In the cosmology of Kashmir Shaivism, God (Shiva) manifests the world out of Himself in a series of 36 principles, or tattvas. The first five tattvas are called pure; it is not until the sixth tattva that forgetfulness of our true nature becomes apparent. The sixth tattva is Maya tattva.
Maya conceals God’s true identity. The word “maya” comes from the Sanskrit root “ma-”, which means measure; Maya makes the immeasurable appear to be measurable. It is an essential mechanism of God’s involution into manifestation.
The next five tattvas involve the kanchukas, which appear to shrink God’s limitlessness. A kanchuka is a constrictor. The kanchukas are the coverings of Maya; they appear to contract God into an individual point, or anu. The kanchukas function as follows:
Kalā: Shrinks universal authorship and limits agency
Vidyā: Shrinks universal awareness and limits knowledge
Rāga: Shrinks universal all-satisfaction and limits contentment, creating a sense of lack and bringing about desire for particular things
Kāla: Shrinks eternity of consciousness and limits the experience of time to past, present, and future
Niyati: Shrinks total freedom and all-pervasiveness and limits cause, space, and form
As individuals, we already tend to be comfortable with the path to involution. But we are so unwilling to accept the way to evolution, which is the path of sadhana. Instead, we accept our shrunken state, and then stay shrunken and apply our shrunkenness onto the path of evolution. So our idea of liberation is to be ourselves as we are now, yet happier and content with our state.
With this wrong understanding, we cannot grasp or accept the experiences we encounter on the path of evolution. As we let go of our shrunkenness and expand, the resulting experiences cause us to have culture shock. We cannot relate with them, and so either deny them, shrink them into an idea, or stop doing what brings us this expansion.
When we have culture shock, we get disoriented, and we work to resolve that dissonance by making sense of it on our terms, by relating to what we do know. However, on the path of evolution there are events and experiences that our shrunken selves cannot relate with at all.
At that point, denial becomes the most appealing option for the shrunken self. We forget we had the experience. We pretend it was a dream. We make it vague and, most importantly, we tell no one. By not articulating what we have experienced, we are able to relegate these incomprehensible experiences to oblivion.
The common denominator is appropriating our sadhana into something “we” can handle. Our ability to shrink our knowledge is encoded in our condition. We concretize in order to make sense and believe we have grasped fully, when we have in fact remained shallow, shrunken, and stupid. The kanchukas are in place, functioning perfectly, and we have no consciousness of this. We are the pashu (beast), with the pasha (noose) tightly constricting us. We are imperfect, separate, and the doer of good and bad deeds. We are unconscious of our condition—which is the very essence of our condition: unconscious and unaware of our unconsciousness.
|Concrete / differentiating / shallow||Universal / seeing unity / having depth|
|Down to earth||Airy-fairy / arbitrary / inactive|
In order to break out of this prison, to untie the noose, we first have to become aware of our limited condition and accept it. We have to know that we do not know. The Guru helps with this by always challenging our limited understanding. The Guru is the means of untying the knot. By surrendering to the Guru, we are accepting that there is something more. We are accepting our culture shock and are willing to learn, to expand beyond our limited understanding and identification.
We cannot break out of our shrunkenness without outside help. We have to accept the reality that the Guru is outside our shrunken realm. Then we can choose to follow the Guru’s path.
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