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8 May 1999
Being a Rejoinder against Advaita Vedānta Philosophy by the Great Lord, the Master Abhinavagupta ~ OM ŚRĪ ŚRĪ ŚAMBHUNĀTH ~ Paņdit Śankarācarya of the Advaita Vedānta school has argued numerous metaphysical points which shall now be refuted or refined. Claim the first: Consciousness does not know itself. It has been argued that the Self cannot know itself upon the following logic. If the Self knew itself, it would have to be divided into two parts, the knowing part and the known part. The knowing part would also need to know itself for Self-knowledge to be complete. So the knowing part would also need to be divided into two parts, the knowing and the known. But the knower of the knower would also need to know itself for self-knowledge to be complete. Therefore it must divide into two parts as well, so now there is a knower of the knower of the knower. Clearly this leads to an infinite regression to the point of absurdity. Hence the Self cannot know itself. We of the Trika Kaula school say otherwise. Supreme consciousness can and does self-referentially double back on itself and experience its own being (this is called vimarśa). (Singh xii) The reductio ad absurdum argument given above is incorrect by the following reasoning. “Like a stainless crystal assuming form by the sundry colors
Anuttara vs. Brahman
it reflects, even so the Lord [i.e. the Supreme Self] is the formfulness of gods, humans, and living things.”1 Consciousness (citi) manifests itself as the form of this universe. Though She is one, she assumes a plurality of forms. “External objective existence is felt only as an expression of the Self or Divine Consciousness.” (Singh 3) Since every form is an expression of Citi, it must have purest Citi only as its essence, though it may appear to be otherwise on the surface. The Self has no form that is not the Self. (P39) Therefore, by knowing the essence or the ultimate nature of any of these apparently external forms, we know Consciousness. Since the knower is Consciousness also, it is Consciousness knowing Consciousness. This is our preliminary refutation of the opponent’s claim. Here the objection is raised: ‘what you say may be true, however, individual consciousness cannot know itself as itself, on the principle that nothing can be both a subject and object, and by the reductio argument given above.’ A good point, but one based on flawed presuppositions. Firstly, ‘individual consciousness’ as an independent construct is illusory. “Consciousness, the inner spirit that governs…and finally one’s own individuality: all this is merely the conventional. Truly, it does not exist ultimately.” (P27) There is only one Divine Consciousness, which is known through samāveśa or samādhi. In this case, it is not Consciousness ‘seeing’ itself per se, but rather ‘being’ itself. The transcendental state of meditative absorption is the
Paramārthasāra, verse 6 – hereafter cited in the form P6 (translation by D.R. Brooks).
experience of being immersed in the ocean of Divine Consciousness, of being that ocean. Thus, it is ‘knowing’ in a sense different from that of the knowing of objects of ordinary perception. The opponent has presumed that the process of knowing necessitates a subject and an object. In conventional reality, this may be true, but when the Self knows itself, there is no paradox of it simultaneously being both subject and object because in that state, there is no object. It is therefore a kind of knowing qualitatively different from conventional knowing. The Self simply becomes fully aware of its own being without any of the tangential, confusing epiphenomenons of consciousness. By knowing the nature, then, of true Self-knowledge, no confusion arises regarding the opponent’s infinite regression hypothesis, which is demonstrably false. The very fact that he would make such a mistake implies to us that he has not in fact experienced the transcendental samāveśa state, the state of pure being.
Claim the second: There is only one aspect to the divine: brahman, the passive all-knowing witness. Though he claims to be an advaitin with his declaration of a singular divine aspect, the opponent actually postulates a kind of functional dualism. On the one hand, there is the Self, the witness of all, which is the Real. On the other, there is the material world, which he thinks unreal. The true advaita doctrine is that both Self and world are real, because they are both expressions of
one Consciousness. “Just as a watery juice becomes thick and thicker still, lumpy sugar and refined sugar are all only sugarcane juice, so all phenomena are merely different states of Śiva the Lord in his universal aspect.” (P26) How can the Lord be both real and unreal? It is impossible for something to be simultaneously real and unreal. To understand this problem, in the Trika Kaula school we speak of two (equally real) aspects to the Supreme. Śiva is the great Lord, the Self in all beings, the witness of which Śankara speaks. Śakti is Śiva’s dynamic, creative aspect. It is She who has become all this. It is She who pulsates as the very fabric of reality, vibrating in each particle of existence. She sings in the wind, roars in the ocean, twists in the tornado, and sighs through the flight of a butterfly. When this is the case, it is clear that the world is far from unreal—it is the very form of the Lord! Furthermore, we would argue, the Lord is not passive, but both passive and active. This alleged monist would have us believe that the universe is One, and its substratum and true nature is the absolutely quiescent brahman. How can this be, when this world is inherently dynamically active and throbbing with life? The divine Śambhu, in his form as the supremely free śakti, is constantly expanding (unmeśa) and contracting (nimeśa). He reveals himself and then conceals himself again and again in his blissful dance. The two aspects of the Divine taken together are like a stream of oil, moving and yet still.
Do not all living things have two parents, whose combined qualities produce a single offspring? Similarly, the Mother of existence is the Śakti, “the universal Divine Energy which expresses its stamina in ever fresh creativity that is inspired by pure, absolute autonomy.” (Singh
1) She is ever becoming, ever expanding, ever creative in her capacity
to express herself in a thousand different forms. The father of existence is Śiva, “who is perfect and complete in Himself, not lacking anything whatsoever.” (ibid.) We clearly see these two aspects of reality in everyday life. We experience the stillness and pure awareness of Śiva in meditation, and the pulsating dynamism of Śakti in the manifestations of the world, such as music and dance. Thus we see that all things are the Self manifest in two aspects, the Transcendent (Paramaśiva) and the Embodied Cosmos (kaulikī-śakti). The opponent’s claim has been refuted. O fool! Do you think that the Supreme Lord Is so limited that He cannot manifest in many different forms As part of His divine play? He is so free that He can, out of Himself, create Another And that divine other is the brilliantly blazing Citi Śakti His perfect consort – the pulsating creative power of consciousness Thus the highest brahman appears as two: The witness, the purno’ham vimarsha, the peaceful Śiva And the active power, the creative force, the dynamic Śakti Supreme Mother of this universe
Claim the third: The world is samsāra; it keeps us from experiencing the Self. The opponent’s school has argued that this world
is an illusion, and that it must be renounced utterly in order to attain the Self. Śankara and his followers believe that only knowledge, not action, can bring salvation, and that the things of this world cause only the bondage of attachment and aversion. Thus they leave their homes and families, and go into the forests and the mountains to renounce. Now, it is true that “order and disorder, heaven and hell, birth and death, happiness and suffering, society’s classes, life’s stages, and the like…come into being perforce by confusion.” (P29) However, this does not mean that they are unreal, nor that they cannot have more than one effect. The opponent expresses a kind of fatalism in his belief that the things of this world can lead only to bondage. Rather, we wish to argue that the world is the source of both bondage and liberation. In fact, you need the world to experience the Self. How can this be understood? Quite simply. When one has a thorn in one’s foot, does one deny its existence or does one remove it with another thorn? Clearly the latter, and yet the opponent seems to think if he renounces the thorn, it will somehow vanish of its own accord. We see in everyday life that when one trips and falls, the very same ground that caused one to fall is the ground one uses to push oneself back up again. True mastery over the poison of existence is obtained not by avoiding it or ignoring it, but by assimilating it into one’s being and nullifying it. For this reason, in ancient times it was said the sādhus “drank with Rudra from the poison cup” (Ŗgveda 10.136). The Lord brought forth as this universe both
Power (śakti) and Obfuscation (māya). (P4) These are of course the same thing seen from different angles. The sweetness of His Divine Play is that in this very world of suffering are planted the hidden tools we can use to reach Him. What are these tools? They include the secret and powerful energies hidden in different substances (kaulikī-śakti), in the vibratory power of words (matŗka-śakti) and in the human body itself (kuņdalinī-śakti). Furthermore, by observing the principles at work in the natural world, we can deduce the means by which a goal is achieved most effectively. Since this world is the creation of the Supreme Lord and is not illusory, every principle of action and being in it relates also to our own beings, which are a microcosm of the universe. Therefore we have much to learn from the world of immediate relevance to sādhana. This world is not samsāra in and of itself; only a bound, conditioned, fearful, limited experience of the world is samsāra. When the truth is perceived, the world is seen not as samsāra, but as source of blissful enjoyment (bhukti). It is said in our scriptures, “Lokānanda samādhi sukham” — the bliss of the world is the happiness of samādhi. Every experience of worldly happiness is not illusory or false, but rather a limited version of the joy of samādhi. When the aspirant realises that, he is motivated to seek the ultimate liberation (mukti) of Self-realisation. If sensual experiences are pleasurable, how much more pleasurable must be the source of those experiences, of which they are but a
contracted form? This is an example of how worldly experience may be used as a tool for liberation. Finally, the opponent fails to realise that the world is the very form of the experience of the Self. It is the stage on which the play of sādhana is acted out, and on which the fruit of sādhana is enjoyed. This is the key of understanding: to experience oneness, there must be multiplicity. Otherwise, what has become one with what? It is the experience of many different forms having one supreme Essence that is the joy of Self-realisation. What would be the joy in experiencing everything as the same? Where is the sweetness in that? The joy is in the thoughts ‘the divine Śakti has become all these diverse forms’, ‘Look! there He has become a stone, and there He has become a dog – how amazing!’ What would be the joy or the revelation in the thought ‘Śiva has become Śiva’? It is the very multiplicity of the world itself which holds out the possibility of experiencing oneness. Therefore it has been demonstrated that, far from keeping us from experiencing the Self, the world is a means of liberation, as well as the context in which that liberation is experienced. For you, Śankara, difference is the problem; we know that difference itself is grace. O friend Śankara, do you not realise The truth is right there if you open your eyes And see that plurality of objects is real Without having your doctrine of oneness to steal
Claim the fourth: Only through knowledge (jñānamātra) is liberation attained. The opponent’s argument for this point has been elaborated elsewhere.2 The refutation goes thus. Our tradition begins with the authority of the Vedas, and those hoary texts clearly are almost entirely about the efficacy of action. How can Śankara declare himself part of the orthodoxy and yet render the Veda meaningless? Our ancestors in the Dvapara Yuga sacrificed and performed daily rituals, fortnightly rituals, monthly rituals, and annual rituals in order to support and uphold the cosmic order (ŗta) as well to align themselves with that order. It was through performance of action that the forces of chaos were held at bay, and salvation for the individual was rendered possible. Now, in the Kali Yuga, new texts have been revealed by the Supreme Śiva (the Tantrāgamas) appropriate for the modern age. New mantras have been shown to be efficacious. Though they are new, they continue in the unbroken steam of tradition from time immemorial. Revelation (śruti) is not a one-time historical event, but an ongoing process. The Lord is constantly revealing more of himself, and we Tantrikas receive that fruit. Knowledge is important, yes, but so is skill in action. Lord Kŗsņa said this also in the Gītā. Through the power of ritual and the efficacy of mantra, we seize the deadly cobra of worldliness, reveal its true nature
In the midterm paper for this class.
as a rope, then use it to bind attachments and other obstacles to our will, whereas before we were beholden to them. We embrace the danger with skill and knowledge, realise it as the other within, and gain power over it through that very intimacy. The Supreme Lord has five powers (pañcamukha) – that of consciousness, bliss, will, knowledge, and activity. The opponent would deny the last of these. But is it not an activity for the Lord to bring forth the universe, maintain it, reabsorb it, conceal and reveal His own presence in it? Certainly it is, and since we are the very form of the Lord, we perform these five actions (pañcakŗtya) as well. We create our world through our experience and perception of it, we maintain that worldview as well as our self-image (the two are inextricably linked), and we dissolve them when the light of true knowledge shows those perceptions to be limited. We conceal, forgetting our own true nature, and we reveal when we regain our original freedom. As a human is a microcosm of the Divine, it could not be otherwise. While we agree that action based in attachment or the other kleśas can only bind, ritual performed properly and dedicated to the Supreme can only be effective. Thus the opponent’s claim has been refuted. It has clearly been shown that several of the opponent’s views are untenable. In conclusion, we of the Trika Kaula school assert the following truths: the transcendental nirguņa Supreme Consciousness manifests, by the power of his śakti, as the different forms of this world;
every self is an epiphenomenon of the Self, and therefore not illusory and worthy of investigation; Consciousness knows itself; there are two aspects to the Divine (Śiva and Śakti), which explain the nature and functioning of the cosmos; the world is a means to liberation; and liberation is attainable through both action and knowledge.
Brooks, Douglas Renfrew. The Paramārthasāra, or The Essence of Ultimate Reality. Translation. Unpublished manuscript. Feuerstein, Georg (1998). The Yoga Tradition. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press. Muktānanda, Swami. Nothing Exists Which Is Not Śiva. South Fallsburg, NY: SYDA Foundation, 1997. Singh, Jaideva. A Trident of Wisdom; a translation of Parātrīśikā-vivarana. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1989.
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