Five Acts of Divine Conciousness

After writing about nondual philosophy a couple weeks ago, I received several requests from readers for more information on nondual Tantric philosophy. Tantra is a complicated subject; there are many forms, and it means different things to different people. In the West, the word “Tantric” is usually combined with the word “sex,” and this pair of words has been used to sell millions of books and workshops on mystical sexual practices that have almost nothing to do with Tantra. But Tantra doesn’t need that lascivious association to be significant; it was hugely influential on the development of yoga, which (in some circles) is almost as popular as sex.

Since I can’t possibly explain this entire system in a brief article, I’m going to focus today on just one of its concepts, called the Five Acts of Divine Consciousness. It is explained in the beginning of a work called Pratyabhijna Hrdayam, “The Heart of Recognition,” written by Rajanaka Kṣemaraja around 1000 A.D.

These five “acts” (pancha kritya) describe the Tantric view of how our reality is created. As Ksemaraja says, “Reverence to the Divine, who ceaselessly performs the Five Acts, and who, by so doing, reveals the ultimate reality of one’s own Self, brimming over with the bliss of Consciousness!” Regardless of where your philosophical and spiritual sensibilities lie, I think you’ll find it an intriguing perspective.

• Srsti. The first act, Srsti, means creation, emission, or the flowing forth of Self-expression. This is the process by which Divine Consciousness (use whatever word you like here – Love, Highest Self, God, Universe, Awareness, Goddess, Divine Light) expresses itself as something. It takes form. It emerges in the world as a person or a flower or a breeze.

• Sthiti. The second act, Sthiti, means holding, preservation, stasis, or maintenance. First Consciousness emerges in manifest form as something, then it holds this form – maybe for a moment, maybe for eons.

• Samhara. The third act, Samhara, means dissolution, resorption, or retraction. After emerging in the world as something and sustaining it for a while, the form dissolves – or is reabsorbed or retracted – back into Consciousness. This is why death of a body is not seen as the end of life in this system – because the body was just a temporary emergence of Consciousness into form, which is then reabsorbed into itself. Thus, none of the vulnerabilities of your body actually threaten what you really are. And consciousness never ends.

• Tirodhana. The fourth act, Tirodhana, means concealment, occlusion, or forgetting. An interesting property to ascribe to the Divine, no? Why would one of its five core acts be to conceal? Well, the explanation is that Undifferentiated Consciousness possesses all possible qualities; in order to manifest as one specific thing, it must conceal all the other qualities that don’t belong to that thing.

Additionally, it explains the limited awareness of sentient beings. When Consciousness emerges as, say, a human, as part of its Divine Play, it imparts itself with only a fraction of its unfathomable awareness. In the process, it forgets what it really is. In this way, rather than acting like its various creations, it immerses itself in them. It becomes them. It’s how you don’t realize you’re Divine Consciousness itself, instead believing you’re “only” a human, disconnected from your Source and all other humans. This also allows for each being to have the experience of free will.

• Anugraha. The fifth act, Anugraha, means revealing (revelation), remembering, or grace. Besides allowing for creative expression, the fourth act (Tirodhana) is also the reason why we suffer. We can’t see the truth of our reality and this is frightening and painful. But this is eventually resolved by Anugraha – when what was hidden is revealed and we remember. As author Christopher Wallis explains, it’s not meant to negate the act of concealment, but to bring it to fruition by revealing its deeper purpose: “Such reconciliation is thus also a reintegration; through it you experientially realize yourself as a complete and perfect expression of the deep pattern of the one Consciousness which moves and dances in all things.”


I’m curious to hear how this concept fits with your own worldview. How do you see things differently? Does this perspective feel more or less liberating than your own? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Be well,

Dr. Peter Borten

19 thoughts on “Five Acts of Divine Conciousness

  1. In sync. Easy to read. Right to the heart space for lack of a better term. With gratitude ~

    1. Thanks, Rasa. Yes, heart space is a fine term.

  2. Matthew 22:37-38..Love God with ALL your heart should and mind…And love your neighbor as yourself…The 2 most important commandments..and God made it so simple!

    1. Heart Soul Mind!

    2. And so enjoyable.

  3. “It all makes perfect sense” to use a phrase from a Roger Waters song. I appreciate the enlightenment you share.

    1. I’m glad it clicked for you, Doreen.

  4. Lovely… For me, the forgetting is a sorting, a release of what is not necessary for the here and now. It is the place in life that I have found myself…. Thank you for this reminder that it is all sacred!

    1. Yes. If only everyone could dwell in that state without fear or despair, just trusting.

  5. Love this. Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Heather

  6. This so resinates with me. SAMHARA yes, so much! I love it. I am a earth lover which is a lot of my spirituality lies. This makes sence thank you.

    1. I’m an earth lover, too. And yes, emergence and retraction is the way of the earth.

  7. Peter, you asked how your essay resonates with our worldview. I have struggled all my life with the precept that all of Creation must be a part of our experience. Why? Why must we endure suffering, cruelty, greed and belligerence in our experience if we consciously choose a peaceful, loving, egalitarian and abundance-for-all world, instead? Why must the honest, open, loving children of light be abused and exploited by aggressive beings of darkness marching toward world domination? I do not understand. It seems like a cruel set-up, with all the decks stacked against those seeking justice and peace for all.

  8. Yes, this part can be tricky. It’s part of the intense duality of this age – where conflict is epidemic, but dramatic and rapid change is also possible. To me, the goal is to wake up to what we really are, which is unharmed by the negative factors you mentioned. It’s worth asking, “What is it going to take for me to finally pull myself out of this nightmare?” … and sometimes the answer is, evidently, greater discomfort.
    But to your question – why must these things be part of our experience? – I would say, because they’re part of what’s possible. If we seek to deny them, to forbid these expressions because they’re unpleasant, we only further fragment ourselves and our world. By resisting them, we only make them stronger and more permanent.
    Did you read the first of my articles on nondualism?
    Darkness is here because we have free will. But it is overwhelmingly outweighed by Love.

  9. Powerful, well considered response to @ Jeannine. U r appreciated Dr. Peter Borten!

  10. Thanks for perfect explanation
    Actually I came across a facebook post, where I was not comfortable with the word “Tirodhana”

    Reading this my mind is filled with satisfaction.
    Thanks again

  11. Sir I already felt 7 chakras or kal tatava but, according to 7 chakras I am at first and sometimes I am going to bliss and sometimes exiting for survival mostly, for my family I need bit guidance I am already in stage or atam gyan but bit confused. I think I am already on the path of mukti or explained by lord budha dhama and I am not even 20 I feel sometimes I will leave my body but, I then remember the pain which I will give to my mother and father. What should I do? Sometimes I confuse too much like entering and exiting from the bliss.

    1. Hi Akshit,
      You need a teacher who can assess you in person. I have no idea what’s best for you. But I would say, just because it’s possible to leave your body doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for the common good (yourself included). If you are actually a liberated Being, consider staying in your body and being of service to all the suffering people around you.

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