Abhasa Theory: The State of “External” Objects
Investigating how the Act of Creation unfolds within us will take us on a little journey. In order to understand how an object of awareness manifests, we must understand the relation between the perceiver and the perceived, and the natur of the existence of the external objects.
The process begins when Consciousness manifests an object of awareness. This is described as a “descent” of Consciousness from a fully expanded state of absolute potential – a densificaton of the energy of Consciousness – whereby it begins to vibrate on the more limited wavelength of the object. In other words, Consciousness coalesces and contracts in conformity with the object to be perceived and thus creates a representation of it in awareness. Now, an object of awareness could be anything, such as a hovering dragonfly or the memory of a loved one. The traditional examples that are given for an object of awareness are the color blue and the feeling of happiness. The important thing is that all objects of awareness are in fact just particular vibrations of the field of Consciousness. They all rise out of a state of pure potentiality, the infinite void of pure Consciousness, out of which, anything could emerge.
The manifestation of an object of awareness necessarily requires the manifestation of a limited subject as well: the perceived implies a particular perceiver. This is what we call “the mind.” What we do not realize, however, is that the mind and its object are an apparent bifurcation of one principle: God Consciousness, who is the ground of the whole process. It divides into two mutually correlated and coordinated contractions, reflections of each other as it were, manifesting in two spheres that we have labeled as “external” and “internal.”These labels conceal the fact that no “external” reality can be shown to exist that is independent of a corresponding “internal” reality. This invariable concomitance proves that they are aspects of each other. Modern cognitive science can accept that we create a mental image that is a representation of an actual external object; but from the perspective of NST, the object is equally a reflection of our cognition. In other words, it does not have existential priority, because multiple different people perceive it and describe it similarly. No, NST replies, it need not have priority if those different perceivers are all aspects of one Perceiver, which differentiates itself precisely in order to view the objects from different perspectives (for no two people can have precisely the same perspective on anything, literally or figuratively, and this lack of redundancy is, in a sense, precisely what justifies each individual’s existence).
We can approach it from the opposite angle and ask about the cognition of a concept as opposed to a percept. Surely then the subject has priority over the object, since the concept I am contemplating is my part of my own private reality. Not so: can you think of any concept that you could contemplate that has not been contemplated by others? The very creation of a concept is a social act, a collective act of meaning-making that is only possible because the individuals involved are all aspects of one being. Furthermore, not only any concept, but equally well any object known by more than one individual is said to be co-created by all those who perceive it. This explains both why no single individual has complete autonomy in the creation of his or her own reality and why, to experience such unlimited autonomy, one must subsume one’s individuality in one’s universality (that is, one’s divinity). So, we have shown that the manifestation of the cognition of any object, however simple, is a process that cannot be separated from the manifestation of an “external” object, and vice versa – the two are aspects of one, mirroring each other as part of the dialectical process by which divine Consciousness reflects on itself and on the various dimensions of its being. Pondering this truth as a meditative exercise is an example of the tantric practice called bhavana (creative contemplation).
The awareness of the knower and the known is common to all embodied beings; but for yogis, this is the difference: they pay careful attention to the connection. – Vijnana-bhairava-tantra, verse 106.
Abhasa Theory: Many Shinings of the One Light
All manifestation is a projection or “shining” (abhasa) of the one Light of Consciousness. Each object has its various characteristics, such as “tall,” “round,” “blue,” “male,” etc. Each of these various characteristics is called an abhasa, literally a shining within Consciousness. They are each a vibration of that one Light. The mind, in this theory, is said to be a synthesizer, for it constructs an object it calls “pot” insofar as it perceives the various abhasas of “short,” “round,” “blue,” “hard” and so on as pertaining to a single object. However, there are less tangible abhasas that are even more important to our individualized perception of an object, and without these we would be no different from a robot. The most important of these “subjective” abhasas are 1). How much you like the object, 2). How useful it is to you, and 3). What prior education and experience you have concerning it. When we perceive an object, our mind is synthesizing all of these abhasas into a unified “thing.” But there is no such thing as a pot in general; they are only particular pots, each one due to being composed of different abhasas. Equally important is that all abhasas, and therefore our perception of any given object, is necessarily based on past experience, such that we never see the object as it is. Here we are using the simpler example of a tangible object; needless to say, the act of synthesizing an experience of an intangible object (like the concept of “justice”) is even more complex.
The practical application of abhasa theory is that it helps you to encounter reality as it is: various vibrations of energy analyzed by the different sense-faculties and synthesized into an object by the mind, and then made the object of various judgments. Observing this process requires a step back into meta-awareness that is considerably closer to our real nature, allowing us to hold a much bigger yet more subtle and more sensitive picture. I say closer to our real nature, because ultimately we seek the ability to hold the broader perspective without the sense of detachment connoted by “step back.” In tantra, we seek that holistic meta-awareness even while fully engaged in the world.
In Western society, the traits of an object that everyone agrees upon (such as its physical parameters), calling them “objective reality” is given much more consideration and precedence than “subjective reality,” despite the fact that these dimensions are never absent from anyone’s experience of the object and are invariably more important to each real individual experiencer. NST implicitly argues that the so-called subjective traits (the appeal and utility of an object and so on) are just as much a part of the reality of the object as its physical properties, for nobody experiences it without these subjective traits, though they vary from person to person. Because, by focusing attention on the so called “objective” consensus about a given object, our culture takes the most superficial layer of reality to be the primary one and thus fails to realize that it is the sum total of the different perspectives on the object that constitute its multi-dimensional reality. It is the so-called subjective dimension that we argue over, without realizing that these experiences of the thing or person or situation in question are all part of its reality. Acknowledging this, our differences of opinion invite us into a cooperative process of inquiry by which we come to understand the way in which Consciousness co-creates reality.
Let’s take a look at the sequential flow of the act of cognition, such as the awareness of a color or a feeling. First, the object emerges into conscious awareness: we are performing the act of creation or emission. Even if it is a familiar object, you never experience it exactly the same way twice; thus, we are creating it anew each time. Now, the object must have some duration for it to be experienced as a reality. Thus, we perform the act of stasis (sthiti) when we hold a thought or precept in awareness, however briefly. It may mutate, unfolding as a series of connected ideas or images (each with their own mini reiteration of the cyclical flow); but still we stay with a particular line of thought, sustaining it until we release it.
When we feel “done” with the object of awareness, we release it, and it dissolves, merging back into the indescribable ground out of which it came – God Consciousness in its fully expanded and all-encompassing form. This is the act of samhara, dissolution or retraction. Just after the moment of dissolution, we return to the timeless ground of all thought, there is a moment of opportunity, At that moment in which we have, however briefly, been returned to the ground of awareness, we have a choice: self-revealing or self-forgetting. We have the opportunity to recognize that this still, expansive, ground state of pure Consciousness in which we rest for but a moment is our true nature, the inherently blissful and free self.
This is the great secret: we touch down in our fundamental nature many times a day – every single time we have released one thought or experience and before we turn to the next – yet we do not know how to repose in that Shiva-state, to savor its divine rasa (flavor); indeed, we do not even recognize the opportunity. Usually, when confronted with this moment of choice, we do not perform the act of anugraha (revealing), but rather that of tirodhana (forgetting or concealing). Instead of surrendering to the opportunity for ineffable self-awareness, we unreflectively initiate another train of thought as soon as possible, one that often begins as an evaluation of the previous train of thought. Needless to say, the likelihood of recognizing the opportunity in the moment of choice, the moment of “touchdown,” is greater the longer the moment lasts. Thus, the yogi seeks to prolong the space between the thoughts. That’s where meditation practice comes in.
So, you are performing the five Acts of God within yourself all day, every day. You create thoughts, hold them, dissolve them, and choose to reveal or conceal what’s really going on and who is really in charge; then create again. You’re always doing one of these five things! Whether you are responding to external or internal stimuli, YOU manifest the objects of awareness that create your specific experience, YOU hold onto them, YOU let them go, and then YOU choose – to repose in your true nature and thus recognize yourself as the divine author of the whole process or to overlook your Self and, instead, look to the next thing that might give you pleasure, in an endless cycle. If you choose the former, you can choose empowerment. To recognize that the space of expanded self-awareness between thoughts is their unchanging ground – to recognize that there is one eternal Perceiver of the arising and dissolving of the threefold cognitive process, and you are It – supremely empowering and liberating, for in so doing you realize that you are always free to choose your experience of reality, and you can choose differently. You are not and never have been a victim of circumstance, for no one else can determine your inner state for you. True, choosing differently can be quite difficult at first, because of the power of your samskaras (subliminal impressions of past experiences that influence how you see the present). We tend to repeat old familiar patterns rather than making new choices. Even so, identifying yourself as the ground of the process of thought instead of as your thoughts means you are no longer at the mercy of those thoughts. You can choose to alter the way you experience reality, for you are the only one who creates and dissolves cognitions through which you experience that reality.
Wallis, Christopher. Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition. Anusara Press, The Woodlands, TX, 2012.