advaitam and Kashmir shaivam

Thu Jul 24 10:29:46 CDT 1997

  My knowledge of Kashmir Shaivism (or Shaivam) is limited by the fact that I
  have not yet finished reading my very first book on the subject! But this is
  a well written book, by Prof. Kamalakar Mishra. Prof. Mishra (dont be fooled
  by his qualifications!) is not just another academic scholar presenting his
  ramblings, but he claims to have learnt the teachings of the Trika system,
  as Kashmir Shaivism is technically called, in a traditional way from a
  tantric guru. Before we talk of the differences between advaita and the
  trika, it is appropriate to talk about the similarities. As far as the
  philosophy is concerned, I would say that Kashmir Shaivism comes very
  close to advaita, in fact closer than any other systematic philosophy
  that originated in India. Of the three schools of Shaivism commonly known,
  the Southern Indian Shaiva Siddhaanta accepts difference, the Viira Shaiva
  school accepts unity-in-difference very much like Raamaanuja's school, and
  the trika or Pratyabhijnaa school accepts pure unity. In Viira Shaivism,
  Shiva is qualified by Shakti, the power that manifests the world. But in
  the trika, Shiva and Shakti are one and the same. Shakti is not an
  attribute of Shiva, but Shiva Himself. Shiva, like the Brahman of advaita,
  is the Ultimate Reality. While advaita Vedaanta describes Brahman as
  sat-chit-aananda, the trika system says that Shiva is not only sat-chit-
  aananda but also Shakti (energy). This energy of Shiva is also described
  as kriyaa (activity) or spanda (dynamism). So Shiva is pure Consciousness
  that is also pure Energy or Dynamism in perfect equilibrium.

  From what I have read so far, one of the main philosophical differences
  between advaita and Kashmir Shaivism is the doctrine of "spanda." This
  spanda is variously called, "vibration", "dynamism", etc. The best explanation
  of this concept is the dance of Shiva. Here Shiva is the dancing Nataraja,
  dynamic and full of activity. He is continuously engaged in the creation,
  maintenance, and destruction of the universe. In contrast, in advaitic terms,
  the form of Shiva is Dakshinamurti, who sits still under the banyan tree,
  displaying the "chinmudra" with his hand, surrounded by sages. Just as the
  silent, still Dakshinamurti represents the Highest Reality in advaita,
  the dynamic, active Shiva is considered so in Kashmir Shaivism.

  This difference has deeper significance. In advaita, Brahman is absolutely
  without action (I feel the word inactive is not appropriate), nishhkriya.
  But in Kashmir Shaivism, kriyaa (activity) is allowed in Brahman. Now a
  crucial question may be raised: If Shiva is active and is engaged in the
  creation, etc. of the world, is the world real? Since the world emanates
  from Shiva the Ultimate Reality, it should be real. Kashmir Shaivism agrees
  that the world is real, but the world as an independent entity is not real.
  What is real is the world as a projection of Shiva, the Absolute
  Consciousness. This explanation is contrast to advaita which maintains that
  the world is a superimposition (adhyaasa) on Brahman. Once the adhyaasa is
  removed, only Brahman remains. But in Kashmir Shaivism, Shiva projects this
  world out of His own free will. So this world as a projection of Shiva is
  absolutely real. Shiva creates this projection as His liilaa (sport),
  and He can do so because of His Shakti.

  Kashmir Shaivism accepts the advaitic theory that the world is an aabhaasa
  (illusion) but with some crucial differences. I would like to discuss this
  interesting topic, if others are interested.


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