Metaphysics and psychology are unified in Tantra. Ultimately, the deepest studies of our inner nature merge with absolute reality beyond our relative mental, psychological projections about reality. The still, quiet, and introspective mind can be focused and tuned in to the greater universe. One learns to live in harmony with an inner peace and wisdom that connects the personal, microcosmic being with an inward, hidden order in the universe. The Tantric theories about creation, involution, and evolution are very deep and complex. I refer the serious metaphysical reader to Idea and Ideology of Anandamurti or the works of Sir John Woodruff for a more complete description of Tantric cosmology and metaphysics. This book is more focused on psychology and phenomenology than metaphysics.
Central to Tantric cosmology are the concepts of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is infinite consciousness and Shakti is divine, creative energy. Shiva is the transcendent First Father of our Consciousness and Shakti is the Great Mother Creator. They are inseparable in essence, like fire and its capacity to burn. Together they are Brahma, the Supreme Consciousness, or godhead, to use a concept from Western mysticism. Shiva and Shakti have separate names so that we can conceive of the distinction between essential being and the activity that results from this being. Shiva is infinite being, an infinite ocean of consciousness. Shakti, the creative energy, is the force that creates waves on the ocean. Shiva is absolute being, consciousness, and bliss, while Shakti is the energy behind change, creation, and becoming. Unified in Shiva, Shakti is tranquil and there is no expression, like a placid ocean. This is the godhead, or Brahma, where there is no change or becoming, no universe, planets, life, nor Big-Bang. All is one, eternal and infinite. When Shakti awakens her creative activity, she begins to create waves on this infinite ocean of Shiva. She only appears to be separate because of the multiplicity of the apparently separate waves she creates. Finer waves are finer aspects of creation, while grosser waves are condensed, material levels of creation. All is Brahma, all comes from the Shiva-Shakti godhead, whether manifest nor non-manifested in creative expression. There exists no other entity than Brahma.
When Shakti becomes active creation comes into being. Her creative activity burgeons out of the essence of Shiva. Shiva is the “material” or basic stuff of creation and Shakti is the operating, creative force that forms Shiva into created manifestation. Everything that exists is a wave on the ocean of Shiva vibrated and sustained by the infinite energetic potential of Shakti. The whole universe is a spectrum of vibrations from the finest wavelengths of the Macrocosmic Mind to the grossest levels of matter. Carl Sagan referred to our material world as “star stuff” and provoked a new understanding of how we see the material world. Tantric cosmology would go even further and state that “star stuff” is but Consciousness bound by Shakti into matter. It is the infinite being of Shiva that is in the essence of all. The created universe is considered maya or cosmic illusion because we perceive it as separate from the great Consciousness within.
Creation burgeons from the infinitely subtle and moves toward cruder manifestation. All creation is a gradual reduction of the infinite wave-length of Consciousness. Creation is like an iceberg in the infinite ocean of Shiva-Consciousness. Shiva is the ocean while Shakti is like the cool air that freezes a part of the ocean and makes an iceberg. Both iceberg and ocean, like creation and Consciousness, are of the same essence. The subtlest aspects of creation are but finer vibrations of Shakti. The Macrocosmic Mind is the first and subtlest expression to manifest out of the infinite ocean of Shiva. Unlike pure Consciousness, Mind has the qualities of both Shiva and Shakti. It is a tranquil, intelligent being like Shiva, but also an active being like Shakti. It is through this Macrocosmic Mind that the material universe manifests. The action of Mind is like the cooling effect upon the iceberg. Subtle waves of Shiva-Consciousness are transformed into energy and matter. Everything that exists is first conceived within this great Mind that continues to guide the involution of Shiva into the material expressions of the universe. The Mind of Brahma is GOD- Generator-Operator-Destroyer. Brahma generates all creatures in its mind, they are operated or sustained by this mind, and ultimately dissolved or “destroyed” by this mind as all created things are impermanent.
What we call “matter” is really a spectrum of very fine energies that eventually manifest in apparently solid form. There are 5 levels of material expression: ether, air, luminous, liquid, and solid. The subtler elements like “ether” or “air” aren’t like space and oxygen. They are very fine fields of energy behind matter and form. Their subtlety is like “ether” or “air.” Matter has these very subtle, invisible layers or “dark matter,” (the ether and air layers) as well as more empirically quantifiable gross expressions (luminous, liquid, and solid) as well. When matter reaches its most dense state in the core of a star, there Shiva has reached his maximum state of density. Shakti cannot condense Shiva’s vibration any further and this phase of the involution of Consciousness is complete. Shakti has awakened Shiva for the cosmic dance of creation and has transformed the infinite, motionless Shiva into the jagat or moving, living universe. Shiva is infinite and the creation of the universe is just an imaginary transformation within Shiva’s infinity. Still, Shiva remains as witness to the jagat. The universe is just waves on the infinite ocean of Consciousness and always remains within Brahma.
Mind comes from Consciousness. Mind projects the physical universe with its infinite creative power as Shakti has made all things from Shiva-Consciousness. Life is the attempt to express the Macrocosmic Mind within a physical structure like a little bubble within its own created universe. Life resists entropy and organizes itself. It takes matter and energy from its environment and puts them to its own use. Life, even in its simplest of forms, is an intelligence created and guided by the Macrocosmic Mind of Brahma that is sustaining the physical universe. Mind is something much more subtle than any physical energy in the universe. It is the guiding and sustaining force for biological life. Mind acting upon matter is a state of organization and moves contrary to the force of entropy that governs the material world.
The intelligence of Shiva and the energy of Shakti are always behind the phase of involution, of created expression. Shakti leads Shiva away from his state of infinite oneness and non-duality. In the phase of evolution, Shiva leads Shakti’s created activity, the universe, back toward his pure state of Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss. Considering that there is such an intelligent force as Brahma behind the physical world, it should be a little easier to conceptualize that the physical world is not something static and fixed and that matter is not an absolute state of existence. Matter is bound Consciousness. Consciousness releases these bonds through the creation of life. The second law of thermodynamics, the law of entropy, is but a game that Shakti plays in the basement of her creation, this physical universe. Behind this ephemeral, passing show is all the intelligence of all of the anterior planes of existence that preceded and designed the involution of the solid factor, or physical world. The physical world is but the outermost ring of concentric circles around the Consciousness Nucleus of Shiva. Shakti’s gravity and entropy are stronger in the physical world where all of the impetus of creation has reached its nadir. Still and quiet, Shiva remains the nucleus force behind all of the creation and is ultimately the supreme creator and giver of life, which is but a spark of Shiva Consciousness. Shiva is Hunab Ku, the center and nucleus of the universe. Consciousness is the nucleus of all nuclei- galaxy centers, planets, biological cells- all are the progeny of Brahma.
When the Macrocosmic Mind manifests as life in a physical structure it is referred to as a microcosmic mind. The microcosm is but a bubble within the unified Macrocosmic Mind. There is but one Mind that manifests in many forms, like the reflection of one moon on many ponds. Life, or evolution of Consciousness, is an attempt to retrace the steps of creation generated in the phase of the involution of Consciousness where Shakti manifested Shiva, and thus return to the original Shiva-Shakti union. Mind is a vehicle for this bound Consciousness and uses successively finer physical mediums to return to the essential state of unity in Brahma. The evolution of biological life is the manifestation of the microcosmic mind’s evolutionary march toward re-union with Brahma.
Most expressions of life are still in the pre-conscious stage of evolution. There is Consciousness, no doubt, as Shiva is behind all mental expressions and therefore behind all expressions of biological life. However, these entities are not entirely conscious of themselves. The mind is still confined to the sensory, instinctual level. Only the chitta, or objective, Sensory Mind has manifested. Chitta is the aspect of mind that takes on the impression of the external world within the physical brain. It is the outer part of mind that relates to the subtle life forces of the body. It also regulates the physiological instincts that relate us to this sensory world. The sensory organs transmit and impress external signals into the chitta. Chitta is like a mental “plasm” or LCD screen that gives us a picture show of external reality. The instincts inherent in the chitta respond to this image and, in turn, act upon the motor organs in the brain to respond to the external world. As life evolves the chitta becomes more complex as the brain and nervous system have developed more refined instincts. Greater degrees of intelligence begin to manifest through the refined chitta. Chitta is the medium in which the mind responds to the determinism of the external, sensory world but also the recipient of guiding intelligence from the Macrocosmic Mind. Chitta, although grossly bound to a biological entity, is still an aspect of the one, omniscient Macrocosmic Mind and it is this mind that ultimately guides all evolution back toward union with Brahma.
Undoubtedly, the most evolved intelligence of embodied, microcosmic consciousness on this planet is the human mind. Here,self awareness is clearly established. There is a sense of “I am” with a desire to discover itself and grow mentally and spiritually. As the instincts of the chitta have become very refined, the intelligence of the mind, the Aham, manifests. Aham is the ego or intellect. It is the intelligence that says “I am” and looks for ways to nourish, understand, and protect its identity. The impressions created in the mind by the relationship between the nerve cells and the mental chitta are witnessed by the Aham-intellect or ego and there is the thought that “I am walking by the river, there is an oak tree with an agreeable smell. I think I will sit here for a while.” Here, the mind isn’t operating at the purely instinctual level of the Sensory Mind. There are subtle thoughts, judgments, and impressions that act upon the more objective, Sensory Mind and chitta. The Sensory Mind and chitta are always in the present while the Aham may be very busy processing experiences in the present, remembering the past, or creating imaginary realities and fantasies with the help of memory and imagination. Because Aham is the “I am,” the ego has many existential desires and needs in the mental arena beyond the simple sensory world. Consciousness comes from the infinite Shiva but now Consciousness is bound within a human body, with a Sensory Mind, but even more complex is the notion of “I am” with its intelligence and all of the needs and potential experiences that will eventually awaken this limited, separate notion of “I am” into union with Shiva.
As human desires become more refined and meaning and purpose are established, the self-concept of the Aham is cultivated. It is only due to the natural flow of mental evolution that this limited Aham-ego concept desires to expand into something still greater. When the separate ego begins to wonder with creative imagination as to why some things are good and beautiful and meaningful and seeks to increase these subtle, mental needs, we encounter higher realities. We find greater levels of union with nature and the social world, deeper levels of friendship and intimacy, and greater wonder toward the great universe and everything in it. These higher existential experiences break down our separateness and gradually make us more universal citizens. Mahat, or the pure I-feeling, manifests when the intelligence of the Aham is witnessed by something finer and more internal than the Aham-intellect that is so occupied with the complex social world. Mahat is the pure intuition of “I exist,” pure mindfulness. It sees the intellect of the ego from its quiescence deep within, beyond time. It is the closest approximation to what one would call the “soul.” It is the inner light just behind the first memory in childhood, your pure, inner “I” before it was impressed upon so firmly by the outside world. Experiences in the brain and chitta may affect the ego, but the Mahat, the pure “I”, is never affected. It is the part of you that just is, the finest part of your mental being. It is your personal, dear and sweet feeling of pure existence that seems so special that it belongs to you and no other. This deep feeling of “I” experientially reveals immortality in that it is the key to feeling the Universal “I” that is within all souls. It seems to be everywhere and in all people. A truly intelligent microcosm that has properly cultivated the Aham-ego awareness will always find the ground of their person here in the quiescent “I” of Mahat. Shiva and the Mahat are so close in proximity and similarity it is practical to say they are identical. The finest part of the mind, the Mahat, is a perfect replica of Shiva-Consciousness. But Shiva is the witness even of Mahat, and is the lord of the mind. Even though Mind bound itself in creation and has had to pass through a phase of evolution to re-manifest itself, the fundamental consciousness of Shiva has never changed. He has witnessed the entire universal drama since its inception. The infinite ocean of Consciousness sustains all things always. It is the fundamental identity or “I-Witness” beyond the Mahat.
Tantric sadhana follows the natural flow of mental development from the instinctual chitta toward the Aham-intellect toward the Mahat-intuition. For human beings whose minds are dominated by more animal propensities, the practice of sadhana is very focused on physical and moral discipline. One needs a lot of force or Shakti to overcome these tendencies. This is called the Shakta, or Warrior stage. The Warrior aspirant needs a Moses or Krishna image to inspire dharmic rectitude. This is the “Warrior” stage of Sadhana. Warriors convert chitta instincts into conceptual Aham-intellect identity by following a strict code of social and spiritual discipline.
For those more developed minds who have moral discernment and a clear intellect and who are not so fettered by the limitations of the Aham-intellect, sadhana is a little more internal. Sadhana isn’t so focused on hero worship like in the Warrior stage. In this next stage the “enemies” are clearly seen as more internal and subtle, like vanity or the desire for spiritual power. One who overcomes these limitations becomes almost god-like and feels a deep union with Brahma always. This state is called the Devotional stage. Devotees convert the Aham-intellect into the intuition of the Mahat, the pure “I.” Here the spiritual aspirant, the sadhaka, is in the process of becoming one with god, the Generator, Operator, and Destroyer of the universe. The devotee has already passed through the stages of discipline and duty, of work and study. There remains only the desire to live in unity with Brahma. However, the danger here is that the Aham expansion is toward something so great that the Aham will always try to claim this greatness as its own. However, due to the mind’s rapid, inward movement, Shakti’s reactions will come quicker to those that are closer to union with Her purity. They will always be taught that the fat camel can never be forced through the most subtle and pure “eye of the needle” The pure “I”, is like a point of a needle where no form nor image may arise. Union with Shiva is possible only through the surrender of Aham, and the devotee knows and understands this secret. All of the devotee’s being is surrendered to Brahma in meditation. A yogi always strives for this one-pointed perfection of mindfulness, or ekagrata.
And for those blessed souls who attain this devotion, the non-dual knowledge of the Shiva-Shakti godhead is not far away. Being so secure in the home which is this divine universe and fearing nothing, the devotee surrenders completely to Shiva and attains oneness with the immortal, unalloyed state of Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss of Shiva. Even god, The Generator, Operator, and Destroyer becomes “undone” as the microcosm merges into the silent grounds of the Shiva-Shakti godhead. Meister Eckhart tells us that in the truest spiritual renunciation, not even god can bind the union of the soul in the godhead. The iceberg has melted back into the ocean and there is only the still, infinite ocean of Shiva, the Infinite One. This is the final, Shaeva stage. “Shaeva” refers to the followers of the ancient Tantric practices given by Shiva, the prehistoric yogi who first systematized Tantra in a non-dualistic style. Shaevas dissolve the entire mind- chitta, Aham, and Mahat into Shiva. The mind has achieved yoga, absolute union.
It is through sadhana that a microcosmic consciousness becomes one with the Macrocosmic consciousness or Shiva. Shakti bound Shiva into the created universe in the phase of involution. In the phase of life and evolution Shiva, through each and every one of us, seeks to return to his immortal abode. Sadhana, in all of its stages, involves the awakening of the kundalini. Kundalini is really the divine force of Shakti dormant in the base of the spine like a coiled serpent. Her “awakening” involves the gradual elevation of this fundamental creative force up the spine and into the brain, where Shiva resides within the microcosm. Kundalini Shakti is the fundamental intelligence behind the microcosm, behind its evolution from crude to subtle. There has been so much physical clash in biological evolution. There has been so much to learn and understand with the evolution of Self awareness and intellect. But most important is our internal, spiritual desire for freedom and liberation from suffering. Sadhana shows us the way to find this very fine, internal flow into yoga, into union.
excerpt from “A Name To The Nameless”