Traditional Tantra – Shaivism – Kashmir Shaivism

Traditional Tantra

The verbal root of tantra is “tan”, “to expand,” followed by the suffix “tra”, which is usually an instrumental suffix. Hence tantra means “an instrument (tra) for expansion (tan)”. There is only ever ONE correct etymological meaning of a word.

It is a science to experience what is and is not a philosophy. It is not mind-oriented; it is living in the moment, not future- and past-oriented. It is a rediscovery of yourself who is hidden in the dust of concepts, ideas, dreams and desires. It accepts the human being as it is without any judgment, guilt, fear, comparison and offers a way to unveil or rediscover it. Tantra says that whatsoever you are, the ultimate is not opposite to it. No struggle, no conflict, no fight with nature is needed. Tantra says greed, anger, hate and sex are not your enemies – take them as a divine gift and approach them with a very grateful heart. Tantra says move in desire with full consciousness so only consciousness remains.

Tantra is not against senses. Rather it uses senses. It doesn’t teach you to control your mind but rather be aware of it without any judgement. Tantra is for choiceless witnessing beyond likes and dislikes. It teaches spontaneous awareness to be present as life flows.

Tantra embrace the change as the flow of life and flows with it. Tantra trusts in life force; it allows to unfold your true nature. There is no goal in Tantra, you don’t have to reach somewhere – you are already there where you should be – just be aware that you are. This awareness is you. Tantra helps you to feel your own presence in order to live your life in harmony.

Shaivism & Kashmir Shaivism

Shaivism is practically the oldest spiritual path of the world. In India, Shaivism is millennium old, and the archeological researches from Mohenjo Daro and Harappa revealed a history going back even beyond the calcolitic age.

Shiva represents that hypostasis of God that is manifested as Great Savior or Great Master of the ignorant, limited beings. Any sincere, frantic aspiration towards the state of spiritual freedom is addressed in fact to this aspect of God, Shiva the Good and Kind.

Any sign of the manifestation of the divine grace, which is indispensable to reaching the state of supreme spiritual freedom is closely connected to Shiva. Therefore, we may even say that Shaivism can be found in any place where a strong, authentic spiritual tradition flourished.

In India, there are six main forms of Shaivism, from which three are essential:

  1. Vira-Shaiva spread mainly in the central area of India;
  2. Shiva-Siddhanta, in the south;
  3. Advaita-Shiva, the most pure and elevated form of the Kashmir Shaivism, in the northern India.

The tradition of the Kashmir Shaivism was transmitted from master to disciple centuries in a row, according to the method named “from mouth to ear”.

The first fundamental work of Shaivism, attributed to Vasugupta, the first initiate of this spiritual path, who lived at the end of the VII-th century and the beginning of the IX-th century AD is named Shiva Sutra and is a compilation of aphorisms, completely hermetical for the uninitiated person, and it presents the three-cardinal path in reaching spiritual freedom:

  1. Shambhavopaya, or Shiva’s Path
  2. Shaktopaya, or Shakti‘s path or the Path of the Energy
  3. Anavopaya, or the Path of the limited people

Vasugupta mentioned that he is not the author of Shiva-Sutra, but that he found it written on a rock that came out from the water and that went back into the water after he read and memorized the text.

The entire written tradition (shastra) of the Shaivism is divided into three parts:

  1. Agama Shastra– considered as a direct revelation from Shiva (God). It includes works as: Shiva Sutra, Malinivijaya Tantra, Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, etc.
  2. Spanda Shastra– contains the doctrine of the system. The main work in this category belongs to Vasugupta – Spanda Karika
  3. Pratyabhijna Shastra– contains metaphysical works, with a high spiritual level, and is the least accessible to the common reader. From this category the most important works are: Ishvara Pratyabhijna of Utpaladeva and Pratyabhijna Vimarsini, a commentary of the first.

There are several important schools of the Shaivism, of which the most elevated belong to the Trika system. The word “trika” means “trinity” in Sanskrit and suggests the idea that in our universe, all things have a threefold nature.

We may express this trinity through: Shiva (God), Shakti (His fundamental creative energy) and Anu (individual, the limited projection of the divinity).

Trika includes several spiritual schools:

  • Krama– in Sanskrit “process”, “orderly succession”.
  • Kaula (Kula)– in Sanskrit “community”, “family”, “totality”.
  • Spanda– term that defines the Supreme Divine Creative Vibration.
  • Pratyabhijna– term that refers to the direct recognition of the divine essence.

Kashmiri Saivism originated in the trans Himalayan region around 4th century AD. As the name implies, it grew into prominence in the area presently known as Jammu and Kasmhir. Kashmiri Saivism derives its beliefs and practices mostly from the concept of monism or non-dualism (advaita) but differs from the latter in some fundamental ways. Historians usually credit Adi Shakaracharya as the chief protagonist of the Advaita school of thought who made it popular and contributed to its success. If we look at the historical development of Kashmiri Saivism, we cannot overlook its contribution in the development of Advaita as an important school of Hindu philosophy.

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