The Pratyabhijnahridayam, which means ‘the heart of the doctrine of Self-recognition,’ is a short text of only 20 aphorisms which contains the essence of Self-realization. Although it is not one of the main texts, it is considered very important in the lineage of Kashmir Shaivism. It was written by Kshemaraja, a disciple of Abhinavagupta, in the tenth century. Kshemaraja was a commentator, not one of the founding sages or great innovators.
The original Shaivite texts, such as the Shiva Sutras and Spanda Karikas, are strange and numinous. It is hard to wrap your mind around them. That is one reason why Kshemaraja’s text is so helpful. His text is highly structured and logical, with a beginning, a middle and an end. It has a plot. By contrast, the Shiva Sutras and Spanda Karikas are hard to categorize. They are mysterious and wonderful, but the Pratyabhijnahridayam is more manageable.
Pratyabhijnahridayam begins with God and the creation of the Universe.
The Sutras of Pratyabhijnahridayam
Chitih svatantra vishva-siddhi-hetuhu
Supremely independent Chiti, universal Consciousness, is the cause of the Universe.
In this world, nothing exists which is outside the range of Consciousness.
The cause of the Universe is Consciousness, also known as Chiti. She is the cause of the manifestation, maintenance, and dissolution of the entire Universe. As an expression of Her own innate freedom, the great Consciousness functions to serve the extraordinary and perfect operation of everything.
Notice how different this is from the scientific view. There Consciousness is a byproduct of the evolutionary process, not the fundamental cause. Here Consciousness is fundamental and matter evolves from it. Science doesn’t actually address the issue of Consciousness—it is strictly based on reductionism, and Consciousness is ‘too big of a question’. Science acknowledges that Consciousness is here, but avoids the question of what it is and where it came from. It is certainly true that Consciousness is a big question. I would say it is the biggest question for the obvious reason that all questions appear in Consciousness and nowhere else!
Svecchaya svabhittau vishvam unmilayati
Of Her own free will, Chiti unfolds the Universe on Her own screen.
Consciousness creates the Universe effortlessly, out of Her own free will. This again refers to Shakti, the dynamic creative force. No one made Her do it. She wanted to do it and She did it. Chiti unfolded the Universe on Her own screen, which means on Herself. The screen is a metaphor for Shakti herself, so as the entire universe is manifest by Shakti it also never ceases to be Shakti. Further the metaphor “screen” implies that not only is the universe a manifestation of Shakti and never ceases to be Shakti, but it is also Shakti that perceives the Universe in and as herself.
Western religions think of God as creating the Universe over there. Shaivism says that there is no place outside of God where that can occur. There is no material other than God that He can use. He cannot say, I am God and I will go to a lumberyard and get some lumber. I am God and I will create a Universe over there in New South Wales’. He cannot do that because there is no other ‘there’ besides Himself. In the beginning there is only God. God has to create whatever He creates inside Himself.
Tan nana anurupa grahya grahaka bhedat
The Universe is manifold because of the differentiation of reciprocally adapted objects and subjects.
That [projection on the screen, the Universe] appears manifold because various objects are perceived by various subjects who are differently disposed. That is to say, there arise into being the infinite plurality of possible perspectives, views, viewpoints, and levels of knowledge, states of consciousness, and so on. As a consequence of this, it is the case that when the constitutive “level” of the knower changes in any way so too do does the knowledge of the known object. The samsaric relativity of the spectrum of states of Consciousness thus arises simultaneously with the variegated stages, planes, and levels of the actually manifested and so-called objective Universe.
Ksemaraja here introduces the individual subject and addresses the fact that people seldom see the universe as Shakti and that individuals seldom agree about what reality is. This is a peculiar situation. The first two sutras assured us that everything is Shakti, so the individual subjects are also Shakti, why then, do people not realize their unity with Shakti and recognize everything as Shakti?
Citi samkocatma cetano’pi samkucita visvamayah
The individual experiencer also, in whom Chiti or Consciousness is contracted, has the Universe as his body in a contracted form.
Even the individualized and limited self–which arises as the contraction of Chiti or the Great Absolute Consciousness–nevertheless bodies forth the Universe in a contracted form.
The individual (atma) is a constriction of Shakti (Chiti) but nevertheless is pure consciousness. Yet individual consciousness is filled with the constricted forms that make up the universe.
When the Pure Self restricts itself into an individual consciousness, the individual consciousness will relate to the universe as manifold restricted objects. Thus unity is lost in infinite plurality, and confronted by so many individual objects the subject contracts even more into an individual identity relating to other individual subjects and objects. Despite this ongoing contraction into an ego separate from everything, the self of the individual remains The Self.
Chitireva chetana padadavarudha chetya sankochini chittam
Chiti Herself descending from the plane of pure Consciousness becomes the mind by contracting in accordance with the object perceived.
So it is that that very Absolute and Universal Consciousness itself (chiti) descends from the Supreme plane of Reality, in which it always abides as uncontracted, unbounded and perfect Consciousness (cetana), to become the individualized and limited awareness (chitta), the limited mind, the limited knower, inasmuch as it becomes contracted (sakocinī) by and conforms to the specific and limited objects of experience and perception (cetya).
This sutra explains the individual mind is nothing but a contraction or constriction of the Self as Shakti. It also explains that this constriction is not in the nature of Pure Awareness, but comes about by awareness being absorbed in the objects of awareness without recognizing these as Shakti. This has the interesting implication that freedom is not something one has to grow into or gain, rather it is a matter of getting rid of wrong knowledge about Self, awareness and the objects of awareness.
The mind is not the true Self. The Self, awareness, is prior to the mind. The mind is an object, the Self is the subject. We identify with our mind much more closely than we identify with our body. We think our attitudes are us. But the Self is beyond the mind. We can observe our mind from the witness perspective and see that our thoughts are simply output that our minds produce.
Tanmayo maya pramata
The empirical self governed by maya, consists of chitta.
Thus, it is that very individualized Consciousness (chitta) that becomes and is the limited, individualized awareness, the individual experiencer, the knower of relative levels of knowledge, and the perceiver of objects that arises as a result of the projection of illusory understanding (maya).
The mind is unaware of and sometimes incapable of realizing Absolute Consciousness because it is part of illusory understanding, which is a contraction of Absolute Consciousness. Why can’t the mind realize it’s own source? Because the nature of the mind is a constriction of the Source.
Sa caiko dvirupas trimayas caturatma sapta pancaka svabhavah
Though it (Self) is one, it becomes twofold, threefold, fourfold and of the nature of seven pentads.
And though transcendentally whole and unitary, the great Absolute Consciousness expresses itself freely in two forms, then as consisting of three aspects, and even more, shows itself as fourfold, and then reveals its intrinsic nature as consisting of seven pentads.
Now, what to think of this mumbo-jumbo? Obviously the sutra refers to other Kashmir Shaivism teachings, so with recourse to these we understand the following:
The two sides of the Absolute Pure Being are Shiva and Shakti.
Shiva and Shakti in Kashmir Shaivism do not refer to the personages of the Hindu pantheon, but stand for the two aspects of Pure Being: Unmanifest Energy and Pure Being. On the one hand the Absolute Pure Being (Shiva) is ever unmanifest, yet at the same time its nature is dynamic creative force (Shakti) which brings the universe into existence. One might then ask what the nature of these two aspects are? Do they have something in common? Yes, the sutra explains, they have three aspects in common, and these three aspects are generally known as “sat-cit-ananda”.
Sat means existence, Cit means consciousness, Ananda means supreme bliss. Pure unmanifest Being is sat-cit-ananda and the dynamic creative force is sat-cit-ananda. Actually sat-cit-ananda is a concept from Vedanta, but Kashmir Shaivism incorporates this basic teaching of Vedanta and elaborates on it by explaining the Shakti aspect of the Absolute. Vedanta says there is only One (unmanifest Pure Being) that has three aspects (sat-cit-ananda), but Kashmir Shaivism corrects Vedanta by explaining that the One has a twofold nature which does not negate the threefold sat-cit-ananda of Vedanta. The Absolute both is Shiva and Shakti as well as sat-cit-ananda. In plain english: the Self is not passive unmanifest being, but is a creative force and is existence, conscious and blissful.
The fourfold appearance is due to the minds incapability to comprehend the unmanifest as inherently One union of creative force, existence, consciousness and bliss.
The seven pentads refer to Kashmir Shaivism metaphysics, which speaks of 35 (7*5) principles that constitute the created universe (see 36 Tattvas). I don’t think there is much point in going into these, since our objective is Self-realization, not philosophizing. Why is all this not so relevant? The next sutra actually explains why:
Tad bhumikaha sarva darsana sthitayah
The position of the various systems of philosophy are only various roles of that Consciousness or Self.
All this is merely various systems of philosophy, which ultimately are roles played by Absolute Consciousness. In other words, the various viewpoints, philosophical positions, possible perspectives and teachings of all of the many systems of philosophy may be understood to represent the various roles, stances, and identities freely taken on by that Universal Consciousness as it thus diversely displays its truly and astonishingly extraordinary, apparently contradictory, multi-dimensional, and finally unbounded, seemingly impossible, inconceivable, and ultimately all encompassing nature.
More than this, all of the various possible stances, viewpoints, and moment by moment perspectives that arise within every conscious being, at every and all moments in time, in every plane of existence, thus each and all represent the roles and stances that, like a cosmic actor, or like a divine dancer, the great Consciousness is enacting, experiencing, and permitting to arise within Itself.
This sutra is clear enough. It reaches back to sutra 6, which said the mind is part of the problem of illusion. It does not matter how sharp and exact the classifications and descriptions are, they will never reveal the Ultimate Pure Being.
Chidvat tacchakti sankochat malavritah samsari
In consequence of its limitation of Shakti, Reality, which is nothing but Consciousness, becomes the mala-covered transmigrating individual soul.
Reality, which is pure expanded Consciousness, becomes limited in power, in energy, and becomes the ignorant individual soul. This is called poverty of Shakti, poverty of divine energy. The only difference between us and Shiva is that Shiva is empowered and we are not. We have become disempowered. Shiva had the desire to explore is empowerment and He got his wish.
That Ultimacy itself, though always, entirely, and only the Perfect Absolute Consciousness, nevertheless, as a result of the freely assumed contraction of its own Powers, and consequently, as a result of the freely self-imposed contraction and limitation of the operations and capacities of its own Powers, Itself thus becomes, or rather, permits the arising within Itself, of the transmigrating individual who is thus bound by, limited by, covered over by, and entirely encompassed, enclosed, and surrounded by, the three malas or the fundamental root impurities, which in this way succeed in concealing the Great Consciousness within the scope of the transmigrating and limited individual.
Tathapi tadvat pancha krityani karoti
Even in this limited condition the individual performs the five-fold act as Shiva does.
Even thus, in this condition of limitation, contraction, and cosmic forgetfulness, the limited transmigratory individual performs the five great deeds, [to be sure, at the limited level of ordinary life], just like Shiva, the Great Absolute Consciousness, does at the Cosmic and even Transcendental level. Divine in nature, we are still divine, even in limitation. We are just a contracted form of Shiva. We already have everything we need, Shiva represents our perfection.
God is present in all of human life. All things and moments are vessels that contain divinity. There is no place devoid of Him. There is neither place nor moment that cannot become an opening in which one may encounter Him.
– Hasidic source
Abhasana rakti vimarsana bijavasthapana vilapanatastani
As manifesting, relishing, experiencing as Self, settling of the seed, dissolution, these.
These [five deeds are here narrated in terms of the Tantric technical sequence always operative in even ordinary awareness, though unknown or unperceived by the non-Initiate, namely]: 1) illuminating an object of experience (manifesting); 2) relishing the object of experience (maintaining); 3) knowing the object (reabsorption); 4) the placing of a samsaric seed (concealing); 5) the final melting or dissolution of the object in the Fire of Consciousness (revealing).
Tadaparijnane svasaktibhir vyamohitata samsaritvam
To be a transmigratory being means being deluded by ones own powers (shaktis) because of the ignorance of the authorship of the fivefold act.
When the transmigrating individual is not aware of its own constant performance of these five acts then it wanders [through the infinite maze of possible transmigratory destinations] woefully deluded by the Cosmic Potencies or Divine Shaktis. This is so precisely because the condition of the samsaric wanderer is to be radically unaware of and deeply ignorant of the ways in which he or she engages in the performance of the fivefold actions of Shiva. Moreover, such a condition of delusional ignorance is entirely and only brought about by the very Powers and Potencies of the great Consciousness itself.
Tat parijnane cittam eva antarmukhi bhavena cetanapadadhyarohat citih
Acquiring full knowledge of it (i.e., of the authorship of the fivefold act of the Self) chitta itself by inward movement becomes Chitti by rising to the status of universal Consciousness.
When, however, [by the agency of Grace, and by the profound application of and engagement with the Liberative and grace-saturated practices, methods, and techniques of the authentic tradition of the Anuttara Yoga] such an individual rises both to an acutely refined intellectual knowledge, accompanied and deeply illuminated by a radical enlightened yogic experience which synergistically combine to profoundly disclose the deep, full, and yogic perception of the underlying activity and constant process of the five actions [implicit and operative within every moment of existence and life], then such a limited individual (citta), by means of a profound and radical inward movement in Consciousness, rises to the very status of that Universal Consciousness (citi) by the agency of the Universality always already implicit and present in the Self itself (cetana).
Citivanhi ravarohapade ccanno’pi matraya meyendhanam plusyati
The fire of Chitti even when it descends to the lower stage, though covered by maya, partly burns the fuel of the known.
Even when it descends to a lower stage where it is covered over and occluded by cosmic illusion, the Fire of Consciousness still does partially burn the fuel of the known objects.
Balalabhe visvam atmasat karoti
By acquiring the inherent power of Chitti, the aspirant assimilates the Universe to himself.
When the authentic and accomplished practitioner acquires the inherent power of the universal Consciousness, then such a yogin assimilates the Universe to himself or herself.
That is to say, the separative, diversifying functions of the great Maha Shaktis manifesting, concealing, and deluding Potencies, give way to a higher functioning that discloses in rising stages of enlightenment the progressive unification, and finally non-dual condition of total Unity Consciousness in which the previously separate, diverse, and complex Universe is mystically perceived more and more in terms of and as the great Non-Dual Consciousness Itself. Thus, what was previously seen as “that” and “other” becomes more and more seen as “My Self”.
Cidananda labhe dehadisu. cetyamanesvapi cidaikatmya pratipatti dardhyamjivanmuktih
When the bliss of Chitti is attained, the Consciousness of identity with Chitti remains stable even while the body, etc., is being experienced. This state is jivanmukti, liberation even while one is alive.
When the bliss of the Supreme Consciousness is fully attained, the yogin becomes potently stable, deeply rooted, and immoveably firm in the awareness of complete identity with the Absolute Consciousness, even if still embodied and continuing to experience the various conditions and experiences that arise with such a state of embodiment. Such is the state known as jīvanmukti, liberation even while one is embodied and still alive here in this world.
By the unfoldment of the centre there is acquisition of the bliss of the Chit.
The attainment of the Bliss of Consciousness arises from the expansion of its innermost core. Thus, the direct experience of the centermost place of the Heart must be progressively expanded by means of Initiatory and dedicated practice, and through this, the bliss of Consciousness will progressively increase in its palpability, and in the stability, intensity, and strength of its extraordinary and delectable experience.
Vikalpa ksaya sakti samkoca vikasa vahacchedadyanta koti nibhatanddaya ihopayah
Here, in this regard, and in this system of the Anuttara Trika Kaula Yoga, these are the Graceful and refined Means of Practice that lead most directly to the unfolding and experiential development of the innermost core of Consciousness:
- the dissolution of polarizing thoughts;
- the contraction and expansion of the Supreme Power; Withdrawing of consciousness that rushes out through the gates of the senses and turning it inwardly toward the Self;
- Holding the consciousness steadily within, while the senses are allowed to perceive their objects;
- the deepening of experience of the cessation or pausing in the inward and outward breath;
- the practice of the resting awareness in the point of the Heart, the place where the breath has its beginning and end.
Samadhi samskaravati vyutthane bhuyo bhuyas cidaikyamarsannityodita samadhi labhah
In the post samadhi state called vyutthana, which is full of the after effects of samadhi, there is the attainment of permanent awareness of the Self by dwelling on ones identity with the universal Consciousness over and over again.
It may be noticed that in the extroversive state, subsequent to the yogic experience of deep meditative absorption, awareness remains saturated and infused with the potent effects yielded by such a practice and by the experiences of the deep innermost domains. The Yogic and meditative entry into the subtle, subtlest, and even transcendental levels of Consciousness thus yields a residual and transformative consequence that long persists even after the formal time of practice is over.
Further, it is thereby taught that by a progressive practice in which there is cultivated a regular alternation of such a deeply absorptive introversion in meditation with an extroversive state in which the effects of the meditative practice are received, digested and stabilized in the body-mind of the practitioner, then, by such a practice and such an alternation deeply engaged in the body-mind of the practitioner again and again, eventually a new and even more extraordinary condition of attainment arises. Here the yogin permanently attains the state of Consciousness as the always and eternally risen condition which is, from then forward, the never to be lost foundational condition of life. It is here that the Yogin truly realizes, lives, and unfolds the state of his or her deep and even radical identity with the Universal, Supreme Consciousness.
Tada prakasananda sara maha mantra viryatmaka prakasananda vesat sada sarva sarga samhara kari nija samvid deyata prakasananda praptirbhavatiti sivam
Then, as a result of entering into the perfect I-Consciousness or Self, which is in essence light and bliss and of the nature of the power of the great mantra, there accrues the attainment of lordship over one’s group of deities (shakti chakra) of Consciousness that brings about all emanation and reabsorption of the Universe. All this is of the nature of Shiva.