Shiva in the hypostasis of magician
by eminent yoga teacher Gregorian Bivolaru
If Paramashiva – the Undifferentiated Oceanic Consciousness and Bliss – constitutes our own essential substance, why do we still not perceive it as such and are subject to illusion, fear and pain, being dominated by the body and the ego? This aspect arises because Shiva is also a Magician, who through his creative and deceptive force, maya, hides in Himself from Himself through Himself – like the spider encircling itself in its own web – to play his prodigious game of enchainment and liberation, both at the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. He perceives himself, therefore, fragmented into countless beings created through self-forgetfulness, for in giving birth to multiplicity, He hides himself, concealing unity. In this direction, the initiate Laleshvari says: “There is neither you, nor I, nor contemplated, nor contemplation, there is only the Creator of the Universe, who is hidden in the hearts of all beings, apparently lost in self-forgetfulness. If the blind, or, in other words, the ignorant, discover no meaning in Him, on the contrary, the wise, seeing the Supreme, melt ecstatically in Him.”
Shiva is the Absolute Light (prakasha) of the undifferentiated Godly Consciousness, manifesting as all that exists. This Light is at the same time pure bliss, as it is self-supporting by its very nature. Being unique, it is totally free, there being nothing else on which it depends. Preceding space and time, to which it gives birth, it is omnipresent and eternal.
It contains everything, no atom can exist outside it. Residing in the heart of every being in the form of the universal Subject (aham or the Absolute Self), it illuminates our whole life, all conscious psychic manifestations, and enables us to perceive the outer world. Without it we would be numb, blind and no experience would be possible.
This is the reason for the exclamation of the great enlightened sage Utpaladeva: “To know Yourself, no help is needed, there is in reality no obstacle. Everything is flooded by the rushing torrent, overflowing with endless bliss, of Thy eternal existence!” (XII. 1)
The Infinite and Supreme Reality in all its plenitude shines unceasingly above the world and in the world, without ever leaving its own nature.
Although in Shiva the supreme freedom, the liberating knowledge, the absolute happiness, and the universal love are one, yet, depending on the aspirant’s inner nature, different attitudes predominate in him: the ineffable spiritual intuition in the jnanin (jnana-yogi), intuition in addition to knowledge and discernment, the contemplative resorption simultaneously blissful and effective in the raja-yogi, and the all-powerful love in the bhakta (bhakti-yogi).
From these three points of view, we will approach the ascension towards Shiva: through meditation and extreme refinement of the consciousness, then through full perception of the Pure Blissful Happiness, and, finally, through love. These are three essential ways of approaching Shiva, the one hidden by cosmic illusion (maya).
The Godly conscious Light (prakasha), being colourless because it transcends all colours, is not perceived as such, but, projected through the prism of personal consciousness, it breaks down into distinct colours. From the moment one tries to understand it through the intellect, it fragments into countless aspects: “Although omnipresent, the Self is not reflected in the imperfect and fickle mirror of thoughts, a mirror through which only the objects of the senses are reflected”, says to us Abhinavagupta. Any such experience (through intellectual reflection) that we might have relative to Shiva is therefore misleading. Even in certain forms of cosmic consciousness (samadhi), God can never be perceived as an object to be known, but in and through eternity He is the Supreme Subject. Deep understanding of His essence can only be realized through plenary identifying fusion with Himself.
The same great sage and liberated Abhinavagupta illustrates the ineffable of the spiritual also in another way: “The raindrops cannot be distinguished against the uninterrupted background of the clear sky, but they can be clearly perceived when they stand out against a well definite visual background, like the foliage of a garden tree or the roof of a palace. In the same way, the supreme Bhairava, because of his extreme subtlety, can never be contained within the domain of the personal conscious experience (the limited consciousness). If the association with a particular time, with a particular place, with a form, with movement, with activity, etc. immediately limits the personal consciousness experiencing the state of Bhairava, this association does not limit nor detract anything from the veritable Consciousness of Bhairava.” Therefore, in order to know Shiva fully, we need to become identical with him.
“Shiva, whose wonderful essence is the conscious Godly Light, free and sovereign, by the impetuous play of his freedom, first conceals his own essence, revealing it then in all its plenitude, suddenly or gradually. And this outpouring of his Grace is wholly independent!” Abhinavagupta, Tantra Sara
May 18, 2023