Salient Features 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 materialises 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 practising 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
    2. Paramarshodayakrama
    3. Mantradhayabhinnatvam

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 focussed towards the Shambav Samadhi. By the third way i.e. Mantradhabhinatvam an aspirant practises 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-consciousnes- 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 meansThe 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 following words


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 po t)? 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.

Shaktopaya :
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 (thought-aberrations).

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 systematically. 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.
Pratyabhijna means 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 under:


just as a bride who has heard all about her bride-groom and even has seen him many a time, does not recognise 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 Pratyabbijna.

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 centre 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 God-consciousness.

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.

Article reproduced from:
Glimpses of Kashmiri Culture
Shri Parmanand Research Institute
Srinagar, Kashmir

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