Kasmir Saivism is a system of idealistic monism based on the Sivasutra – which was supposedly revealed in Kasmir by Siva himself. The purpose of the Sivasutra was to preserve man the principles of monism which had existed in the literature called the Tantras. According to tradition these principals had existed sine time immemorial in the minds of the ancient rsis (Seers) who were the repositories of all spiritual knowledge. With the appearance of the new age, Kali Yuga, came the disappearing of these enlightened minds and the vanishing of their knowledge.
Kasmir Saivisim accepts the fundamental premise that pure consciousness is the spiritual substance of the universe. However it differs from Samkhya and Vedanta in its interpretations of the three basic problems: (1) What is the nature of ultimate reality? (2) What is the cause of its first movement? (3) What is the nature of its manifest form?
What is the nature of the Ultimate Reality?
Samkhya postulates two independent realities: Purusa and Prakrti – and thus creates a dualism. Vedanta postulates a single ultimate reality – Brahman and then supports this through the principle of Maya – which is neither real nor unreal – so it too is tainted with dualism.
Kasmir Saivism postulates a single reality with two aspects – one Transcedental and the other Immanent (existent). Both are real – but final proof of them can be had only by the spiritual experience of Samadha (union) attained through the practice of Yoga.
What is the cause of it’s first movement?
Samkhya sais that it is due to the association of Purusa and Prakrti without giving any reason for what causes this association. Vedanta claims that only an intelligent agent can set universal consciousness in motion and postulates Brahman to account for it. Neither explain the cause.
Kasmir Saivism teaches that consciousness eternally alternates between two phases – rest (transcendental) and action (immanent). The transcendental phase is a period of potentiality called Pralaya (dissolution and absorption). It is the passive phase of consciousness. During Pralaya all manifestations are dormant in the same way that the characteristics of an oak tree are dormant in an acorn. After a latent period, the universal seeds of potentiality begin to germinate and consciousness becomes active. The active phase is called Srsti – the creation of the universe, also referred to as Abhasa (“bhas” = to appear or shine). A complete cycle of Srsti & Pralaya is called a Kalpa and is said to last 4,320,000,00 years – after which another cycle will follow – a periodic rhythm of consciousness without beginning or end. The movement is governed by the Law of Karma (for every action there is a reaction). Brahman (the Ultimate Principle according to Vedanta) is governed by Law of Karma – cause of the initial impulse.
What is the nature of it’s manifestations?
Samkhya contends that there are two independent realities – Spirit & Matter – the manifest world is the appearance of unconscious matter as an independent reality. Vedanta contends there is only one ultimate reality which never changes – therefore the manifest world is merely an appearance.
Kasmir Saivism contends that there is only one reality, but it has two aspects, therefore the manifestation is real. The world of matter is only another form of consciousness.
Kasmir Saivism postulates 36 categories to explain the process of cosmic evolution. The first 24 (Matter -> Earth) are the same as those postulated by Samkhya. The remaining 12 show how Purusa (Spirit) is derived from higher principles. The stages are called Tattvas – thatness, truth, reality.