Question about the difference between Advaita Vedanta & Kashmir Saivism

topic posted Tue, November 17, 2009 - 7:01 AM by  Starbuck

For a period I studied Shankara's Nondualistic Advaita Vedanta, later I found out about
Kashmir Saivism. For almost a year now I have this question about the difference between
Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Saivism.

Maybe anyone can help me to get some answers to my question.
To explain my question I first will show a text I found on the Internet, about the
difference between Advaita en Kashmir Savism:

Kashmiri Saivism differs from Sankara's Advaita in that it does not consider the manifest world as unreal.
The world in which we live and with which we interact is a projection of Siva's dynamism and as real as Siva himself.
If God is real, everything that emanates from him must be as real.
By his free will Siva manifests the objective reality within himself using himself as the qualities of nature,
the source (tattvas) and substratum. Siva and his creation are as inseparable as the reflection of objects
in a mirror and the mirror itself. The reflection of the objects and the mirror which reflect them exist
within the mirror and they are inseparable. Similarly the manifested worlds of Siva and their constituent
parts do not exist outside of Siva but only as reflections within him without any independent existence of their own.
Thus according to Kashmiri Saivism, Siva and his creation are both real and inseparable.

I can follow the above text and understand what is said.
The only question I have is, what are the consequenses according to this difference?

In Advaita is said the world is unreal and only Brahman is real.
When there is sealrealization there is no more identification with the body or ego, only with the Brahman or real Self.
I understand that Kasmir Saivism calls the real Self (Siva). If there is no more identification with the body or ego,
you can say that everything what is happening to the body or ego (or person) happens automatically.
There is no one doing anything, according to Shankara's Advaita Vedanta.
There is no one that can do anything, because it is Brahman (or what Saivism calls Siva) is doing everything.

So what difference does it make for Siva or Brahman (the real Self) if the world is real or unreal?
If there is no one doing anything, nothing can be done.

Hoping anyone can explain me about this difference,
best regards,

posted by:
  • Greetings, Starbuck,

    Thanks for a very thoughtful post. I am not really an expert on either Advaita Vedanta or Kashmir Saivism, but I have studied both. Someone will probably give you a more learned or more technical answer; I can only tell you what practical difference it made to me.

    Sankara's teaching is characterized by "mayavada," the teaching that this world is only maya, illusion. To some extent he is right, since we now know that what we perceive as "solid matter" is mostly space. So there is some illusion involved. But it seems to me that taking this teaching very much to heart brings us to a place of detachment and non-involvement with the world.

    Kashmir Shaivism is characterized by "parinamavada," the teaching that God/dess, through a series of modifications or expansions, has BECOME this universe (which is therefore real). In my own personal view, this latter teaching can more easily lead to involvement, love of nature, and religious devotion. So for me the difference seems to be a practical one, as well as one of inclination.

    If one bother's oneself too much about questions of "who is the doer," etc., one pierces the illusions upon which the play, the "lila," depends. While this may indeed be good for self-realization, it may short-circuit some of the learning for which we have taken body in this life, or so it seems to me. Just my opinion, and anyone is welcome to take it or leave it.


    • Thank you Dietmar for the nice article.
      And thank you to Devidas, in my opinion it indeed has to do something with devotion to 'other' people and the world.

      But in the end I think it does not matter if you follow the path of Advaitin or a Kashmir Saivism.
      There just two different roads, if you can call them roads offcourse.
      That what the seeker is looking for already is right here, right now.
      So I don't believe that Kasmir Saivism is better then Advaita or vice versa.

      But maybe at the Advaita path the danger occurs to say that notting matters and that there is no one responsable.
      So people can fall in all kinds of weird unintressed attitutes.
      There is a name for that trap, they call it Advaita Shuffle.

      By saying the world is real (like Kashmir Saivism does) this behavior can be overcome or even prevented.

      I think this is one of those paradoxes, on the one hand they say nothing matters, one the other hand they say everything matters.
      But is not the one or the other, it's both.

      When selfrealization happens, maybe devotion just happens in a natural way, it must be somthing like this,, I guess......

      Thank you for replying,
      namaste, Starbuck.
  • I dont know alot either but get the feel that : there is differnet types of realisation,different flavors, there are tantrick realisers and ascetic realisers ,renunciation views etc.
    I think kashmiri shaiv has a tantrick flavor, it sees in terms of non duality betwwen the SELF and the manifest phenonena, similar in the vajra symbol of the 5 poisons becoming the 5 dhyani buddhas, the tantrick web, emptiness is not apart from form.

    you got the kundalini shakti aspect of K shavism, adavaita has litle to do with it. i thnk it is a more embracing view, the worldl is not JUST an illusion but the play of shakti, it includes the GODDESS .the dance of shakti ,as the world ,in a seamlesss whole "the divine character of the whole OF REALITY"...WESTRNERS need KASHMIR SHAVISM AND I THiNK ARE MORE SUITED TO IT. but both are great dharma
  • Unsu...
    Be it Advaita Vedanta (AV) or Kashmir Saivism (KS) I would rather focus on getting clarity on perception of Shiva.

    If you are to assume Shiva as the logic, then it is much easy to understand AV. Energy (Goddess) in any form allows manifestation of that logic (Shiva). Energy and logic are separable, in theory and in physical terms but are complete only when together. Since you believe and practice the theory or logic (Shiva) of being alive Shiva exists in you or you and Shiva are not two entities but one (advaita).

    KS is more of physical practice towards manifesting higher realms of understanding of this logic. Since KS is more practical and based on precise patterns it does not prescribe (demand) the practitioner to be an advaita believer or not even a believer. Ideally a non believer is better for KS as this demand more of self exploration. KS is more like a staircase which leads to the next plane of understanding. When you climb you don’t need to believe in what you are about to see when you reach the next level (so to speak).

    Hope this help.
  • Real

    Fri, January 1, 2010 - 10:44 PM
    Starbuck -> "In Advaita is said the world is unreal and only Brahman is real."

    Devidas -> "Sankara's teaching is characterized by "mayavada," the teaching that this world is only maya, illusion"

    Vajra -> "the kundalini shakti aspect of K shavism, adavaita has litle to do with it. i thnk it is a more embracing view, the worldl is not JUST an illusion"

    This is widely held misconception. Most everything you read on Advaita will quote this one verse from Shankara's Viveka-chudamani (20) and ignore the rest of the work (not to mention many many of his other works).

    "The verdict of all discussions on the Vedanta is that the Jiva and the whole universe are nothing but Brahman" (478)

    "this whole extended universe is Brahman Itself" (394)

    "All this universe which through ignorance appears as of diverse forms, is nothing else but Brahman" (227)

    "Whatever a deluded man perceives through mistake, is Brahman and Brahman alone" (236)

    So Shankara clearly holds the universe to be real. His earlier statement that the world was false meant only that the perception of the world as something other than Brahman is false.

    Aum Shanti!
    • Re: Real

      Sun, January 3, 2010 - 7:39 PM
      yes shankara and adavaita say this worlds is brahman- BUT they say the world of diverse appearences are MAYA and unreal because they are impermanent- they say what is temporary is maya .bu the actual reality is brahman. like calling a ring a ring when it is actually just gold. so the world free from the perception of illusion is seen as brahman. the underlying reality.

      kashmiri shavist tantra says the experience of the temporary IS THE EXPERIENCE OF SHAKTI just because it is temp does not negate it as expereince. experience itself is actuall - thus real - thus shakti in the form of temporary energy. i think ther is a subtle different view. and advaita is a profound path. it does sem to be "dont touch the senses" dont be attached to form" etc tantra is the senses are shakti
      forms are conscious energy power.
      • Re: Real

        Sun, January 3, 2010 - 10:52 PM
        Shankara says all this is world is Brahman, that the diverse experiences are played out on the substratum (brahman) no existence outside of Brahman. KS says experience is shakti and shakti is Shiva (substratum). I really see no difference except for the words assigned to it. Plus Shankara and most of his followers today are part of a Tantric sect that scholars believe developed from a school of KS. As they put it, Advaita is the philosophy and Tantra is the practice. I think you have to take Shankaras teachings of detachment in the light of his overall teachings, they are way over emphasized and distorted in the western perception of Advaita.
  • Dear Starbuck,

    Actually, there is a big difference. In Advaita, Brahman is unstained, still, and totally uninvolved with creation [Maya]. In Trika, creation is the expression of Shiva's absolute freedom - Svatantrya. In Trika, unlike Advaita, Shiva is fully aware of creation, both as creator and ultimate enjoyer of creation. Upon realization, it is not that you, as a Siddha, would be unaware of what the body and mind is doing. You would be fully aware, but the body and mind's actions are, after realization only an expression of Shiva's will, i.e. spontaneous action aligned to Shiva's will (versus actions limited by the malas and gunas). In Trika, realization means not that you become unaware of the body/mind, but that you become aware that you are all of creation. The universe exists in you, as opposed to the limited awareness of being a small pasu in this universe. In Advaita, like Samkya, realization is total separation between matter and spirit. There you rest in complete stillness, totally unaware and uninvolved with creation, which is supposed to be a product of "ignorance". That's how I understand it. Ultimately, from a philosophical point of view, real or unreal are simply ontological systems set out for the intellect to understand. At the point of actual realization, these arguments fall away, as you become the established in your own pure Self-Awareness. As far as your sadhana is concerned, you can approach the Vedantic way of neti, neti [not this, not this] which negates the world, like stripping an onion away, until only Brahman [i.e. stillness of mind] remains, or you can try to look at creation as Shiva. Both methods lead to awareness if practiced properly.

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