There are several important schools of Kashmir Shaivism, but the most elevated belong to the Trika system.
The word “trika” is Sanskrit for “trinity”, suggesting the essential idea that everything in the universe has a threefold nature. We can express this trinity as: Shiva (God), Shakti (His fundamental creative energy) and Anu (the individual, limited projection of the divinity).
Trika includes several spiritual schools:
1. Krama – in Sanskrit “process”, “order”, “controlled succession”.
2. Kaula (Kula) – in Sanskrit “community”, “family”, “totality”.
3. Spanda – term denoting the Supreme Divine Creative Vibration.
4. Pratyabhijna – term referring to the direct recognition of the Divine Essence.
These branches of Shaivit tradition were brilliantly synthesized and unified by the most illustrious personality and the greatest spiritually accomplished person from this system, the sage Abhinavagupta .
The most important work he wrote (Tantraloka), in verse, unifies all the apparent differences between the Shaivit branches or schools of Kashmir Shaivism until that moment, offering a coherent and complete vision of the system.
Realizing the difficulty of such a task, Abhinavagupta also wrote a summary in prose, entitled Tantrasara (“The Supreme Essence of Tantra“).
PARALLELS WITH OTHER TRADITIONS
“The metaphor of Shivas cosmic dance unifies mythology, religious art, and modern physics. It is indeed as Coomara swami said, poetry, but not less science” (Jacques Bergier)
Among the numerous authentic religions and spiritual paths, shaivism is remarkable through the universality of its conceptual model.
In other words, the vision and understanding offered by shaivism is so complete that in it one can find correlations and similarities to almost all authentic spiritual paths in the world.
In this respect, the resemblance to Christianity is outstanding: the trinity – a fundamental concept both in Shaivism and in Christianity; the stages of getting close and then united to God are almost identical both in practice and in meditation – as a modality related to the Path of the Individual Being (Anavopaya) from Shaivism, and in the Prayer of the Heart – a spiritual method characteristic to orthodox Christianity; the overwhelming love and ardor towards God are characteristics of both Christian mystics and of shaivit ones.
In Shaivism we find, integrated in a unitary vision, techniques and methods that are also found in yoga, tantra and Zen Buddhism.
The universality of the Kashmir shaivism vision must not surprise us, considering the fact that Shiva represents that aspect of the divinity that is manifested as the Great Initiate or Great Savior of the creatures chained by ignorance and suffering.
We can rightfully say that any sincere and frenetic call upon the Divinity is in fact addressed to this aspect of Savior; this hypostasis is known in India as Shiva (“the good and kind”) and any manifestation of divine grace is closely related to Shiva. Thus, even if the human being does not know it, in any illuminating process Shivas grace plays an essential part.
The complete vision of Shaivism is not reduced to correlations and similarities with other spiritual traditions.
What is truly amazing, even today when science has made such unbelievable progress, gaining ground in front of all religions and spiritual paths, is the fact its most modern theories find obvious correlations in the vast spiritual tradition of Kashmir Shaivism: the holographic pattern of the universe, the theory of morphogenetic fields, the theory of strings, quantum mechanics, etc.
THE VISION OF ART
Authentic art – an instrument for Kashmir Shaivism
In the Kashmir Shaivism tradition there are numerous artists who manifested their talents in parallel with the sages and the masters belonging to the Trika school, who also had powerful artistic senses.
Thus, the great sage and liberated soul Abhinavagupta composed several poems for the glory of the Lord and wrote almost his entire work in verse, just as the other shaivit sages.
Authentic art can be a spiritual path, but unlike “traditional” yoga, this path is not accessible for everybody, however, it becomes a true spiritual path when the person who perceives it is endowed with a certain type of sensitivity.
Initiatory art is accessible when our soul can vibrate, rejoice, and be filled with delight, happiness or charm while contemplating a certain artistic work. This is a state related to the awakening of the soul.
Essentially, the artistic emotion awakened by art in the soul of the beholder has, according to shaivit tradition, an ineffable and ecstatic flavor and bears the Sanskrit name of rasa.
The most important aesthetician of India is unanimously accepted as being Abhinavagupta, who has two fundamental works in this area, Abhinava Bharati and Dhavanyabaratloka locana.
From Abhinavaguptas point of view, art is a manifestation that is both exterior, and interior in nature. It is a deeply spiritual manifestation.
Abhinavagupta indicates that the role of art is to awaken a certain ineffable flavor, a sublime feeling, completely different from all other common human perceptions.
It has a general character, and it is a cosmic perception. On the basis on this intense emotion (anger, joy, fear, amazement, etc.), experienced in a fully aware manner, art determines the passage from the individual (ego) to the universal.
In art, the whole objective world is first of all reduced to the essential, then purified and transfigured; it is presented in a pure form, without any individual, limited contingencies. Authentic art transports us almost instantaneously into a divine plan, generating in our consciousness a state of universality and union.