Maya-Shakti (The Psycho-Physical Aspect of the Universe)
Spirit, Mind and Matter are ultimately one, the two latter being the twin aspects of the Fundamental Substance or Brahman and Its Power or Shakti. Spirit is the substance of mind-matter, the Reality (in the sense of the lasting changelessness) out of which, by Its Power, all Appearance is fashioned not by the individual mind and senses but by the cosmic mind and senses of which they are but a part. What It creates It perceives. In the last chapter I dealt with the Spirit or Consciousness (Cit) aspect: in this I consider the mind-matter aspect in which Consciousness veils itself in apparent unconsciousness. These twin principles are called Purusha, Brahman, Shiva on the one hand and Prakriti, Maya, and Maya-Shakti on the other by the Samkhya Mayavada Vedanta and Shaktivada of the Shakta Agama respectively. The latter Shastra, however, alone treats them as aspects of the one Substance in the manner here described and thus most aptly in this respect accommodates itself to the doctrine of Western scientific monism. So, Professor Haeckel points out in conformity with Shakta Advaitavada that Spirit and Matter are not two distinct entities but two forms or aspects of one single Entity or fundamental Substance. According to him, the One Entity with dual aspect is the sole Reality which presents itself to view as the infinitely varied and wondrous picture of the universe. Whatever be the case transcendentally in what the Buddhist Tantra aptly calls "The Void" (Shunyata. In Tibetan sTongpa-nyid) which is not "nothing" as some have supposed, but That which is like nothing known to us; the ultimate formless (Arupa) Reality as contrasted with appearance (sNang-va-dang) or form (Rupa) of which the Prajñaparamita-hridaya-garbha says only "neti neti" can be affirmed,-- in this universe immaterial Spirit is just as unthinkable as spiritless matter. The two are inseparately combined in every atom which, itself and its forces, possess the elements of vitality, growth and intelligence in all their developments. In the four Atmas which are contemplated in the Citkunda in the Muladhara Cakra, Atma pranarupi represents the vital aspect, Jñanatma the Intelligence aspect, and Antaratma is that spark of the Paramatma which inheres in all bodies, and which when spread (Vyapta) appears as the Bhuta or five forms of sensible matter which go to the making of the gross body. These are all aspects of the one Paramatma (Jñanarnava Tantra, Ch. XXI, Vv. 1 -- 9).
The Vedanta recognizes four states of experience, Jagrat, Svapna, Sushupti and Turiya. These, as my friend Professor Pramathanatha Mukhyopadhyaya has, in his radical clear-thinking way, pointed out, may be regarded from two stand-points. We may, with Shamkara, from the standpoint of Siddhi alone, regard the last only, that is transcendental or pure experience (Nirvishesha-jñana), as the real Fact or Experience: or we may, with the Shakta Agama, looking at the matter from the standpoint of both Sadhana (that is practical experience) and Siddhi (or transcendental experience), regard not only the supreme experience as alone real, but the whole of experience without any reservation whatever -- the whole concrete Fact of Being and Becoming -- and call it the Real. This is the view of the Shaiva-Shakta who says that the world is Shiva's Experience and Shiva's Experience can never be unreal. The question turns upon the definition of "Real". Shamkara's conception of that term is that, That to which it is applied must be absolutely changeless in all the "three times". It is That which absolutely continues through and underlies all the changes of experience; being that which is given in all the four states, Jagrat and the rest. It is That which can never be contradicted (Vadhita) in all the three tenses of time and the four states of Experience. This is the Ether of Consciousness (Cidakasha) and none of Its modes. Our ordinary experience, it is claimed, as well as Supreme non-polar Nirvikalpa Samadhi proves this unchanging aspect of the ultimate Substance, as the changeless principle of all our modes of changing experience, which according to this definition are unreal. Thus Shamkara's Real = Being = Sat-Cit-Ananda: Unreal = Becoming = Vivartta = Jagat-Prapañca or universe. According to this view, there are three levels or planes of being (Satta), namely transcendental (Paramarthika), empirical (Vyavaharika) and illusory (Pratibhasika). The Real (Satya) is that which is given in all the three planes (Paramarthika Satya): the empirical (Vyavaharika Satya) is that which is given in the second and third planes but not in the first. It is worldly or dual experience, and not undual experience of Samadhi or Videha-Mukti which latter, however, underlies all states of experience, being the Ether of Consciousness Itself. The last (Pratibhasika Satya) is given or obtains only in the last plane, being only such reality as can be attributed to illusion such as "the rope-snake". A higher plane contradicts a lower: the third is contradicted by the second, the second by the first, and the first by nothing at all. Thus there is a process of gradual elimination from changing to changeless consciousness. Real change or Parinama is said by the Vedanta Paribhasha to exist when the effect or phenomenon and its ground (Upadana or material cause) belong to the same level or plane of existence; as in the case of clay and pot, milk and curd, which both belong to the Vyavaharika plane; milk being the Upadana and curd the effect or change appertaining it (Parinamo hi upadana-sama-sattaka-karya pattih). When, however, the effect's level of existence is different from (Vishama) and therefore cannot be equaled to that of its material cause or Upadana; when, for instance, one belongs to the Vyavaharika experience and the other to the Pratibhasika, there is Nivartta (Vivartto hi upadana-vishama-sattaka-karyapattih). Thus, in the case of the "rope-snake," the Satta of the rope is Vyavaharika, whilst that of the Rajju-sarpa is only Pratibhasika. For the same reason, the rope, and the whole Jagat-prapañca (universe) for the matter of that, is a Vivartta in relation to the Supreme Experience of pure Cit. On its own plane or level of Satta, every phenomenon may be a Parinama, but in relation to a higher level by which it becomes Vadhita, it is only a Vivartta.
The Shakta Agama differs in its presentment as follows. The Fact or Concrete Experience presents two aspects -- what professor Mukhyopadhyaya has aptly called in his work the "Patent Wonder" -- the Ether and the Stress -- the quiescent background of Cit and the sprouting and evolving Shakti. Agama takes this whole (Shiva-Shakti) embracing all the aspects as its real. If one aspect be taken apart from the others, we are landed in the unreal. Therefore, in the Shakta Agama, all is real; whether the transcendent real of' Shamkara (Turiya), or the empirical real waking (Jagrat, dreaming (Svapna) or dreamless sleep (Sushupti). If it is conceded that Real = Changelessness, then the last three states are not real. But this definition of Reality is not adopted. It is again conceded that the Supreme Substance (Paravastu) is alone real, in the sense of changeless, for the worlds come and go. But the Agama says with the Samkhya, that a thing is not unreal because it changes. The Substance has two aspects, in one of which It is changeless, and in the other of which It changes. It is the same Substance in both its Prakasha and Vimarsha aspects. Shamkara limits Reality to the Prakasha aspect alone. Agama extends it to both Prakasha and Vimarsha; for these are aspects of the one. As explained later, this divergence of views turns upon the definition of Maya given by Shamkara, and of Maya-Shakti given by the Agama. The Maya of Shamkara is a mysterious Shakti of Ishvara, by which Vivartta is sought to be explained and which has two manifestations, viz., Veiling (Avarana) and moving, changing and projecting (Vikshepa) power. Ishvara is Brahman reflected in Maya; a mystery which is separate, and yet not separate, from Brahman in Its Ishvara aspect. The Shakta Maya-Shakti is an aspect of Shiva or Brahman Itself.
Starting from these premises we must assume a real nexus between the universe and its ultimate cause. The creation is real, and not Maya in Shamkara's sense of Maya, but is the operation of and is Shakti Herself. The cause being thus real, the effect or universe is real though it changes and passes away. Even when it is dissolved, it is merged in Shakti who is real; withdrawn into Her as the Samkhyan tortoise or Prakriti withdraws its limbs (Vikriti) into itself. The universe either is as unmanifested Shakti, which is the perfect formless universe of Bliss, or exists as manifested Shakti, the limited and imperfect worlds of form. The assumption of such nexus necessarily involves that what is in the effect is in the cause potentially. Of course, the follower of Shamkara will say that if creation is the becoming patent or actual of what is latent or potential in Shiva, then Shiva is not really Nishkala. A truly Nirañjana Brahman cannot admit potential differentiation within Itself (Svagata-bheda.) Again, potentiality is unmeaning in relation to the absolute and infinite Being, for it pertains to relation and finite existence. If it is suggested that Brahman passes from one condition in which Maya lies as a seed in it, to another in which Maya manifests Herself, we are involved in the doctrine of an Absolute in the making. It is illogical to affirm that whilst Brahman in one aspect does not change, It in another aspect, that is as Shakti, does truly change. All such objections have alogical foundation and it is for this reason that Shamkara says that all change (Srishti, Sthiti, Laya) are only apparent, being but a Kalpana or imagination.
But an answer is given to these objections. The Shakta will say that the one Brahman Shiva has two aspects in one of which, as Shakti, It changes and in the other of which, as Shiva, It does not. Reality is constituted of both these aspects. It is true that the doctrine of aspects does not solve the problem. Creation is ultimately inscrutable. It is, however, he urges, better to hold both the reality of the Brahman and the world leaving spiritual experience to synthesize them, than to neglect one at the cost of the other. For this, it is argued, is what Shamkara does. His solution is obtained at the cost of a denial of true reality to the world which all our worldly experience affirms; and this solution is supported by the illogical statement that Maya is not real and is yet not unreal, not partly real and partly unreal. This also, flies in the face of the logical principle of contradiction. Both theories, therefore, it may be said in different ways, run counter to logic. All theories ultimately do. The matter is admittedly alogical, that is beyond logic, for it is beyond the mind and its logical forms of thinking. Practically, therefore, it is said to be better to base our theory on our experience of the reality of the world, frankly leaving it to spiritual experience to solve a problem for which all logic, owing to the very constitution of the mind, fails. The ultimate proof of authority is Spiritual Experience either recorded in Veda or realized in Samadhi.
As I have already said in my chapter on the spirit-aspect of the One Substance, all occultism, whether of East or West, posits the principle that there is nothing in any one state or plane which is not in some way, actual or potential, in another state or plane. The Western Hermetic maxim, "as above so below," is stated in the Visvasara Tantra in the form, "what is here is there. What is not here is nowhere" (Yad ihasti tad anyatra yan nehasti na tat kvacit); and in the northern Shaiva Scripture in the form, "that which appears without only so appears because it exists within", "Vartamanava-bhasanam bhavanam avabhasanam antahsthitavatam eva ghatate bahiratmana". For these reasons man is rightly called a microcosm (Kshudrabrahmanda; hominem quasi minorem quendam mundum. Firm. Maternus Math. III init.) So Caraka says that the course of production, growth, decay and destruction of the universe and of man are the same. But these statements do not mean that what exists on one plane exists in that form or way on another plane. It is obvious that if it did, the planes would be the same and not different. It means that the same thing exists on one plane and on all other levels of being or planes, according either to the form of that plane, if it be what is called an intermediate causal body (Karanavantara-sharira) or ultimately as mere formless potentiality. According to Shamkara all such argument is itself Maya. And it may be so to those who have realized true consciousness (Citsvarupa) which is beyond all causality. The Tantra Shastra is, however, a practical and Sadhana Shastra. It takes the world to be real and then applies, so far as it may, to the question of its origin, the logic of the mind which forms a part of it. It says that it is true that there is a Supreme or Perfect Experience which is beyond all worlds (Shakti Vishvottirna), but there is also a worldly or (relatively to the Supreme) imperfect (in the sense of limited) and partly sorrowful experience. Because the one exists, it does not follow that the other does not: though mere logic cannot construct an unassailable monism. It is the one Shiva who is Bliss itself, and who is in the form of the world (Vishvatmaka) which is Happiness-Unhappiness. Shiva is both changeless as Shiva and changeful as Shakti. How the One can be both is a mystery. To say, however, with Shamkara that it is Maya, and in truth Brahman does not change, is not to explain, in an ultimate sense, the problem but to eliminate some other possible cause and to give to what remains a name. Maya by itself does not explain the ultimate. What can? It is only a term which is given to the wondrous power of the Creatrix by which what seems impossible to us becomes possible to Her. This is recognized as it must be, by Shamkara who says that Maya is unexplainable (Anirvacaniya) as of course it is. To "explain" the Creator, one would have to be Creator Himself and then in such case there would be no need of any explanation. Looking, however, at the matter from our own practical standpoint, which is that which concerns us, we are drawn by the fore-going considerations to the conclusion that, what we call "matter," is, in some form, in the cause which according to the doctrine here described, produces it. But matter as experienced by us is not there; for the Supreme is Spirit only. And yet in some sense it is there, or it would not be here at all. It is there as the Supreme Shakti which is Being-Consciousness-Bliss (Cidrupini, Anandamayi) who contains within Herself the potentiality of all worlds to be projected by Her Shakti. It is there as unmanifested Consciousness Power (Cidrupini Shakti). It here exists as the mixed conscious-unconsciousness (in the sense of the limited consciousness) of the psychical and material universe. If the ultimate Reality be one, there is thus one Almighty Substance which is both Spirit (Shiva-Shakti Svarupa) and force-mind-matter (Shiva-Shakti-Vishvatmaka). Spirit and Mind-Matter are thus in the end one.
This ultimate Supreme Substance (Paravastu) is Power or Shakti, which is again, of dual aspect as Cit-Shakti which represents the spiritual, and Maya-Shakti which represents the material and mental aspects. The two, however, exist in inseparable connection (Avinabhava-sambandha); as inseparable to use a simile of the Shastra as the winds of heaven from the Ether in which they blow. Shakti, who is in Herself (Svarupa) Consciousness, appears as the Life-force, as subtle Mind, and as gross Matter. See sections in my World as Power dealing in detail with Life (Prana-Shakti), Mind (Manasi-Shakti) and Matter (Bhuta-Shakti). As all is Shakti and as Shakti-svarupa is Being-Consciousness-Bliss, there is, and can be, nothing absolutely unconscious. For Shakti-svarupa is unchanging Being-Consciousness beyond all worlds (Cidrupini Vishvottirna), the unchanging principle of experience in such worlds; and appears as the limited psychical universe and as the apparently unconscious material forms which are the content of man's Experience (Vishvatmika). The whole universe is Shakti under various forms. Therefore it is seen as commingled Spirit-Mind-Matter.
According to Shaiva-Shakta doctrine, Shiva and Shakti are one. Shiva represents the static aspect of the Supreme substance, and Shakti its kinetic aspect: the term being derived from the root "Sak" which denotes capacity of action or power. According to Shamkara, Brahman has two aspects, in one of which as Ishvara, it is associated with Maya and seems to change, and in the other dissociated from Maya (Parabrahman). In the Agama, the one Shiva is both the changeless Parashiva and Parashakti and really changing Shiva-Shakti or universe. As Shiva is one with Himself, He is never associated with anything but Himself. As, however, the Supreme He is undisplayed (Shiva-Shakti Svarupa) and as Shiva-Shakti He is manifest in the form of the universe of mind and matter (Vishvarupa).
Before the manifestation of the universe there was Mahasatta or Grand-being. Then also there was Shiva-Shakti, for there is no time when Shakti is not; though She is sometimes manifest and sometimes not. Power is Power both to Be and to Become. But then Shakti is not manifest and is in its own true nature (Svarupa); that is, Being, Feeling-Consciousness-Bliss (Cinmayi, Anandamayi). As Shiva is consciousness (Cit) and Bliss or Love (Ananda), She is then simply Bliss and Love. Then when moved to create, the Great Power or Megale Dunamis of the Gnostics issues from the depths of Being and becomes Mind and Matter whilst remaining what She ever was: the Being (Sat) which is the foundation of manifested life and the Spirit which sustains and enlightens it. This primal Power (Adya Shakti), as object of worship, is the Great Mother (Magna-Mater) of all natural things (Natura Naturans) and nature itself (Natura Naturata). In herself (Svarupa) She is not a person in man's sense of the term, but She is ever and incessantly personalizing; assuming the multiple masks (Persona) which are the varied forms of mind-matter. As therefore manifest, She is all Personalities and as the collectivity thereof the Supreme Person (Parahanta). But in Her own ground from which, clad in form, She emerges and personalizes, She is beyond all form, and therefore beyond all personality known to us. She works in and as all things; now greatly veiling Her consciousness-bliss in gross matter, now by gradual stages more fully revealing Herself in the forms of the one universal Life which She is.
Let us now first examine Her most gross manifestation, that is, sensible matter (Bhuta), then Her more subtle aspect as the Life-force and Mind, and lastly Her Supreme Shakti aspect as Consciousness. I here deal with the subject in a general way having treated of it in greater detail in the book just now cited (World as Power).
The physical human body is composed of certain compounds of which the chief are water, gelatin, fat, phosphate of lime, albumen and fibrin, and, of these, water constitutes some two-thirds of the total weight. These compounds, again, are composed of simpler non-metallic elements of which the chief are oxygen (to the extent of about two-thirds), hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus. So about two-thirds of the body is water and this is H2O. Substantially then our gross body is water. But when we get to these simpler elements, have we got to the root of the matter P No. It was formerly thought that matter was composed of certain elements beyond which it was not possible to go, and that these elements and their atoms were indestructible. These notions have been reversed by modern science. Though the alleged indestructibility of the elements and their atoms is still said by some to present the character of a "practical truth," well-known recent discoveries and experiments go to re-establish the ancient doctrine of a single primordial substance to which these various forms of matter may be reduced, with the resultant of the possible and hitherto derided transmutation of one element into another; since each is but one of the many plural manifestations of the same underlying unity. The so-called elements are varied forms of this one substance which themselves combine to form the various compounds. The variety of our experience is due to permutation and combination of the atoms of the matter into which the primordial energy materializes. We thus find that owing to the variety of atomic combinations of H N O C there are differences in the compounds. It is curious to note in passing how apparently slight variations in the quantity and distribution of the atoms produce very varying substances. Thus gluten which is a nutrient food, and quinine and strychnine which are in varying degree poisons, are each compounds of C H N O. Strychnine, a powerful poison, is C21H22N2O2 and quinine is C20H24N2O2. N and 0 are the same in both and there is a difference of one part only of C and 2 of H. But neither these compounds nor the so-called elements of which they are composed are permanent things. Scientific matter is now found to be only a relatively stable form of cosmic energy. All matter dissociates and passes into the energy of which it is a materialized form and again it issues from it.
Modern Western Science and Philosophy have thus removed many difficulties which were formerly thought to be objections to the ancient Indian doctrine on the subject here dealt with. It has, in the first place. dispelled the gross notions which were hitherto generally entertained as to the nature of "matter." According to the notions of quite recent science, "matter" was defined to be that which has mass, weight and inertia. It must be now admitted that the two latter qualities no longer stand the test of examination, since, putting aside our ignorance as to the nature of weight, this quality varies, if we conceive matter to be placed under conditions which admittedly affect it; and the belief in inertia is due to superficial observation, it being now generally conceded that the final elements of matter are in a state of spontaneous and perpetual motion. In fact, the most general phenomenon of the universe is vibration, to which the human body as all else is subject. Various vibrations affect differently each organ of sensation. When of certain quality and number, they denote to the skin the degree of external temperature; others incite the eye to see different colors; others again enable the ear to hear defined sounds. Moreover "inertia", which is alleged to be a distinguishing quality of "matter," is said to be the possession of electricity, which is considered not to be "material". What, then, is that to which we attribute "mass" P In the first place, it is now admitted that "matter," even with the addition of all possible forces, is insufficient to explain many phenomena, such as those of light; and it has, accordingly, come to be for some an article of scientific faith that there is a substance called "Ether": a medium which, filling the universe, transports by its vibrations the radiations of light, heat, electricity, and perhaps action from a distance, such as the attraction exercised between heavenly bodies. It is said, however, that this Ether is not "matter," but differs profoundly from it, and that it is only our infirmity of knowledge which obliges us, in our attempted descriptions of it, to borrow comparisons from "matter," in its ordinary physical sense, which alone is known by our senses. But if we assume the existence of Ether, we know that "material" bodies immersed in it can change their places therein. In fact, to use an Indian expression, the characteristic property of the vibrations of the Akasha Tattva is to make the space in which the other Tattvas and their derivatives exist. With "Matter" and Ether as their materials, Western purely "scientific" theories have sought to construct the world. The scientific atom which Du Bois Raymond described as an exceedingly useful fiction -- "ausserst nutzliche fiction" -- is no longer considered the ultimate indestructible element, but is held to be, in fact, a kind of miniature solar system, formed by a central group or nucleus charged with positive electricity, around which very much smaller elements, called electrons or corpuscles, charged with negative electricity, gravitate in closed orbits. These vibrate in the etheric medium in which they and the positively charged nucleus exist, constituting by their energy, and not by their mass, the unity of the atom. But what, again, is the constitution of this "nucleus" and the electrons revolving around it? There is no scientific certainty that any part of either is due to the presence of "matter". On the contrary, if a hypothetical corpuscle consisting solely of an electric charge without material mass is made the subject of mathematical analysis, the logical inference is that the electron is free of "matter", and is merely an electric charge moving in the Ether; and though the extent of our knowledge regarding the positive nucleus which constitutes the remainder of the atom is small, an eminent mathematician and physicist has expressed the opinion that, if there is no "matter" in the negative charges, the positive charges must also be free from it. Thus, in the words of the author upon whose lucid analysis I have drawn, (Houllevigue's Evolution of Science) the atom has been dematerialized, if one may say so, and with it the molecules and the entire universe. "Matter" (in the scientific sense) disappears, and we and all that surround us are physically, according to these views, mere disturbed regions of the ether determined by moving electric charges -- a logical if impressive conclusion, because it is by increasing their knowledge of "matter" that physicists have been led to doubt its reality. But the question, as he points out, does not remain there. For if the speculations of Helmholtz be adopted, there is nothing absurd in imaging that two possible directions of rotation of a vortex formed within, and consisting of, ether correspond to the positive and negative electric charges said to be attached to the final elements of matter. If that be so, then the trinity of matter, ether, and electricity, out of which science has hitherto attempted to construct the world, is reduced to a single element, the ether (which is not scientific "matter") in a state of motion, and which is the basis of the physical universe. The old duality of force and matter disappears, these being held to be differing forms of the same thing. Matter is a relatively stable form of energy into which, on disturbance of its equilibrium, it disappears; for all forms of matter dissociate. The ultimate basis is that energy called in Indian philosophy Prakriti, Maya or Shakti.
Herbert Spencer, the Philosopher of Modern Science, carries the investigation farther, holding that the universe, whether physical or psychical, whether within or without us, is a play of Force, which, in the case of Matter, we experience as object, and that the notion that the ultimate realities are the supposed atoms of matter, to the properties and combinations of which the complex universe is due, is not true. Mind, Life and Matter are each varying aspects of the one cosmic process from the First Cause. Mind as such is as much a "material" organ as the brain and outer sense organs, though they are differing forms of force.
Both mind and matter derive from what Herbert Spencer calls the Primal Energy (Adya Shakti), and Haeckel the fundamental Spirit-Matter Substance. Professor Fitz Edward Hall described the Samkhya philosophy as being "with all its folly and fanaticism little better than a chaotic impertinence". It has doubtless its weaknesses like all other systems. Wherein, however, consists its "fanaticism," I do not know. As for "impertinence," it is neither more nor less so than any other form of Western endeavor to solve the riddle of life. As regards its leading concept, "Prakriti," the Professor said that it was a notion for which the European languages were unable to supply a name; a failure, he added, which was "nowise to their discredit". The implication of this sarcastic statement is that it was not to the discredit of Western languages that they had no name for so foolish a notion. He wrote before the revolution of ideas in science to which I have referred, and with that marked antagonism to things Indian which has been and to some extent still is so common a feature of the more ordinary type of the professional orientalist.
The notion of Prakriti is not absurd. The doctrine of a Primordial Substance was held by some of the greatest minds in the past and has support from the most modern developments of Science. Both now concur to reject what the great Sir William Jones called the "vulgar notion of material substance" (Opera I. 36). Many people were wont, as some still are, to laugh at the idea of Maya. Was not matter solid, permanent and real enough? But according to science what are we (as physical beings) at base P The answer is, infinitely tenuous formless energy which materializes into relatively stable, yet essentially transitory, forms. According to the apt expression of the Shakta Shastra, Shakti, as She creates, becomes Ghanibhuta, that is, massive or thickened; just as milk becomes curd. The process by which the subtle becomes gradually more and more gross continues until it develops into what has been called the "crust" of solid matter (Parthiva bhuta). This whilst it lasts is tangible enough. But it will not last for ever, and in some radio-active substances dissociates before our eyes. Where does it go, according to Shakta doctrine, but to that Mother-Power from whose womb it came; who exists as all forms, gross and subtle, and is the formless Consciousness Itself. The poet's inspiration led Shakespeare to say, "We are such stuff as dreams are made of." It is a wonderful saying from a Vedantic standpoint, for centuries before him Advaitavada had said, "Yes, dreams; for the Lord is Himself the Great World-dreamer slumbering in causal sleep as Ishvara, dreaming as Hiranyagarbha the universe experienced by Him as the Virat or totality of all Jivas, on waking." Scientific revision of the notion of "matter" helps the Vedantic standpoint, by dispelling gross and vulgar notions upon the subject; by establishing its impermanence in its form as scientific matter; by positing a subtler physical substance which is not ponderable matter; by destroying the old duality of Matter and Force; and by these and other conclusions leading to the acceptance of one Primal Energy or Shakti which transforms itself into that relatively stable state which is perceived by the senses as gross "matter." As, however, science deals with matter only objectively, that is, from a dualistic standpoint, it does not (whatever hypotheses any particular scientist may maintain) resolve the essential problem which is stated in the world Maya. That problem is, "How can the apparent duality be a real unity? How can we bridge the gulf between the object and the Self which perceives it? Into whatever tenuous energy the material world is resolved, we are still left in the region of duality of Spirit, Mind and Matter. The position is not advanced beyond that taken by Samkhya. The answer to the problem stated is that Shakti which is the origin of, and is in, all things has the power to veil Itself so that whilst in truth it is only seeing itself as object, it does not, as the created Jiva, perceive this but takes things to be outside and different from the Self. For this reason Maya is called, in the Shastra, Bhedabuddhi or the sense of difference. This is the natural characteristic of man's experience.
Herbert Spencer, the Philosopher of Modern Science, carrying the investigation beyond physical matter, holds, as I have already said, that the universe, whether physical or psychical, whether as mind or matter, is a play of Force; Mind, Life and Matter being each varying aspects of the one cosmic process from the First Cause. This, again, is an Indian notion. For, the affirmation that "scientific matter" is an appearance produced by the play of Cosmic Force, and that mind is itself a product of the same play is what both Samkhya and Mayavada Vedanta hold. Both these systems teach that mind, considered in itself, is, like matter, an unconscious thing, and that both it and matter ultimately issue from the same single Principle which the former calls Prakriti and the latter Maya. Consciousness and Unconsciousness are in the universe inseparate, whatever be the degree of manifestation or veiling of Consciousness. For the purpose of analysis, Mind in itself -- that is, considered hypothetically as dissociated from Consciousness, which, in fact, is never the case, (though Consciousness exists apart from the Mind) -- is a force-process like the physical brain. Consciousness (Cit) is not to be identified with mind (Antahkarana) which is the organ of expression of mind. Consciousness is not a mere manifestation of material mind. Consciousness must not be identified with its mental modes; an identification which leads to the difficulties in which western metaphysics has so often found itself. It is the ultimate Reality in which all modes whether subjective or objective exist.
The assertion that mind is in itself unconscious may seem a strange statement to a Western reader who, if he does not identify mind and consciousness, at any rate, regards the latter as an attribute or function of mind. The point, however, is of such fundamental importance for the understanding of Indian doctrine that it may be further developed.
According to the Lokayata School of Indian Materialism, mind was considered to be the result of the chemical combination of the four forms of material substance, earth, water, fire and air, in organic forms. According to the Purva-Mimamsa and the Nyaya-Vaisheshika, the Self or Atma is in itself and that is by nature (Svabhavatah), unconscious (Jada, Acidrupa): for Atma is said to be unconscious (Acetana) in dreamless sleep (Sushupti); and consciousness arises as a produced thing, by association of the Atma with the mind, senses and body. The reader is referred to Pandit Chandra Kanta Tarkalamkara's Bengali Lectures on Hindu Philosophy. At p. 105 he cites Prabhakara Mimamsaka-carya, saying that Vaisheshika-Nyaya supports the view. Sacetanashcittayogat todyogena vina jadah. "Atma is conscious by union with knowledge (Jñana) which comes to it by association with mind and body. Without it, it is unconscious." Atma, according to this Darshana, is that in which (Ashraya) Jñana inheres. Kumarila Bhatta says Atma is partly Prakasha and partly Aprakasha, (luminous and non-luminous) like a fire-fly. But this is denied, as Atma is Niramsha (part-less). Knowledge thus arises from the association of mind (Manas) with Atma, the senses (Indriya) with Manas, and the senses with objects, that, is, worldly (Laukika) knowledge, which is the true -- that is, non-illusive -- apprehension of objects. Jñana in the spiritual Vedantic sense of Mayavada is Paramatma, or pure Consciousness realized. The former Jñana, in that it arises without effort on the presentation of the objects is not action (Kriya), and differs from the forms of mental action (Manasi Kriya), such as will (Iccha), contemplation and the like. Atma manasa samyujyate, mana indriyena, indriyam arthena, tato bhavati jñanam. Both these theories are refuted by Samkhya and Advaitavada Vedanta (as interpreted by Shamkara, to which unless otherwise stated I refer) which affirm that the very nature of Atma is Consciousness (Cit), and all else, whether mind or matter, is unconscious, though the former appears not to be so. The Jiva mind is not itself conscious, but reflects consciousness, and therefore appears to be conscious. Consciousness as such is eternal and immutable; Mind is a creation and changeable. Consciousness as such is unconditional. In the mind of the Jiva, Consciousness appears to be conditioned by that Maya-Shakti which produces mind, and of which Shakti, mind is a particular manifestation. Mind, however, is not the resultant of the operation of the Bhuta -- that is, of gross natural forces or motions -- but is, in Samhya and in Shakta monism, an evolution which is logically prior to them.
The mode of exposition in which Consciousness is treated as being in itself something apart from, though associated with, mind, is profound; because, while it recognizes the intermingling of Spirit and Matter in the embodied being (Jiva), it yet at the same time clearly distinguishes them. It thus avoids the imputation of change to Spirit (Atma). The latter is ever in Its own true nature immutable. Mind is ever changing, subject to sensations, forming ideas, making resolves, and so forth. Spirit in Itself is neither affected nor acts. Manifold change takes place, through motion and vibration in the unconscious Prakriti and Maya. Mind is one of the results of such motion, as matter is another. Each of them is a form of specific transformation of the one Principle whence unconsciousness, whether real or apparent, arises. That, however, mind appears to be conscious, the Mayavada Vedanta and Samkhya admit. This is called Cidabhasa -- that is, the appearance of something as Cit (Consciousness) which is not really Cit. This appearance of Consciousness is due to the reflection of Cit upon it. A piece of polished steel which lies in the sunshine may appear to be self-luminous, when it is merely reflecting the sun, which is the source of the light it appears to give out. Cit as such is immutable and never evolves. What do evolve are the various forms of natural forces produced by Prakriti or Maya. These two are, however, conceived as being in association in such a way that the result of such association is produced without Cit being really affected at all. The classical illustration of the mode and effect of such association is given in the Samkhyan aphorism, "Just like the jewel and the flower" -- Kusumavacca manih (Samkhya-Pravacana-Sutra, II, 35) -- that is, when a scarlet hibiscus flower is placed in contiguity to a crystal, the latter appears to be red, though it still in fact retains its pure transparency, as is seen when the flower is removed. On the other hand, the flower as reflected in the crystal takes on a shining, transparent aspect which its opaque surface does not really possess. In the same way Consciousness appears to be conditioned by the force of unconsciousness in the Jiva, but is really not so. "Changeless Cit-Shakti does not move towards anything, yet seems to do so" (Samkhya-pravacana-Sutra). And, on the other hand, Mind as one of such unconscious forces takes on the semblance of Consciousness, though this is borrowed from Cit and is not its own natural quality. This association of Unconscious Force with Consciousness has a two-fold result, both obscuring and revealing. It obscures, in so far as, and so long as it is in operation, it prevents the realization of pure Consciousness (Cit). When mind is absorbed pure Consciousness shines forth. In this sense, this Power or Maya is spoken of as a Veil. In another sense, it reveals -- that is, it manifests -- the world, which does not exist except through the instrumentality of Maya which the world is. Prakriti and Maya produce both Mind and Matter; on the former of which Consciousness is reflected (Cidabhasa). The human mind, then, appears to be conscious, but of its own nature and inherent quality is not so. The objective world of matter is, or appears to be, an unconscious reality. These alternatives are necessary, because, in Samkhya, unconsciousness is a reality; in Vedanta, an appearance. In the Shakta Tantra, apparent unconsciousness is an aspect (Avidya Shakti) of Conscious Shakti. Consciousness is according to Advaita Vedanta, the true existence of both, illumining the one, hidden in the other.
The internal instrument (Antahkarana) or Mind is one only, but is given different names -- Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas -- to denote the diversity of its functions. From the second of these issue the senses (Indriya) and their objects, the sensibles (Mahabhuta), or gross matter with the super-sensibles (Tanmatra) as its intermediate cause. All these proceed from Prakriti and Maya.
Therefore, according to these systems, Consciousness is Cit, and Mind or Antahkarana is a transformation of Prakriti and Maya respectively. In itself, Mind is an unconscious specialized organ developed out of the Primordial Energy, Mulaprakriti or Maya. It is thus, not in itself, consciousness but a special manifestation of conscious existence, borrowing its consciousness from the Cit which is reflected on it. Shakta doctrine states the same matter in a different form. Consciousness at rest is Cit-Svarupa. Consciousness in movement is Cit-Shakti associated with Maya-Shakti. The Shiva-Shakti Svarupa is consciousness (Cit, Cidrupini). There is no independent Prakriti as Samkhya holds, nor an unconscious Maya which is not Brahman and yet not separate from Brahman, as Shamkara teaches. What there is, is Maya-Shakti; that is Consciousness (Shakti is in itself such) veiling, as the Mother, Herself to herself as Her creation, the Jiva. There is no need then for Cidabhasa. For mind is consciousness veiling itself in the forms or limitation of apparent unconsciousness.
This is an attractive exposition of the matter because in the universe consciousness and unconsciousness are mingled, and the abolition of unconscious Maya satisfies the desire for unity. In all these cases, however, mind and matter represent either the real or apparent unconscious aspect of things. If man's consciousness is, or appears to be, limited, such limitation must be due to some principle without, or attached to, or inherent in consciousness; which in some sense or other must ex hypothesi be really, or apparently different from the consciousness, which it seems to affect or actually affects. In all these systems, mind and matter equally derive from a common finitizing principle which actually or apparently limits the Infinite Consciousness. In all three, there is, beyond manifestation, Consciousness or Cit, which in manifestation appears as a parallelism of mind and matter; the substratum of which from a monistic standpoint is Cit.
Herbert Spencer, however, as many other Western Philosophers do, differs from the Vedanta in holding that the noumenon of these phenomena is not Consciousness, for the latter is by them considered to be by its very nature conditioned and concrete. This noumenon is therefore declared to be unknown and unknowable. But Force as such is blind, and can only act as it has been predetermined. We discover consciousness in the universe. The cause must, therefore, it is argued, be Consciousness. It is but reasonable to hold that, if the first cause be of the nature of either Consciousness or Matter, and not of both, it must be of the nature of the former, and not of the latter. An unconscious object may wall be conceived to modify Consciousness, but not to produce Consciousness out of its Self. According to Indian Realism, the Paramanus are the material (Upadana) cause (Karana), and Ishvara the instrumental (Nimitta) cause, for He makes them combine. According to Vedanta, Matter is really nothing but a determined modification of knowledge in the Ishvara Consciousness, itself unaffected by such determination. Ishvara is thus both the material and instrumental cause. A thing can only dissolve into its own cause. The agency (Kartritva) of Ishvara is in Mayavada attributed (Aupadika) only.
The Vedanta, therefore, in its Shakta presentment says, that the Noumenon is knowable and known, for it is the inner Self, which is not an unconscious principle but Being-Consciousness, which, as above explained, is not conditioned or concrete, but is the absolute Self-identity. Nothing can be more intimately known than the Self. The objective side of knowledge is conditioned because of the nature of its organs which, whether mental or material, are conditioned. Sensation, perception, conception, intuition are but different modes in which the one Consciousness manifests itself, the differences being determined by the variety of condition and form of the different organs of knowledge through which consciousness manifests. There is thus a great difference between the Agnostic and the Vedantist. The former, as for instance Herbert Spencer, says that the Absolute cannot be known because nothing can be predicated of it. Whereas the Vedantin when he says, that It cannot be known (in the ordinary sense) means that this is because It is knowledge itself. Our ordinary experience does not know a consciousness of pure being without difference. But, though it cannot be pictured, it may be apprehended. It cannot be thought because it is Pure Knowledge itself. It is that state which is realized only in Samadhi but is apprehended indirectly as the Unity which underlies and sustains all forms of changing finite experience.
What, lastly, is Life? The underlying substance is Being-in-itself. Life is a manifestation of such Being. If by Life we understand life in form, then the ultimate substance is not that; for it is formless. But in a supreme sense it is Life; for it is Eternal Life whence all life in form proceeds. It is not dead Being. If it were It could not produce Life. The Great Mother is Life; both the life of Her children and the Life of their lives. Nor does She produce what is without life or potency of life. What is in the cause is in the effect. Some Western Scientists have spoken of the "Origin of Life," and have sought to find it. It is a futile quest, for Life as such has no origin though life in form has. We cannot discover the beginnings of that which is essentially eternal. The question is vitiated by the false assumption that there is anything dead in the sense that it is wholly devoid of Life or potency of Life. There is no such thing. The whole world is a living manifestation of the source of all life which is Absolute Being. It is sometimes made a reproach against Hinduism that it knows not a "living God". What is meant I cannot say. For it is certain that it does not worship a "dead God," whatever such may be. Perhaps by "living" is meant "Personal". If so, the charge is again ill-founded. Ishvara and Ishvari are Rulers in whom all personalities and personality itself are. But in their ground they are beyond all manifestation, that is limitation which personality, as we understand it, involves. Man, the animal and the plant alone, it is true, exhibit certain phenomena which are commonly called vital. What exhibits such phenomena, we have commonly called "living". But it does not follow that what does not exhibit the phenomena which belong to our definition of life is itself altogether "dead". We may have to revise our definition, as in fact we are commencing to do. Until recently it was commonly assumed that matter was of two kinds: inorganic or "dead," and organic or "living". The mineral was "dead," the vegetable, animal and man were endowed with "life". But these living forms are compounded of so-called "dead" matter. How then, is it possible that there is life in the organic kingdom the parts of which are ultimately compounded of "dead" matter? This necessarily started the futile quest for the "origin of life". Life can only come from life: not from death. The greatest errors arise from the making of false partitions in nature which do not exist. We make these imaginary partitions and then vainly attempt to surmount them. There are no absolute partitions or gulfs. All is continuous, even if we cannot at present establish in each case the connection. That there should be such gulfs is unthinkable to any one who has even in small degree grasped the notion of the unity of things. There is a complete connected chain in the hierarchy of existence, from the lowest forms of apparently inert (but now held to be moving) matter, through the vegetable, animal, human worlds; and then through such Devatas as are super-human intelligences up to the Brahman. From the latter to a blade of grass (says the Shastra) all are one.
Western scientific notions have, however, in recent years undergone a radical evolution as regards the underlying unity of substance, destructive of the hitherto accepted notions of the discontinuity of matter and its organization. The division of nature into the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms is still regarded as of practical use; but it is now recognized that no such clear line of demarcation exists between them as has hitherto been supposed in the West. Between each of nature's types there are said to be innumerable transitions. The notion of inert, "dead" matter, the result of superficial observation, has given way upon the revelation of the activities at work under this apparent inertia -- forces which endow "brute substance" with many of the characteristics of living beings. It is no longer possible to dogmatically affirm where the inorganic kingdom ends and "life" begins. It must be rather asserted that many phenomena, hitherto considered characteristic of "life," belong to "inert matter," composed of molecules and atoms, as "animated matter" is of cells and micellae. It has been found that so-called "inert matter," possesses an extraordinary power of organization, and is not only capable of apparently imitating the forms of "living" matter, but presents in a certain degree the same functions and properties.
Sentiency is a characteristic of all forms of Existence. Physiologists measure the sensibility of a being by the degree of excitement necessary to produce in it a reaction. Of this it has been said (Le Bon Evolution of Matter, 250), "This sensibility of matter, so contrary to what popular observation seems to indicate, is becoming more and more familiar to physicists. This is why such an expression as the "life of matter," utterly meaningless twenty-five years ago has come into common use. The study of mere matter yields ever-increasing proofs that it has properties which were formerly deemed the exclusive appanage of living beings." Life exists throughout, but manifests in various ways. The arbitrary division which has been drawn between "dead" and "living" matter has no existence in fact, and speculations as to the origin of "life" are vitiated by the assumption that there is anything which exists without it, however much its presence may be veiled from us. Western science would thus appear to be moving to the conclusion that there is no "dead" matter, but that life exists everywhere, not merely in that in which, as in "organic matter," it is to us plainly and clearly expressed, but also in the ultimate "inorganic" atoms of which it is composed -- atoms which, in fact, have their organizations as have the beings which they go to build -- and that all, to the minutest particle, is vibrating with unending Energy (Tejas). (See Author's World as Power). Manifested life is Prana, a form of Kriya Shakti in, and evolved from, the Linga Sharira, itself born of Prakriti. Prana or the vital principle has been well defined (Hindu Realism, by J. C. Chatterji) to be, "the special relation of the Atma with a certain form of matter which, by this relation, the Atma organizes and builds up as a means of having experience." This special relation constitutes the individual Prana in the individual body. Just as in the West, "life" is a term commonly used of organized body only, so also is the term Prana used in the East. It is the technical name given to the phenomena, called "vital," exhibited by such bodies, the source of which is the Brahman Itself. The individual Prana is limited to the particular body which it vitalizes and is a manifestation in all breathing creatures (Prani), of the creative and sustaining activity of the Brahman. All beings exist so long as the Prana is in the body. It is as the Kaushitaki Upanishad says, "the life duration of all". The cosmic all-pervading Prana is the collectivity of all Pranas and is the Brahman as the source of the individual Prana. On the physical plane, Prana manifests as breath through inspiration, "Sa" or Shakti and expiration, "Ha" or Shiva. So the Niruttara Tantra (Chapter IV) says: "By Hamkara it goes out and by Sakara it comes in again. A Jiva always recites the Supreme Mantra Hamsa."
Hang-karena bahir yati sah-karena vishet punah
Hangesti paramam mantram jivo japati sarvada.
Breathing is itself the Ajapa Mantra. Prana is thus Shakti as the universally pervading source of life, organizing itself as matter into what we call living forms. When the Prana goes, the organism which it holds together disintegrates. Nevertheless each of the atoms which remain has a life of its own, existing as such separately from the life of the organized body of which they formed a part; just as each of the cells of the living body has a life of its own. The gross outer body is heterogeneous (Paricchinna) or made up of distinct or well-defined parts. But the Pranamaya Self which lies within the Annamaya Self is a homogeneous undivided whole (Sadharana) permeating the whole physical body (Sarvapindavyapin). It is not cut off into distinct regions (Asadharana) as is the Pinda or mircrocosmic physical body. Unlike the latter it has no specialized organs each discharging a specific function. It is a homogeneous unity (Sadharana), present in every part of the body which it ensouls as its inner vital Self. Vayu, as universal vital activity, on entry into each body, manifests itself in ten different ways. It is the one Prana, though different names are given according to its functions, of which the five chief are Appropriation (Prana), Rejection (Apana), Assimilation (Samana), Distribution (Vyana), and that vital function (Udana) which is connected with self-expression in speech. Prana in its general sense represents the involuntary reflex action of the organism; just as the Indriyas are one aspect of its voluntary activity. Breathing is a manifestation of the Cosmic Rhythm to which the whole universe moves and according to which it appears and disappears. The life of Brahma is the duration of the outgoing breath (Nisvasa) of Kala.
The Samkhya rejecting the Lokayata notion that Vayu is a mere biomechanical force or mechanical motion resulting from such a Vayu, holds, on the principle of the economy of categories, that life is a resultant of the various concurrent activities of other principles or forces in the organism. This, again, the Vedantists deny, holding that it is a separate, independent principle and material form assumed through Maya by the one Consciousness. In either case, it is an unconscious force, since everything which is not the Atma or Purusha, is, according to Mayavada and Samkhya, unconscious, or, in Western parlance, material (Jada).
If we apply Shakta principles, then Prana is a name of the general Shakti displaying itself in the organization of matter and the vital phenomena which bodies, when organized, exhibit. Manifest Shakti is vitality, which is a limited concrete display in forms of Her own formless Being or Sat. All Shakti is Jñana, Iccha, Kriya, and in its form as Prakriti, the Gunas Sattva, Rajas, Tamas. She desires, impelled by Her nature (Iccha), to build up forms; sees how it should be done (Jñana); and then does it (Kriya). The most Tamasic form of Kriya is the apparently mechanical energy displayed in material bodies. But this is itself the product of Her Activity and not the cause of it. Ultimately then Prana, like everything else, is consciousness which, as Shakti, limits Itself in form which it first creates and sustains; then builds up into other more elaborate forms and again sustains until their life-period is run. All creation and maintenance is a limiting power, with the appearance of unconsciousness, in so far as, and to the degree that, it confines the boundless Being-Consciousness-Bliss; yet that Power is nothing but Consciousness negating and limiting itself. The Great Mother (Sri Mata) limits Her infinite being in and as the universe and maintains it. In so far as the form and its life is a limited thing, it is apparently unconscious, for consciousness is thereby limited. At each moment there is creation, but we call the first appearance creation (Srishti), and its continuance, through the agency of Prana, maintenance (Sthiti). But both that which is apparently limited and that whose operation has that effect is Being-Consciousness. Prana Vayu is the self-begotten but limited manifestation of the eternal Life. It is called Vayu (Va -- to move) because it courses throughout the whole universe. Invisible in itself yet its operations are manifest. For it determines the birth, growth, and decay of all animated organisms and as such receives the homage of all created Being. For it is the Pranarupi Atma, the Prana Shakti.
For those by whom inorganic matter was considered to be "dead" or lifeless, it followed that it could have no Feeling-Consciousness, since the latter was deemed to be an attribute of life. Further, consciousness was denied because it was, and is indeed now, commonly assumed that every conscious experience pre-supposes a subject, conscious of being such, attending to an object. As Professor P. Mukhyopadhyaya (Approaches to Truth) has well pointed out, consciousness was identified with intelligence or understanding -- that is with directed consciousness; so that where no direction or form is discernible, Western thinkers have been apt to imagine that consciousness as such has also ceased. To their pragmatic eye consciousness is always particular having a particular direction and form.
According, however, to Indian views, there are three states of consciousness: (1) a supramental supreme consciousness dissociated from mind. This is the Paramatma Cit which is the basis of all existence, whether organic or inorganic, and of thought; of which the Shruti says, "know that which does not think by the mind and by which the mind itself is thought." These are then two main manifested states of consciousness: (2) consciousness associated with mind in organic matter working through its vehicles of mind and matter; (3) consciousness associated with and almost entirely veiled by inorganic gross matter (Bhuta) only; such as the muffled consciousness, evidenced by its response to external stimuli, as shown in the experiments with which Sir Jagadish Bose's name is associated. Where are we to draw the lowest limit of sensation; and if a limit be assigned, why there? As Dr. Ernst Mach has pointed out (Analysis of Sensations, 243) the question is natural enough if we start from the commonly current physical conception. It is, of course, not asserted that inorganic matter is conscious to itself in the way that the higher organized life is. The response, however, which it makes to stimuli is evidence that consciousness is there, though it lies heavily veiled in and imprisoned by it. Inorganic matter displays it in the form of that seed or rudiment of sentiency which enlarging into the simple pulses of feeling of the lowest degrees of organized life, at length emerges in the developed self-conscious sensations of human life. Owing to imperfect scientific knowledge, the first of these aspects was not in antiquity capable of physical proof in the same way or to the same extent, as Modern Science with its delicate instruments have made possible. Starting, however, from the revealed and intuitionally held truth that all was Brahman, the conclusion necessarily followed. All Bhuta is composed of the three Gunas or factors of Prakriti or the psycho-physical potentials. It is the Sattva or Principle of Presentation of Consciousness in gross matter (almost entirely suppressed by Tamas or the Principle of Veiling of Consciousness though it be) which manifests the phenomena of sensibility observed in matter. In short, nature, it has been well said, knows no sharp boundaries or yawning gulfs, though we may ignore the subtle connecting links between things. There is no break in continuity. Being and Consciousness are co-extensive. Consciousness is not limited to those centers in the Ether of consciousness which are called organized bodies. But just as life is differently expressed in the mineral and in man, so is Consciousness which many have been apt to think exists in the developed animal and even in man only.
Consciousness (Cit-Shakti) exists in all the hierarchy of Being, and is, in fact, Being. It is, however, in all bodies veiled by its power or Maya-Shakti which is composed of the three Gunas. In inorganic matter, owing to the predominance of Tamas, Consciousness is so greatly veiled and the life force is so restrained that we get the appearance of insensibility, inertia and mere mechanical energy. In organized bodies, the action of Tamas is gradually lessened, so that the members of the universal hierarchy become more and more Sattvik as they ascend in the scale of evolution. Consciousness itself does not change. It remains the same throughout. What does change is, its wrappings, unconscious or apparently so, as they may alternatively be called. This wrapping is Maya and Prakriti with their Gunas. The figure of "wrapping" is apt to illustrate the presentment of Samkhya and Mayavada. From the Shakta aspect we may compare the process to one in which it is assumed that in one aspect there is an unchanging light, in another it is either turned up or turned down as the case may be. In gross matter the light is so turned down that it is not ordinarily perceptible and even delicate scientific experiment may give rise to contending assertions. When the veiling by Tamas is lessened in organic life, and the Jiva is thus less bound in matter, the same Consciousness (for there is no other) which previously manifested as, what seems to us, a mere mechanical reaction, manifests in its freer environment in that sensation which we associate with consciousness as popularly understood. Shakti, who ever negates Herself as Maya-Shakti, more and more reveals Herself as Cit-Shakti. There is thus a progressive release of Consciousness from the bonds of matter, until it attains complete freedom or liberation (Moksha) when the Atma is Itself (Atma Svarupi) or Pure Consciousness. At this point, the same Shakti, who had operated as Maya, is Herself Consciousness (Cidrupini).
According to the Hindu books, plants have a sort of dormant Consciousness, and are capable of pleasure and pain. Cakrapani says in the Bhanumati that the Consciousness of plants is a kind of stupefied, darkened, or comatose Consciousness. Udayana also says that plants have a dormant Consciousness which is very dull. The differences between plant and animal life have always been regarded by the Hindus as being one not of kind, but of degree. And this principle may be applied throughout. Life and Consciousness is not a product of evolution. The latter merely manifests it. Manu speaks of plants as being creatures enveloped by darkness caused by past deeds having, however, an internal Consciousness and a capacity for pleasure and pain. And, in the Mahabharata, Bhrigu says to Bharadhvaja that plants possess the various senses, for they are affected by heat, sounds, vision (whereby, for instance, the creeper pursues its path to the light), odors and the water which they taste. I may refer also to such stories as that of the Yamalarjunavriksha of the Srimad Bhagavata mentioned in Professor Brajendra Nath Seal's learned work, The Positive Sciences of the Ancient Hindus, and Professor S. N. Das Gupta's scholarly paper on Parinama to which I am indebted for these instances.
Man is said to have passed through all the lower states of Consciousness and is capable of reaching the highest through Yoga. The Jiva attains birth as man after having been, it is said, born 84 lakhs (84,000,000) of times as plants (Vrikshadi), aquatic animals (Jalayoni), insects and the like (Krimi), birds (Pakshi), beasts (Pashvadi), and monkeys (Vanar). He then is born 2 lakhs of times (2,000,000) in the inferior species of humanity, and then gradually attains a better and better birth until he is liberated from all the bonds of matter. The exact number of each kind of birth is in 20, 9, 11, 10, 30 and 4 lakhs, respectively -- 84 lakhs. As pointed out by Mahamahopadhyaya Chandrakanta Tarkalankara Lectures on "Hindu Philosophy" (5th year, p. 227, Lecture VII), pre-appearance in monkey form is not a Western theory only. The Consciousness which manifests in him is not altogether a new creation, but an unfolding of that which has ever existed in the elements of which he is composed, and in the Vegetable and Animal through which prior to his human birth he has passed. In him, however, matter is so re-arranged and organized as to permit of the fullest rnanifestation which has hitherto existed of the underlying Cit. Man's is the birth so "difficult of attainment" (Durlabha). This is an oft-repeated statement of Shastra in order that he should avail himself of the opportunities which Evolution has brought him. If he does not, he falls back, and may do so without limit, into gross matter again, passing intermediately through the Hells of suffering. Western writers in general, describe such a descent as unscientific. How, they ask, can a man's Consciousness reside in an animal or plant'? The correct answer (whatever be popular belief) is that it does not. When man sinks again into an animal he ceases to be a man. He does not continue to be both man and animal. His consciousness is an animal consciousness and not a human consciousness. It is a, childish view which regards such a case as being the imprisonment of a man in an animal body. If he can go up he can also go down. The soul or subtle body is not a fixed but an evolving thing. Only Spirit (Cit) is eternal and unchanged. In man, the revealing constituent of Prakriti Shakti (Sattvaguna) commences to more fully develop, and his consciousness is fully aware of the objective world and his own Ego, and displays itself in all those functions of it which are called his faculties. We here reach the world of ideas, but these are a superstructure on consciousness and not its foundation or basis. Man's consciousness is still, however, veiled by Maya-Shakti. With the greater predominance of Sattvaguna in man, consciousness becomes more and more divine, until he is altogether freed of the bonds of Maya, and the Jiva Consciousness expands into the pure Brahman Consciousness. Thus life and Consciousness exist throughout. All is living. All is Consciousness. In the world of gross matter they seem to disappear, being almost suppressed by the veil of Maya-Sakti's Tamoguna. As however ascent is made, they are less and less veiled, and True Consciousness is at length realized in Samadhi and Moksha. Cit-Shakti and Maya-Shakti exist inseparable throughout the whole universe. There is therefore according to the principles of the Shakta Shastra not a particle of matter which is without life and consciousness variously displaced or concealed though they be. Manifest Maya-Shakti is the universe in which Cit-Shakti is the changeless Spirit. Unmanifest Maya-Shakti is Consciousness (Cidrupini). There are many persons who think that they have disposed of a doctrine when they have given it an opprobrious, or what they think to be an opprobrious, name. And so they dub all this "Animism," which the reader of Census Reports associates with primitive and savage tribes. There are some people who are frightened by names. It is not names but facts which should touch us. Certainly "Animism" is in some respects an incorrect and childlike way of putting the matter. It is, however, an imperfect presentment of a central truth which has been held by some of the profoundest thinkers in the world, even in an age in which we are apt to think to be superior to all others. Primitive man in his simplicity made the discovery of several such truths. And so it has been well said that the simple savage and the child who regard all existence as akin to their own, living and feeling like himself, have, notwithstanding their errors, more truly felt the pulse of being, than the civilized man of culture. How essentially stupid some of the latter can be needs no proof. For the process of civilization being one of abstraction, they are less removed from the concrete fact than he is. Hence their errors which seem the more contorted due to the mass of useless verbiage in which they are expressed. And yet, as extremes meet, so having passed through our present condition, we may regain the truths perceived by the simple, not only through formal worship but by that which consists of the pursuit of all knowledge and science, when once the husk of all material thinking is cast aside. For him, who sees the Mother in all things, all scientific research is wonder and worship. So Gratry said that the calculus of Newton and Leibnitz was a supralogical procedure, and that geometric induction is essentially a process of prayer, by which he evidently meant an appeal from the finite mind to the Infinite, for light on finite concerns. The seeker looks upon not mere mechanical movements of so-called "dead" matter, but the wondrous play of Her Whose form all matter is. As She thus reveals Herself She induces in him a passionate exaltation and that sense of security which is only gained as approach is made to the Central Heart of things. For, as the Upanishad says, "He only fears who sees duality". Some day may be, when one who unites in himself the scientific ardor of the West and the all-embracing religious feeling of India will create another and a modern Candi, with its multiple salutations to the sovereign World-Mother (Namastasyai namo namah). Such an one, seeing the changing marvels of Her world-play, will exclaim with the Yoginihridaya Tantra, "I salute Her the Samvid Kala who shines in the form of Space, Time and all Objects therein."
Deshakalapadarthatma yad yad vastu yatha yatha,
Tattadrupena ya bhati tam shraye samvidam kalam
This is, however, not mere Nature-worship as it is generally understood in the West, or the worship of Force as Keshub Chunder Sen took the Shakta doctrine to be. All things exist in the Supreme who in Itself infinitely transcends all finite forms. It is the worship of God as the Mother-Creatrix who manifests in the form of all things which are, as it were, but an atom of dust on the Feet of Her who is Infinite Being (Sat), Experience (Cit), Love (Ananda) and Power (Shakti). As Philibert Commerson said: "La vie d'un naturaliste est, je L'ose dire, une adoration presque perpétuelle."
I have in my paper Shakti and Maya (here reprinted from the Indian Philosophical Review, 1918, No. 2) contrasted the three different concepts of the Primal Energy as Prakriti, Maya and Shakti of Samkhya, Vedanta and the Agama respectively. I will not, therefore, repeat myself but will only summarize conclusions here. In the first place, there are features common to all three concepts. Hitherto, greater pains have been taken to show the differences between the Darshanas than to co-ordinate them systematically, by regarding their points of agreement or as regard apparent disagreement, their viewpoint. It has been said that Truth cannot be found in such a country as India, in which, there are six systems of philosophy disputing with one another, and where even in one system alone, there is a conflict between Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita and Advaita. One might suppose from such a criticism that all in Europe were of one mind, or that al least the Christian Community was agreed, instead of being split up, as it is, into hundreds of sects. An American humorist observed with truth that there was a good deal of human nature in man everywhere.
Of course there is difference which, as the Radd-ul-Muhtar says, is also the gift of God. This is not to deny that Truth is only one. It is merely to recognize that whilst Truth is one, the nature and capacities of those who seek it, or claim to possess it, vary. To use a common metaphor, the same white light which passes through varicolored glass takes on its various colors. All cannot apprehend the truth to the same extent or in the same way. Hence the sensible Indian doctrine of competency or Adhikara. In the Christian Gospel it is also said, "Throw not your pearls before swine lest they trample upon them and then rend you." What can be given to any man is only what he can receive.
The Six Philosophies represent differing standards according to the manner and to the extent to which the one Truth may be apprehended. Each standard goes a step beyond the last, sharing, however, with it certain notions in common. As regards the present matter, all these systems start with the fact that there is Spirit and Mind, Matter, Consciousness and Unconsciousness, apparent or real. Samkhya, Vedanta and the Shakta Agama called the first Purusha, Brahman, Shiva; and the second Prakriti, Maya, Shakti respectively. All agree that it is from the association together of these two Principles that the universe arises and that such association is the universe. All, again, agree that one Principle, namely, the first, is infinite, formless consciousness, and the second is a finitizing principle which makes forms. Thirdly, all regard this last as a veiling principle, that is, one which veils consciousness; and hold that it is eternal, all-pervading, existing now as seed (Mula-prakriti, Avyakta) and now as fruit (Vikriti), composed of the Gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas (Principles of presentation of Consciousness, Action, and Veiling of Consciousness respectively); unperceivable except through its effects. In all, it is the Natural Principle, the material cause of the material universe.
The word Prakriti has been said to be derived from the root "Kri," and the affix "Ktin," which is added to express Bhava or the abstract idea, and sometimes the Karma or object of the action, corresponding with the Greek affix Sis. Ktin inflected in the nominative becomes tis. Prakriti, therefore, has been said to correspond with Phusis (Nature) of the Greeks. In all three systems, therefore, it is, as the "natural," contrasted with the "spiritual" aspect of things.
The first main point of difference is between Samkhya, on the one hand, and the Advaita Vedanta, whether as interpreted by Shamkara or taught by the Shaiva-Shakta Tantra on the other. Classical Samkhya is a dualistic system, whereas the other two are non-dualistic. The classical Samkhya posits a plurality of Atmans representing the formless consciousness, with one unconscious Prakriti which is formative activity. Prakriti is thus a real independent principle. Vedantic monism does not altogether discard these two principles, but says that they cannot exist as two independent Realities. There is only one Brahman. The two categories of Samkhya, Purusha and Prakriti are reduced to one Reality, the Brahman; otherwise the Vakya, "All this is verily Brahman" (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma), is falsified.
But how is this effected? It is on this point that Mayavada of Shamkara and the Advaita of Shaiva-Shakta Agama differ. Both systems agree that Brahman has two aspects in one of which It is transcendent and in another creative and immanent. According to Shamkara, Brahman is in one aspect Ishvara associated with, and in another one dissociated from Maya which, in his system, occupies the place of the Samkhyan Prakriti, to which it is (save as to reality and independence) similar. What is Maya P It is not a real independent Principle like the Samkhyan Prakriti. Then is it Brahman or not'? According to Shamkara, it is an unthinkable, alogical, unexplainable (Anirvacantia) mystery. It is an eternal falsity (Mithyabhuta sanatani), owing what false appearance of reality it possesses to the Brahman, with which in one aspect it is associated. It is not real for there is only one such. It cannot, however, be said to be unreal for it is the cause of and is empirical experience. It is something which is neither real (Sat) nor unreal (Asat), nor partly real and partly unreal (Sadasat), and which though not forming part of Brahman, and therefore not Brahman, is yet, though not a second reality, inseparably associated and sheltering with (Maya Brahmashrita) Brahman in Its Ishvara aspect. Like the Samkhyan Prakriti, Maya (whatever it be) is in the nature of an unconscious principle. The universe appears by the reflection of consciousness (Purusha, Brahman) on unconsciousness (Prakriti, Maya). In this way the unconscious is made to appear conscious. This is Cidabhasa.
Maya is illusive and so is Shamkara's definition of it. Further, though Maya is not a second reality, but a mysterious something of which neither reality nor unreality can be affirmed, the fact of positing it at all in this form gives to Shamkara's doctrine a tinge of dualism from which the Shakta doctrine is free. For, it is to be noted that notwithstanding that Maya is a falsity, it is not, according to Shamkara, a mere negation or want of something (Abhava), but a positive entity (Bhavarupam ajñanam), that is in the nature of a Power which veils (Acchadaka) consciousness, as Prakriti does in the case of Purusha. Shamkara's system, on the other hand, has this advantage from a monistic standpoint, that whilst he, like the Shakta, posits the doctrine of aspects saying that in one aspect the Brahman is associated with Maya (Ishvara), and in another it is not (Parabrahman; yet in neither aspect does his Brahman change. Whereas, according to Shakta doctrine, Shiva does, in one aspect, that is as Shakti, change.
Whilst then Shamkara's teaching is consistent with the changelessness of Brahman, he is not so successful in establishing the saying,. "All this is Brahman". The position is reversed as regards Shaiva-Shakta Darshana which puts forth its doctrine of Maya-Shakti with greater simplicity. Shakta doctrine takes the saying, "All this is Brahman" (the realization of which, as the Mahanirvana Tantra states, is the aim and end of Kulacara) in its literal sense. "This" is the universe. Then the universe is Brahman. But Brahman is Consciousness. Then the universe is really That. But in what way P Shamkara says that what we sense with our senses is Maya, which is practically something, but in a real sense nothing; which yet appears to be something because it is associated with the Brahman which alone is Real. Its appearance of independent reality is thus borrowed and is in this sense said to be "illusory". When, therefore, we say, "All this is Brahman" -- according to Shamkara, this means that what is at the back of that which we see is Brahman; the rest or appearance is Maya. Again, according to Shamkara, man is spirit (Atma) vestured in the Mayik falsities of mind and matter. He, accordingly, can then only establish the unity of Ishvara and Jiva by eliminating from the first Maya, and from the second Avidya; when Brahman is left as a common denominator. The Shakta, however, eliminates nothing. For him, in the strictest sense, "All is Brahman." For him, man's Spirit (Atma) is Shiva. His mind and body are Shakti. But Shiva and Shakti are one. Paramatma is Shiva-Shakti in undistinguishable union. Jivatma is Shiva-Shakti in that state in which the Self is distinguished from the not-Self. Man, therefore, according to the Shakta Tantra, is not Spirit seemingly clothed by a non-Brahman falsity, but Spirit covering Itself with its own power or Maya-Shakti. All is Shakti whether as Cit-Shakti or Maya-Shakti. When, therefore, the Shakta Tantric says, "All this is Brahman," he means it literally. "This," here means Brahman as Shakti, as Maya-Shakti, and Cit-Shakti.
Shiva as Parabrahman is Shiva-Shakti in that state when Shakti is not operating and in which She is Herself, that is, pure consciousness (Cidrupini). Shiva as Ishvara is Shiva-Shakti in that state in which Shiva, associated with Maya-Shakti, is the source of movement and change; Shiva-Shakti as Jiva is the state produced by such action which is subject to Maya, from which Ishvara, the Mayin is free. The creative Shakti is therefore changeless Cit-Shakti and changing Maya-Shakti. Yet the One Shakti must never be conceived as existing apart from, or without the other, for they are only twin aspects of the fundamental Substance (Paravastu). Vimarsha-Shakti (See Kamakalavilasa, 3rd Edition, 1961, Verses 1-4) as Maya-Shakti produces the forms in which Spirit as Cit-Shakti inheres and which it illuminates (Prakasha). But Maya-Shakti is not unconscious. How can it be; for it is Shakti and one with Cit-Shakti. All Shakti is and must be Consciousness. There is no unconscious Maya which is not Brahman and yet not separate from Brahman. Brahman alone is and exists, whether as Cit or as manifestation of Maya. All is Consciousness, as the so-called "New Thought" of the West also affirms.
But surely, it will be said, there is an unconscious element in things. How is this accounted for if there be no unconscious Maya? It is conscious Shakti veiling Herself and so appearing as limited consciousness. In other words, whilst Shamkara says mind and matter are in themselves unconscious but appear to be conscious through Cidabhasa, the Shakta Agama reverses the position, and says that they are in themselves, that is in their ground, conscious, for they are at base Cit; but they yet appear to be unconscious, or more strictly limited consciousness, by the veiling power of Consciousness Itself as Maya-Shakti. This being so, there is no need for Cidabhasa which assumes, as it were, two things, the Brahman, and unconscious Maya in which the former reflects itself. Though some of the Shastras do speak of a reflection, Pratibimba is between Shiva and Shakti. Brahman is Maya-Shakti in that aspect in which it negates itself, for it is the function of Shakti to negate (Nishedhavyapararupa shaktih), as it is said by Yoga-Raja or Yoga-Muni (as he is also called) in his commentary on Abhinava Gupta's Paramarthasara. In the Shakta Tantras, it is a common saying of Shiva to Devi, "There is no difference between Me and Thee." Whilst Shamkara's Ishvara is associated with the unconscious Maya, the Shaiva Shakta's Ishvara is never associated with anything but Himself, that is as Maya-Shakti.
Whether this doctrine be accepted as the final solution of things or not, it is both great and powerful. It is great because the whole world is seen in glory according to the strictest monism as the manifestation of Him and Her. The mind is not distracted and kept from the realization of unity, by the notion of any unconscious Maya which is not Brahman nor yet separate from It. Next, this doctrine accommodates itself to Western scientific monism, so far as the latter goes, adding to it however a religious and metaphysical basis; infusing it with the spirit of devotion. It is powerful because its standpoint is the 'here' and 'now,' and not the transcendental Siddhi standpoint of which most men know nothing and cannot, outside Samadhi, realize. It assumes the reality of the world which to us is real. It allows the mind to work in its natural channel. It does not ask it to deny what goes against the grain of its constitution to deny. It is, again, powerful because we stand firmly planted on a basis which is real and natural to us. From the practical viewpoint, it does not ask man to eschew and flee from the world in the spirit of asceticism; a course repugnant to a large number of modern minds, not only because mere asceticism often involves what it thinks to be a futile self-denial; but because that mind is waking to the truth that all is one; that if so, to deny the world is in a sense to deny an aspect of That which is both Being and Becoming. It thinks also that whilst some natures are naturally ascetic, to attempt ascetic treatment in the case of most is to contort the natural being, and to intensify the very evils which asceticism seeks to avoid. Not one man in many thousands has true Vairagya or detachment from the world. Most are thoroughly even glued to it. Again, there are many minds which are puzzled and confused by Mayavada; and which, therefore, falsely interpret it,-- may be to their harm. These men, Mayavada, or rather their misunderstanding of it, weakens or destroys. Their grip on themselves and the world is in any case enfeebled. They become intellectual and moral derelicts who are neither on the path of power nor of renunciation, and who have neither the strength to follow worldly life, nor to truly abandon it. It is not necessary, however, to renounce when all is seen to be Her. And, when all is so seen, then the spiritual illumination which transfuses all thoughts and acts makes them noble and pure. It is impossible for a man, who in whatever sense truly sees God in all things, to err. If he does so, it is because his vision is not fully strong and pure; and to this extent scope is afforded to error. But given perfect spiritual eyesight then all "this" is pure. For, as the Greeks profoundly said, "panta kathara tois katharois," "To the pure all things are pure."
The Shakta doctrine is thus one which has not only grandeur but is greatly pragmatic and of excelling worth. It has always been to me a surprise that its value should not have been rightly appreciated. I can only suppose that its neglect is due to the fact that is the doctrine of the Shakta Tantras. That fact has been enough to warrant its rejection, or at least a refusal to examine it. Like all practical doctrines, it is also intensely positive. There are none of those negations which weaken and which annoy those who, as the vital Western mind does, feel themselves to be strong and living in an atmosphere of might and power. For power is a glorious thing. What is wanted is only the sense that all Power is of God and is God, and that Bhava or feeling which interprets all thoughts and acts and their objects in terms of the Divine, and which sees God in and as all things. Those who truly do so will exercise power not only without wrong, but with that compassion (Karuna) for all beings which is so beautiful a feature of the Buddha of northern and Tantrik Buddhism. For in them Shakti Herself has descended. This is Shaktipata, as it is technically called in the Tantra Shastra; the descent of Shakti which Western theology calls the grace of God. But grace is truly not some exterior thing, though we may pictorially think of it as 'streaming' from above below. Atma neither comes nor goes. To be in grace is that state in which man commences to realize himself as Shiva-Shakti. His power is, to use a Western phrase, "converted". It is turned from the husk of mere outwardness and of limited self-seeking, to that inner Reality which is the great Self which, at base, he (in this doctrine) is.
The principles of Shakta doctrine, which will vary according to race, are a regenerating doctrine, giving strength where there is weakness, and, where strength exists, directing it to right ends. "Shivo' ham," "I am Shiva," "Sha' ham," "I am She (the Devi)," the Tantras say. The Western may call It by some other name. Some call It this and some that, as the Veda says. "I am He," "I am She," "I am It," matters not to the Shakta so long as man identifies himself with the 'Oversoul,' and thus harmonizes himself with its Being, with Dharmic actions (as it manifests in the world) and therefore necessarily with Its true ends. In its complete form the Shakta doctrine is monistic. But to those to whom monism makes no appeal, the Shakta will say that by adopting its spirit, so far as the forms of their belief and worship allow, they will experience a reflection of the joy and strength of those who truly live because they worship Her who is Eternal life -- the Mother who is seated on the couch of Shivas (Mahapreta), in the Isle of Gems (Manidvipa), in the "Ocean of Nectar," which is all Being-Consciousness and Bliss.
This is the pearl which those who have churned the ocean of Tantra discover. That pearl is there in an Indian shell. There is a beautiful nacre on the inner shell which is the Mother of Pearl. Outside, the shell is naturally rough and coarse, and bears the accretions of weed and parasite and of things of all kinds which exist, good or bad as we call them, in the ocean of existence (Samsara). The Scripture leads man to remove these accretions, and to pass within through the crust, gross, though not on that account only, bad; for there is a gross (Sthula) and subtle (Sukshma) aspect of worship. Finally it leads man to seek to see the Mother of Pearl and lastly the Pearl which, enclosed therein, shines with the brilliant yet soft light which is that of the Moon-Cit (Cicchandra) Itself.