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Pancha Kanchukas – Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy – Five Outer Coverings of Consciousness


The pancha kanchukas in Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy are kala, vidya, raga, kaala and niyati. They are the five outer coverings or sheaths of consciousness. The ‘maya’ is added to the pancha kanchukas they become Shat Kanchukas (six sheaths that cover the consciousness.)

The real identity of pure consciousness cannot be known by its external appearance. In reality, the Self is none other than Shiva Himself.

Because of Shiva’s autonomous will, He projects Himself in the form of limited beings.
The sheaths may be five in number but the background on which these veils remain steadily abiding is maya, the deluding aspect of Shiva, who is pure consciousness in essence.

Five Outer Coverings of Consciousness


The supreme consciousness, Shiva, while remaining pure, appears non-conscious.
Its innate consciousness is its lordship, while its non-conscious aspect is the impurity called mala. This apparent impurity has a dual aspect; one causes everything to appear non-conscious and the other pervades every caused object. It is known as the principle called maya. When maya is counted under the kanchuka, the number becomes sat kanchukas.

Kala is born of maya. It renders one’s power of doership in a limited way, but doership becomes impossible when it is devoid of knowledge.

Therefore, this limited state of knowingness is born of kala, that is, omniscience is cut off and the limited being can know only a little.

This is known as vidya, by which the limited knowing subject is able to watch the intellect and discern pleasure and pain reflected on its screen. The agenthood of the subject is further relegated; consequently it gets attached to a particular object.

The selection on behalf of the subject is the function of raga (attachment), belonging to the limited subject.

In the same way, time known as kala delimits not only the object but also the knowing subject: “Thus I did this, I do it now, and will do in future.”

The very activity of the self shines not as an eternal present, it shines as the past, present, future.

Niyati further limits the limited subject by restricting its doership to a particular object, not to all objects.

These five kanchukas appear as impure so long as the limitation subsists, but with the descent of anugraha (grace) they undergo transmutation and thus become pure.

 SourceEncyclopedia of Hinduism – Volume VIII – IHRF – ( page no 3 – 4)