The Advaita Saiva philosophy of Kashmir, traditionally known by various names such as
Trikasasana, Trikasastra, Sadardhasastra, Pratyabhijnasastra or Rahasya Sampradaya,
popularly called Kashmir Shaivism, embodies the highest spiritual wisdom gleaned from the
Saiva and the Saktagamas interpreted by the Advaita Saivacaryas to yield non-dualistic
meaning. When I was studying some important texts in Sanskrit more than fifty years ago with
the well known savant Mahamahopadhyaya Pandit Gopinath Kaviraj at Varanasi for many years
for writing my Ph.D. dissertation on ‘The Philosophy of Sadhana’, I heard him many times
that this spiritual philosophy represents the acme in the development of Indian spiritual
thought. Very often he used to cite many parallels from the spiritual thought of other
religions of the world, e.g. Coptic Christianity, the Greek Orthodox Churchm, Catholic
Christianity, Sufism, Judaism, etc. to show the universal character of the Advaita Saiva
spiritual thought. A few years before he left his mortal remains at Varanasi, he asked me to
continue studying Advaita Saiva philosophy and disseminate its sublime thought in the world
through my writings. I am following my revered Guru’s command in letter and spirit all these
years. The present book represents my humble contribution in that direction.
This book is broadly divided under two parts – Book One, Historical, describing
briefly the origin and development of the Saiva thought in general, and the Advaita Saiva
thought in Kashmir in particular; Book Two discussing under four chapters various aspects of
the metaphysical thought of this school. I have focussed my attention on those metaphysical
ideas projected by the Advaita Saiva writers that appear to be novel and as innovations, and
as such, marking their distinct contributions to Indian philosophical thought.
The Advaita Saivas are the staunch protagonists of the theory of integral
non-dualism (akhandadvaitavada). The second chapter, entitled ‘Nature of the Supreme
Reality’, opens with the examination of this particular kind of non-dualism and its
implication in the metaphysical field vis-à-vis other forms of non-dualism projected by
other schools of Indian philosophy. The Advaita Saivas describe the nature of the Supreme
Reality one without a second, in two different ways namely, as Caitanya or Samvid as an
abstract metphysical principle (nirakara tattva) as well as Parama Siva and Paramesvara
possessing a form (sakara Being). The justification for their delineation of the Supreme
Reality in two divergent forms side by side has been stated in this chapter. The Advaita
Saiva philosophers describe the Supreme Reality as the transcendent Absolute (anuttara) and
at the same time as all-pervasive Reality (Visvatmaka) – a metaphysical theory not seen
elsewhere in any other school of Indian philosophy. Their integral approach in their views
is reflected in their conceiving the ultimate Reality being endowed with Divine Sakti as
The theory of creation figures in the metaphysical thought projections of all
schools of Indian philosophy. The Advaita Saiva philosophers have not only shed light on the
process of the world manifestation in the conventional way, they have added a new dimension
to it by describing it in terms of involution (avaroha) on the part of Caitanya to the gross
level of matter, or as the unfoldment (unmesa) on the part of the Supreme Lord (Paramesvara)
out of His free will (Svacchaya), exercising His svatantrya sakti’ or as His self extension
in the aspect of His Sakti (svasaktisphara). It may be pointed out that the manifestation of
the universe is universally recognized in all theistic schools of Indian philosophy as
divine Play (Lila) on the par of the Godhead. While agreeing with this description in
principle, the Advaita Saivas modify slightly the idea of divine Play by using the metaphor
of drama (jagannataka). They describe the world manifestation as a drama enacted by Parama
Siva, playing the role of Nataraja and also participating actively therein assuming
different roles (bhumika) and experiencing ecstatic delight (ananda) – a fact which may also
be regarded as the motivating force in His self-manifestation as the Universe. All these
novel ideas relating to creation have been explained in the third chapter.
The fourth chapter discusses the mature of man, a key figure in the world
manifestation, and also evaluates his status in the creation. It has been stated that
embodied man is the self-contracted form of the Supreme Lord (Paramesvara) who is enveloped
by the veil of maya and her progeny of five sheaths (kancukas) and enwrapped
bypsycho-physical frame-work, i.e. the body caused by a defilement called karmamala. The
Advaita Saiva philosophers mention seven different kinds of experients or subjects
(pramata), a concept unique in the annals of Indian philosophy. The nature of these
experients embodied, unembodied, and disembodied has been exposed. Light also has been shed
on the theory of twofold ignorance, technically called bauddha ajnana (ignorance about the
nature of the self, having its seat in the intellect) and paurusa ajnana (ignorance arising
from self-contraction) and their counterparts, the paurusa jnana and the bauddha jnana.
Abhinavagupta, the celebrated exponent of the Advaita Saiva thought has described the
process of universal manifestation in terms of denoted (vacaka) and donoter (vacya). The
denoted is represented by the thirty-six tattvas and different modes of the functioning of
the divine Sakti while the denoter (vacya) is symbolized by the pulsations of the divine
Sakti (spanda) underlying all tattvas, described in terms of matrka varnas, i.e. letters of
the devanagari alphabet (varnamala) beginning with ‘a’ varna and ending with ‘ha’ varna. The
deeper meaning of this esoteric concept and its implications can be understood when the
nature of purnahamta (putre I-experience indicative of the Fullness nature of the Self) is
examined. This concept has been discussed in this chapter. The nature of sahakas’
self-experience as Sivo ‘ham (I am Siva), involving this concept of purnahamta, has also
Some key concepts like the nature of citta (the ‘mirror’ of all experiences), kala
(time), desa (space), all belonging to the domain of metaphysics, and prana (vital air), its
origin and role in life in the mundane plane and the spiritual practices, the nature of
mantra (sacred words) and its application in spiritual practices – all related to sadhana –
constitute the subject matter of the concluding fifth chapter. I have included these topics
in this book dealing with the philosophy of the Advaita Saiva school of Kashmir for two
reasons – one, the spiritual discipline forms an integral part of the religio-philosophical
thought of this school, and our knowledge of the philosophy of this school would remain
incomplete if we exclude these key concepts from our exposition; two, the examination of
these key concepts would enable us to highlight the contribution made by this school to
enrich our ancient spiritual heritage. It may be mentioned here that generally these topics
do not find place in the books on the philosophy of this school.
I must first acknowledge my debt of gratitude to the revered Swami Chidvilasananda,
popularly known among her disciples as Gurumayi, for encouraging me to continue my studies
in the field of Kashmir Saivism and showering her blessings on me. I am grateful to her for
allowing me to dedicate this book to her as my humble offering with profound respects.
I am deeply indebted to my Guru late Mahamahopadhyaya Gopinath Kaviraj for
initiating me in the study of abstruse texts on the Advaita Saiva philosophy of Kashmir and
giving me insight in grasping the deep spiritual meaning encoded in them; to the late Dr.
Kanti Chandra Pandey for his learned pioneering work in the field of this school; to the
late revered Swami Lakshman Joo for providing with authentic and lucid exposition of
subjects pertaining to sadhana.
I am grateful to all my teachers Professor Arabinda Basu and Professor Gobinda Gopal
Mukhopadhyaya, the latter in particular for encouraging me to write this book and for going
through the first drafts and giving me many valuable suggestions.
I express my gratefulness to Mr. Alvaro Enterria, Publications Director of Indica
Books, and Mr. Michael Ianuzielo working there, for carefully going through the manuscript,
editing the text and suggesting many improvements in the book. I am also indebted to Shri
D.K. Jaiswal, Director of Indica Books, for kindly undertaking the publication of this book
and seeing it through the press.
Last but not the least, I am also thankful to my wife Mrs. Dipika Sensharma, my
daughters Alakananda and Madhucchanda and my grand-daughter Pratyusha.
I am conscious of my limitations for which I solicit apology from my readers.
Despite all care, many errors in printing might have crept in for which I crave their
Back of the Book
Ancient Indian tradition traces the origin of the Saiva cult to the Agamic thought current.
The emergence of the Trika school of Saivism in Kashmir marks the climax in the development
of the Advaita Saiva thought, being backed up by a rich Sanskrit literature. The doctrine of
recognition (pratyabhijna) constitutes the cardinal doctrine in the philosophy of the
Advaita Saiva School. The sadhaka (spiritual seeker) has to try to discover his real being
by removing the various veils, to thereafter recognize his true essence.
The Advaita Saivas describe the nature of the Supreme Reality, one without a second,
in two different ways namely, as Caitanyaor Samvidas an abstract metaphysical principle
(nirakara tattva) as well as Parama Siva and Paramesvara possessing a form (sakara Being)
They also describe the Supreme Reality as the transcendent Absolute (anuttara) and at the
same time as all-pervaisive Reality (visvatmaka).
The Advaita Saiva philosophers have not only shed light on the process of the world
manifestation in the conventional way, they have added a new dimension to it by describing
it in terms of involution on the part of Caitanyato the gross level of matter; or as the
unfoldment on the part of the Supreme Lord out of His free will, exercising His svatantrya
sakti, or as His self-extension in the aspect of His Sakti. They mention seven different
kinds of experients or subjects (embodied, unembodied, and disembodied), a concept unique in
the annals of Indian philosophy.
The concept of purnahamta (pure I-experience) symbolizing the fullness-nature of the
Supreme Experient, i.e. Siva pramata, different from the ego-experience (ahamkara) of the
limited embodied being, has been explained in this book in esoteric terms as it marks a
unique contribution of Kashmir Saivism to Indian philosophical thought.
Dr. Debabrata Sen Sharma, a well-known scholar of Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy and
Religion, has spent more than half a century in studying, teaching and writing on the
Advaita Shaiva thought of Kashmir.
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