The Four Stages of Creation or Manifestation


by Jayaram V

Summary: This essay describes how creation or objective reality manifest from Para Vak or pure consciousness in four stages  according to the Tantra traditions of Shaivism.

How things manifest? How thoughts become reality or transform into spoken or written words?

Most of the reality which we create in our lives through organized effort begins in our consciousness as thoughts, desires or intentions only. That thought is the origin of everything. Thoughts can facilitate or prevent what may or may not manifest in your life. The mind is the field where reality is hewn. Our thoughts act as the seeds for the reality which we desire or want to manifest or does not want to manifest. We may not always succeed in our effort, because we are subject to many limitations such as the limitations of time (kala), control (niyati), knowledge (vidya), strength, passion (raga) and skill (kala). Further, the thoughts and intentions of others also may interfere with our creative or manifesting ability.

 However, the effort itself begins in the mind before it is executed. Without that sankalpa (intention) or diksha (determination), thoughts do not translate into sustained and concentrated actions. Hence, despite all the problems, if you persistently hold a thought or desire in your mind for long and and want to translate it into reality, most likely you will succeed or move closer to your goal. Unfortunately, since our minds are unstable and easily distracted, it is difficult to remain focused upon particular thoughts or goals and work on them to realize them.

The tantra traditions of Hinduism extrapolate the creative ability of the human mind upon the pure consciousness of the Supreme Being, considering it to be an impure version of the latter, with limited abilities and potencies, which can be enhanced and developed through spiritual effort by removing the impurities which are chiefly responsible for such limitations. In other words, through intense spiritual effort, you can exponentially expand the powers of your mind to the extent that your thoughts become reality in much less time or even instantly.

According to them all the causes and effects, everything that will ever manifest here or elsewhere exists in the universal consciousness in its transcendental state. They identify it with Shiva consciousness. Shiva is verily Jiva, the living being, who is caught in the mire of samsara and subject to the play of Maya, his own play, in which he is the stage, the actor and the spectator. In his purest and transcendental aspect, he is the Supreme Reality, the Word itself, from which everything arises, first indistinctly, then clearly and concretely into its specific form.

He is the root of the Asvattha Tree (the Tree of Life) of the Upanishads, whose branches are spread in the worlds and the worlds below. Whatever we think and conceive or whatever happens to us already exist in him in its seed form as a potential or possibility. Hence, the popular saying, “All is because of Shiva. All is due to the glory of Shiva.” The whole universe manifests from him as an idea and takes shape in the field of Prakriti just as a finely sculpted statues emerges out of an inert stone.

The supreme consciousness of Shiva is similar to our minds, except that it is pure, transcendental, eternal, indestructible, and limitless in its powers and potential, where hardly any time lag exists between intention and manifestation, or between thought and its transformation into objective reality. These supreme powers belong to the domain of Shakti, the Supreme Goddess. Through her numerous shaktis, she remains engaged, throughout the cycle of creation, in transforming the transcendental vision which exists in the pure consciousness of Shiva into concrete reality.

Our ability to manifest reality or grasp the supreme knowledge arises in transcendental states only which depends upon how pure we are and whether we are able to practice self-restraint (atma samyama) and enter the ultimate (turiya) state of consciousness at will. Most humans do not have that ability because the Shaktis are both pure and impure.

The lower shaktis impede your spiritual progress, while the higher ones facilitate it and readily manifest your will. When pure shaktis are active, you will have better manifesting powers. Your thoughts and words become reality. It is why people seek the blessings of enlightened masters, adept yogis and siddhas. Since they are close to Shiva in their consciousness and since they dissolved their egos in his pure consciousness and attain oneness or nonduality, the higher Shaktis readily oblige them just as the oblige Shiva, their beloved lord (pati).

The four stages of manifestation

Shaiva traditions identify four embryonic stages through objective reality manifests from Supreme Reality. Although these stages are quoted in relation to the spoken word (vak) and how thoughts transform into spoken or written words, or into a shastra (spiritual text), the creative process is the same for everything which manifests in creation.

Before we explain it, we want to clarify that objective reality means all that which is perceivable and conceivable through the mind and senses, including thoughts, feelings, emotions, names and forms, spoken and written words, sensations, memories, memorial knowledge (smritis), etc. A similar process takes place in our minds too when we try to manifest reality through our thoughts and desires. However, as we stated before, the manifestation remains confined to the realm of the mind only and rarely materializes in real life.

This knowledge does not help you in manifesting things. It just helps you know that your thought or your mind have the potential to manifest reality although you may not always succeed in it. Hence, if you want to develop the power of manifestation, you must awaken the Shiva in you and dissolve your identity (ego) in him. Purity of the mind and body is important because if you to try to do it with an impure mind, the impure maya-shaktis who control your thoughts and actions will play you and lead you in unexpected directions.

Para Vak: This is the All transcending, Supreme State of Brahman which is beyond all objective reality, and which contains all the causes and effects in their transcendental form. It is the absolute and eternal and indestructible supreme reality of the unmanifested Brahman. He is the Sabda Brahman of the Vedas, the transcendental Word or the Logos of the occult texts, or the source of all sources of the Hindu Darshanas. He represents the primordial, unmanifested state which is mentioned in the Vedas as nirguna, avyakta, asambhuta, kevala or kaivalya from which everything arises and into which everything subsides.

Pashyanti Vak: From the Para Vak arises the next stage called Pashyanti, which is the undifferentiated primordial form of what is to manifest. It is the embryonic stage of everything in which things have yet to develop their distinguishing forms, qualities and parts but which carries in itself the potential to transform into a specific object, state, form or condition. In this stage you cannot distinguish anything “as this or that” or distinguish it from others. 

Madhyama Vak: This is the third stage in which the undifferentiated embryonic form begins to develop its distinguishing features or parts. It is like seeing things through fog or from a distance. It is the link between the Pashyanti Vak and the next stage. It is also the most important because without it things will never manifest or translate into perceptible reality, visible forms or spoken words.

Vaikhari Vak: This is the final stage of manifestation, the stage of articulated speech, concrete reality, created form or objectified thought, where things manifest with distinguishing names and form, which can be discerned with the five senses through the fivefold powers of Shiva which are latent in us namely Chit, Ananda, Ichchha, Jnana and Kriya. They are personified as Ishana, Tat-Purusha Sadyojata, Aghora and Vama.

According to the Tantras, all the worlds, divinities, beings, knowledge, all the written and spoken words, all the shastras, arts and sciences, all the philosophies and doctrines, and all that there is here and elsewhere, now and later, manifest in creation in this manner only. Shiva is their source. Shakti is the agent who brings them forth from the universal consciousness into perceptible reality as a part of his play, with the Self as the Stage and the senses as the spectators. A part of Shiva’s will and consciousness develops into objective reality of which we are all a part. We too can draw from that ocean of unlimited power, if we let the Shiva in us awake and become the sole controller of our lives.

Symbolism of Gangavatarana

This process has been symbolically presented in the gangavatarana of the Shiva Puranas regarding how the River Ganga which used to flow in the heavens was made to flow on earth. The River Ganga symbolizes the transcendental consciousness which flows eternally in the highest realm of Para Brahman and which has the power to purify and liberate. Through austerities and meditative practices and with the help of Lord Shiva, the World Teacher, it can be made to descend into human consciousness and liberate the human beings. The consciousness of Maheswara is the true Ganga. The immortal heaven of Kailash is its true abode where it flows eternally. Those who take a dip in it are forever purified and liberated.

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