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The Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy is basically a non-dualistic philosophy wherein such a Supreme Truth has been conceived which is at once non-changeable, in-divisible, infinite, endless and transcending time, space and form, which is all pervading, yet above everything.  This truth has been variedly referred to as Chaitanya, Parasamvit, Parameshvara, or Param-Shiva.  This school of thought explains the creation as the manifestation of Param-Shiva through His energy (Shakti) aspect, which again is not different from Him.  It says that Param-Shiva is ‘I’ and the creation is ‘It’, and the process of creation is a journey from ‘I’ to ‘It’.  Conversely, the process of emancipation and self realisation is the journey from ‘It’ to ‘I’. 

Shiva has five faculties, those of Consciousness, Bliss, Desire, Knowledge and Action.  The entire Universe is an extension of these faculties of the Param-Shiva.  The opening and closing of his eyes cause creation  and destruction constantly and makes Shiva omniscient and all pervading.   

The creation according to this philosophy is a summation of thirty six elements which are briefly dealt with hereunder : 

The first group comprises five physical elements which are solid but distanced from the ultimate reality.  These are Earth, representing firmness or foundation, Water, representing fluidity, Fire, representing form, Air, representing flexibility and Ether, representing leisure.   

The second category is the five sense organs :  Organ of creation/generation, organ of ejection/evacuation, feet, the organs of movement/locomotion, arms, the organs for handling and mouth, the organ for speech. 

The third group is that of sense objects i.e. Smell, Taste, Sight, Touch, and Sound.  These are technically called ‘Tanmatras’.   

The fourth group is that of organs of perception or motor-organs, which in effect are the tools of enjoying ‘Tanmatras’.  These are the nose, the tongue, the eyes, the skin and the ears. 

The fifth group consists of the mind, the ego and the wisdom.  These are related to the intellect and therefore are referred to as internal organs of perception. 

The sixth group is represented by the duo of ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha’.  Prakriti or nature is at the root of feeling and compassion, and therefore causes action.  Purusha or the self is the one who experiences and is touched and moved.  Purusha is that state of Paramshiva which is circumscribed by art, knowledge, attachment, time and destiny.  Whereas time denotes a period, destiny refers to place, attachment shows affection and knowledge indicates limited vision and art the limited creativity.  These five elements cover this Purusha and renders him restricted and limited.  Along with these five elements, there is yet another element of Maya (a distinction has to be made between Maya in Kashmir Shaiva Darshan and that conceived by Adi-Shankaracharya).  This element causes forgetfulness, in-discrimination, and differentiation.  At this stage the Param Shiva shuns his Shiva-ness and adopts, of his own free will, the form of a worldly being and then gets engaged in the search for Shiva-hood. 

Thus far we have detailed thirty one elements.  The next two elements are peculiar to Kashmir Shaiva philosophy and unique in conception.  These are ‘Shuddha Vidya’ or pure knowledge and ‘Aishwarya’ the lordship.  The state of differentiating in non-different is also the state of pure knowledge.  In this state one perceives both “This is I” and “I am This” explained differently, the pure knowledge is a means to relate one with universal experience, and the Lordship is the state of perception of this universal experience.  These add up to thirty three elements. 

The thirty fourth element has been identified in this philosophy as Sada-Shiva Tatva.  By this element and in this state one is conscious of ones existence.  In other words, one feels “I am”.  Thus the pure non-dualism still remains distant at this stage because the knower, the knowledge and the object of knowledge, all the three have their existence.  This brings us to the thirty fifth called Shakti, or the energy, the power and the capacity.  This element helps in perceiving the universe. According to Kashmir Shaiva philosophy, the ultimate element (thirty sixth), that of Param-Shiva, is in effect the Supreme light and the universe is that which comes to light.  The power that converts the light into the object of light is the Shakti aspect of the Divine. 

This Param-Shiva is the perceiver and at this state, the object, the knower and the knowledge, all vanish and what remains is pure ‘I’.  This is the ultimate non-dualistic state in its purest form, conceived by the protagonists of this school of thought. 

What Vedanta terms as ‘Vivrita’ is considered unreal because it is in the nature of name-form (nama-roopa).  Kashmir Shaiva philosophy on the other hand, maintains that the entire creation is the manifestation and the perception of Param-Shiva and therefore, real.  Perception and manifestation of the real has necessarily to be real.  Param-Shiva is the embodiment of Bliss, Perfection and Freedom.  The creation exists in Him, in the form of thought and experience.  These elements are experienced by all of us knowingly or unknowingly as they are constantly in action.  We are in these elements and are formed by these elements.  This can be experienced through Yoga - the sum total of mental, ethical, spiritual and physical practices.  In His divided form the Param-Shiva is an Atom.  Human beings with their limitations are also atoms.  The actions and reactions of atoms make this universe.  The collectivity of these atoms forms a unit, and maybe called the master of elements.  To constantly experience this phenomena Yoga is helpful and essential because it is through Yoga that we can perceive integration and also dis-integration.   

To sum up, this school of thought believes that the Divine, which is pure light, of His own free will and by his own powers, appears in the form of the creation because the universe is nothing but a play of His own freedom.  The creation gives an indication of the mundane, the spiritual and the ethereal existence, whereas , the Divine indicates the light in the form of knowledge and manifestation in the form of action. 

It is believed that this knowledge, also referred to as ‘Trika Philosophy’ has emanated from Param-Shiva itself.  It was revealed originally by Durvasa Rishi and subsequently by Shaiva scholar Vasugupta, who observed the tenets of this philosophy, inscribed on a rock in Kashmir.  Later these were explained in a condensed form by another Acharya, Utpal Deva in his famous work called Spandakarika.  This established a thought process which was eventually named as Spanda school of Kashmir Shaiva Darshan.  Many a great scholar and Acharya followed who wrote commentaries and treatises like Shivadrishti, expounding this philosophy.  Then came the great Abhinavaguptapada on the scene.  He wrote several monumental works including ‘Tantralok’, ‘Paramarthasara’, Pratibhijna darshan’ etc..  A  new direction was given to this philosophy and this stream was called Pratibhijna school of thought.  Kashmir Shaiva Darshan is a unique blend of Bhakti and Jnana, which would be clear from a study of another great work called Shivastotravali. 

Let us bow in reverence to that Param-Shiva of whom Spandakarika says 

Yasyonmeshanimeshabhyam, Jagatah pralayodayav,
Tam, shakti - chakravibhava prabhavam Shankaram stumah.  

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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