IT IS THE PULSATION OF DIVINE ECSTASY
The Divine Absolute consciousness that is Infinite and Perfect always has complete self knowledge (vimarsha).
This self knowledge is complete and eternal, representing an extremely subtle activity that symbolizes the activity itself of the highest spirituality.
This activity does not refer here, at the supreme level, to any physical, emotional or mental aspect. That is why the Divine is also called Maheshvara because it represents the omnipresence and the immutable self knowledge (vimarsha) that is absolutely free and unconditioned, perfectly pure, all-knowing and perfectly efficient (active).
Thus, the term spanda is just another name for this divine and perfect self knowledge (vimarsha).
In fact, the Shivait texts from northern India (Kashmir) mention more synonyms referring to the same aspect of self knowledge of the Divine Absolute. They are svatantrya absolute freedom, vimarsha the synthetic and very efficient control of consciousness, parashakti the Supreme Divine Energy, sara the immutable essential nature, hridaya the Spiritual Heart of the Divine Absolute, spanda the supreme creative divine resonance, etc.
Like the doctrine of the pratyabhijna school, the doctrine of the spiritual system spanda appeared and developed in the Kashmir area by the means of some texts and works written by known authors (great liberated sages).
In other words, the concepts of the system have not appeared in different anonymous tantric texts. They were presented and then precisely and systematically commented on by well known sages from Kashmir Shivaism.
The most profound and active was the great sage and liberated Kshemaraja who was very interested in studying, analyzing and developing the spanda system from the non-dual Kashmir Shivaism.
We can even say that the origins of the spanda system set out the methodical beginning of the highest spiritual system (the non-dual Kashmir Shivaism).
This system is remarkable both for its extraordinary complexity and profoundness of its notions and for the extremely elevated, refined and abstract approach of the highest aspects regarding the Divine.
Thus, we consider it necessary to synthetically present the historical assembly in which different spiritual currents of Shivaism appeared in Kashmir, eventually uniting and creating the fundamental schools that define this perspective on reality.
We are especially interested in the appearance and development of the spanda school so that we could better understand the resonance’s that it has with other schools from Kashmir Shivaism.
TEACHINGS ENGRAVED ON A ROCK
According to Kshemaraja, between 800 850 A.D. the great sage and liberate Vasugupta had a divine revelation in his dream.
Shiva himself told him that there is an extremely important message for mankind on a rock from Mahadeva Mountain. Vasugupta easily found the indicated place in which there was an enormous rock with text in Sanskrit engraved on it.
This text was named Shiva Sutra (Shivas Aphorisms). It consists of 77 extremely concise and abstract aphorisms, condensing the essence of the non-dual Shivaism. Shiva Sutra is considered the first text of the Kashmir Shivait system.
Thanks to the extreme concision and almost impenetrable meaning of its aphorisms, Shiva Sutra has been commented on by many sages but only four of these essential writings have been preserved till now.
The most profound analysis of Shiva Sutra belongs to Kshemaraja who was Abhinavagupta s best disciple and also his cousin. His commentary is named Vimarshini (fortunately, it can now be found in English).
The second one belongs to Varadaraja, one of Kshemarajas sons, whose study is based on his fathers commentary but it also contains some innovating ideas.
The third commentary has an unknown author and it is only a summary of Kshemarajas Shiva Sutra – Vimarshini. The fourth study belongs to Bhaskara and the Easterns say that it is quite different from Kshemarajas.
This text is older than Vimarshini and it has not been translated in any European language.
Now we get to the fundamental text which is the subject of study in this article.
Vasuguptas best disciple was Kallabhatta (or Kallata) who seems to have lived between 855-883 A.D. After his master had discovered Shiva Sutra, Kallata wrote a deep spiritual text that he named Spanda Karika (Aphorisms about the Supreme Divine Vibration (Resonance)).
His intention was to create the best summary for the teachings of Shiva Sutra. The word Karika means a collection of aphorisms (or verses) about grammatical, philosophical or scientific subjects.
The essential meaning of spanda is vibration or pulsation which can be correlated with the term of resonance and with its meaning. Thus, it implies a dynamic aspect of the Divinity or the divine creative pulsation.
Consequently, Spanda Karika is a collection of aphorisms that discusses the subject of the supreme divine creative pulsation (resonance).
Anyway, there is serious doubts about the real author of Spanda Karika whom Kshemaraja mentions to be the great liberated sage Vasugupta, Kallatas master. Even if this is the case, it is certain that Kallata has written a short commentary (vritti) on these aphorisms (Spanda Karika), which was the first commentary of the ones written by many other authors, among whom there also was Kshemaraja.