Advaita and Trika system
Vivek Anand Ganesan
v_ganesan at YAHOO.COM
Tue May 14 01:52:03 CDT 2002
Namaste to all,
Recently we have had discussions relating to Kashmiri
Saivism on this list. Although this list is dedicated to
Classical Advaita ( i.e. as expounded by Shankara
bhagavatpAda and his followers ) a comparative discussion
of Kashmiri Saivism vis-a-vis Advaita is not out of place
for two reasons.
1) Kashmiri Saivism is also a monistic school but differs
2) Many people often transfuse ideas similar to Kashmiri
Saivism in to Advaita. It would then behoove sincere
Advaitins to refute such views and present the correct
I am by no means an expert on advaita or Kashmiri Saivism
. I shall merely refer to some good works on the subject
by others. I hope learned members may add/correct to what
I have stated.
What is Kashmiri Saivism or the Trika System?
Kashmiri Saivism is a name given to one of the schools of
saivism ( or shaivam to be proper ). It evolved primarily
in the Kashmir valley and Kashmiri teachers spread it to
other parts of India. Traces of it may be found in other
saivite schools as well ( especially the southern schools).
There is a legend that Thirumoolar, an important saint of
the tamil saiva siddhAnta religion came from Kashmir! Be
that as it may, Kashmiri Saivism is quite important due to
its seminal contributions to Saivism in North India and to
the tantric way ( which is quite popular in the himalayan
regions of India and Nepal ).
The label "Kashmiri Saivism" was coined by savants of the
19th century. The correct word used by tradition is "trika"
system. It is called so because it is based on the three
sets of texts - Agama shAstrams, spanda shAstrams and
pratyabhij~na shAstrams. Another word used is Kaula mArgam
( sure enough, Kaul is a common surname for Kashmiri
brahmins ). Since "kaula mArgam" may have a pejorative
connotation, the word "trika" is used instead.
Advaita and Kashmiri Savism
In the preface to his book "Kashmiri Saivism The central
philosophy of Tantrism", Dr. Kamalakar Mishra states,
"At places in my discussion the Advaita VedAntin appears as
the chief opponent(pUrvapakshin) of Tantra for the simple
reason that some of the basic principles of the Tantric
system are questioned and contradicted by Advaita VedAnta."
This straightforward statement is rather illuminative of
the material of the book in general.
Later, in the chapter titled "The process of creation"
the differences are brought out more clearly. For
instance, "Kashmiri Saivism differs from Advaita vedAnta in
so far as the world, according to Kashmiri Saivism, is an
active self-projection of shiva, whereas according to
advaita vedAnta, it is a superimposition(adhyAsa) on
Brahman"(ibid., pg. 151, para 2).
The same chapter also contains an illustrative chart
regarding the various theories of causation in Indian
philosophy which may be of help to students of Indian
philosophy. It is as follows :
satkAryavAda asatkAryavAda sadasatkAryavAda
(effect is (effect is diff. (both - jaina
one with cause) from cause) theory)
parinAmavAda The effect is appearance only ( illusory )
(The effect |
is real) |
( Illusion caused by ( Illusion caused by
superimposition )) self-projection )
Advaita-vedAnta Kashmiri Saivism
( Above figure is based on the one in page 152 of the
book "Kashmiri Saivism ...." mentioned before ).
He also says, "according to AbhAsavAda of Kashmir Saivism
, the illusory world is a free self-projection of shiva
like the creation of a yogi or a psychic magician" ( ibid.,
pg. 152, para 1 ). It seems clear ( atleast to me ) that
Kashmiri Saivites themselves maintain that their doctrines
are distinct from advaita vedAnta. If that is the case then
the theory that they are one and the same probably came
about due to the mistaken notion that since both are
monistic, ergo they are the same. As should be obvious by
now, there are indeed differences, subtle perhaps but
I have a couple of questions.
1) Why vivartavAda? It seems to me that ajAtivAda should be
the correct characterization of adhyArOpa-apavAda
doctrine of advaita. Is vivartavAda the correct term?
2) I believe that atleast some advaitins resort to the
notion of mAyA being sort of a sport of the Lord which
would bring it close to the Kashmiri Saivite notion of
spanda and AbhAsavAda. Wouldn't such a notion of mAyA be
against the basic tenets of advaita?
Thanks and Regards,
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