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Spanda In Kashmir Shaivism Schools Of Philosophy

Spanda is a conceptual term for Kashmir Shaivism Schools of philosophy. This word gained more practical circulation in philosophical circles during the latter half of the 8th century CE. The source of this concept is found in Shiva Sutra from Kashmir, discovered by Siddha Vasugupta (Shaiva Sutra – No. 30 – Siva Sakti praayosya visvam). The words unmesha and sphurat are used a synonyms for this concept.

This concept is akin to the Vedanta concept of first desire (sa akamayata in Upanishad) by the unmanifested absolute, which caused the emergence and evolution of this multiple creation.

Spanda literally means vibration. The Kashmir School of Shaivism, technically called pratyabhijna darshana, expounds this concept as Spanda Shastra. This word is used to convey the following meanings, depending upon the context –

  1. The very nature of the supreme (svabhava)
  2. The dharma of shakti
  3. The active process of the shakti (vyapara)
  4. The play of the shakti (vilasa)
  5. The very same essence of the shakti (shakti abhinna)
  6. The multiple, explosive, expanding power of shakti (sphuran, sphota)
  7. The promotional cause of the manifested universe and everything, every activity (jagat vaicitrya karini)
  8. In the context of speech, classified into four layers of manifestation (as para, pasyanti, madhyama, vaikhari), the para (ulterior) level is the identity of this spanda.

The entire manifested creation, classified into thirty-six tattvas, emerges out of the absolute Paramashiva through five types of his absolute shaktis – chit, ananda, jnana, iccha, kriya. The five eternal activities (kritya pancake) related to the manifest creation, viz., creation (srishti), maintenance (sthithi), destruction (laya) – a stage just prior to the final experience of the unity experience, by merging of all the bases (upadhi) for differentiation, except the ‘I’ feeling (tirodhana), blessing the beings in creation for absolute liberation (anugraha) – are the play of spanda.

The practical meditation techniques for the realization of the Ultimate Reality are developed on the basis of this concept of spanda and technique of spanda vimarsha in the work Spanda Karika. The feeling of I (aham-ta, the experience of ‘I am the being’) in every being is also one form of spanda.

From ancient times, it is noticed that there is an intellectual link and mutual communication between South India (Karnataka) and the religious-philosophical-yoga-tantra and mystic traditions that emerged at Kashmir. The evolution of the Kashmir Shaivism schools occurred from the 9th – 12th century CE. The Virashaiva philosophical thoughts crystallized in South India by about the 10th century CE and progressed further till the 14th century CE. There seems to have been a minimum of one hundred years core interaction between the Kashmir schools and South Indian schools of Shaivite thoughts, resulting in many common and shared viewpoints. Some important shared concepts are given below. They are taken from reference to the Virashaiva works – Siddhanta Sriomani, Vira Shaivananda Chandrika, Sivadvaita Manjari and Srikara Bhashya. Sometimes the technical words may have a slight difference; but the concept remains the same.

  1. Paramashiva is the final one absolute; his play is this manifestation, in the form of thirty six tattvas (elements)
  2. The world is real
  3. There is an absolute identity (Advaita) of the Paramashiva, Shakti, Samsara (world) and jiva (soul) in the final experience.
  4. There is a great similarity in the importance given to the master (guru), initiation (diksha), the symbol (linga), the three layers of bondage (mala-traya), the concept of shakti-patha, type of initiation, and the six divisions on the sthala.