Kashmir Shaivism

Among the various Hindu philosophies, Kashmir Shaivism (Kaśmir Śaivism) is a school of Śaivism consisting of Trika and its philosophical articulation Pratyabhijña. It is categorized by various scholars as monistic   idealism (absolute idealism, theistic monism, realistic idealism, transcendental physicalism or concrete monism. )It is philosophically important to distinguish Kashmir Shaivism from the Advaita sidhantha as both are non-dual philosophies which give primacy to Universal Consciousness (Chit or Brahman).  In Kashmir Shavisim, all things are a manifestation of this Consciousness.  This means that from the point of view of Kashmir Shavisim the phenomenal world (Śakti) is real, and it exists and has its being in Consciousness (Chit).  In comparison, Advaita Vedanta holds that Brahman is inactive (niṣkriya) and the phenomenal world is an illusion (māyā). Thus, the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, also called the Trika, can be seen in contrast to Shankara's Advaita. The goal of Kashmir Shaivism is to merge in Shiva or Universal Consciousness, or realise one's already existing identity with Shiva, by means of wisdom, yoga and grace. "Kashmir Shaivism has penetrated to that depth of living thought where diverse currents of human wisdom unite in a luminous synthesis." -Rabindranath Tagore (9 May 1861 - 7 August 1941) Nobel Prize in Literature (1913). 
Kashmir Shaivism arose during the eighth or ninth century CE.  in Kashmir and made significant strides, both philosophical and theological, until the end of the twelfth century CE. Kashmir Shaivism was a householder religion based on a strong monistic interpretation of the Bhairava Tantras (and its subcategory the Kaula Tantras).  (In contrast, the similar Advaita Vedanta is based on the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita. ) There was additionally a revelation of the Siva Sutras to Vasugupta. Kashmir Saivism claimed to supersedeShaiva Siddhanta, a dualistic tradition which scholars consider normative tantric Shaivism.  The Shaiva Siddhanta goal of becoming an ontologically distinct Shiva (through Shiva's grace) was replaced by recognizing oneself as Shiva who, in Kashmir Saivism's monism, is the entirety of the universe. Somananda, the first theologian of monistic Saivism, was the teacher of Utpaladeva, who was the grand-teacher of Abhinavagupta, who in turn was the teacher of Ksemaraja. The point of view of Kashmir Shaivism can be summarised by the concepts of citi, mala, upaya and moksha, as follows.Citi: Universal Consciousness (citi) is the fundamental stuff of the universe.  This Consciousness is one and includes the whole. It could also be called God or Shiva.Mala: Consciousness contracts itself. The one becomes many. Shiva becomes the individual (jīva). This contraction is called mala (impurity). There are three malas, the mala of individuation (Āṇava mala), the mala of the limited mind (māyīya mala), and the mala of the body (karma mala). Upāya: An individual caught in the suffering of embodied existence, afflicted by the three malas, eventually yearns to return to his or her primordial state of Universal Consciousness.  To attain this, he or she undertakes sādhana or spiritual practice. While most other paths observe offering incense and food to the diety. This path takes on to offering breaths. The individual controls his heart and pulse by reducing it significantly. The final stage is renouncing food and water. As a result, he/she connects the state of the supreme in the form of Shiva. Kashmir Shaivism describes four methods (upāya-s): āṇavopāya, the method of the body, śaktopāya, the method of the mind, śāmbhavopāya, the method of Consciousness, and anupāya the ‘methodless’ method. Mokṣa: The fruit of the individual’s sādhana is the attainment of Self-realisation (mokṣa). In Kashmir Shaivism, the state of liberation (mukti) is called sahaja samādhi   and is characterised by the attainment of unwavering bliss-consciousness while living one’s ordinary life. 

ir Shaivism, and as such, it is the fundamental reality underneath the whole Universe. Among the multiple interpretations of anuttara are: "supreme", "above all" and "unsurpassed reality".  In the Sanskrit alphabet anuttara is associated to the first letter - "A" (in devanagari "अ"). As the ultimate principle, anuttara is identified with Śiva, Śakti(as Śakti is identical to Śiva), the supreme consciousness (cit), uncreated light (prakāśa), supreme subject (aham) and atemporal vibration (spanda). The practitioner who realizes anuttarathrough any means, whether by her own efforts or by direct transmission by the Grace of Shiva/shakti, is liberated and perceives absolutely no difference between herself and the body of the universe. Being and beings become one and the same by virtue of the "erotic friction," whereby subject perceives object and in that act of perception is filled with nondual being/consciousness/bliss. Anuttara is different from the notion of transcendence in that, even though it is above all, it does not imply a state of separation from the Universe. 

Aham is the concept of supreme reality as heart. It is considered to be a non-dual interior space of Śiva, support for the entire manifestation,  supreme mantra and identical to Śakti. Pratyabhijña is the philosophical articulation of Kashmir Saivism. Pratyabhijña literally means "spontaneous recognition", as it does not have any upāyas (means), that is, there is nothing to practice; the only thing to do is recognize who you are. This "means" can actually be called anupāya, Sanskrit for "without means". Ksemaraja, the student of Abhinavagupta, uses a mirror analogy to explain Pratyabhijña. Although domesticated into a householder tradition, Kashmir Saivism recommended a secret performance of Kaula practices in keeping with its heritage. This was to be done in seclusion from public eyes, therefore allowing one to maintain the appearance of a typical householder. The concept of free will plays a central role in Kashmir Shaivism. Known technically as svātantrya it is the cause of the creation of the universe - a primordial force that stirs up the absolute and manifests the world inside the supreme consciousness of Śiva.In Svātantrya all conscious subjects are co-participant in various degrees to the divine sovereignty. Humans have a degree of free will limited by their level of consciousness. Ultimately, Kashmir Shaivism as a monistic idealist philosophical system views all subjects to be identical - "all are one" - and that one is Śiva, the supreme consciousness. Thus, all subjects have free will anda re god/ divine but can be ignorant of this. Ignorance too is a force projected by svātantrya itself upon the creation and can be removed by svātantrya and also by Self knowledge.One function of svātantrya is granting divine grace - śaktipāt. In this philosophical system, spiritual liberation IS accessible by mere effort, but can be guided by the will/grace of god (i.e. the liberated, the masters). Thus, if the disciple finds such a master, he need only surrender himself and await divine grace to eliminate the limitations that imprison his consciousness.Causality in Kashmir Shaivism is considered to be created by Svātantrya along with the universe. Thus there can be no contradiction, limitation or rule to force Śiva to act one way or the other.Svātantrya always exists beyond the limiting shield of cosmic illusion, māyā.The first great initiate recorded in history of this spiritual path was Vasugupta (c. 875-925).  Vasugupta formulated for the first time in writing the principles and main doctrines of this system.A fundamental work of Shaivism, traditionally attributed to Vasugupta, is the Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta. Traditionally, these sutras are considered to have been revealed to Vasugupta by Shiva. According to myth, Vasugupta had a dream in which Shiva told him to go to the Mahādeva mountain in Kashmir. On this mountain he is said to have found verses inscribed on a rock, the Shiva Sutras, which outline the teachings of Shaiva monism. This text is one of the key sources for Kashmir Shaivism.  The work is a collection of aphorisms. The sutras expound a purely non-dual (advaita) metaphysics.  These sutras, which are classified as a type of Hindu scripture known as agamas, are also known as the Shiva Upanishad Samgraha (Sanskrit: śivopaniṣad saṅgraha) or Shivarahasyagama Samgraha. The first Kashmiri Shaiva texts were written in the early ninth century CE. As a monistic tantric system, Trika Shaivism, as it is also known, draws teachings from shrutis, such as the monistic Bhairava Tantras, Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta, and also a unique version of the Bhagavad Gita which has a commentary by Abhinavagupta, known as the Gitartha Samgraha. Teachings are also drawn from the Tantraloka of Abhinavagupta, prominent among a vast body of smritis employed by Kashmir Shaivism.In general, the whole written tradition of Shaivism can be divided in three fundamental parts: Āgama Śāstra, Spanda Śāstra and Pratyabhijñā Śāstra. 1. Āgama Śāstra are those writings that are considered as being a direct revelation from Siva. These writings were first communicated orally, from the master to the worthy disciple. They include essential works such as Mālinīvijaya Tantra, Svacchanda Tantra, Vijñānabhairava Tantra, Netra Tantra, Mṛgendra Tantra, Rudrayāmala Tantra, Śivasūtra and others. There are also numerous commentaries to these works, Śivasūtra having most of them. 2. Spanda Śāstra, the main work of which is Spanda Kārikā of Vasugupta, with its many commentaries. Out of them, two are of major importance: Spanda Sandoha (this commentary talks only about the first verses of Spanda Kārikā), and Spanda Nirṇaya (which is a commentary of the complete text). 3. Pratyabhijñā Śāstra are those writings which have mainly a metaphysical content. Due to their extremely high spiritual and intellectual level, this part of the written tradition of Shaivism is the least accessible for the uninitiated. Nevertheless, this corpus of writings refer to the simplest and most direct modality of spiritual realization. Pratyabhijñā means "recognition" and refers to the spontaneous recognition of the divine nature hidden in each human being (atman). The most important works in this category are: Īśvara Pratyabhijñā, the fundamental work of Utpaladeva, andPratyabhijñā Vimarśinī, a commentary to Īśvara Pratyabhijñā. Īśvara Pratyabhijñā means in fact the direct recognition of the Lord (Īśvara) as identical to one's Heart. Before Utpaladeva, his master Somānanda wrote Śiva Dṛṣṭi (The Vision of Siva), a devotional poem written on multiple levels of meaning. All the four branches of the Kashmiri Shaivism tradition were put together by the great philosopher Abhinavagupta (approx. 950-1020 AD ). Among his important works, the most important is the Tantraloka ("The Divine Light of Tantra"), a work in verses which is a majestic synthesis of the whole tradition of monistic Shaivism. Abhinavagupta succeeded in smoothing out all the apparent differences and disparities that existed among the different branches and schools of Kashmir Shaivism before him. Thus he offers a unitary, coherent and complete vision of this system. Due to the exceptional length (5859 verses ) of Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta himself provided a shorter version in prose, called Tantrasara ("The Essence of Tantra").Another important Kashmiri Shaivite, Jayaratha (1150-1200 AD, ), added his commentary to Tantraloka, a task of great difficulty which was his life long pursuit.  He provided more context, numerous quotes and clarifications without which some passages from Tantraloka would be impossible to elucidate today.The term krama means 'progression','gradation' or 'succession' respectively meaning 'spiritual progression' or 'gradual refinement of the mental processes'(vikalpa),  or 'successive unfoldment taking place at the ultimate level', in the Supreme Consciousness (cit). Even if the Krama school is an integral part of Kashmir Shaivism, it is also an independent system both philosophically and historically.  Krama is significant as a synthesis of Tantra andŚākta traditions based on the monistic Śaivism.  As a Tantric and Śakti-oriented system  of a mystical flavor,  Krama is similar in some regards to Spanda as both center on the activity of Śakti, and also similar with Kula in their Tantric approach. Inside the family of Kashmir Shaivism, the Pratyabhijñā school is most different from Krama. The most distinctive feature of Krama is its monistic-dualistic (bhedābhedopāya) discipline in the stages precursory to spiritual realization. Even if Kashmir Shaivism is an idealistic monism, there is still a place for dualistic aspects as precursory stages on the spiritual path. So it is said that in practice Krama employs the dualistic-cum-nondualistic methods, yet in the underlying philosophy it remains nondualistic.  Krama has a positive epistemic bias,  aimed at forming a synthesis of enjoyment(bhoga) and illumination(mokṣa).The Spanda system, introduced by Vasugupta (c. 800 AD), is usually described as "vibration/movement of consciousness". Abhinavagupta uses the expression "some sort of movement" to imply the distinction from physical movement; it is rather a vibration or sound inside the Divine, a throb. The essence of this vibration is the ecstatic self-recurrent consciousness. The central tenet of this system is "everything is Spanda", both the objective exterior reality and the subjective world.  Nothing exists without movement,  yet the ultimate movement takes place not in space or time, but inside the Supreme Consciousness(cit). So, it is a cycle of internalization and externalization of consciousness itself,  relating to the most elevated plane in creation (Śiva-Śakti Tattva). In order to describe the connotations of the Spanda concept, a series of equivalent concepts are enumerated, such as: self recurrent consciousness - vimarśa,  unimpeded will of the Supreme Consciousness (cit) - svātantrya, supreme creative energy - visarga, heart of the divine - hṛdaya and ocean of light-consciousness cidānanda.The most important texts of the system are Śiva Sutras, Spanda Karika and Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra. Kashmir Shaivism went underground for a number of centuries. While there may have been yogis and practitioners quietly following the teachings, there were no major writers or publications after perhaps the 14th century. In the 20th century Swami Lakshmanjoo, himself a Kashmiri Brahmin, helped revive both the scholarly and yogic streams of Kashmir Shaivism.  His contribution is enormous. He inspired a generation of scholars who made Kashmir Shaivism a legitimate field of inquiry within the academy. Acharya Rameshwar Jha, a disciple of Swami Lakshmanjoo, is often credited with firmly establishing the roots of Kashmir Shaivism in the learned community of Varanasi. Rameshwar Jha with his extraordinary creativity, innate familiarity with the ancient texts and personal experiences was able to provide easy access to abstruse concepts of non dualistic Kashmir Shaivism to the layman and scholars alike. His original writings of sanskrit verses have been compiled and published as books Purnta Pratyabhijna  and SamitSwatantram. Nor should the contribution of Swami Muktananda be overlooked.  While himself not belonging to the direct lineage of Kashmir Shaivism, Muktananda felt a great affinity for the teachings which were validated by his own direct experience.  He encouraged and endorsed Motilal Banarsidass to publish Jaideva Singh's translations of Shiva Sutras, Pratyabhijnahrdayam, Spanda Karikas and Vijnana Bhairava. He also introduced Kashmir Shaivism to a wide audience of western meditators through his writings and lectures on the subject.