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Whispers of the Ultimate

Beliefs and nature seem to have a bearing on each other. Seated in the lofty hills of the Himalayas, the school of Kashmir Saivism too is just as lofty.

Some parts of Hindu mythology locate in the Himalayas, particularly those associated with the wor-ship of Lord Siva. Mountain Kailash is believed to be the abode of Siva. According to certain interpretations of Hindu cosmology, the origin of life itself took place only from Kailash.

With time, many schools arose that interpreted the texts and beliefs on Siva. One significant one among them is the school of Saivism of Kashmir. This school developed largely between the eighth and the twelfth centuries of the Christian era. On taking a closer look at this school, one finds it difficult to slot it into any of the already existing moulds. For, like the Advaita Vedanta, it is monistic, like Vaishnavism it is theistic, like Yoga it is practical, like Nayaya it is logical and like Buddhism it is appeasing. Kashmir Saivism is thus worth a closer look for it seems to narrow the distance between the ideal and the real.

To give a simple account of the base of Kashmir Saivism, one has to begin with the idea of the Vedas. Veda means knowledge. The Vedas form the bedrock of Hinduism and was transmitted to the rishis (seers). The vedas are eternal and the period of its origin cannot be determined. There are four in number, namely: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Saama Veda, and Atharva Veda. Among these, Atharva Veda is not used while performing yagyas. So, for all practical purposes, the Vedas that are in use now, are three in number. Hence, they are termed as Thrayee Veda. Siva forms the nucleus of the Veda. The Vedas are also supposed to be the breath of Siva.

Aagamaas refer to Saastras, spelt out by Siva himself. Siva spelt out the Aagamas, first to his consort, Parvati. The language that is employed in them is ancient Sanskrit. Again the period of the Aagamaas are equally indeterminable like the Vedas. Kashmir Saivism belongs to the Aagamas and not the Vedas.

Kashmir Saivism was nurtured by some of the most gifted Sanskrit savants, who lived between the 8th and the 13th century AD. It is a system of philosophy, religion and esoteric, and reconciliatory metaphysical positions. It has an immense appeal in its devotional fervour and aesthetic orientation. The scholarly treatises are much better known than the hymns.

During the 8th century AD, Somananda and Abhinavagupta introduced Kashmir Saivism. Shri Abhinavagupta also gives the historical account of monistic Kashmir Saivism in his extraordinary work Tantraloka.

The philosophy of Kashmir Saivism was taught by four great teachers namely Somananda, Erakanatha, Sumatinatha and Vasuguptanatha.

Somananda was a great contributor to Kashmir Saivism. His ideology was brought about in his book Siva Drishti, containing 700 slokas (verses). Although, the traditions might differ in terms of worship of God among the various cults in India, the ideology was always based on the Aagamaas. Kashmir Saivism is special because of the concept of Thrigam, meaning Triad. They are Pathy, Pasu, and Paasam. Pathy refers to the ruler, Siva. Pasu refers to the ruled, and Paasam refers to ignorance.

Aagama Saastra, Spuntha Saastra and Prithya Pinja Saastra explain the Thrigam.

Aagama Saastra:

Siva is the author of this Saastra. They contain Tantra Saastras numbering sixty-four. Though some of the Tantra Saastras may sound dualistic, they are nothing but Advaitic. Vasugupta made the first book on Kashmira Thriga Saastra called Siva Soothram. It deals with Saakta (mode of worship of Goddess) practices, and different modes to reach the Ultimate.

Spuntha Saastra:

Spuntha means a feeble movement. This feeble movement originates from Sakti. Vasugupta authored Spuntha Kaarigai or Spuntha Soothra, based on Siva Soothra.

Prithya-Pinja Saastra:

It is to cultivate a feeling that we are a part of Parameswaran, the Ultimate Siva. Somonanda initiated this Saastra.

There is a basic difference between Advaitic School of thought and Saivism. In Advaita, the ultimate is Brahmam, that is, still-in-nature with no change in form.

Whereas, in Saivism, Siva is full of life and is associated with Sakti. Siva is matter and Sakti is energy. There is no matter without energy. Thus, Siva and Shakti are unified. This is the principle of Ardha-Naree-Eswara, the right half of the form is Siva and the left half is Sakti. They are inseparable, and are together wherever they are. Sakti is the cause of every change that takes place.

Sakti is the basis for every manifestation, whether on an individual, or on the earth, or in the universe.

Siva is also active and is not a silent spectator. But he is freedom-oriented, and nothing can control him. All his actions are as per his wishes. He can create, he can nurture and he can also destroy anything. This freedom of his desire is Iswarya. Kashmir Saivism is based on this Iswarya. Perhaps, this is the reason, he is called as Eswaran. His five main forms of action are Chit Sakti, Aananda Sakti, Ichcha Sakti, Gnana Sakti and Kriya Sakti.

Chit Sakti refers to the capacity to produce without leaning on anything. It is called Swathanthram. It is resplendent in nature, and is in the form of Jyothi/light.

Aananda Sakti refers to the tendency of not depending on external factor for the purpose of creation.

Ichcha Sakti refers to the freedom to create, or to change anything as per the wish.

Gnana Sakti refers to have a dispassionate outlook and to understand the essence of the subject matter.

Kriya Sakti refers to the ability to act. The Thrigam belong to Iswarath-vaya-vaadham, an argument based on the conscious feeling that we are part of Iswara. The essence of Kashmir Saivism stems from the thought that Iswara and we, are not entirely different. We may be different from Him in the physical frame but internally we are a part of Iswara.