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Kashmir Shaivism

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Virendra Qazi

Kashmir was seat of learning along with Benaras in ancient Northern India. After a great spell of learning at Benares discerning people would go to Kashmir for higher studies and perfecting their philosophies and practices. The Sharda Peth was one of the famous centres.

The Doctrine Of Recognition (finding or discovering yourself as one with the Almighty) also called Pratibhigana Darshan has been given a popular name by renowned oriental scholar J. C. Chatterjee as Kashmir Shaivism.

According to the traditions of Kashmir Saivism, Lord Siva originally set forth sixty-four systems, or philosophies, some monistic, some dualistic and some monistic theistic. Eventually these were lost, and Siva commanded Sage Durvasas to revive the knowledge. Sage Durvasas' "mind-born sons" were assigned to teach the philosophies: Tryambaka (the monistic), Amardaka (the dualistic) and Shrinatha (monistic theistic). Thus, Tryambaka at an unknown time laid a new foundation for Kashmir Saiva philosophy.

Then, it is said, Lord Siva Himself felt the need to resolve conflicting interpretations of the Agamas and counter the encroachment of dualism on the ancient monistic doctrines. In the early 800s, the sage, Shri Vasugupta was living on Mahadeva Mountain near Srinagar. Tradition states that one night Lord Siva appeared to him in a dream and told him of the whereabouts of a great scripture carved in rock. Upon awakening, Vasugupta rushed to the spot and found seventy-seven terse sutras etched in stone, which he named the Siva Sutras. Vasugupta expounded the Sutras to his followers, and gradually the philosophy spread. On this scriptural foundation arose the school known as Kashmir Saivism, Northern Saivism, Pratyabhijna Darshana ("recognition school"), or Trikashasana ("Trika system"). Trika, "three," refers to the school's three-fold treatment of the Divine: Siva, Shakti and soul, as well as to three sets of scriptures and a number of other triads.

Kashmir Saivite literature is in three broad divisions: Agama Shastra, Spanda Shastra and Pratyabhijna Shastra. Agama Shastra includes works of divine origin: specifically the Saiva Agama literature, but also including Vasugupta's Siva Sutras. The Spanda Shastra, or Spanda Karikas (of which only two sutras are left), are both attributed to Vasugupta's disciple Kallata (ca 850-900). These elaborate the principles of the Siva Sutras. The Pratyabhijna Shastra's principle components are the Siva Drishti by Vasugupta's disciple, Somananda, and the Pratyabhijna Sutras by Somananda's pupil, Utpaladeva (ca 900-950). Abhinavagupta (ca 950-1000) wrote some forty works, including Tantraloka, "Light on Tantra," a comprehensive text on Agamic Saiva philosophy and ritual. It was Abhinavagupta whose brilliant and encyclopedic works established Kashmir Saivism as an important philosophical school.

Kashmir Shaivism occupies a distinguished position among the various schools of thought focusing on the relation between God, nature and man. Its practise leads to the highest level of self-realisation, revealing the inner most secrets of the nature of Self. All the aspects of life are integrated and taken in totality. Thus, rather than negation and denial, it celebrates life. Kashmir Shaivism is the school of Indian philosophy which can inspire us for both material and spiritual progress. Rather, the approach is from theory to practice. Indeed, it leads us to the real "Art of Living".

Kashmir Saivism provides an extremely rich and detailed understanding of the human psyche, and a clear and distinct path of kundalini-siddha yoga to the goal of Self Realization. In its history the tradition produced numerous siddhas, adepts of remarkable insight and power. It is said that Abhinavagupta, after completing his last work on the Pratyabhijna system, entered the Bhairava cave near Mangam with 1,200 disciples, and he and they were never seen again.

Kashmir Saivism is intensely monistic. It does not deny the existence of a personal God or of the Gods. But much more emphasis is put upon the personal meditation and reflection of the devotee and his guidance by a guru. Creation of the soul and world is explained as God Siva's abhasa, "shining forth" of Himself in His dynamic aspect of Shakti, the first impulse, called spanda. As the Self of all, Siva is immanent and transcendent, and performs through his Shakti the five actions of creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing. The Kashmir Saivite is not so much concerned with worshiping a personal God as he is with attaining the transcendental state of Siva consciousness.

An esoteric and contemplative path, Kashmir Saivism embraces both knowledge and devotion. Sadhana leads to the assimilation of the object (world) in the subject (I) until the Self (Siva) stands revealed as one with the universe. The goal-liberation-is sustained recognition (pratyabhijna) of one's true Self as nothing but Siva. There is no merger of soul in God, as they are eternally nondifferent.

There are three upayas, stages of attainment of God consciousness. These are not sequential, but do depend upon the evolution of the devotee. The first stage is anavopaya, which corresponds to the usual system of worship, yogic effort and purification through breath control. The second stage is shaktopaya, maintaining a constant awareness of Siva through discrimination in one's thoughts. The third stage is shambhavopaya in which one attains instantly to God consciousness simply upon being told by the guru that the essential Self is Siva. There is a forth stage, anupaya, "no means," which is the mature soul's recognition that there is nothing to be done, reached for or accomplished except to reside in one's own being, which is already of the nature of Siva. Realization relies upon the satguru, whose grace is the blossoming of all sadhana.

The prime focus of Kashmir Shaivism is on the Ultimate Reality called Param Shiva. This basic point is to recognize this source from which emanates everything and into which merges everything. Param Shiva is beyond description, beyond all manifestation, beyond limitation of form, time and space. He is eternal, infinite, all pervading, all knowing and all powerful. In fact, this reality is ineffable and beyond all descriptions.

After our stress on this basic reality called Param Shiva, let us seek and understand this philosophy. Kashmir Shaivism. It is a process of recognizing or discovery of individual soul as one with the Universal Being through correct knowledge of the "Descend" from Godhood to manhood. The next is "Ascend" or going back to Godhood. Lastly great stress is given to "Devotion" towards the Ultimate Reality called Param Shiva.

As regards the great descend, Kashmir Shaivism postulates 36 categories or "tattvas" to explain the process of cosmic evolution or universal experience, i.e., from God hood to veiling or obscuring force of nature called Maya Shakti leading to various psycho - physical elements and finally the Panch Mahabhutas - five great elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The first outward manifestation of the divine creative energy is called "Shiva - Tattva". It is the initial creative movement of Paramasiva and is support of all things in the manifest world, like the canvas of a painting. Next, the "Shakti-Tattava" is active or kinetic cosmic energy that effects the divine consciousness into action.

"Maya" is the veiling or obscuring force of nature that creates a sense of differentiation. As such, it makes universal consciousness which is unity, appear as duality and multiplicity. The result of the limitation of Maya are "Purusha" and "Prakriti", the limited being and his nature. Here the dual world of mind and matter is permanently established. This follows various mental operations, ascertaining intelligence, sense perceptions, ego, etc. The process is complete finally with the gross Panch Mahabutas as referred above.

Now, let us consider the ascend or going back to Godhood. What is source of pain and frustration- duality and moving away from Godhood! So, it is natural that we must strive to go back to Godhood. For this there has to be Shaktipath- the descend of Divine Grace. In order to earn Grace, one has to undergo spiritual discipline, known as "Upyas" or Trika Yoga. Depending upon potential of individual, these means or yoga have been categorized with particular emphasis as Anupaya (Bliss), Shambopaya (Will), Shaktopaya (Knowledge) and Anvopaya (Action). However, it must always be remembered that descend of the Divine Grace - Shaktipath - is independent of human efforts.

Kashmir Shaivism emphasizes that one has to discover the inner "Bliss". Let us not suppress the senses, do not torture the body or mind, etc. Forcible control will lead to adverse effect. Be as you are. When one discovers inner bliss he/she will give up fascination for outer worldly enjoyments. Outwardly one may perform the age old traditions but inwardly he/she has to seek exact truth through the practices taught in Trika Yoga. There is no restriction based on color, creed, gender, etc. in eligibility for initiation in this Yoga.

Bhakti is an essential aid to all the practices. An aspirant not blessed with devotion for the Lord can not succeed in the practice or Saivayoga. After inculcating the principles and treading the path as explained above, we should surrender and submit to the Ultimate Reality. This will, no doubt, lead us to the ultimate goal.

Related Articles[edit]

  • Maya in Kashmir Shaivism

Saints of Kashmir Shaivism[edit]


  • "Kashmir Shaivism," Hinduism Today, Issue 94-03

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