Science and Kashmir Shaivism

by Virendra Qazi

We are analyzing a unique subject: the synthetics of natural sciences with metaphysics. Our ancient seers and sages long back conceived the principles of physical or natural science. The  World, as we see, is a play of energy, force or vibration, and not an illusion, was an important creed of our Sastras. This is in total conformity with modern science.

Discovery of modern physics that matter is only waves of various lengths, without their being any essentially solid, hard stuff is really a re- discovery of what the Trika Shastra conceived centuries ago as the "Spanda". Through modern physics, we have grown accustomed to thinking of physical reality as waves of energy--as the matter-energy continuum. Tantric Shaivism presents the full matrix of energy pulsation of which physical reality is only a part. From the relatively superficial perceptions of the senses to the progressively subtle forms of inner awareness, a unified spectrum of spanda leads inward until the most delicate and powerful tendrils of individuality merge with the infinitely rapid vibration of the ultimate consciousness.

Well, before we analyze further the physical and spiritual science, let us understand in brief the uniqueness of Kashmir Shaivism. This philosophy occupies a distinguished position among the various schools of religious creed and thought. It focuses on relation between God, Nature and Man, which overcomes all the barriers of diverse human-cultures.  It leads to the highest level of self-realization, revealing the inner most secrets of the nature of self.  All the aspects of life are integrated and taken in totality.  Thus, rather than negation and denial, it celebrates life. Kashmir Shaivism is the school of Indian philosophy, which can inspire us for both material and spiritual progress. Rather, the approach is from theory to practice. Indeed, it leads us to the real " Art of Living".

Kashmir Shaivism is presently evoking deep interest in West, with lot of pioneering research work at leading universities. In our present strife-torn world this philosophy can be a great guide and uniting factor. A thrill of self confidence, the spirit of bliss, surpassing all barriers of caste, creed and gender, no look back, no regret, the inner journey, see everything as creation of God, etc - how prominently and conceptually these are emphasized in Kashmir Shaivism. In fact, it should be our endeavor to present this ancient philosophy in common man's language so that resurgence takes place with the goal of upliftment of world as a whole.

The prime focus of Kashmir Shaivism is on the Ultimate Reality called Param Shiva. This basic point is to recognize this source from which emanates everything and into which merges everything. Param Shiva is beyond description, beyond all manifestation, beyond limitation of form, time and space.  He is eternal, infinite, all pervading, all knowing and all-powerful.  In fact, this reality is ineffable and beyond all descriptions.

After our stress on this basic reality called Param Shiva, let us seek and understand this philosophy. Kashmir Shaivism is a process of recognizing or discovery of individual soul as one with the Universal Being through correct knowledge of the "Descend" from Godhood to manhood. The next is "Ascend" or going back to Godhood. Lastly great stress is given to "Devotion" towards the Ultimate Reality called Param Shiva.

As regards the Great Descend, Kashmir Shaivism postulates 36 categories or "Tattvas" to explain the process of cosmic evolution or universal experience, i.e., from God hood to veiling or obscuring force of nature called Maya Shakti leading to various psycho - physical elements and finally the Panch Mahabhutas - five great elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether.  

The first outward manifestation of the divine creative energy is called "Shiva - Tattva".  It is the initial creative movement of Paramasiva and is support of all things in the manifest world, like the canvas of a painting. Next, the "Shakti-Tattava" is active or kinetic cosmic energy that effects the divine consciousness into action.

"Maya" is the veiling or obscuring force of nature that creates a sense of differentiation.  As such, it makes universal consciousness, which is unity, appear as duality and multiplicity. The result of the limitation of Maya is "Purusha" and "Prakriti", the limited being and his nature. Here the dual world of mind and matter is permanently established. This follows various mental operations, ascertaining intelligence, sense perceptions, ego, etc. The process is complete finally with the gross Panch Mahabutas as referred above.

Now, let us consider the Ascend or going back to Godhood. What is source of pain and frustration- duality and moving away from Godhood! So, it is natural that we must strive to go back to Godhood. For this there has to be Shaktipath- the descend of Divine Grace.  In order to earn Grace, one has to undergo spiritual discipline, known as “Upyas” or Trika Yoga. Depending upon potential of individual, these means or yoga have been categorized with particular emphasis as Anupaya (supreme means- Bliss), Shambopaya (higher means- Will), Shaktopaya (medium means- Knowledge) and Anvopaya (inferior means- Action). However, it must always be remembered that descend of the Divine Grace-Shaktipath- is independent of human efforts.

Kashmir Shaivism emphasizes that one has to discover the inner “Bliss”. Let us not suppress the senses; do not torture the body or mind, etc. Forcible control will lead to adverse effect. Be as you are. When one discovers inner bliss he/she will give up fascination for outer worldly enjoyments. Outwardly one may perform the age-old traditions but inwardly he/she has to seek exact truth through the practices taught in Trika Yoga. There is no restriction based on color, creed, gender, etc. in eligibility for initiation in this Yoga.

As regards "Devotion", it is an essential aid to all the practices.  An aspirant not blessed with devotion for the Lord can not succeed in the practice or Saivayoga. After inculcating the principles and treading the path as explained above, we should surrender and submit to the Ultimate Reality. This will, no doubt, lead us to the ultimate goal

Coming back to great " Descend", the in-evolution or movement from Godhood to manhood or the great creation, let us analyze it in detail. What is the cause of the first movement or the impulse to create?

Sankhya says that it is due to the association of purusha and prakriti, but no reason is given for this association. Vedanta contends that only an intelligent agent can set Universal Consciousness in motion; so it postulates Brahman or the supreme lord. Both systems show where the initial impulse originates, but neither explains why. Kashmir Shaivism answers this question by saying that consciousness eternally alternates between two phases, rest and action, that is, Prakasha and Vimarsha. 

The Prakasha phase is a period of potentiality, technically called pralaya or reabsorption. It is the passive phase of consciousness. Here all the forms of the manifest universe are dissolved and their essence re-absorbed by the universal consciousness. During the period of potentiality, pralaya, all manifestations are dormant just as the characteristics of a mango tree are dormant in a mango seed. After this period of latency, the universal seeds begin to germinate and consciousness becomes active.

The active phase of consciousness is called srishti or the creation of the universe. This phase of manifestation is also called abhasa. Each phase of action is said to generate the seeds of potentiality that germinate during the period of rest to bring about the next phase of action, in the same way that the flowering of a mango tree produces the seed for the growth of another tree.

The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, especially, the process of creation can be better understood by a careful study of this spanda principle. Spanda is the energy that permeates the universe during its processes of evolution, vibration, and the ceaseless force from which springs everything that exists. It is the source of universal energy which manifests itself in fear, joy, and anger, and which throbs in word and thought. When a person is overwhelmed with ecstasy, joy or anger he experiences Spanda. Spanda is the supreme universal power, which embodies all manifestations. It is the first motion of will, the impetus of spirit.

In the Kena Upanishad a student asks his teacher, "who directs the mind towards its object? Who causes the prana or life force to function? Who compels men to speak? What God makes the eyes and ears function? " The teacher answers that the Ultimate Conscious Force or Spanda is the source of all actions, emanations, illumination, and unfolding; but it remains unattached to all these. Furthermore, it is by means of this Universal Conscious Force that the eyes see, the ears hear, the mind thinks, the intellect grasps, the metabolism works, and the planets move.

The power of Spanda is the dynamic aspect of the transcendental Reality. This Reality is the abode of all powers of manifestation and action. Through introspection, an aspirant can experience the inner motive force of Spanda. Abhinavgupta, the great master of Kashmir shaivism, observes that Spanda is unobjectified desire, which leads consciousness to feel incomplete. It is the first stage of consciousness before it crystallizes into the reasoning process.

Though Spanda is expressed in various ways according to the particular movement in which it manifests, Ramakantha, the author of a commentary on the Spandakarika, has used it in the special sense of an inner rhythm of aesthetic spiritual experience. This may be characterized as a flash of thought or an inner perception such as pleasure or pain. He also uses it in the sense of an unobjectified desire.

All action merely represents an expression of the individual's will. Immediately before beginning an action, one experiences a kind of stir within. Wordily action is therefore a unity because of the oneness of will and purpose. Spanda is the first flutter of Pure Consciousness in the process of the five fold actions: emanation, existence, dissolution, concealment, and bestowal of grace.

Spanda cannot be understood by intellectual interpretations of metaphysical ideas. It can only be grasped through introspection. One can observe within oneself the various changes that take place in the satisfaction of a wish or desire.

Spanda is that power of consciousness that infuses life into physical senses, which would otherwise appear inert. A person who observes his own nature can comprehend that power. Spanda animates the senses and is the origin of the processes of creation, existence, and dissolution. Every natural phenomenon is brought about by this same power. An individual can watch his thinking process as well as the various steps involved in the fulfilling of a desire and thereby observe Spanda at work.

When a person is thinking of one aspect of an idea, another aspect of the same idea suddenly arises in his mind. In this process, the junction-point between the two thoughts is called unmesha. Modern scientists put it in their own terminology. They call it an altered state of consciousness or a state of higher consciousness. They say that everything in the universe functions like a pendulum, which moves from one point of rest to another. In other words, all matter vibrates. This point of rest is very dynamic in that it is where the change of direction takes place. At that point it actually disappears for a fraction of a micro second and then reappears. This means that we have a system in which all our realities exist on an off-on basis. During the off period we expand and fill the entire universe; the we contract and continue in our normal reality as if nothing had happened. It is not the physical object that expands but rather it is its essence that extends to fill the universe.

A seeker should become familiar with this junction point, which is the background of all his thoughts and images. Here he can experience the conscious force that brings about the sudden change from one image to another. The various images are fleeting; but their source, which pervades them all, is unchanging.

Now, let us stress again on the natural sciences. Let us take a voyage through the history of the Universe, as we currently believe it to have been. At that instant, from nothing, a tiny speck of infinitely hot light appeared. This is the event referred to as the "Big Bang." Inside the speck was all of space. The fireball began to expand. In one trillion-trillionth of a second, the Universe grew a hundred million times bigger; its temperature dropped from near infinity to about 10,000 trillion trillion degrees. Electrons and positrons formed, immediately annihilated, and repeated this cycle over and over. 

In practically no time, a vast expansion of the size of the Universe took place and the temperature became such that real matter, particle and anti-particle pairs could form and go their separate ways. The Universe entered into a period of frenetic matter creation, which lasted about a second. When the frenzy was over, matter had won out over antimatter. However, protons, neutrons, and electrons were only a minute constituent of the Universe.

Eastern wisdom defined thousands of years ago the concept of Spanda, as a vibration or flashing forth of the Divine Consciousness, as being the fundament of the entire manifestation of the Universe. In this vision, consciousness is everywhere, even in the most insignificant particle of matter. In other words, the whole matter contains consciousness (therefore, life) in various proportions. In the smallest measure, all that we know and have known, are fragments of our being. Within everything and every one, there is a tiny tiny vibration.

Sir James Jeans said, " The universe starts to look more like a great thought, than a great machine." Spanda is the vibratory dynamism of the absolute consciousness.


While expounding the relevance of Kashmir Shaivism our deepest gratitude goes to Lalleshwari, whose teachings give a unique opportunity to have insight into this mystic philosophy.  She conveyed its essence in a simple way for benefit of the humanity.

She had a vision -- of past present and future! She could see beyond times; right from the formation of Universe. She saw Kashmir valley out of vast lake, a great expansion of water, surrounded on all sides by mountains. After this vision of the past she could see the present - her times. She could narrate the woes and turbulence permeating her life and the society in general.

Let us conclude with her mystical outpourings, the Lal - Vakh.


Yath  Saras sariphol na vetse,
Tath sari sakalay poni cen;
Mrag, sragal, gandi, zalhasti,
Zen na zen ta totuy pen.
What a surprise! This earth looks like a lake so small, in which a mustard seed cannot be contained, 

But from this very source or lake  all (the sakala) drink water;
 The deer, the jackals, the rhinoceros and the sea-elephants,
Are no sooner born than they fall into it (The life cycle).


                        He guru Parameshwra,
                        Bavtam tseyi chuy antar vyod;
                        Dwashavai vopadan kanda-pura,
                        Hah kava turun ta hah kava tot?

She asks her Guru to solve the riddle. O my teacher! Thou art as God to me!
Explain thou to me, for the inner meaning (or the difference) is known to thee;
Both the breathings take their rise from the region of the Bulb:
Why then is 'hah' (short breath) cold and 'hah' (long breath) warm?

                       Nabhisthanas tsit zalavani
                       Brahmasthanas shishirun mwakh,
                       Brahmandas chai nad vahavani
                       Tavai turun 'hah','hah' gav tot.

The region of the navel is glowing with fire, by its very nature, The hot air rises up to the throat which is the passage for inspiration and expiration, But, from Brahmanda there is a cold stream flowing downwards, The short breath is cold, therefore, and the long one is hot.

On the subtle plane, the coolness of short breath and the warmth of a long breath are related to two facts accepted by the yogis. The navel region or ' kanda-pura' is the region of the sun where the abdominal heat glows perpetually. The long expiration is said to get warmed up by the heat of the bulb at the navel.
Against this, the yogis also assert the presence of the microcosmic Moon in the Brahmarandhra or the upper extremity of the susumna nadi. The region of the Moon being cold, by its very nature, gives out a cold current down the Susumna. This current cools the breath as it is carried by Ida nadi or Candra nadi in short breathing.

Virendra Qazi
Virendra Qazi