The basic principle of Kashmir Saivism is that consciousness alone is real, and that which is not consciousness has no reality of its own, but is contingent on account of it being the expression of consciousness. • It accepts a priori that consciousness alone is real, whereas what we cognize or perceive is nothing but what comes out of and from consciousness. The source of this thinking lies in the fact that it is in and through consciousness that we are empowered to engage in the process of reflective thinking, and due to it we become aware of what we are. This personal awareness gives rise to such reasoning which compels us to think that, a part from the body, there is existing within us a thinking principle, namely, the self. It is this inner self which is identified with the Absolute-and the Absolute is nothing but consciousness. Whatever we know or experience is because of consciousness. In the absence of consciousness, everything would be insentient, and there would prevail utter darkness of non-knowledge.
It is in the context of this thinking that Kashmir Saivism has developed the philosophy of transcendental non-dualism that is theistically oriented, which maintains that the Absolute is none else than the core of myself. It is this self as the Absolute that expresses itself in and through the universe, which is to say that the phenomena are but the appearances of consciousness. Since everything is contained in consciousness, so nothing is different from consciousness. In this manner is established such a form of non-dualism that is both logical and experiential.
Moti Lal Pandit, trained as a theologian and linguist, has been engaged in Indological research for the last thirty years. He has published articles as well as books on a vast range of subjects. Initially, he began his research in Vedic religion and philosophy. Gradually, he shifted his attention towards Buddhism, and as a result of this shift, he has been successful in publishing a number of books on Buddhist philosophy and history. For the last several years, however, he has been fully engaged in the study of Trika Saivism of Kashmir. Some of his publications are: Vedic Hinduism; The Essentials of Buddhist Thought; Sankara' s Concept of Reality; Buddhism in Perspective; Being as Becoming; Towards Transcendence; Sunyata: The Essence of Mahayana Spirituality; Buddhism: A Religion of Salvation; Encounter with Buddhism; The Buddhist Theory of Knowledge and Reality; Transcendence and Negation; The Trika Saivism of Kashmir; The Disclosure of Being; An Introduction to the Philosophy of Trika Saivism; From Dualism to Non-Dualism; and The Philosophical and Practical Aspects of Kasmira Saivism.
It is very difficult to say with certainty, in the absence of definite historical evidence, as to who were the ancient inhabitants of Kashmir and what type of religion they professed. The information that we have concerning the ancient Kashmir is mainly mythic in orientation, but within this mythos are contained such elements in which may be hidden some historical truths. And this mythic infomation is basically provided by the text of the Nilamata-purana, which mainly concerns itself with the history of ancient Kashmir. According to this text, the entire valley of Kashmir, while surrounded by the majestic mountains, was a huge lake. Prior to the draining off the waters of the lake by sage Kasyapa, it is believed that the Naga tribe mainly occupied the hinterlands of the valley, who most probably were polytheistic, but seem to have been favourably disposed towards Saivism. Upon the draining on the waters from the lake, there emerged a landmass that became available for human occupation, which duly seems to have been occupied by such less civilized Aryan tribes as the Pisacas and the Dardas. As a result of the occupation of the valley by these tribes, there ensued strife between the Pisacas and the Dardas for supremacy. It seems that the Nagas were so diplomatic in their dealings as to have brought peace between the warring tribes through mediation.
The Nagas, though polytheistic in orientation, seem to have given prominence to Siva among the deities they worshipped. The Nagas seem to have been successful in influencing the newly arrived tribes insofar as their religious practices were concerned. In this manner was facilitated the spread of the worship of Siva and Sakti among the people of ancient Kashmir. 'Thus the spread of Saivism in ancient Kashmir is in no way different from the popular forms of Saivism that must have existed in other parts of India. However, it is impossible for any religious movement to remain, within the continuum of space and time, restricted to the popular conceptions of spirituality or of deity. As the laws of history demand change in terms of evolution, so also is the case with any kind of religiosity, and Saivism being no exception to this general rule. The popular forms of Saivism, with the passage of time, evolved both in terms of thought and practice, and the earliest such evolutionary trend found its expression in the establishment of the Pasupata School, which spread throughout the country in the early centuries of our era. The Pasupata School is pluralistic as well as realistic insofar as its philosophical thinking is concerned. It believes in the distinct existence of God, soul and matter. Insofar as its religious discipline is concerned, it is very austere and ascetic. A sub-sect of the Pasupatas, namely, the Kapalikas, go even so far as to make cremation grounds their residential abodes. The asceticism of the sect was such as would verge on the torturing of the body. It is because of this reason that Abhinavagupta speaks of the sect as being daksinam raudrakarmadhyam (Tantraloka, 3.7-27).
The next Saivite sect that seems to have emerged after the Pasupatas is the school of Saivasiddhanta of the South. Traditionally it is believed that the sect owed its existence to some ancient Agama known as the Nanmurai. This so- called Agamic text is no more available, as its loss is attributed to a devastating flood of a far distant time. The story seems to be more' apocryphal than real on account of it being mythic in content. However, there may be some content-of truth contained in the story insofar as the occurrence of the flood is concerned. There is, however, another line of tradition, which maintains that there existed a Saiva sect in and around the temple of Mantra Kalesvara on the banks of Godavari. The sect seems to have ensued from such teachers who seem to have belonged to the tradition of Amardaka. It is the teachers of this sect who, on the invitation of a Chola king Rajendra, are said to have preached the basic principles of Saivasiddhanta in the South. Also there exits another tradition that asserts that the Saivasiddhanta sect owes its existence to such Agamic texts whose date of composition is as old as the beginning of Christian era. In whatever way the sect of Saivasiddhanta might have come into existence, the fact remains that its very emergence points out one of the historical truths, which is the popularity of Saivism among the general masses. At the philosophical level of thought, there is further development of realistic pluralism in terms of giving it a reasonable metaphysical foundation. Also the methods of yoga as well as of supernal knowledge are now incorporated into the over-all soteriological framework as necessary tools of liberation. Also devotional and ritual worship are given due emphasis, and it is because of this reason that Abhinavagupta has spoken of Saivasiddhanta as consisting of karmubahulam (ibid., 37.27).
The other major Saivite sect that emerged in the South is known by the name of Virasaivism. It is very popular among the masses of Karnataka. Although the present form of Virasaivism began to develop from the twelfth century onwards, yet its historical roots have been traced to such ancient Saivite ascetics who must have left their mark upon the masses. Insofar as the theological principles of Virasaivism are concerned, they adumbrate such doctrines as would terminate in the philosophy of qualified non-dualism. It is because of its bent towards such non-dualism that is qualified that it adheres to the theory of homogeneity or equilibrium (samarasyavada). Even though containing much more philosophical content than does Saivasiddhanta, yet it cannot be denied that it is also overlaid with ritualism. In addition to the school of Virasaivism, there also emerged Vedantic form of Saivism of Srikantha, which has adumbrated the monistic theory of transformation i abheda-parinamavada). The crux of the doctrine of this school is that the divine powers of God are so transformed as would result in the emergence of phenomena. Although calling itself as being monistic, yet, upon analysis, it resembles in many ways to the qualified non-dualism (visistadvaita) of Ramanuja.
The last major Saivite School that emerged is the Trika Saiva School of Kashmir. The traditional account concerning the spread of the Trika School of Saivism in Kashmir is to be found at the end of the Sivadrsti of Somananda. It is maintained that in ancient times the treasure of religious philosophy of Saivism was mainly to be found among such sages who were highly evolved spiritually. However, with the commencement of the Dark Age (kaliyuga) these sages went to such far off places that no contact could be established with them. Once it so happened that Lord Srikanthanatha, who is one of the forms of Siva, while roaming in and around Kailasa, inspired sage Durvasa concerning the revival of Saivism. Durvasa, being under the influence of divine inspiration, imparted the non-dualistic form of Saivism to one of his disciples, namely, Tryambakaditya. It was the fifteenth descendent of the line of teachers of Tryambakaditya, namely, Sangamaditya, who is said to have settled in Kashmir by marrying a local Brahmana girl. Thus the line of teachers that followed from Sangamaditya were greatly responsible in spreading the Trika form of Saivism in the valley of Kashmir-and Somananda, the author of the Sivadrsti, was the twentieth descendent of the line of Tryambakaditya. It was Somananda who really laid the foundation for non-dualistic philosophy of Trika Saivism by composing his magnum opus, the Sivadrsti.
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