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Kashmir Shaivism

by Virendra Qazi

History tells us about great ancient civilizations. Where have they gone? To  museums, pyramids, history books, Discovery Channel, etc? But Indian civilization, the ancient creed and culture, can still be found in every village of India - alive and kicking!

 Kashmir was the 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 Peeth 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. In West this fascinating philosophy is also called by this name.

 This philosophy in the present form can be traced to the eighth Century Sage, Vasugupta to whom Shiv Sutras were revealed. His famous descendents were Somananda, Utpaldeva and Abhinavgupta who finally gave a concrete shape and foundation to this philosophy. 

 Kashmir Shaivism occupies a distinguished position among the various schools of religious creed and thought. This universal philosophy focuses on relation between God, Nature and Man, which overcomes all the barriers of diverse human-cultures. It 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 Shaivism is presently evoking deep interest in West, with lot of pioneering research work at leading universities. It is a matter of concern that nothing much is done in the land of discovery of this philosophy. We should seriously ponder over this situation and consider the importance of this philosophy in our present strife-torn world. A thrill of self confidence, the spirit of bliss, surpassing all barriers of caste, creed and gender, no look back, no regret, the inner journey, see everything as creation of God, etc - how prominently and conceptually these are emphasised in Kashmir Shaivism. It should be our solemn endeavour to present this ancient philosophy in common man’s language so that a resurgence takes place with the goal of Upliftment of individual, social, national and world as a whole.

 The prime focus of Kashmir Shaivism is on the Ultimate Reality called Param Shiva. This basic point is to recognise 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 recognising 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 categorised with particular emphasis as Anupaya(supreme means- Bliss), Shambopaya(higher means- Will), Shaktopaya (medium means- Knowledge) and Anvopaya (inferior means- Action). However, it must always be remembered that descend of the Divine Grace-Shaktipath- is independent of human efforts.

 Kashmir Shaivism emphasises 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 colour, creed, gender, etc. in eligibility for initiation in this Yoga.

 As regards “Devotion”, it 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.

 This philosophy is very relevant for present times. It inspires us for both material and spiritual progress. It stresses positive acceptance of material world rather than the philosophy of escapism. Thus it can serve as a sound basis for organising our lives. We can rather say that God has made man in His own image. It is His Own Maya Shakti which makes man to see differently. Therefore, real joy can be gained as we live in this world and go about our work. Avoiding suppression and denial like great puritans, we should exercise moderation in living and turning away from the ambition of wealth, power and pleasures of senses. This will prepare us for the inward journey to realise God.

 The youth should remember that no problem of individual, society or nation is to be ignored. A person can not succeed in any aim of life if he shuts his eyes towards these problems. The whole life of Lord Krishna as depicted in Mahabharta is a glowing example of practical Shaivism. 

 We may enjoy tasteful worldly objects as per the tradition but consider or ponder over their origin from “the Divine Glory”. This will enable us to look for God in every individual, see everything as His creation, etc., leading to maximum love and harmony.

 Even as elderly persons we should be totally in world yet totally liberated from within. This example incorporated in our lives will definitely create an inspiration for others.

 Concluding, let us work for upliftment as our goal. With our own effort we should change and strive for enlightenment. Let this change permeate from person to family, to state and nation as a whole. Leading to universal good this will usher in a peaceful and conflict free world. 

Kashmiri Writers Virendra Qazi


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