Kashmiri Shaivism is a householder religion based on a strong monistic interpretation of the Bhairava Tantras and its subcategory the Kaula Tantras. There was additionally a revelation of the Siva Sutras to Vasugupta.
Kashmiri Saivism claimed to supersede Shaiva Siddhanta, a dualistic tradition which scholars consider normative tantric Shaivism. The Shaiva Siddhanta goal of becoming an ontologically distinct Shiva (through Shiva’s grace) was replaced by recognizing oneself as Shiva who, in Kashmir Saivism’s monism, is the entirety of the universe.
Kashmiri Shaivism describes the contraction (mala) of Consciousness (cit, Shiva) into phenomenal existence. Liberation (moksha) from mala can be achieved by sadhana, practice, for which Kashmir Shaivism gives four methods (upāya), as listed below.
- Citi: Universal Consciousness (citi) is the fundamental stuff of the universe. This Consciousness is one and includes the whole. It could also be called God or Shiva.
- Mala: Consciousness contracts itself. The one becomes many. Shiva becomes the individual (jīva). This contraction is called mala (impurity). There are three malas, the mala of individuation (Āṇava mala), the mala of the limited mind (māyīya mala), and the mala of the body (karma mala).
- Upāya: An individual caught in the suffering of embodied existence, afflicted by the three malas, eventually yearns to return to his or her primordial state of Universal Consciousness. To attain this, he or she undertakes sādhana or spiritual practice. Kashmir Shaivism describes four methods (upāya-s): āṇavopāya, the method of the body, śaktopāya, the method of the mind, śāmbhavopāya, the method of Consciousness, and anupāya the ‘methodless’ method.
- Mokṣa: The fruit of the individual’s sādhana is the attainment of Self-realisation (mokṣa). In Kashmir Shaivism, the state of liberation (mukti) is called sahaja samādhi and is characterised by the attainment of unwavering bliss-consciousness while living one’s ordinary life.