Daniel Odier


This is a beautitful conference from a indian shivaït, who has created an interesting website dedicated to the teachings of Lalleshwari (Lalla) :


You can contact him by mail at :



Param Shiva is the ultimate reality who is the nature of Bliss itself and all complete in Himself. He is beyond description, beyond all manifestation, beyond limitation of form, time and space. He is eternal, infinite, all pervading, all knowing and all powerful. In fact, this reality is ineffable and beyond all descriptions.

From Param Shiva let us come to universal manifestation; let us have a look at this creation of Lord. Kashmir Shaivism postulates 36 categories or "tattvas" to explain the process of cosmic evolution. Let us keenly focus our attention to this process of universal evolution or universal experience, i.e., from God hood to Maya Shakti which is the veiling or obscuring force of nature leading to various psycho - physical elements and finally the Panch Mahabhutas - five great elements : Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. Let us look further into this great descent or the process of in-evolution, i.e. from God-hood to Man-hood.


The first outward manifestation of the divine creative energy in the process of cosmic evolution is called Shiva - Tattva. It is the initial creative movement of Paramasiva. Further, it is the static aspect of consciousness or like support of all things in the manifest world. It is like the bed of a river or the canvas of a painting. It can never be seen, it can only be known by its effects. In this condition, the emphasis is on the subject without any awareness of the existence of the object.


Since the Shiva Tattva represents the passive aspect of the pure consciousness, it is dependent upon the active or dynamic aspect to bring it into being. This is called Shakti Tattva. Shakti is the active or kinetic aspect of consciousness. Just as an artist pours out his delight in a poem, picture or song, even so the Supreme pours out his delight in this manifestation called Shakti. When Shakti is predominant, supreme bliss is experienced.

Mahesvarananda puts it beautifully in Maharthamanjari. "He (i.e. Shiva) Himself full of joy enhanced by the honey of the three corners of his heart, viz ICCHA, JHANA AND KRIYA, raising up His face to gaze at His own splender is called Shakti".

This Shakti Tattva or cosmic energy represents the force that produces a strain or stress on the surface of the universal consciousness. It is said to have three principal forms to account for the three fundamental psychological steps that precede every action. Technically the first one is called ICHCHA SHAKTI, the power of feeling oneself as supremely able and of an obsolutely irresistible will. Second one is the JNANA SHAKTI, the power of knowledge or knowing of consciousness. The KRIYA SHAKTI is the power of supreme action, creating or assuming any and every form. One follows the other in logical succession.


Now let us come to evolution of material universe. The power of consciousness to separate and divide is called Maya Shakti. This is the power to perceive differences. The term "Maya" means illusion. Here it is used to refer to the veiling or obscuring force of nature which creates a sense of differentiation. As such, it makes universal consciousness which is unity, appear as duality and multiplicity.


The result of Maya are PURUSHA and PRAKRITI. Here the dual world of mind and matter is permanently established. In other words, although the Lord is absolutely free, he puts on Maya and her coverings, forgets his true nature, limits His power and reduces Himself to an individual soul which is called PURUSHA and its objective manifestation PRAKRITI.


Now, let us come to the tattvas of mental operation i.e. BUDDHI, AHAMKARA and MANAS. Buddhi is the ascertaining intelligence which can be external i.e. a jar perceived through eye or internal, like images built out of the impression left on mind. Ahamkara is the product of buddhi. It is the I - making principle and the power of self - appropriation. Manas is the product of ahankara. It co-operates with the senses in building up perceptions, and by itself, it builds images and concepts.

We are continuing to focus on the cosmic manifestations. The products of AHANKARA are five powers of sense perception or JNANENDRIYAS, five powers of action or KARMENDRIYAS and five primary elements of perception or TANMANTRAS. The process of inevolution is complete finally with panch Mahabutas as referred earlier.

Frankly, very important position is given to Ahankara. In fact, it is the product of SHAKTI through the intermediate Prakriti which obviously is a mode of the Divine Energy. Rajas gunas is prominent here and other gunas are in subdued form. One can understand significance of Ahankara by the story of the Buddha Bhikshu Upasena. As he tried to overcome this tattva by his "sadhana", his body got scattered because there was no Ahankara up-holding it.

It is important to understand that, according to Kashmir Shavism, this analysis of all phenomena into thirty-six tattavas has been worked out as a tool of understanding for the ever-active and inquiring mind and as a form for contemplative meditation. At higher sadhana the number of tattvas may get reduced. Finally a highly advanced Shiva Yojin may see only the Shiva Tattva in the whole of creation.


After discussing the cosmic manifestation in the form of tattva's and speech, let us come to bondage and liberation as per Kashmir Shaivism.

From the absolute point of view there is no bondage, yet when the Lord manifests as limited due to His own free will, He forgets His own perfection and becomes bound. In other words, bondage is nothing more than an individual's self - forgetfulness or ignorance of his own perfection. Even in the state of apparent limitation he remains pure and perfect although he is unaware of it. For the purpose of divine sport, the Absolute voluntarily accepts the limitation of self - consciousness, which give rise to limited desires. Because of these limited desires, the finite self performs various finite actions and experiences their consequences. Thus, the chain of karma leads the individual from bondage to bondage.


It is natural that we must strive from bondage to liberation. Liberation according to Kashmir Shaivism means PRATYABHIJNA or recognition of one's true nature which means the original, pure I - consciousness. This pure I - consciousness is immediate, non-relational awareness. To be integrated to the divine I is liberation. As Abhinavagupta puts it "MOKSA OR LIBERATION is nothing else but the awareness of one's true nature". The highest attainment, however, is that of Shiva Consciousness in which the entire universe appears as I - consciousness.


We must remember that it is not simply by intellectual understanding that one gains awareness of true I - consciousness. There has to be shaktipata - the descent of divine grace.

In order to earn grace, one has to undergo spiritual discipline. This is known, as upaya or Yoga. Here we would draw a line between two prevalent systems of Yoga in ancient India and Trika Yoga of Kashmir. Ancient India had Yoga for monks like Patanjali Yoga and Hatha Yoga and Yoga for householders which had evolved into various forms. Trika Yoga on the other hand is free from all stringent restrictions and repressive discipline. It discourages torturing the body and mind or starving the senses. Abhinavagupta calling on the authority of his greatest preceptor, Sambhunatha, clearly states that the senses can only give up their fascination for wordly enjoyments through a spontaneous indifference arising from the blissful experiences that Yoga elicts. In other words, once a practitioner has discovered the inner bliss of the self, all the common sense pleasures will seem inadequate by comparison and will, therefore, no longer be a temptation. He adds that the senses are liable to adverse reactions if these are forcibly controlled.

Let us further define Yoga as per Trika system. As per MALINIVIJAYATANTRA, "The unity of one (a finite being) with another (Almighty God) is called "Yoga by Siva Yogins".

The Yoga or upayas as per Kashmir Shaivism are divided under four heads having relevant emphasis viz
(1) ANUPAYA (ananda or Bliss)
(4) ANAVOPAYA (Kriya or action).
These upayas or means have been so categorised as supreme means, medium means or inferior means, depending upon the individual potential.

As already mentioned grace of God, i.e., Shaktipata is independent of human effort. The Yoga of Patanjali starts from lowest type and ends with those of the highest type so that practitioner is led step by step into highest type of samadhi. But Abhinabvagupta starts in his Tantraloka with the highest type of Yoga and comes down gradually to lower type of its practices. He is of the view that aspirant should catch hold of the highest practice and should try it. If, however, he feels that he is not capable of treading the highest path, he can come down to the path nearest to it. One may in this way come down to any lower path in accordance with his psychological capabilities.



The first one is Anupaya. It is immediate through speediest descent of grace. Therefore, Diksha (initiation) has practically no role. In this path to liberation no active process on the part of the individual is involved. An aspirant has only to observe that nothing is to be done. Be as you are: only reside in your being. This is attributed to ANANDA SAKTI of Siva and is also called ANANDOPAYA. Here we can quote from famous Shaiva saint of Kashmir - Pandit Krishan Joo Razdan:

Oh Lord !
With your speediest Grace;
Make me transcend all - Will, Knowledge & Action


It is also called ICCHOPAYA because it comes about by a mere orientation of the will. It is designed for advanced aspirants, who by meditating on the Shiva Tattva, attain the highest level of awareness. In this path, will predominates. It involves the practice of maintaining the constant awareness that the universe is nothing but CHITI. Even this must ultimately be transcended. Thus all mental activities stop and mind shines without any flutter of ideas. The light of pure consciousness alone shines in such practice and an aspirant discovers the pure transcendental aspect of his self in that state. All this happens by means of intuition and not by means of thinking or understanding capacities, both of which become absorbed in the pure lusture of consciousness of the self in that state. A certain type of bodily posture, as described in the sixth chapter of Bhagavadgita, becomes helpful in the beginning of the practice of this Yoga, but it is not required afterwards.

The same Yoga and mudra have also been depicted in the poetry of Kalidasa in the third canto of his KUMARS AMBHAVA.


If a prerson feels that he is not capable to succeed in the practice of sambhavopaya, he can try SAKTOPAYA which has its position just below it. It is also called Jnana upaya. Here the primary concern is to realise the self through knowledge, meditation and contemplation of ideas such as "SHIVOHAM" (I am Siva). Mental activity plays an important role in this upaya. A regular practice in mental repetition of the exactly correct nature of the real self leads to pure and limitless consciousness in one self. Thus, a person having attained perfection in Sakta Yoga, attains the Sakta Samavesa of Sivahold and becomes fit for the practice of Sambhava Yoga.


We are discussing the practice of Yoga as per individuals capacities. For those who are not competent to practice the two higher type of Yoga, there is ANAVOPAYA. Anu means the psychological self, the mind body complex and this Yoga is useful to those beings who live in the field of maya. It is also called Kriya Yoga because mental activity of meditation dominates its practice. Certain objective elements are taken as the targets of meditation in this Yoga and they are imagined to be identical with Param Shiva and in this way a practitioner feels his omnipresence. Some of these objective elements are nearer to one's self and some are farther and the Anava Yoga is of several categories on this account, like budhi being nearest to self, then prana, the life force, then deha, the physical body and still further sthana, the phenomenal universe consisting of time, space and the elements which have their place in them.

In anavopaya the aspirant may undertake these various practices together or separately as an aid to develop his awareness.


Dhyana Yoga is the form of anava yoga which is practiced with contemplative meditation on budhi. The word `dhyana' means contemplation. There are different forms of dhyana. For example, you are practicing dhyana when you contemplate on the lotus in your heart, or on the meaning of some mantra such as "So-HAM". Or "SHIVA". In this practice an aspirant concentrates on these sounds, locations or forms alongwith thinking and reflecting on their meaning. Contemplation on the meaning of spiritual words is a higher form of contemplation than contemplation on an object with forms.


The word "UCCARA" means "breathing" uccara actually means concentration on the breath, the power of life force - Prana, whose functions vary depending on whether we are awake, asleep, in a transcendental state, and so on. One is supposed to meditate upon this phenomenan with the understanding that they are nothing other than one's own inner self. Stress is given on the concentration on the flow of the breath and, in particular, on the point between the outgoing and incoming breath and the point between the incoming and outgoing breath. With practice one withdraws one's attention from the body and the mind, and focuses on the most subtle elements of pure power of prana/ aprana working in its functions. This technique is quite popular with Buddhist. They have adopted it extensively. It is considered simple as compared to other techniques.


The term karna denotes the physical body, particularly "sense organ" which are to be made the target of contemplate meditation. The aspirant maintains one pointedness through vision or another sense organ such as hearing. The sense of sight, however, is mot important. For example the aspirant may go on gazing at particular object without blinking his eyes. In thinking process he/she should try to maintain an unbroken chain of awareness. When the perception vanishes, as it will when he enters into the vastness of the centre, then practice is complete. Physical postures are to be accompanied by special form of contemplation which will help students realize the absolute divinity of their own nature.


It is meditation on entities outside the person like on some particular place alongwith contemplation of non-dualistic theism. The two objects used are time and space. This Yoga carries practitioners out of the limitations of time and washes its impression and they develop an impression of eternity which becomes one with their essential nature. The practitioners realize that they are eternal.

Ritual performance of many types of initiation (DIKSA) are also considered to be aids to Trika Yoga, especially for an aspirant of lesser ability. That helps him in acquiring greater ability to practice any type of the above mentioned Yoga. Details regarding that ritual have been discussed in detail in Tantraloka, the gist of which is given in Tantrasara.


At this stage let me mention about a profound tantra on this system - Vigyan Bhairav Tantra. It is a very ancient book on Yoga. It goes directly to the heart of the problem of the union of human consciousness with the Divine, avoiding mechanical worship, external rites and ceremonies. It is a precious gem delineating the mystic approach to the Divine. For this purpose, it makes full use of all the aspects of human life - prana, manas, imagination and intuition. It contains 112 types of yoga. There is hardly any other book on yoga which has described so many ways of approach to central reality that is present in each man as his essential self.


It should be noted that Saiva Yoga is not a practice in suppression of the functions of mind as taught by Patanjali. It is a practice in uniting the individual with universal by means of interesting and blissfull practices as taught in Saiva scriptures. In fact, out-wardly one may perform the age old, traditional or vedic rituals but inwardly he has to seek the exact truth through some yogic practices taught in Trika System. Maintaining the semblance of an ordinary house holder he has not to make any show of the powers aroused through its practice. There is no restriction based on caste, creed, gender etc. in eligibility for initiation in the Saiva yoga. Even a lowest caste can become a disciple or even a preceptor if he attains sufficient success in this practice.


Finally, rather concluding, the only condition for saivayoga is devotion and Urge. Devotion is an essential aid to all the practices. An aspirant not blessed with devotion for the Lord can not succeed in the practice or Saivayoga. The highest knowledge of the absolute monism has been termed as the highest devotion.

Here, we can refer to Utpaladeva, who commands the greatest reverence not only for his philosophic insight or poetic genius but also for his supreme devotion to the Lord. His SIVASTOTRAVALI can rightly be called ocean of devotion.


At this stage, let us have little summing up regarding specific features of Kashmir Shaivism. Indeed, it is a religio - philosophical system elaborated mostly in the Pratyabhijna Darsana, which means re-cognition of self. Siva voluntarily adopts self - velling and becomes a jiva. The problem for the jiva is to recognise his self as Siva. The Pratyabhijna philosophy first gives a description of ultimate reality, shows how it descends to the level of the jiva or empirical individual and how the jiva can recognise himself as Siva and become liberated.

Comparing to the Vedanta philosophy of Samkara, it accept the cosmic manifestation in totality. Some religious thinkers say "Kashmir Shaivism accepts a great challenge". Cit or Brahman is both prakasha and Vimarsha i.e. light and activity. Maya is Siva-Mayi: Divine and perfectly real. The universe is not mithya. The universe is Siva-rupa and therefore real. It is a display of the glory of the Divine.

Kashmir Shaivism adopts a realistic and utilitarian attitude. It relies on three fold authority of (a) the divine scriptures, (b) experienced preceptors and (c) One's own intuitiue self-experiences to which the highest importance has been given. In fact, an aspirant is allowed to adopt any system of practice in accordance with his individual psycho - physical aptitudes.


Concluding, I want to invite your attention to a very special feature of Kashmir Shaivism - LINGODDHARA - DIKSA. Indeed, this is a very special feature of Kashmir Shaivism. As per 17th chapter of TANTRASARA of Abhinavgupta a man of another creed can, if he so desires, be initiated in Shaivism after being freed from his former belief. This has also been explained in detail in 22 and 23 chapter (AHNIKA) of TANTRALOKA.


Now, let us have a clear delineation regarding the definition of Kashmir Shaivism :

Kashmir Shaivism is a process of discovery of individual soul as one with the Universal Being through a process based on :

1. Correct knowledge of the exact nature of universal elements.

2. Practice in Trika Yoga.

3. A highly affectionate and devotional attitude towards the Absolute Reality.

We have discussed in detail the above three basis of this philosophy, i.e., 36 cosmic manifestations or Tattvas, Trika Yoga or upyas and the great stress on devotion to Lord