Kashmiri Shaivism

Kashmiri Shaivism
(est. ninth century)
   Kashmiri SHAIVISM includes the philosophies and practices of the ADVAITA (non-dual) Shaivite tradi-tions that flourished in Kashmir from approx-imately the ninth to the 13th centuries C.E. Kashmiri Shaivism describes ultimate reality as Paramashiva, or supreme Shiva, and teaches that nothing exists that is not one with Paramashiva. All of reality, with all of its diversity and fluctua-tion, is the play of this single principle. The two aspects of this single reality are inseparably united: SHIVA and SHAKTI. Shiva is the self-luminous, static consciousness, and Shakti is the dynamic, blissful power of awareness. Through their union, the universe is constantly established, sustained, and withdrawn.
   Kashmiri Shaivism also teaches that Para-mashiva is the true nature and Self of every human being. Through self-effort and divine grace individuals can know both their Self and the world around them as supreme Shiva. A being who lives with the constant experience of this is jivanmukta, liberated in this lifetime.
   Within Kashmiri Shaivism, the most crucial element of this journey to liberation is the relation-ship between the GURU and the disciple. The dis-ciple receives SHAKTIPAT, the descent of divine grace or power, from the guru. This essential initiation awakens the dormant spiritual energy within the individual called KUNDALINI Shakti, and ultimately leads to the realization of Paramashiva.
   The earliest texts of Kashmiri Shaivism have no known human authors and are considered revealed sacred texts. According to tradition, in the ninth century C.E. Shiva revealed to Vasugupta the Shiva Sutra, a text composed of aphorisms that presents the early teachings of Kashmiri Shaivism. The Spanda Karika, whose authorship is attributed to either Vasugupta himself or his disciple Kalat-tabhatta, expands upon the teachings in the Shiva Sutra. In particular, the Spanda Karika describes the nature of Paramashiva as spanda, the divine pulsation or vibration. Paramashiva’s nature is to expand and contract, and thereby to emanate and withdraw the universe on both a cosmic and a mundane level. A disciple can thus realize Shiva as his or her own nature by perceiving vibration as part of his or her own experience.
   Somananda and his disciple Utpaladeva developed Kashmiri Shaivism further by estab-lishing the teaching of pratyabhijna, the recogni-tion of Shiva as one’s own Self. They describe the experience of liberation as this recognition. Somananda first introduced this teaching in his work Soma Drishti, and Utpaladeva systemati-cally presented it in his writings, including the Pratyabhijnakarika.
   Kashmiri Shaivism reached its creative climax with the teachings of ABHINAVAGUPTA and his dis-ciple Kshemaraja in the 10th and 11th centuries. In his magnum opus, Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta encompasses almost every aspect of Kashmiri Shaivism and gives the most sophisticated and comprehensive expression of its teachings. Ksh-emaraja continued his work and made Kashmiri Shaivism more accessible to wider audiences through commentaries and digests.
   Kashmiri Shaivism has continued to influence and inspire people in India and throughout the world. Leading modern exponents include Swami LAKSHMANJOO (1907–91), who was raised and taught in the oral tradition of Kashmir, and Swami MUKTANANDA (1908–82), who traveled through-out the world sharing the teachings of Kashmiri Shaivism.
   Further reading: J. C. Chatterji, Kashmir Shaivism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986); Mark Dyczkowski, The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of the Doctrines and Practices of Kashmir Shaivism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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