A Question Of Why?
Understanding of this Divine Dance of Shiva/Shakti requires that we intensify our quest and pose some important questions. “Why creation?”, “How does Shiva objectify His creation?”, and “What are the basic phases of this process of unfoldment?”
These questions are unable to be answered in an absolute sense, other than to say that creation is the eternal play of Shiva/Shakti. However, we can draw upon the insights of sages to develop a framework that will articulate a deeper understanding. In the Rig Veda it is said that in the beginning was the One (kaivalyam), unmanifest and unqualified. “That One lived without breath by His self-law, there was nothing else nor aught beyond it. In the beginning, Darkness was hidden by darkness; all this was an ocean of inconscience. When the universal being was concealed by fragmentation, then by the greatness of its energy, That One was born. That moved at first as desire within, which was the primal seed of Mind.”. It desired to be many (ekoham bahusyami), meaning “That which I only am, shall manifest as many.” This desire to be emanated forth as the Shakti to express as the many and, in so doing, enable Shiva to witness the multitude. “When the Supreme Shakti of Her own will takes the form of the universe and looks at Her own throb, then the Chakra (Sri Chakra) comes into being” (Yogini Hrdaya). Creation is the leela, or play, of God! The entire objectified reality vibrates in infinite possibilities, extended between the illusion of the two opposite yet complementary principles - Shiva/Shakti. All creation is the result of this leela between them. Pure consciousness (Shiva) is the changeless background. The changing creation is His own cosmic drama - by Himself as Shakti, to Himself as Shakti.
Shiva, who is Parameshwara (The Transcendent Lord), who is Satchitananda, issued Shakti. Shakti is not coexistent with Parameshwara but is that Power of Him that is necessary for creation. Shiva and His Shakti are more than the creation which He/She manifests! Shakti, who is the first desire (Kama) of Shiva, is Herself the Divine Mother of the cosmos. When the diverse cosmos emerged from Shiva’s Shakti, the original desire that is the Primordial Will to be pervaded all manifestation. Microcosmically and macrocosmically, as above so below, all is Shiva/Shakti.
We can therefore say that the cosmos is the eternal undiluted Supreme Self expressed expansively from the central core that is Shiva/Shakti, thus enabling the Supreme Self to know, see, and live the Supreme Consciousness through its own self willed limitation. By so doing the Divine Mother brings forth the stream of Truth embedded consciousness, later expressed as divine law, which is capable of recognizing Her as its primordial source. The cosmos, through this knowing of its source, unites with its Mother in the process of fulfilling the Great Work - Dharma. The penultimate purpose of the cosmos is mergence of the created drop with the ocean that is its Mother. This union is freely achieved within the constraints of Divine Law, brought forth by self limitation of the limitless light that Shiva/Shakti is. The pulsing throb that propels this eternal drive, this thrust for union, is AdiShakti, the Divine Mother as nature. She assumes this mantle without individuality, for She is the equal only of Herself as the silent witness within Her core, and She labours incessantly, through all of Her finite rays of light that define the cosmos, in conscious activity so that they, Her children, may become aware of themselves and merge in the ocean of self realized bliss.
All that is within all universes pre-exists within the Mother, for nothing can manifest that is not previously existent within Her womb. All evolution being directed towards perfection is the direct result of an innate knowing, a blueprint of limitless possibilities, brought forth by that which is resident within the created Shiva. This Principle precedes the expression, for without the Principle there can be no expression of its Will. Something does not emanate out of nothing.
The World Seed
Creation can further be understood by referring back to Shiva, silent yet pregnant with the seed of His own pre-objectified consciousness. Shiva, as Pure Consciousness has no mass. Inherent in His no-mass state, Shakti - Divine Substance - quickens Her vibratory rate under Shiva’s influence. It is this quickening that brings forth the primal throb, resulting in a massive base of potential creativity. Only when there is awakened desire within is movement precipitated. Such movement is deliberation, contemplation – Shakti. Shiva ponders over Himself. Shakti provides the mirror, of reflection, for this primordial pulse of self appraisal. This desire is willed from within Shiva, and since mind has not yet come into being, this is the essence of that which shall give birth to the mind (mayand). It is the first pulse, the first agitation, the first movement, and as such it must by definition assume direction for expression. Such direction imposes limitation on the limitless.
“Kama” is the term used to denote desire. “Kala” denotes a limitation of the whole. Hence “Kamakala” implies primordial desire latent within Shiva/Shakti. Shiva, being pure and white, may therefore be known as “Kameshwara,” being the entity holding the primordial desire. Shakti, who is in the form of “vimarsa rupini,” is conceived as red, and as the first expression of desire Kamakala becomes “Kameshwari,” the impulse of Shiva’s desire. It is out of the Divine Mother that the original desire, manifesting as subtle divine vibration (Iccha), issued forth and, of its own nature, further issues forth to become sound (Nada). From that eternal state of Divine desire and embryonic sound, Para-Bindu - which is the sprouting root of the entire cosmos - took form.
Nada initially concentrates itself into a point which the sages call Para-Bindu, the seed of sound, a dense facet of Shakti within which the active nature of Shakti (Kriya) dominates. The Kamakala Vilasa, in verse four, states, “When the mass of the sun-rays of Supreme Shiva is reflected in the pure vimarsa (Shakti) mirror, the Para-Bindu appears on the wall of consciousness illumined by His reflected rays”. In the pre-emanative stage of the void, Shiva can be imagined as a clear mirror who, in His limitless, boundless state, reflects an image. Shiva as the mirror is inseparable from the universe (image) He reflects. Shiva is the brilliant Light of cosmic consciousness, and Shakti is His immeasurable Power (Vimarsa) that enables the reflection of the universe that shines forth from Shiva as a radiant focal point – the seed of seeds within Parabrahman, the “world seed” (visva-bija), point of origin, and return of all cosmological processes – the Para-Bindu. The Para-Bindu exists purely as a direct result of the unified nature of Shiva/Shakti as Prakasa/Vimarsa, without which the inherent drive to limit the Limitless Light by way of the Para-Bindu would not come into being as we know it, and neither would creation.
Para-Bindu can be likened to a grain of a chickpea within which, under its sheath (maya), reside two seeds (Shiva/Shakti) in close and undivided union. It is the ultimate contact point between Creator and creation, being the drop which swells itself into the ocean of consciousness. Furthermore, Para-Bindu is perceived as a circle and is the first projection onto the surface of the transcendent void. This projection, in itself, indicates the beginning of limitation, thereby enabling creation to pour forth. It does so as Law, containing the blueprint for all that shall be, a focal point for the latent potential of outward thrusting, the evolution of universe upon universe, a realm of infinite possibilities in the yet to unfold cosmos. Hence the creative urge of the Supreme Being is set into action under the irresistible force of self-regeneration.
When the desire to manifest is heightened even further, Para-Bindu shimmers expansively to a lower frequency, forming the Apara-Bindu, otherwise known as S’abda-Brahman. This Apara-Bindu, still being Shiva/Shakti yet at a stage just slightly removed from its pristine homogeneity, then swells. A polarisation of Shiva and Shakti takes place as the circle of bindu forms a radius; the immaculate homogeneity of the Para-Bindu is modified, whereby the two bindus, white and red, as Shiva and Shakti, engage in a delicate balance, a creative dance which causes universes to come and go, expand and contract, according to Their play. This apparent division of Shiva/Shakti stimulates the expansion of light into all of creation. Creation therefore ultimately emerges from Para-Bindu and its first born, the primal trinity of three bindus, poised as they are to bring forth the manifest universes. This primordial desire to manifest rises like a wave in the ocean of divine stillness as nada, swells in the heavenly harmonies of sabda, and goes on reverberating until its faint cadences are finally echoed through the articulation of human speech.
Letters From The Mother
Shiva/Shakti alone are as One, the creative pulse, the genesis of sound, Sabdabrahman, which ultimately pours forth shimmering and vibrating as primordial rays of Divine Splendour, identifiable as letters of the primordial alphabet - Sanskrit. These letters, when in communion with each other and directed by the Will and action of Shiva/Shakti to assume shape, form, and function, are the basis of Vak – “the living word of Truth” – the Divine Mother’s primary messengers. All Riks (sacred sounds) are said to be located in the Supernal Ether, and it was to this vibratory source that the ancient sages would appeal by way of sounding forth the names of the gods and goddesses who resided there. That which they articulated were the mantras, or sound impulses, of the living deities within this Supernal realm. “This Ether of the Sublime above is the native home of the primordial sound-substance of which mantras are formations hidden in the higher planes and manifest in their descent to the last step which is human speech. This supernal akasha is the imperishable source and perpetual basis of sonorous rhythms that issue from the heights to form planes and build worlds and also to function by casting harmonic spells for their sustenance.” (Sri Kapali Sastriar: Lights on The Ancients). The seed-sounds which symbolise the form of any god or goddess are created out of the alphabets – the matrikas, or little mothers; as such it is said that the matrikas are the basis of all mantras. Just as the Divine Mother bears and sustains in Her womb all the forms of the gods and goddesses, the unchangeable emanations of the Divine Mother (the matrikaksaras) act as repositories which hold all the mantras, pertaining to the gods and goddesses, in the same manner.
Therefore the Sanskrit alphabet, brought forth as described, is known as the Supreme Mother. All other alphabets are derived from this primal dance, and are collectively known as little mothers. All sounds, regardless of their alphabet origin, have meaning. Sound and meaning are inseparable. Hence we are told that from the primal Sanskrit letters arise the five primary elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. From sabda there arises the ethereal region; from touch, air; from colour, fire; from taste, water; and from smell, earth. These are the very building blocks of the Divine Mother’s body and being as it represents itself in the created world and all universes. The gross comes out of the subtle in the process of unfolding, and when it is reversed the gross disappears in the subtle. By definition this is a two way process. One may work his/her way back to the Divine Mother from the mundane level by working with these sacred letters and their respective sounds. When accurately articulating the sounds, generally in mantras, chants, or bhajans, one is literally working with the devas of the highest realm. Their response, and ultimately their role, is to elevate the spirit of the aspirant back through the sabda, to the nada, and into the womb of the Divine Mother – the Ocean. This journey, however, is subject to Divine principles which must be adhered to. All of this activity, both involutionary and evolutionary, is said to be brought forth by way of the Cosmic Dance of Shiva/Shakti. This is a dance that is intricately tied to the bringing forth of alphabets which hold the Mother’s presence at all levels of all planes of existence.
Nataraja -The Language Of Dance - The Dancing Goddess on Earth
Shiva is the Lord of Dance and Shakti the Goddess of Dance. Their dance is a sacred interplay of the Primordial Principle of Power and Power Holder. The frenzied and exultant joy of the dance is pregnant with the eternal Truth seed – that of Love. This dance does not imply the common notion of dance and the perception of two beings engaged as such. It is rather a dance, at the very highest level, akin to a sacred tapestry, whereby ribbons of light interweave with each other to birth all that will ever be. This dance cannot take place with just Shiva, for He needs Shakti to dance with Him and to be His silent witness, thereby reflecting back to Him His own desire for creation. They are integral to each other, Self reflecting and Self generating as the Eternal Truth.
Being beyond time, Shiva is engaged in this eternal dance, this cosmic interplay, with His Shakti, through which Divine Will and the articulating Principle of Creation weave a tapestry of Love into these matrikas which birth form and function at the mundane level. From Parabrahman and through the Para-Bindu, this dance is a union of Will and creation. This union – being all of creation - is wrapped in maya. Maya is the veil, the very fabric of the created world in which our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realities unfold. Maya is AdiShakti, who is also known as “Mahamaya.” Should this dance ever cease, then the union of Will and Activating Principle – Shiva/Shakti - returns to a state of eternal nothingness (unmanifest state), awaiting the Divine moment in which the dance shall once again commence, heralding a new Kalpa (Cycle of Time). Anugraha and Nigraha encompass the first, last, and all intermediary steps in the dance of Shiva/Shakti.
The initial throb at the genesis of creation assumes a precise, delicate, and energetically harmonious balance between the two aspects of the sole Principle - Shiva and Shakti. The alphabets also express forth by way of a binary principle, the mingling of which produces the expressive language. According to the Jnanarnava Tantra, the sixteen vowels in the Sanskrit tongue express the form of Shakti whilst the letters beginning with ka and ending with ksa express the form of Shiva. The consonants have no power and cannot be articulated by themselves unless they are in communion with the vowels. The vowels in the form of Shakti give force, energy, and power to the consonants in the form of Shiva, that which would have otherwise been dead letters, sava, incapable of being articulated. Thus, the matrikas, which are the basis of all mantras, represent the unified form of Shiva and Shakti.
This eternal union of Shakti with Shiva in dance is indicated by the letter “I” in the word Shiva, without which it is said that “He is turned into Shava, or a lifeless corpse.” The unique philosophy of Varnamala, which represents an analysis of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, demonstrates that the order of the alphabets, such as “a”, “I”, “u”, etc., has a definite link with the process of creation. It is recounted that at the end of His dance, known as the Nataraja, Shiva, the Lord of all dancers, beat His drum fourteen times. Out of this drum beating was created the Maheshvara-sutras, or Divine creative laws and principles that are strung together like ribbons of light, carrying inherent within them sacred rules, laws, and teachings for being.
The first of these sacred sutras of the Lord of Dance consists of the three basic vowels: “a”, “I”, and “u.” These formed the first bounded shape, the basic triangle of creation, which contains within it the seeds of the entire Cosmos. Shiva, as the Power Holder, had sewn the seeds of Truth that the Divine Mother would act upon. The original, or primal, vowel is “a”, representing the ultimate reality beyond which there is nothing, or anuttara. However, this “a”, sentient and alive with Shakti as it is, is not alone capable of creating anything unless it is seized with the desire - Iccha - inherent in Shiva and readily awaited by Shakti. This desire is represented by the next basic vowel, “I.” When “a” is joined with “I”, the first sign of creation, or manifestation, sprouts forth. This is unmesa, indicated by the third vowel, “u.” Here we recognise something reflected through all teachings of Tradition – the beginning of the concept of the trinity. However, it is also stated that the primal vowel “a” cannot, by itself, have the desire for creation. It has first to split itself into two, as “a-a.”
This splitting of unity into duality, within Creation, is actually expressed by Sai Baba when He says the following of the Divine Mother: “When that Immutable coupled with Maya, the Action exploded. Reaction took place.” A singular “a” is already existent within Shiva as Pure Consciousness. It took the Power of Reflection to produce the mirror image of that as “a-a.” Once this took place, the action of reflection exploded and the desire, as we have stated to be inherent in all of creation as the primordial drive to be, sought to be “wed” with itself once again. Hence, this produced the joining of “a-a” as “aa” - to be joined again as “aa” - which is the Divine symbol of Ananda, bliss, or “delight of being.” The entire creation is thus nothing but the delight of self expression. Shiva/Shakti is a love story expressed through the ages!
Dissolution Of The Cosmos
This brings us back to time itself which is non-linear, alive, and sentient. Time is the flow of Shiva’s Shakti. It is cyclical and self perpetuating. God, as Shiva/Shakti, impresses upon time the imprint of Divine Formula. In so doing, God provides His/Her Prema as the vehicle of Truth and righteousness to which all individuals may aspire. Time is cyclical in nature in that the universe comes into being and passes away according to a regular pattern like that of day and night, or the inward and outward breath. It has no beginning and no end. Time can be best understood as an organism that flows through us and lives within us. Since time is God, then God flows through us and is within us. This aspect of Shiva/Shakti manifests in what are known as “Kalpas.” A Kalpa is a grand cycle composed of many lesser cycles called “Mahayugas.” Within each Mahayuga are yet again four lesser cycles. Each lesser cycle has its own name and expanse of time, each becoming shorter and denser in material experience than the one before. Today we refer to these ages as the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron ages. At the moment of recording this Testament we are in the Iron Age – that of the Kali Yuga, the last and darkest of the four ages in the current Mahayuga. Given that one Mahayuga is 4,320,000 years, it is pointless trying to comprehend, at the level of worldly intellect, the nature of reality in which Truth unfolds.
Within the grand play of this cosmic drama, the mind is the receiving agent of impressions. It is the source of all interpretation taken by humanity in its quest to understand God. However, unless it is refined, purified, and aspiring to the highest reaches of Truth, the mind has little hope of delving deeply into the mysteries of Shiva/Shakti. Even though the mind sees time as linear, and therefore pays great attention to evolution in a linear fashion, it must be noted that evolution is not an end in itself, for ultimately everything evolves only to return once again to Source during pralaya.
At the time of pralaya, or final dissolution, everything is withdrawn back along this arc into Parabrahman. Thereafter, upon the impulse or desire of Shiva to once again bring forth creation, and when Shakti, as the Divine substance and energy, approaches the Light (which is “Chit” or Knowledge), there arises in Her the desire to create. At this point, Para-Bindu is formed once again. This then bursts forth and divides itself. Out of that division there arise the existent Bindu, Nada, and Bija (seed-sound born of Vak). Bindu partakes of the nature of Shiva or Jnana (wisdom), Bija is Shakti, and Nada (sound) is the relation between the two as stimulator (Bindu holding Shiva’s nature) and the stimulated (Bija that of Shakti). When the Bindu bursts, there arises the inchoate sound. This sound is Sabdabrahman, the sound of creation, which is once again the eternal impulse towards manifestation in all beings. Put another way, upon the differentiation of the Para-Bindu there arose unmanifest sound (sabda), the Pranavarupa Brahman, or “OM,” which is the cosmic causal principle of manifested sabdartha. It pervades all creation and is the source of the sacred formulae of creation.
It is this Bindu, or state of supreme Shakti, which is worshipped in secret by all devas across all universes. In the Pure Consciousness of Shiva, nature (or the created world) exists in a state of hidden potential. The Bindu is the Eternal “I” manifestation of creative activity which is both the expression and result of universal karma, otherwise understood as the store of unfulfilled desire for cosmic life. This point alone says so very much. The Eternal “I”, the self reflective “I”, is the Eternal Truth of the Divine Mother – Shakti. She is the Power to that which holds Her as the Witness of all potential – Shiva. By desiring to create, the multitude of distorted “I’s” rest latent within the Para-Bindu, awaiting the command of Lord Shiva as an expression of His desire which thus activates the Mother’s Power to create. It is this multitude that has literally carried the seed of Divine Consciousness, wrapped in maya, through the ages that we call “time,” since the very first outward manifestation of the Bindu.
To further our understanding of these truths, it is useful at this point to spend a few moments exploring how Shiva/Shakti have brought our reality into existence. To do this we must have some understanding of Mahamaya.
Mahamaya – Veil Of The Mother
Mahamaya alone makes the world appear as other than Brahman. If the world were just perceived as pure Truth, Love, and joy, then the dance could not bring expansion, for Love knows Love before time began. It was the very desire for expressing Love in infinite ways that gave birth to the primordial desire for creation in the first instance. Due to the grace of the Divine Mother, all knowledge and perception is wrapped within the net of maya and is regarded as being impure (asudda) and therefore appears to be unreal. Yet She conceals Her Truth above and beyond maya. Her Truth is Shiva/Shakti, Parabrahman, the realm of pure knowledge, and the principles sudda vidya. To reach this level of awareness we do not sever our ties with the world visible by senses, nor do we reach it by going beyond maya. Rather, we reach this level by joining ourselves with ParaShakti as Mahamaya, for She is the Supreme Consciousness, Parabrahman Herself. By joining Shakti, we align ourselves with Truth, and Truth leads us through Her own creation back to the Source where She resides as the indispensable One. Accepting Shakti and honouring Shakti means to work with our very own nature. It is through this acceptance that we activate the capacity to become a witness to the power that resides within us, as Shiva. The question we now ask is, “How do we, through the grace of Shakti, unite Her presence, in our being, with that of the presence of Lord Shiva, in our being, to become as one with the One? If Parabrahman, as Shiva/Shakti, is the Ocean, how do we, as a drop, merge back into the ocean?” To comprehend this we must now explore how Truth expresses itself through the Divine Mother in a yet more comprehensive way; one that has given birth to countless gods, goddesses, and Divine entities.