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An Historical Sketch

Part 4

Another school of Śivaite philosophy flourished in Kashmir[1] from the ninth century onwards and is not yet extinct among Pandits. It bases itself on the Âgamas and includes among them the still extant Śiva-sûtras said to have been discovered as revelation by Vasugupta. He lived about 800 A.D. and abandoned Buddhism for Śivaism. The school produced a distinguished line of literary men who flourished from the ninth to the eleventh centuries.[2]

The most recent authorities state that the Kashmir school is one and that there is no real opposition between the Spanda and Pratyabhijñâ sections.[3] The word Spanda, equivalent to the godhead and ultimate reality, is interesting for it means vibration accompanied by consciousness or, so to speak, self-conscious ether. The term Pratyabhijñâ or recognition is more frequent in the later writings. Its meaning is as follows.

Śiva is the only reality and the soul is Śiva, but Mâyâ[4] forces on the soul a continuous stream of sensations. By the practice of meditation it is possible to interrupt the stream and in those moments light illuminates the darkness of the soul and it recognizes that it is Śiva, which it had forgotten.

Also the world is wholly unreal apart from Śiva. It exists by his will and in his mind. What seems to the soul to be cognition is really recognition, for the soul (which is identical with the divine mind but blinded and obstructed) recognizes that which exists only in the divine mind.

It has been held that Kashmirian Śivaism is the parent of the Dravidian Śaiva Siddhânta and spread from Kashmir southwards by way of Kalyan in the eleventh century, and this hypothesis certainly receives support from the mention of Kashmiri Brahmans in south Indian inscriptions of the fourteenth century.[5]

Yet I doubt if it is necessary to assume that south Indian Śivaism was derived from Kashmir, for the worship of Śiva must have been general long before the eleventh century[6] and Kashmiri Brahmans, far from introducing Śivaism to the south, are more likely to have gone thither because they were sure of a good reception, whereas they were exposed to Moslim persecution in their own country.

Also the forms which Śivaism assumed in these two outlying provinces present differences: in Kashmir it was chiefly philosophic, in the Dravidian countries chiefly religious. In the south it calls on God to help the sinner out of the mire, whereas the school of Kashmir, especially in its later developments, resembles the doctrine of Śankara, though its terminology is its own.

Before the advent of Islam, Kashmir was a secluded but cultured land. Its pleasant climate and beautiful scenery, said to have been praised by Gotama himself,[7] attracted and stimulated thinkers and it had some importance in the history of Buddhism and of the Pâncarâtra as well as for Śivaism. It is connected with the Buddhist sect called Sarvâstivâdins and in this case the circumstances seem clear. The sect did not originate in Kashmir but its adherents settled there after attending the Council of Kanisḥka and made it into a holy land. Subsequently, first Vishnuism and then Śivaism[8] entered the mountain valleys and flourished there.

Kashmirian thinkers may have left an individual impress on either system but they dealt with questions which had already been treated of by others and their contributions, though interesting, do not seem to have touched the foundations of belief or to have inspired popular movements. The essential similarity of all Śivaite schools is so great that coincidences even in details do not prove descent or borrowing and the special terms of Kashmirian philosophy, such as spanda and pratyabhijña, seem not to be used in the south.

The Śiva-sûtras consist of three sections, describing three methods of attaining svacchanda or independence. One (the gist of which has been given above) displays some though not great originality: the second is Śâktist, the third follows the ordinary prescriptions of the Yoga. All Śivaite philosophy is really based on this last and teaches the existence of matter, souls and a deity, manifested in a series of phases.

The relations of these three ultimates are variously defined, and they may be identified with one another, for the Sânkhya-Yoga doctrine may be combined (though not very consistently) with the teaching of the Vedânta. In Kashmirian Śivaism Vedântist influences seem strong and it even calls itself Advaita. It is noteworthy that Vasugupta, who discovered the Śiva-sûtras, also wrote a commentary on the Bhagavad-gîtâ.

The gist of the matter is that, since a taste for speculation is far more prevalent in India than in Europe, there exist many systems of popular philosophy which, being a mixture of religion and metaphysics, involve two mental attitudes. The ordinary worshipper implores the Lord to deliver him from the bondage of sin and matter: the philosopher and saint wish to show that thought is one and such ideas as sin and matter partial and illusory. The originality of the Śaiva Siddhânta lies less in its dogmas than in its devotional character: in the feeling that the soul is immersed in darkness and struggles upwards by the grace of the Lord, so that the whole process of Karma and Mâyâ is really beneficent.

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- Footnotes:


For the Kashmir school see Barnett in Muséon, 1909, pp. 271-277. J.R.A.S. 1910, pp. 707-747. Kashmir Sanskrit series, particularly vol. II. entitled Kashmir Śaivism. The Śiva sûtras and the commentary Vimar'sinî translated in Indian Thought, 1911-12. Also Srinivasa Iyengar, Outlines of Indian Philosophy, pp. 168-175 and Sarva-darśana-saṅgraha, chap. VIII.


Among them may be mentioned Kallata, author of the Spanda Kârikâs and Somânanda of the Śivadṛishti, who both flourished about 850-900. Utpala, who composed the Pratyabhijñâ-kârikâs, lived some fifty years later, and in the eleventh century Abhinava Gupta and Kshemarâja composed numerous commentaries.


Kashmirian Śaivism is often called Trika, that is tripartite, because, like other varieties, it treats of three ultimates Śiva, Śakti, Anu or Pati, Paśu, Pâśa. But it has a decided tendency towards monism.


Also called the Śakti or Mâtrikâ.


See Epig. Carn. VII. Sk. 114. 19, 20 and Jour. Mythic Society, 1917, pp. 176, 180.


To say nothing of Śivaite temples like the Kailas at Ellora, the chief doctrines and even the terminology of Śivaite philosophy are mentioned by Śankara on Ved. Sutras, II. 2. 37.


In the Samyuktavastu, chap. XL. (transl. in J.A. 1914, II. pp. 534, etc.) the Buddha is represented as saying that Kashmir is the best land for meditation and leading a religious life.


Chatterji, Kashmir Śaivism, p. 11, thinks that Abhinava Gupta's Paramârthasâra, published by Barnett, was an adaptation of older verses current in India and called the Âdhâra Kârikâs.

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