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Eight Schools Of Shaiva Spiritual Philosophy

The eight schools of Shaiva spiritual philosophy that had their origin and development in different parts of India in different periods of time. Eight schools of Shaiva spiritual thought arranged in chronological order are:

  1. The Pashupata Shaiva school,
  2. The Lakulisha Pashupata school,
  3. The Nandikeshwara Shaiva school,
  4. The Shaiva Siddhanta,
  5. The Virashaiva school,
  6. The Raseshvara Shaiva school,
  7. The Advaita Shaiva school of Kashmir, and
  8. The Shaiva school founded and propagated by Shrikantha in Kashmir.

The first three schools of Shaivism mentioned above originated in the beginning as religious cults in chronological order in the pre-Christian era in the north-western and south-western parts of India. Very limited literature that was created later is available pertaining to them, shedding light on their spiritual thought projections.

The Saiva Siddhanta School of spiritual thought is also one of the ancient schools of Shaivism that has extensive literature and also following even today in Tamil Nadu. The original texts were created in Tamil based on the oral teachings of Saiva saints. Later works were written in Sanskrit by some writers for dissemination of their spiritual philosophy in North India, especially in Kashmir.

The Virashaiva School that flourished in Karnataka was founded by Revana, later developed by Basava. It has a fairly rich literature written in Sanskrit and also a large following even today in Karnataka. The followers of this school wear an idol of Shiva on their body, a practice started by Basava in the twelfth century. The followers of this school are now called lingayats.

The existence of the Raseshvara school of Shaivism is known to us only from the description of the main tenets of its philosophical thought given by Madhvacharya in his well-known Sanskrit compendium, Sarva-darsana-samgraha.

The Advaita school of spiritual philosophy was founded in Kashmir by sage Vasugupta in the last quarter of the eight century CE. It is said that he was an ardent devotee of Shiva and was very keen to learn the Shaiva mode of spiritual practice. But he could not find a suitable guru, who could satiate his thirst for learning the Shaiva mode of spiritual practice. His intense yearning for learning the spiritual philosophy of Advaita Shaivism and the mode of their spiritual practice to realise his true nature was fulfilled by Shiva himself.

Source - article titled 'Light on Abhinavagupta’s Contribution to the Advaita Shaiva Spiritual Philosophy of Kashmir' by Dr Debabrata Sen Sharma published in Prabuddha Bharata Magazine January 2016 Issue.