First published in January 2015
Kashmir Shaivism encompasses a vast territory of wisdom and knowledge about the universe and a human being, just as contemporary science comprises a burgeoning aggregate of data and mathematical models – and theories to explain them. This article features, and draws parallels between: some of the ‘ultimate life-enriching’, core tenets of Kashmir Shaivism and the most intriguing developments and discoveries in contemporary science.
Great profundity and scope characterize Kashmir Shaivism and much complexity is inherent in the nature of many scientific theories and research studies considered here. For the sake of brevity, while still promoting ease of comprehension, I have attempted to give just enough basic information for clarification and for making logical connections.
In order to aid the reader who desires more coverage of the science, or of Kashmir Shaivism, I’ve offered some reference material cites, including relevant talks that I’ve given that are available on YouTube, some of which have links from my website, www.mariasyldona.com
Kashmir Shaivism is an ancient Eastern tradition that is at once a plenum of psychospiritual wisdom and of scientific knowledge. It is said that the entryway to Kashmir Shaivism is its Model (Theory) of the Manifestation of the Universe, and of a Human Being. It is not surprising, then, that some areas of contemporary science where parallels with Kashmir Shaivism are most likely to be found include physics, astrophysics, cosmology, the neurosciences and psychology. This article will highlight a number of such parallels, showing that this ancient tradition/science can be a source of inspiration for advancing the progress of scientific discovery, for the benefit of all of humankind and the universe in which we live.
We’ll start with a basic treatment of Kashmir Shaivism, incorporating some parallels with tenets of contemporary science as we go, particularly in the areas of physics and cosmology. Current and recent research in the neurosciences will also be featured, especially with respect to perception, and intriguing parallels made for these areas of science. Among the mysteries explored here include how the Model of Manifestation can describe both a human and the universe (under any circumstances!), and why perception plays a major role in universal manifestation and human evolution.
While parallels are being revealed increasingly as science progresses over time, Kashmir Shaivism itself can be seen as a science – one of human transformation and evolution, as well as one of a multitude of subjects necessary to treat the gamut of phenomena that comprise reality. In essence, Kashmir Shaivism may be seen as a Super Science, a Science of Sciences…. or fundamentally, The Science of Ultimate Reality.
Practice aspects of Kashmir Shaivism that are a product of its science of human evolutionary development will also be explored. Kashmir Shaivism declares that even the most commonplace of actions we perform as human beings, such as a simple and ordinary perception, can become a spiritual practice that promotes movement toward, and establishment in, the ultimate human evolutionary states and stages of development – in this very lifetime.
What is Non-dual Kashmir Shaivism?
The beginnings of the ancient tradition of Shaivism are lost in antiquity. Archaeological excavations in Mohenjodaro and Harappa reveal that Shaivism is the most ancient living faith in the world (Singh, 1990). Although dating back to the 8th-11th centuries CE, Kashmir Shaivism has only relatively recently been discovered by the West. It has been referred to by its scholars as a ‘Science of the Soul’, a ‘Science of Life’ and a ‘Psychology of Absolute Consciousness’. Just before passing from this worldly existence, one of the most renowned scholars of the Eastern psychospiritual traditions, whose life focus became Kashmir Shavisim, Thakur Jaideva Singh declared that “Kashmir Shaivism is the culmination of Indian thought and spirituality” (Singh, 2002). At its heart is the ‘Model of the Manifestation of the Universe and a Human Being’.
The non-dual nature of Kashmir Shaivism is reflected in the principle of cosmogony, or creation/origin of the universe. It is a tradition that describes the “objective manifestation of all objects in the world, existing as one with (the Universal Subject (Divinity) and only appearing as different from finite subjects” (Pandit, 2003). To identify with, or to become and to live, that Divinity – our true nature – is the ultimate human psychospiritual development, and therefore the ultimate in authentic human evolution.
Kashmir Shaivism is a source of scientific knowledge predating and foreshadowing discoveries in modern science by millennia. A revered Indian sage of the 20th century, Swami Muktananda, commenting on a specific text of Kashmir Shaivism called the Spanda Karikas, or Spanda, states that the tenets of Spanda are scientific – and that the notions of the world being created from the vibration of the first explosion (the Big Bang), and the universe continuing to expand have always been contained in the knowledge of Spanda and other Shaiva teachings. It would appear, then, that serious consideration of the knowledge contained in this ancient science might inspire solutions to conundrums of modern science.
At the same time, Kashmir Shaivism is a comprehensive system of human psychospiritual development. It includes both theoretical and practice components, and is therefore also one of the most elegant and complete psychospiritual systems for both gaining an intellectual comprehension of, and for attaining the state of, ultimate human evolutionary development.
Kashmir Shaivism is based on Agamic and Tantric (scriptural) symbolic traditions. The earlier works were more religious in nature, such as the Siva Sutras (Vasugupta) and Spanda Karikas (Kallata). The later works elaborated and extended the earlier into philosophical treatises, such as Sivadristi (Somananda) and Tantraloka (Abhinavagupta) (Chatterjee, 1986).
All of the scholar-saints of this tradition possessed essential mental qualities and practical abilities – and had the asset of the “highly-developed, rich language to be used for the correct and appropriate expression of this truth realized through (their) direct intuitional experience of the exact truth about the Self and non-Self.” (Pandit,1977). That language is – Sanskrit.
Sanskrit, Sound and Manifestation
The origins of Sanskrit are lost in time, and it is said to be the oldest language. Rick Briggs, a scientist for NASA working on artificial intelligence (AI), analyzed the Sanskrit language. He found that, although it had been a living spoken language for almost 1000 years, unlike modern languages, its logical construction was essentially that of computer machine language, very applicable to AI. Briggs concluded that: “much of the work in the field of AI is reinventing a wheel millennia old” (Briggs, 1985).
Physics and cosmology are based in large part on mathematical theory and equations, as many of the phenomena that they describe and understand are not usually easily physically observable. One major contemporary theory even puts forth the notion that our external physical reality is a mathematical structure (Tegmark, 2008). Interestingly, a number of early scholars of Sanskrit and the History of Mathematics indicate that Sanskrit is algebraic – to the point of suggesting that Sanskrit is the original basis of algebra, with linear, simultaneous and indeterminate equations (Joseph, 2011).
The literal ‘vibration’ of the Sanskrit phonemes (speech sounds reflected in spoken utterance) and its impact upon all the levels of consciousness of those who use (speak, hear, read) Sanskrit – are said to be more important and more powerful than the meaning of the words that are conveyed to the mind and intellect. Results of investigations by Western science methods in this area seem to corroborate this notion by demonstrating that the sounds of Sanskrit phonemes have a literal, physical effect upon an object exposed to them.
Ernst Chladni was probably the first to make sound visible. Later work by Dr. Hans Jenny, Albert Tomatis and others explored the possible interactions between sound and form, or matter. Some of the research involved the use of Sanskrit phonemes.
One of their findings is illustrated with the example of an image made on a plate covered with a thin layer of sand. Vibrating this sand-covered plate with the sound of the audible Sanskrit syllable, OM, resulted in the creation of a sri yantra – a sacred mandala figure – in the thin layer of sand on top of the plate. Such a demonstration of the creative ability of sound is a microcosmic manifestation of what Kashmir Shaivism describes as the macrocosmic, Universal Manifestation.
In one sense, then, the physical Universe can be seen as manifesting through vibrational phenomena dependent upon a mathematically-based set ofsounds (Sanskrit alphabet) that come together to form a particular language (Sanskrit) – language being inherent in speech. Therefore, the model of Manifestation of the Universe is depicted in terms not only of vibrational principles, or a “that-ness” (called ‘tattva’ in Sanskrit), but also in terms of levels of speech (vak).
The relationship between manifestation and speech can also be seen from a somewhat different perspective, as put forth by the great sage of Kashmir Shaivism, Abhinavagupta: The Divine Consciousness is identical with the Supreme Word (Para-vak) and hence every letter or word is derived from, and ultimately inseparable from, this Consciousness. “She (the Supreme Vak) is, in the most initial stage, stationed in the Divine I-consciousness (Ultimate Reality) which is the highest mantra and which is not limited by space and time.” … Therefore the analysis of language is inseparable from that of consciousness (Singh, 2002).
Universal Reality and Universal Manifestation as Supreme Experience
Universal Reality is given many names in Kashmir Shaivism. Among them are Divine I-Consciousness, Ultimate Reality, Supreme Subject, Self, Supreme Consciousness, Supreme Experiencer, Consciousness (with a capital ‘C’) and Paramashiva. While the philosophical term ‘Sciousness that scires itself’ (a sciousness (‘awareness’ without duality) that scires (surveys) Itself) is likely the most accurate (Singh, 1990).
In Sanskrit terminology, Ultimate Reality has been described as ‘Cit’, and ‘Parasamvit’, both terms being untranslatable. Cit essentially means ‘the changeless principle of all changing experience’. Universal Reality is also Parasamvit, ‘the immediacy of ‘feeling’ or experience where neither ‘I’ nor ‘This’ is distinguished – but rather is a coalescence of ‘I’ and ‘This’ into undivided unity’. A scholar states: “Unity is the eternal truth and diversity the dialectic truth” (Pandit, 2003).
As the Supreme Experiencer, Ultimate Reality is understood as a Self-aware plenum (i.e. being of a quality or in a state of complete fullness), or continuum (an uninterrupted, unbroken whole) of everything that is ever likely to exist. It is beyond both transcendence and immanence.
Significantly, Universal Manifestation in Kashmir Shaivism is also seen as an experiencing out (from ‘being’ to ‘becoming’) of the Supreme Experiencer from the phase of a plenum that is also a ‘small compact mass’ (Siva/Sakti) which contains ‘all that is ever likely to be’, in the form of (extremely subtle) vibration, and manifests as vibration and sound. Creation, from Kashmir Shaivism’s perspective is not an historical event, as at this level of the Supreme Experiencer, time, space and natural law do not exist.
Contemporary physics, in parallel, has similarly described the creation of the universe as the ultimate cosmic singularity (plenum containing everything), giving rise to the Big Bang (sound, or sound-less sound), where time, space, and natural law also do not exist.
Theory of Manifestation – Perspective and the Nature of Reality
Creation from the perspective of the Manifestation Model, as the outward vibration of the inwardly existent Universe is such that Ultimate Reality becomes (not creates – but becomes) both the Universe of apparent diversity and the languages (Speech) by which we understand that Universe. Simultaneously, Ultimate Reality – the Supreme Experiencer, Paramasiva – remains a Unity – the unchanging principle and ground of all changing experience. ….. It permeates and contains everything. And since it is Real, sois all that it becomes, Real, as well.
In a similar way, but from a ‘reverse perspective’, when this Model is regarded as the Model of the Manifestation of a Human Being, we must become Universal Reality, Divinity, Paramasiva. Become in the sense of ‘identifying with’ – Identification. It is not enough to just ‘become like’ (as in God-like). It is complete Identification – being God (Paramasiva). In this case, the movement is not ‘top down’ (as Paramasiva going from ‘being’ to a ‘becoming’ (the Universe). It is instead movement from what we have become in the process of being made manifest (i.e. the Individual Perceiver – Purusha) – to being (the original and constant nature of Paramasiva). Therefore, where manifestation is a movement from ‘Being’ to ‘becoming’, liberation is the process of movement from ‘becoming’ (or ‘having become’) to ‘Being’. And of then living in that state that is our birthright.
A scholar of Kashmir Shaivism elaborates yet another aspect of the Theory of Manifestation and perspective. Dr. B.N. Pandit makes the point that Pure Consciousness (Paramasiva) is never bound by the limitations that objective phenomena are (such as time and space). “But since it assumes the forms of all concerned objects, it appears erroneously to be conditioned by time and space. Since such limitations also become manifest in the viewpoints of beings residing in the plane of diversity, the resultant objects are named as different, phenomenally existent elements, according to Kashmir Shaivism’s abhasa-vada (or abhasa) theory of manifestation.” (Pandit, 2003).
Universal Manifestation as Continuous Process: Abhasa – flashing forth and the Big Bang; Perception and the Holographic Universe
Manifestation Theory incorporates the concept of abhasa, or ‘flashing forth’. So not only does Ultimate Reality become the universe – it does so through a process of ‘flashing forth’ countless times a moment, like the frames of a movie, in the process called abhasa. It keeps the images in our world appearing to be solid, and creates the sense of movement – and all the attributes of phenomena of manifestation that we know.
More recent scientific discoveries/theories also reveal that the creation of the universe is continuous – the “Big Bang is still banging” – providing a parallel with the concept of abhasa. This ‘flashing forth’ is also described as a ‘subtle pulsation’.
Kashmir Shaivism not only also puts forth the notion that ‘the Universe is created anew with each abhasa’, but also that these abhasas emanate from both Ultimate Reality and from a human being. It is via perception that this occurs for the human being, since each perception is also considered a manifestation.
This notion about perception has apparent parallels with science. For example, this process hints at the possibility of a holographic universe, which follows from one of the tenets of a field of contemporary physics, the Holographic Principle, proposed and elaborated upon by scientists such as t’Hooft, Susskind, Beckenstein and Maldacena. (Also see my SSE13 lecture video entitled “Holography and Universal Manifestation: Quantum Physics and the Yogic Science of Kashmir Shaivism” on YouTube, with a link from www.mariasyldona.com).