The five mahābhūtas 1.1 pṛithvī - earth
1.2 jala - water
1.3 tejas - fire
1.4 vāyu - air
1.5 ākāśa - ether
2 The five tanmātras - subtle mediums of the sensations 2.1 gandha - the transit
medium for the olfactive sensations
2.2 rasa - the transit medium for the taste sensations
2.3 rūpa - the transit medium for the visual sensations
2.4 sparśa - the transit medium for the touch sensations
2.5 śabda - the transit medium for the auditive sensations
The five karmendriyas - organs of action 3.1 pāyu - the excretion organ 3.1.1
Its role in the awakening of Kundalini
upastha - the sexual organs 3.2.1 Differentiation and complementarity related to
the sexual organs
3.2.2 Symbolism of the androgyne
3.2.3 Tantric practices related to the sexual organs
pāda - the locomotion organ 3.3.1 Subtle anatomy of the feet
3.3.2 Symbol of force
3.3.3 Symbol of devotion
3.3.4 Symbol of humility
3.3.5 Symbol of purity
3.3.6 Spiritual sacrifice
3.3.7 Symbol of domination
3.3.8 Symbol of transcendence
3.3.9 The foot in Hatha yoga
3.3.10 Feet positions in meditation
3.3.11 Walking meditation
3.3.12 Sacred dance
pāni - hand, the organ of apprehension 3.4.1 Subtle anatomy of the
3.4.2 Correspondence of the five fingers with the five elements
3.4.3 Functions and symbols of the hand
3.4.4 Role of the hand in Hatha yoga
vāk - the speech organ 3.5.1 Relationship with other tattvas
3.5.2 Mouth and assimilation of food
3.5.3 Articulation of speech
3.5.4 Speech as a creative power
3.5.5 Three creative voids
3.5.6 Levels of speech
3.5.7 Limiting power of words
3.5.8 Occult power of the word
3.5.9 Word as a medium for spiritual initiation
3.5.10 Words in meditation
The five jñānendriyas - sense organs 4.1 ghrāṇa - nose
4.2 rasanā - tongue
4.3 cakṣu - eye
4.4 tvak - skin
4.5 śrotra - ear
Antaḥkaraṇa - the inner instrument 5.1 manas - the lower mind
5.2 ahaṃkāra - the empirical ego
5.3 buddhi - the intellect
5.4 prakṛti tattva
Ṣat kañcukas 6.1 niyati - spatial limitation
6.2 kāla - limitation in time
6.3 rāga - incompleteness, the limitation of desire
6.4 vidyā - the limitation of knowledge
6.5 kalā - limitation in power
6.6 māyā - the origin of illusion and duality
Śuddha tattvas 7.1 śuddha vidyā
Differences from Sāṃkhya
The five mahābhūtas are the ingredients of the physical
world. They represent the final point of manifestation, where light (Prakāśa) is condensed into matter, yet, at the
same time, the mahābhūtas remain identical with Śiva.
tattva is produced by gandha tattva (medium for olfactory
sensations). It is also the abode of Kuṇḍalinī Śakti, the energy that resides
in potentiality at the base of the spinal column. Kuṇḍalinī
Śakti is identical to Para Śakti when it emerges and rises to
the top chakra.
According to ṣaḍādhvān the material world is created by
Prakāśa (spiritual light, uncreated light).
Kaśmir Śaivism describes the reflection of the top principle (Śiva
tattva) right into the lowest principle (Pṛithvī
tattva) - an idealist monistic world view where transcendence is
present right in the middle of physical. Thus, there is no dualism between spirit and matter.
tattva signifies concreteness, stability, patience, strength,
abundance, nurturing and protection. Pṛithvī is
symbolised by the Mother Earth - a universal symbol for fecundity,
inexhaustible creativity and sustenance. Pṛithvī's
specific shape is square, the specific color is yellow-brown. Its corresponding
force center is Muladhara Chakra.
jala - water
Jala tattva (also known as apas tattva) refers to the liquid
state. It is produced by Rasa tattva (the medium for taste sensations).
Jala can assume any form, or we can say it contains all the possible
forms. That is why it has been a symbol of the non-manifested, unlimited
potentialities and the transcendence. Its basic state is passive and it can
become the receptacle of various impressions and energies (for example, the Holy water is sanctified by the descent of the Holy Spirit).
Other symbols associated with Jala tattva are: the
power of purification, the subconscious mind, empathy, sexuality, abundance, power to dissolve,
regenerate, the medium where the human life appears (amniotic fluid), the birthplace of life on our
planet (primeval ocean) and the mythical chaos and formlessness that precedes creation.
Waters exist before and after any cycle
of creation. The linear flow of water as a river signifies the
flow of time. Water immersion signifies the ritual regression to the original
principle, reincorporation into the undifferentiated
tejas - fire
tejas tattva is produced by Rūpa tattva, the medium for visual
sensations and corresponds to the third chakra, Manipura Chakra. Some of the qualities of fire
are: solar, masculine, dynamic, restless and extroverted. Tejas is
associated with the digestive fire, passion, intuition and the uncreated light
of consciousness (Prakasa). Traditionally it has been associated with a number
of animals, both real and mythical: lion, fox, horse, salamander, phoenix and
dragon. The tattvic form of Tejas is the upwards pointing triangle and
the tattvic color is red.
The concept of agni (fire) is associated with the concept of soma (nectar) forming a complementary pair.
Soma is fuel to agni and it quenches its continuous thirst. From
their union a new creation is born, and vice versa, the pair agni -
soma appears everywhere there is a creative process. For example in a
loving couple, passion is agni and the loved one is soma. In the
human body, digestion is agni and food is soma. In the tantric
sexual alchemy, there is the pair tejas (agni) - ojas (soma). Even
on a larger scale, in a star, the atomic fire is agni and the hydrogen
fuel is soma. When one looks carefully we can find a soma for any
agni. In the human psyche, agni acts as desire and intentional
will, and soma is whatever is the object of that desire or will.
vāyu - air
Vāyu tattva is produced by Sparśa tattva (the medium for the
The symbolism of air contains among other: masculine, yang, mobile, dry,
subtle and elevated. It is a symbol for freedom, open spaces, intellect, mind,
the ability to fly, penetrate anywhere (like air does), intangible and elusive
(like the wind). Breath symbolises life, to breathe is to assimilate spiritual
power. In many languages breath is associated to the notion of soul:
- in Arabic and Hebrew the word "ruh" signifies both "breath" and
- in Sanskrit, "atman" means breath, soul or vital
- in Greek, "psyche" means both breath and life,
- in Latin, "anima" means both breath and soul
- in Romanian, the word "suflet" means soul, and comes
from the word "suflu" which means breath
Vāyu tattva is considered to be the vehicle of prana; prana is the vital energy (etheric
energy) that forms the etheric body (Pranamaya Kosa). Its tattvic
shape is the circle, the color is blue.
ākāśa - ether
Ākāśa tattva is produced by Śabda, the medium for auditive
sensations and is associated with the fifth chakra, Viśuddha. Ākāśa is fundamentally different
from the other four mahābhūtas as it is non manifested in the physical
world - it is the void, the space, support of the other four tattvas yet, unlike
them, untouchable and unseen.
Ākāśa tattva is also called the aether or "fifth
element". It is invisible, all pervading - a symbol of the
spirit. It appears empty yet it contains huge energies (the energy of the
Aether is associated to the sky, has no qualities
(hot or cold, wet or dry, no odor) and is unchangeable. Ākāśa is the
support of the cosmic memory (the ākāśic records). Its form is the ovoid. The ovoid
is the form of Brahmāṇḍa, the primordial world-egg,
origin of the creation.
The five tanmātras - subtle mediums of the
While mahābhūtas are the basis for the material world, sensations and
perceptions are but limited aspects and views of it, in no way able to fully
describe it. We cannot actually perceive the reality, all we can access are
limited "bands" of information that form a description
of reality. This restriction however applies only to the limited
beings (jiva, or aṇu). For
one who has gone beyond māyā, in the realm of the pure tattvas,
there can be direct perception of reality, because as one's self is Atman, so are the external objects. In such a
state an enlightened being can perceive the world beyond the five senses (direct
perception), in a state of diversity in unity and unity in diversity. Another
way to put it is that he then recognizes (Pratyabhijña) himself
(Atman) in any object.
These bands of information are the five tanmātras. Being closer to the
subject than the physical reality, tanmātras are more elevated than
mahābhūtas and are described as their source of creation.
gandha - the transit medium for the olfactive
- smell in itself
- creates pṛithvī
- taste in itself
- creates jala tattva
rūpa - the transit medium for the visual
- form (and color) in itself
- creates tejas tattva
- it contains forms and colors
sparśa - the transit medium for the touch
- touch in itself
- creates vāyu tattva
śabda - the transit medium for the auditive
- sound in itself
- creates ākāśa tattva
The five karmendriyas - organs of action
Karmendriyas represent both the physical organs and the corresponding
subtle (astral) organs of action, specific to activity in
the astral plane.
As their name says, karmendriyas are karman indriyas, that is
internal organs that create karma. They are connected directly to the
manas tattva and represent its solar, active function. The
jñānendriyas (sense organs) represent the lunar, passive function of
pāyu - the excretion organ
Pāyu tattva, the excretion organ, is the first karmendriya; it
is associated with Muladhara chakra, having as inferior octaves the pṛithvī
(earth) and gandha (smell) tattvas.
Its role in the awakening of Kundalini
Pāyu tattva is the medium of Kundalini and
the sexual energy (ojas) - a regenerative, almost inexhaustible
power that lies at the lower part of the trunk. Correct control of this lower
energy leads to a huge increase in spiritual power.
The harmonious activation of pāyu tattva is essential for obtaining
control of such an energy. This is why many techniques involving pāyu
tattva are methods of awakening of Kundalini:
When pāyu is in harmony, there is a feeling of immense force, and
better control. When it is disturbed, many conditions my occur such as:
stubbornness, greed, fear and anxiety.
upastha - the sexual organs
The term upastha means in Sanskrit sexual organs, 'the part which is under' or lap.
Upastha tattva means the power of procreation and sexual enjoyment, or
the generative organ.
Differentiation and complementarity related to the sexual
organs Upasta tattva is the most differentiated organ in the body, between
man and woman. Even the English word sex, coming from the Latin sexus, is
related to the original meaning of division. Perhaps the most defining
element of a human's body is its sex. We care to know a baby's sex before
anything else. Thus sex divides humanity in two and defines our most fundamental
The other fundamental characteristic of upasta tattva is its
complementarity. The male sexual organ (lingam) and the female sexual organ (yoni) are complete only in sexual union. In tantra, lingam has come to symbolise Śiva and yoni to symbolize Śakti, the two most elevated aspects of the Absolute. The sexual union depicted in the Yab-Yum
posture represents not only the creative act on the human level, but also on a
cosmic level. The union of Śiva and Śakti is eternal and supremely
blissful, generating in its pulsating rhythm the fundamental movement of
consciousness (spanda), which is the source of creation.
On a tangent note, the duality-complementarity principle also appears in
physics: the wave-particle duality and the space-time couple are just the most prominent.
Physicists talk about symmetry and symmetry breaking as fundamental in the structure
of the universe.
Symbolism of the androgyneHaving both the male and female sexual organs, the androgyne represents perfect equilibrium and completeness. Ardhanarishvara is represented as half male, half
female, Śiva and Śakti united into one being. Even if not on a
physical level, the androgyne is completed in the tantric sadhana
by awakening the spiritual force of the body (Kundalini) and uniting it with the principle of
consciousness. In this state there is perfect harmony of the yin
and yang and absorption into the Absolute.
Tantric practices related to the sexual organs
Besides maithuna and the tantric sexual union, there are
a series of exercises meant to develop and control the sexual energies. One such
exercise is yoni mudra.
pāda - the locomotion organMain article: Pada (Hindu mythology)
Pada Tattva represents both the physical organ of locomotion and the
subtle energetic structures associated with it. Between the seven force centers
it is associated with Manipura Chakra and in
the hierarchy of 36 tattvas it is a superior octave of tejas tattva.
Subtle anatomy of the feet Feet acting as grounding conduits: the continuous contact of feet with the
ground is a symbol of relying onto and being a part of the sphere of earth. In
Hinduism some rites are required to be officiated bare foot.
Touching the ground permits a better contact with the earth energies.
The sole of the foot is seen as a microcosm of the body. All the organs and
aspects are projected on the surface of the sole, forming a mystical map. By massaging
the sole of the foot, the healer intends to project his action on the whole body
or on the diseased organ. This practice is called padabhyanga in ayurveda
and in modern times appears as reflexology.
Symbol of force The symbolism of the foot derives from that of its main functions: standing
and walking. Standing upright is a poise of strength, self esteem and human
dignity. Walking represents an action of domination over space. The feet contain
the largest muscles and bones of the body, develop the most powerful physical
force and support the whole weight of the body. Thus, reuniting the symbols of
force, dignity, uprightness and domination, it is associated with the concept of
vira - the heroic being.
Symbol of devotion..The foot is seen in Hinduism as a symbol of devotion. The custom of
venerating guru's feet is a clear message of acceptance and
submission - by placing the foot of the master (lowest part of his body) on the
head of the disciple (highest part of the body), the disciple assumes a totally
receptive position, which is essential for the process of initiation. A variant
of this practice is venerating the feet of a deity, for example Shiva, Vishnu or Buddha (buddhapada):.
Symbol of humility
Kneeling (half-using the feet) symbolizes
submission and humility. In some monasteries, monks not only knee, but lay flat
down on the floor face
down during prayer (not using their feet at all) - signifying the total
submission of the individual will in front of the divine.
Symbol of purity...The expression lotus feet appears in many religious texts in a
devotional context. Ex: I worship the auspicious lotus feet of the Eternity
called Bhagamalini.. The lotus is a symbol of beauty and purity. The foot, being in contact with the
ground, is considered impure (but only in some contexts, because its symbolism
is very complex). Thus, the expression lotus feet is a negation of
impurity, a declaration of divinity.
Spiritual sacrifice In pada-yatra, the devotional pilgrimage on foot, the participants
seek purification through sacrifice. Sacrifice is considered to be a form of
tejas (fire), which is tattvically associated with the pada tattva
Symbol of domination The feet are also a symbol of domination. In the legend of Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu, the world is completely covered in three
steps (trivikrama) - one covered the earth (human world), the second
covered the sky (the world of the deities) and the third was placed on the head
of king Bali of asuras. The three strides represent domination
over the physical, celestial and human worlds.
In another symbolic representation, Nataraja Shiva is crushing with his foot the
demon Apasmara (a demon representing ignorance) - thus
affirming himself as the supreme force that dissolves illusion through his
In a related context, the feet can be a symbol of dependence. Kali, the goddess of time and transformation is
represented as standing on the inactive body of Shiva. This image symbolizes the active role of
its reliance on Shiva in as support and the fact that Shiva needs Shakti in order to manifest.
Symbol of transcendenceThe imprint of the feet on the ground is a symbol of transcendence. There are
such sacred places of pilgrimage associated with various divine figures (see Buddha footprint and Petrosomatoglyph).
The foot in Hatha yogaIn Hatha Yoga, the feet are considered conduits of the energies of earth. They present a
number of secondary chakras and nadi. In many asana they act as a grounding pathway.
- Padahastasana (foot to hand circuit) - forming a closed circuit
through the hands the and feet; feet also act as a conduit of the energies of
- Sirsasana (headstand - up-down circuit) - feet
are used as antennas for receiving the energies descending from the sky
- Talasana (tree pose - down-up circuit) - hands stretched upwards
connect to the energies of the sky while the feet connect to the energies of the
- Trikonasana (triangle pose) - feet form a
triangle with the earth, the triangle being the tattvic shape of tejas;
this posture activates tejas and Manipura Chakra which are associated with Pada Tattva as
In the traditional meditation postures feet act as physical support and are
instrumental in the activation of the vital energies:
In walking meditation (also called Kinhin in Zen) one uses his feet to impose a structured
rhythm to the mind. The aim here is to expand consciousness by stopping the
fluctuations of the mind by this simple physical device.
Sacred dance is another complex spiritual tradition where the feet play
a major role. Here too every gesture is infused with consciousness and
symbolism. As a form of art, it brings about the expansion of the consciousness
for both the artists and the audience. The dynamic pose of Nataraja is a symbol of universal movement which
is identical to the universal creative energy because everything in the world is
movement and energy.
pāni - hand, the organ of apprehension
Pāni tattva (the hand) is the most complex action organ. Acting as a
mirror of consciousness, it immediately reacts to, and expresses the will. It
has a complex symbolism and multiple functions. The hand can express emotions
and speech. One can see through touch and speak in hand language.
Pāni tattva is not equal to the physical hand itself but it is a
structure in consciousness associated with the hand. Tattvically, pāni
tattva is a superior octave of sparśa tattva (touch) and vāyu tattva
(air). From the seven force centers, it is related to Anahata chakra.
Subtle anatomy of the hand
A series of minor force centers (chakras) exist in the palm of the hand, elbow and
shoulder, united by a series of force channels (nadi).
Thus, the hand is a conduit of subtle energy. By performing a scared
hand gesture (or a magical action, mudra) one can tune in a specific resonance.
One's handprint is his symbol, signature, mark of possession and domination. Hindu Gods (deva) are often represented with multiple hands,
suggesting their multidimensionality. A strong arm is the mark of the hero (vira). The invisible hand of God is a symbol of
God's mysterious power.
Correspondence of the five fingers with the five
elements There are various ways fingers are associated to the five elements. For
example: thumb - fire, index - air, middle - Sky, ring - earth, little - water.
Almost all people develop a strong polarity between the hands, forming a
preference for either the right hand or the left hand. The dominating hand is
associated with yang and the other with yin. The hand and the body both have five
extremities thus the hand has been put in correspondence with the body.
Pāni tattva is sometimes called the organ of apprehension and is the
main external tool of the mind. Writing, in its role of external memory, is
associated with ākāśa. The hand is a symbol of action, strength,
domination and protection. It is used for imposing a specific resonance, energy
transfer, giving a blessing and spiritually investing another person. The "eye
in the hand" is associated with protection, luck and
Functions and symbols of the hand
More functions and symbols:
- the hand that talks - hand language
- the hand expresses emotions - fidgeting, etc.
- the hand as an instrument of memory - writing, drawing
- the hand as an instrument of healing (sometimes, the hand of the king) -
- the hand of providence (Hand of God) - symbol of the mysterious and
irresistible power of God, forces outside the human control
- the eloquent hand gesture - nonverbal communication, auxiliary
Symbolism of the hand gestures
Role of the hand in Hatha yoga
yoga are described a series of hand gestures (mudra). The role of the mudra is to impose a specific resonance. Some of the mudras are:
- abhaya mudra - the right hand slightly elevated, the palm turned
outwards - fearlessness, renunciation
- namaskara mudra - both palms folded together - prayer, purity,
- jnana mudra - the tip of the index finger touches the tip of the
thumb, forming a circle - concentration
- dhyana mudra - both hands resting on the lap, palms upwards.
Vak tattva is the organ of speech, including the mouth and the subtle
structures of consciousness associated with it. As all the other
karmendriyas, vak tattva is an instrument for the creation of
karma and also an instrument for the practice of karma yoga, a
discipline with the purpose of liberation from the bondage of karma.
Relationship with other tattvas
A number of other tattvas take part in the process of creation of sound: as
support for the propagation of sound and for its cyclical oscillating nature is
the time-space tattva, akasa. Because sound is a mechanical vibration, it
also needs a physical support which is provided by vayu tattva (air), and
thirdly, the articulation of sounds is related to the tongue (rasana
In the sequence of tattvas, vak tattva is the most elevated
karmendriya and its corresponding sense organ - śrota tattva (the
ear) is the first outward expansion of the mind (manas tattva). The force
centers primarily associated with speech are Vishuddha chakra - center placed in the region of
vak indriya and Muladhara chakra as the seat of
Mouth and assimilation of food
Vak indriya (mouth), the instrument of eating, is also the first part
of the body that comes in contact with the food and plays a role of
subtle assimilation of energies, directly from the food. The mouth is
described to be lined up with thousands of fine force channels (nadi)
that have the role of absorbing prana from food]. In
the practice of ayurvedic medicine, plants are taken and held under the tongue for a few minutes just for this
Articulation of speech
Depending on the position where the tongue articulates speech, there are a
number of classes of sounds: velar, palatal, cerebral, dental and labial. In Kashmir Shaivism each class of phonemes is correlated with specific mantric energies of the sound.. The
full sequence of phonematic energies is called mātṛkā and
contains 50 sounds, associated with the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. On a cosmic scale, the
creation of the universe is described in Kashmir Shaivism as an evolution of sound, a
descending process originating from the level of logos (pārāvak). Each
phoneme represents a stage in the process of evolution, a tattva, a world
in itself. Sounds are associated with energies and ultimately with aspects of
consciousness. The magical power of sounds and words is derived from this
association with energy (śakti) and consciousness (śiva). The study of these
energies is an essential part of Kashmir Shaivism.
Vāk (speech) is seen as the result of the dynamic union of two parts
that form the mouth (upper and lower), a complementary union of the opposites,
yin and yang. There is always such a fusion of yin and yang at the basis of any
Speech as a creative power
Vak tattva plays a major creative role in the human being as the
instrument of speech and as such, the origin of the interior world of thought.
Speech acts as a mirror of the exterior reality, duplicating everything that
exists outside into the mind. The word is the vehicle of the limited ego,
ahamkara. The word as such is an imperfect tool though, because while it can
reflect the exterior reality it always approximates. For example, when we say
I saw a man we don't say much - what kind of man, what impressions did he
give us, etc. The word is just an abstraction from reality. Thus language is at
the same time a tool and an obstacle in knowledge.
Three creative voids
Together with the mouth (the void that creates speech), two other
creative aspects of the human body are the vulva (yoni) and the Heart
Yoni creates both human life and of the energy of spiritual evolution
(that is, the energy of transmuted sexual fluids and ascending kuṇḍalinī).
The heart (hṛdaya,
aham), as defined in Kashmir Shaivism, is a matrix of energies
centered around the Self (ātman), substrate and center for all the
activities of consciousness. Yoni, heart and mouth represent three levels
of the void and three centers of creative power.
In relation to sexual activity, both mouth and yoni are somewhat
similar in form and role and sometimes their use is reversed (see the so called
69 sexual position). Kissing it begins a prelude to the sexual union and
serves as a symbol of it. The mouth is the source of the exterior speech, but on
the highest level, parāvak (supreme word) is also named Logos Spermatikos
in Greek - (spermatikos=seed, a sexual reference to
its role as a creative power). Thus
we can see the multiple parallels and connections between mouth and yoni
as both are expressions of the creative void, matrices of creation present in
the human body.
Levels of speech
Speech is considered in Kashmir Shaivism to exist on multiple levels, but
only the exterior (or spoken) speech is expressed through vāk tattva. The
full scale of speech is as follows:
As the self is expressed in three levels, ego, soul and spirit, so is speech
expressed in three different ways:
- at the level of the ego (ahaṃkāra),
speech is fully differentiated; it includes madhyamā vāk and vaikharī
vāk, thus the vehicle of speech is the word itself
- at the level of the soul (jivātman, or puruṣa in
Kashmir Shaivism) language is not ruptured from
its real signification any more; it can be described as paśiantī vāk, the
language of mantric syllables, symbols and non-sequential instant knowledge
- at the level of the spirit (atman), language is expressed as supreme word -
parāvak; in term of sound, it is represents silence; here
there is only one single reality and one single meaning and it is described in a
multitude of concepts, all approximative, as conscious light
(prakāsa-vimarṣa), compact mass of consciousness and beatitude
(cid-ananda-Ghana), supreme freedom (svātantrya), atemporal
vibration (spanda) and the spontaneous flash of conscious light that
projects objects into reality (abhāsa). Thus at this level there is
absolutely no difference between the word and its significance.
On this scale vāk tattva corresponds to the first level of speech,
that of the ego and vaikharī vāk.
] Limiting power of words
The power of words is that of creating a new world, a world of the mind.
Words act as symbols of external reality, yet their very act of indicating (or
reflecting the exterior reality) is imprecise. Being trapped into the prison of
words, ruptured from direct experience, the western philosophy is limited to an
edifice of mental speculation. While
philosophy relies solely on words it cannot be a true path to the absolute
Truth, because words are imprecise, limited tools. Thus
in many other oriental spiritual schools, accent falls on direct experience and realization through the
means of the various disciplines of yoga and meditation. In Shaivism, words play
as references, mere guide marks or pointers for the consciousness in its
endeavor of rediscovering its true nature.
Occult power of the word
The word has spiritual, magical, mystical and even demoniac powers, some of
which are described in the following concepts:
- the sacred syllable, both sound and spiritual energy, is a fundamental tool in
tantra and consequently, in Kashmir Shaivism (see the practice of japa and uccara)
and religious chanting - are essential instrument in
- casting a spell, incantation - speech is the principal magical instrument
- scriptures - sacred words considered to be
originated from God Himself, such as agamas
in Kashmir Shaivism; a notable difference between
the occidental scriptures and the Kashmir Shaivism agamas is that the
agamas are considered to be Shiva Himself, in the form of word, not just the
mere words of Shiva
- degraded speech - curses and profanities - associated with demoniac
siddhi - the power of efficient speech - whatever one says, comes true - such a
power is said to be the result of the practice of satya - truthfulness
- nyāsa - a magical ritual of imposing mantras with the hand on
specific parts of the human body, thus awakening the latent occult powers within
Word as a medium for spiritual initiation
In most spiritual schools, speech is the preferred medium of spiritual
initiation. Sometimes written word is used, but the most secret initiations are
traditionally transmitted "from mouth to ear". Oral teachings are usually
reinforced through repetition (ritual) to become a spiritual foundation.
Words in meditation
The practice of meditation aims to stop the mental chatter altogether (the
concept of "citta-vritti-nirodha" of Patanjali) or replace it with sacred speech
(laya yoga, japa, uccara). Regular speech must be put aside in order for
consciousness to reach that level which goes beyond the mental.
- mauna (self-imposed silence) - produces the accumulation of a large
energy in vak tattva
- bhavana (contemplation) - speech charged with spiritual energy (Sakti) through intense visualisation
- koan - a kind of paradoxical contemplation
expressed in words with the purpose of projecting the mind beyond words
- neti neti - a kind of contemplation where
negation is used instead of affirmation; the reasoning behind this technique is
that the absolute cannot be captured in any affirmative
affirmation as it lies beyond the sphere of speech, but it can be discovered
through meditation with the help of various negations ("Atman (the spirit) is
not this, Atman is not that") that act only as guide marks along the way,
pointing to the various mistaken assumptions that need to be surpassed
- devotional speech - known under various names in other spiritual traditions
as nembutsu, dhikr; in Kashmir Shaivism too there are a number of
remarkable devotional works
The five jñānendriyas - sense organs
ghrāṇa - nose
rasanā - tongue
cakṣu - eye
tvak - skin
śrotra - ear
the inner instrument Antaḥkaraṇa,
also called the internal organ, is part of the pure-impure tattvas.
Activity in these tattvas is subjective cum objective. Antaḥkaraṇa
contains five tattvas: manas, ahaṃkāra, buddhi, prakṛti
and puruṣa tattva.
manas - the lower mind
The manas name comes from the verbal root man - to think.
Manas is the instrument for the creation of vikalpa (dual
thoughts). Its state is described as always agitated. Manas is the hub
connecting the ten organs of action and senses to the upper tattvas
(intellect, ego and soul). It does not simply transit the sensations, but also
filters and assembles them into a coherent vision. Manas operates based on
learned behavior, instincts, habits and automatisms, like a complex computer
processing data (from the senses) and transmitting commands. Because of its
agitated nature, manas is termed "the undisciplined mind", fraught with
contradictions: doubt, faith, lack of faith, shame, desire, fear, steadfastness,
lack of steadfastness.
Manas interprets everything in terms of attraction and
repulsion. While the ego (ahaṃkāra
tattva) can understand and assume a moral code, the notions of good
and evil, manas is limited to the complementary pair of pleasure and
pain, acting only on the desires that arise. Its program is Repeat pleasure
and avoid pain.
Manas operates both in the subtle and the physical plane (brain). Manas is the center of logical reasoning
while buddhi is the center of intuition, discrimination and will.
Depending on the state of consciousness, manas can act either as a cause
of conditioning and bondage or as a path towards freedom. The latter is possible
for poets, artists and those who are illuminated (can operate within the pure
tattvas, beyond māyā).
ahaṃkāra - the
tattva is the first seat of subjectivity. Ahaṃ means
"I" and kāra means "to do", thus, ahaṃkāra -
the instrument of Ahaṃ (the Spirit),
the principle of individuation, acting as an independent conscious entity within
the impure reality - yet, it does not have consciousness of its own. ahaṃkāra
is a receptacle of Cit śakti, its consciousness is but a small
spark from Cit, the universal consciousness. Its operating mode is
assuming authorship of all the actions of buddhi, manas, the
senses and organs of action.
lives in the sphere of duality, in a state of identification with the physical
body, its needs and desires. In ahaṃkāra
predominates rajas guna (agitation). Because it identifies only with a
small part of the creation (the body) and rejects everything else as "not me",
it becomes subject to a series of afflictions such as: pride, egoism,
competitiveness, hate and jealousy.
On the other hand, with ahaṃkāra
tattva appears, for the first time, individual will, determination, a
sense of morality and ethics and it is thus the first step on the spiritual
path. Without a sufficiently harmonious and powerful ahaṃkāra
(personality) it is impossible to exert the level of effort required to accede
to a higher spiritual level.
The position of ahaṃkāra and buddhi are sometimes presented in reversed order because, as the
principle of "I-ness", ahaṃkāra
is allowed control over the manas (sensorial mind) and buddhi
(superior intellect, intuition). Yet, buddhi is a superior tattva,
is only allowed from a functional point of view a superior position to
buddhi. From an absolute point of view, ahaṃkāra
is created by buddhi and thus subordinated to it.
buddhi - the intellect
Buddhi tattva represents the intuitive understanding, the
superior mind, which can rise above ego and the sensorial. It does value
judgments, discriminates between possibilities, decides and determines, based on
the information presented from the lower tattvas. In buddhi
tattva there is a predominance of sattva guna (purity) and the
energy of jñāna śakti - the energy of knowledge.
The name buddhi contains the Sanskrit radical dhi, meaning
reflection, intuitive penetration and higher awareness. Other notable terms
containing dhi are samādhi (yogic ecstasy) and dhyana (meditation). One of the prescribed ways
of developing buddhi is the study of sacred texts. In Kashmiri Shaivism,
Bauddha Jñāna (the intuitive and conceptual understanding) is considered
the foundation of illumination because once profoundly understood, something is
always accessible, while the second type of knowledge, Paurusha Jñāna (to
know through direct experience) is limited only to the moments of
tattva is the fundamental operative energy of the soul (jivatman), or, in other words, it creates the
world of puruṣa. In
Kaśmir Śaivism prakṛti
has a different meaning than in Sāṃkhya; while here it means an energy of
the individual, in Sāṃkhya it refers to the fundamental
energy of the manifestation. Thus, as defined in Kaśmir
Śaivism, every puruṣa has
his individual prakṛti.
Prakṛti and Puruṣa are
closely interdependent. They are the reflection of śiva and śakti
tattva in the sphere of māyā. The difference is that - while
śiva and śakti tattva are infinite and nondual, puruṣa
and prakṛti are limited and subject to duality. Other than that, what
śiva-śakti do on a universal scale, puruṣa-prakṛti
do on a personal scale. They have the same energies of will, knowledge and
action and perform the five actions of creation, sustenance, dissolution,
occultation and grace.
In G. V. Tagare's The Pratyabhijñā Philosophy, these five actions and
their correlates are given as follows:
Role Śiva's level
Level of the limited being
experiencing within oneself (resorption)
(occultation, reduction of knowledge
to a subconscious
dissolution of residual impressions(saṃskāras),
tattva has three tendencies (guna), in perfect equilibrium: Sattva (purity), Rajas (agitation) and Tamas (inertia). They derive from the triad
Icchā, Jñāna and Kriyā as follows:
the source of all tattvas from buddhi down to pṛithvī
(earth) - the creator of both the individual and of the external reality.
tattva is defined as the living soul (jivatman), the limited
being (jiva), the one who is bound (paśu) , the
spiritual atom (aṇu). It
is not only the human being, but every sentient being.
Puruṣa appears as the result of the process of contraction or occultation Śiva
assumes willingly. This feat is achieved by the five limitations (kañcuka
tattvas) and the cosmic illusion (māyā tattva). Śiva
is also known as Pati, the master, while Puruṣa is
the Paśu (the bonded one). Between Pati and Paśu is
Pāśa - the limitation itself. Pāśa is the cumulative effect of
māyā and the five kañcukas, or, from another perspective, the effect of the
three impurities or poisons (malas): ānava mala, kārma mala
and māyīya mala.
- Ānava Mala - the belief that he is limited, finite and small in
comparison to the world
- Kārma Mala - the belief that he (the limited self) is the author of
the action, instead of recognizing Atman as the real agent
- Māyīya Mala - the belief in duality, separatedness 
acts as the subject in all the limited (dual) mental and sensorial states of
consciousness. In fact the real author of all the actions is Atman, the supreme Self, which resides at the
level of śiva and śakti tattva. Puruṣa is
the owner of prakṛti,
which creates the intellect, ego, sensorial mind, senses and organs of action.
needs prakṛti in
order to act as an individual in relation to the external reality, but he
doesn't need any intermediary to reconnect to his source, Atman.
Kañcukas means armour. Here it is used in the sense of limiting filter, a
restrictive force creating a "prison" for the consciousness inside the dual
Powers that maintain the individual soul resting in the middle like Trishanku, which otherwise
would fall into the condition of complete inertia like a rock, etc, or would
ascend into the sky of Consciousness like the Supreme Lord. Abhinavagupta 
The theory of the 5 sheaths existed long before. Shankara writes in his 'Atma Bodha' about
the five sheaths the Immaculate Atman appears to have borrowed.
Trishanku is a mythical character who wanted to
ascend to heaven in his physical body. While the sage Viswamitra was helping him ascend, the Gods were
in opposition, thus he became suspended half way through.
Abhinavagupta describes the kañcukas as
five forces that create a middle ground between the realm of the pure tattvas
and objectivity; the purpose of this middle ground is to reunite both the
spiritual and the material, the subjective and the objective - a playground of
spiritual evolution that is needed if such entities as jiva (the limited
being) are to exist.
Thus kañcukas have a triple role: they act as an entry barrier towards
the realm of the pure tattvas for the limited beings (jiva), they also
act as a gateway for the illuminated, who can pass without impediment between
the pure and impure realities, and finally, they create a middle ground of
subjective-cum-objective activity, where spiritual evolution can take place.
The five kañcukas present both a limited aspect and a universal aspect. They
are like intervals, with one end in the infinite and the other end in the
finite. They are:
omnipotence - sarvakartṛtva
limited power - kalā
omniscience - sarvajñatva
limited knowledge - vidyā
fullness, perfection - pūrṇatva
limitation of desire - rāga
eternity - nityatva
limitation of time or life - kāla
omnipresence - vyāpakatva
limitation of space - niyati
The combined effect of the five limitations (kañcukas), is described
as follows, by Abhinavagupta, in just one phrase:
Thus, the subject, being limited or intertwined with kāla,
vidyā, kalā, rāga and niyati and being deprived of
divine glory by māyā, shines as limited, feeling 'that which knows
something now, does this and is attached to this, am I' - Īśvarapratyabhijñā
Vimarśinī of Abhinavagupta.
niyati - spatial limitation
Niyati tattva reduces the state of omnipresence to the level of
finitude. The subject can be only in one place, his body is limited and outside
his body is the domain of "not myself". This is the fundamental duality of the
existence in the impure domain (meaning tattvas from puruṣa to
Based on the duality between the limited subject and the world, a series of
physical limitations arise, like: hunger, fatigue, sickness and the need to
protect oneself. By constant identification with these limitations the ego
(ahaṃkāra) is formed. Ahaṃkāra
exerts itself tirelessly in its pursuit of happiness, yet it understands
happiness in a very limited and dual fashion, which can never be a stable
kāla - limitation in time
Kāla tattva reduces the experience of eternity to that of time and
limited life span. Under kāla tattva time takes three aspects: past,
present and future. But while the past is just a memory and the future is a
probability, only the present is actually experienced.
Time limitation has to do with death, rebirth and becoming subject to the
cosmic cycles of life. Time is relative to the observer. Objective time is
sometimes faster, other times slower than the subjective (interior) time. As the
consciousness expands, time flow is perceived as being slower. When a state of
enlightenment (the revelation of the Self, Atman) is achieved, kāla kañcukas
(limitation) becomes transparent and eternity shines as the present moment.
rāga - incompleteness, the limitation of desire
Rāga tattva is the limitation of the "perfect fullness of the
Absolute". While in the realm of the pure tattvas (from śiva
tattva to śuddha vidyā tattva) every possibility is simultaneously
fulfilled, under the effects of this limitation, there is experience of
incompleteness, and so, desire for various objects appears.
The source of perfect bliss is a Ānanda. Ānanda is the
reflection of absolute consciousness (Cit) on itself. In an analogy, the
white light of Cit is said to become the rainbow of Ānanda,
expressing every possible color at the same time. Yet, in the dual world, the
infinite nuances of Ānanda cannot be experienced at once, and appear as
various distinct forms of emotion or rasa (aesthetic flavours). This is the work of
the rāga kañcuka.
vidyā - the limitation of knowledge
Vidyā tattva is the constriction of infinite knowledge to limited and
imperfect knowledge. In the realm of pure tattvas, Śiva has direct
access to any information about anything as the whole creation rests inside Him,
like one's thoughts rest inside one's mind. Yet, to know everything at once is
to know that which is inside everything and beyond. Acting as its source and the
witness, Cit is said to be the basis for the whole creation, the ultimate
Truth, which is the only truth one needs to know. Everything else is derived
The limited being, unable to recollect his essence of Cit (infinite
consciousness), operates in the realm of dual knowledge. His objects of
knowledge are distinct/differentiated. This type of knowledge may become more
and more subtle with study and practice, yet it is never able to describe
Cit. The only way to rise to the level of non dual knowledge is through
the act of Grace of Śiva. This point is specific to Kaśmir Śaivism.
One can prepare for the descent of grace by studying the sacred texts and
purifying his body (physical and subtle). Even so, the Grace of Śiva will
come only at Śiva's absolutely free will.
kalā - limitation in power
Kalā tattva - the limitation in power, is what makes one forget his
original status of omnipotent being and assume the belief in the limitation of
his power. This wrong belief acts as a chain limiting his spiritual progress. In
this state, he identifies with his limited actions and bears the fruits of the
karma they generate.
In order to recollect his true nature, of infinite consciousness and bliss -
cit-ānanda, he needs a level of power unavailable to limited beings. Only
by understanding this and accepting that it is Śiva that is acting, not
his ego, will he become open to the Grace of Śiva, which is identical to
a huge impulse of power that shatters duality and transports him directly into
the realm of the pure tattvas.
By opening his heart to Śiva, thinking of himself as a channel of
Śiva's energy, he creates a special status of "spiritual son". A
spiritual son's actions are endowed with efficiency by virtue of a direct link
between his heart and the infinite heart of Śiva.
māyā - the origin of illusion and duality
Māyā tattva is a very important stage in the process of manifestation.
Mā means "to measure"; measurable means finite. From the infinite being
that is Śiva, it creates the finite: the illusion of multiplicity,
differentiation in multiple objects and limitation of objects. This process of
manifestation is based on a series of multi-levelled reflections
(pratibimba), creating a series of octaves or intervals. From pure
consciousness and bliss Śiva-Śakti becomes vital and mental energy, and
then matter. Thus the process of creation is a process of descent and
Māyā is the tool by which this descent starts. On the other hand,
māyā is the portal towards the rediscovery of Śiva - when it is
seen in the context of the spiritual evolution.
In Kaśmir Śaivism māyā is not separated from
Cit (supreme consciousness). This is a major difference between Kaśmir
Śaivism and Advaita Vedānta. Thus, māyā is created by
Ānanda Śakti, the operative energy of Śiva. In turn, māyā
is the instrument of creation for the dual world.
Even though Śiva assumes limitations in his role as a limited being
jiva, Śiva never becomes a subject to any external limitations.
Svātantrya, the absolute free will Śiva, is the sole cause for the
apparition of duality One
cannot possibly understand at the level of dual existence, the motive why
Śiva creates duality and the world with all its individual beings. It
remains a profound mystery
God, Consciousness in essence, like a magician, makes the whole ensemble of
things which reside in Him appear outside Himself without any external cause,
solely by the power of His will. Utpaladeva
The effect of māyā is the sensation of division into interior and
exterior, subject and object. In Kaśmir
Śaivism it is considered that exterior objects and limited beings
(jiva) are never separated from one's consciousness, or Śiva's
This group of five tattvas describe the Divine Consciousness. They
appear by the projection of the five principal energies of the
- Cit śakti - divine consciousness - creates śiva tattva
- Ānanda śakti - supreme bliss - creates śakti tattva
- Icchā śakti - divine will - creates sadāśiva tattva
- Jñāna śakti - divine power of knowledge - creates īśvara
- Kriyā śakti - power to manifest - creates śuddha vidyā tattva
These five tattvas are called "pure" because they are the domain of
pure subjectivity, non duality, where Śiva is clearly manifested and
there is no impediment or limitation.
Even though there are five aspects of Śiva, they are always one,
beyond any duality. Śiva remains always one, there are no five separate
Śuddha vidyā means pure knowledge. From here on, the limitations of
māyā are inexistent and the pure non-dual knowledge shines.
When puruṣa, through the grace of Śiva reveals his essence of Atman, he gets
first into the realm of śuddha vidyā tattva. But the realisation of
identity with Śiva is not perfectly stable yet and his access to this
state comes and goes. Here, the subjects thinks: "I am Śiva, the universe is
I-ness and This-ness are equally balanced and the experience of
the universe gets more distinct . It
is a state of unity in diversity.
Śuddha vidyā acts as the instrumental function of sadāśiva
tattva and īśvara tattva.
The affirmation at the level of īśvara tattva is: "This universe is my
expansion, not an illusion". It is associated to jñānana śakti, the
divine power of knowledge.
Beings residing on this level are called mantreśvara (lords of the
mantra). Here the world is explicitly detailed yet the creation hasn't yet
begun. Thus, it is a state of divine existence where Śiva first projects
the world in his mind, before creating it in reality.
The īśvara and sadāśiva tattvas are associated to the flux and
reflux of the divine consciousness, Cit (Īśvara is unmeṣa -
the expansion of the universe).
The affirmation at this level is "I am this Universe". The accent here falls
on "I". The focus is on the subject. Here Śiva manifests as sovereign
will - ichhā śakti. Beings residing on this level are called
mantra-maheśvara (great lords of the mantras). On sadāśiva tattva
objectivity exists only in a very incipient form. Here the universe is said to
be vague (asphuṭa)
and dominated by the experience of "I-ness" (Kṣemaraja)
The term Śakti comes from the root shak - to be capable of.
Śakti is the operative (or kinetic) aspect of consciousness, its power to
act and the cause of all motion in the universe .
Because Śakti brings everything into existence She is the feminine aspect of the
universe in the cosmic couple Śiva-Śakti.
Śiva and Śakti tattva are inseparable and interdependent;
Śiva is the interior aspect of consciousness and Śakti is the
they are united like fire and its capacity to burn. Any difference
between them is just a matter of semantics. In another metaphor, Śiva is an
infinite ocean and Śakti a wave on its surface. In a third metaphor, Śiva
is a perfect mirror and Śakti is the image inside the mirror. All these
analogies try to express the unity of Śiva and Śakti. Like the image cannot be
separate from the mirror in which it exists, so Śiva and Śakti are but one
On the level of Śakti tattva the experience of I-ness is pure
and universal and there is no trace of the experience of This-ness. The
top two tattvas (Śiva and Śakti) are said to be non
manifested because they don't participate to the cycle of creation. They act
only as a backdrop or canvas for the creation.
In the triad sat-cit-ananda, Śakti tattva is associated
to ānanda - infinite bliss. Where Śakti is predominant, there is
experience of bliss. In the pair Prakasa-Vimarsa, Śakti tattva is
Vimarsa - the reflexive aspect of Śiva - that is - Śiva
perceiving Himself (reflecting on his own nature). On account of it being
dynamic and ever vibrating, Śakti is also known as spanda. Spanda
is the fundamental vibration of consciousness that permeates the whole
The will to create the universe appears first in Śakti tattva.
Even though māyā is the actual instrument of creation, it relies in turn
on Śakti for its power.
Śiva tattva is the transcendental consciousness, the canvas on which
the whole creation is projected. Śiva tattva appears as Cit, the
passive aspect of pure consciousness, non manifested, inactive in report with
creation, the static center and substratum of all change .
Another way to describe Śiva tattva is Prakasa - the uncreated
light. It is the power of consciousness to shine without any external support.
Prakasa is existence, as nothing that exists is different from it and
there is nothing outside it. In Kaśmir
Śaivism, from the Vedic expression Sat-cit-ananda, Sat (pure existence) is
omitted on account that Cit (pure consciousness) contains it implicitly;
thus the expression becomes just Cit-Ānanda.Śiva tattva is the supreme subject. His nature is that of pure
I-ness without any This-ness. His existence cannot be detected by
an act of perception. Only on account of his effects can we postulate his
Śiva and Śakti tattvas are the plane where the supreme
Self, Atman, exists. Beyond Śiva tattva there is
only the Transcendence (Parama Śiva).
Differences from Sāṃkhya
The unique point of view of Kashmir Shaivism is expressed in the exposition
of supplementary 11 tattvas compared to Veda or Sāṃkhya.
They are māyā, niyati, kāla, rāga, vidyā,
kalā, śuddha vidyā, īśvara, sadāśiva, 'śakti
and śiva tattva. The rest of 25 tattva, which are common to
Sāṃkhya, have in Kashmir Shaivism a
slightly lesser position, as the categories of matter specific to the impure
creation (dual creation).
Footnote.....by Trishula Das""I disagree with the above statement because it is not true... In Baul tantra they also use the above Tattva's.... and as I suspect many of the other many thousand or more tradtions in India also use the 11 tattva's and more......"" after all this is Wikipedia... Jai Maa...