To the tantrikas (the practitioners of Tantra), the psychocosmological model of the universe created by Samkhya was good as far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough. The model was good because, as in all spiritual realizations, the senses that show us the world present just a thin sliver of what is really there. However, the Samkhya yogis didn’t realize that they were a victim of Maya; they failed to see deeply enough into the real situation. On top of Samkhya’s twenty-four principles were another twelve.

Just above the great divide of purusha and prakriti sit the illusionary layers of Maya. Maya has several possible meanings, ranging from illusion to relative existence. [1] Tantrikas believe that there are five forms of Maya. Above these manifestations of Maya are the three pure principles of existence: Sad-Vidya, Ishvara, and Sada-Shiva. And finally, above these three pure principles is the ultimate reality of Shiva/Shakti.

Like two sides of one coin, Shiva/Shakti can never be separated. They coexist as one, but they can be seen as two, depending upon which side you are looking at. As we descend the left side of the diagram, down from Shiva, we unfold the subjective aspect of existence. As we descend the right side, down from Shakti, we unfold the objective aspect of existence. In Tantra we find a different view of God, the clock maker, and his creation, the clock. We discover that God is the clock; God is part of his own creation. And we are the clock too we are part of his creation – and part of God at the same time.

It is far beyond our scope to delve deeper into the ontology of the Tantra model. Interested students may find Georg Feuerstein’s book Tantra: the Path of Ecstasy to be helpful. The point of what we have explored so far is that, according to Tantra, the One unfolds into the Many. Liberation, then, is achieved when we traverse this path backward: from the seemingly many we find in our everyday life, we go all the way back to the One.

Liberation, this finding the One behind the Many, is possible while we are in the body. In fact, the body is a necessary tool to reaching this liberated state. Only incarnate beings can become enlightened and liberated. Even the gods are jealous of humans; only humans can become truly free. The path to liberation is the Tantric Practices.

Shiva and Shakti are one, not two, thus the Tantra philosophy is non-dualistic.
  1. — As opposed to the actual reality, which is hidden behind her.