Kashmir Shaivism - An Introduction

Kashmir Shaivism is a theological and philosophical system that has its roots in the Tantric worldview. Some scholars now prefer to call it non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir while others prefer Trika Shastra or Trika Shaivism as its name.  It emerged from the numerous cults of Tantric Shaivism, preceptorial lines and Shaivagamic textual traditions  that evolved, developed and flourished in Kashmir from as early as the 5th century CE.

Instructor: SS Toshkhani

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Suggested Time

2 weeks







Unit 1: Synoptic View

Origins 27 min

At the beginning of the 9th century non-dual Shaivism witnessed a new upsurge when the Shiva Sutras were revealed to the sage Vasugupta by none else than Shiva himself.   What distinguishes this system of philosophy is its monistic vision that sees the relationship between Man, World and God essentially as that of oneness.  Kashmir Shaivism perceives the Ultimate Reality as one pure, undifferentiated and infinite consciousness, which it calls Parama Shiva, with its creative and active power vibrating in every atom of the universe.
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Unit 2: Shakti & Doctrines

Knowledge and Action 19 min

As Shiva’s inherent power, Shakti is known to have two aspects: the Power of Knowledge, Jnana Shakti and the Power of Action or or kriya shakti. These two powers are not separate or incompatible. They are complimentary aspects of Shiva’s infinite power. An important aspect of Kashmir Shaivism is that it does not accept any dichotomy between Jnana or knowledge and kriya or action. It recognizes both as aspects of Shiva’s inherent power, Shakti.
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Pratyabhijna and Spanda 5 min

Pratyabhijna (प्रतिभिज्ञा) and Spanda (स्पन्द), are two most important doctrines of contemporary Shaivism which emerged from the  process of systemization of non-dual Shaivism as a philosophy of consciousness. Pratyabhijna or the theory of self-recognition reveals to us our identity with Shiva who as absolute consciousness is the ground reality, while Shakti Shiva’s own power of self-reflecting consciousness is the source of all emanation.
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Unit 3: Impurities & Liberation

The Three Impurities 19 min

The human individual is thus Shiva himself in bondage. After going through the sweep of the 36 tattva-s that represent the descent of consciousness into matter, Shiva suffers as he undergoes the process of self-limitation or contraction (samkocha) set into motion by Maya.  Under the spell of this self-imposed obscuration, he forgets his real nature as Shiva and is reduced to a state where his powers of will, knowledge and action are extremely limited and vitiated.
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Liberation 16 min

In his Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta divides under four, or rather three, categories which he calls  “jnanacahtushtaya” or upaya-s (उपाय). Regarded as the most important constituents of Shaiva praxis,n these for upaya-s or means of liberation are: Anavopaya (अनवोपाया) or the physical technique, Shaktopaya (शक्तोपाय) or the technique involving mental activity, Shambhavopaya (शाम्भावोपाय)or the technique where will is involved  -- the method to achieve the state of Shiva’s own state -- and Anupaya (अनुपाय) or no technique.
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Unit 4: More Theories

3 Essential Concepts 17 min

Kashmir Shaivism does not, however, consider self-effort alone sufficient for the aspirant to achieve the desired goal. It holds anugraha or divine grace as a decisive factor in removing the basic ignorance that transforms Parama Shiva into an anu or a limited individual. It is through the bestowal of grace that he cuts through the veil of self-imposed ignorance and restores his original divine nature.
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