The lunation cycle of the moon is 29.5 days long. Ancient mathematicians preferred to deal with whole number and abstracted the lunation cycle to 30 Kalaa units. The duration of each kalaa (phase) of the moon is a little less than 24 hours. Masters of the Vedic tradition found the waxing and waning of moon to be an ideal representation of the mind. This is so because, the mind has its ups and downs. In addition, the bright and dark halves of a lunar month have been the metaphors for a pair of Tattvas. Tattvas are abstract principles in Vedic texts. An example is the Shakti-Tattva which is a metaphor for the cosmic energy. Similarly, Shiva Tattva is the Cosmic consciousness. Therefore, the sixteen Kalaas of the moon, from its new moon to its full moon phase, represent the unique powers of the Shakti Tattva.
Tattva abstraction, the 1st lession in Vedic science
The first lesson in Vedic sciences is the understanding of Tattva classification. Ancient universities such as the Nalanda university had experts who taught advanced students about Tattva abstraction. Besides, Indians intellectuals were familiar with Tattva classification tables until two generations ago. Kalaa is an important element of the Tattva classification table. In summary, we can understand Kalaa to be the distinguishing feature among beings. The power of their psyche of their respective genus decides the Kalaa unit assigned to a being. Besides, nature endowed humans with eight kalaas, animals with seven and plants with six Kalaa units of consciousness. (Based on SriSri’s talk Feb 25,2014)
Cosmologists agree that energy is the primordial cause of the universe. Energy filled the universe after the cosmic big bang. It condensed into subatomic particles and then into atoms to form the material creation as the universe expanded. Time and Space did not exist before the big bang. Time or Kaala is another principle per Tattva classification table. Kaala and Kalaa exist in space. Therefore, space must be another principle in a Tattva classification table. Agastya in his Tamil text, “Agasthiyar Tattvam 300”, compared classification tables per different traditions in ancient India.
The confusion between abstractions and devotional texts
It is easy to see the scientific rational behind Tattva classification scheme. However, confusion about Tattva terms is normal because the term is also used in devotional literature, but in a different sense. For example, we saw that Shiva or the cosmic formless consciousness is a Tattva. Devotional literature too accepts the same. However, devotional literature attributes a form to Shiva for worship purposes. Secondly, every aspect of this imaginary form of Shiva reminds us of another Tattva. For example, the crescent moon on the head of Shiva represents the Tattva of the Kalaas of the Moon.
The fourteenth phase of the waning moon was selected to celebrate Shiva Ratri. Moon gets ready to culminate into invisibility on that day. This is a metaphor for the Mind merging back into the unknowlable consciousness, its source.
Human beings occupy 8-12 Kalaas. Higher beings (without a physical body) who are representations of functions in the collective psyche occupy 13-16 Kalaas. Birds and Animals occupy 6-7 Kalaas. The first five Kalaas are aspects of nature, in its pristine form.