निजशक्तिवैभवभरादण्डचतुष्टयमिदं विभागेन।
शक्तिर्माया प्रकृतिः पृथ्वी चेति प्रभावितं प्रभुणा॥४॥

A very humble attempt at explaining, in brief, the essence of Kashmir Shaivism, as propounded by the great Master Abhinavagupta, in his fifteen verses as basics & later on summed up by his illustrious disciple Swami Lakshman Joo nearly seven centuries after his departure. It was through his tireless efforts put forth for compilation in the easiest & understandable way that the complex philosophy that Kashmir Shaivism represents has drawn attention the world over.

The Great Master; I quote: emphasizes in the starting verse that the brilliance of light of one's inner self doesn't vanish in the external light or in darkness. He says that all light & darkness reside in the supreme light of consciousness. Dim light like that of a candle can be outshined by the light of the sun, but inner light is neither outshined by external light nor overshadowed by darkness. We do witness that light has the characteristics of either removing or diminishing darkness, but darkness never devours or wipes out the light.

Swami Lakshman Joo Ji. Photo By lakshmanjooacademy

Abhinavagupta believes in the fact that Lord Śiva is the nature & existence of all beings. Śiva resides in Shunya, while, the external objective world is what he describes as the expansion of His Energy, which is filled with the glory of God Consciousness, not in any way separated from Lord Śiva. Here Lord Śiva is the Energy holder, while, the universal state of the objective world is His Energy/ His Śakti. However, Śiva & Śakti are unaware that they are separate & yet interconnected just as fire is one with heat. But, why is it so? It is simply because in reality they are not separate at all, but exist as one like the heat that can't be separate from fire. Lord Śiva, the God Bhairava creates, protects, destroys, conceals & reveals His own nature through the cycle of objective world, a creation of His own nature, just as one finds his reflection/ image in a mirror & an image can exist only when the object is before the mirror. He protects & gives energy to it, in the same way as a Holder passes on its power to what He holds, which is in no way different as the source in both cases is the same. The universe, the reflection of Lord Śiva is what we call His pratibimba. It may be compared to a woman creating a child, but once born, the child has an independent existence, the difference that doesn't exist in God & His created objective world, the collective state of the universe, His Śakti. Now, the embodiment of the collective state of the universe loves possessing the state of God consciousness, which He manifests just to recognize His own nature. While in a state of ignorance, both remain complete & full in each other. To get rid of this ignorance Śakti meditates on the activity of the objective world. When Lord was solely a Śiva, He was in His full splendour of God consciousness. He didn't recognize His own nature, because the characteristics were inherent in Him, for He wanted His own nature to be recognized, but it being something already with Him, thus, there was nothing to be recognized about. Evidently, to recognize His nature, He must first become ignorant of His nature & only then can He recognize it. In other words, When His fullness overflows, He wants to remain incomplete just to achieve completion. He departs from his own Nature to enjoy it again. This process is also known as Unmesa & Nimesha, the former is the flourishing of that God consciousness & latter is the withdrawal of that God consciousness. Śiva is the possessor of both these states simultaneously. When His nature overflowed, Śakti was in His nature & therefore, he had to separate Śakti from His nature, but in the state of separated Śakti, Śiva existed & in that state Śiva was ignorant & as before He did it to have the fullness of His knowledge, which had been already existing there. He is all pervasive & fond of playing & falling together with Energy of His own nature & brings about the varieties of creation & destruction simultaneously. He can create whatever is possible as well as whatever is impossible & He creates it simultaneously to discover that God consciousness exists in all His creations. This action can be accomplished by Him alone. He can totally ignore & mask His own nature because he has the freedom to do it. His freedom or His intelligence doesn't mean that in His creation you will have a role of a lady or a man only, it can also be a part of a rock, a tree or of all other things. However, such kind of intelligence exists only in the state of Śiva.

Shaivism. Photo via Pinterest

It is worth noting that the limited state of consciousness is incapable of feeling or understanding His entirety & can't simultaneously expand itself to become the various forms of the universe. The Śiva, the possessor of independence, is totally different from one in a state of insentient/ incapability of feeling consciousness. One can recognize Him in more than one way, but it can't be true with a limited form of God consciousness with an attribute limited only to insentience. A rock when created by God is only a rock, but the same rock is a God itself, while it is still a rock. So, we have two states of consideration; the state of ignorance and the state of knowledge. When there is knowledge, a rock is not only a rock, it is also universal, it is also all the people, all the trees, it is everything. But in a state of ignorance, a rock is just a rock. If we recognize Śiva in one way, we recognize Him in all other ways. This is how Abhinavagupta explains Kashmir Shaivism. He says that Śiva has also the power of bringing about diversity/ variety of creation & destruction in His nature. When there I'd only yourself there is no problem, when there is only the other person, then there is a problem, but when it comes to you as universal, that is, when you know you are universal, because you can meditate on yourself, there is no problem.

Creation & Destruction are simultaneous processes. There is creation & destruction in the cycle of action, and creation & destruction in the cycle of knowledge. Former is what takes place in the world of ignorance. For instance, there is a mountain it is created and it exists in the realm of action, but it becomes dust after thousands of years because of this action rock falls & crumbles. Thus, it is creation & destruction in the cycle of action. Perceiving a mountain can be an action, its gradual crumbling into dust is again a part of the action cycle. But if I have the knowledge that this rock ultimately has to change into dust & vice versa, it cannot be an action in my perception. The reason is that after thousands of centuries, this mountainous rock will become dust & I feel it happened so because of the involvement of the process of destruction, for it is knowledge gained out of the cycle of action. So, knowing that there is no difference between rock & dust & vice versa is knowledge, not action. Therefore, while the cycle of action is destroyed, the cycle of knowledge gets created & vice versa. In reality, while knowledge may appear to have been destroyed, it is not so. If the variation of creation & destruction were only in action and not in knowledge, then creation & destruction would actually not have taken place. Once the real knowledge dawns, you recognize that from beginning to end nothing actually happens. It may appear that real knowledge is destroyed, but it is not so. Once the superstate of God consciousness is attained, you come to know that there is no difference between pleasure or pain, life & death, liberation & bondage or existence & non-existence. The formation of a rock & becoming intelligent enough to understand the phenomena behind it, can't be different.

Kal and Kali. Photo Via Pinterest.

We do come across varieties of creation & destruction in this world. Obviously, there is also a variation in these varieties. Some are created in the upper cycle, some created below & some even sideways. This way worlds get attached to smaller portions of worlds created, determining, thereby, the intellectual power, and response to pain & pleasure as per the status of the created being. Now, it has to be understood that variation means that the varieties of creations & destruction don't correspond to each other. For, e.g., Mosquito's life span equals 24 hours of human beings, while life span of human beings can extend a maximum of up to hundred years. Therefore, we need to compare the 24 hours of a mosquito to 100 years of a man so far as the comparison of one life span of two identities is considered. Again, six months span of human beings is regarded as equivalent to 24 hours of the world our ancestors are supposed to reside in, which we call Pitri-loka. This is how time expands. Again, it is believed that the blinking of Śiva's eyes equals a lifetime of one hundred years that SadaŚiva takes either for creation or destruction. Abhinavagupta says that there is a variety that we come to know in the universe of one hundred eighteen worlds. This leads is to the fact that one can't depend on time. Time only appears, it does not exist. Abhinavagupta in his verse tells us that above mentioned 118 worlds contain an infinite variety of creations. While Mosquito cannot meditate as it has limited intellect, Lord Śiva can, because He has intellectual power according to His existence. Thus, intellectual power is also created with variations. It is equally important to understand that there is nothing that we call time span, the misunderstanding is in fact Lord Śiva's independence & it is the result of worldly existence/ Samsara. It is ignorance that causes fear/phobia against worldly existence. Not knowing is ignorance & those who are ignorant do not know that they are ignorant.

It is only His grace that Lord Śiva bestows/ showers upon us or may because of the blessings of vibrating force of our master or the positive influence of his teachings or maybe it is a result of hard toil that we have put in understanding the scriptures describing the attributes of Lord Śiva that lead us to final liberation/attaining the path of real knowledge. This stage of fullness is achieved by elevated souls only. We call it Jivan mukhti. Elevated ones know that there is actually no time span. If at all it were to exist, the difference of time would not have existed. In this universe, all varieties of creation are governed by Time/ Kala, which is further controlled by the Lord of Death/ Yama. So, where there is time, there is death. In fact, it is time, that gives you pain-pleasure, sadness-happiness, sex & absence of sex or detachment & attachment. So, the grip of time over you depends upon your own capacity.

Mahadev. Photo via Pinterest.

The two cycles of bondage & liberation are said to be part of Lord Śiva's play. The cycle of bondage is concerned with not knowing the cycle. Here you don't know what you do, not knowing where you are established. As regards, the cycle of knowledge, it is liberation? It is a state where you know nothing has actually happened, nothing is lost, and nothing gained. Both cycles are not separated from Lord Śiva. The difference exists only in approach, viz; one an ignorant & other an elevated one observe reality from two different angles.

Kashmir Shaivism stands for the statement that you are Śiva, yet you are not completely Śiva, because you have not achieved that state. One has to understand that if you are Lord Śiva, then this whole creation is all an expression of your play, but if you are part of Lord Śiva, you are part of play, a play which is His creation alone.

In the last verse, Great Master says; That Lord Bhairava, the essence of all beings, holds in His own way, in His own Nature, the three great energies: the energy of will/ Iccha-Śakti, the energy of action/Kriya-Śakti & energy of Knowledge / Jnana-Śakti. These three energies are like threefold lotus/ trident & seated on this lotus is Lord Bhairava, the Prakriti/ nature of the whole universe of 118 worlds.