What is Kashmir Shaivism? - Samma Karuna
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The Pratyabhijñā school of nondual Kashmiri Śaivism, created by Utpaladeva (c. 900–c. 950 CE) and Abhinavagupta (c. 950–c. 1025 CE), was the most salient philosophical tradition to emerge from Hindu Tantra. The Pratyabhijñā epistemology interprets the God Śiva’s emanation and control of the universe through his power and consort Śakti as self-recognition which transcendentally grounds human knowledge. The ontology conceives being or existence as constituted by God’s action. Other noteworthy features of the Pratyabhijñā are theorization on the relation of philosophical rationality and religion, the semantics and syntax of agency and indexicals, philosophical psychology, and epistemic diversity.

Kashmir Shaivism claimed to supersede Shaiva Siddhanta, a dualistic tradition which scholars consider normative tantric Shaivism. The Shaiva Siddhanta goal of becoming an ontologically distinct Shiva (through Shiva’s grace) was replaced by recognizing oneself as Shiva who, in Kashmir Shaivism’s monism, is the entirety of the universe.

To attain moksha, sādhana or spiritual practice is necessary. Kashmir Shaivism describes four methods:

  1. āṇavopāya, the method of the body,
  2. śaktopāya, the method of the mind,
  3. śāmbhavopāya, the method of Consciousness,
  4. anupāya the ‘methodless’ method.

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 Gītā which has a commentary by Abhinavagupta, known as the Gitartha Samgraha. Teachings are also drawn from the Tantrāloka 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: Āgama Śāstra, Spanda Śāstra and Pratyabhijñā Śāstra.

  1. Āgama Śāstra 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 Mālinīvijaya Tantra, Svacchanda Tantra, Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, Netra Tantra, Mṛgendra Tantra, Rudrayāmala Tantra, Śivasūtra and others.
  1. Spanda Śāstra, the main work of which is Spanda Kārikā of Bhatta Kallata, a disciple 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 Kārikā), and Spanda Nirṇaya (which is a commentary of the complete text).
  1. Pratyabhijñā Śāstra 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 refers to the simplest and most direct modality of spiritual realization. Pratyabhijñā means “recognition” and refers to the spontaneous recognition of the divine nature hidden in each human being. The most important works in this category are: Īśvara Pratyabhijñā, the fundamental work of Utpaladeva, and Pratyabhijñā Vimarśinī, a commentary to Īśvara Pratyabhijñā. Īśvara Pratyabhijñā means, in fact, the direct recognition of the Lord as identical to one’s Heart.

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