God and creation: transcendent and immanent

The question was raised: “When God is finding himself through creation, is he aware of Himself as the Godhead at the same time?”

1.         In Kashmir Shaivism, Śiva is light (prakāśa); he is consciousness, which is awareness of his consciousness. He is ‘I am’ (aham). This knowledge, eternal, single and total, is his self-revelation and is called his Shakti, his supreme word (paravāc) which is completely free (svātantrya).This is to be clearly stated at the outset.

Now, out of his boundless, essential freedom, Śiva with Shakti, in a sense of play (līlā) and therefore without any need to do so, expresses the universe. The word ‘creation’ is not appropriate in Kashmir Shaivism since it suggests the production of something that is essentially apart from Śiva/Śakti. The universe in all its aspects is an emanation or an expression of the primordial Word. Everything is an expression of the first expression. 

This expression goes through all the stages, all thirty-six categories (tattva), and reaches eventually the state of inertia (jaḍatā) which is most different from the freedom and luminosity of Consciousnesses (saṃvit), but is still an expression of Śiva. All this expression is a darkening, a concealment (tirodhāna) of Śiva. How can the unenlightened observer understand that even brute matter is indeed an expression of Śiva?

It should be noted here that Kashmir Shaivism does not have a doctrine of being so much as a doctrine of revelation. Śiva is his expression. The world is his expression. Therefore, Śiva is the world; the world is Śiva.

To the unenlightened mind the inertia of matter and the luminosity of Śiva seem to be mutually exclusive. However, by the work of grace (anugraha), which Śiva freely communicates, the human being comes to realise not only that he is ‘I am’, that he is Śiva, but also that all being are identically the same Śiva. 

Thus, Śiva is not only his darkening concealment but also his revealing light.

In Kashmir Shaivism these are the five aspects of Śiva: he is the emanation (sṛṣṭi) the maintenance (sthiti) and the absorption (samhāra) of the universe; he is also the concealment and the enlightening. He is all of these since he truly expresses himself in them and it not to be divorced from them; but he is also none of these since they are only expressions of himself, done out of freedom and play.

2.         To come to your statement:

a. “When God is finding himself through creation”: God (Śiva) does not ‘find himself’ since he knows himself freely and essentially without any obscurity in his primordial ‘I am’ (aham). He expresses himself through ‘creation’ but does not need to do so. This world is his play, his good pleasure (krīḍa);

b. “Is he aware of Himself as the Godhead at the same time?”: He does not cease to be aware, at the deepest level (turyātīta), that he is ‘I am’ and that he is the source of all limited expressions of himself. Thus, yes, he is aware of himself as the Godhead and that awareness is foundational, as you say, to the maintenance, indeed to the emanation and the dissolution of the universe. 

The unenlightened human being, however, does not know this. Therefore, these are two types of consciousness: Śiva consciousness and its darkened form: brute consciousness. The latter interprets Śiva’s consciousness in terms of itself and projects its own viewpoint onto Śiva. This mistake, this ‘folly’, is the primordial stain (mala) from which all the follies and sins of the universe result. 

But the person who comes to Śiva consciousness sees that his essential being is ‘I am’ and that this entire cosmos is the expression of his own being. Thus, he is both involved with this cosmos and detached from it, immanent and transcendent (uttīrṇa). He is not indifferent to the world but neither does he define himself according to the world. He is ‘in the world but not of it ’(Gospel of John, ch.17). 

This attitude is very satisfying. It is the ‘attitude of Bhairava’ (bhairava-mudrā) where the enlightened person, having understood himself as Bhairava/Śiva, looks outwards and inwards at the same time. He looks inwards for he knows his ‘I am’ but he looks outwards at the world, which is the expression of that same ‘I am’. Whether his eyes are open or closed he sees the same, for the ultimate state is non-dual (advaita).

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
This entry was posted in Abhinavagupta, Controverted questions, Hinduism, John Dupuche, Kashmir Shaivism. Bookmark the permalink.

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