The following is a summary from the book The
Doctrine of Vibration, An Analysis of the doctrines and Practices of Kashmir Shaivism, by Mark S.G. Dyczkowski (State University of New York Press, isbn
0-88706-431-0. I find this book a very good explanation of Tantra. Basically
I don't attach any importance to the fact that it comes from Kashmir, although
I will point out (as in the book) some differences with Vedanta teachings.
In other articles I have given you an idea of the Tibetan Buddhism concepts
about who we are and what life is about (Who am I?),
and a schematic overview of the same in Tantra (Tantra
Cosmology). Why give another article about the same subject? Well, this
article, the Doctrine of Vibration, gives you a more comprehensible view
about it all. Instead of many names and schematics (as in
Tantra Cosmology), you will get more understanding
and a more encompassing view of what life is about. Instead of seeing life
as a gradual path to enlightenment (as in Who am I?),
you will see that the whole universe is pulsation between two apparently
different realities, a vibration in which we all partake.
Always be aware,
that no matter what is explained here, it is all within you, it is you,
it is all about you. For many readers, this is not easy reading. In essence
it is about a simple concept: the Absolute and its manifestation. It is
the understanding of this concept that is difficult for most people, because
they grew up in a materialistic world with no education in this matter.
Summarizing this book was not easy, so this article might not be that fluid.
It serves as an introduction, if you feel you want to know more, I recommend
reading the book. It is one of the best books I have read.
The Doctrine of Vibration
1. Integral Monism of
An impressive title for the first chapter, but before
we explain monism, we need to understand the underlying dualism of creation.
A basic concept in Samkhya is the duality of Purusha and Prakrite. Purusha
is the person, the Self; Prakrite is Nature, the outer physical world, including
the body and the mind. Purusha is pure sentient consciousness; Prakrite
is thoughts, perceptions and the like. Purusha, we could also say the inner
divine nature, and does not act or change. It is and will always remain
the same, unmoved. Prakrite is change and activity. Samkya looks at these
two concepts in the following way. When man identifies himself with Prakrite,
Nature (what most of mankind does), Purusha, the Person is "bound"
by Prakrite, Nature. When one discriminates between the two, then awareness
is brought back to the person; then the Person is "freed". This
is what others call enlightenment.
In Advaita Vedanta, the Self of an
individual is seen as beyond the specifications of Nature. Although each
person has a Self, one Self is seen as not being different from another
Self. Advaita Vedanta says that there is only one Self, and that is called
Brahman, the Absolute. Brahman is the unconditioned ground, the essential
nature of the world of appearances. Everything exists because the Absolute
is their essence, their being. This means that there are no independent
realities, that is, independent from Brahman. All things exists because
the Absolute is their being. When we talk about Brahman and Maya (like the
Person and Nature), we say that Maya does not exist as separate from Brahman.
Maya is another form of Brahman, and part of Brahman. The problem with Vedanta
is that they see duality as a provisional reality, or illusionary, and that
one has to reject it in order to identify with the only Reality, Brahman.
Kaishmiri Shaivism sees it differently. One does not have to reject
duality, it is not illusionary. Both Brahman and Maya, unity and duality
are one, are coexisting. They are both expressions of the Absolute. Maya,
the world, Nature, represents a level of manifestation within the Absolute
which in the process of emanation appears as the duality or multiplicity
In Advaita Vedanta, one denies desire because it individualizes
attention, dispersing it among the objects of desire, which are seen as
unreal as opposed to the Absolute which is real. Thus one withdraws from
the finite to return to the infinite.
In Kaishmiri Shaivism one withdraws
from the finite to the infinite, but one also goes on an outward journey
from the infinite to the finite, because both the finite and the infinite
have an intimate connection. The finite is not seen as unreal, but as a
symbol of the infinite. There is no real distinction between them. Those
two movements constitutes Spanda, a key concept in Kaishmiri Shaivism. Spanda
is the pulsation of the Absolute in different phases of being. There are
no opposites like subject and object, unity or duality, absolute or relative.
They are just different phases of the universal vibration of the Absolute.
The goal is to realize or be at once infinite and finite. One does not turn
away from appearances (like in Advaita Vedanta), but one realizes that the
Absolute manifests all things. Spanda, the eternal pulsation of the Absolute,
oscillates between a passion to create and dispassion from the created.
Through it the Absolute transform itself into all things and then returns
back into the emptiness of its undifferentiated nature.
Shaivism the Absolute is seen as pure consciousness (=being). The Absolute
is an eternal all-pervasive principle, the highest reality, the nature of
all entities eternally and blissfully at rest within its own nature. the
Absolute is the nature of the Self (and thus of us all). The Absolute is
divine, it is Shiva, the Lord of the Universe. It is full of conscious activity
through which it generates the universe, and reabsorbs it into itself at
the end of each cycle of creation.
Thus we speak of monism, as everything
resides within this one absolute consciousness. It sustains all things,
it embraces all things, it pervades all things. All things are appearances
within the absolute consciousness, but nevertheless real (in contrast to
Advaita Vedanta where appearances are seen as unreal or illusionary). All
things appear external (out there, outside ourselves), but they do not have
a being on their own. They do not exist as separate entities on their own.
Everything is contained within consciousness. What we see as objects are
manifestations of consciousness. The events which constitutes the universe
are always internal events happening within consciousness because their
essential nature is consciousness itself. If a physical object were totally
material, and independent or external to consciousness, it could never be
experienced. The universe and consciousness are two aspects of a whole.
The universe is an attribute of consciousness which bears consciousness
as its substance.
Consciousness creates its own forms. But because the
perceived and the perception are identical, there is no perceived object
at all. The so-called outer world is merely a flux of cognitions. Nevertheless
the world is a real creation of consciousness, as 'congealed' or 'contracted'
forms of consciousness. Therefore everything bears a trace of consciousness,
Individual consciousness is identical with absolute consciousness.
There is nothing else. Although absolute consciousness always remains one,
it can perceive distinctions between one entity and another, without this
engendering any distinction within it. Thus we say that different entities
have the same undivided essence or nature.
In Maya, every entity, in
its specific manifest form, is defined as that which distinguishes it from
all else and from which it never differentiates. But at the level of pure
consciousness, everything is realized to be part of the fullness of the
experiencer and hence no longer bound by the conditions which impinge on
the object. Here one experiences every particular individual as the sum
total of everything else.
2. Light and Awareness
Absolute Consciousness has two aspects:
= The Light of Consciousness
Vimarsha = the creative reflective or self-awareness
of its own being
Lets first talk about Prakasha. Prakasha is the Light
of Consciousness, the pure luminosity, the unchanging ground and essence
of everything that appears. everything appears as their own specific nature,
but it is made apparent by the Light of Consciousness, and it has the Light
of Consciousness as their source.
The universe is nothing but the shining
of the Light of Consciousness within itself. This is an important statement,
as nothing exists outside of it. Consciousness becomes manifest in the radiant
vibration of this Light. Although shining as all things, and creating diversity,
there is no division within itself. A created object just has a form it
assumes, and is not a separate entity.
This Light of Consciousness is
also called Shiva, who creates and freely imposes on himself countless limiting
conditions through which he becomes manifest in limited forms. At the same
time he abides unchanged as the supreme experiencer. This freedom is an
important aspect of him. He is free to be both single and diverse, both
formless and omniform at the same time, in contrast with the doctrine of
Samkhya where Consciousness is seen as always being formless and separate
from created forms.
So this Light of Consciousness is the Eternal Now,
the Present, what one calls God, or Shiva, or Bhairava. It illumines itself.
It reflects on its own nature, thus creating the universe. Consciousness
illumines itself in the course of making the universe manifest. While this
is happening Consciousness remains the unchanging witness of all the events
in the universe.
In relations to perception or cognition, Consciousness
has three aspects:
the illumined universe
of Knowledge (Prakasha) which illumines it.
We could see this a subject,
object and the means of knowledge which makes cognitive awareness possible.
These three aspects are always together.
Symbolically, we can compare
the Light of Consciousness with an infinite, perfectly polished mirror (this
symbol is also known in Dzogchen), within which the entire universe is reflected.
As the mirror does not change by the reflected images, so the Light of Consciousness
is free to be both immanent and transcendent without compromising its unity
or denying the reality of the manifest universe. Consciousness is like the
mirror which reflects objects within itself. it has the power to manifest
entities that are like reflected images, which appear separate from one
another, without compromising the oneness of consciousness.
So, the entire
universe is like a reflection, but there is no object outside the mirror
of consciousness which would provide the reflections. It is Consciousness
itself that creates all the reflections spontaneously.
The second aspect
of Absolute Consciousness is Vimarsha, self-awareness, or the act of reflective
awareness. In an entity, thought-constructs obscure the light of the subjects'
immediate perception. Thus its awareness shifts from pure consciousness
to objective consciousness. Thus we experience the objective world. it is
an awareness of the images that appear within the mirror of Light.
must reflect back on itself to know itself and what appears within it. Vimarsha,
or self-awareness, is the power of consciousness by virtue of which it can
understand or perceive itself, and examine the events that occur within
it. Through this awareness, the Light knows itself to be the sole reality
and so rests in itself. It enjoys perfect freedom and it is satisfied in
the knowledge that it is all that exists, be it subject, object or means
We often talk here in terms of universal consciousness,
but the same holds true for individual I-consciousness (Aham), which is
formed by the powers of the Absolute. By contemplating its own nature, consciousness
assumes the form of all the planes of existence from the subtlest to the
most gross. The power of reflection is thus the inherent creative freedom
of the Light of Consciousness to either turn in on itself introspectively
and be free of its outer forms, or move out of itself to view its outer
manifestations. In harmony with the oscillation (Spanda) of awareness between
these two polarities, the universe of manifestation is incessantly renewed
and is the essence of the vitality of its pulsation.
Individual and universal
consciousness are not two separate things, they are one. The same process
operates in both. The only difference between them is that in the case of
individual consciousness, these processes are restricted or limited representations
of the maximally expanded operation of universal consciousness.
3. Spanda: The Universal
Activity of Absolute Consciousness
When Absolute Consciousness self-reflects, it creates
a motion, a transition from uncreated state of Being to the created state
of Becoming. When the inner Being shines, it manifests as outer becoming.
They are the two faces of universal consciousness. The outer face of Becoming
is the diversity and continuous change of the universe: the object, that
is, the apparent material universe we perceive. There is no separate material
universe out there, there is only a change in consciousness. Internality
is the state of oneness with the subject, while externality is the state
of separation from it.
Although we are saying that Absolute Consciousness
creates motion, a movement from Being to Becoming, this is essentially an
act of perception because the pure Being is inaccessible to conceptual representation.
Knowing this, we can say that creative action or movement can be seen as
a sequence in space and time. Within the Absolute there is non-successive
action. Reality in the Absolute is experienced as a single, unchanged whole.
In the Absolute there is not time. In the universe or movement of awareness
from one perception to the next is the basis of our sense of time passing.
We perceive action of something that follows something else. But there
is no thing that comes out of another thing, because this implies that they
are two different, separate entities. In reality there is only consciousness
that transforms from one consciousness into another. This marks the creation
of a new experience and the destruction of the old.
This ever changing
consciousness that constitutes the universe is seen in Vedanta as being
unreal and the domain of illusion, or Maya. In Kashmiri Shavaism, the manifestation
of the universe, being the emanation of the unchanged Absolute Consciousness
which remains one with its emanation, is a real event, and not just an apparent
change in the essentially undivided nature of the Absolute.
vibration of consciousness (=the universe) has three aspects by which all
things come into being: will, knowledge and action.
A being has an incessant
flow of consciousness through its will to Be. The outpouring of this will
to exist expresses itself both as the active cause of individual beings
and the passive assent to Being that is expressed through the individuality
of all that partakes Being. The will is a form of consciousness associated
with a specific goal which it reflects on as its objective. It will remain
fixed on its goal. For the yogi it is important to to reflect upon his own
nature and to gain direct insight that his will (and perception and action)
are not independent from the universal pulsation of his own authentic nature.
A being desires to know the expansion of consciousness as its goes through
its transformation. Knowledge, the second aspect of Spanda, links perception
together and accounts for their individual emergence within the field of
The third aspect of Spanda, is action. It is an act of awareness,
free in every way. This freedom of action of Being cannot be grasped when
our consciousness is in the sphere of objectivity (the material plane).
When in the sphere of objectivity, the ignorant sees himself bound by the
law of action and reaction (karma). Therefore we should ever be conscious
of Spanda, the recurrent activity of consciousness, Thus we can catch a
glimpse of our authentic identity and realize our inherent freedom.
4. Shiva and Shakti
Shiva and Shakti are two concepts from the Hindu
tradition (read my article of Tantra Cosmology). They are seen as God and
his omnipotent power, his creation. In our finite vision we see them apart,
in our infinite vision we realize their unity. In Kashmiri Shavaism this
primordial couple is Shankara and His Spanda energy. Spanda is the immanent,
actively emergent aspect, while Shankara, although one with Spanda, is the
pure, unchanged experiencer. These opposites separate and merge in rhythm.
When they separate, the universe is experienced as a reality set apart from
consciousness. When they unite they are experienced as a unity.
reflective self-awareness of Shankara begins to generate thought forms within
itself. Thus consciousness devolves and becomes the thinking mind. Then
Shankara assumes the form of a human personality residing in a world of
limitations and diversity. Hs consciousness becomes extroverted and generates
out of itself a subtle body with which it transmigrates from one physical
organism to the next. The awakened yogi identifies himself with Shankara.
The unenlightened wrongly identifies himself with the body. His ego is just
a thought construct and hence limited and artificial.
5. Shakti Chakra: The
Wheel of Energies
Consciousness spontaneously and continuously forms
ever new patterns of energy on its surface. These patterns are like waves
on the sea. We observe these forms as entities and objects that come and
go, rise and fall in consciousness. The arising and subsiding of each wave
of cosmic manifestation is marked by a regular sequence of events. Following
one after another in recurrent cycles, each sequence is symbolized by a
rotating wheel. These Wheels collectively represent the primal form of all
experience. As each wheel rotates, one power after another becomes active,
taking over from the one that went before and blending into the one that
follows. Together, all those Wheels of Energy are the vibrant radiance of
the Light of Consciousness.
Although the Wheels of Energies are innumerable,
only a few are important. The most important is the Wheel of the Absolute,
also called the Goddess of Consciousness, from which all other Wheels emerge
from and eventually dissolve in it. It is a twelve spoked wheel (it has
twelve powers), representing the cognitive cycle. The yogi pays attention
to the movement of this Wheel, as it moves from the center of pure consciousness
to the periphery where it becomes manifest as sense objects. In this way
the yogi comes to realize that all is contained within, and generated through,
the cycle of consciousness. The yogi needs to identify with the Lord of
the Wheel who resides in the center of this Wheel as the pure I-Consciousness
behind the emanation and movement of its power. In its center he is free,
fully awakened, liberated.
6. The Divine Body and
the Sacred Circle of the Senses
To know as common man knows is the very essence
of bondage; freedom is to know reality as God knows it. The yogi must recognize
his own authentic Being by being as God is. This is achieved by a pure and
intense act of self-awareness in which the old mode of understanding reality
is dropped in favor of a new and deeper knowledge of oneself as unlimited,
infinite consciousness. Bondage is a false identification with the physical
body and liberation a true identification with the cosmic body. This process
is also applied to the senses of the body.
At the lower level of consciousness,
the physical senses are hardly more than instruments of perception. At the
higher level the senses are recognized to be spiritual forces operating
within sacred consciousness. Kashmiri Shaivism teaches that the senses can
serve as a means to self-realization. The yogi can take pleasure in sense
objects, if he maintains an awakened, mindful attitude and does not blindly
follow his natural inclinations as does an animal with a bare minimum of
self-awareness. All pleasure is essential spiritual. It is a state that
the subject experiences and not a property of the object. It is a small
wave or pulse in the universal vibration of consciousness. The yogi must
fix his attention on the source of pleasure, freeing his mind of all disturbing
thoughts and so make the transition to a state of awareness in which his
personal concerns are transcended in the pervasive experience of consciousness.
He does not crave for the pleasure of the senses, but makes use of them
to project him beyond the realms of physical, transitory objectivity into
the eternal sphere of consciousness.
7. The Path to Liberation
One needs to understand that reality is the essential
nature of all things. Although it is universal and everywhere the same,
it is understood as the essential and specific nature of each existent as
its "own nature". In the case of the individual soul it is even
more specific, more personal as his own "own nature". Belonging
to none other than oneself, it is the pure subjectivity who perceives, experiences,
enjoys, reflects, thinks and senses as well as being the conscious agent
who creates every possible form of experience in all the states of consciousness.
Thus, one needs to regain possession of oneself. One must lay hold of oneself
and abide in his own authentic nature. Reality coincides with one's own
most fundamental state of being, free of all contrasts and contradictions.
One must penetrate through the pulsing fluctuations of objectively experienced
states and perceptions at the surface level of consciousness and gain insight
into the timeless rhythm of one's own nature manifest in the universal arising
and falling away of all things.
The spiritual ignorance consists essentially
of our contracted state of consciousness. Therefore we need to expand it
to reveal our authentic nature as this expanded state itself, which is the
universal vibration of consciousness. Along the way to this supreme realization
consciousness develops, as veil after veil is lifted, until it becomes full
and perfect in the absolute which encompasses within itself all possible
formats of experience.
For the yogi there are three means to Realization.
In the Divine Means the yogi is carried to the supreme level of consciousness
by a powerful and direct awareness of reality. In the Empowered Means, the
practices function within the mental sphere by reconverting thought back
into the pure consciousness which is its source and essence. In the Individual
Means the practices operate in the individual soul's sphere of consciousness.
Any spiritual discipline which involves the recitation of mantras, postures
of the body, meditation on a particular divine or cosmic form and concentration
on a fixed point, belongs to this category.
There is also the method
of No-Means, to which the other three methods ultimately lead. No-Means
is the direct experience of reality as uninterrupted awareness, when the
yogi has penetrated into his true awareness. Those who are in the realm
of No-Means recognize that the light of consciousness shines as all things.
No-Means is the experience of the absolute beyond transcendence and immanence,
beyond Shiva and Shakti.