Jñānaṁ bandhaḥ ज्ञानं बन्धः (sūtra I.2)

Jñāna means limited knowledge and bandha means bondage.  In the previous sūtra, it is said that consciousness is the Self.  Realising Śiva is Self realisation. The present sūtra explains why Śivacannot be realized that easily.  This is because of the limited knowledge acquired through the senses.  The supreme knowledge is Śiva’s Illumination, Prakāśa. The Illumination (the source of light for the whole universe) of Śiva is obscured by impurity or mala, discussed in the previous sūtra. When it is said that the whole universe is nothing but Consciousness, which is Śiva, which is also known as cosmic consciousness, how can there be another existence in the form of mala apart fromŚiva? Therefore, mala is explained as ajñāna, the innate ignorance of an aspirant. . This ajñāna is called āṇavamala, which forms the ego of the apirant. Aṇu + mala = āṇavamalaAṇu is the empirical self. Empirical self is nothing but the innate ignorance of the jīva (living being) and mala is the factor of limitation. Because it limits the universal Self as the empirical self, mala is also known as impurity. It is the impurity of the individuality. Because of the presence of āṇavamala, the individual soul is unable to realize the all across-the-board grandeur of Śiva, also known as Pūrṇatā.  The individual soul, instead of trying to realize Śiva to avert transmigration, instead gets attached to sensory enjoyments, known as bhoga.

In as much as no second exists apart from Śiva, it is only Śiva, who causes this limitation.  This state is called māyāparamātāMāyā means illusion and paramātā means the knower, the jīva. This limitation is caused by His mahāmāyā, the supreme concealing act arising out of His own power of absolute freedom or His svātantrya śakti. Mahāmāyā is the reason for differentiating between the Supreme Self and the empirical self.  Mahāmāyā is divided into two states, parā2 and aparā. Parā mahāmāyā is where the traces of duality still exist. Aparā mahāmāyā is where the yogi dwells only with prakāśa form of Śiva (cit-śakti1) without Śakti. It is termed as Mahāmāyā to indicate that it is the superior kind of māyā. It is ultimately the āṇavamala that produces the thought differentiation fromŚiva in the mind of the aspirant.

This is also explained in Spanda-Kārika (I.9) which says that it is due to the disturbed mental state of an empirical individual that alone causes mala or impurity making him to indulge in the materialistic world. When his afflicted mental condition is remediated enabling him to identify himself with Śiva, the Supreme Light of Śiva appears to him. This concept is further expounded in Spanda-Kārika(III.14) which says that the increased bondage in an empirical self  makes the blissfulness of Supreme Śiva wanes away, making the empirical self to lose his freedom.

The ajñāna discussed above causes twin effects in an empirical self.  First it makes the aspirant to think that the true Self is not the Self and secondly considering his gross body as the true Self.  This is imperfect knowledge.  There could be a question why this sūtra says jñānaṁ bandhaḥ instead ofajñānaṁ bandhaḥ. This sūtra should be read as a-jñānaṁ bandhaḥ only by borrowing ‘a’ from “ātmā”, where one extra ‘a’ is given in last syllable. The correct usage of ātmā is only ātma.

{1.Further reading on cit-śakti as provided in my book Lalitā Sahasranāma (nāma 416) based on Advaita philosophy: Cit means pure consciousness and the pure knowledge. (Accoroding to Trika philosophy, Cit means only Śiva without Śakti.   The Brahman (without attributes or nirguṇaBrahman) is made up of three important aspects.  They are sat (perpetual existence), cit (the presentnāma – pure form of consciousness) and ānanda (the bliss).  These three attributes together is calledsaccidānanda and the Brahman is also known by this name.  Saccidānanda means existence (sat), consciousness (cit) and bliss (ānanda). The pure consciousness here means the spiritual consciousness.  Only the pure and un-afflicted knowledge is capable of producing spiritual consciousness, leading to realization. 

What is Cit?  It is also known as cidātma.  When this is reflected in universal nescience, it is known as the Īśvara and when reflected in individual nescience it is known as soul. Īśvara is not the Brahman as it is the reflection of universal nescience.  There are two aspects to this interpretation. Here, Īśvara is said to be only reflective in nature and not self-illuminating.  Self-illumination is the exclusive quality of the Brahman. Secondly, the Brahman can never be associated with nescience. This Īśvara is said to be the Lord of prakṛti or the Nature.  When the soul or individual nescience comes into contact with prakṛti, the soul induces evolution of a new physical body, for the karma-s embedded in it to manifest.  However, Īśvara remains in an unconditioned form, but the soul continues its conditioned form afflicted by the lower levels of consciousness, which is also known as individual conscience.  Īśvara remains un-afflicted by the influence of three guṇa-s and the soul gets influenced by three guṇa-s, leading to creation.  Īśvara can be interpreted as the cosmic counter part of soul.  Īśvara and prakṛti in combination with other twenty four principles or tattva-s cause the creation.   Therefore, we get introduced to a new principle in this nāma that is known Īśvara tattva or the principle of Īśvara in this Sahasranāma

Since Īśvara is said to be the Lord of prakṛti, it can also be called as the aggregate aspect of māyāand the individual souls are aggregative.  This principle or tattva of Īśvara is one among the four distinctive states of the Brahman, the other three being avyakta (nāma 398), hiraṇyagarbha (nāma 638). It is within the subtle body.  It binds all the constituents of the universe together) and virāt(nāma 778. the universal cosmic form). 

 Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (V.1) also refers to this phenomenon.  ‘Para Brahman is higher thanhiraṇyagarbha.  Knowledge and ignorance are both hidden in Para Brahman.  Ignorance is the cause of birth and death, but knowledge leads to immortality.  He who controls ignorance and knowledge is separate from both.  That is Brahman (pure and without attributes) the supreme’.}

{2. Further reading on parā as provided in my book Lalitā Sahasranāma (nāma 366): In the next few nāma-s Her Śabda (sound) Brahman form is going to be discussed.  The literal meaning of ‘Brahman’ is growing, developing, swelling, expanding, evolving etc.   This nāma refers Her un-manifested form (of the Brahman). 

In order to understand this nāma and the next few, origin and evolution of sound becomes a necessity. 

Prakāśa and vimarśa form of the Brahman are quite frequently referred to while discussing the Supreme Reality or the Absolute. Generally it is to be understood that prakāśa form represent Śivaand vimarśa form represent  Śakti. Śiva or Parameśvara (parama means the highest) is pure and unblemished self-illuminating light and Śaktī or vimarśa is the realisation of this pure light. Prakāśaand vimarśa cannot be separated. There is a Sanskrit saying that word and its meaning cannot be separated; in the same way Pārvatī or Śaktī and Parameśvaran or Śiva cannot be separated from each other. When there is a brilliant light, one needs to have knowledge to realise it as light. Suppose, there is a candle burning, and on seeing the candle with light, one can say that the candle gives light. When one wants to see a candle light, he needs to have a lighted candle. The light and its visibility though separate, are interdependent. Visibility is the expression of light and without the source of the light, visibility becomes impossible.  In the same way, light is of no use, if it is not reflected making the visibility possible. Both light and its expression together is known as light. This is called prakāśa vimarśa māyā or the Absolute. Sound originates from this Absolute form.

This Absolute form is also called parāvāc form. This parāvāc is primeval stage. The sound in this stage can be called as a seed that has not yet germinated. When the seed begins its germination, the stage is called paśyantī (nāma 368).  At this stage the seed has the desire to grow. The stem becomes visible and the seed is set to commence its journey of growth. Though it is known for certain that there is going to be a tree at a future date, one does not know how the tree would be, big or small, fruit bearing or barren etc. When the sapling grows to a certain height, one is able to see its leaves, he will be able to identify what type of tree that would be. This stage is called madhyamā(nāma 370). The sapling further grows to become a tree, when one is able to see its flowers and fruits. He is able to recognize the nature of this seed totally now. The complete form of the tree is known at this stage. This is called vaikharī stage. These three stages originated from the form of the Absolute, the seed in this example. Absolute form is called as parāvāc. Parā mean the highest form or the supreme form and vāc means sound. Parāvāc means the supreme form of sound. From thisparā form or the seed form sound germinates, grows and yields words.  The result is a full word with meaning.

In a human being this parāvāc is said to be in the form of kuṇḍalinī (nāma110) energy posited inmūlādāra cakra or base cakra. From the base cakra, the seed of the sound begins its ascent, reaches manipūraka cakra or navel cakra in the form of paśyantī, moves to anāhat cakra or heartcakra in the form madhyamā and reaches viśuddhi throat cakra as vaikharī where the final cleansing takes place. From the throat cakra the physical form of words are delivered. The vibration ofkuṇḍalinī energy is the seed of the sound. When a desire of speech arises, it manifests as Śabda Brahman at mūlādhāra and moves up to take a physical form and delivered through throat cakra in the form of vaikharī. Śabda Brahman is the Brahman in the form of sound. Like universe manifesting from the Brahman, words originate from Śabda Brahman. In reality, these two Brahman are not different.

To understand this better, we have go back to the creation.  In terms of Sāṁkhya philosophy, the creation is based on twenty five tattva-s or principles (against twenty four tattva-s normally considered).  The addition here is Īśvara tattva.  These twenty five principles are 1. Puruṣa (the individual soul), 2. Prakṛti (nature), 3. Buddhi (intellect), 4. Ego, 5-9. Jñānendriya-s (cognitive senses, like ear, nose, etc), 10-14. Karmendriya-s (action senses like legs, hands, etc), 15-19. Tanmātra-s(subtle primary elements like taste, smell, etc), 20-24. Mahā bhūta (five basic elements like ākāś, air, etc) and finally as 25th tattva, Īśvara.  Here Īśvara means the Brahman and puruṣa means the individual soul that gets various shapes and forms.  The concept of Brahman is beyond all the other twenty four tattva-s.  Puruṣa and Prakṛti both are aboriginal principles, but there exist certain differences between them.  Puruṣa is known as jīva-ātma or the individual soul which is a conscious spirit with positive principle. Prakṛti is unconscious matter with negative principle.  When puruṣainteracts and conjoins with prakṛti (opposite energies are attracted to each other), the prakṛtimanifests into other twenty one tattvas and binds the puruṣa or soul into subtle and then to gross matter.  The gross matter is the physical form of man and subtle matter is antaḥkaraṇa a (mind, intellect, consciousness and ego).  The stage before this union is called avyakta (nāma 398) or un-manifested form.  In the stage of avyakta, when modifications in the form of manifestation is about to happen, māyā spreads its veil depending on the karmic density of the soul.  This is how the creation is explained in the scriptures.

This un-manifested form or avyakta is called kāraṇa bindu because it is smaller than an atom.  Bindumeans a dot and kāraṇa bindu means origination of cause.  When the time is ripe for kāraṇa bindu to manifest, it pulsates and vibrates getting ready to manifest and this gives rise to another dot calledkārya bindu or effect dot, where the cause is manifested as effect.  From this effect-dot or kārya bindu, arises another dot called nāda bindu or sound-dot.   The sound is ultimately delivered throughnāda bindu after undergoing further refinement.  The kāraṇa bindu resides in mūlādhāra cakra and during it’s ascend undergoes these modifications and delivered in the form of audible sound. 

Parā has three stages.  Its original parā form is considered as supreme and is full of energy.  In order to manifest, it gradually loses its supremacy and energy level and becomes parā-parā the mediocre level of supremacy.  It further loses its strength at the exact time of manifestation and becomes aparāwhere it loses its supremacy and become manifested.  These three stages are known as Śiva, Śaktīand nara (man).  This way also She is known as parā.  As the subsequent nāma-s discuss further about the evolution of sound from its parā or supreme form, therefore contextually this nāma is to be considered from the angle of Śabda Brahman only.

Rig Veda (I.164.45) also discusses this modification and it says,

catvāri vāk parimitā padāni tāni vidurbrāhmaṇā ye manīṣiṇaḥ |

guhā triṇi nihitā neṅgayanti turiyaṃ vāco manuṣyā vadanti | |

“Four are the definite grades of speech; those learned who wise know them; three deposited in secret, indicate no meaning; men speak the fourth grade of speech. Four grades of speech are –Om, Bhūḥ Bhuvaḥ Suvaḥ and these are known as Parā, paśyantī, madhyamā and vaikharī.  Parā is the innermost at the origin; paśyantī pertains to heart, madhyamā to intellect and vaikharī, phonetically expressed through organs of speech.”}