Concealment and Revelation
A primary reason for practicing yoga is to understand the causes of our suffering and to develop a personal practice that overcomes them. Through the cultivation of a yogic way of life we can better see the intrinsic goodness of life and our connection to the Supreme Whole. As humans, we are given the power of inquiry and contemplation so as to make sense of the bigger picture in which we live. This desire to understand and make sense of our reality has been a condition humans have experienced for millennia and within the ancient teachings of Tantra, the root philosophy of yoga, we can find some comprehension and answers to our questions.
Specifically, within the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism, a highly developed form of Tantra yoga which developed roughly between 900 AD to 1400 AD in northern India, answers can be found in the way it maps out the nature of reality. In short, it states that Supreme Consciousness intentionally cloaks its own unlimitedness for the delight of revealing itself in the dance of Self discovery through us. These Tantric masters perceived that the Supreme employs a divine power, maya, to project it undifferentiated wholeness into the manifest world of unlimited differentiation. This is done so that the One may appear as the many, so that we see duality where there is only union, and from this we can go through the process of reconnecting our awareness with the Whole. The Tantric masters hold that seeing dualistically is a necessary part of the process of the higher self’s exploration of existence so that the Divine within can see the contrasts between union and separation consciousness and grow from that.
Maya, the prerequisite for embodied experience, becomes the very force that moves us along the path of understanding. By consciously comprehending that we exist in a shadow of our greatness we can move further towards the light of clarity. Recognizing our shadow side–the hidden light of divine Consciousness–becomes the tool that leads us to the eventual understanding that the very thing that causes us suffering is also the means of our fulfillment. It is from our exploration of the perception of duality, separateness from the One, that we move into union consciousness, or yoga. The masters tell us that we’ve forgotten who we are, and so we misidentify with all these things that are transient and limited; they cause our suffering. The discovery of a higher core essence that is our spirit nature, and living from that awareness, is the path to inner peace and personal transformation.
Anusara Yoga founder, John Friend states that, “We take the premise in this philosophy, that the absolute being, Spirit, is unlimited. It’s empty of attribute. It’s unqualified. It’s unlimited joy, luminous consciousness, and has the unconfined capacity to act, to move. It’s totally free, beyond name and form, undifferentiated, unmanifest. It’s just pure being…. So why would God create a duality? Out of an empty sky of Spirit, a cosmic mirror of duality is created, so the One can see Himself. And the thing is… He really gets a kick out of seeing Himself. He enjoys seeing Himself and experiencing Himself. So in order for God as the unbounded absolute to experience and enjoy His own blissful nature, He unfolds Himself into manifestation. The One becomes the many, simply as an ecstatic play of consciousness, without any other underlying motivation.”
The Tantric philosophy of concealment and revelation teaches us that the only way you understand light or darkness is from the presence of the other. So to know the freedom of the unlimited spirit, we must get the experience of the limited body. To fully know love, joy and peace, we must experience anger, sadness and fear. Friend states that, “We can learn to use these energies in a skillful way to gain deeper insights and understanding, rather than letting ourselves follow habitual patterns of grasping, confusion, misery and guilt. … the skillful yogi transforms all base emotional energies into a golden pathway to the heart. … We can skillfully use what is right in front of us, right in front of our lives, every event, every experience and relationship to transform our lives into a meaningful integrative whole. … So, we can use what is in our immediate environment to set us free. We can learn to embrace our limitations, not to try to conquer or deny them. In fact, we need our obstacles and challenges in our life to grow. They help us develop strength, patience and compassion…. We can use these apparent obstacles right in front of us to help us become free of what limits us.”
The Kashmir Shaivite masters’ exploration of the nature of reality revealed to them that the Supreme has distinct qualities that are mirrored in us as limited powers. The unlimited nature of Supreme Consciousness is compressed down through its power of maya to create five veils that cloak our understanding and experience of reality. It is the differentiating power of the Divine, the pivot between the Absolute and the Relative, that creates a screen in which Relativity is projected. The screen that limits the five powers of the Divine are referred to as the five sheaths, or kanchukas. They conceal and cloak Consciousness and give rise to the Relative world. They function as the mirror opposites of the powers of the unlimited Supreme Self and they create the space for our individual process of revelation and discovery. The limiting powers are:
1. Kalā, Creates limited capacity to act; limits omnipotence
- 2. Vidya, Creates limited knowledge; limits omniscience
- 3. Raga, Creates desire and the longing to be full again; limits fullness of h
- 4. Niyati, Creates the fabric of Space and the energetic tapestry of causality and attachment;
- it limits omnipresent freedom of creative power and expressi
- 5. Kāla, Creates time and the sense of sequential awareness; limits eternal awareness
So now that we know the why and how of it, what do we do with the knowledge that it is by divine design that we live in a state of restricted capacity within the relative world? The invitation is to recognize that we can co-participate with the Supreme through its Grace. We can understand that the physical body and the world are an expression of Ultimacy and Absolute beauty; the Absolute draws itself out to be expressed as concealed perfection; we are compelled to find the Absolute through our being. Grace helps us to penetrate the cloak that masks the Ultimate; it is the desire for unification that is at the heart of all being. Through grace we learn to perceive that the obstacles themselves posses the power of revelation, that we are intrinsically good because we are the Supreme expressing itself in its own delightful dance of concealment and revelation. We learn that the very thing that causes us suffering is also the impetus for exploring our co-creative powers to shape an transform our lives, bringing us back to the sublime awareness that we are not isolated beings, but rather partners in the ongoing dance of creation.
Grace, an expression of the Divine’s benevolence, becomes our vehicle for the process of journeying back to Unity. The creative power of the Divine created us for the very purpose of experiencing our journey to fulfillment and understanding of our highest nature. It becomes the divine force that turns us from concealment to revelation. In time we can cultivate an understanding that our life is an opportunity to reveal to ourselves, and to the world, a deeper and more intimate connection to reality. Through this, our experience has the potential to transform us into more powerful beings, grounded in the knowledge that deepening our sense of connection to others, our world, and the Supreme becomes our spiritual practice. Rather than running from our life challenges and circumstances we can ask for the revelation of grace to show us the strength, intelligence, and the wisdom to have full trust in Spirit to guide us as we deal with the obstacle we face.
The obstacles themselves posses the power of revelation that we are intrinsically good because we are the Supreme expressing itself in its own delightful dance of concealment and revelation: the very thing that causes us suffering is also the impetus for exploring our co-creative powers to shape an transform our lives, bringing us back to the sublime awareness that we are not isolated beings, but rather partners in the ongoing dance of creation.
Sources: Article, “Anusara Yoga – Flowing with the Grace of Divine Love,” by Tim Noworyta
Book, Tantra Illuminated, by Christopher Wallace