FROM THE AGAMAS
From Bondage to Liberation
Explaining the ego’s initial subjugation of the soul as a form of Siva’s grace
The following is a lucid translation of passages from the Mrigendra Agama, chapter 7, verses 3 and 15 to 23. The ego is commonly held to be the archenemy of spiritual illumination. Here the sacred texts reveal another view, that even the ego’s prominence is Siva’s grace, guiding the soul from the path of bondage to the path of liberation.
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IT IS WELL OBSERVED THAT ONE who is free from constricting bonds exists always self-controlled and independent; and one who is fettered with limiting bonds subjects himself to the control of others, functioning as a dependent being. So it is ascertained that the dependent soul is fettered by limiting bonds. This is the difference between the bound soul and the liberated soul: One who is dependent is bound; and one who is independent is liberated. Therefore, it is the state of being dependent that is considered to be the state of bondage. This bound state is not permanent to the soul.
Sivashakti has the nature of bestowing grace upon all. This grace is bestowed upon intelligent beings and inert things at one and the same time. Grace is bestowed upon the potency of anava mala (the individualizing veil of duality; egoity), thus intensifying it, but not with the intention of making the soul suffer. Whatever action is done by Lord Siva, it is indeed an effective and unfailing help to the soul. It cannot be considered otherwise. As long as there exists the dominion of anava mala, liberation cannot occur to the soul, since liberation is nothing but the complete removal of the anava mala’s obscuration. This dominant state of anava mala would only be ready for removal once the soul has attained its full maturation.
But even when the power of anava mala becomes ripe for such maturation, its intensification does not, and cannot, take place of its own accord. It is seen that always and by all means, the non-intelligent object, in this case the ego, is kept in action only by an intelligent being. Therefore, bestowal of grace and the induction of anava mala’s maturation must be one and the same. Just as the oft aggravating activities of a physician—such as applying pungent medicinal substances like black-salt and others to a person’s wounds—though painful, result in the healthy and happy state for that person, and it would be seen that the physician’s actions are not considered cruel. Even so, for the sake of the removal of anava mala, the experiences of pain, misery and so on meted out through karmic effects by Siva should not be considered as afflicting or aggravating activity, but rather as healing, for they drive the soul’s evolution through the understanding born of its experiences.
Since Siva is all-pervasive, His immediate and active presence in all objects and beings cannot be set aside. But where there is no need for His action, He remains neutral and free from any action.
The power of anava mala obscures the absolute power of knowing-all and doing-all. For those souls in whom anava mala is reaching its phase of maturation and removal, Sivashakti descends immediately and unfolds in the form of grace. Grace is indeed the compassionate function which makes the intensities of anava mala’s bonds ripe enough for removal. What is the effect of such grace, it may be asked. When the potency of anava mala is on its removal phase and is in its dominance, obscuring the soul, the tirodhana shakti sets itself on the phase of removal and incessantly assumes the form of grace. (Tirodhana shakti is a pure and auspicious power, which takes command of and works in concord with the ego’s obscuring potencies in order to systematically work through them. When this shakti brings about wisdom and the unfoldment of consciousness, it becomes known as anugraha shakti.) Grace is, in actuality, the cognitive power of the bound soul brought about by its evolution through the ego’s dominion and the maturing process of this inert bond.
Fetterdom to freedom: Without darkness there can be no light. It is the soul’s journey through its sometimes dark and painful experiences which gives birth to the light of understanding.
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The simultaneous occurrence of cognition and the ego’s intensification is considered to be the bestowal of grace. The occurrence of grace in due order conditioned by time is, indeed, very common and simple. The same explanation holds good with the preponderant state of karma and maya, the soul’s other two bonds—anava being the third—since it has already been stated in a general way that all inert things are activated only by intelligent beings.
DR. S. P. SABHARATHNAM SIVACHARYAR, of the Adi Saiva priest lineage, is an expert in ancient Tamil and Sanskrit, specializing in the Vedas, Agamas and Shilpa Shastras. This excerpt is from his recent translation of the Mrigendra Agama.