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Original artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are ©
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The 36 Tattvas

He who is deluded by your māyā sees not while he sees, understands not while he hears, and knows not the truth while he reads – Kularṇava Tantra

Because of the large number of possible blendings and re-blendings, the 36th tattva – Śiva Śaktī – may seem to become identified, conditioned and confused.

the 35 tattvas

The five-foldness (prapañca) of the universe, according to this tantrik view, is shown in the table above. The three members of the tantrik “trinity”, Brahma, Viṣṇu and Śiva-Rudra, represent the guṇas, or qualities of rajas, sattva and tamas, which may be represented by the principles of active, reconciling and negative. From this triangle come all forms, including the five elements, through different blendings.

The individual (jīva) forgets her or his unlimited nature, which is actually one with Śiva-Śaktī, considering herself or himself to be a limited individual (Puruṣa) with a certain nature (Prakṛti).

This is a reflection or shadow of the 36th tattva with a mental apparatus which is itself also a reflection of Icchā, Jnana and Kriya Śaktis. For instance, the “I”, the ahamkar, is the reflection of Iccha. This limited individual has powers of action and powers of knowledge and focuses on the tanmatras, or impression objects, considering herself or himself to be different from the five verities.

In this form, she or he plays in the world until realising the 36th tattva which is Śiva-Śaktī itself, immanent in the universe and vibrating with the power of sound. From another point of view, the 36 consonants are Śiva and the 15 vowels are Śaktī – the whole being the universe as sound. The five verities are also sometimes described as the five Śiva corpses.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to

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