The genesis of the entire phenomenal creation is given as a single thought that arose as a vibration on the canvas of Pure Consciousness — the boundless space with neither inside nor outside in which the universe is born, develops and perishes.
The doctrine of Kashmir Shaivism explains the phenomenon of manifestation of the universe in terms of the dynamic aspect of Pure Consciousness — the aspect that represents constant changes that occur under the influence of an infinite number of vibratory pulsations. The changes, it may reiterated, occur on the surface of Pure Consciousness which is akin to the phenomenon of innumerable bubbles appearing on water.
The word ‘manifest’ signifies appearance of something to the mind, meaning thereby that there can be no ‘appearance’ or manifestation in the absence of the perceiver. Pure Consciousness includes both the perceiver and the perceived, the subject and the object. In its subjective aspect, Pure Consciousness becomes visible to itself both as subject and object and no duality of consciousness is observed.
In the terminology of Kashmir Shaivism, the subject and object are referred to as aham or ‘I’ and idam or ‘this’ respectively. They are so closely related that without the one, the other cannot exist in the same way as darkness and night are inseparable. During the phase of pralaya or re-absorption of the universe, the two exist in a state of perfect equilibrium. And the moment the process of cosmic evolution is set in motion, the equilibrium gets disturbed, resulting in the appearance of duality of Consciousness in the form of aham and idam, the subject and the object.
These two aspects are the two fundamental tattvas in the evolutionary process, namely, the Shiva tattva and the Shakti tattva. The former represents light, the principle of existence and being; the latter represents the primordial, creative energy — the power of consciousness.
The Shiva tattva is the passive aspect of Pure Consciousness, the static centre, that provides support to all things. It is everlasting, eternal and supremely pure; and despite appearing as space, time and form, it does not undergo any change and maintains its immaculate purity.
The Shakti tattva represents the object in the dual relationship of the evolution of the universe. It is the cause that generates all vibratory motions and changes that occur in the manifest universe. Shakti is the dynamic power that brings into being all the names and forms that are there in the universe and also withdraws the entire creation in the process of Shakti’s cosmic drama with the Eternal Being at the end of the cycle of time.
While Shiva represents the ‘chit’ aspect of sat-chit-anand or existence-consciousness-bliss, Shakti represents the ‘anand’ aspect. When Shakti is predominant, unalloyed bliss is experienced. She, by producing a stress on the canvas of Pure Consciousness, polarises the latter into positive and negative, the aham and the idam. And by virtue of being the power that creates, She is regarded as the feminine aspect of nature, the Mother of the Universe—the kinetic aspect of Pure Consciousness.
Pratyabhijna Hridayam, a text in Kashmir Shaivism, says, “Shakti descends from the plane of Pure Consciousness, unfolds the universe upon her own screen by the power of her will and becomes the mind by contracting in accordance with the object perceived”. – Times of India, 6 November 2012
» Anup Taneja is a historian and columnist for The Times of India.
The existence or non-existence of phenomena within the domain of the empirical cannot be established unless they rest within consciousness. In fact, phenomena which rest within consciousness are apparent. And the fact of their appearing is itself their oneness with consciousness because consciousness is nothing but the fact of appearing. – Abhinavagupta