In this excerpt from his book Kashmir Shaivism – The Secret Supreme, Swami Lakshmanjoo explains the Seven States of the Seven Perceivers (pramātṛis), and their respective energies (pramātṛi śaktis), a subject unique to Kashmir Shaivism.
The Seven States of the Seven Perceivers (Pramātṛin)
Now, let us discuss the seven states of the seven pramātṛins (perceivers) and their importance. The first state is called sakala. The sakala state is that state where perception takes place in the objective world and not in the subjective world. In other words, I would call this state the state of prameya, the state of the ‘object of perception’. It is realized by its pramātṛi — ‘the observer’ who resides in this state, in the field of objectivity and its world.
The second state is called pralayākala. This is the state of negation, where the whole world is negated. And the one who resides in this world of negation is called pralayākala pramātṛi, the observer of the pralayākala state. And this pramātṛi, this perceiver, does not experience the state of this voidness because it is actually the state of unawareness. This state would be observed at the time of mūrcchā, when one becomes comatose, which is like unnatural and heavy sleep, like deep sleep devoid of dreams. And the observer, pralayākala pramātṛi, resides in that void unawareness. These two states function in the state of individuality, not in the state of your real nature. These are states of worldly people, not spiritual aspirants.
The third state is called vijñānākala and the perceiver of this state is called vijñānākala pramātṛi. This state is experienced by those who are on the path of yoga. Here the yogī experiences awareness at times but this awareness is not active awareness, and at other times his awareness is active but he is not aware of that active awareness.1 This vijñānākala pramātṛi, therefore, takes place in two ways: sometimes it is full of action (svātantrya) without awareness and sometimes it is full of awareness without action.2
In the first state, the state of sakala pramātṛi, all the three malas—āṇava, māyīya, and kārma mala—are active. In the second state, the state of pralayākala pramātṛi, kārma mala is gone and only two malas remain, āṇava mala and māyīya mala. These two malas are concerned with thought rather than action, whereas kārma mala is concerned with action. In the third state of perceivers the state of vijñānākala pramātṛi, only one mala, āṇava mala, remains while the other two malas, māyīya mala and kārma mala, have ceased functioning.
The fourth state of the observer is called śuddhavidyā and its observer is called mantra3 pramātṛi. In this state, the observer is always aware with svātantrya. All the malas have been removed and its observer observes only the state of his own Self, his own Real nature, full of consciousness, full of bliss, full of independent will, full of knowledge, and full of action. Hence, this state, though it is not a stable state, is the real state of Śiva. The mantra for this state is ahaṁ ahaṁ, idaṁ idaṁ. The meaning of the first section of this mantra, ahaṁ ahaṁ, is that in this state the yogī experiences that he is the reality, the Real nature of Self, the Truth of this whole universe. The meaning of the second section of this mantra, idaṁ idaṁ, tells us, on the other hand, that he also experiences that this universe is false, that it is unreal. Because this state is not stable, the yogī does not always remain in this state. The experience comes and goes. Sometimes he experiences this state and sometimes he does not experience it. Sometimes he experiences only ahaṁ ahaṁ. Sometimes, when his consciousness is a little damaged, he experiences only idaṁ idaṁ. Therefore, his reality of Self remains unstable and uncertain.
The next state is called īśvara and its observer is called mantreśvara pramātṛi. The word mantreśvara means “the one who has sovereignty on mantra (ahaṁ–I).” This state is like that of mantra pramātṛi, full of consciousness, full of bliss, full of will, full of knowledge, and full of action; however, this is a more stable state. The aspirant finds more stability here. The mantra for this state is idaṁ ahaṁ. The meaning of this mantra is that the aspirant feels that this whole universe is not false; on the contrary, he feels that this whole universe is the expansion of his own nature. In the state of mantra pramātṛi, he felt that the universe was false, that he was the truth of this reality. Now he unites the state of the universe with the state of his own consciousness. This is actually the unification of jīva, the individual, with Śiva, the universal.
The next state is the state of sadāśiva. The observer of this state is called mantra maheśvara. In this state, the observer finds himself to be absolutely one with the Universal Transcendental Being. He experiences this state to be more valid, more solid and deserving of confidence. Once he enters into this state, there is no question at all of falling from it. This is the established state of his Self, his own Real nature. The mantra of this state is ahaṁ idaṁ. The meaning of this mantra is, “I am this universe.” Here, he finds his Self in the universe, while in the previous state of mantreśvara he found the universe in his Self. This is the difference.
The seventh and last state is the state of Śiva and the observer of this state is no other than Śiva Himself. In the other six, the state is one thing and the observer is something else. In this final state, the state is Śiva and the observer is also Śiva. There is nothing outside Śiva. The mantra in this state is ahaṁ, universal I. This-ness is gone, melted in His I-ness. This state is completely filled with consciousness, bliss, will, knowledge, and action.
The energies of the seven pramātṛins
The reader must know that in these seven states of seven pramātṛins, there are seven pramātṛi śaktis. These are the energies of the seven pramātṛins. The first energy, by which one is capable of residing in all the three malas and thereby remaining in the state of sakala, is called sakala pramātṛi śakti.
The second energy is that energy which makes one capable of residing in unawareness, in voidness (śūnya). This energy is called pralayākala pramātṛi śakti.
That energy which enables one to be seated in the state of vijñānākala, where only āṇava mala is active, is called vijñānākala pramātṛi śakti.
The fourth energy, which makes it possible for one to reside in the state of ahaṁ ahaṁ, idaṁ idaṁ in the state of mantrapramātṛi, which is the state of śuddhavidyā, is called mantra pramātṛi śakti. In this state, all of the malas have vanished completely.
The fifth energy is that energy which carries you in the state of mantreśvara and is called mantreśvara pramātṛi śakti. This is the energy which is found in the state of īśvara.
The sixth energy is that energy which conveys the yogī to the state of sadāśiva, the state of mantra maheśvara. This energy is called mantra maheśvara śakti and it carries the aspirant in the perception of ahaṁ idaṁ, where he finds his I-ness in the universe.
The seventh energy is the state of that energy of Śiva. This energy strengthens the state which is already established in the state of Supreme I-ness, the state of the universal and transcendental “I.” This energy is called śiva pramātṛi śakti.
It is for this reason that in the Mālinī Vijaya Tantram the purpose of these seven states is fully described for the benefit of the aspirant. This description is called pañcadaśavidhiḥ, the mode of fifteen-fold thought for rising and returning, for ascending and descending. This means that the theory of the seven pramātṛins and their seven energies is meant not only for rising but also for descending. The aspirant must be capable of both rising and descending. The one who rises and cannot descend is incomplete. It is that aspirant who can rise and also descend simultaneously who is considered to be complete and full.
So, in conclusion, the state of Śiva is actually that state where Śiva can rise and descend, and after descending, can rise again. On the other hand, the state of individuality is that state where Śiva descends from the state of Śiva to the state of individuality and then, having descended, cannot rise again. This is the difference between the reality of Śiva and the reality of individual.
1 svātantryāhānirbodhasya svātantrasyāpyabodhatā
(dvidhāṇavaṁ malamidaṁ svasvarūpāpahānitaḥ) Īśvarapratyābhijñā Kārikā III, 2.4
“Āṇava mala is twofold. It is the cause of the ignorance of free will and it is also the cause of the loss of free will. Thus, it carries one away from their own Real Self.”
2 Being full of awareness is jñānapūrṇa, full of knowledge. Being full of action is svātantrya, full of absolute independence.
3 The meaning of the word mantra, in the sense that it is being used here, is found in the roots which comprise it, manana and trāṇa. Manana means “awareness, possessing complete knowledge.” Trāṇa means “complete protection, protection from all the four sides, that protection which protects the whole ignorant world from ignorance.” Therefore, mantra is that knowledge by which we are protected.