Techniques of Transmission in Kashmir Saivism

by Lilian Silburn

Based on the works of Abhinavagupta (AD 950–1016)

Siva seated, statue

5. Manifestation and Return to the Source: Divine Play

In Paramasiva – the undifferentiated, inexpressible Whole – Siva is indissolubly united with the energy. However, in the process of manifestation, the energy appears to separate herself from Siva in order to assume more and more differentiated and specific appearances. The energy, being free, gives rise to other energies. These, she continues to contain undivided within herself, revealing each in turn: first the energy of consciousness emerges; then comes the joy which lies at the heart of the union between Siva and his energy; next unfold the energies of will and knowledge. By the time that the energy of activity appears, all the preceding energies are contained within it only in latent form. Thus, the free energy obscures herself in order to manifest the universe; the universe's manifestation is its own obfuscation.

These divine energies gradually lose the perfect purity with which they are initially endowed. The energy of desire, or will (iccha) which is originally only an appreciation of fullness, later becomes definitive desire. Knowledge (jnana), the conscious Light of the Self, becomes a limited knowledge, concerned with subject and object. Activity (kriya), which begins as a simple disturbance, a flight into oneself in the fullness of the absolute I, eventually unfolds into dispersed movements and leads to a type of action that enslaves. Life is then crystallized around the ego. And this ego, henceforth separated from the Whole, perceives the universe as fragmented into innumerable subjects and objects, while his various states of consciousness hide from him his only essential being.

In this way, playing at foot soldier, the sovereign becomes completely absorbed in his play. Entirely forgetful of sovereignty, his freedom lost, he becomes enmeshed in his role as simple soldier and imprisons himself in it, prey to impotence.

Lallesvari [a] exclaims: "There is neither you, nor me; neither contemplated nor contemplation. There is only the creator of the universe who became lost in forgetfulness of himself ..." (59) (Bh., p. 17)

[a. Kashmiri female mystic (1320-1392) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lalleshwari ]

"Oh my soul, the alluring charm of the world has led you into division... Alasl Why have you forgotten the nature of the Self? (67)" (Bh., p. 21)

Several centuries earlier, Utpaladeva [b] described this paradox: "Here on earth, nothing is separate from You. There is only joy since all is fashioned by You. And yet, everywhere only differentiation and suffering reign. Oh abode of incomparable wonderment, I honor You." (S.U., XVIII.18)

[b. A great teacher of Kashmir Shaivism. (900-950) Utpaladeva's disciple was Laksmana Gupta, who was a teacher of Abhinavagupta. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utpaladeva ]

In explanation of this painful paradox, he writes, "The pearl necklace of Your love is, alas [3] submerged in my impure thought; and though it is innate, the Splendor of its supernatural glory does not shine." (XV.15)

All endnotes appear in a separate page: endnotes.htm   Brief endnotes are reproduced in the text as footnotes. Where suggested, click on the blue link to see the full endnote on the Endnotes page.

[See Endnote 3 for a quote from Rumi.]

And yet, to those who adore him, Siva offers his own luminous Essence generously and without restraint: "Glory to You, All-powerful Lord, Master of the Universe, You who go so far as to give your Self (atman)." (XIV. 12)

What then is the secret of devotion? How does the foot soldier regain his kingship, or the pearl necklace, its supernatural splendor? Regal consciousness does not normally arise from the consciousness or activity of a foot soldier. Nor can Self consciousness emerge from unstable thought or imagination.

However, should the foot soldier encounter a king and recognize him as such, or should the kingliness within him rise up and reveal itself spontaneously, then, in an extraordinary release that uproots him from his ego, his limited consciousness will be destroyed in the emergence of the universal Self. In this dazzling awareness, he recognizes himself as the king that he is, and that he has always been. It is, then, in the fullness of knowledge and joy that he experiences his newly discovered sovereignty; he exercises it fully and, having once forgotten it in the exhuberance of play, he now appreciates its value. [4]

[4. See Endnote 4 for quotes from Meister Eckhart and Ruysbroeck.]

The energy which manifests the universe is also, in the guise of grace, the agent of its dissolution. The foot soldier who at one time had thought of himself as an isolated being and had allowed himself to be bound to this identity becomes completely identified with the Whole once he regains awareness of his royal nature, the Self.

"The Self, Siva, sovereignly free and whose marvelous essence is Light, at first masks his own essence by his freedom's impetuous play. He then reveals it again in its fullness, all at once or by degrees. This grace is entirely gratuitous." Abhinavagupta (Bh., p. 24)

Raising up the multiple universe by his creative power, Siva hides from himself. And taking by force the gloomy heart which is his abode, Siva reveals himself to himself.

Free or enslaved, he is Siva always, the marvelous magician of the great divine Game which embraces the universe's whole emission and its return to the source.

The Final Stanzas of the First Chapter of the Tantraloka of Abhinavagupta [5]

[5. See Endnote 5 for background information on Abhinavagupta.]

330. "The Self is the permanent residence of conscious light; the whole of the energies form its essence. Hiding his own greatness, he assumes the appearance of an enslaved being."

The Tantraloka was written specifically to describe the various forms of deliverance.

331. "Mistaken knowledge – a (simple) defect of vision – makes us see things as distorted and unequal; [6] because of this fault, knowledge becomes an impure power despite its [essential] purity."

[Endnote 6. On equality, cf. here, p. 265.]

332. "You who contain all things forcibly take over human hearts. Like an actor, You amuse yourself by hiding the Heart of the Self in a web of tangents."

"One who declares you unconscious is himself unconscious, an ignorant person who wrongly claims to possess a heart. Still, in this unconsciousness exists that which is worthy of praise, for even in this he is like Youl"

333. "Every impurity having vanished, knowers of the supreme and of the lowly, they who are identical to Siva's real nature are the masters qualified for mystical study. It is therefore needless to ask them to put afar the task of aversion."

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