Kashmir Shaivism is the spiritual orientation underpinning the structure and practices at the Sri Nityananda Ashram. This philosophical system is the study of Consciousness, and it is incredibly encompassing in its scope, and elevating in its vision. Far from being life-denying, like some spiritual philosophies, Kashmir Shaivism radically affirms and divinizes life. For example, another important Hindu philosophy, Advaita Vedanta, regards the world as an illusion. In contrast, Kashmir Shaivism sees the world as nothing but the play of pure, divine Consciousness. From this perspective, there is no sin or separation anywhere; rather, everything is Consciousness. Kashmir Shaivism also endorses profound self-acceptance, with the first sutra in the foundational text, the Shiva Sutras, affirming that “the Self is consciousness” (caitanyamatma). In other words, we are all encouraged to think of ourselves as pure expressions of the same divine Consciousness.
All philosophical traditions have to reconcile the existence of both consciousness and matter. Indeed, even science has failed to adequately describe the relationship between these two phenomena. Kashmir Shaivism offers a fresh and convincing perspective on this dilemma; since consciousness is everything, matter is merely an expression of Consciousness, vibrating at a dense frequency. Interestingly, modern philosophers and neuroscientists, in their attempt to solve the mind/matter conundrum, are now considering the proposition that Consciousness might in fact be the underlying substratum of the universe.
However, Kashmir Shaivism is not just a series of concepts. Swami Shankaranandacame into contact with Kashmir Shaivism through his Guru, Baba Muktananda, who had attained the vision of Kashmir Shaivism through his intense yoga. Swamiji saw that Baba didn’t merely hold Shaivism as an intellectual position – it was a living force in him, directing his every action and word, filling the atmosphere around him with bliss and Shakti. In the tradition of his Guru, Swamiji also applies the teachings of Kashmir Shaivism to the practitioner’s own experience. Indeed, this system offers insightful, practical and effective means for dealing with obstacles in everyday life. In his book, Consciousness Is Everything: The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism, Swamiji outlines both the philosophy and also the practice of Kashmir Shaivism.
Swami Shankarananda has succeeded in making Kashmir's Shaiva Yoga come alive in these pages and I consider this work the best introduction to that tradition so far.
The essential texts of Kashmir Shaivism – The Shiva Sutras, the Spanda Karikas,and the Prayabhijnahridayam — are written in sutra form. A sutra is a short aphoristic statement. These are sometimes poetric verses and often enigmatic sentences or fragments of sentences. They were a convenient way to transmit a teaching before the advent of printing. By its very nature, the sutra leaves much unsaid. The unexplained is to be taught by an enlightened Guru of a living tradition. Sutras are not pronouncements of dogma, but rather, multivalent seeds of wisdom that are more fully revealed according to the understanding of the teacher. For example, Shaivite sages sometimes interpret a particular verse three different ways.
In sum, Kashmir Shaivism is an expression of the sanatana dharma, a spirituality so inclusive, compassionate and human that it transcends all others. Indeed, though it is a spirituality of great sublimity, it rejects none of the lesser ones. Every path has its place within the borders of Kasmir Shaivism. As Sutra 8 of the Pratyabhijnahridayam says: “The positions of the various systems of philosophy are only various roles of that Consciousness or Self.”