Yonivargaḥ kalāśarīram योनिवर्गः कलाशरीरम् (sūtra I.3)

Yoni here means Māyā.  Manifestation of the universe is due to the effects of māyā. Varga means multitude of similar things and in this context it means the progeny of Māyā. Therefore, yonivargarefers to māyīamala, the impurity causing duality. It is the impurity generating differences causing duality.  Thus the first part of this sūtra, yonivargaḥ refers to the process of creation of the universe.Kalā means actions and śarīram means body. Therefore, the second part of this sūtra kalāśarīramrefers to the actions that form the part of materialistic life. Kalāśarīra is kārmamala, the impurity generating feeling of doership.

The cause of bandha or bondage used in the previous sūtra is explained here. It has already been discussed that mala or innate impurity is the cause for bondage. The previous sūtra said thatāṇavamala is the original cause for bondage.  This sūtra, further adds two more mala-s - māyīya mala and kārma mala and all three mala-s cause bondage.  The bondage is caused by afflicting the consciousness of the aspirant.  As a result of the afflicted consciousness, the distance between the aspirant and Śiva is widened. That is why, the previous aphorism said that limited knowledge is bondage (jñānaṁ bandhaḥ).

In this sūtra, māyā is said to be cause of this materialistic universe, because Māyā is the root-cause for Prakṛti. However, the original cause for the universe as a whole is Śakti.  As a result of the appearance of body, one gets attracted towards it forgetting the Self within. In other words, the Self is completely hidden, again due to His own power known as māyā-śakti. Māyā-śakti is not māyā-tattva,because the former is His Power to produce duality, and the latter is a mere veil produced byāaṇavamala.

Now it is to be seen how māyīya-mala and kārma-mala cause bondage. Māyīya mala is the impurity arising out of māyā. Kārma-mala is the cause for one’s karmic impressions, known as vāsanā. Karmic account is embedded as impressions in subconscious mind that is attached to the causal body.  These three mala-s can be summarised as follows: āṇavamala is the impurity also known as innate ignorance. Āṇavamala is the cause of kārma-mala, the impurity that is at the root of one’s karma. Māyīya-mala is the mala that is responsible for transmigratory existence arising of out ofmāyā.

This sūtra is interpreted differently by Bhāskara. He says that yoni represents the four powers viz.Ambā, Jyeṣṭhā, Raudrī and Vāmā*.  They are nothing but forms of Absolute or anuttara (Parama Śiva, beyond whom, there exists nothing) only. All these four powers together constitute the physical body. According to him, kalāśarīra means the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, from a to kṣa (अ toक्ष). The alphabet originates from the four powers known as yonivarga. To summarise Bhāskara’s commentary, yonivarga (the four powers of anuttara) is the cause for the Sanskrit alphabet. Alphabet form words and the words bring forth the world.  

*Yoginīhṛdaya discusses about these four goddesses. Ambā, the Mother rules over the rest three. Yoginīhṛdaya correlates these four goddesses with the four levels of speech. Ambā is parāvāc. When she is moved to bring forth the universe, held within herself in seed form, she brings forth Vāmā, who vomits (vāma means vomiting) the universe, who is the power of will known as icchāśakti and abides in paśyanti. The power of knowledge, also known as jñānaśakti is in madhyamā and is known asJyeṣṭhā. Raudrī, the power of action or kriyāśakti is in vaikharī.

Kalā is one of the five kañcuka-s (कञ्चुक) or coverings of māyā and they are kāla, vidyā, rāga, niyati, and kalā. Kāla is also known as notion of time, that measures the past, gives enjoyment in the present and contains unknown future. Vidyā introduces intelligence. Rāga induces desires for objects. Niyati fixes the order and sequence of karma. Kalā is the one that is being discussed in this sūtra. They together form a covering around māyā. The omnipotence of the Supreme is made to appear as limited because of kalā. This is the reason for specifically choosing only kalā out of the fivekañcuka-s of māyā.

Spanda Kārikā also explains this in I.9. When the individual self is afflicted by his own impurities, gets attached to his worldly existence. This state of the self is impure in nature. When the highest state appears, his limited existence wanes away, leading to realisation. Impurities are of three kinds. The first one is āṇava mala, which occurs, when the Will of Śiva, known as icchāśakti contracts itself.Jñānaśakti or the power of knowledge is obscured by āṇavamala and as a result of which infinite knowledge becomes limited in the aspirant. When the knowledge becomes completed limited,antaḥkaraṇa also known as inner psychic apparatus is formed. Since the limitation spreading duality is caused by māyā, this is known as māyīya-mala.  The last one is kriyāśakti, the power of action. This reduces the omnipotence to limited organs of action, making the aspirant to accrue karmas, both good and bad. This is kārma-mala. Thus the interconnection between icchāśakti, jñānaśakti andkriyāśakt and āṇavamala, māyīya mala and kārma mala is established.

{Further reading on māyā from Advaita point of view: Brahman, also known as God is full of inexplicable and inexhaustible energy. Inexplicable because, Brahman just cannot be explained, as He is a way beyond normal human consciousness. He is inexhaustible because irrespective of drawing His energy for creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe, potency of His energy always remains the same. The significant part of his energy is known as His illusionary aspect, which is often referred as māyā.  Through this illusionary power, he throws a veil around Him, so that, His true nature is not seen.  What is not seen is His Reality and what is seen through His illusionary aspect is the worldly existence. His power of māyā is His very own undifferentiated power. The nature or prakṛti has two types of powers.  One is undifferentiated and the other differentiated and the former leads to the latter.  The three guṇa-s or attributes lie in equal proportion in undifferentiated nature. This is the state of prakṛti just before creation begins.  When the equilibrium of guṇa-s is disturbed, the creation begins to happen, leading to different creatures, where one of these guṇa-s predominate.

God is also known as Brahman, the highest Reality of the universe, beyond which nothing exists. The Brahman in unconditioned state is known as Para-Brahman or the Supreme Spirit.  This Supreme Sprit is beyond normal human consciousness. He is called unconditioned because, He has not manifested yet. The Brahman has two aspects - kāraṇa (cause) or nirguṇa (devoid of attributes) and kārya (effect) or saguṇa (with attributes).  Nirguṇa Brahman is devoid of any attributes and is the purest form of Consciousness.  He is the cause or source of creation. He is the One, who is beyond normal human comprehension.  He is devoid of shapes and forms.  He is also changeless and infinite. He is beyond time and space. He is the passive energy and is Self illuminating.  The other aspect of the Brahman is saguṇa Brahman who is full of attributes and qualities.  He is the effect ofnirguṇa Brahman.  Without nirguṇa Brahman, saguṇa Brahman cannot exist. Saguṇa Brahman is the active part of Pure Brahman.  Māyā is the mysterious power of saguṇa Brahman that makes it possible for the universe to appear.  Universe is nothing but reflective image of the Brahman also known as His power of projection, which is known as māyā.

Māyā is ignorance.  For easy understanding, a rope is normally cited.  You see a piece of rope in darkness and mistake it for a snake.  Though it is only a rope, it gives you a deceptive look as a snake. When you put on the light, you find it is only a rope and not a snake.  What is the state of your mind when you look at the rope as a snake?  Fear engulfs you.  When you find that it is not a snake and only a rope, your mental condition suddenly changes from fear to happiness.  This happiness is the bliss, when you truly realise the Brahman. The deceptive look of the rope as snake is māyā. Therefore māyā is a factor that causes ignorance in you and makes you to believe the real as unreal.  Let us take another example of a film.  In a movie there are actors.  These actors are known in the movie by different names and qualities.  The inherent quality of a person who acts will not be the same as that of the character he plays, as he merely projects the character of a hero or a villain. When you see the person on the screen you mistake him for the role he assumed on the screen forgetting his true nature.  Identifying the actor with the role he assumed for the movie is māyā . When the movie is over, what you see is only the white screen.  The white screen does not change and it remains the same always, even when a movie is being projected. What you see on the screen is only the movie and not the white screen behind the pictures.  The white screen is the Brahman. White screen always remains the same, without modifications. Though māyā and ignorance are identified as the same, in reality they are not.  Ignorance is the quality of an individual.  You can’t call the world as ignorant, whereas you can call a person as ignorant.   

We often talk about projecting power of the Brahman. Let us understand this with an example.  The potential form of a huge tree remains in its tiny seed. This potential state of the tree is the casual state.  When the seed begins to sprout, the casual state of the tree undergoes change to become the effect.  Cause is the seed and the effect is the tree and this is called projection.  This transition between cause and effect is called projection.  Knowledge of understanding the potential state of the tree is intellect.  This is called transcending māyā. Understanding the tiny seed behind the huge tree is intellect.  The universe appears gross in nature.  To understand the potential state of the gross form of the universe is Realisation.

The gross form of the universe that you see is not real!  What you see is a contracted Reality. Brahman, as you know is omnipresent and He alone is omnipresent.  When He is omnipresent, what you see should be only the Brahman and nothing else.  Then why do we call people by names and forms?  This is the power of māyā.  It deceives you; it conceals the Reality from you.  It reveals only the projection and not the source.  By trusting your sensory organs you believe in what you see. You know people only by their names and forms.  You trust your senses and you do not want to go past the senses.  You continue to stay with the senses as you do not want to use your intellect.  Intellect has the capacity to discriminate.  It can tell you what is real and what is not.  You are not making attempts to understand the reality.  Hence, you continue to remain confused and perplexed. You are only using your influenced mind.  Your mind is influenced by your sensory organs, and in this case your eyes influence your mind by identifying a person known to you by his name. You do not want to put into use your intellect.  Intellect alone has the capacity to discriminate and realise the One, who is the cause for the entire creation. Intellect would have told you that He is a soul like you.  It would have used its discriminatory abilities.

Brahman also called the Supreme Sprit or the Self is hidden in all the beings.  Without the presence of that Supreme Spirit, existence is not possible.  It is the force behind all our activities. This Supreme Spirit can be realized only through the process of looking within with absolute confidence that He can be found.  What you are seeing with your biological eyes is nothing but the illusionary aspect of māyā.  You can be pardoned for mistaking a rope for a snake for the first time, second time or even the third time.  If you still insist that it is only a snake and not a rope, then the problem is with your mind.  Someone could even call you as a person afflicted with schizophrenia. To understand that it is not a snake and it is only a rope needs intellect.  Intellect alone has the capacity to discriminate between real and unreal.  You cannot continue to remain in the grip of spiritual ignorance.  The human life is the precious gift of God and no time should be wasted in knowing our Creator.  When we realize Him, we will be relieved from the pains of transmigrations. Life is always a misery, whether rich or poor.  The intensity of the misery alone differs.

Māyā has two types of powers.  One is the concealing power and another is the projecting power. Let us take the example of rope.  The real nature of the rope is concealed and projected as snake. The Brahman is concealed by māyā and projected as objective world.  To realise the reality, one has to overcome both the concealing and projecting powers of māyā successively.  The concealing power is more dangerous than the projecting power, because it always makes you to misidentify an object, leaving aside its originality

Māyā is not something that is considered as evil. Māyā is inherent in creation.  It is also Brahman’s own power. Māyā can be removed only by spiritual knowledge and repeated affirmations. You have to negate māyā and only your own intellect can do that. Intellect is not your birth right.  Intellect is to be acquired. You have to learn to negate the illusionary aspect of the Brahman in the form of māyāand go past it to realize Him.  There is no other way the Brahman can be realized except by transcending His own projecting power of māyā.  When you want to go past māyā, the first thing that you should do is to get rid of attachments and bondage. These two make you to get engrossed in gross forms.  When you are so attached to the gross forms, you are deluded by the gross forms. You call them as your father, mother, wife, daughter, son, friend, foe, etc.  They are the results of the projecting power of māyā.  Their real form, the Self is concealed from you.  If you choose to ignore the gross shapes and forms and look for the inner Self, you are bound to transcend māyā and at this stage, you have crossed the greatest hurdle in your spiritual path.  The final liberation for you is not far away from this point.}

{Further reading Icchāśakti-jñānaśakti-kriyāśakti as provided in my book Lalitā Sahasranāma (nāma658): She is in the form of three energies – the energy of will, the energy of wisdom and the energy of action.  These energies form a part of trīśikāTrīśikā (tri + iśikā) means analysis of three.  Trimeans three and iśikā means Īśvarī, the power, abiding in divine consciousness.  She is the controller of all triads in the process of creation.  For example, the three acts of the Brahman, creation, sustenance and dissolution.  Though She is said to be Īśvarī of creation, etc, She is not different from Śiva.  The supreme divine consciousness on the point of expansion according to Her inherent nature is Icchā śakthi.  The actual process of expansion is jñāna śakti and the process of diversity leading to creation of the universe is kriyā śakti.  The One who is the possessor of all threeśakti-s or energies is known as parā-śakti or the Supreme energy.}