Sunday, October 27, 2013

Five Spheres and Four Eggs

In the beautiful and wonderfully complex world of Shaivite cosmology, we have what are known as the Six Paths (Shad-Adhvans). The paths are not so much paths to tread on, but paths through which one intuits the cosmos from the gross down to the subtlest of levels. These Six Paths are divided into two categories - the subjective (vachaka) and the objective (vachya). 

From the subjective side, we have three paths known as the Path of Words (Pada-Adhvan), Path of Syllables (Mantra-Adhvan) and Path of Phonemes/Letters (Varna-Adhvan). To understand fully the subjective paths, one has to comprehend the Theory of Sound/Speech as elaborated in the Tantras and the Upanishads. Suffice it to say here that going from words to syllables to phonemes, we're going on paths one more subtle than the other.

Similarly, on the objective side, which is what we discuss here, the paths go from gross to subtle to subtlest. On the gross level, there is the Path of the Worlds (Bhuvana-Adhvan) consisting of hundreds of worlds in higher and higher planes of existence. On a more subtle level, there is the Path of Categories (Tattva-Adhvan) consisting of the 36 Tattvas. The thirty-six Tattvas are a familiar feature of Shaivite and Shakta ontology. The various worlds exist at different levels, so to speak, along these categories. Finally on the most subtle level, there is the Path of Divisions (Kala-Adhvan) consisting of the five Kalas. The Kala-Adhvan encompasses the whole of the objective reality envisaged as five concentric spheres going inward each sphere consisting of tattvas within, which themselves hold the various worlds. 


On the outermost and grossest level is the Prithivi Tattva encompassed by the Nivritti KalaThe next level inward consists of twenty-three tattvas from Apas to Prakriti, and is encompassed by Pratishta KalaThe next level inward consists of seven tattvas from Purusha to Maya, and is encompassed by Vidya KalaGoing further inward are the four tattvas from Shuddhavidya to Shakti, which are encompassed by Shanta KalaThe highest of these spheres is not a sphere at all and consists only of the Shiva Tattva, which is nothing but Parashakti, and is called the Shantatita Kala

The four Kalas going outward from Shantatita can also be envisioned as concentric eggs (andas) - named after the highest tattva within:

  • Shanta Kala is called the Shakti Anda (Egg of Shakti)
  • Vidya Kala is called the Maya Anda (Egg of Maya)
  • Pratishta Kala is called the Prakriti Anda (Egg of Prakriti)
  • Nivritti Kala is called the Prithivi Anda (Egg of Prithivi), which is synonymous with Brahmanda (Egg of Brahma)
To know the five spheres and the four eggs is to know the entire objective reality existing within the Shiva Consciousness. 

Because of the abundance of glory and magnificence in His own Shakti, this group of four eggs is manifested by the Lord - Shakti, Maya, Prakriti and Prithivi. In this manifold universe flow continuously the worlds, organs of sense, and bodies. And in that reality, Shiva alone having assumed the state of a limited embodied being (Pashu) is the Enjoyer.
~ Acharya Abhinavagupta's Paramarthasara, Verses 4-5.

The Shiva Purana has somewhat simplified this concept. Envisaging the entire objective reality as the body of Shiva, the Shiva Purana says that Nivritti Kala goes up to His knees, Pratishta Kala up to His navel, Vidya Kala up to His throat, Shanta Kala up to His brow, and Shantyatita beyond. 

Aum Hrim Namah Shivaya. 
Agnideva © 2013. All rights reserved.

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