Unveiling Non-Duality: Chapter #4: Kashmir Shavism

Damon
Amity Haven
Published in
3 min readFeb 5, 2024

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Non-Duality Chapter #4: Kashmir Shavism

Kashmir Shaivism:

Emerged as a powerful and sophisticated school of Indian philosophy and spirituality, known for its intricate metaphysical concepts and emphasis on the recognition of one’s unity with the divine consciousness, Shiva. At the heart of this tradition were several key figures whose writings and teachings shaped the course of Kashmir Shaivism. Below is an article summarizing the contributions of the early prominent Kashmir Shaivist philosophers.

Chapter 1-Vasugupta: The Revealer of the Shiva Sutras (c. 800–850 CE)

Considered the founder of the Kashmir Shaivism school, lived during the 9th century CE, a time when the spiritual landscape of Kashmir was fertile ground for religious and philosophical innovation. Vasugupta established the basic principles of the tradition in works like his famous Shiva Sutras, which are said to have been revealed to him on a rock at Mahadeva Mountain. This text became the bedrock upon which the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism were built.

Key Writings:

  • Shiva Sutras
  • Spanda Karika

Chapter 2-Somananda: The Proponent of Pratyabhijna Philosophy (c. 9th century CE)

Vasugupta’s chief disciple Somananda further developed and expanded on his teacher’s doctrines. In the Shivadrishti, he elaborated concepts like supreme consciousness (cit) and individual consciousness (citta), along with theories on manifestation. He debated Buddhists and established the tradition’s philosophical foundations.

Somananda, who flourished in the latter part of the 9th century, was instrumental in developing the doctrine known as Pratyabhijna or ‘Recognition’. His philosophical work laid down a systematic approach to understanding and realizing one’s inherent divinity through recognition of the self as Shiva.

Key Writings:

  • Shivadrishti

Chapter 3-Utpaladeva: The Philosopher of Recognition (c. 900–950 CE)

The chief philosopher who established the Pratyabhijña system, focusing on recognition of the Divine Self. Through works like Ishvara-pratyabhijña-karika, Utpaladeva formulated sophisticated arguments and explanations of this key perspective introduced by Vasugupta.

Utpaladeva was a principal disciple of Somananda and is best known for his elucidation and expansion of the Pratyabhijna philosophy. His writings further articulated how individual consciousness can recognize its identity with universal consciousness.

Key Writings:

  • Ishvara-pratyabhijña-karika
  • Siddhitrayi

Chapter 4-Abhinavagupta: The Polymath of Kashmir Shaivism (c. 950–1020 CE)

The most celebrated and prolific Kashmir Shaivism sage, Abhinavagupta synthesized over a thousand years of Shaivism wisdom into a philosophical system encompassing areas from metaphysics and epistemology to art. He wrote over 40 works including Tantraloka, considered an encyclopedia of Trika Shaivism.

Abhinavagupta, who lived in the late 10th and early 11th centuries, is perhaps the most illustrious figure in Kashmir Shaivism. A philosopher, mystic, and aesthetician, he synthesized various strands of Shaivite thought into a coherent whole. His works spanned theology, poetics, drama, and devotional practices.

Key Writings:

  • Tantraloka
  • Paratrimshikavivarana
  • Paramarthasara

Chapter 5-Kshemaraja: The Expositor of Non-Dual Shaivism (c. 1025–1050 CE)

Abhinavagupta’s direct disciple, Kshemaraja carried on his master’s teachings. Besides writing important commentaries on classical Shaiva texts, he is also credited with expanding the tradition’s philosophical reach other parts of India.

Kshemaraja was a key exponent of non-dual Shaivism in the 11th century. He is noted for his lucid commentaries that made complex philosophical ideas more accessible to students and practitioners.

Key Writings:

  • Pratyabhijnahrdayam
  • Commentaries on Shiva Sutras & Spanda Karika

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Damon
Amity Haven

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