Understanding Philosophies – Part 15: Trika Philosophy – Part 1

Apart from the recently discussed Advaita philosophy, there is yet another authentic and several centuries (eighth and ninth centuries) old philosophy called Trika philosophy. This non-dualistic philosophy originated during the eighth century in Kashmir, India. This philosophy is also known as Kashmiri Śhaivism. Trika means three fold and Trika philosophy talks about three aspects of Divinity – Śhiva, Śakti and nara or Para, Parāpara and apara. Para means the best, the highest, the Supreme, etc. Para refers to Śhiva.  Parāpara is the intermediary state between Para and apara. Parāpara is the state of both absolute and relativity (Einstein's theory of relativity), which is known as Śakti, without which nara or human cannot realize Para. The third one is apara, where the supremacy of para is lost and gets manifested. Apara refers to nara, a genuine spiritual aspirant. How nara seeks Para through Parāpara is Trika phiolophy. Para is the ultimate Consciousness (Cit), which alone is independent (Independent Power of Authority and Autonomy). It is the cause for creation. Para is the state of Supreme Self, which is called as Brahman in Advaita philosophy. Para or Śhiva decides to create through His exclusive independent authority, which He transfers to Parāpara or Śakti. When Śakti manifests, the manifested objects are nara or humans and all other sentient and insentient organisms and matter.

Unless one understands how the creation happens, it is not possible to progress spiritually. Both spiritually and scientifically, the process of creation remains the same. Though the spiritual and scientific explanations do not either contradict or complement each other; yet, spiritual explanation goes far deeper and subtler than the known sources of scientific explanations. Trika system explains everything from the angle of Śhiva, with authority and conclusive proof affirms that Śhiva is Brahman; hereinafter, wherever the term Śhiva is used, it refers to Supreme Brahman. In other words, Brahman henceforth is called Śhiva. When Śhiva contracts (macrocosm to microcosm), it is creation and when Śhiva expands (microcosm becomes one with macrocosm), it is dissolution. Through practice called as sādhana, a contracted person (a human being) seeks Śhiva, the Absolute for his liberation.  Therefore, it is important to understand Śhiva.

Śhiva is beyond human perception. Every atom that exists in the universe has Śhiva component (God particle) in it. Without Śhiva component, nothing can exist. Śhiva is the soul (cause) of every being, without which, no being can ever exist. Thus, He becomes omnipresent and becomes the cause of all the objects. He is like a tiny seed of a huge banyan tree. Without the seed, the gigantic tree is not possible and in the same way, without Śhiva, the existence of the universe is not possible. When we say existence of universe, it includes the entire movable and immovable objects as well as human beings. Thus Śhiva becomes not only the cause for the universe but also becomes the Absolute. Absolute because, Śhiva is beyond any limitations; cause because, without Him as the Self within, creation is not possible. He is the cause for causal, subtle and gross bodies. Self is the cause for causal body (prāṇa), causal body is the cause for subtle body (mind) and subtle body produces gross body (shape and form). This also establishes His omnipresence and omnipotence.

Trika philosophy says Consciousness is Śhiva. Consciousness is known as cit in Sanskrit. This is a masculine gender word. Feminine gender of cit is citii. Cit is Śhiva and Citti is Śakti. Citti is the Power of Cit.  Cit literally means to understand or to comprehend, etc. Citta is different from Cit. Citta means the mind and its activities like thinking, visualizing, etc applicable to individual mind. Cit is unlimited and citta is limited. There is difference between Advaita and Trika philosophies while explaining Cit. Advaita says sat-cit- ānanda (existence-consciousness-bliss) is Brahman, who is always considered as niṣkriya or inactive. Trika says that Cit is not only Pure Consciousness but also it is Self-illuminating or Prakāśa. Advaita also says that Brahman is Light. But Trika emphasises on this Self-illumination aspect. When there is light, it alone cannot reflect the light. It needs objects around it, so that the light can be realized through the presence of objects. When there is light and objects are in a place, the light has to be reflected on the objects around the light to get them realized. This is called vimarśa, which means reflection. Prakāśa has to depend upon vimarśa to reflect its own light. At the same time, vimarśa has no significance if there is no light. Therefore, prakāśa and vimarśa are interdependent. Prakāśa is Śhiva and Vimarśa is Śakti and they are interdependent. Light has inherent capacity to reflect as the primary aspect of light is cognition. Without light cognition is not possible. When there is light, the aspect of cognition is very much there in the light itself. In other words, Prakāśa has Vimarśa aspect within itself. The latter is inherent aspect of the former and cannot be separated as another entity. In the same way, Śhiva has Śakti inherent in Him. Śhiva and Śakti always stand united and they are inseparable. This state of Śhiva and Śakti is known as yamala (paired). Therefore, Citi (the Consciousness that brings about the worldly process - Śakti) is inherent in Cit (the foundational Consciousness, the Absolute - Śiva).

Śhiva is the Absolute. There is nothing beyond Him, Nobody knows His origin and He does not have a parentage. He is both ādi (from the beginning) and anādi (existence from eternity). He is the cause of the universe and He is omnipresent. He pervades the entire universe through its length and breadth. There is not even a single place where He is not present. He is present in all pure things and impure things, all good things and all bad things. Literally speaking He is beyond human apprehension through sensory apparatuses. He has no shape and form.  He alone is Self-illuminating. Hence, He is called Prakāśa. Śhiva has a unique power, which is known as Svātantrya Śhakti, the independent power of authority, the power of His Will. The entire universe is nothing but the reflection of His Svātantrya Śhakti, which is more pronounced in the first five tattva-s and less pronounced in the subsequent 31 tattva-s. (Study of tattva-s is being taken up later). The entire universe is His projection and is not something that is different from Him. If the universe is different from Him, then there arises duality. Therefore, the universe is the reflection of His own Consciousness and not something different. This reflection is not like an object getting reflected in a mirror. Svātantrya Śhakti, His independent Will alone is the cause of His reflection. That is why He is omnipresent. If we keep thousands of pot filled with water before the sun, all the pots reflect the sun; but the sun remains only one. It is only the reflection that makes the sun as many. But in His reflection, no object is perceived. It is all His Svātantrya śhakti.   Here, reflection happens through tattva-s or principles, which are not objects. Śhiva transfers His Svātantrya Śhakti, His unique Power to Śhakti, authorizing Her to create the universe. After handing over His Svātantrya Śhakti to Śhakti, Śhiva continues to remain in the state Cit. He has nothing to do as far as the worldly matters are concerned, as they are taken care of by Śhakti. However, He continues to be the cause of every creation in the form of multitude of souls. Soul has no significant role to play except to witness all the actions of a body, within which the soul is present. Without soul, a being cannot exist. Even in the form of multitude of souls, He continues to remain in the state of Cit. There are certain differences between Śhiva, the Supreme and individual souls. Former is Absolute and the later are His reflections. This difference arises because of māyā (illusion). As Śhiva, He is full of Consciousness or Cit. When He contracts i.e. during the process of becoming a soul from His original form as Soul, the Pure Consciousness becomes the mind. This is the reason for saying that human life is precious, where one has a well defined mind. In the process of contraction, Pure Consciousness becomes mind and in the process of realizing the Self, this process is reversed, where mind goes back to Śhiva, who has created it. Now, Śhiva, who is full of Pure Consciousness becomes a jīva, an embodied soul. Gross body is formed around this soul through causal and subtle bodies and when the soul leaves the body, death occurs. Therefore, soul becomes the cause of the body. The difference between Soul and soul is empowerment. During the process of contraction, the Power of Śiva completely goes away, making the soul powerless. The soul loses its divinity, but the identity of Śiva is not lost. Otherwise, there is no logic in seeking Him within. As Śiva is omnipresent, He continues to be present everywhere including the individual soul. Contraction happens only due to Śiva’s Will.  How Śiva contracts is the process of creation.

Though Svātantrya Śhakti and Māyā are the same, yet there is a significant difference between the two. Svātantrya Śhakti permits two way traffic of going up and climbing down; but māyā allows one way traffic only. It allows only downward journey and not the upward journey. Svātantrya śhakti is pure and māyā is impure. Pure Svātantrya Śhakti becomes impure māyā śhakti. This impurity arises due to three types of mala-s (mala means impurity), which will be discussed subsequently.

Power of Śhiva is Śhakti. They are not different as Śhakti is inherent in Śhiva. To understand easily, their unified Nature is known as Paramaśhiva.  Paramaśhiva is incomprehensible and hence cannot even be deliberated or described. Śhakti is present in Paramaśhiva only as a trace. Śhakti is always associated with “I” consciousness and as “I” is absent in Paramaśhiva and hence She does not have any significant role in Paramaśhiva.  Paramaśhiva exists in all the 36 tattva-s and at the same time He is not part of these 36 tattvas. Cessation of transmigration, which is known as liberation or Śhivavyāpti can happen only if the Yogī enters the state of Paramaśhiva. Paramaśhiva manifests in the form of first of five tattvas – Śhiva, Śhakti, Sadāśhiva, Īśvara and Śuddhavidyā. Whatever discussed here is about Śhiva and not Paramaśhiva.

Śhakti is the Svātantrya Śhakti of Śhiva. It is Śhiva’s exclusive and independent Power. There is no power beyond His Power. A person’s power is inherent in him and in the same way, Śhiva’s Power is inherent in Him and His inherent Power is known as Śhakti. Śhiva is the static energy and Śhakti is dynamic energy. Śhiva is the masculine energy and Śhakti is the feminine energy. There is no significant difference between Śhakti and Śhiva, tattva-s two and one. They are subjectivity as against objectivity expressed through the rest of the tattva-s. They represent universal “I” ness, the ultimate purity. If one really wants to find some difference between the two, it can be said that Śhiva is knowledge or jñāna and Śhakti is kriyā or action. The union of Śhiva and Śhakti is generally expressed in the form of Ardhanārīśvara (a form of Śhiva with half of the body being His body and other half is Śhakti’s body). The material world is full of kriyā or action, which is the manifestation of Śhakti. Lot is written about worshipping Her as laid down by different śāstra-s, the predominant being Tantra śāstra-s. Śhakti’s manifestation can be understood only through the study of 36 tattvas. Śhakti is always identified with Cit or Śhiva. When Cit and Citti conjoin, it becomes only Cit as Citti is a derivative of Cit. There is no duality here, as Kashmir Shavaism is emphatic on non-dualism. There is no difference between Śhiva and Śhakti. How can one’s power could be different from him; his power will always inherent in him? In the same way, the power of Śhiva is inherent in Him and we call this power as Śhakti. Power in Sanskrit is known as śhakti. Cit Śhakti (the Power of Consciousness; also known as Śhakti) is that aspect of Śhiva to reveal Himself.

Cit means pure Consciousness and Citti means thinking. Pure Consciousness loses its purity and begins to think. But Shivaism in general do not accept the theory of sin. When one is Śhiva, how can Śhiva commit a sin?

(to be continued)

Further Readings:

Types of Advaita Philosophy

Types of Trika Philosophy

Trika and Advaita Philosophies

Trika Philosophy - Process of Creation