catuh sastya tantraih sakalam atisandhaya bhuvanam
sthitas tat tat siddhi prasavaparatantraih pasupatih
punas tvan nirbandhad akhila purusarthaika ghatana
svatantram te tentram ksititalam avatitarad idam


By sixty-four know-how factors, each capable of generating its own overt psychic power
Transcending the whole world while remaining immobile
The Lord of Beasts, again by your insistence, by that free expertness of yours
Caused this firm earth to be brought down for the unified fulfilment of all life purposes. 


This verse has given room for much speculation among authorities on Tantra. The edition of Sir John Woodroffe; that by Professor Norman W. Brown of Harvard, and the one by Theosophical scholars S.Subrahmanya Sastri and T.R.Srinivasa Ayyengar, have all been consulted by the present author in order to fix the meaning of the reference here to the "sixty-four Tantras". None of these English editions are able to give an adequate explanation of this notion. Neither do the Malayalam editions of orthodox pundits of Kerala - where Tantrism has traditionally prevailed - like that of G.S.Srinivasa Iyer of Palghat or that of K.Mahadeva Sastri of South Travancore, shed any light on the obscurity of this reference. Srinivasa Iyer even says that this reference must allude to degenerate schools which are not influenced by the Vedas, but this cannot be taken into consideration by us at all. Various doubtful enumerations of these sixty-four items suggested in other books reveal at first glance that they refer to disreputable benefits which could be considered as subdivisions of the eight main hedonistic items of benefit called the siddhis, with their counterparts, which we learned to recognize in the previous verse. Eight plus eight would normally yield sixteen, but it is permitted to think of further ramified subdivisions of the same, such as 8 x 8 = 64, which could be divided into 32 upward and 32 downward-radiating rays. 


This division into 32 + 32 fades away into unimportance if we treat Shiva and Shakti as making up one unit including both the plus and minus aspects. Whatever the content of these 64 items, it is enough for us to know that they are either of a positive or of a negative order. The Kaulins, the Samayins and the other schools that think in terms of psychic benefits could fill the content of these 64 items as they like, according to the value systems that each of them is committed to. What is more important for us is to see their structural features and dynamism only in the broadest of outlines, so that, interested as we are in Sankara's revalued version of all Tantric schools, we can get an idea of what Sankara himself is interested in, rather than what an endless number of anterior Tantric experts might have left behind in the form of a veritable forest of literature. 


Viewed from this revised perspective, we can recognize certain features of the modus operandi of the powers of the mind that could be cultivated by anyone, not as ends in themselves, but as coming within the scope of an overall Advaitic understanding of esoteric Tantrism, restated in terms as exoteric as possible in order to present to our view the structuralism and dynamism implied therein, revealing to us a closer vision of the Absolute with the help of such details. 


One of the siddhis refers to making a man go to sleep in spite of himself. Ramakrishna Paramahansa once remarked to a man who claimed to be able to walk across the river Ganges that this power only saved him a quarter anna (less than a penny) at the ferry. All the trouble he took in gaining the siddhi was therefore of negligible worth. The question of siddhis, therefore, is to be bypassed by us. We have merely called them "know-how factors".


The third line of this verse reveals the delicacy of the regulating mechanism which, like a cybernetic retroactive principle, operates at the very core of the set-up in the functioning of these know-how factors or Tantras. Shiva here remains the agent for both the svatantra and paratantra functions of the 64 factors which we are concerned with in this verse. Svatantra and paratantra are technical terms meaning impulses of an ascending or descending order, referred to as "overt psychic powers" when applying to Shiva, and as "free expertness" when applied to the Devi. Although the functions are ambivalent, it is the linking parameter represented by the Shiva-principle that is the agent for the world to descend again after its dissolution. 


Thus there is an alternating process of creation and dissolution that takes place throughout eternity. The regulating principle is of a very subtle cybernetic order within the total mechanism. It keeps on establishing a cybernetic equilibrium between opposing tendencies so that human life activities could have a chance to continue unhindered. This offers human beings a terra firma on which to stand and fight their various battles for the fulfilment of their life purposes, called purusharthas, which are four in number. 


They are:

  • dharma (correct life expression),
  • artha (wealth),
  • kama (desirable items of fulfilment) and
  • moksha (salvation).  

Cybernetics is also familiar with this double-sided regulative principle, from which the very word "cybernetics" is derived. This principle is a mechanistic parameter which passes through the details of the complex, horizontal, mechanistic aspects of the machine itself. 


This parameter itself does not act but, like a catalytic agent, it can cause the subtle conditions favourable to both action and retroaction. Such is the two-sided regulating mechanism to be recognized as belonging to Shiva. Parvati has an equally subtle function which is referred to here as "insistence" only, and not as interfering with, or countering what her husband has sanctioned in principle. The thermostat, so to speak, automatically changes its phase by the simple insistence of the Goddess, exerted equally subtly on the functioning of the cybernetic parameter, to create retroaction rather than action. If Shiva's action points upward to the dissolution of the universe; the Devi's retroactive force makes the world descend into existence once again, as if by her magic touch. A split-second activity is to be imagined here, and the resulting universe instantly created and recreated affords humanity a sufficiently firm ground, standing on which, men could fight their battles or fulfil life purposes according to each person's deserts or necessity. 


The "unified fulfilment", in the last line, cancels the multiplicity of the 64 items of intelligence (tantras) in the first line. A priori synthesis and a posteriori analysis belong together within the scope of the Absolute. Shiva's function is analytic, while the Devi's function is synthetic and a priori. The analytic function leads through thinner and thinner nominalism to nothingness on the positive side, but, as the Lord of Beasts, Shiva does not lose his ontological foothold. It is at this point that the negative principle intervenes and retroaction succeeds in bringing the nominalistically evaporated world back into reality again for the fulfilment of pragmatic life purposes. When life purposes are treated together they form one bundle at the source of life, like a sheaf of corn tied together. The terms svatantra and paratantra, which we have translated as "free expertness" and "overt psychic power", respectively, make up the two limits of the amplitude within which cybernetic information circulates, establishing equilibrium, positively or negatively as required, for the overall benefit of mankind. As parents of the Universe, both Shiva and Parvati are interested in keeping the game going. 


The Sanskrit expression tat tat siddhi prasava paratantraih, which we have translated as "each capable of generating its own psychic power", not only clearly states that the siddhis or psychic powers are the subject here, but also suggests, with the word prasava, a positive process of becoming.


Paratantra also points to a transcendental rather than an immanent value. As against this paratantra, we have its counterpart in the svatantra, which refers to a freedom in itself and for itself and not outside itself, because of the word "sva" which has a subjective immanent import. Each psychic power has its own source or origin on the plus side, where Shiva's Tantra is concerned. Individual expertness of this pluralistic kind does not apply to the domain of the Devi, where it has the status of being bound together into one (eka ghatana). All these indications have been carefully taken into account in choosing the corresponding words in English while avoiding being too technical. We prefer a common-sense approach in the name of easy readability, without deflecting from the meaning of the Sanskrit as intended by the author. The expression avatitarat (caused to descend) still refers to the function of Shiva. It is to her husband, Shiva, that Devi is affiliated, without any dualism in their respective functions. Parvati caused the world to come down by insistence, but she will not take the initiative. Pluralism tends to refer to the Numerator, unity to the Denominator. 


Shiva and Parvati are participating in the vertical axis only. As the wife, Parvati can function in a zone that is neither his nor hers - nor of the two together as a compromise, but the same. The Shiva-Parvati samvada or dialogue makes a pointed reference to the difference between svatantra (independent) and paratantra (dependent). She wants for herself the corresponding power which is negative in its essence. Devi says: "tell me something of a relativistic and non-relativistic character, representing a Tantra (know-how factor) to counteract all the numerator Tantras attributed to Shiva". The "Vamakesvara Tantra" contains a reference to just this counteracting factor of the parameter of Shiva in terms of the Devi's svatantra, which is absolutist in character.






Catuh shashtya tantraih - by 64 know-how factors
Sakalam atisandaya bhuvanam sthitah- transcending the whole world while remaining immobile
Tat tatsiddhiprasava paratantraih - each capable of generating its own psychic powers
Pasupatihi - the Lord of Beasts
Punas tvanirbandhat - by your insistence
Akhila purushartaika ghatana svatantram - by that free expertness of yours
Te tantram kshititalam avatirat idam - caused to be brought down this firm earth for the unified fulfilment of all life-purposes
An early image of Pashupati, the Lord of Beasts, from Mohenjo-Daro.

Two opposite universal functions are here brought into the picture.
Mantra is Numerator.

Yantra is the means of implementing the 64 Tantras (know-how factors)

Examples of Yantras.
Shiva disperses, the Devi brings together.
Each of these 64 generates a specific power or siddhi.

Siddhis (psychic powers) are for Shiva;
the life aims of mankind (purusharthas) are for man.


The above structures show the two sets of Tantras: svatantras on the negative side and paratantras on the positive side of the structures.


Two rival sets of expertise - to unmake and remake - are referred to here.
It offers a firm ground to those who want a chance to work out their salvation.

Shiva evaporates everything in the form of effects.
The Devi provides some firm ground, some reality, by creating a cross-section to the general flux of life.
She is providing a horizontal axis.
The 64 Chakras (Tantras) are meditated upon by Shiva:
He knows all the mechanical devices of the Tantra.


Another version:

- By means of 64 techniques (each having its corresponding Siddhi) (each its own specific power generating)
- Having transcended (meditated away) the world
- Remaining in this fashion
- The Lord of Beasts (Shiva)
- Again, by your insistence (by the Devi's insistence)
- Capable (or free) to bring to get Her all aims of man
- Such, your technical know-how
- The stable surface of the earth (world)
- Made to descend into being
Each of the Chakras has its own siddhi (psychic power) in one-to-one correspondence.
Shiva's function is to abstract and generalize the 64 Tantras.
The Devi insists that he not go too far on the plus side.
There is an ascending function - Shiva - and a descending - Devi - function.
Here the negative descending force counters the ascending tendency, thus calling the world again into existence.
Whatever aims man is capable of bringing about - he must have food and philosophy and love and salvation (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha - the 4 goals of life according to tradition).
The Devi has the freedom of bringing together, by her expertise with technical aspects of the universe, all the things that were evaporated by Shiva.
She will provide a stable ground so that mankind may pursue righteousness.
She has a power equal and opposite to Shiva's, and through that power She makes it possible for humanity to pursue a purposeful existence.
This stable surface of the world is the horizontal principle.
This world has come down onto a horizontal base on which mankind can pursue existence.
"Already brought into being" means that She has already provided this base.
Shiva can destroy only after creation has taken place.



The Devi says:" Why do you want to ascend so high - don't you know that men and animals must have a base on which to live?"
Shiva is conceptualizing the 64 Chakras, each of which gives birth to its corresponding siddhi or psychic power..

This corresponds to an explosion, to a centre-directed process of becoming.
(X and X', Y and Y' and X' and Y' are not interchangeable.).

This force or tendency is opposite to that of the Devi,
which can be called "implosion". (The "sva-" in svatantra means "one's own)

The ability to generate these powers through his savoir faire is the power of Shiva - and so, one who meditates on the Chakras ("Chakras" or "Tantras"? This may or may not be an error of the note-taking student. ED) will simply stay at that point - with the power of the siddhis (psychic powers).

The Devi has the opposite ability or function.
But these two must be meditated upon by the devotee as functioning together as parts of the same whole - the Absolute.

Paratantra (Shiva) and svatantra (Devi) are here represented with their opposite functions and attributes: the Immanent and the Transcendent.
His perfected way of dealing with this world is toward the numerator side - this is paratantra.
This is made to descend by the Devi - this is svatantra.
("The Malayalam commentary to this verse seems to suggest that it is all right to kill as a sacrifice to the Absolute. This is not Vedanta, we shall go into this commentary in detail, and it seems the pundit is a Rao (a type of Brahmin)".)
The Gita says that every act is binding, except that act which is dedicated to the Absolute.
(We can accept this in principle, but this does not mean, for example, that you should eat an animal which has died.)

Why is Tantra Shastra so linked up with Malayalam, the language of Kerala?
This is due to the influence of educated Hindu women under the Muslims who found their way to the Kerala coast.

The pundit seems to think that the Vedas sanction some of the 64 Tantras and not others.
(The Guru uses the two words "Chakra" and "Tantra" interchangeably in his commentary on this verse. This seems to equate the two to the extent that they are both stable points or nodes on the vertical axis. This is speculative on our part and not our finalized opinion. It requires more study. ED)

This is not even anywhere near the truth.
Which book is the custodian of Vedic dogma?
The smritis (works concerning obligatory action) perhaps; but not the Vedas, which are sruti (wisdom texts) - sruti means "what you hear" - there are no laws in the Vedas.

Smritis are tradition, and thus may dictate morality, the Vedas do not dictate morality.
(The Vedas are sruti and are concerned with wisdom, not action in the physical world - Jnana Kanda as opposed to Karma Kanda. ED).

The 64 Tantras refer to techniques, expertise or savoir-faire.
Shiva is enjoying the freedom of this savoir-faire.
The universe is a matrix without crystals - to get crystals, it has to be arranged structurally in terms of the Tantras.
(The Tantras organize matter, just as crystals do. A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituents, such as atoms, molecules or ions, are arranged in a highly ordered microscopic structure. ED).

Having meditated upon these 64 - Shiva sits as an Omega Point, thinking the 64 as a totality and transcending them.

He is not doing anything, he has "thought away" the world.
To think means to conceptualize; to nominalize - to evaporate the world.
Having conceptualized all this, Shiva remains.

He is the numerator side of the denominator beasts. He is called "the Lord of Beasts" (pasupati) in this verse.

"It is you, the Devi, who insists, by way of fulfilling necessities..."
The Devi is in charge of affording man the opportunity of fulfilling his functions. Svatantra is the Devi's function.

This world is brought into being by the descent of the Devi (descending dialectics), which counteracts the upward movement of Shiva.

In this way, She brings into existence the real stable surface of the earth.


The Devi exerts a negative influence on the positive evaporating tendency of Shiva: "by your compulsion".
This compulsion is to be avoided only by normalization or neutralization.
Whatever is flying off to the Non-Self, She normalizes by turning towards the Self side.

Another version:

- By 64 know-how factors (Tantric: operational, functional, technical, ritualistic.)
- Remaining still (The unmoved mover, transcending paradox) after encompassing the whole world
- Capable of giving birth, each to its extrinsic psychic powers (siddhis)
- The Lord of Beasts (Pasupati)
- Again by your compulsion
- Capable of bringing into unified operation all laudable purposes of human life (righteousness, wealth, passion, and salvation)
- Your know-how
- This surface of the earth
- Brought down to be
The Devi is capable of bringing cosmic order, providing the firm ground for people to attain their salvation.
An empty vacuum is brought down to firm ground.
Some significance, in terms of human value, is necessary for any conversation to take place.
Sankara said to the Buddhists that if all there is is nothingness (sunyata), they should keep quiet and let him talk to his disciples.

So, by the Devi's compulsion in the negative direction, the dispersive forces of the Numerator are normalized and ordered, so that the purusharthas - the purposes of human life - may be acted out.




Sankara rejects relativistic benefits; his position is "Tat tvam asi", You are that (the Absolute)"
(He wants no reward; he only wants to be the Absolute. ED).
Puja (worship) can be done to Sankara himself, because there is an inter-physical and trans-subjective transformation.
(Sankara can be worshipped because he is the Absolute itself. ED)
In Verse 91, the Devi  imitates the "jhang" sound of the anklets with Her voice: this is Numerator, (while the sound of the anklets themselves are denominator. ED)
The medium is the message.


These are three grades of spirituality:
1) Doomsday dissolution
2) Shiva confers siddhis (psychic powers)
3) The Devi confers anima (psychic power)

"Life purpose" means fulfilling Dharma.
"Know-how" is Tantra.
(The Sanskrit word Tantra is related to the concept of weaving and expansion- it derives from 'tan', meaning to expand, spin out, and weave.
The Guru would say that Dharma is Karma verticalized. ED)


Shiva's Tantra is turned upwards
The Devi's Tantra is turned downwards.



Food and honour are two domains.
Psychic powers = Numerator - 64 rays.