Kashmir Saivism – The Central Philosophy of Tantrism

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Item Code: NAC688
Author: Kamalakar Mishra
Publisher: Indica Books, Varanasi
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789381120033
Pages: 504
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 Inch X 5.8 Inch
Weight 700 gm
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Book Description

Dr. Mishra’s comprehensive book is learned without being tedious; philosophical without being intellectually arid; and readable without being banal. Above all, it preserves the aroma of spiritual practice that is fundamental to the Pratyabhjna tradition. Anyone interested in the metaphysics of spiritual practice or in Yoga and Tantrism will read this book with immense profit.
— Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D. (Author of Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Yoga)

In this work Mishra discusses the central themes woven throughout the whole of the Tantric system, making it accessible, practical, and inspiring as a means to self-realization. This book would be excellent reading for students of the Tantric tradition and philosophy.
—NAPRA Trade Journal

Thorough exposition of the Tantric system... A full exploration of Kashmir Saivism’s history and the special significance of Abhinavagupta whose brilliant and encyclopedic works established Kashmir Saivism as an important philosophical school. Extensively referenced with notes to the text for source data or detailed elaboration.
—Hinduism Today

A brilliant exposition of Tantric tradition... Mishra profoundly explains a system which allows us to fully integrate spiritual inquiry and practice with the mundane goals of physical enjoyment [and] worldly involvement. For spiritual seekers of any sort, with a true interest in understanding the nature of Tantra... this book will finally provide true insight into the ways and means of Tantric philosophy.
—New Age Retailer

Kamalakar Mishra, Ph.D., is a retired professor of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India. He is also the author of The Sign 7icance of the Tantric Tradition.


Preface to the third (Revised and Enlarged) Edition

The first and the second editions of the book were published by Rudra Press (Portland, U.S.A.) in 1993 and 2009, respectively. But unfortunately innumerable printing mistakes remained in the second edition. So, it was decided to bring out a new edition after correcting the mistakes of the earlier edition and also after revising it again in the light of questions and comments from the side of the learned readers. Indica Books (Varanasi, India) volunteered to publish the new (third) edition.

A few points may be mentioned with regard to the special contribution of this Indica Books edition. First, documentation references were given in the earlier edition as endnotes, but in the present edition they are given as footnotes. Although this involved an added effort on the part of the publisher, it was done for the convenience of the reader. Second, a new chapter entitled “Kashmir Saivism and Advaita Vedanta” has been added. Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Saivism are the two most prominent systems of the Vedic and the Tantric tradition, respectively. They are complementary to each other, and together they present a complete picture of the philosophy, religion and culture of India. So the need is to bring out the cumulative wisdom of these two systems and make an in-depth analysis of their positions so that their ‘two-in-one’ position becomes cleat Although throughout the book the position of Advaita Vedanta is considered vis-à-vis that of Kashmir Saivism, we have tried to make the picture all the more clear in this added chapter.

Third, I have tried to answer the questions put forth from the side of the readers. I have also tried to meet the criticism made by an enlightened reader about the ‘scientific status’ of the Tantric knowledge (criticism published inAmazon.com). I have received a lot of questions from the readers the world over. It was not possible for me to answer the questions individually, but the present revised edition covers their questions.

Many readers (specially from the West), after reading the chapter entitled “The Left-handed Doctrine (Kaula-sadhana) and sex- sublimation”, have requested me to present a more explicit and detailed account of the sadhana related to sex. My submission here is that knowledge of the secret leftist spiritual sadhana of sex-sublimation is imparted from teacher to pupil privately, yet it is possible to some extent to explain the fundamentals of the leftist way together with tips for practical guidance. With the awareness of this demand in my mind, I am writing a book under the heading “Spiritual Foundations of Sex-education”, which I hope will meet the demand to some extent.

I take this opportunity to express my thanks to the readers who have appreciated and praised the book. I have received innumerable e-mails and telephone calls from my readers all over the world expressing their gratitude to me, saying they have been greatly benefited from reading the book. Some of them have praised the book in a superlative way. I am also thankful to the reviewers who have expressed their appreciation for the book. I myself am greatly benefited by the feedback I have received from the readers and reviewers. The feedback has helped me come out with an improved edition.

I am specially thankful to M/s Indica Books who have taken great pains in publishing the book. In the beginning I had suggested to them that the book be just re-printed giving a list of errata, but they were generous enough to take the trouble of re-typing, re-setting and publishing it all anew. Dilip Kumar Jaiswal, of Indica Books, has been very kind and co-operative. I am also thankful to the editor of Indica Books, Alvaro Enterria, who examined the text very carefully and gave me many helping suggestions.



The present work is an exposition of the philosophy and religion of the Trika system, popularly known as Kashmir Saivism. Kashmir Saivism is the most prominent system of the Tantric tradition. I consider Kashmir Saivism the true or central philosophy of Tantrism.

My earlier book, Significance of the Tantric Tradition (1981, Varanasi, India), has much in common with the present work, but was written with a different objective in mind. The objective of Significance of the Tantric Tradition, as the title suggests, was not to present a full exposition of Tantric philosophy but to point out the significance of this philosophy from various angles — historical, epistemological, ontological, and axiological. The book’s primary aim was to bring out the consistency and authenticity of Tantric thought and to make explicit the running thread of logic implicit in the system. The present work, Kashmir Saivism: The Central Philosophy of Tantrism, however, is meant to be a full exposition of the Tantric system, covering all areas of Tantric philosophy. As such, it contains many topics not previously discussed and can be viewed as un elaboration of the earlier work.

Although the contribution of Tantra to Indian philosophy and culture is of immense significance, little work has been done in this field. Moreover, the Tantras, or Agamas, have something significant and relevant to say to modem humanity. With its positive attitude towards the world and its variety of yogic cadhanas for self- improvement in all respects, Tantra carries a promise of help to people iii their present predicament. This makes exposition and elucidation o Tantric insight worthwhile.

The mystic language of the Tantras and the rich symbolism found (herein present difficulties in the exposition of Tantric thought. Abhinavagupta, the principal philosopher of Kashmir Saivism, overcame these difficulties in making a systematic and rational presentation of Tantric wisdom in his famous work, the Tantraloka. This present book is an attempt to understand the Tantric position mainly in light of the Tantraloka.

Although Abhinavagupta seems to have unraveled the knots of Tantric philosophy and religion, much is left, even in his works, to be further clarified and elaborated. This is why differences of opinion and confusion exist among Tantric scholars with regard to the correct position of Tantric thought. My goal in the present work is to spell out implicit ideas, to make explicit the inner thread of logic of the Tantric system, and to fill in the gaps when possible.

In this attempt, some views might emerge that will appear new and original to the reader. But I submit that nothing is really new; everything is present, perhaps merely implicitly, in the Tantric position. For example, I have tried to present the rationale or the underlying logic of the left-handed (vama or Kaula) doctrine, specifically with regard to sex. I have also interpreted and presented Tantric religion, or the Tantric way of life, in such a way as to make it quite relevant to the modem age of science and technology. All of this might seem to be my own invention, but actually it can be clearly read between the lines in the Tantras; I have simply tried to make it more explicit. What may at most be considered my own contribution is my attempt to supply the apparently missing links. But that, too, is purely on the basis of the Tantric thought.

In this book, I attempt to present a logical analysis of the Tantric position of Abhinavagupta. I have also shown, according to my understanding, what remains unresolved and unanswered in his philosophy, but I admit that in the present work I am mainly playing the role of advocate of Abhinavagupta rather than critic. I am trying (a) to justify the Tantric position from the rational point of view, (b) to work out a consistent philosophy of Kashmir Saivism, (e) to present the rationale of the abstruse Tantric sadhanas, (d) to trace out and clarify the inner thread of logic running through the entire system of thought, and (e) to demonstrate the soundness and significance of Kashmir Saivism.

At places in my discussion the Advaita Vedantin appears as the chief opponent (purvapaksin) of Tantra, for the simple reason that some of the basic principles of the Tantric system are questioned and contradicted by Advaita Vedanta. In defense, the Tantrist would not only justify him but would in turn counter-question the Advaitin. My aim at those places is not to enter into polemics and refute the Advaitin but simply to clarify my own position. I hope the Advaita Vedantins will take my criticisms in that spirit.

Regarding the attitude of the Kashmir Saiva philosophers towards Advaita-Vedanta, one more thing need be made clear. Kashmir Saivites maintain that the original Advaita Vedanta present in the Upaniads, and not in the commentaries on the Brahma-sutras, is similar to Tantra. They agree with the Upaniads but differ from the Sankarite interpretation of the Upaniads (especially the post Sankarite Advaita scholasticism), which according to them is not in line with the main spirit of the Upaniads. There is an implicit claim among them that the Advaitic philosophy can be made logically consistent and practically useful only when it is complemented by Kashmir Saivism.

The present work is the result of long years of study, research, thinking, and discussion on the subject. In expounding the topic, I have attempted to apply the utmost clarity of thought and explain the abstruse ideas in a simple way. The style of presentation is more like that of a teacher explaining and discussing things in an informal way than that of a pedant heavy with the weight of scholarship.

Moreover, Kashmir Saivism is, to borrow a term from existentialism, a praxis — an authentic philosophy, not a mere ideology. Therefore, I have tried to present it in such a way as to impress upon the reader that this philosophy is related to life and is something of real concern. I have taken care not to be abstract in my treatment of this philosophy so that it does not lose touch with life.

In order to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation and to make the issues clear, I have also at times made certain repetitions. I submit that the repetitions cannot be helped, or can be avoided only at the cost of clarity and completeness of understanding. Sometimes repetitions are made also to lay extra emphasis on the point. Moreover, the repetitions are of a few words or a few sentences only, and will, I hope, be excused by the reader.

One more submission for clarification. In the literary tradition, in places where a pronoun is to be used to suggest both masculine and feminine genders, the practice has been to use the masculine one (for example, ‘he’ for both ‘he’ and ‘she’, or ‘his’ for both ‘his’ and ‘her’, or ‘man’ for both ‘man’ and ‘woman’). But owing to feminist awareness and recognition of gender equality, some writers nowadays have started using expressions like ‘he or she’, ‘his or her’, ‘himself or herself’ and soon. But this may look like an unnecessary elaboration and also may look odd. So I have followed the traditional way of using ‘man’ for both man and woman. However, as for myself I am a Tantrist worshipper and consider woman superior to man. Left to myself, I would like to write ‘she’ for both ‘she’ and ‘he’. But because the literary tradition is otherwise, this may become confusing to the reader.




  Acknowledgments v
  Preface to the Third (Revised and Enlarged) Edition 11
  Preface 13
  Acknowledgments 17
  Abbreviation 19
  1. Introduction 21
  General Significance o the Tantric Tradition 21
  History of the Tantric Tradition 32
  Amalgamation of the Cultures of Renunciation (nivrtti) and Worldly Involvement (pravrtti) 35
  The Tantric Denominations 38
  The Common Features 41
  Significance of the Left-Handed Doctrine (Kaula-marga) 44
  Breaking False Barriers 47
  Aberrations in Tantra 49
  Kashmir Saivism as the Culmination of Tantric Philosophy 51
  The Etymology of Tantra and Agama 57
  The Textual History 58
  The Special Significance of Abhinavagupta 67
  2. The Tantric Epistemology 73
  The Problem of Consciousness 74
  Knowledge as the Nature of Consciousness 76
  Knowledge as Activity 78
  Knowledge is Self-illumined 80
  Consciousness as ‘The’ Means of Knowledge 81
  Consciousness Self-illumined 85
  Agamic Knowledge 88
  Is Agamic Knowledge Scientific? 92
  Objections to Agama-pramana 102
  The Limits of Knowledge 108
  What is Higher Experience? 110
  The Validity of Knowledge 116
  The Trika Theory of Error 121
  3. Absolute Consciousness (Siva-Sakti) 127
  Part I – Siva 127
  Siva as the First Person 127
  Siva is Absolute 129
  Siva is Indeterminate 140
  Siva is the Subject-consciousness 151
  Self-consciousness in Siva 153
  Siva as the Absolute Person 158
  Siva is Perfection 160
  Part II – Sakti 164
  The Nature of Sakti 164
  Compatibility of Sakti (Kriya) with Siva (Jnana) 169
  Possibility of Akrama (Nonsequential) Kriya 172
  Siva-Sakti Relationship 176
  Kinds of Sakti 177
  The Two Levels of Sakti 183
  Synonyms and Symbos of Sakti 185
  Sakti as Vak (Speech) 189
  4. The Process of Creation 190
  The Theory of Causation 190
  The Fivefold Cosmic Functions 194
  General Questions Regarding Creation 196
  Creation as the Manifestation of Vak (Speech) 200
  The Pure Categories 209
  Maya 21
  The Five Sheaths 215
  The Individual Soul (Purusa) 221
  The Twenty-four Material Categories 223
  Discussion of the Categorization 230
  5. The Theory of Appearance (Abhasavada) 236
  The Meaning of Abhasa 237
  The Epistemology of Abhasavada 240
  Abhasavada as an Ontological Theory 248
  The Sense in Which Abhasa is Called Real 255
  The Theory of Appearance (Abhasavada) as the Theory of Freedom (Svatantryavada) 260
  The Theory of Illusion 265
  6. The Problem of Evil 270
  The Presence of Evil 270
  The Problem 271
  Free Will and Moral Evil 275
  The Meaning of ‘God as the Real Doer’ 281
  Ignorance as the Necessary but not the Sufficient Cause of Evil 288
  Suffering and the Law of Karma 292
  The Place of Evil in Lilavada 299
  7. The Concept of Pratyabhujna (Self-recognition) 303
  Pratyabhujna is Central to Kashmir Saivism 303
  The Meaning of Pratyabhijna 306
  Intellectual Knowledge and Existential Knowledge 308
  Why Pratyabhujna is Called Knowledge 311
  The Mode and Content of Pratyabhujna 315
  Pratyabhujna is the Dissolution of the Ego 323
  Siva-Pasu Unity as the Metaphysical Ground of Pratyabhijna 325
  Levels of Pratyabhujna 326
  Pratyabhujna as the Ground of All the Updyas 328
  The Relevance of Bhakti in Pratyabhujna 329
  Pratyabhujna (Self-recognition) and Aparoksanubhui (Direct Experience) 330
  8. Bondage and Liberation 333
  The Meaning of Bondage 333
  The Concept of Mala (Impurity) 336
  The Meaning of Moksa 347
  Special Features of the Mukti of Kashmir Saivism 352
  Moksa as the Highest Value 360
  Stage of the Spiritual Evolution of the Soul 376
  9. The Means of Moksa 387
  Effort and Grace 38
  The Unity of the Means and the End 392
  Anupaya 397
  Sambhavopaya 399
  Saktopaya 402
  Anavopaya 403
  General Evaluation of the Updyas 407
  The Place of Negation of Tantric Sadhana 411
  The Relaxed Way of Life 413
  10. The Left-handed Doctrine (Kaula Sadhana) and Sexual Sublimation 423
  The Rationale behind the Kaula Sadhana 423
  The Necessity of Sexual Sublimation 429
  The Attitude of Holiness 430
  Cultivating Love towards the Sex-Partner 433
  Kaula Sadhana as the Means of Self-realization 438
  Stage of Kaula Sadhana 439
  The Kaula Sadhana: An Appraisal 440
  11. Kashmir Saivism and Advaita-Vedanta 445
  Introduction 445
  Kashmir Saivism Vis-à-vis Advaita Vedanta 447
  What the Advaitin Can contribute to Kashmir Saivism 460
  Svarupua-Laksana and Tatastha-Laksana 464
  Summing Up 468
  12. Conclusion (Summary) 471
  Selected Bibliography 481
  About the Author 503


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