Chaithanyam Aathma: The Shaiva Tantra is the Vishwa Mahadarshana which taught us “The Soul is nothing but consciousness”. In Kashmir, which can be described as the epicentre or cradle of spiritual thought, Shaiva tantras shined the most. Hence later, Sivadvaitha was even called as Kashmir Shaivism.
Even today, Kashmir Shaivism shines as the Brightest Sun on India’s ethereal spiritual horizon. As Sivadvaita, Kashmir Shaivism has grown philosophically as well as praxis. Its application of it is seen all over the Indian subcontinent. It is when we see the implementation of it connecting the northernmost Kashmir and southernmost Kerala, we realise how beautifully India weaves the fabric of a spiritual nation.
The secret of Kashmira Shaivism is that Shiva, who is pure consciousness changes unto the principles of Kshiti (Earth) through Shakthi’s eclat(brilliant display or effect). Kashmir Shaivism contemplates the origin, development and composition of the Shiva-powered universe through 36 principles (Tattvas). In the proper sense of ‘Tatvajnana’, when we hear Shiva and Shaivism, we feel it as a religious system. However, the way of Kashmir Shaivism does not lead us through a merely religious and faith-based path. On the contrary, we are being brought up here through a precise philosophical plan like Samkhya and other epistemologies. nonetheless the Kashmir Shaivism does this not only intellectually, as it is seen in the Samkhya philosophy, but by incorporating the sadhana methods to imbibe the philosophy internally, Shaivism lays before us a scientific plan to infuse the pure consciousness of Shivam with the feeling that “I am”.
It is said that in India, there is no philosophy that cannot be put into practice, and when philosophy is put into practice, it naturally takes the form of rites and rituals. All the philosophies that exist here have this characteristic, so they are considered as religions. In that sense, Kashmir Shaivism can be considered as a Shaivite religion and in practicality, it is seen in Kashmir Shaivism rather than absolutist (relating to or supporting absolute principles) philosophy, so they are called Tantras. Shaivism has a divine origin story about the beginning of the Tantras and how it then trickled down to sages and men. Perhaps even the Guru Parampara of Abhivaguptacharya, one of the most famous Shaivite thinkers, finds Shaivism as a way to reach and join Shiva finally. This is an origin story that is indigestible to western rationalism, but perfectly acceptable to anyone in India who holds a fundamental idea that ‘knowledge flows from God’.
Origin of Tantras
At the beginning of the universe, Lord Shiva appeared with five heads called Chidsakti, Anandasakti, Ichasakti, Jnanasakti and Kriya Shakti and it had five faces named Ishaan, Tatpurusha, Aghora, Vamadeva and Sadyojata. These heads and faces represent the five stages such as creation, preservation, destruction, concealment and revelation. This form of Lord Shiva is known as Swachhandabhairavan. From each face of Bhairava, each Tantra arose to illuminate the truth of The Universe. Later, a few Tantras came out from two faces. Then a few from the three faces, then from four faces and finally from the five faces came out all the Tantras to form the entire Tantra corpus of Shaivism. Tantras are generally of three natures, Bheda tantras also known as Siva tantras which is of dualistic nature, Bhedabheda Rudra tantras, with monodualistic nature, and Abheda Bhairava tantras with monistic nature. The Tantra stream that flowed from Swachchandanathan flowed through Sreekantanathan to Sage Durvasa in Kali Yuga. The instruction received by Durvasa was to impart the Bhairava Tantra to all, irrespective of caste, religion, class and gender. Durvasa, popularly known as Krodhabhattaraka, is a Mahasiddha of a very high yogic position. However, the sage in Urdhvaretaavastha (a Yogic power to hold or control the semen or to take it upward) could not find anyone qualified to impart the great knowledge he had received. Immediately, with his Yoga Siddhi, he created a Manasa Putra (Mindborn). He taught Abheda Bhairava Tantras to this son named Tryambakanatha. He created another two sons, Amardakanatha and Srinatha, and taught them Rudra Tantras and Siva Tantras respectively. He then created a daughter Ardhathrayambaka and initiated her into the Abheda Bhairavatantras. This method, popularly known as the Ardhatrayambaka system, followed a practice in which women taught only women. It is also believed that the Gupta Yoginis keep this practice in deep secrecy.
Tryambakanatha gave birth to a Manasaputra named Tryambakaditya just as sage Durvasa did to teach Tantra. Fifteen Siddhas were born in this order. The fifteenth one found a suitable bride and gave birth to a son named Sangamaditya, as his yogic power was deficient, and he failed to produce a Manasaputra. Sangamaditya gave birth to Varshaditya, Varshaditya gave birth to Arunaditya, Arunaditya gave birth to Ananda, and Anandan gave birth to Somananda. After Somananda, the legacy of Vidya shifted completely to the guru-disciple line. Somananda’s disciple Utpala, later Lakshmanagupta, and Abhinavagupta, the most celebrated master of the Kashmir Shaiva system, are all gleaming figures in this lineage of Gurus. The magnificence of the tantric system can be seen when we see how magnificently these links of the Guru’s lineage are strung together. Thus the Saiva tantra scheme, which has flowed from time immemorial, adopted various means for the purpose of realizing Siva.
When we talk about the Vedas, it is considered as Apaurusheya. Apaurusheya means not made by humans. Shruti is, therefore, Apaurusheya. When talking about Tantra Shastras, Apaurusheya is said to be Agamam. Agamas are the tantras revealed directly by Shiva. Malinivijayotara Tantra, Shiva Sutra, Vijnana Bhairava Tantra etc. are Agama in nature. The Shiva Sutra was revealed to a Shaiva yogi named Vasugupta on a rock called Sankaropala in the valley of Mount Mahendra. This refers to the general nature of the Agamas. It is not produced by the individual where it is produced by the Supreme Being direct. Vasugupta later presented the entire essence of the Shiva Sutra as Spandakarika. Spandakarika, which was made to reveal the inner meaning of the Agamokta Siva Sutra, later developed into another branch of Kashmir Shaivism. Spanda is the subject of Spandadarshan. Shakti is the pulse of Shiva. The Spanda Siddhanta says that the Shakti, which is the vibration of Shiva, is also the Shakti who is the cause of the world.
The philosophical discipline which is made to confirm the realisation that one is Shiva is known as Pratyabhinjana Darshana. The most important book in Pratyabhijnadarsana is Sivadrishti, the one which is written by Somananda of the Saiva Guru Parambara. Spandasiddhanta speaks about the force of vibration. This vibration is the force that causes the universe.
Kramasampradaya expresses harmony with the Spanda Siddhanta by saying that Shakthi is the force that enhances the universe to be in order. Krama is the practical aspect of Kashmir Shaivism at its best. It is a Shakti-oriented Tantra. Krama is the knowledge received by the Tantra Yogi named Jnananetra with the blessings of Goddess Mangala. From Jnananetra, the Krama system spread through three disciples; Madanika, Keyuravati and Kalyanika. Krama Siddhanta is the basis for making a Kshetra Padhathi based on the Shaivadarshan plan. The order worships Kali in the form of Kalasankarshini.
Kramasampradayam envisions Kalasankarshini as the void within the Para Samvit in which Shiva-Shakti resides. Kalasankarshanini is the creator and destroyer of time. The twelve aspects of this Kalasamkarshini are called Dwadasa Kali. These are the twelve Kalis who are the basis of the entire universe. The four Kalis exist at the level of creation, namely Srishtikali, Raktakali, Stishinasakali, and Yama Kali. Samharakali, Mrityukali, Bhadrakali and Marthandakali exist on the plane of sustenance. Paramarkakali, Kalagnirudrakali, Mahakalakali and Mahabhairava Ghora Chandakali exist in the plane of destruction. We can see Kalasankarshani as the composite form of these twelve Kalis. The amazing thing is that we can see the expression of this Krama scheme of Kashmir in the form of temples in southernmost Kerala. Thirteen Sakteya Kavus in Kerala are Mannunpurathu Kavu in Kasaragod Nileswaram, Madai Kavu in Kannur, Kalarivatukkal Kavu, Mamaanikunnu Kavu, Thiruvancheri Kavu, Kaliyamvalli Kavu, Kozhikode Pishari Kavu, Thiruvalayanatu Kavu, Palakkad Kodikkunnathu Kavu, Thirumandhamkunnu Kavu in Malappuram Angadippuram, Pathanamthitta Panayannar Kavu and Thiruvalla Muthoottu Kavu. These are the 13 Kaavus in Kerala.
Pujanam in Krama Sampradaya (making shrines and performing puja kriyas there), learning and discussing Kathanam (discussing Krama-related topics) and Sankramanam (receiving knowledge directly from Parashakti in a higher state) is done in Kerala but, there is no Kathanam for the worshipers to know what they are doing. The great misfortune is that there is no transmigration happening due to the lack of needed knowledge in Upasana. The history of the order or the struggle that prevails in these Kaavus is not adequately discussed. As important as this is to the Sadhaka community. Kramakali’s relevance in Kerala is equally important to those searching for the cultural and spiritual existence of India. It is in this context that the Tathagata Noetic and Tantric Research Academy, based in Kozhikode, Kerala, embarks on an investigation into the significance of the Krama Sampradaya in the thirteen Sakteya Kaavus of Kerala and also prepares a retelling of the Kramakali Stotra written by Bhairavaswarupa Abhinavagupta in his famous Tantraloka.
The plan was to arrange the Kramakali Stotram using the ragas of Carnatic music, a South Indian branch of music, and perform it. As a part of the objective of creating a South Indian expression of the Kashmir project and participating in the National Integration effort, on October 3, 2022, Carnatic music Vidushi Srila Sri Bhagyalakshmi Guruvayur recited the Kramakali Stotra and Kuchipudi dancer Vidushi Srila Sri Rachana Narayanankutty performed Kalasanmankarshini’s Kalipravesha in Kuchipudi Natya at the Anand Nagar Sanjeevani Sarada Kendra in Jammu.
Shri J. Nandakumar, the National Convenor of Prajnapravrah, spoke on the topic of National Integration through Spiritual Integration and Editor-in-Chief of Shivam Magazine, Dr R Ramanand, gave a lecture on the relevance of the Kramakali system in Kerala. On October 4, 2022, the said program was also presented at Ishwar Ashram Trust of Ishwara Swaroopa Swami Lakshman Joo Maharaj, Srinagar.
Kramanaya Pradipika was composed by Sri Lakshman Joo, combining Abhinavagupta’s Kramakali Stotra. His disciple Shri George Barselaar presided over the program. Shri Ashutosh Bhatnagar from Jammu and Kashmir Study Centre, Shri Avatar Ji, Maharaja Krishnan Ji, Shri Anand Tiwari Ji, Mrs Nidhi Ji, Shri Bhawani Singh Ji and others participated in the program.
The world came to India in search of the elixir of Tantra. It is unfortunate that the people of a country where this perennial Maha Vidya has originated, remain unaware of its significance. Today, if we have to depend on foreign scholars and foreign universities where Kashmir Shaivism is taught as an optional and core subject to learn, it means that we are losing our soul. The abode of Sharada in its deplorable stature in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, is an overarching trauma for patriots. Similarly, Kashmir Shaivism, revered and regarded as ‘The theory of everything’, remains as a pain in the mind of practitioners for its neglected stature in the country. This Mahavidya needs to be learned and propagated. It will not only benefit people in their personal sadhana but also act as a proclamation— India is a spiritual nation.
(The writer is Editor in Chief, Shivam Shaiva Shakta Tantra Magazine)