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Kashmir Shaivism

By Dr. Virendra Kazi

We Seek the Grace of Lalleshwari (Lal-Ded)
While expounding the relevance of Kashmir Shaivism our deepest gratitude goes to Lalleshwari (14th century saint poetess), whose teachings give a unique opportunity to have insight into this mystic philosophy. She conveyed its essence in a simple way for benefit of the humanity. Let us open our heart to her, submit to her and seek her grace.
This unique philosophy is fascinating the world because it addresses these very issues, which are quite relevant to present times. It leads to highest level of self-realisation. It gives a practical art of living because all the aspects of life are integrated and taken in totality. Thus, rather than negation and denial, it celebrates life. A thrill of self confidence, the spirit of bliss, surpassing all barriers of creed, colour and gender, no look back, no regret, the inner journey, see everything as creation of God, etc.- these are features of Kashmir Shaivism. It can create upliftment at individual level and lead to love and harmonious World.

Param Shiva – The Ultimate Source
Param Shiva is the ultimate reality who is the nature of Bliss itself and all complete in Himself. He is beyond description, beyond all manifestation, beyond limitation of form, time and space. He is eternal, infinite, all pervading, all knowing and all powerful.

Process of Universal Manifestation -from Godhood to Manhod
From Param Shiva let us come to universal manifestation; let us have a look at this creation of Lord. Kashmir Shaivism postulates 36 categories or tattvas to explain the process of cosmic evolution. We should keenly focus our attention on this process of universal evolution or universal experience, i.e., from Godhood 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.

Shiva Tattva is first manifestation of divine process and support of all things in the manifest world, like the canvas of a painting.

Shakti Tattva 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.

Purusha and Prakriti is limited being and his nature due to limitations of Maya. This leads to various mental operations, ascertaining intelligence, sense perceptions, etc. The process is complete finally with the gross Panch Mahabutas as referred above.

Bondage and Liberation through Divine Grace (Shaktipath).
What is source of pain and frustration- duality and moving away from Godhood! Frankly, it is individual’s self-forgetfulness or ignorance of his/her own perfection. Rather, the Divine Sport makes him/her accept limited desires and experience their consequences, thus leading from bondage to bondage. So, it is natural that we must strive from bondage to liberation or moksha and go back to Godhood. For this there has to be Shaktipath- the descent of Divine Grace. However it must always be remembered that descent of the Divine Grace - Shaktipath - is independent of human efforts.

Ways to earn Divine Grace - Trika Yoga.
In order to earn Grace, one has to undergo spiritual discipline, known as Upyas or Trika Yoga. 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.

The aim is to undergo a practice which unites the Individual with the Universal” by means of interesting and blissful practices as taught in Shaiva scriptures. 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.

Depending upon potential of individual the practices (Yoga) have been categorised as supreme, higher, medium or inferior means.

Anupaya: This yoga is supreme means- immediate through the speediest descent of God’s grace. So in this path to liberation no active process on the part of the individual is involved.

Shambhopaya It is for advanced aspirants, who by mere orientation of will, meditate on Shiv Tattva (pure consciousness). An aspirant discovers the pure transcendential aspect of his self in that state. In beginning it involves practice of maintaining the constant awareness that the universe is nothing but Chiti (consciousness). Even this must ultimately be overcome as all mental activities stop and mind shines without any flutter of ideas. All this happens by means of intuition and not by means of thinking or understanding capacities, both of which become absorbed in the pure lusture of consciousness of the self in that state.

Shaktopaya Here the primary concern is to realise the self through knowledge, meditation and contemplation of ideas such as Shivoham (I am Lord Shiva). Mental activity plays an important role. A regular practice in mental repetition of the exactly correct nature of the real self leads to pure and limitless consciousness in one self. Perfection in Shakta Yoga makes a person fit for the practice of next higher yoga-Sambhava yoga.

AnayopayaThis is for those who are not competent to practice the two higher type of yoga. This is also called Kriya (action) Yoga and is useful to those who live in the field of Maya. Anava yoga is of several categories because we imagine certain objective elements as identical with Shiva so as to feel His omnipresence. Some of these may be near to oneself some farther like budhi (ascertaining intelligence) being nearest to self, then prana (the life force), next deha (the physical body) and still further sthana (the phenomenal universe consisting of time space and elements which have their place in them).
Accordingly, among the various forms of Anava yoga, the first one is Dhyana Yoga which is contemplation on forms, sounds or meanings, the latter being more useful.
Uccara Yoga is concentration on the flow of breath with the understanding that they are nothing other than one’s own inner self. With practice one focuses on the subtle power of prana/apana working in its functions. This technique being comparatively simple is quite popular with Buddhists. In Karana Yoga an aspirant maintains one pointedness/awareness towards particular object. With practice the perception vanishes and the aspirant enters into the vastness of the center. Physical postures are to be accompanied by special form of contemplation which will help students realise the absolute divinity of their own nature.
Sthana Kalpana is meditation on entities outside the person and this yoga carries practioner out of the limitations of time into eternity.

Vihan Bhairav Tantra
This is an ancient book on the 112 types of yoga, which goes directly to the heart of the problem of the union of human consciosness with the Divine , avoiding mechanical worship, external rites and ceremonies. This mystic approach makes full use of all the aspects of human life- prana, manas, imagination and intuition. This fascinating Tantra is versatile with so many ways of approach to central reality that is present in each person as his essential self.

Unique Features of Kashmir Shaivism
Kashmir Shaivism accepts a great challenge because it addresses life and cosmic manifestation in totality. Indeed, it is comprehensive and accepts everything. Maya (manifested world) is not illusion. The universe is Siva-rupa and, therefore, real. It is the display of the glory of the Divine.
The process can be called “Recognition of the Self”. The Ultimate Reality (Param Shiva) voluntarily adopts self-veiling and becomes jiva (bonded soul). The problem for jiva is to recognise him/her self as Shiva. We have learned about the great descent from Godhood to manhood and how jiva can recognise himself as Shiva and become liberated.

Kashmir Shaivism adopts a realistic and utilitarian attitude. It relies on three fold authority of
(a) divine scriptures,
(b)experienced preceptors and
(c) self-experience, which is given high importance.
In fact, an aspirant is allowed to adopt any system of practice in accordance with his individual psycho-physical aptitudes.

Relevance and Action Plan
This philosophy inspires us for both material and spiritul 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 realize 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 Mahabharata 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 person we should be totally in world yet totally liberated from within. This example incorporated in our lives will definitely create an inspiration for others. We have emphasised the personal experience for self-recognition leading to self-realisation. One may chose to continue with present tradition and slowly try to orient to some of blissful methods. The various means present versitility so that one develops rapport and discovers thrill with this philosophy.
In conclusion, 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.

Let us Interact and Communicate We have explained the descend of Grace (Shaktipath) is independent of human effort. Lot of people have been suddenly transformed. Therefore, we should be lavish in communicating this mystic knowledge to maximum people. Everybody is most welcome to interact, seek any detail or share an experience.

For further information, please contact the author of this piece Dr. Virendra Qazi. His email address is

Return to Other Pages

Classical Indian Dances
Pictures of Classical Indian Dance
Read about Vaishnodevi
Some Indian Folk Dances including Dumhal and Rouff of Kashmir

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