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Panchakritya or the Five Acts of Shiva

Absolute Reality
(Liberation) Samhara
concealment of the real

The above diagram presents the concept of Panchakritya or the Five Acts of Shiva (the Godhead).  This refers to the cycle of emanation/involution and de-involution of the universe

Quoting Jaideva Singh explanation, these Five Acts are:

  1. Shrishti - Letting go; casting out of oneself. The usual translation 'creation' is misleading. Creation implies that the creator acts upon an external material, and thus brings about the world-process. This translation does not do justice to the Indian point of view, particularly to the point of view of Shaiva philosophy. Srsti is derived from the root srj which means 'to let go', 'to pour forth', 'to cast out'. This implies that the world-process is already implicitly contained in Shiva. He only lets it go or casts it out of himself. He has not to work on an external material in order to bring about the world-process.  According to Shaiva philosophy, the world is not a creation, but an emanation; it is a theophany.
  2. Sthiti - maintenance (of the world-process).
  3. Samhara or Samhriti - withdrawal or re-absorption. It does not mean destruction. There is no destruction of the world. It is only re-absorbed by Shiva for a time. Destruction is only a metaphorical and secondary sense of saifthdra, not its primary sense.
  4. Vilaya or Pidhana - concealment of the real nature of the Self [c.f Maya].
  5. Anugraha - grace.

About this, Jaideva Singh says

"These five krityas imply that Shiva lets go the universe out of himself, imparts existence to it and finally withdraws it into himself only to let it appear again. This makes a cycle which is called a kalpa. There is no final end to the world-process. The cosmic process is repeated from eternity to eternity

Anugraha is the act of grace by which Shiva brings about the liberation of man. The first four krityas are cosmological, the last is soteriological. The five krtyas are not an artificial mixture of two standpoints-one cosmological and the other soteriological. Rather anugraha is the raison d'etre of:the first four krityas...for the sake of which the other four krityas come into play.  It expresses the abounding love of Shiva."

reference: Jaideva Singh, Pratyabhijnahrdayam, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1980, pp.119-120]


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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 2 February 2000, last modified 4 June 2004