Included within the broad umbrella of the various Hindu philosophies, Ka?mir ?aivism is a school of ?aivism categorized by various scholars as monistic idealism (absolute idealism, theistic monism, realistic idealism, transcendental physicalism or concrete monism). In other words, there is only one reality, that is Cit - consciousness. The world and the souls are identical to Cit. Matter is not separated from consciousness, but rather identical to it. There is no gap between God and the world, including living beings. The world is not an illusion (as in Advaita Vedanta), only the perception of duality is the illusion.
Kashmir Shaivism arose during the eighth or ninth century CE. in Kashmir and made significant strides, both philosophical and theological, until the end of the twelfth century CE. Kashmir Shaivism is remarkable through its ethos and orientation, a veritable cosmography of consciousness.
Kashmir Shaivism is the philosophical basis for Hindu tantra, which is symbolized by the Shri Yantra.
As the philosophy of Ka?mir ?aivism is deeply rooted in the Tantras, the lineage of Ka?mir ?aivism begins with ?iva himself. According to tradition, as the knowledge of the Tantras were lost by the time of Kali Yuga, ?iva took the form of ?rikanthanath at Mt. Kaila?a, where he fully initiated, into all forms of the Tantrika knowledge, including abheda (without differentiation), bhedabheda (with and without differentiation), and bheda (differentiated), as described in the Bhairava Tantras, Rudra Tantras, and ?iva Tantras, respectively. intensely meditated in the hope of finding an adequate pupil to initiate, but failed to do so. Instead, he created three "mind-born" sons, and initiated the first son, Tryambaka fully into the monistic abheda philosophy of the Bhairava Tantras; this is known as Ka?mir ?aivism.
Anuttara is the ultimate principle in Kashmir Shaivism, and as such, it is the fundamental reality underneath the whole universe. Among the multiple interpretations of anuttara are: "supreme", "above all" and "unsurpassed reality". In the Sanskrit alphabet anuttara is associated to the first letter - "A" (in devanagari "?"). As the ultimate principle, anuttara is identified with ?iva, ?akti (as ?akti is identical to ?iva), the supreme consciousness (cit), uncreated light (prak??a), supreme subject (aham) and atemporal vibration (spanda). The practitioner who realized anuttara is considered to be above the need for gradual practice, in possession of an instantaneous realization and perfect freedom (sv?tantrya). Anuttara is different from the notion of transcendence in that, even though it is above all, it does not imply a state of separation from the universe.
Aham is the concept of supreme reality as heart. It is considered to be a non-dual interior space of ?iva, support for the entire manifestation, supreme mantra and identical to ?akti.
Kaula is a complex notion primarily translated as family or group. On various levels there exist such structures formed of many parts, interconnected and complementary. They are called families on account of having a common unifying bond, which is ultimately the Supreme Lord, ?iva. The practices related to Kaula are very obscure and mystical and the focus is away from much philosophical tinkering and more into immediate experimentation. In essence, Kaula is a form of body alchemy where the lower aspects of one's being are dissolved into the higher ones, as they all are considered to form a unified group (a kula) which relies on ?iva as ultimate support.
The first great initiate recorded in history of this spiritual path was Vasugupta (c. 875-925). Vasugupta formulated for the first time in writing the principles and main doctrines of this system.
A fundamental work of Shaivism, traditionally attributed to Vasugupta, is the Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta. Traditionally these sutras are considered to have been revealed to Vasugupta by Shiva. According to myth, Vasugupta had a dream in which Shiva told him to go to the mountain in Kashmir. On this mountain he is said to have found verses inscribed on a rock, the Shiva Sutras, which outline the teachings of Shaiva monism. This text is one of the key sources for Kashmir Shaivism. The work is a collection of aphorisms. The sutras expound a purely non-dual (advaita) metaphysics. These sutras, which are classifed as a type of Hindu scripture known as agamas, are also known as the Shiva Upanishad Samgraha (Sanskrit: '') or Shivarahasyagama Samgraha''.
The first Kashmiri Shaiva texts were written in the early ninth century CE.
As a monistic tantric system, Trika Shaivism, as it is also known, draws teachings from shrutis, such as the monistic Bhairava Tantras, Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta, and also a unique version of the Bhagavad Gita which has a commentary by Abhinavagupta, known as the Gitartha Samgraha. Teachings are also drawn from the Tantraloka of Abhinavagupta, prominent among a vast body of smritis employed by Kashmir Shaivism.
In general, the whole written tradition of Shaivism can be divided in three fundamental parts: ?gama ??stra, Spanda ??stra and Pratyabhij˝? ??stra.
1. ?gama ??stra are those writings that are considered as being a direct revelation from Siva. These writings were first communicated orally, from the master to the worthy disciple. They include essential works such as M?lin?vijaya Tantra, Svacchanda Tantra, Vij˝?nabhairava Tantra, Netra Tantra, '', Rudray?mala Tantra, ?ivas?tra and others. There are also numerous commentaries to these works, ?ivas?tra'' having most of them.
2. Spanda ??stra, the main work of which is Spanda K?rik? of Vasugupta, with its many commentaries. Out of them, two are of major importance: Spanda Sandoha (this commentary talks only about the first verses of Spanda K?rik?), and '''' (which is a commentary of the complete text).
3. Pratyabhij˝? ??stra are those writings which have mainly a metaphysical content. Due to their extremely high spiritual and intellectual level, this part of the written tradition of Shaivism is the least accessible for the uninitiated. Nevertheless, this corpus of writings refer to the simplest and most direct modality of spiritual realization. Pratyabhij˝? means "recognition" and refers to the spontaneous recognition of the divine nature hidden in each human being (atman). The most important works in this category are: ??vara Pratyabhij˝?, the fundamental work of Utpaladeva, and Pratyabhij˝? Vimar?in?, a commentary to ??vara Pratyabhij˝?. ??vara Pratyabhij˝? means in fact the direct recognition of the Lord (??vara'') as identical to one's Heart. Before Utpaladeva, his master Som?nanda wrote '' (The Vision of Siva''), a devotional poem written on multiple levels of meaning.
All the four branches of the Kashmiri Shaivism tradition were put together by the great philosopher Abhinavagupta (approx. 950-1020 AD). Among his important works, the most important is the Tantraloka ("The Divine Light of Tantra"), a work in verses which is a majestic synthesis of the whole tradition of monistic Shaivism. Abhinavagupta succeeded in smoothing out all the apparent differences and disparities that existed among the different branches and schools of Kashmir Shaivism of before him. Thus he offers a unitary, coherent and complete vision of this system. Due to the exceptional length (5859 verses) of Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta himself provided a shorter version in prose, called Tantrasara ("The Essence of Tantra").
Another important Kashmiri Shaivite, Jayaratha (1150-1200 AD, ), added his commentary to Tantraloka, a task of great difficulty which was his life long pursuit. He provided more context, numerous quotes and clarifications without which some passages from Tantraloka would be impossible to elucidate today.
The term 'krama' means 'progression','gradation' or 'succession' respectively meaning 'spiritual progression' or 'gradual refinement of the mental processes'(vikalpa), or 'successive unfoldment taking place at the ultimate level', in the Supreme Consciousness (cit).
Even if the Krama school is an integral part of Kashmir Shaivism, it is also an independent system both philosophically and historically. Krama is significant as a synthesis of Tantra and ??kta traditions based on the monistic ?aivism. As a Tantric and ?akti-oriented system of a mystical flavor, Krama is similar in some regards to Spanda as both center on the activity of ?akti, and also similar with Kula in their Tantric approach. Inside the family of Kashmir Shaivism, the Pratyabhij˝? school is most different form Krama.
The most distinctive feature of Krama is its monistic-dualistic (bhed?bhedop?ya) discipline in the stages precursory to spiritual realization. Even if Kashmir Shaivism is an idealistic monism, there is still a place for dualistic aspects as precursory stages on the spiritual path. So it is said that in practice Krama employs the dualistic-cum-nondualistic methods, yet in the underlying philosophy it remains nondualistic. Krama has a positive epistemic bias, aimed at forming a synthesis of enjoyment(bhoga) and illumination(mok?a).
Another very important school of Kashmir Shaivism, Kula (or Kaula), in Sanskrit, means 'family' or 'totality'. This is a tantric (left hand) school par excellence, and here ?akti plays a paramount role. The Kaula teachings make the skeleton of Tantr?loka and Tantras?ra. Among all his spiritual masters, Abhinavagupta mentions more often and considers the most important ?ambhunatha, a guru of the 'Kaula School . (Abhinavagupta also had other masters, for example Laksmanagupta).
The Spanda system, introduced by Vasugupta (c. 800 AD), is usually described as "vibration/movement of consciousness". Abhinavagupta uses the expression "some sort of movement" to imply the distinction from physical movement; it is rather a vibration or sound inside the Divine, a throb. The essence of this vibration is the ecstatic self-recurrent consciousness.
The central tenet of this system is "everything is Spanda", both the objective exterior reality and the subjective world. Nothing exists without movement, yet the ultimate movement takes place not in space or time, but inside the Supreme Consciousness(cit). So, it is a cycle of internalization and externalization of consciousness itself, relating to the most elevated plane in creation (?iva-?akti Tattva).
In order to describe the connotations of the Spanda concept, a series of equivalent concepts are enumerated, such as: self recurrent consciousness - vimar?a, unimpeded will of the Supreme Consciousness (cit) - sv?tantrya, supreme creative energy - visarga, heart of the divine - h?daya and ocean of light-consciousness - cid?nanda.
The most important texts of the system are ?iva Sutras, Spanda Karika and Vij˝?na Bhairava Tantra.
The Pratyabhij˝a school, which in Sanskrit, literally means "spontaneous recognition" is a unique school, as it does not have any up?yas (means), that is, there is nothing to practice; the only thing to do is recognize who you are. This "means" can actually be called anup?ya, Sanskrit for "without means".
Though this school thrived until the beginning of the Kali Yuga, it was eventually lost due to a lack of understanding of the school, until, in the 8th Century CE, the Kashmir Shaivite master, Somananda revived the system.
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