Paramārthasāra of Acharya Abhinavagupta “The Essence of the Teachings on the Highest Truth”
The first 50 verses – Abhinavagupta
I take refuge in you alone, Sambhu, who are beyond maya, transcendent, without beginning, one, existent in all beings in myriad forms, refuge of all, and immanent in all animate and inanimate creation. ||1
Overwhelmed by the chain of misery that begins with his birth in the womb and terminates with his physical death, a disciple asked Lord Adhara about supreme wisdom. The teacher [Adhara] instructed him on the essence of the supreme wisdom by means of the Adhara Karikas, which Abhinavagupta recasts, modifying them from the point of view of the Saiva tradition.|| 2,3
The supreme Lord creates this universe consisting of four eggs (anda): the Sakti egg, the maya egg, the prakrti egg, and the prithvi egg, out of the glory of his own divine Sakti. ||4
Commentary:The supreme Lord creates this universe consisting of four eggs (anda): the Sakti egg, the maya egg, the prakrti egg, and the prithvi egg, out of the glory of his own divine Sakti. An anda is a sphere that contains in it a series of phenomenal elements and serves as a sheath that covers and hides the divine nature of the Absolute. (i) Sakti, the divine power of God projecting itself externally and covering the Absolute with the pure creation. Manifesting diversity within unity, it hides the basic absoluteness and the perfect unity of the Absolute God and contains in it the four pure tattvas from Sakti to pure Vidya.
(ii) The sphere of Maya pushes into oblivion the natural purity and divine potency of the Absolute, covers it with five sheaths or limiting elements called kancukas and presents the Absolute as a finite being called Purusa. It contains in it seven tattvas from Maya to Purusa.
(iii) The sphere of Prakriti covers Purusa with all psychic elements, senses, organs, subtle objective elements called tanmatras, three gunas and four gross elements upto water. It contains twenty-three tattvas from Prakriti to water.
(iv) Prithvi as an anda or sphere covers the Absolute with the solid gross existence. It contains prithvi-tattva alone and consists of the whole solid existence in the universe.
(v) Siva-tattva lies beyond all these four andas.
The above mentioned four spheres contain thirty-five tattvas and cover the pure and divinely potent absolute consciousness with fine, subtle, gross and solid creation. The Absolute God creates them playfully in the process of the manifestation of His Godhead. He creates them out of His own self in the manner of reflections and covers His real self with them. Such creation is something like a kind of transmutation which is different from transformation. Neither God nor His divine power under goes any change or transformation while appealing in the form of all these created tattvas which shine in His psychic light as the reflections of His own divine powers.
This world, with infinite kinds of bhuvanas (regions in creation), with its infinite variety of physical bodies and sense organs, exists within [the four eggs]. Having assumed the form of a fettered being (pashu), Siva alone is the embodied enjoyer of all this [the created world] in them [the eggs]. ||5
As a pure crystal assumes hues of different kinds, in the same way the supreme Lord also assumes the forms of gods, men, animals, and trees. ||6
Just as the reflection of the moon appears to be moving in flowing water and to be unmoving in still water, in the same way the Self, who is the same as the supreme Lord, appears to exist as embodied beings [equipped] with sense organs in different bhuvanas (regions in creation). ||7
Just as the invisible Rahu (the shadow of the earth), when appearing on the disc of the moon [at the time of a lunar eclipse] becomes visible, in the same way, the Self though present everywhere becomes perceptible in the mirror of the intellect (buddhi) by [the perception of] sense objects. ||8
As a face shines forth in a spotlessly clean mirror, in the same way the supreme Lord who is of the nature of illumination shines forth in the buddhi (intellect) tattva that has been purified following the descent of divine grace by the Lord. (śaktipāta). || 9
The universe, composed of the thirty-six tattvas, manifests itself in the highest tattva [Paramasiva], which is of the nature of illumination, full-in-itself, endowed with infinite [modes] of shakti, [including the powers of] will, knowledge, and action , which is free from thought constructs, pure, ever at rest, and which is devoid of origination and dissolution. ||10-11
Just as variety in the form of a city, village, etc., when seen in a mirror is not separate [from the mirror], yet it [the variety of objects] appears differentiated [in the mirror] as a city, village, etc., and also as different from the mirror. Similarly the universe, though not existing as different from the pure self-experience of the highest Bhairava, appears as the world, differentiated and different from [Bhairava], the supreme tattva. ||12-13
Dividing the five Saktis [one on each level of the five tattvas,] Paramasiva manifests [himself] as the five tattvas, namely, Siva, Sakti, Sadasiva, Iswara, and Vidya. ||14
The supreme Lord’s great freedom, which is capable of accomplishing the most difficult task, is called the Goddess Maya-sakti. It serves Paramasiva as a veil to hide Himself. ||15
Enveloped by maya Sakti, the bodha (Siva’s self-aware, pure consciousness) becomes defiled and accepts the condition of purusa, a fettered being, upon being fully bound by kalа (limitation with respect to time), kala (the limited capacity to do just a little), niyati (limitation with respect to causation), raga (the limited interest in a particular something), and avidya (limited capacity to know just a little) kancukas. ||16
[The limiting concepts expressed by thoughts like:] “Now,” “something,” “this,” “completely,” ” I know” (“I know only now and know just a little and just this much of it quite completely”) together with maya are said to be the six internal sheaths (kancukas). ||17
The husk existing on a grain of rice, though existing separately, appears inseparable from the grain. But [the fettered being, who similarly seems attached to his fetters] attains purity by turning towards Siva through Yoga and treading on his path. ||18
Prakriti is of the nature of happiness, sorrow, and delusion and [from it emerge] the internal sense organs, the intellect (buddhi) [the understanding sense that forms definite conceptions], the mind (manas), [the organ of such thinking as gives rise to indefinite ideations (about phenomena)] and the ego (ahamkara), [the egoist sense that connects such psychic activates with the finite subject.] which are the instruments for determinate cognition (niscaya), volition (sankalpa), and false conception of one’s Self (abhimana), respectively. ||19
The sense organs, having sound and so on as their object of knowledge, are hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell. The organs of action are the organs of speech, grasping, locomotion, excretion, and procreation. ||20
The subtle objects [experienced by the sense organs] are devoid of differentiation. These are the five subtle elements (tanmatras): sound (sabda), touch(sparsa), form(rupa), taste(rasa) and smell(gandha). ||21
From the intermixing of these [subtle elements] are born the gross objects, the five gross elements, namely, ether, air, fire, water, and earth. ||22
Creation, extending from prakrti down to prithvi (earth), covers pure consciousness by providing a physical body in the same way a husk covers a grain of rice. ||23
Among the sheaths, the innermost [subtlest one] is the Anava-mala. The six kinds of sheaths (kancukas) made from maya, etc., form the subtle sheath. The outermost and gross covering is the physical body. The Self (Atman) is covered by these three kinds of sheaths. ||24
On being subjected to the darkness of ignorance, he [the Self], though one by his very nature, knows himself as many in the form of the infinite variety of limited subjects and objects. ||25
Just as [sugar cane] juice, jaggery, sugar, and gur, etc. are only [different forms or states of the same thing] sugar cane juice, so all beings abide in the supreme Lord Sambhu in different states or forms. ||26
[Notions like] “stream of pure awareness ,” “the witness,” “the vital breath ,” “the all-pervasive body,” “the Universal,” and “the individual” are only conventionally true on the empirical plane. They have no actual existence. ||27
A snake does not exist in a rope, yet it can frighten someone to death. The power of delusion is so great that it is not possible to know its true nature. ||28
Similarly, merit and demerit, heaven and hell, birth and death, joy and sorrow, varna (caste), and asrama (stages of life), etc., though non-existent in the pure Self, arise by the strength of delusion. ||29
This darkness [of delusion], which is manifested through [apparently] existing objects, makes one experience the non-self in things which in fact are identical with the Self. ||30
The experience of the Self in the not-self, such as the physical body or the vital air, is like darkness superimposed on darkness. It can be likened to a boil formed on the burned [part of the body]. ||31
Just as a spider [ensnares himself] in his web, so he [the embodied man in the world] binds himself by experiencing worldly objects like the physical body, the vital breath, intellectual knowledge, and the expanse of sky. ||32
Lord ParamaSiva liberates himself from bondage by loosening its grip through the glory of knowledge of the Self. Thus bondage and liberation are his divine play. ||33
Creation, maintenance, and dissolution [and the states of] waking , dreaming, and dreamless sleep , appear in him [the supreme Lord] in the fourth state, but even in that state he reveals himself as not covered [i.e., not affected] by them. ||34
The waking state corresponds to the universe (visva) because of differentiation. The dreaming state corresponds to illumintation ( tejas) on account of the dominance of light. The state of dreamless slumber corresponds to understanding (prajna), a s this state is characterised by massive knowledge, and the fourth (turiya) state is beyond all these. ||35
Just as the vast expanse of sky is not defiled by clouds nor smoke nor dust, so the supreme Being is not affected by the changes of maya.||36
When the ether in one jar is filled with dust, the ether in other jars is not then defiled. This is also true for those souls that undergo differentiation with respect to joy and sorrow. || 37
The supreme Lord seems still when the various elements are still; glad when they are glad; gloomy when they are gloomy; but truly he is not so. ||38
The great God, having first eradicated the delusion of taking the non-self and insentient substances as self, shatters afterwards the other delusive conception of taking the (all inclusive) self as non-self. || 39
When in this way the two illusions are successfully rooted out completely, the exalted adepts have fulfilled their aim, and there cannot be any duty left for them to accomplish. || 40
Thus by the power of meditation on unity, the trinity of prthivi (earth), prakrti and maya that had revealed itself in objective form, becomes reduced to simple being. ||41
Just as a belt, a ring, or a bracelet, irrespective of their differentiation, appear simply as gold, so the universe, irrespective of its differentiation, appears as simple being. ||42
This is the Brahman (supreme being), supreme, pure, still, undifferentiated, equable, complete, deathless, real, that rests in the Sakti who has consciousness as its form. || 43
On the other hand , anything un touched by illumination (bha) expressed as the powers of will, knowledge, and action is like a flower-in-the sky it does not exist. [Illumination consists of the powers of will, knowledge, and action held in perfect equilibrium]. ||44
Initially the Lord of the lords creates the whole phenomenon within His own divine, potent and eternally existent aspect named Siva, by handling the trident of His divine powers. || 45
Commentary:The conative, cognitive and creative powers of God are His three primary powers known as iccha-sakti, jnana-sakti and kriya-sakti. The symbolic trident of Siva is suggestive of these three divine powers which constitute His essential nature. Siva, coming face to. face to such powers through His awareness, that is, becoming fully aware of His natural divine powers, becomes prone or inclined towards creation. Such a situation is described as holding in His hand the trident of three divine powers. His conative power is His iccha-sakti, which is depicted in Upanisadic passages like “Tadaiksata, bahu syam, prajayeya iti”. The basic reality visualizes, “Let me become many, let me be born (in many forms)” and so on. Before creating the phenomenon externally as an objective existence, God creates it within His own self known as Siva. His will to create a particular type of phenomenon presupposes its existence inside His awareness, because nothing particular could have otherwise become the object of His conation, or creation. The phenomenon appears initially in Him and that is due to His cognitive power. It shines clearly in Him as the object to be created and is thus created there actually through His creative power. Its outward creation is due to the phenomenal growth of His kriya-sakti. A worldly creator also follows such process. He creates only that thing outwardly which is initially created by him in his own self. A painter creates initially a wonderful form in his own will and then he illuminates it thoroughly while forming a clear idea about it in his mind and afterwards he starts to paint it actually on a board. So does the Lord create the phenomenon in His own subjective self before manifesting it outwardly and objectively. That is the interior creation which the couplet in hand is meant to express.
And again, he [Paramasiva] accomplishes the task of the external creation of the three eggs with their infinite variety in order to find him self in the external world [as innumerable subjects and objects] through the process of expansion of his five Saktis. || 46
The five divine powers of the Lord are: cit or pure consciousness, ananda or blissfulness, iccha or conative power, jnana or cognitive power and kriya or creative porwer. These powers shine in Him as His own self. Their outward manifestation reflects them as the creation of the objective existence consisting of three spheres of Maya, the causal creation, Pracriti, the subtle creation and Prthvi, the gross creation. The whole of such creation is complexly wonderful. It is the outward or objective manifestation of the essential nature of God. Here He finds out His own self in an objective aspect and that is His ‘bahiratma-labha’
[yogin contemplates]: “Putting thus playfully the machine of the circle of divine powers in motion, I am myself the Lord, with purity as my nature, working at the highest post as the master hero of the infinite wheel of Saktis or divine powers!” || 47
Commentary: Concluding the discussions noted above, an aspirant realizes that he is not a finite being but the great Lord who is the only hero having the multitudes of divine powers as His heroins. He feels actually that he is himself activating playfully the whole circle of such powers, the primary one among which are five: (1) cit, (2) ananda. (3) iccha, (4) jnana, and (5) kriya. Their amalgamated unity appears in twelve forms in the process of all psychic activities of all beings and are known as Sakti-cakra or the group of twelve Kalis. Such Kalis absorb in them the psychic activities of all subjects, the functions of their psychic apparatus and the objective elements that become foci of such activities. A successful practitioner of Saivism realizes and visualizes such fact through his personal experience.
“It is in Me that the universe reveals itself as [inanimate objects like] jars as in a mirror! From Me the universe emanates just as the manifold variety of the dream world emanates from the dreaming person!” ||48
“Just as it is the very nature of a body to be its limbs like hand, feet etc. so is the whole phenomenon my own form! Just as it is light which shines in the form of all existent substances, so do I myself glitter as all existence!” || 49
“Though in fact I do not have any body or senses or organs, and do not commit any deeds, yet I see, hear, smell and I alone compose wonderfully different sastras like Siddhantas, Agamas and logical treatises. || 50
with notes of Balajinath Pandit
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