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The Unfolding of Consciousness

According to Trika, the Absolute Reality, or Paramashiva ("Supreme Godhead") polarises into Static Consciousness  or Shiva and the dynamic Power of Consciousness or Shakti.  Shiva and Shakti together constitute Universal Divine Existence; the Manifest Godhead as opposed to the Unmanifest Paramshiva.  Shiva is of the nature of Prakasha or the pure Light of Consciousness, about which it is said in the Katha Upanishad:

"It shining, every thing happens to shines.  By its light alone does all this appear."
[quoted in Jaideva Singh, Pratyabhijnahrdayam, p.5 (Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1980)]

 It is only through the Light of Consciousness that things exist, there being, in Kashmir Shaivite philosophy, no existence apart from non-dual Consciousness (or Chit).  Shiva is also the principle of Universal I-ness (Aham)

Shakti is of the nature of Vimarsha or the self-reflection of that Prakasha.  Without Vimarsha there could be no existence and no creation, Prakasha would be eternally inert and unmanifest.  This self-contemplation is also Universal That-ness (Idam), or the Cosmos or Creation as a whole.  This is represented by the polarity at the top of the following diagram

stages of emanationThese two fundamental principles pass through a series of transformations, or tattwas ("essences", "principles", "evolutes").  The original tattwas are distinguished from the later phenomenal ones described by Samkhya, and are called Pure Tattwas (shuddha-tattwa).  They are stages of cosmic or universal consciousness, in which the Conscious Subject (or "I") is experienced as identical with Shiva (the Absolute) and the Object of Consciousness is Shakti in the form of the entire Cosmos, and so are of the nature of Supreme Consciousness

Finally, from the Shakti-pole of the lowest Pure Tattwa (Sadvidya-tattwa) there results maya (or Maya-shakti), the force of multiplicity and separation (shown as the single black circle in the diagram).  This veils the universal "I" Shiva-consciousness, thus bringing about a duality between Subject and Object, and a multiplicity of pure souls or centres of Consciousness (called purushas).  From Maya in turn there comes into being non-conscious psycho-physical nature (prakriti), with it's three gunas or qualities, clarity (sattva), restlessness (rajas),and inertai (tamas).  Maya and Purusha, being intermediate between the Supreme Consciousness and the lower or phenomenal reality, are referred to as the "Pure-Impure" Tattwas

The process of Unfolding or emanation continues in Prakriti, as described in the Samkhya cosmology, so that from the original root-nature or root-prakriti (Mulaprakriti) there emerge successive tattwas of intellect and mind, sense-powers, subtle matter, and finally the gross physical elements.  Physical matter therefore is the concretisation of subtle intellect, which in turn is the limitation of Cosmic Consciousness.  All the tattwas from prakriti down constitute the realm of phenomenal reality and Ignorance, and so are referred to as the "Impure" Tattwas.  The whole scheme is usually represented in the form of a diagram:

internal linkdiagram in text file (ascii format)
internal linkdiagram as gif (image file -21 kb)


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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 1 March 1999, last modified 4 June 2004