The ultimate Reality is variously designated as Anuttara, Cit, Caitanya, Purna or Para Samvid, Siva, Paramasiva, Paramesvara, and Atman; that is, it is the Supreme, higher than which there is nothing, ineffable and indescribable, pure Consciousness, Self-consciousness, integral or supreme Experience, the benign One, the highest Good and Bliss, the supreme Lord, the Self of everything, formless and, yet, informed with all forms, and free from all limitations in space and time.

Reality is ineffable and beyond any descriptions, yet the Trika formulates a philosophy about Its nature. It is to be understood that this formulation is regarding Reality as the creator or manifestor of the universe and not as It is in Itself. Thus Reality is conceived both as transcendent and immanent. As transcendent, it is described as Siva, as immanent as Sakti. Siva and Sakti are not two separate realities, but two phases or aspects of the same Reality. Sakti is always in the state of perfect identity with Siva, but for the purpose of clear understanding the two are distinguished in thought only. Like fire and its burning power, Siva and Sakti are the same identical fact, though they are spoken of as distinct. Considered as purely transcendent, Siva is save, dead as it were; but in truth there is perfect equilibrium, samarasya, between Siva and Sakti, and, as such, the integrality is designated Paramasiva. It is due to the limitation of language that we have to use phrases like ‘between Siva and Sakti’ and ‘Siva is the supreme Lord of Sakti’. But it must be understood that the Lord and His lordliness, the Isvara and His aisvarya, which is another name of Sakti, are one and the same. Sakti is described as the hrdaya (heart), the sara (essence) of Siva.

”Sakti has been called as ‘the Heart of the Supreme Lord’ in the Parapravesika by Rajanaka Kṣemarāja (क्षेमराज) (late 10th to early 11th century), a philosopher and brilliant disciple of Abhinavagupta

visātmikām taduttirnām hrdayam paramesituh

He is hidden, and cannot be found without Her.
For they are mirrors, each revealing the other.

She is His very form,
But Her radiance comes from Him.
Blending into one,
They enjoy the nectar of their own union.

Shiva and Shakti are one,
Like air and the wind,
Like gold and its luster,
Shiva and Shakti cannot be separated.
They are like musk and its fragrance,
Like fire and its heat.

In the light of the Sun
There is no difference between day and night.
In the Light of the Supreme Truth
There is no difference between Shiva and Shakti.

I honor the union of Shiva and Shakti,
Who devour this world of name and form
Like a sweet dish.
All that remains is the One.”

excerpted from a poem called ‘The Union of Shiva And Shakti’, by Saint, poet and yogi Jnaneshwar, Maharashtra, India (1275-1296)

This Heart which moves in the midst of the lunar stations made up of time -of the All – is present in everything in the form of an undifferentiated self-referential consciousness; one should continually meditate on this seed of the Heart as having penetrated into one’s own Heart, into one’s consciousness, which is in the form of the lotus-flower because it plays at expanding and contracting.

Abhinavagupta, mystic, philosopher, ascetic, and aesthetician flourished 1014, Kashmir, India

Cit, pure Consciousness, Illumination, cannot be without self-consciousness, without self-illumination. Cit is also Caitanya. Caitanya is the Sakti aspect of Reality and is compared to a clear mirror in which Reality sees Itself. Caitanya is regarded as femine, though Reality in Itself is neither masculine nor feminine. Thus Consciousness is self-consciousness. Sakti is Siva’s power of turning upon Himself. We say ‘Himself’, because, at this stage of consideration, we are not regarding Reality as It is in Itself, but as the Lord of the universe-to-be. This is called cit-sakti, the power of Cit to reveal Itself and to know Itself. The Trika makes a fivefold distinction of the fundamental modes of Sakti. These aspects of Sakti are cit, ananda, iccha, jnana, and kriya. Cit is the power of self-awareness; ananda is the power of absolute bliss, or self-enjoying, without having to depend on anything extraneous; iccha is the power of absolute will to manifest the universe out of Himself. Jnana is the power of knowing the inherent relations of all manifested or manifestable things among themselves and with His own self; and kriya is the power to assume any form. It must not for a moment be forgotten that these five are only aspects of the selfsame Sakti and not five different entities.

Sakti is also known as svatantrya, independence or freedom, because Her existence does not depend on anything extraneous to Herself. She is also vimarsa, which means various things at the same time. Vimarsa is vibration; it is Siva’s awareness of Himself as the integral and all-comprehensive supreme ego. When there is the reflection of Siva in Sakti, there emerges in the heart of Reality the sense of ‘I’ which is described as aham-vimarsa. This is the original bimba or reflection, of which everything in the universe is pratibimba or abhasa, a secondary reflection or shadow. It is at this stage that we can first speak of the universe. For the universe in the Trika philosophy is a system of subjects and objects, grahakas and grahyas. All subjects or knowers are reflections of the original subject, the integral ‘I’, which Siva is by virtue of vimarsa. Now the emergence of the I, aham, is not intelligible without the corresponding emergence of the ‘it’, idam; the grahaka, the apprehender, must have grahya, the apprehensible. That is why vimarsa is also described as the throb of the ‘I’ hording within itself and visioning within itself the world of objects. Thus the ‘I’ or supreme aham is the whole universe, not, however, as we understand it in common parlance, but in its ideal state as a ‘vision’ in Siva.


Once the conceptual distinction between Siva and Sakti is made, the latter is regarded as a dharma, an attribute, of the former. The relation between the two is one of tadahnya (identity). Sometimes it is said to be samarasya (perfect equilibrium) also, and while they are regarded as two in one, or rather one in, or one as, two, the relation of substance and attribute holds between them. Only we should understand that the implication is that the substance, by virtue of its own inherent power, becomes the attributes. Now Sakti, in Her turn, is also regarded as a substance, because all manifestable objects are taken to be inherent and latent in Her Womb. They have no existence apart from Sakti, and as such are like attributes of this substance.

Sakti is prakasa-vimarsamaya. At the background is prakasa or illumination, in the foreground is vimarsa or vibration of prakasa as the sense of ‘I’. Prakasa can be taken to be Siva, placid and transcendent, vimarsa or Sakti as dynamic and immanent. Keeping in mind the concept of vimarsa as not only Sakti in general, but also specifically as the sense of ‘I’, we can say that things are the same as prakasa, their difference being due to having or lacking in vimarsa. The more of self-consciousness one has, the more of vimarsa also one has, and is thus the nearer to Siva or pure Consciousness. Thus, while vimarsa is taken to be the cause of the manifestation and dissolution of the universe, it is so only in the wider sense of being Sakti, and not as the reflection as ‘I’. Or, in other words, while everything is a manifestation out of vimarsa, everything does not have vimarsa. A jar or a pot has no vimarsa, no sense of ‘I’, no self-awareness; that is why it is material. Vimarsa is defined as the camatkrti, wonderment of the integral ‘I’, and that is why the practical discipline of the system enjoins the development of the sense of the ‘I’ as being the whole, as identical with the universe. The individual self is also said to be prakasa-vimarsamaya. That is to say, the individual self is also of the nature of consciousness and has self-consciousness also. Analogically speaking, we can say prakasa, in the case of the individual, is the shining intelligence and also the ideas, desires, memories, etc. which are its manifestations; and vimarsa is the individual’s awareness that ‘those are mine’.

Sakti in its fivefold aspect therefore is the principle of the universal manifestation. Cit-sakti, the power of self-consciousness, entails ananda, enjoyment and wonderment, on the part of Siva; bliss gives rise to iccha, desire, to create; desire to create cannot be fulfilled unless there is jnana, knowledge, of what is to be created and how it is to be created; this knowledge is followed by the actual creation or manifestation, the power of which is kriya-sakti. Sometimes, however, cit and ananda-saktis are kept in the background, and iccha, jnana and kriya are taken to be the principal powers.

The universe originally exists in identity with Reality, which is simultaneously static and dynamic, being and becoming at the same time. The dynamic aspect or Sakti, when slightly ‘swollen’ as it were, manifests the universe out of Herself, as the seed does the banyan tree (vatadhanikavat). Thus Sakti or Siva considered not as transcendent identity, but I as immanent unity, is both the material and the instrumental cause of the universe. When there is the self-reflection of Siva, Sakti serving as a mirror, there emerges the ‘ego’ or the ‘I’ in Siva. From here starts the universal manifestation, as has been said above. Since there is nothing apart from, independent of, Siva, the elements of the universe can be nothing but Siva Himself. These constituent elements of the universe, which are ‘constants’, through srsti and pralaya, are called tattvas or categories. Srsti, which is nothing but self-manifestation, is described as opening out (unmesa) and pralaya as closing down (nimesa), like a bud opening out as a flower, and the petals of the blooming flower closing down as the bud. Srsti and pralava follow each other in a never-ending process, each successive universe being determined in its character by its predecessor by a kind of causal necessity.


This unmesa or opening out is in one sense a limitation of Siva, His disappearance (tirodhana). Siva is said to have five eternal functions. They are tirodhana, srsti, sthiti, samhara or pralaya and anugraha, that is, limitation or disappearance, creation, preservation, dissolution, and compassion or grace. The universe, which is the collective name of the system of limited subjects and objects, cannot come into manifestation unless Siva assumes limitation. It is only by coercing His infinitude and transcendent character, that Siva can manifest the universe out of Himself. This power of obscuration or self-limitation is called tirodhana, and the limitation takes the form of anutva or atomicity. It is also called sankoca, contraction. Because of this contraction, there is effected a dichotomy in Siva, who is consciousness-power. The dichotomy is that of bodha or consciousness on the one side, and svatantrya or power or independence on the other. Bodily, tends to become devoid of svatantrya and svatantrya of bodha. Though neither of them is completely devoid or empty of the other, still, for all practical purposes, ‘we can say’ that there is a separation between consciousness and power. The aspect of consciousness loses the integral self-consciousness. Siva does not see the universe to be identical with Himself. And since the universe is Sakti originally, we can say consciousness becomes static and sterile of His creative power, and power becomes blind without awareness of Her being truly consciousness. The situation is well described as ‘an inert soul and a somnambulist force’.

After the primary limitation of anutva or atomicity, Siva undergoes a secondary limitation with the help of Maya, and then is described as Purusha. Though Siva in His own nature is eternal, all-pervasive, omnipotent, omniscient, and all enjoying consciousness, as Purusha He is limited in time and space, and has limited knowledge, authorship, and interest or enjoyment. This fivefold limitation, is derived from Maya which also provides both location and object to the Purusa, by evolving the physical universe. We have said above that along with the emergence of the ‘ego’ or the ‘I’, that of the object or the ‘it’ has also to be conceived. In Siva this dichotomy is absent, because He is the integral Reality and beyond the distinction of subject and object. But because of self-limitation of Siva, there emerges, against the background of the distinctionless pure consciousness of Siva, a polarity of ‘subject’ and ‘object’, aham and idam. At the outset, the dichotomy is only ideal. But as the process of opening out or manifestation of Sakti proceeds, the distance between the two increases till they are sundered apart.


It is in maya that the atomic Siva is shrouded by the five kancukas or covers of Maya, viz. kalaa, vidya, raga, and niyati, kaala. This Maya is the knowledge of difference, the creatrix of the divorce between the subject and the object, while Prakrti, which comes simultaneously into existence with Purusa, is the potser that actually manifests the universe down to material things. Maya (which is itself sometimes regarded as a kancuka) and the five kancukas, together with the twenty-five tattvas (including Purusha) of the Samkhya, make up the thirty-one categories that constitute the empirical world of finites. The recognition by the Purusha or the pasu as being in truth Shiva Himself presupposes not only the transcendence of the sense of difference, but also the realization of identity with everything. It implies not only the piercing of Maya, but the progressive unification of the self with the whole universe. The five higher categories of suddha-maya represent the stages of this progressive unification and make up the total of thirty-six categories of the system. The atomic limitation or impurity of the bound self, anutva or anavamala, is responsible for the non-intuitionof the true nature of the self and is twofold. First, there is the rise of the idea of non-self in the self, leading to the false sense of the self in the non-self. Once Siva has become self-limited, He is the pasu who is not the Lord of everything. As limited, pasu is not everything, and yet because of non-intuition, the pasu falsely identifies himself with what he is not. The basic limitation, anavamala, is reinforced by two other impurities, viz. mayiyamala and karmamala. Mayiyamala represents the whole I series of categories, beginning from the covers or kancukas, that create the physical organism on the subjective side, and evolves the physical world down to earth, the last of the mahabhutas, on the objective side. Karmamala is responsible for continuing the fetters of embodiment, and it is due to this impurity that the Purusa becomes subject to good and bad acts, and becomes entangled in repeated births and deaths.

All souls suffer from one or more of these three kinds of impurities. Three types of soul in bondage are recognized in the Trika: when a soul has only the anavamala, it is called vijnanakala; when it has both the anava-and karma-malas, it is known as pralayakala; and when it has all the three malas, it is designated sakala.  The sakala souls are embodied, and include both gods and men. All of them have bodies differing according to their planes is of existence within the sphere of Maya, technically , called mayanda, the ‘Maya egg’. The Trika accepts mahapralaya or great dissolution, during which all the tattwas or categories lower than Maya are absorbed into Maya, their cause. In this state all bound souls become disembodied and without organs, and are known as pralayakalas or ‘become disembodied during pralaya’, but because of the persistence of the karmamala they may become embodied again. Souls free from both karma – and  mayiya-malas transcend asuddha-maya, but do not, because of that realize their identity with Siva. Though they have ascended to the realm of suddhamaya and are known as vijnanakalas, they still have the anavamala to get rid of to lose their finitude. They are free from the sense of duality, but they do not achieve the perfect integration of consciousness and power, which is the nature of Siva. This is why, it is said, the vijnanakala does not realize his identity with the universe, does not experience the fact that ‘I am all this’. It is not possible for these souls to attain to Sivahood unless and until their impurity of atomicity is removed.


Since atomicity is due to the self-contraction, atmasankoca, of Siva Himself, it can be removed not by the soul’s own effort, but by some function of Him who imposed the limitation. This function of Siva is anugraha, compassion or grace. As a result of grace, the soul, already delivered from Maya, that is, from the false sense of duality between itself and the object, progresses towards the perfect integration of the object into itself. The ‘idam’ must be absorbed into the ‘aham’, for, so long as they are separate, there is no attainment of the complete ‘I’ness, the purnahanta, by the soul, and without that there is no bliss. Thus, the soul remains limited in various ways, until the atomic impurity is removed.

The stages of the removal of atomicity are the five tattwas belonging to suddhamaya which, counted from below, are sad- or suddha-vidya, isvara, sadakhya or sadasiva, sakti, and siva. From another point of view they represent, as said above, the progressive union of consciousness and power, of bodha and svatantrya.

In these tattwas, the ‘I’ and the ‘it’ have a common substratum, samanadhikarana, while in Maya and below that they have different adhikaranas or substrata. In other words, when the soul is in any of these tattwas, it regards the ‘it’ or the object to be within itself. There is the ‘idea’ or the sense of the object, but it is not regarded as separate in actuality. The bound soul, however, cannot regard the ‘object’ to be within itself. Since Siva has the inherent awareness of the universe being within His own being, the liberated soul, who attains identity with Siva, must have the same awareness. It is by the power of Maya that Siva shows whatever is within Himself as being external and separate. That is why souls, even when subject to suddha maya,  cannot have the sense of identity with everything. When Siva, as a result of self-limitation, regards the object as not His own manifestation, but as separate and independent, He becomes a bound soul subject to Maya. But before this actual separation is effected, there is an ideal emergence of the ‘it’ or the object, though it is regarded as being within oneself as the subject or ‘aham’.

Māyā is actually the energy of svātantrya śakti of Lord Śiva. Māyā is just the freedom of Lord Śiva. Although It is revealed to [a person], at the same time, He makes ignorant persons feel that It is concealed. Actually, It is not concealed. This is the position of māyā. Māyā is nothing, māyā is divine.

Swami Lakshman Joo (1907 – 1991) mystic and scholar of Kashmir Shaivism

In sad-vidya or suddha-vidya, though the ‘I’ end the ‘it’ are not separate, still the ‘it’ is more prominent. In other words, in this category there is greater ideal separation between the subject and object than in the other four higher categories. Suddha-vidya represents a greater emergence of the ‘it’ or the object. The experience in this stage, expressed as ‘I am I and this is this’, is like the pointing by the finger at head of a newly born baby. Truly speaking, the head is an integral part of the body, but still it is distinguished from the body. Here the diversity and difference of objective consciousness are not annulled, though they are now recognized as an experience of the subject and therefore in some way identical with it.

In the Isvara-tattva, there is perfect balance between the two, neither being more prominent than the other. The experience that the soul has in this stage is ‘I am this’, while that in the former may be expressed in the form ‘I am I and this is this’. Sadasiva represents the stage where there is the sense of ‘being’ in the subject. But ‘being’ means ‘being something’. Thus it is in this stage that the idea of the idam or ‘it’ first emerges. The experience of the soul in the  sadasiva stage may be formulated as ‘I am this’. Its difference from the experience in the isvara stage may be described as follows: In sadasiva, purnahanta or the attainment of perfect subjecthood takes the form of the complete identification of the subject and the object, while in the isvara stage they are not identified but held in equipoise.

The emergence of the object in the sadasiva stage is only nominal, it is like the faint outline of a picture, or even like the initial desire in the mind of the artist to paint a picture. Applying this analogy to the isvara-tattva, it may be said that there the faint outline becomes somewhat clear. In the sakti-tattva, again, there is merely the idea or experience of being what may be expressed as ‘I am’. We cannot say that in this stage the object or the idam has made an appearance. Sakti-tattva is described as the seed of the universe, the bija-bhumi of all ideas or bhavas in the consciousness of Siva. It is also described as void (sunya) or great void (mallasunya), because nothing has manifested itself in this stage, or because in negates the ‘ideal’ universe in Siva; whence its name nisedhavyapararupa (process of negating). Or, it might be said that it negates or suppresses the unitary character of the siva-tattva, without which process the universe of manifoldness cannot be manifested.

In the five higher or pure (Buddha) tattwas just described, cit-, ananda-, iccha-, jnana-, and kriya saktis are respectively predominant. The first throb or stir (spanda) of Siva is siva-tattva, which is only Siva’s awareness of Himself as ‘I’. That is why cit sakti is said to be predominant in the siva-tattva. When the ‘I’ has the sense of being, when there is the experience of ‘I am’, there is bliss; in other words, ananda-sakti predominates in the saktitattva . In sadasiva  there is the predominance of iccha-sakti, because there is a will in Siva to create in order to fill the void due to the sakti-tattva. Jnana-sakti is said to be predominant in the isvaratattva, because there is in this stage the clear identification of the subject and the object, the experience being ‘I am this’. In the suddha-vidya, kriya-sakti is predominant. Here the object or the idam has clearly emerged, and there is separation between subject the object, between bodha and svatantrya. The stage in which the objective element, the power aspect, becomes predominant as distinct from the self or consciousness is justifiably said to have kriya-sakti prominent in it.

Beginning from suddha – or sad-vidya up to siva-tattva, the endeavour of the aspirant soul is to absorb and integrate the object progressively into itself. The complete identification results in the realization of purnahanta or complete subjecthood, which means nothing but the experience of identity between the self and the universe. Subjecthood eats up objecthood, that is, it destroys the sense of separation. This, however, does not imply that the manifold variety of the universe is abrogated, but only that the sense of separation between ‘I’ and the ‘it’, the self and the universe, is completely overcome. This has been described as ‘selling’ or the process of atmasat, that is, making the other one’s own. But even in siva-tattva there is the taint of atomicity, at least its samskara or trace remains.

The souls in the different tattwas are given different names as knowers or pramatrs. Apart from sakala, pralayakala, and vijnanakala mentioned above, the pramatrs or experiencers in the five higher tattvas, counting from below, are respectively called mantra’ mantresvara, mantramahesvara, saktya, and sambhava. But there is some difference of opinion on the subject.


svajñāna-vibhava bhāsana-yogenodvestayen nijāramānam/  iti bandha-moksa- citrām /kridam pratanoti paramasiva/ 

Paramasiva liberates Himself from bondage by loosening its grip through the glory of knowledge of the Self. Thus, bondage and liberation are his divine play.

Abhinavagupta, mystic, philosopher, ascetic, and aesthetician flourished 1014, Kashmir, India

Thus, the universe is manifested with Siva Himself as the basis or foundation. And it is manifested on the basis of identity. The manifestation is compared to the sleeping of Siva. And when some spiritual aspirant recognizes himself as Siva, it is symbolically expressed as the awakening of Siva. When Siva is awake, there is no sense of a separate universe. The emergence of the universe is also called descent of Siva, and the spiritual self’s journey towards Siva is called ascent. If it is asked why Siva should manifest Himself, the answer is that it is natural for consciousness to assume many forms. It is also said that Siva’s self imposition of limitation upon Himself and also His breaking the fetters and returning to His own native glory are both krida or play.


Siva as Sakti manifests Himself as a correlated order of knowers, knowables, and means of knowledge. This threefold self-division of Siva appears on the background provided by Siva Himself. It presupposes, however, a limitation imposed by Siva upon Himself. The self-limited Siva is designated the Pasu or the ‘animal’, Jiva, samsarin, etc. The signs of the pasu are false identification of the self with the not-self, ascribing the not-self to the self, having limited authorship, knowledge, interest, pervasion, and duration, and being subject to causality. To realize the unfettered condition, to recognize oneself as that which has become, or even is, everything, to have unlimited power to know, enjoy, and manifest self-bliss, to be infinite and eternal, to be completely free from and independent of niyati, that is, regulation or causality, – this is the destiny of the pasu. To be, or rather to recognise oneself as, Siva is the goal of the Jiva.

asthā yedekarupena vapusā cenmahesvarah/mahesvaratvam samvittvam tadapyaksd ghatadivat/

If the Highest Reality did not manifest in infinite variety, but remained cooped up within its solid, singleness, it would neither be the Highest Power nor consciousness, but something like a jar.

Abhinavagupta, mystic, philosopher, ascetic, and aesthetician flourished 1014, Kashmir, India

Obviously, the limited individual is subject to ignorance (ajnana), which, according to our system, is twofold, viz. paurusa and bauddha. Paurusa ajnana is the innate ignorance in the very soul of man. It is the primal limitation, the original impurity of anavamala. It signifies the sense of the self in the not-self and vice versa and the separation of prakasa and vimarsa, of bodha and svatantrya. This is the consequence of the limitation taken willingly and playfully by Siva upon Himself, and is not removable by the bound soul’s own efforts. Siva alone can liquidate it. Anugraha or dispensation of grace, technically called saktipata, or the descent of Siva’s force, breaks this limitation. How and why and when this force will descend cannot be indicated, because His nature is freedom and spontaneity.

The descent of the force of grace achieves two purposes: first, pasa-ksaya, the destruction of fetters, and secondly, Sivatva-yojana, the restoration of Sivahood, which in effect means the removal of the atomic impurity. But, in spite of this great spiritual gain coming to the soul, the Jiva may not know it. For he is not only a soul or spiritual substance, but has his ordinary Mayic nature attached to him. He has to know things through the instrument of his buddhi, his intelligence, which is gross and impure. Thus, in spite of obtaining Sivatva, he cannot enjoy it, for his normal consciousness is not affected by what happens to his inner soul. In those on whom the sakti or grace descends in great force (drdha-saktipata-viddha), the purification of buddhi may also occur immediately. But it is a rare phenomenon; so, actually speaking, the Jiva has to adopt other means to know and enjoy his newly won spiritual gain.

Thus, in spite of the restoration of Sivatva, the soul has still a lot to accomplish. Sivah~a-yojana only means that the soul is given by its own higher self, i.e. Siva, its lost or hidden essence of divinity. But to have the essence of divinity is not to be the supreme and integral Divine. It remains for the soul to develop in himself all the aspects of Sakti which really make Siva all that He is. The becoming of Siva in essence is accomplished by the removal of the atomic impurity, which alone can achieve full Sivahood. Here the soul achieves likenes to Siva and becomes qualified to know Reality fully and completely.

Now let us recall for a moment that the fall of the soul from the parardha, the higher region of the five pure (suddha) tattvas, where the separation of the subject and the object is ideal, into the sphere of asuddhamaya, in which the separation is actual, is due to the fact that the soul loses its integral subjecthood, purnahanta. The Jiva has a sense of ‘I’ or subjecthood even in the sphere of Maya, and that distinguishes him from material things. Indeed the Trika says that even in the condition of bondage, the Jiva fulfils the five eternal functions of concealment or disappearance, creation, preservation, dissolution, and grace, though in a very small and restricted measure. Unless it were so, the identity of the limited bound soul and the infinite free Siva could not be asserted. But in the sphere of Maya, which may be described as the region of the idanta or objecthood, any sense of ahanta or subjecthood is derived from the object or the idam which has separated itself from the true subject. The true subject has not the sense of distinction from anybody or anything, but the subject of the Jivas in Maya is an instrument of perpetuating distinctions and not resolving them. It is ahankara and not ahanta, egoism and not real subjecthood, that is a product of Maya which is the great idam in relation to the real and genuine aham. To attain integral Sivahood, the Jiva must recapture the all-inclusive pure ‘I’, which has no idea of the object, by adopting appropriate means.

The most important of these is diksa or initiation. The Trika says that as a result of saktipata one is brought to a real guru. Diksa awakens the kriyasakti in the limited soul which is devoid of svatantrya. The development of kriya-sakti ultimately means the soul’s ability to absorb and integrate the ‘it’ or the object, seemingly separate from itself, within its own self. The consummation of this development is the soul’s recognition and realization of itself as the integral ‘I’, the enjoyment of the rapture and bliss of purnahanta. This is the dawning of paurusojnana, the true knowledge about the real and ultimate nature of the Purusa. To be able to enjoy in life this inherent, reawakened Sivahood, which was so long veiled, bauddhajuana, or knowledge of this internal liberated condition through buddhi, must be attained also. This depends on the purification of buddhi the means of which are the study of the Sastra, vicara, etc. Bauddhajnana does not mean scholarship or intellectual understanding of the scriptures or philosophy. It is a deeper discipline than a mere mental understanding. When with the rise of bauddhagnana, bauddha-ajnana is removed, there dawns knowledge, even in ouddhi, of the state of liberation. This is jivanmukti (liberation during lifetime). Even without jivanmukti the soul’s liberation is accomplished with the liquidation of the innate ignorance of the atomic impurity. Only so long as buddhi is not purified and does not reflect the inner condition of freedom, the embodied being is not able to know and enjoy it.

The removal of paurusa-ajnana is followed by the rise of spiritual knowledge, paurusagnana. It is spiritual knowledge for two reasons: it is the knowledge of the spirit in all its aspects and integrality, it is also a knowledge obtained by the spiritual element in the Jiva. Though it is described in terms of knowledge, it is, to be precise, the realization of perfect and supreme Sivatva, that is, the state of Paramasiva, which is the condition of equilibrium, also called yamala, of Siva and Sakti. It is the state in which neither prakasa nor vimarsa is predominant over the other, and it is timeless eternity holding in itself endless succession. Krama and akrama, sequence and simultaneity, are both one and the same, according to the Trika; they are only two phases of the same perfect Reality. The attainment of the state of Paramasiva is also to become the Lord of sakti-cakra, the circle of powers. Between the initial rise of spiritual knowledge and its fullest development, when all the modes of Sakti are perfectly developed, there is such a thing as progress towards the consummation. One reason of this is that the samskara of the atomic impurity persists, though the taint itself is liquidated.


There are four upayas or means of attaining the supreme goal. They are anupaya, sambhava, sakta, and anava-upaya. Of these the first anupaya (no-means) or anandopaya (blissful means) does not really involve any process. Due to saktipata or descent of grace in a very intense degree, everything needed for the realization, beginning from the liquidation of the atomic impurity down to the recognition of the state of Paramasiva, may be achieved by the aspirant immediately and without going through any sadhana or discipline. Here the direct means is Sakti Herself, and a word from the guru, the spiritual teacher, regarding the identity of the individual with the ultimate Reality is sufficient to reveal the truth. The soul immediately realizes its own transcendent nature along with the realization of the whole universe as its own glory reflected in its own integral ‘I’.

Before taking up the exposition of the other means, a word about the Trika conception of vikalpa and nirvikalpa will be helpful. Our system conceives Siva as nirvikalpa, free from vikalpa or determination consisting of conceptual unification of the ‘many’ into the ‘one’, distinguishing between one object of cognition and another, and between ‘this’ and ‘not-this’, and accepting one among many stimuli received from outside. But since Paramasiva is the perfect inalienable identity, there is nothing from which it can be distinguished. Hence there is no vikalpa in Paramasiva who is nirvikalpa. In the sambhava-upaya, the nirvikalpa knowledge is awakened in the aspirant through diksa itself, and all vikalpas are immediately destroyed. Through nirvikalpa knowledge, the limited ‘I’ of the individual is united with the unlimited ‘I’ of its own higher self, as a result of which the ‘this’ or the object, so long apprehended separately from the soul, is absorbed into and unified with the ‘I’, which was so long limited and exclusive. This means is also called icchopaya, because the element of will plays a great part in it.

In the saktopayaconceptual determinations or vikalpas have to be purified before the soul can attain to the nirvikapla illumination. For this purification are needed pure intuition (sattarka), knowledge of the right scriptures (sadagama), and a genuine guru (sadguru). Getting instruction in the Agamas from a true guru gives rise to a succession of vikalpas of the same nature (sojatiya-vikalpa).  This is sattarka and is the gateway to nirvikalpaparamarsa (apprehension devoid of determination, because determinations of the same nature form a step towards unity or oneness. It is asserted that meditation, concentration, etc. do not help the rousing of samvid, or consciousness. The purpose of these practices or disciplines is to wrest the samvid which is involved and diffused, from the body, vital airs, and buddhi. But since samvid is the only Reality, knowledge of duality is nothing in itself, and it is removed through the rise of suddha vikalpa or nirvikalpaThrough its own spontaneous freedom, samvid  becomes its own akhyati, non-intuition, resulting in the denial of its own self-nature, and then, of its own accord it blooms out as the true knowledge. The process is natural and due to svatantrya, and, as such, the practice of yoga is not a direct means towards its blooming. The right means therefore is sattarka, pure intuition, which can be attained through yajna (sacrifice), homa (oblation in fire), vrata (solemn vow), japa (repetition of holy word), and yoga (spiritual discipline).

The main point about anava-upaya is that personal effort, is needed for the purification of vikalpa. Personal effort takes the form of certain definite disciplines. They are dhyana, uccara, varna, and observance of or external injunctions. Buddhi, prana (vital force), and the body are the means of these disciplines.

Dhyana means meditation in the heart-space (hrdayakasa) on the supreme Reality inherent in all the tattvas, and also on the unification, in the supreme Consciousness, of the knower, means of knowledge, and the knowables. By this process of meditation the whole field of knowables is swallowed up and absorbed into the knower. Once the universe has been absorbed into one’s own conscious self, it has to be manifested and externalized again, and one has to feel one’s identity with the very highest, the anuttara; this will mean his control and mastery of the powers involved in the function of manifestation. With that achieved and without losing it, he has to have the experience of manifesting the universe, a world of objects, just as Siva does. The re-manifestation of the universe, along with the realization of one’s identity with it and with its ground, viz. Siva, destroys all sense of duality. Uccara essentially means the directing of prana, the vital force, upwards. Here also the goal is the swallowing up or the destruction of the discrete knowable and also of the universe as a whole, and thus, ultimately, the destruction of the sense of duality. The recognition of the inherent identity with the Highest, samavesa in samvid, is the ultimate aim. Varna is a discipline in which the suksma or subtle prana is the means of sadhana. In the practice of uccara, a kind of undifferentiated sound or dhvani spontaneously emerges and is called varna. Its form is the bija or seed-word of creation and destruction. Constant repetition of the bija results in the attainment of supreme samvid.

svajañā -vibhava-bhāsana-yogenodvestayen nijāramānam/  iti bandha-moksa- citrām kridam pratanoti paramasiva/

sarvādvaitapadasya vismrtanidheh prāptih prakāśodayah -Anuttarastika

“The enlightenment (prakāśa) that dawns in the state of moksa is like the remembering of a forgotten wealth, and the forgotten wealth is the state of one’s unity with all.” 

Abhinavagupta, mystic philosopher, ascetic, and aesthetician, flourished 1014, Kashmir, India

Through any of these means, the limited individual, poor in powers (sakti-daridrah), attains to the rich treasure of his own true Self. In point of fact, the individual all the time experience nothing but Siva, but being limited does not give any attention to his constant apprehension of Siva. When the much desired attention falls on the apprehension of the Self, which is no other than Siva; there is pratyabhijna or recognition of the fact that ‘I am everything and simultaneously transcendent of everything, that is, nothing in particular and yet all things together’. In the state of Paramasiva, there is no emergence, nor any absorption of the universe. To recognize oneself as the sthiti-samya, the perfect harmony of being and becoming, is what the soul should seek after and realize.

Kashmir Saivism, by Arabinda Basu