Please note that this article is not based on any particular philosophy (in particular Trika philosophy). It is only for the purpose of mere understanding.
Paramaśiva is Supreme and incomprehensible. He is known as Parabrahman (Supreme Brahman, where there is no question of nirguṇa or saguṇa1). He is beyond Nirguṇa Brahman, which means He is without any traces of attributes. He cannot be described and He is the ABSOLUTE. If at all we want to describe Him, it can be said that He is a mass of sum total of all energies shining forth, several times brighter than the sun. Even this is only for the purpose of pure understanding and as said earlier, He is beyond any comprehension. When we say that Paramaśiva is far beyond Nirguṇa Brahman (without attributes), there is no way we can discuss about saguṇa Brahman (with attributes) here. Now Paramaśiva decides to create. When He decides to create, in the mass of energy there takes place a Divine Pulsation (high intensity vibrations or throbbing, known as spanda). A miniscule piece from this throb falls apart (like a drop falling out from boiling water). This drop has equal effulgence and splendour of Paramaśiva, though it is only a tiny piece. In order to understand this tiny piece, it can be said that it is one trillionth part of Paramaśiva. This one trillionth part has all the qualities of Paramaśiva and this part is named as Śiva.
Śiva is known as the Self or Brahman, as opposed to Paramaśiva, who is termed as Parabrahman. Brahman or Śiva is Nirguṇa Brahman as He is devoid of any qualities or attributes (Paramaśiva is beyond Nirguṇa Brahman). Śiva is called by several names, though He is devoid of any forms. He has no forms because, He is nirguṇa. But for the purpose of understanding the concept, He is described here with a form. But, the reality is that He is in the form of blistering Light and hence He is known as Prakāśa. Without this Light, nothing can be seen. In this article, He is given a form for the sake of convenience and easier understanding. Like Paramaśiva, Śiva also develops will to create and this is known as Divine Will (as opposed to freewill2). When Śiva decides to create, He has two intentions. One, He wants to remain secluded and undisturbed. Two, He wanted to create (manifest3) out of compassion (for both sentient and insentient beings). He thought a way out and decided to carve a part of His Power to carry forward His Divine will to create. He began to meditate intently and decided to create a beautiful woman, equally splendorous like Him. But this woman has not yet physically appeared. Śiva decided to create Her in deep red in complexion. Śiva continued to maintain quality of the source of His origin, viz. Paramaśiva. The only change that Śiva made in Himself is that He has become transparent like pure crystal, to keep Him cool and pleasant. This is out of pure compassion for the beings that He decided to create, as, if He continues to maintain the same heat energy of Paramaśiva, creation cannot happen for the sheer reason that whatever created would get burnt into ashes, due to high intensity heat radiating from Him. At this point of time, Śiva created her mentally and decided to keep her within Himself for the time being.
When Śiva finally decided to create, after carefully considering all aspects of His creation, He decided to create this woman as a separate entity. Once He decided to create this woman, He stood up and brought her out, first by giving His left side to her, which is known as ardhanārīśvara4 form (half male and half female). After remaining in this form for some time, He made her to come out of Him fully and He named Her as Ādiśakti5. She is also blistering and splendorous like Śiva (Śiva imbibed the qualities of Paramaśiva and Ādiśakti imbibed the qualities of Śiva). There are only two differences between Śiva and Śakti. One, Śiva is pure white and appears like a crystal and transparent. Śakti is deep red in colour and is translucent. Two, Śiva represents static energy and Śakti represents dynamic and kinetic forms of energies.
As soon as She came out of Him, He asked Her to sit by His side and imparted various aspects of creation. He taught Her not only about creation, but also dwelt at length about how to liberate the created beings and ways and means to merge them unto Him. This is known as liberation. During this period of imparting knowledge to Her, Śiva assumed the form of a Guru for Her. He taught Her various aspects of worship through Tantra śāstra-s and associated mantras. In these teachings, Śiva never attached any importance to Him. He only taught how She can be worshiped. This is mainly because He is not interested in any activities and never wants to be disturbed from His deep meditative state. However, He has given Her complete access to Her to reach Him for anything at any point of time (svātantrya śakti). During this stage, Śiva and Śakti sat opposite to each other and She gave Him all respects as Her Guru. This aspect of Śiva imparting Divine knowledge to Her is considered as a sort of Divine initiation. This initiation is vastly different from human initiation for the single reason that Śiva taught Her to create, whereas in human initiations, we are taught how to get back to Them (cessation from transmigration, leading to liberation). Based on this reason, Śiva is worshiped through Mahāpadukāmantra6 in Śrī Vidyā cult. After having imparted all the knowledge that is required for the purpose of creation, sustenance, death of beings, annihilation of the universe and re-creation7, Śiva made Her to sit on His lap and ultimately unites with Her to commence the process of creation and their union is known as Śivaśakti aikyaṁ8. After this union, She pleads with Śiva to remain with Her all the time only as a mute witness to all Her actions (Śiva and Śakti can never be separated), for which Śiva agreed on the condition that He will only be present and will not get involved in any of the actions. Thus, Śiva, though remaining as the Self in all the beings as the cause of creation (the Self or Brahman) does not get involved in any of the actions. He always remains as Witness.
Now, She proceeds to create, after obtaining complete Power of Attorney (svātantrya śakti) from Śiva. When She proceeds to create, She is in the form absolute Bliss known as Ānandaśakti9. First, She manifests as icchāśakti, then as jñānaśakti and finally as kriyāśakti (these three śakti-s are known as energy of will, energy of wisdom and energy of action). In these three śakti-s, presence of Śiva is very predominant and these three states are known as Sadāśiva, Īśvara and Mahādeva (according to Trika philosophy it is known as Śuddha Vidyā. Mahādeva is used only for the purpose of easy understanding, as this is one of the often used names of Śiva). At this point, both Śiva and Śakti enter into the dark tunnel of māyā and when they come out of the other end of the tunnel, they are separated and become Puruṣa and Prakṛti. Puruṣa is the individual soul with Śiva within and Prakṛti is māyā or ignorance that forms the sheath around the Self, and after being sheathed by māyā, the Self becomes self or individual soul. When Puruṣa and Prakṛti unite, individual creation is made (such as a human being). First thing that is formed out this union is antaḥkaraṇa (mind, intellect and ego) and later organs of perception and organs of actions, etc. It is only in Prakṛti, initially all the three guṇa-s10 lie in equilibrium. This is the process of creation. When there is equilibrium is distorted, creations of individual beings begin.
After having come into existence, the ultimate aim of any being is not to be born again. From mundane existence to the ultimate goal of reaching Śiva is the path of liberation, where we have to completely pursue the revere path. For example, we have to first realize māyā, and then transcend māyā to reach Mahādeva, Īśvara, Sadhāśivā to attain Śakti, then Ādiśakti and finally become one with Śiva.
1. Nirguṇa means without attributes and saguṇa means with attributes.
2. Free will is the power of making free choices unconstrained by external agencies such as sensory organs.
3. Manifest in the sense that He wanted to become gross from subtle.
4. Ardhanārīśvara form : Half male and half female form of Śiva.
5. Ādiśakti is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 615, which is explained like this: She is the primordial energy of creation. Śiva has no creator. Śiva’s only creation is Śaktī who in turn created the universe. Hence She is called as Ādi (first) Śaktī (energy). In fact, Śaktī is the creative pulsation of Śiva. It is only because of Śaktī, empiric individual realises his essential divine nature.
6. Mahāpadukāmantra: Śrī Mahāpadukā refers to the Lotus Feet of Lord Paramaśiva. In Śrī Vidyā cult, He is worshipped as Caryānandanātha. He initiated Mahākāmeśvarī (His Consort) during the formation of the universe. He is also adored as Vidyānandanātha and Paramaśivānatha.
7. Lalitā Sahasranāma 250 Pañca-brahma-svarūpiṇī
8. Lalitā Sahasranāma 999 Śiva-śakty-aikya-rūpiṇī
9. Brahman has got five important powers. They are cit (consciousness), ānanda (bliss), icchā (will), jñāna (knowledge) and kriyā (action). This Cit or Śiva (first person) betakes Himself into human (third person) and Śaktī (second person). Because cit is covered by many minute barricades and sheaths, we are unable to realize Him with ease. Knowledge makes us to understand these blockades and coverings, so that it becomes easier for us to remove them and move towards Him. Brahman is safely hidden amidst these covers. Kṛṣṇa says, (Bhagavad Gīta XV.7) “The eternal jīvātma (soul) in this body is a particle of my own being.”
10. Guṇa-s: She is in the form of three guṇa-s or qualities viz sattvic, rajas and tamas. Sattva guṇa means the quality of purity and knowledge. The presence of other two guṇa-s is not very prominent in sattva guṇa as this guṇa is endowed with the highest purity. Rajo guṇa is the activity of passion. Tamo guṇa is inertia or ignorance. These two guṇa-s have higher trace of other guṇa-s. Guṇa-s are the inherent qualities of prakṛti. Ego and intellect originate from guṇa-s that are present in all the evolutes of prakṛti at once, but distributed in unequal proportions in each individual. The predominant guṇa that prevails in an individual is reflected through his thoughts and actions.
Kṛṣṇa explains guṇa-s in Bhagavad Gīta (IV.6 - 9) “Sattva, rajas and tamas - these three qualities born of prakṛti (Nature) tie down the imperishable soul to the body. Of these, sattva being immaculate, is illuminating and flawless; it binds through identification with joy and wisdom. The quality of rajas, with is of the nature of passion, as born of avariciousness and attachment. It binds the soul through attachment to actions and their fruits. Tamas, the deluder of all those who look upon the body as their own self, are born of ignorance. It binds the soul through error, sloth and sleep. Sattva drives one to joy, and rajas to action, while tamas clouding the wisdom incites one to err as well as sleep and sloth.” Chapter of Bhagavad Gīta XIV extensively deals with guṇa-s. Kṛṣṇa again says (Bhagavad Gīta XIV.20) “Having transcended the aforesaid guṇa-s, which have caused the body, and freed from birth, death, old age and all kinds of sorrow, this soul attains the supreme bliss.”