Tantra’s model of existence

Excerpt from Tantra – The path of ecstasy

Related: Architecture of the world

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According to one prominent school, Kashmir’s Pratyabhijna, Tantra’s ontology (model of existence) comprises thirty six principles or categories (tattva). These evolve out of the ultimate Reality, or Parama-Shiva, who or which is called a metaprinciple (atattva). in descending order, these are as follows:

I. Universal Principles

  1. Shiva (the Benevolent) – the masculine or consciousness aspect of the ultimate bipolar Reality.
  2. Shakthi (Power) – the feminine or power aspect of the ultimate bipolar Reality, which polarizes Consciousness into “I” (aham) and this (idam) or subject and object, but without separating them dualistically.
  3. Sadakhya (That which is named Being [sat] or Sada Shiva (Ever Benevolent0 – the transcendental will (iccha)  that recognizes and affirms “I am this”, with the emphasis still on the subjective “I” rather than the objective “this” of the bipolar One.
  4. Ishavara (Lord) – the Creator, corresponding to the realization of “this I am”, subtly emphasiing the objective side of the One and thereby setting the stage for cosmic evolution.
  5. Sad – Vidya (Knowledge of Being) or Shuddha Vidya(Pure Knowledge) – the state of balance between the subjective and the objective, which are now clearly distinguishable within the One.

II. Limiting Principles

  1. Maya (She who measures0 – the power of delusion inherent in the ultimate Reality by which the One appears to be limited and measurable through the separation of subject and object, which marks the beginning of the impure order of existence.

The Five “COverings” (Kancuka) associated with Maya:

    7.   Kala (Part) – the principle by which the unlimited creatorship of Consciousness becomes limited causing limited effectiveness.

    8.  Vidya (Knowledge) – the principle by which the omniscience of Consciousness is curtailed, causing finite knowledge.

    9.  Raga (Attachment) – the principle by which the wholeness (purnatva) of Consciousness is reduced to temporal existence marked by past, present and the future.

    11.  Niyati (Necessity) – the principle by which the independece and pervasiveness of Consciousness is curtailed, bringing about limitation relative to cause, space and form.

III. Principles of Individuation

    12.  Purusha (Man) or Anu (Atom) – the conscious subject or Self, which experiences the objective reality.

    13.  Prakriti (Creatrix) – the fully objectified reality, or nature, which is particular to each conscious subject.

IV.  Principles of the “Inner Instrument” (Antahkarana)

    14.  Buddhi (Understanding) – the mental faculty of intelligence, which is characterized by the capacity for making distinctions.

    15.  Ahamkara (I- maker) – the principle of individuation by which a person appropriates experiences (“I am such and such,” or posess such and such’)

    16.  Manas (Mind) – the mental faculty that synthesizes the incoming sensory impressions into whole concepts and images.

V. Principles of Experience

The Five Powers of Cognition (Jnana-Indriya):

    17.  Ghrana (Smell) – the olfactory sense.

    18.  Rasa (Taste) – the gustatory sense.

    19.  Cakshus (Eye sight) – the visual sense

    20.  Sparsha (Touch) – the tactile sense.

    21.  Shravana (Hearing) – the auditory sense.

 The Five Powers of Conation (Karma-Indriya)

    22.  Vac (Speech) – the faculty of communication.

    23.  Hasta (Hand) – the faculty of manipulation.

    24.  Pada (Foot) – the faculty of locomotion.

    25.  Payu (Anus) – the digestive faculty.

    26.  Upastha (Genitals0 – the procreative faculty.

The Five Subtle Elemtns (Tanmatras)

    27.  Shabda-Tanmatra (Subtle Element of Sound) – the potential for auditory perception.

   28.  Sparsha – Tanmatra (Subtle Element of Touch) – the potential for tactile perception.

   29.  Rupa – Tanmatra (Subtle Element of Sight) – the potential for visual perception.

   30.  Rasa – Tanmatra (Subtle Element of Taste) – the potential for gustatory perception.

   31.  Gandha Tanmatra (Subtle Element of Smell) – the potential for olfactory perception.

VI. Principles of Materiality

   32.  Akasha-Bhuta (Element of Ether) – the principle of vacuity produced from the subtle element of sound.

   33. Vayu-Bhuta (Element of Air) – the principle of motility produced from the subtle element of touch.

   34.  Agni-Bhuta (Element of Fire) – the principle of formation produced from the subtle element of sight.

   35.  Apo-Bhuta (Element of Water) – the principle of liquidity produced from the subtle element of taste.

   36.  Prithvi-Bhuta (Element of Earth) – the principle of solidity produced from the subtle element of smell.

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