited
Swam’ji, who was inside, to share their joy at
the fascinating sight.
Swamiji remarked, “If
God’s creation, His Maya Shakti is so fantastic,
can we ever surmise His glory and His
This message, indeed,
should permeate all of us. We should
endeavour to think - whether we think this way?
The simple and frank answer is - no.
Perhaps, we face insurmountable problems at
individual, social and still higher levels,
totally making us to lose our confidence.
That is why we call the world a great paradox, a
maze, beyond any body’s comprehension.
We take the help of God
to escape the stark realities of the World.
We hold Him high with due eulogy, but we
have unkind words for His Creation - the
manifested World, called MAYA. We call it
illusion, deluding, transitory, etc. Still,
we have to reconcile with this situation.
As an endeavor to
understand this puzzle, we can take recourse to
and seek guidance from our ancient philosophy of
Kashmir Shaivism. This universal philosophy
focuses on relation between God, Nature and Man,
which transcends all the barriers of time, place
and diverse human cultures. At individual
level it provides the complete analysis of human
personality and all the aspects of life are
integrated and taken in totality.
To understand Maya as per
Kashmir Shaivism first we have to seek the nature
of Ultimate Reality called PARAM SHIVA who
manifests the total Bliss and Who is all complete
in Himself. From Him emanates everything. He
is beyond description, beyond all manifestation,
beyond limitation of form, time and space.
He is eternal, infinite, all pervading, all
knowing and all powerful. In fact, this
reality is ineffable and beyond all descriptions.
PARAM SHIVA AND HIS
This manifested material
world called Maya is part of the great process of
universal manifestation which we can call
“evolution” and “involution”.
Kashmir Shaivism postulates 36 categories or
“tattvas” to explain the process of cosmic
evolution. Let us keenly focus our attention
to this process of universal evolution or
universal experience, i.e. from God hood to Maya
Shakti which is the veiling or obscuring force of
nature leading to various psycho - physical
elements and finally the Panch Mahabhutas - five
great gross elements : Earth, Water, Fire, Air and
The first outward
manifestation of the divine creative energy in the
process of cosmic evolution is called Shiva -
Tattva. It is the initial creative movement
of Paramasiva. It is the static aspect of
consciousness or like support of all things in the
manifest world. It is like the bed of a
river or the canvas of a painting. It can
never be seen, it can only be known by its
effects. In this condition, the emphasis is
on the subject without any awareness of the
existence of the object.
Since the Shiva Tattva
represents the passive aspect of the pure
consciousness, it is dependent upon the active or
dynamic aspect to bring it into being. This
is called Shakti Tattva. Shakti is the
active or kinetic aspect of consciousness.
This Shakti Tattva or
cosmic energy represents the force that produces a
strain or stress on the surface of the Universal
consciousness. It is said to have three
principal forms to account for the three
fundamental psychological steps that precede every
action. Technically the first one is called
ICHCHA SHAKTI, the power of feeling oneself as
supremely able and of an Absolutely irresistible
will. Second one is the JNANA SHAKTI, the
power of knowledge or knowing of consciousness.
The KRIYA SHAKTI is the power of supreme action,
creating or assuming any and every form. One
follows the other in logical succession.
Just as an artist pours
out his delight in a poem, picture or song, even
so the Supreme pours out his delight in this
manifestation called Shakti. When Shakti is
predominant, supreme bliss is experienced.
Mahesvarananda puts is beautifully in
Maharthamanjari. “He (i.e. Shiva) Himself
full of joy enhanced by the honey of the three
corners of His heart, viz ICCHA, JHANA AND KRIYA,
raising up His face to gaze at His own splender is
MAYA AND FIVE KANCUKAS
Now let us come to
evolution of material universe. The power of
consciousness to separate and divide is called
Maya Shakti. This is the power to perceive
differences. The term “Maya” means
illusion. Here it is used to refer to the
veiling or obscuring force of nature which creates
a sense of differentiation. As such, it
makes universal consciousness which is unity,
appear as duality and multiplicity.
The category of Maya is
postulated to account for the manifestation of
“form” out of “Formless”, the finite out
of infinite. So Maya is considered not as a
separate reality, but as the gross power of
consciousness and is referred to as Maya Shakti.
Maya is defined as the limiting principle which
reduces the universal powers of consciousness and
produces the state of limited experience. It
divides and disperses divine unity of the God head
and brings into existance the mind and matter.
The products of Maya are
the five kancukas or coverings which are KALAA
(limitation of authorship or efficacy) VIDYA
(limited knowledge), RAGA (from all satisfaction
to feeling of interest and desire) KAALA (from
eternity to limitation in respect of time i.e.
past, present and future) NIYATI (limitation in
respect of cause and effect).
PURUSHA AND PRAKRITI
The result of Maya and
its five coverings as referred above are PURUSHA
and PRAKRITI. Here the dual world of mind
and matter is permanently established. In
order words, although the Lord is absolutely free,
He puts on Maya and her coverings (five cloaks),
forgets His true nature, limits His power and
reduces Himself to an individual soul which is
called Purusha and its objective manifestation
BUDDHI, AHAMKARA AND
Now, let us come to the
tattvas of mental operation i.e. BUDDHI, AHAMKARA
AND MANAS. Buddhi is the ascertaining
intelligence which can be external i.e. a jar
perceived through eye or internal, like images
built out of the impression left on mind.
Ahamkara is the product of buddhi. It is the
I - making principle and the power of self -
appropriation. Manas is the product of
ahankara. It co-operates with the senses in
building up perceptions, and by itself, it builds
images and concepts.
We are continuing to
focus on the cosmic manifestations. The
products of AHAMKARA are five powers of sense
perception or JNANENDRIYAS, five powers of action
or KARMENDRIYAS and five primary elements of
perception or TANMANTRAS. The process of
inevolution is complete finally with panch
Mahabutas as referred earlier.
Frankly, very important
position is given to Ahankara. In fact, it
is the product of SHAKTI through the intermediate
Prakriti which obviously is a mode of the Divine
Energy. Rajas gunas is prominent here and
other gunas are in subdued form. One can
understand significance of Ahankara by the story
of the Buddha Bhikshu Upasena. As he tried
to over come this tattva by his “sadhana”, his
body got scattered because there was no Ahankara
It is Important to
understand that, according to Kashmir Shaivism,
this analysis of all phenomena into thirty-six
tattavas has been worked out as a tool of
understanding for the ever-active and inquiring
mind and as a form for contemplative meditation.
At higher sadhana the number of tattvas may get
reduced. Finally a highly advanced Shiva
Yogin may see only the Shiva Tattva in the whole
DOCTRINE OF THE FOUR
STAGES IN THE MANIFESTATION OF SPEECH
To understand the
manifestation of Maya Shakti from the level of
Param Shiva, it is important to consider the
process and stages in the manifestation of speech.
Bharatrhari, the originator of the philosophy of
Sanskrit grammer, says in his Vakyapadiya: “The
eternally existent Brahman, being the changeless
essence of speech appears in the form of the
phenominal substance out of which the process of
universal existence proceeds”. The authors
of Kashmir Shaivism have explained in detail the
concept of SABDABRAHMAN.
Speech is not only the
means to convey one’s ideas to others, it is
also a way to understand things personally.
When we choose to convey ideas to others, we
generally use spoken language, known as VAIKHARI.
A finer form of speech that serves as the medium
for thinking and understanding, through which a
person forms definite and indefinite ideas about
words and their meanings, is the mental speech
called MADHYAMA. It is an internal
reflection of manifestation of awareness taking
the form of ideas. There is a still finer
level of speech, far subtler in character and
resides in the inner-most part of our being.
It is called PASYANTI. It is known as the
“be-holding speech” because through its medium
enlightened people can behold all objective
existence within themselves. Beyond this is
PARAVAC the supreme speech or the transcendental
speech. This consists of pure awareness of
the self. It is also called PARAVANI.
This doctrine can also be
understood by the example of an artist’s
creation from the grossest to the finest level.
His tangible creation like a painting etc. can be
VAIKHARI and the images formed mentally, where his
creation shines within him in the form of MADHYAMA.
Before even this exists a subtle creative urge
like a stir, or restlessness or inward flutter
which is PASYANTI. Finally, at the
most subtle level, the original seed of the
artistic creation lies in the inner most center
which is shining as PARAVAC, the Supreme speech.
MAYA AND WORLD
For centuries Indian
philosophers have been debating whether this world
is real or an illusion. Many schools of
philosophy have interpreted the nature of Maya in
various ways. As explained, Kashmir Shaivism
maintains Maya is based nether on the imagination
nor any finite being nor on any flux of mind.
Maya is Siva-Mayi: Divine and perfectly real.
The universe is not mithya. The
universe is Siva-rupa and therefore real. It
is a display of the glory of the Divine.
Having recognized Maya as
creation of God, we should accept the world in
totality. No problem of society, state,
nation and individual is to be ignored. A
person cannot succeed in any aim of life if he
shuts his eyes towards these problems.
Besides, there should be greater understanding of
others views based on sense of accommodation.
This will develop correct perception and
contribute to furthering of human understanding.
Verily it can be called practical Shaivism.
After a detailed analysis
of Maya Shakti as per Kashmir Shaivism let us come
to development of aesthetic principles in
religious rituals. In fact, in Indian
thought aesthetics has always played an important
role in the development of various schools of
philosophy. Frankly, we do
not see God at some distant disciplinarian ruler
of the universe. He is thought of as an
intimate and loving master who is extremely
beautiful and lovable.
Even in ancient times
Indus Valley people worshiped their deities with
dance. Vedic fire altars were constructed
according to aesthetic norms. Rigvedic
poetry, sung in praise of various forces of
nature, personified as gods with human like forms,
is rich in aesthetic valve. Music and song
are still a central part of the spiritual
practice among Vaisnava devotees. Cave
paintings at Elora and Ajanta testify to the
importance attached to beautiful religious images
in india during the Buddhist age. Ancient
temples and images at places like Khajuraho
display a highly developed aesthetics sense in the
art of stone carving.
Kashmir Shaivism is a
philosophy that embraces life in its totality.
Unlike puritanical systems it does not shy away
from the pleasant and aesthetically pleasing
aspects of life as somehow being unspiritual.
On the contrary, great importance has been placed
on the aesthetic quality of spiritual practice in
Kashmir Shaivism. In fact, recognizing and
celebrating the aesthetic aspect of the Absolute
is one of the central principles of this
In this way, the
aesthetic outlook of Indian philosophers and
thelogins reached its full expansion in the
Tantric system of sadhana or spiritual practice.
It is indeed difficult to find any Tantric deity
who does not posses some powerful aesthetic charm
for the devotee.
Kashmir Shaivism is
propagated a spiritual path that focused on the
simultaneous attainment of enjoyment (bhukti), and
liberation (mukti). It accepted both of them
as the goal of human life, and developed
philosophies and methods that could be followed
equally by both monks and householders. It
did not approve of any form of forcible control or
repression of the mind, emotions, and senses, but
rather emphasized that such practices could create
adverse reactions that might simply deepen a
In aesthetics music has a
very special role. The power of music is highly
appreciated in Kashmir Shaivism. It is
included as an important aid to spiritual
attainment and forms an important sadhana in the
process of spiritual growth. In the process
of universal manifestation explained earlier,
ETHER (Akasa) is the finest of the categories of
physical objects (Panch Mahabutas).
Similarly, sound is the finest of the five
specific sense perceptions (tanmatras). Thus
sound or music is most effective in subduing body
- consciousness and arousing the dormant
blissfulness of pure consciousness.
As per Vijnanabhairava,
the pleasure aroused by song and music is accepted
as a means to enter into the state of pure and
experiencing their oneness with some incomparable
pleasure aroused by the experience of objects like
sweet songs etc. and fixing their mental
attentiveness on it, find unity with the Absolute
Lord through a practice of absorption in this kind
of phenomenon (Vijnanabhairava, 73)”
The great scholar
Abhinavgupta always used to keep a vina by his
side and would occasionally play it. He must
have found vina as powerful aid in the practice of
withdrawing his awareness from the world around
him and focusing within on the purer consciousness
of the Self.
Concluding, it would be
pertinent to add a word of caution. A
practitioner should not fall into a web of sensual
enjoyments and thereby lose sight of the higher
spiritual goals of life. In fact whenever there is
something of real merit and truth available, there
are usually false forms of it being offered by
hypocrites who may try to deceive people by
ostentitious displays of Tantrism and through
misleading information about these practices.
False gurus existed even in ancient times.
Finally all of the
blissful and beautiful aspects of the God are
present in each and every person and living thing,
but they remain dormant because they are hidden
behind the mask of maya. In other words, we
are all blinded to this inner bliss and beauty by
our limited sense of who we are, and by the habit
of directing so much of our attention out into the
world. We pursue the outer object in an
attempt to rediscover the blissful state,
not realizing that the source of bliss is within
and need not be attached to an outer stimulus or
some outer source at all. This inner beauty
can be discovered and contacted at will through
simply turning our attention within and through
the various practices of Trika yoga.