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 Trika 4 - Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir

The region between tattva-s 5 and 6, Māyā and the five Kañcuka-s


 Introduction

Hi, this is Gabriel Pradīpaka once again. We are about to study an important subject: Limitations. You will learn how they work in you. They work above your conscious mind, that's why you cannot get rid of them using the mind. Your mind and its contents come from these limitations. Limitations (mala-s, Māyā and Kañcuka-s) give rise to the conditioned being that you think you are.

You have surely tried to change your life, and despite your efforts everything seems to be the same as before, the same old story. There is a kind of counterbalance keeping the balance. This counterbalance is in fact all limitations residing inside you. You are not properly conscious of them, and therefore, you cannot change anything, just pretend but nothing else. No matter how hard your effort may be, you will not be able to change anything "essentially" this way. No, no, no. Before changing anything, you "must" acquire right knowledge about "who you are" and "limitations". After that acquisition, you may attempt to change your life with the help of these new tools, and "maybe" you will succeed. But if you attempt this without right knowledge, you will fail. There are laws in this universe, and they work following a well defined pattern. Firstly, learn how the pattern works, and then you may try to change something in your life. Not before.

I will explain in this page and the next ones, how you may do a good use of your efforts. I will also explain to you why you cannot do whatever you want without right knowledge. I will inform you about the definite laws that work above and inside your mind. One imagines that he is free, and this is true spiritually speaking. However, when one thinks that he is his mind and body, then one is not free at all, because there are tons of psychological and physical laws. No end to them.

So, before undertaking your fight against "limitations", you should learn how they work. This would be a wise behavior, I think. Let's get down to work.

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 The region between tattva-s 5 and 6

Up to Sadvidyā (tattva 5) the real Śiva's nature was not veiled. But, between tattva-s 5 and 6 something is going to happen: "Āṇavamala". What is Āṇavamala? The word "mala" means "impurity" and "āṇava" means "pertaining to aṇu or conditioned being". In short, Āṇavamala is "the primordial impurity of the limited being". There are three mala-s according to Trika, and this is the first one. Āṇavamala is the source from which comes the entire aggregate of tattva-s from 6 to 36. It is a tremendous contraction of Śiva's Will. Even though Āṇavamala is located in a stage beyond utterance, if we could put the notion inoculated by Āṇavamala into words, it would be something like this:

I AM IMPERFECT

This notion of "imperfection" is the first step on your way toward limited existence. This notion is strong enough as to veil your essential nature, which is Śiva Himself. However, Trika does not state that "something coming from somewhere" veiled Śiva's Nature. No, no, no. It is Śiva Himself (You) who brings about the aforesaid contraction. He does this in order to start His "apparent" transformation into the conditioned being you think you are. Trika viewpoint is not like this:

Āṇavamala (the villain) veiled Śiva's nature and turned Him into a limited being

Not at all. Śiva is "One without a second". There is nobody veiling Him or drawing the veil. That is mere appearance. Śiva is the Supreme Actor, and therefore He plays all roles, because there is nobody else to do this.

To play a role He needs to forget a little His own nature. That's why He assumes successive contractions, and Āṇavamala is the first and most important of all contractions or limitations. If you do not understand this simple teaching, and keep thinking that "something different from Śiva" is veiling His Nature, you will not be able to grasp the core of Trika.

Despite Śiva undergoes "apparently" different changes, He does not change at all. Reality never changes. Imagine you have wonderful multicolored spectacles. Both you (the perceiver) and the world perceived by you remain the same. Nevertheless, when you look at the world through these spectacles, it looks like multicolored. Likewise, Śiva (You) and His Śakti (I-consciousness and the entire universe arising from it) remain the same, but when Śiva uses those spectacles (Āṇavamala and the rest of limitations), Śakti looks somewhat different. She seems to be separated from Śiva, She seems to be something different from Śiva. And the very Śiva apparently forgets that all these changes are the result of using those spectacles. If you use spectacles, you know well that sometimes you forget you are using them. It is something wonderful indeed.

And one day, spectacled Śiva realizes that the multicolored universe arises as a result of the spectacles He was using to see His own Śakti. When He frees Himself of the spectacles, then He is able to perceive His Śakti such as She is. In short, both His "apparent" fall into the ignorance and His subsequent liberation is nothing but a Divine Play. If you cannot have this view, you will never understand Trika's viewpoint. You will see everything as a fight against "ignorance", not as a Divine Display. True, when one meditates, chants, prays, etc., sometimes he feels he is fighting against "something different from him". But, according to Trika, this is a mere "notion". You are not fighting against "another". You are fighting against your own tendency to assume contraction or limitation.

Therefore, your "apparent" spiritual path should be light and full of right understanding. You should see your own spiritual development as a Divine Play, not as something painful and sad. There is nobody but you in this "apparent" fight. No enemies but your own tendency to limit yourself. Look at the following simple table and try to grasp the core of this teaching:

ŚIVA (You) + (plus) A SPECIAL KIND OF MULTICOLORED SPECTACLES (all limitations in you) = ŚAKTI looks like different and separated from Śiva (You). She seems to take on the form of the universe
ŚIVA (You) - (minus) A SPECIAL KIND OF MULTICOLORED SPECTACLES (all limitations in you) = ŚAKTI is seen such as She is. Reality is revealed and no universe is found in Her.
ŚAKTI + (plus) SPECTACLED ŚIVA (You thinking you are a conditioned being) = ŚAKTI is seen as a multicolored universe full of different beings residing in it.
ŚAKTI + (plus) ŚIVA WITHOUT SPECTACLES
(You realizing your inherent unity with Śiva)
= ŚAKTI is seen such She is. No different beings are found in Her. Śiva alone dwells in Śakti as Herself.

Śiva and Śakti are one and the same. Śakti is the Power of Śiva. She is the "active" I-consciousness that is the base on which the whole universe is built up.

When Āṇavamala start operating, Śiva is apparently reduced to a Vijñānākala. And what is a Vijñānākala? I will explain this subject righ now. Listen to the teaching:

The word "Vijñānākala" means "someone who has conscious perception (vijñāna) but no power of action (akala)". Below Āṇavamala, Śiva (You) goes through a first stage of contraction called "Vijñānākala". In short, the first consequence of Aṇavamala's work is the creation of a special condition called "state of Vijñānākala". When you are in this stage, you experience "conscious perception" but have no power "to act". What does it mean? Look: It is as if you were daydreaming. Yes, yes, it is something like that. You are conscious of your nature as Śiva, but have no power to play a role in the universe. That is, you have "vijñāna" (conscious percepcion of what you are) but no power of action (akala). Therefore, you experience yourself as a Witness to all. This is a state of pure Prakāśa or Śiva, with no Vimarśa or Śakti in it. Śiva is the "static" perceiver, while Śakti is the "dynamic" creative power. Tattva-s 5 and 6You have power of perception but not of action. Got the point?

And now a graphic. Sadvidyā is the fifth tattva, and Māya is, obviously, the sixth tattva. Āṇavamala is the line between the two referred to tattva-s, and Vijñānākala is the stage just below the Āṇavamala.

This stage of Vijñānākala is "generally" the highest state that can be achieved by an ordinary person (without any additional spiritual knowledge). When a person acquire spiritual knowledge of a "true" guru, he may advance beyond Vijñānākala stage. Of course, I am not telling you that Trika is the only way to accomplish that advance. There are many ways to the same goal. However, I just know this one deeply enough. I know other ways, but my knowledge is shallow yet, I think. Most people read a little bit of Veda, and afterward they are teaching Veda. They learn a little of Trika, and think that they know all about Trika. And the same thing happens with all the rest. This is a common condition of human mind. The knowledge should not be shallow all the time, but one should know something deeply before lecturing or writing books or whatsoever about that subject. If his knowledge is shallow, he will communicate a partial knowledge with lots of misundertandings. In a word, more confusion will be added to the already confused minds of people listening to the lecture or reading the book or whatsoever.

Well, the next stage is the Māyātattva.

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 Māyā

This is the sixth tattva. The word "Māyā" means ordinarily "illusion", but if we go deeper into its meaning according to Trika, we come to know that this word is derived from the verbal root "mā" (to measure out). Māya is that which "measures out" the reality. It turns the "Śiva without parts" into a reality distributed in various portions. In sum, it creates a sense of difference.

Between the tattva-s 5 and 6, it exists a kind of Māyā called Mahāmāyā (great Māyā), because there is a primeval sense of difference between "I" and "This", between "Śiva" and the "Universe". However, from Māyā on, the sense of difference is stressed and quite different. It is not a difference between "I" and "This", between "I" and "the universe as a whole", but between "I" and "a universe composed of infinite portions". Got the point?

Thus, Māyātattva generates more and more difference. It is the Cause or Womb from which all this variegated universe has risen. You experience Māyā fully when you enter the deep sleep. This void you experience is really Māyā or the Causal Womb that is the source of all you experience in the dream and waking states. It is experienced as a Void because it contains the "seeds" of the Creation. When you see a seed, you do not see a plant or a tree, but the whole plant or tree is contained within it. Likewise, within Māyā is contained all the universe around but in a causal form. Māyā has no known forms, you do not face a tree, a cat, a man or anything else. You only face the Womb from which a tree, a cat, a man or anything else will set forth.

This Māyātattva (according to Trika) "must not" be mistaken for Non-dual Vedānta's Māyā. In Non-dual Vedānta (another important philosophical system), Māyā means something completely different. I am not going to explain it now, because it would be too long. I just will say that Māyā is not a "real" stage in Non-dual Vedānta but an illusion. Only Brahma is real according to Non-dual Vedānta. It would be a long explanation indeed. Just remember that "Māyā" in Trika is not the same as "Māyā" in Non-dual Vedānta. In Trika, Māyā is the sixth "real" stage in the process of Creation.

Māyīyamala brings about Māyātattva. Māyīyamala (the second mala or impurity) gives to Śiva a strong sense of difference. This stage is beyond the gross utterance, but if we could put the notion inoculated by Māyīyamala into words, it would be something like this:

"I am different from all things, and they are different from each other"

However, because "all things" are still unmanifested, this mala remains as a latent seed within the womb of Māyā. It will have full impact when both mind and gross body are manifested. But, for now, it is just a seed.

Ah!, one more thing. When you rest in Māyātattva, you are a Pralayākala or experient of the void. The void is also known as "Pralaya" or dissolution of the manifestation. Māyā is experienced as a void according to my previous explanation.

Māyā gives rise to five Kañcuka-s or "sheaths". Māyā is also known as "Ignorance". That's why the five Kañcuka-s are often called "sheaths of Ignorance". Sometimes, Māyā is included as another sheath or Kañcuka.

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 The five Kañcuka-s

From Māyā (the Womb) five Kañcuka-s or sheaths emerge. They do not emerge without rhyme or reason, but they follow an strict pattern. In fact, all tattva-s are manifested in succession, although they appear to emerge all at the same time. First of all, look at the following graphic and learn the names of the Kañcuka-s:

Before learning more about Kañcuka-s, you must keep in mind that they cannot be overcome by using your mind because they are above the mind. There are other sets of tools to accomplish that overcoming. Be patient, please. Before overcoming them you should study them. Therefore, let's study them one by one:


  1. Kalā or Kalākañcuka (tattva or category 7): This is the same tattva 5 (Sadvidyā) but in a contracted condition. Tattva 5 is the abode of Omnipotence (sarvakartṛtva) or Kriyāśakti (power of action) to its full height. In turn, tattva 7 is also the abode of power of action but in a limited state now. There is not complete absence of power of action at all, there is only a contraction of it. The same is true regarding the rest of Kañcuka-s. Kalākañcuka is the limited power of action by which you carry out all your daily duties. Although there is still no utterance at this level, if you try to put into words the notions inoculated by Kalākañcuka, this would be the result:

I cannot do this -- I am helpless -- I am limited in respect of action -- This is impossible -- etc.

  1. Vidyā or Vidyākañcuka (tattva 8): This is the same tattva 4 (Īśvara) but in a contracted condition. Tattva 4 is the abode of Omniscience (sarvajñatva) or Jñānaśakti (power of knowledge) to its full height. In turn, tattva 8 is also the abode of power of knowledge but in a limited state now. There is not complete absence of power of knowledge at all, there is only a contraction of it. The same is true regarding the rest of Kañcuka-s. Vidyākañcuka is the limited power of knowledge by which you know all in your day-to-day life. Although there is still no utterance at this level, if you try to put into words the notions inoculated by Vidyākañcuka, this would be the result:

I cannot know this -- I am an ignorante person -- I am limited in respect of knowledge -- This is too complicated to me -- etc.

  1. Rāga or Rāgakañcuka (tattva 9): This is the same tattva 3 (Sadāśiva) but in a contracted condition. Tattva 3 is the abode of All-satisfaction (pūrṇatva) or Icchāśakti (power of will) to its full height. In turn, tattva 9 is also the abode of power of will but in a limited state now. There is not complete absence of power of will at all, there is only a contraction of it. The same is true regarding the rest of Kañcuka-s. Rāgakañcuka is the limited power of will by which you make decisions in your day-to-day life. When the Absolute Will is reduced, you experience a "lack", which urges you to search for "something or someone" to fill the void, to meet your "apparent" need. When you think you have found what you were searching for, you feel attached to it. In sum, the sensation of a "lack" leads to "attachment". Although there is still no utterance at this level, if you try to put into words the notions inoculated by Rāgakañcuka, this would be the result:

I feel lonely -- I need a thing or a person to be happy -- I feel attachment -- I lack something -- etc.

  1. Kāla or Kālakañcuka (tattva 10): This is the same tattva 2 (Śakti) but in a contracted condition. Tattva 2 is the abode of Eternity (nityatva) or Ānandaśakti (power of bliss) to its full height. In turn, tattva 10 is also the abode of power of bliss but in a limited state now. There is not complete absence of power of bliss at all, there is only a contraction of it. The same is true regarding the rest of Kañcuka-s. Kālakañcuka is the limited power of bliss by which you make your schedules in your day-to-day life. When the Supreme Bliss is reduced you experience divisions of Time. Although there is still no utterance at this level, if you try to put into words the notions inoculated by Kālakañcuka, this would be the result:

I have no time -- I am not happy enough -- My prime is past -- I cannot undo my past -- I hope my future will be better -- etc.

  1. Niyati or Niyatikañcuka (tattva 11): This is the same tattva 1 (Śiva) but in a contracted condition. Tattva 1 is the abode of Freedom (svatantratā) and All-pervasiveness (vyāpakatva) or Cicchakti (power of consciousness) to its full height. In turn, tattva 11 is also the abode of power of consciousness but in a limited state now. There is not complete absence of power of consciousness at all, there is only a contraction of it. The same is true regarding the rest of Kañcuka-s. Niyatikañcuka is the limited power of consciousness by which you feel near or far away from someone or something in your day-to-day life. When Freedom and All-pervasiveness are reduced you experience divisions of Space. Although there is still no utterance at this level, if you try to put into words the notions inoculated by Niyatikañcuka, this would be the result:

I cannot get there because it is too far -- I need transportation -- Oh my beloved, even though our bodies are so far from each other... -- I live here and you there -- I am Argentinian because I was born here -- etc.

Maayaa and Kañcuka-sYou are invited to add your own examples of the notions inoculated by these Kañcuka-s.

What you must understand is the following:

"Nothing, apart from your own limitations (mala-s, Māyā and Kañcuka-s), is making you happy or unhappy. Happiness is your own achievement, and not dependent on external circumstances. Real bliss is not given by anyone but You. Nothing is being antagonistic except your own limitations".

If you understand these teachings, you will save yourself so much suffering. People are constantly fighting and quarreling because they thought that the "other" is responsible for their happiness or unhappiness. Trika does not state this. It states that "we ourselves" are lastly responsible for our happiness and unhappiness. You are surely wasting too much energy in this process of making the "other" responsible for your happiness or unhappiness. If you become free from this self-deception, it would be great!

Well, let's go on. In this stage, Kārmamala (impurity in respect of action) emerges due to the link between Āṇavamala and Kalākañcuka (tattva 7). It might be expressed using an equation like this:

Āṇavamala + Kalākañcuka = Kārmamala

Kārmamala inoculates a notion in you, which put into words would be:

I am a doer of good and evil deeds

And this is the beginning of Karma's law. You are beholding the very birth of Karma in you right now. Interesting! But, let's go deeper into the aforesaid equation: Replace the respective notions for the Sanskrit names and see by yourself:

I am imperfect + I am limited in respect of action = I am a doer of good and evil deeds

Look at the equation. All Mala-s and Kañcuka-s may be overcome by personal effort (aided by the adequate knowledge, of course) except Āṇavamala. Āṇavamala is only overcome through Divine Grace. Never forget this. So, to annul the result of the equation in the form of Kārmamala, you must firstly annul Kalākañcuka. The more you feel that you are limited in respect of action, the more you are imprisoned by karmic laws. It is that simple.

You may wonder, well, how to run away from this prison? This is my response: Every Yoga (Jñānayoga, Bhaktiyoga, Karmayoga, Mantrayoga, etc.) gives a series of teachings and techniques to free you from the prison. Trika also gives a series of teachings and techniques to accomplish this. Go to the English-Home, then click on Trika section, then on Meditation and start with "Meditation 1" and afterward go to "Meditation 2" and so on, or click here. There I will teach you techniques and tricks for you to become a free person at last.

The documents about Trika would be the "theory" and the documents about Meditation would be the "practice". This is approximate though, because there is also theory in Meditation pages and practice in Trika pages. But for now the division is suitable.

Here a technique for you: Study your responses in situations in which your "capacities" are involved. For example, someone says this to you:

"You would be a very good engineer" or "You are no good for this work" or "You are a good pupil" or "You are a great Sanskrit teacher" (I hope this, haha!) or "Your disease is incurable" or "Your enterprise will go bankrupt" or anything else

You feel instantly a series of thoughts emerging in your mind. You may feel delight or pain. Try now to separate your "I" sense from these delightful or painful thoughts. You are a Witness to them. They are related to the limited person you think you are. Keep your "I" apart from the aforesaid thoughts for so long as possible. Well, relax now.

All those thoughts were lastly born from Kalākañcuka. Kalākañcuka was their source. I will write now probable responses to the above sentences:

"You would be a very good engineer" could generate this: "Oh no!, I think I am not good enough"
or "Yes, I would".

"You are no good for this work" could generate this: "Oh yes, you are right" or "Oh no, you are not right".

"You are a good pupil" could generate this: "Oh yes" or "Oh no, I am so ignorant".

"You are a great Sanskrit teacher" could generate this: "Oh yes, I am great" or "Oh no, I still have
so much to learn".

"Your disease is incurable" could generate this: "You are right, I will die" or "Not at all".

"Your enterprise will go bankrupt" could generate this: "Yes, everything is collapsing now" or
"No, you are wrong, I will keep it up".

True, a positive attitude is always welcome, but ultimately the best way for you is to get rid of all thoughts (negative and positive). And since you cannot accomplish this by merely wishing it, you first will have to separate your "I" sense from the thoughts emerging from Kalākañcuka. This process is valid with respect to all Kañcuka-s, of course.

Listen to me: You are Śiva, the purest Self, you are the Highest Reality. Thoughts (good and evil) have no relation to You. Aided by these teachings, get rid of them and be happy. By "get rid of them" I mean "separate from them". They might be but you remain unaffected, as a Witness to them all.

Go to Trika section for more help.

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 Concluding remarks

Very important: Since this subject of "Limitations" is really essential, I will upload an Appendix later with more useful information.

This is an interesting subject. You have learnt just a little bit about limitations. Remember: they cannot be overcome through one's mind, because mind and the rest are born from the limitations. There are many techniques to overcome limitations, and although some of them use the mind as a springboard, it is lastly abandoned. Go to Trika section right now and keep learning Trika.

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 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.