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 Trika 2 - Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir

Literature, Paramaśiva, Śiva and Śakti, understanding tattva-s


Dear friend, we will keep studying this excelent philosophical system. In Part 1, you have learnt a little history and the basic teachings enunciated in a dogmatic manner. And now it is time to begin explaining the real bases behind those statements.

However, our study will be always practical not simply something "theoretical". Trika gives positive ideas to us, and through these ideas we will be able to attain to peace. We live all the time with negative ideas in our minds (for example, "death is the end and all is over", "money is the most important thing in life", "I am this or that", etc.) and consequently we do not experience happiness. Nobody can be happy by means of negative ideas.

A lot of people become disappointed with their lives because they do not get what they want. They may think they want external things, but lastly they want to be happy, they want "peace". Despite the obvious material poverty suffered by almost everybody, the real poverty is spiritual. People need positive ideas in order that their minds work in a positive way. Trika states that the universe around a person is manifested by him, so if the person thinks negatively, his universe will be negative too. By the word "negative" I mean "harmful, damaging".

Positive ideas are not mere optimism but a real source of happiness. For example, "death is not the end of all, there is one alive God and He is in me right now", "I have understood that my happiness is not dependent on money, great!", "I have understood fully that I can be happy despite external circumstances", etc. When a person starts to think and feel properly, his life also starts to change and reflect those "happy" thoughts and feelings. One does not need to leave all and go to the woods, he can be happy in the midst of a bustling city. One keeps being responsible for his family, for instance, but he has an autonomous and happy attitude within, which brings about more happiness in the outside. To experience real happiness within and without, this is the ultimate goal in our study of Trika.

Get ready, because you are about to start a long and incredible journey into your own Self.



Trika's literature can be divided into three well-defined sections:


Let us study each of them separately:


The Scriptures in this section have not been written by human beings. They are considered to be revealed by the Divine Śiva Himself. The word "Āgama" means "that which has come" (from the Supreme Self). "Āgam" means "to come". This section contains the famous Tantra-s enunciated in Part 1: Mālinīvijaya, Svacchanda, Vijñānabhairava, Mṛgendra, Netra, Rudrayāmala, etc.

It also contains the celebrated Śivasūtra-s (The aphorisms of the Auspicious One). Remember that Śivasūtra-s were discovered by Vasugupta engraved on a flat stone (Go to Part 1).

Śivasūtra-s have four well-known commentaries (by human authors):

Vṛtti (by unknown author)

Vārttika (by Bhāskara)

Vimarśinī (by Kṣemarāja --this commentary is being studied here)

Vārttika (by Varadarāja, also known as Kṛṣṇadāsa)


The first section is somewhat dogmatic. Therefore, this second section formed from books by human authors, attempts to give a little philosophical reasoning so that the teachings can be understood by our intellect to a certain extent, and not merely accepted. The word "Spanda" means "Vibration, Throbbing". In the Spanda section everything is analyzed from a "vibrating" viewpoint. In short, it is stated that the entire universe and ourselves are nothing but the product of Divine Vibration. The most important Scriptures in this Section are the following:

Spandasūtra-s, also known as Spandakārikā-s (by Vasugupta according to Kṣemarāja; but according to others a disciple of Vasugupta named "Kallaṭa" was the real author)

Vṛtti (a commentary of Kallaṭa on Spandasūtra-s)

Spandasarvasva (it is not a new Scripture but the two --Spandasūtra-s and Vṛtti-- together)

In turn, Spandasūtra-s (also known as Spandakārikā-s) have four commentaries:

Vivṛti (by Rāmakaṇṭha)

Spandapradīpikā (by Bhaṭṭotpala, also know as Utpalavaiṣṇava)

Spandasandoha (by Kṣemarāja --a commentary on the first aphorism of Spandasūtra-s--)

Spandanirṇaya (by Kṣemarāja --a commentary on all aphorisms of Spandasūtra-s)


The word "Pratyabhijñā" means "Recognition". Our own essential nature is to be "recognized" and not to be "known". It is not a thing to be known, but the knower himself. This knower can recognize his own essential nature but he cannot know it, because that nature is not an knowable object but the knowing subject himself. To understand this concept of "Recognition" is crucial in Trika.

In this third section full philosophical reasoning support is given. The sage Somānanda was the founder of it. Utpaladeva, his disciple, was the author of maybe the most important Scripture in this section: Īśvarapratyabhijñā. But, let us list the main Scriptures:

Śivadṛṣṭi (by Somānanda)

Īśvarapratyabhijñā, also known as Pratyabhijñāsūtra-s (by Utpaladeva)

In turn, there are three commentaries on Īśvarapratyabhijñā:

Vṛtti (by Utpaladeva himself)

Pratyabhijñāvimarśinī, also known as Laghvīvṛtti (by Abhinavagupta)

Pratyabhijñāvivṛtivimarśinī, also known as Bṛhatīvṛtti (by Abhinavagupta)

You may have noted that there are several Vṛtti-s. Well, "Vṛtti" means "Commentary" in this context. In order not to be confused, just add the original title of the commented Scripture. For instance: the Vṛtti of Śivasūtra-s is to be named "Śivasūtravṛtti". And the Vritti of Spandasūtra-s is to be named Spandasūtravṛtti, and so on. Very simple. Thus, you will never be confused. Besides the Scriptures and commentaries enunciated, there are other works:

Pratyabhijñāhṛdayam (a compendium of the Pratyabhijñā section, by Kṣemarāja)

A series of Stotra-s --Hymns-- which give devotional support to the Trika's teachings

Tantrāloka (a massive work on Trika, by Abhinavagupta)

Tantrasāra (Summarized Tantrāloka)

and a lot more...

You have now several books on Trika. Try to get one and keep learning Trika. Trika's literature is massive; this is a mere sample of it. However, the most important Scriptures of Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir have been referred to.

We can say that six sages are the most important authors in this system: Vasugupta, Somānanda, Abhinavagupta, Utpaladeva, Kṣemarāja and Kallaṭa

Of course, there are other important authors, but those six are predominant.


 Paramaśiva, the Supreme Śiva

There are three ways to teach Trika:




When it is taught in a non-dualistic manner, God and man are one and the same. There is no difference at all. When it is taught in a dualistic/non-dualistic manner, God and man are different but they share a underlying unity. And finally, when it is taught in a dualistic manner, God and man are different and separated. There is no unity between them.

Of course, my way of teaching is a non-dualistically oriented one, because you surely know the other ways. However, the three modes of teaching are intermingled in our study. This is inevitable.

To define Paramaśiva, the Ultimate Reality, is impossible by means of words. It is beyond description. Paramaśiva is Uccārarahitaṁ vastu; It is the Reality (vastu) deprived (rahitam) of pronunciation (ucāra). In short, It cannot be described through words. It is everything and simultaneously is beyond everything. In It, there are no subjects or objects. But this Paramaśiva is not something in the air. For example: "the back of the things you are now watching around". While you are not aware of the back of an object, that area remains with no subject becoming aware of it. And according to Trika, if no subject is witnessing, so no objects are existing as objects.

Then, the back of the objects you are watching right now remained as pure Reality (Paramaśiva) without any attribute till you become aware of it. This may sound strange, but it is going on all the time. Yes, yes, you cannot understand fully yet. I have just start with the teaching, do not worry, you will understand. Although Paramaśiva is everything, Its innermost nature can be found where there is no subject or object (for instance, the back of the objects). When you meditate deeply on the back of the things, you enter Paramaśiva. This is a good meditation's technique.

From this everlasting Paramaśiva everything has arisen, but the process of manifestation is not at random. It exists an accurate sequence of creation. Trika divide all the Manifestation or Creation into 36 categories or tattva-s. I will explain this later.

Paramaśiva is not a subject or an object, It is Reality in everything and beyond everything. It is within and without everything. Paramaśiva is the foundational Reality on which everything has come into existence. It is here and there, and at the same time, It is not here or there. It is impossible to describe it by means of words. However, this Paramaśiva appears to divide Itself firsly into two parts: Śiva and Śakti (the first 2 tattva-s in the sequence of 36 categories). Let us study them now:


 Śiva and Śakti

According to Trika, the Absolute has two aspects: Static and Dynamic. The Static aspect is named Śiva, and the Dynamic aspect is named Śakti. But, what do Śiva and Śakti mean? The word "Śiva" means "Auspicious" and Śakti means "Power". Of course, there are other meanings. However, the meanings given by me are common and well-known by everybody. "Auspicious" and "Power", well, these two words do not indicate "accurately" the nature of the Static and Dynamic aspects. That's why, two new terms has been indicated as much more accurate: Prakāśa and Vimarśa.

"Prakāśa" means "light, brightness, splendour, clearness" and also "visible, clearly manifested, etc.". Ah!, this word indicates the true nature of the Static aspect. Śiva or Prakāśa is the Revealing Light, Supreme Clearness and Splendour. And He is completely visible, completely evident and clearly manifested before the eyes of all. He is the Light that illuminates all within and without. He appears without as everything having luminous quality. And within He is the light of mind, by which one can clearly see images and hear thoughts. He is a Static Witness to all our activities. In fact, He is ourselves, He is our own inner Self, the real "I" behind every action and thought. For example, this Witness (yourself) is right now watching everything around. But, in order to be able to "watch", these objects have to be "illuminated". Well, this Witness (your true nature or "I") illuminates and watches all around right now.

Nevertheless, it is not enough to illuminate and watch. By the word "watch" I am not only referring to "look", but also to "hear, touch, etc.". For example, when you hear thoughts in your mind, you are not using the physical ear. You are using the "inner" ear. This "inner" ear is furnished by the Supreme Witness (Prakāśa or Śiva). In fact, this Prakāśa furnishes all senses (outer and inner ones). But it is not enough, you must come to "become aware of" that which is looked at, heard, touched, etc. Vimarśa or Śakti furnishes the Witness (Prakāśa or Śiva) with this quality of "becoming aware of". The word "Vimarśa" means "examination". Vimarśa is this that "examines" and lets you become aware of all around you. Vimarśa is the "examining power" pertaining to Prakāśa or Śiva. The examination itself is a kind of "activity" or "dynamism". Vimarśa makes the "static" Witness (yourself) not only conscious of all around, but also it makes Him conscious of his own inner nature. The luminous and static Witness "is" and "knows" He is. You "are" and "know" you are. You are conscious of your own existence all the time, because you are the Supreme Self Himself. Trika states this absolute identity with God. Trika does not say that the human being is a part of God sharing some qualities of His. No, Trika says that you are God, and everybody is God forever. If you do not grasp this point to a certain extent, you will not understand anything about Trika.

A new (but really "ancient") idea just as "everybody is God" produces tremendous revolution within (and without too). All that revolution is necessary in order to change our minds. Our minds are generally very "static" and they rarely think by themselves. Many thoughts we think have been borrowed. For example: "there is no God, or He is dead". If we think like this, have we really thought about it? Another instance: "when Death comes, all is over". Whether or not it is true, have we really thought about this idea? And the answer is "no". Maybe our minds have thought, but not "us". Man has to be taught to think. However, the first obstacle man faces is the imagination about he really thinks by himself. We think we have a "very flexible" mind, but when we face a new idea, we realize how stiff our minds are. So, new ideas are very necessary in order to show that we are living in the imagination. Beyond Trika's statements regarding our existence, whether or not those teachings are right, one statement remains: We are not what we think we are. All philosophical systems agree with one another with respect to this teaching. There are no discrepancies. Afterward, every system explains our true nature in different ways, and discrepancies arise. But, all systems have come to a complete agreement regarding "we are not what we think we are".

This idea of identity with God is uplifting, because by means of it you come to realize that "you" do not really exist as "you" but "Him". Thus, you even surrender to Him your sense of a separated identity as "you". This is the supreme surrender. Some people sometimes misunderstand this idea of unity with God. They think of that identity as not being "humble", as being "vain and boastful". On the contrary, when one come to surrender even his "limited individuality" to the Supreme, nothing can be as "humble" as that. This surrender brings about a feeling of love and brotherhood, because not only "one" is God but everybody is. One does not feel: "Oh, I am God and the others are not, they are limited people". No! One feels: "Oh, everybody is God and because of that everybody is me". A feeling of love and peace arises in you. When a person comes to realize his own inner Self, he has attained the Trika's goal. "Unity with all", this is the goal.

Someone may not agree with Trika, but he can not deny that "he/she is and knows he/she is". Prakāśa and Vimarśa are universal principles and they can not be denied. They may be denominated in different ways (Śiva-Śakti, Prakāśa-Vimarśa, etc.), but they remain the same. The important thing is that you are a witness to all, but you are not like an inert log; you are conscious of that which is witnessed by yourself. You are essentialy Prakāśa, but since you have Vimarśa (examining power), you become aware of everything around. These two aspects are your essential nature, and nobody can take them away from you, because they are "yourself". Do you understand? Well, if you can understand this, you do not need to keep studying Trika. You have attained to the goal of Trika.

Besides, Prakāśa (the Witness, yourself) does not have essentially any form. He is formless. For example, if you imagine right now you are walking down a street, you will be able to visualize the physical body but not yourself (the Witness). There is a kind of camera filming all the time, but you can not visualize the cameraman because He is you. He is you and has no form. He is formless. Attempt to give some particular form to Him, and you will discover that it is impossible. It is not possible because He has no form essentially. But, through Vimarśa's work, He appears to have one. For instance, a lot of people think they are the physical body, others think they are their minds. I am Gabriel, and you are John, and she is Jane, and he is Antonio, etc., etc.

These false identifications with the physical and subtle bodies bring about so much suffering. But, when one realizes his identity with Prakāśa-Vimarśa, this realization brings about "peace".

At the level of spoken word, Prakāśa and Vimarśa (Śiva and Śakti) are also revealed. For instance: I am Gabriel. "I" is Śiva, "am" is Śakti, and "Gabriel" is ego. The ego (tattva or category 15) is not my real nature but an artificial identity manifested by the true "me" --Śiva-Śakti (Prakāśa-Vimarśa)--. Śiva and Śakti are the first two tattva-s and stand always as the support for all we think, speak, feel, etc. "I am" is Śiva-Śakti, "I am" is your essential nature. Do not forget it.


 Understanding "tattva-s" or categories

And now, let us try to understand "tattva-s" or categories of Manifestation.

The word "tat" means "that", and "tva" something like "ness". Thus, "tattva" would mean "thatness". A tattva is a rather stable level of reality. Think of it as a specific frequency. According to Trika, there are 36 tattva-s, in short, 36 different frequencies. For example, the "ordinary mind" is the tattva 16. This mind works on a well-defined level of consciousnes, managing the senses in different ways. At other levels of consciousness we find the "intellect" (tattva 14), which has predominantly the function of discriminating and labeling. And we find also the "senses" (tattva-s 17 to 21), all of them working at other level of reality.


All the aggregate of tattva-s is well organized. For instance, when one wakes up in the morning, all tattva-s pertaining to wakefulness emerge from oneself (Paramaśiva). However, this emergence is not at random but in an accurate sequence. Imagine you shake a tree, and lots of fruits fall down. Despite they appear to fall down all at the same time, each of them falls following a defined sequence. Likewise, when you wake up the whole world appears to emerge simultaneously, but this is not the case. The world emerge step by step, but quickly. Thus, you imagine there is a continuous world in front of you, but this is an illusion. Not the world, but the sense of continuity. Science says this too, but we rarely think of it. It seems "too scientific" and "not practical" in everyday life. Nevertheless, as Trika states, it is a daily reality, and "very practical" indeed.

When you start considering the world as a "discontinuous reality", a new field of experiences will be within reach. You will realize your mind is "discontinuous": one thought now and other thought afterward. But, who is in between? You yourself remains as a witness between one thought and the next. The gap between thoughts is not a void according to Trika, but it is filled with Consciousness, with Reality, with Śiva, with You, my friend. Good method to be used when meditating: "To become conscious of the Witness placed between thoughts".

So, a tattva is a defined level of Creation or Manifestation. It is a step in the huge cosmic stair. And the tattva-s are rather stable, each of them being a kind of universe. For instance, when you are extremely worried, your mind is predominant. Consequently, you move about the mental world which was created by a state of identification with a series of thoughts. Then, tattva 16 (mind) gives rise to an immense world full of worrying thoughts. In short, one tattva is a universe in itself.

A crucial teaching: tattva-s are predominant when the Witness (You, Śiva) thinks He is them. Even though Śiva and Śakti are denominated "tattva-s 1 and 2, respectively", they are not tattva-s, but rather "the source of all tattva-s". Of course, Paramaśiva (the origin of Śiva-Śakti) is not a tattva either, but rather the Highest Reality that gives rise to all. You may wonder: well, I know Paramaśiva, Śiva and Śakti, but what is Sadāśiva? We can say that Sadāśiva is a kind of Śiva-Śakti's child. Yes, we can say that. However, I will not explain this mysterious Sadāśiva now.

You have learnt lots of things. This is just the beginning. In Part 3 I am going to keep revealing fabulous teachings which will help you effectively break the chains of bondage brought about by ignorance of your own nature.

See you in "Trika: Part 3".


 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.