of Kashmir Monistic Shaivism
by Prof. M. L. Kokiloo
Shaivism of Kashmir has developed between the eight and the twelfth
centuries of the Christian era. This comparatively younger philosophy
has tried to explain all such ambiguities which the ancient
philosophers have failed to resolve. Like Advaitavedanta it is
monistic, like Vaishnavism it is theistic, like yoga it is practical,
like Nayaya it is logical as also appeasing like Buddhism. Kashmir
Shaivism is, therefore, idealistic and realistic in essence, strongly
advocating a pragmatic approach to life.
Tantras have been revealed by Lord Shiva through his five mouths namely
Ishana, Tatpurusha, Sadyojata, Vamadeva, and Aghora. These very five
mouths represent his five energies namely Chitshakti (consciousness),
Ananda shakti (Bliss), Ichhashakti (will) Jnanashakti (knowledge) and
Kriyashakti (Action) respectively. When these aforesaid five energies
of Lord Shiva unite with each other in such a way that each of these
takes bold of the rest simultaneously, they reveal sixty four
Bhairvatantras which are purely monistic. This very approach explained
in these Tantras is called Kashmir Shaivism or Trika philosophy.
Veda, Shaiva, Vama, Dakshina, Kaula, Matta, and Trika are the seven
Acharas (systems) recognised by Kashmir Shaivism. The most popular
among the seven Acharas has been the Trika system. What does this Trika
mean? Trika means trinity of Nara Shakti and Shiva as is given in
Tantras. Nara means an individual, Shakti means the Universal Energy
and Shiva means the Transcendental Being. Thus a soul recognizes
himself as Shiva by means of the realization of his Shakties - the
powers of God-head. Therefore this Trika system advocates the practical
path towards complete self-realization. To make it more clear, this
three fold science of spirit is based on the three energies of Lord
Shiva namely Para, Parapara and Apara. Para energy is subjective energy
of Lord Shiva and it is regarded as the supreme.
Parapara energy is
cognitive energy of Lord Shiva and is called as intermediate. Apara
energy is objective energy of Lord Shiva and it is known as inferior
energy. Thus the Trika philosophy of Kashmir Shaivim advocates how a
human being, engrossed in the inferior objective energy of Lord Shiva,
can be taken upwards viz. towards the supreme energy of Lord Shiva
through his cognitive energy. For this journey, undertaken to attain
the real Transcendental state of self, Trika philosophy has laid down
three means within the ambit of cognitive energy. The first and the
supreme expedient is called Shambbavopaya. The intermediate expedient
is known as Shaktopaya and the third expedient is called Anvopaya.
It is a unique way of yoga. All the mental activities cease to exist in
it. In Shri Purva-Shastra the definition of Shambhavopaya is given as
under Shambavopaya is a path, shown by the supreme master, in
which the knowledge of the ultimate reality comes through the practice
of emptying one's mind completely of all thoughts. Thus it is called as
Nirvikalpayoga because no vikalpa i.e. a mental idea in name and form
emerges in it. It is a way of keeping one's mind completely motionless
and calm, yet awake. It materializes by one's strong will, therefore it
is called as Ichhopaya or Ichha yoga by Shri Abhinavagupta in his
'Tantrasara' a book, in which the precise summary of 37 chapters of
Tantraloka has been condensed in lucid style.
By practicing this yoga a 'Sadhaka' feels that sudden charge of supreme
energy of Shaivahood which remains for a little while in the initial
stage and automatically goes stronger and stronger day by day by
constant Abhyasa-mental drill. In this way Shambavopaya is the direct
means to absolute liberation. According to monistic theory of Kashmir
Shaivism Shambavopaya is meant only for those great souls who have
developed their awareness of Chit consciousness through the Anugraha of
the master to get enthroned on this spiritual height, three ways have
been advocated which are as under:
1. Vishwa chit pratibimbatvam
By the first way a 'sadhaka' feels that the entire gamut of reciting an
incantation, consists of six successive stages namely: varanadhva
(syllabic) , Padaadhva (consisting of words) , Mantradhva ( incantative
), Kaladhva (Instantative), Tattvadha (contential), Bhavanadhva
(peripheric) are reflected in the mirror of one's own consciousness and
by this awareness he enters the universal consciousness. After
perceiving it, a seeker gets Shambava Samadhi (mental equipoise). By
the second way i.e. Paramarshodayakrama, a realizer understands that
the entire field or sounds, words and sentences is nothing but the
supreme self. By developing this attitude in his own mind, his innate
faculties are focused towards the Shambav Samadhi. By the third way
i.e. Mantradhabhinatvam an aspirant practices the state at the
universal 'I'-consciousness.* By the Continuous awareness of upper
consciousness, individual's "I" consciousness automatically vanishes
and it is united with God-consciousness- where 'sadhaka' is one with
subjective energy of Lord Shiva. Thus Shamabavopaya is that path where
'sadhaka' gets rid of the recitation of Mantras, of different types of
'sadhana' and concentration on particular deity. According to Kashmir
Shaivism there is another higher method than Shambavopaya, which is
known as Anupaya.
In Shri Malinivijay Shaivagam, it is explained as under:
*In this context the three stages of a word coming to life-Jyeshtha,
Raudri and Amba deserve also attention - Shivasutra, II. 3. (Ed.)
Higher than Shambavopa is another means known as Anupaya. It is
effortless effort and method less method. It is named as Anandopaya
also. The literal meaning of Anupaya is the means without any means.The
negative suffix in this word signifies complete minuteness and not
total nothingness, just as in the word Anudara. Shri Abhinavagupta says
in "Tantraloka" "atr anudara kanya itivat nanolparthatvam." This
Anupaya yoga is the highest, the final and the direct means to
liberation. A mere touch or a mere glance of the one who is in the
state of Anupaya makes one's entrance pure to the kingdom of
Transcendental Bliss. Just as a Poisonous snake emits the venomous
effect to a person from a great distance, similarly a great yogi
residing in Anupaya state sends the seeker, who has intense devotion
for the Lord into the same state owned by him, by his mere glance or
touch without making any difference between the master and the
disciple. In Tantrasar Shri Abhinavgupta explains this Anupaya in the
The supreme Lord, is self-effulgent, soul personified of the Real self.
what can be the means to attain this supreme Bliss? Godly unity is no
means as Godly-unity is a momentary feature not a permanent one.
Knowledge is no means as He is ever luminous. Unsheathing of various
covers are no means as it is unthinkable for Him to don any cover. What
can be the means to find Him? As the means also are devoid of self -
entity without His existence. Therefore the entire 'unique chit'
(consciousness) cannot be judged by the time factor, cannot be covered
by the space, cannot be limited by names etc., cannot be controlled by
the words, cannot be made clear by arguments. Thus from time factor to
the field of arguments that Independent Supreme Bliss from 'I'
consciousness, by its free will for attainment of godly unity merges
into universal consciousness. When a seeker is firmly entrenched in
this state be is in continuous harmony with the Godhead without any
external means. So there is no need of chanting Mantras, performing
various kinds of worship, doing austere penance, or undergoing any
other form of meditation for him.
These various forms of means are not sufficient enough to throw light
on that unlimited samvit. Can we see the bright sun by the limited
ghata (clay pot)? When a seeker having an all-pervading outlook of this
kind, contemplates constantly in this way, gets immersed in the Supreme
self of Lord Shiva in no time.
It is a yogic practice of thought only. In this the seeker has to
develop concentration upon God-consciousness by means of a special
initiating thought unfolded by the master. The definition of Shaktopaya
is given in Shri Malinivijaya Tantra as under:-
When the aspirant concentrates on the particular thought of
God-consciousness without the support of Pranayama and chanting of
mantras etc, be develops that consciousness uninterruptedly. That state
is called Shaktopaya.
The particular thought like 'I am all consciousness', 'I am all', or 'I
am Transcendental Bliss', must be firmly adjusted in mind with such an
awareness that no other thought comes to displace it. aspirant
established in this state of awareness enters the state of
Transcendental consciousness and passes from duality to unity.
Shaktopaya does not involve any objective 'Dhyana' intellectual
meditation, or anything of that sort. It is an expedient of very high
order and is meant for those who possess unflinching devotion and sharp
intellectual acumen. It is solely meant for those who are not capable
of undergoing Nirvikalpa yoga of Shambavopaya, because of the
deep-rooted mental impressions of the impure vikalpa
This Shaktopaya is call Jnanopaya also, because the mental activities
of meditation are the most important factors in it. Thus it is an
indirect means to complete liberation.
Anvopaya is that expedient which is concerned with 'anu' a limited
being, signifying his mental effort to get rid of the ignorance of his
true nature. In this means all the faculties of understanding are to be
concentrated upon particular objects other than the self, and the self
is to be experienced with the help of those particular objective
entities. In Shri Purvashastra Anavopoya is explained as under:
To understand this definition squarely we have got to explain it point
wise. 'Uchhaar' connotes an awareness during inhalation or exhalation,
when the consciousness of the realizer flows in between these two
breaths in harmonious collusion. 'Karan' connotes that mental practice;
which is developed through the grooming of organs of the senses and
actions. It is conducted in the actual perception of one's field of
activities in daily life. 'Dhyaan' means the experience of one's
endless nominal and phenomenal nature through abstract meditation on
one's understanding. 'Varna' is the incessant practice based on Dhvani
(sound) which comes to the aspirant within hearing at the time of
meditation. When a seeker plants his consciousness on the heart, navel
or the space between the two eye-brows, simultaneously reciting the
mantra through mind only, is known as the practice of 'sthaankalpanaa'.
The lowest types of this form are the as the practice Lingam, the altar
and the image etc.
This expedient is known as Kriyayoga or Kriyopaya, because
concentration on object in this yoga involves sufficient mental effort.
Thus action plays phenomenal part in reaching upto this mental stage.
In fact, a seeker with the help of inferior methods like Pranayama or
chanting of Mantra etc. has to develop God-consciousness in this third
path known as Anvopaya, because he is endowed with inferior capacity of
mind and meditation.
Thus this triple action, reaction and interaction of mind and
perception with consequent follow-up mental drill in this system of
Shaivism has given it the name of 'Trika'.
Acharya Somananda (first half of the ninth century A. D.) has given a
historical account about the origin of monistic Shaiva school of
Kashmir in his monumental work "Shiva Drishti". He says that in the age
of 'Kali' when all the sages left this world and went to some place
known as 'kalaapigraam', the teachings of the mysteries of Shaiva faith
came to a stop. Then Lord Shri Kanthanatha advised His disciple sage
Durvasa to start afresh the system of the practice of Shaivisim in the
world. He in turn imparted essence of the monistic Shaiva faith to a
disciple of his named 'trambkaditya'. In this way fourteen generations
passed and this knowledge was spelt out by the respective Gurus
The fifteenth preceptor contrary to the faith in celibacy of previous
teachers, married a Brahmin girl who gave birth to a male child namely
'sangmaditya' who was the sixteenth teacher in the line. While on
pilgrimage, he came to Kashmir and settled here permanently. Various
sages, seers, scholars and authors blossomed in this school after its
advent to Kashmir valley. Sangamditya's son and disciple was
"Varshaditya" and his son and disciple was "Arunaditya" who carried on
this system further. The nineteenth teacher was "Arunaditya's son"
'Ananda' and his son and disciple was 'Somananda', who was the
twentieth Acharya in this line.
Shri Abhinavagupta also gives the historical account of monistic
Kashmir Shaivism in his extra-ordinary work 'Tantraloka'. He says that
three Siddhas ( masters of perfection ) namely 'tryambak', 'aamardak'
and 'srinaath' came to this mortal world under the control of
'Srikanthnatha'. These three Siddhas, who were proficient in the
monistic, the dualistic and the monistic cum dualistic Shaiva
philosophy respectively established three separate schools of Shaivism;
'tryambaknatha' initiated another line through his will born daughter.
This school of thought was known as Ardha-Tryambaka. Monistic system of
Kashmir Shaivism is actually the school of Trayambakanatha. In fact
Shaiva literature of Kashmir, available at present, belongs only to
this very school of Trayambakanatha.
Many centuries after Trayambaknatha, the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism
was taught by four great teachers namely Somananda, Erakanatha,
Sumatinatha and Vasuguptanatha. These teachers have established four
different schools which are as follows:
1. Pratyabhijna school,
2. Krama school,
3. Kula school,
4. Spanda school.
recognizing one's own self once again. This represents a mental act by
which one realizes and reunites with the original state i.e. universal
consciousness. In 'Shivadrishti' Acharya 'Somananda' explains this
pratyabijna philosophy systematically. Shri Utpaladeva, the esteemed
disciple of Acharya 'Somananda' presents vividly this very system in
his famous book 'Ishvarapratyabhijna.' He defines pratyabhijna as
Just as a bride who has heard all about her bride-groom and even has
seen him many a time, does not recognize him unless he is shown to her,
similarly an individual who has read and heard much about his being,
which is nothing but Shiva- the universal does not recognize himself,
unless he is guided by the Master. This sort of recognition is known as
Krama school of
Shaivism was expounded by Eraknatha. Its main purpose is to develop
such strength of awareness that one transcends the circle of spaces
time and form and finally raises himself to the state of universal
consciousness. By realizing that state one enters the kingdom of
Param-Shiva the Transcendental Being. The discipline of Anavopaya
discussed earlier is concerned with this system of Kashmir Shaivism.
Kula school of Kashmir
Shaivism was taught by Sumatinatha. The purpose of this doctrine is to
rise above individual energy and assimilate the Blissful Energy of
totality. Thus it is the highest thought which explains the state of
universal Being; from which the whole universe emerges and then merges
in it. All practices of "Shambhavopaya" discussed earlier are connected
with this system of Kashmir Shaivism.
Spanda school was heralded in Kashmir by Vasgupta natha. This system
directs the seeker to concentrate on each and every moment in this
world, even the Vibration of a blade of grass carries one to God
consciousness. In Shri Vijnana Bhairava a traditional treatise of this
school, one hundred and twelve ways are explained to attain the spanda
state by meditating on the center of mental or physical acts. All the
practices of 'Shaktopaya' explained earlier, are connected with this
system of Shaivism.
In fact these four schools are not different from each other, because
all these systems take an aspirant to the universal God consciousness,
the goal being the same, even when the ways are varied.
To sum up, the thought of Kashmir Shaivism is great, world affirming
and universal. No Philosophic theory has so far presented complete view
of the truth as is presented by the monistic Shaiva philosophy of
Kashmir. The principle of Svatantrya (self-dependence) called as the
principle of highest monism is the main doctrine of this philosophy.
The arguments for accepting this mental discipline are so convincing,
so satisfying and so appealing that once an aspirant tastes their
nectar, naturally disdains other philosophic systems. This philosophy
deals with the minutest and subtlest principles of life. It treats
problems of man and the universe by the method of analysis and
synthesis. The Shaivistc way of arguments is logical and psychological
and is supported by all kinds of every day experiences.
The greatest quality of Shaiva philosophers is that they invite
criticism of opponents and after threadbare discussion they silence
them with counter arguments. Like its theoretical side, the practical
side of Shaivism is still more palatable, without inflicting any pain
on his body, without suppressing the emotions and instincts, without
controlling his breath and in that drill suppressing his mind in
Dhyanayoga, a realizer has been enjoined to enjoy life within limits as
per humanistic laws, and to replenish the taste of spiritual
attainments by means of Shaivistic yoga which is simple and
interesting. He has been exhorted to attend to worldly pursuits and
simultaneously yoke himself to self-realization. Thus the Shaivistic
path is a sure and a steady path with very little danger of
degradation, because the conflict between matter and spirit his been
avoided herein. The ultimate aim of Shaivism is self-dependence in each
and every respect, which aim can be achieved in the realization of
It is very unfortunate that such a complete and developed system of
philosophy making a happy compromise between Immanence and
Transcendence, Self and Super-self, Finite and Infinite, domain of man
and kingdom of Heaven, has not so far become known to the whole of the
world. Future shall have to make amends for this inexcusable lapse by
propagating this school of thought with pronounced meaningfulness.
My thanks to, Shri Parmanand Research Institute, a great source of
information on this topic and other topics.
Glimpses of Kashmiri Culture
Shri Parmanand Research Institute
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