The Divine Names: Deva, Pati, Shiva (Tantraaloka 1.101-5)

This section of the Tantrāloka continues from the previous section on 'The Divine Names'. The last post explained why Bhairava is an appropriate name for Supreme Consciousness; in this set of verses, Abhinavagupta tells us why the names Deva ('God'), Pati ('the Lord') and Shiva ('the Benevolent One') are appropriate. In this, he draws on the ancient practice of nirukta or nirvacana or 'interpretive etymology', which means breaking down a key term to show how its components and/or roots tell us more about the referent of the word (in this case, the nature of Divine Consciousness).

Please remember that though Abhinavagupta is a nondualist, he wrote 'Light on the Tantras' for Shaivas of all stripes -- dualists and nondualists alike. He also wrote it as a compilation of Shaiva Tantrik wisdom up to his time. Therefore, before proceeding to more esoteric doctrines, Abhinava is here explaining the Names of God in a traditional manner -- actually, he gives a subtle nondualist spin on them, while still appealing to those who experience God as separate, the way most Christians do. In fact, he quotes here a Saiddhāntika guru, and the Saiddhāntikas were Tantrikas who had a theology that was very similar to Christianity's. (See Tantra Illuminated p. 217.)  Now we continue with Śrī Tantrāloka:

As a divine play, He surges up [into manifestation] as [an expression of His] pure innate bliss, free of any story of what is desirable and what is not — [and so, because the root div can mean ‘play’ and ‘joy’, He is called Deva ‘the Divine’]. [Because He] exists with a will (icchā) to transcend all, such is His freedom [to do so] — [and so, because the root div can mean ‘urge to transcend’, He is called Deva]. || 101

Though His essential Being is undivided, in everyday life [He manifests] as the various forms of [human] discourse — [and so, because the root div can mean ‘everyday conduct’, He is called Deva]. Because he manifests as all things, he is constantly shining — [and so, because the root div can mean ‘radiant’, He is called Deva]. || 102

Praise of him [is rendered] because everything, from the moment it has a self, inclines toward Him — [and so, because the root div can mean ‘praise’, He is called Deva]. Even in the midst of all [the everyday] duties, there is a ‘movement’ consisting of consciousness which informs all actions and [innately] possesses the qualities of Knowing and Acting — [and so, because the root div can mean ‘movement’, He is called Deva]. || 103

With these nirvacanas, [the term] Deva is explained by our teacher [Bṛhaspati] in the Śiva-tanu-śāstra (the Treatise on Śiva’s Form). | 104ab 

He helps all [beings] by teaching, restraining, protecting, and maturing [them]—thus He is called ‘Lord’ (pati). Being auspicious & beneficial and never inauspicious or malefic (aśiva), He is called ‘the Benevolent’ (śiva).   || 104c-f

Since He manifests in a similar form under the names Rudra, Upendra, and so on, the adjectival words ‘supreme’ or ‘great’ [as in Parama-śiva or Mahā-bhairava] are used to avoid [the implication that we are referring to a] limited [deity]. || 105

Next: The Tantrik View of Reality as Patterned Energy