Shaivism : Core Philosophy and Fundamentals

O Goddess! Your flashes, like the sun, the moon, fire etc. and even Great Lord is of little consequence when compared to your divine Shakti and bliss. You are the embodiment of the whole universe from Shiva to Prithvi in three aspects (Knower, Knowledge and Known). In-spite of all this greatness you dwell in the hearts of your devotees.

Kashmir: The Birth place of Shaivism 

Kashmir, the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent is the birth place of shaivism. Kashmir was named after the great Hindu rishi Kashyap. The image of Kashmir today is a lot different from what is used to be 100 years ago. Today Kashmir has become a breeding place for radical Islamic ideologies. Kashmir was once, home to a sect of Hindus which directly worshiped the cosmos. 90% of Kashmir was inhabited by these people since 1000’s of years, until they were made to run away from their own land and settle in the other parts of India to save their lives, by radical Islamic ideologies. Today No brahmin Hindus are allowed in Kashmir as they consider Hindus as outsiders. 

Core Philosophy of Shaivism

There are two aspects of Shaivism or Kashmir Shaivism i.e. theory and practice. The cardinal principles and fundamentals of theory are supposed to be experienced practically by means of Sadhana. Shaivism has been recognized as the highest among all the Sadhana paths that lead to self-recognition.

In this system, mind is to be withdrawn from objective activities, and directed towards the subject, which is the real self and is to be merged into it. Para-Praveshika by Acharya Khem Raj is a basic work explaining different tattvas mentioned in different Shiva Scriptures and gives us the elementary knowledge of Shaivism as well. Shaivism is about the road which consists of Shiva, shakti, Nara (Jiva) or Para, Para Para and Apara. This concise yet remarkable book is a must read for any aspirant who desires to learn and understand Shaivism.

Shiva is the absolute reality. Shakti is the divine power of Shiva, through which he conceals his nature. The manifestation of Shakti to the position of soul and world is Nara (the soul bondage, we can call it Jiva also).

Shaivism involves experiencing thirty-six principles or elements. Reality of the universal consciousness is manifested through these experiences. This school of thought believes in self-recognition, action and thought.

Core Philosophy of Shaivism

For gaining positive practical experiences, the aspirants of this system should have a moral and mental character of high order. Shaivism primarily deals with ultimate reality of the manifestation of the world process, bondage and liberation leading a devotee to realize the supreme nature of the individual soul with the eternal-principal which is nothing but Shiva alone. In other words, it is the transformation of the human consciousness into divine consciousness. Param Shiva or Shiva manifests this universe full of multiplicity and countless forms yet remains the embodiment of consciousness. His essential true nature undergoes no change.The first movement in consciousness is called Spanda or Unmesha. From this initial throb comes the creation of the cosmos in which Shakti transforms into thirty-six tattvas, the principles or constituents from Shiva to Earth. There is no difference between Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is considered as the first principle and Shakti the second principle.


In Shaivism the universe is created, preserved and dissolved by Shiva alone. Anything done by Him cannot be unreal. Maya cannot prevail on Shiva. The Jeeva is divine or Shiva in nature but has forgotten his real nature. The experience by which he is able to recognize his real nature and bring home the truth through spiritual discipline is known as ‘Paratibijna’ i.e. self-recognition, a distinct school of Shaivism. The main elements of Shaivism are as under:


Acharya Khem Raj has given a rational synthesis of these thirty-six principles (concrete and real mental experiences) in his Parapraveshika and the same is briefly given as under:

  1. Shiva: He is the universe in its entirety and beyond it. He is spirit, bliss, will, knowledge and action.
  2. Shakti: The first flash comes out to draw out the universe. It is force, energy or the will to act. It is bliss, will, knowledge and action all combined.
  3. Sadashiv: At this stage the feeling to emerge out develops into will to act. But more importantly, the subject object is not differentiated. Will dominates over all other shakti’s.
  4. Ishwar: At this stage the subject actually emerges out into object, ‘Ahanta’ (subject) the feeling of ‘I’ predominates over “Identa’- the feeling of ‘This’. In other words, Knowledge’ dominates over the feeling to emerge out.
  5. Shod-vidya: At this stage Ahanta and Identa or T or ‘This’ aspect of experience is balanced. Power of Action becomes predominant.

The Five principles of unlimited subject-object experiences are:

  • Shiva
  • Ishwar
  • Sadashiv
  • Shakti
  • Shud-Vidya

Creative Energy or Limited Principle

  1. Maya: This divine Shakti is responsible for differentiation. It makes us forget our true nature and binds us down to individuality. It eludes subject from the object through five cloaks or veils.

Maya’s five Kanchukas- Cloaks of obscuration

  1. Kala: It means limited power. Shiva is omnipotent but Maya has shrunk these unlimited-powers into finite form.
  2. Vidhya: Shiva is omniscient. But Maya has put a limitation on him. So, it is limited knowledge.
  3. Rag: Shiva is full and complete, but again, Maya has put it into bondage. So, there is attachment to sense objects.
  4. Kaal: Time limitation. Past, Present and Future. Shiva is eternal. There is no bondage or limitations of time on Him.
  5. Niyati: Limitation with regard to space. Shiva is omnipresent or all-pervading but here it has its own limits as Jiva.


Five limited individual experiences

  1. Purusha: The concept of individual five cloaks of obscurations conceal the quality of the Purusha from Shiva – (the universal consciousness).
  2. Prakriti: It consists of Gunas i.e. qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. It is different for different Purushas and is responsible for differences in the temperament of different individuals.
  3. Buddhi is the intellect, which makes Purusha behave, doubt, reflect, think and consider.
  4. Ahamkara is responsible for will, thought-differentiation and acts as storehouse of thoughts and feelings.
  5. Mannah is responsible for will, thought-differentiation and storehouse of thoughts and feelings. Buddhi, Ahamkara and Mann are together called as Antahkarana.

The Five sense organs (Jnana Indrias)

  1. Shruti
  2. Jiva
  3. Gran
  4. Tvakh
  5. Chakhshu

Five organs of action (Karam Indrias)

  1. Vakh (Tongue (Speech))
  2. Pani (Hand)
  3. Pad(feet)
  4. Payu(Urethra)
  5. Upasth(anus)

These organs have no functions other than to receive pulsation or vibration of five elements of sense perception.

Five objects of perception (Tanmatr)

  1. Shabad
  2. Sparsh
  3. Roop
  4. Ras
  5. Gandh

Gateways through which these are perceived are Skin, Nose, Ears, Eyes, Tongue, Sound Touch, Form, Taste and Smell. These are also called elements of sense perception.

Five gross elements (Maha Boot)

  1. Akash (Space) Channel for force to act.
  2. Vayu (Air) – Gaseous state which sustains life.
  3. Agni (Fire) – Thermal motion – heat, light and life.
  4. Jal (Liquid) – Forms life.
  5. Prithvi (Earth) – Sustains everything.

Shaivism and Shiv Sutra

As per one of the Sutras, “Life is consciousness” (Shiv Sutra 1-1) Consciousness is all pervasive. Shiva is a wave-less ocean of consciousness. Through His play, this universe has become Grahaka – the perceiver and Grahaya – the perceived. The emergence of thirty-six Tattvas – constitutive principles, the consciousness gives rise to the universe and its activities.Core Philosophy of Shaivism

For purposes of understanding the practical aspect, the universe has been divided into three categories. These are called as Pramata, Pramana and Prameya.

Pramata, is limited individual (Jeeva) who understands the nature and activities of the universe. The universe is Prameya and its correct understanding is Pramiti. Since the universe is not different from Param-Shiva thus there are no means of separating Him from the universe, by which we can know Him. He is both the means and the end. Consciousness reveals its own nature and also gives us the knowledge of the other objects.

This is called Param Samvit. Through the independent power of this supreme ‘l-consciousness’ Param Shiva becomes 36 Tattvas and reveals seven experiences which are :

  • Shiva Chitt: Highest, The Absolute.
  • Mantra Maheshwar: One who has realized Sada- Shiv Tattva.
  • Mantreshwar: One who has realized Ishwer Tattvas.
  • Mantra: One in between Shud-Vidhya Tattva.
  • Vijnan kala: Key-experiment in between Shud-Vidya and Maya-Tattva
  • Pralyakal: Experience of the void.
  • Sakal: Limited experience dominated by Maya Tattva (worldly pleasures). Not knowing his real self.

Param Shiva or Shiva exists as the universe in its infinite powers. The powers, Shakti are:

  • Chit Shakti: Shiva is self – luminous and wholly independent.
  • Anand Shakti: Shiva has ability to experience bliss with Himself without any external cause.
  • Ichha Shakti: Shiva can do anything in a miraculous way without opposition and with firm resolution.
  • Kriya Shakti: He can create objects of various forms.

Shiva with these powers of Shakti continuously performs five actions:

  • Creation (Shristi) = Creation of the Universe
  • Sustenance (Sthiti) = Maintenance of the Creation.
  • Dissolution (Sanhar) = Absorption of the creation into Himself.
  • Concealment (Pidhan)= State in which creation remains within Him, before being remembered or re-created.
  • Bestowal of grace (Anugrah) = Complete merging of the creation into the Universal Consciousness.

कणास्त्वद्दीप्तीनां रविशशि कृशंनु प्रभृतयः।

परं ब्रह्म क्षुदं तव नियतं आनन्द कणिका||

शिवादि क्षिति अन्तं त्रिवलयतनोः सर्वम् उदरे।

तव आस्ते भक्तस्य स्फुरसि हदि चित्रं भगवति ||

O Goddess! Your flashes, like the sun, the moon, fire etc. and even Great Lord is of little consequence when compared to your divine Shakti and bliss. You are the embodiment of the whole universe from Shiva to Prithvi in three aspects (Knower, Knowledge and Known). In-spite of all this greatness you dwell in the hearts of your devotees.

Your View on this
"All desires💭 actually end in freedom❄. Your desire is fulfilled and you are empty. The emptiness brings you happiness , but it is unconscious. You attribute your happiness to a possession, not the emptiness. It is the freedom from desire that gives you happiness🐇 ."