Śaivism: Krama Śaivism

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The term Krama Śaivism refers to a number of closely related mystical cults of the goddess Kali and her emanations, which, originating in Uiyāna (Swat) and Kashmir before the ninth century, propagated an idealist metaphysics that exerted a decisive influence on the Trika and thence on the Śrīvidyā. The Krama rituals and their wild, skull-decked, often theriomorphic deities place them within the Kāpālika culture of the cremation grounds.

The branch of Krama scriptures that originated in Uiyāna (of these, manuscripts survive of the Devīpañcaśataka, Kramasadbhāva, Devīdvyardhaśatikā, and Yonigahvara Tantra ) has assimilated Kaulism and so professes to have distanced itself from this Kāpālika background. Nonetheless, several Krama guru s in Kashmir, though they followed these scriptures, were Kāpālika ascetics, while in the other major scriptural source of the Krama, the Kashmirian Jayadrathayāmala, the reforming influence of Kaulism is absent and the Kāpālika context of the Krama is vividly described. Here it is seen that the Krama arose within a tradition of Kali worship principally concerned with Kāpālika rites of spontaneous and controlled possession. The concept of possession developed into that of an enlightenment in which social individuality, with its constituent belief in a world of external powers and in the objectivity of Brahmanical criteria of purity, is displaced by the radiant expansion of Kālī from within as an impersonal, value-free, and infinite power of consciousness that projects and resorbs the universe within itself.

All forms of the Krama ritual are designed to induce this liberating intrinsicism through assimilative worship of Kālī (the true Self) in and as a "sequence" (krama ) of sets of divine powers. This "sequence" embodies all the phases through which this cyclical dynamism manifests itself in the microcosm of the individual's cognition, as it fills and empties itself from moment to moment in the flux of experience. Thus in its commonest form the Krama ritual culminates in the worship of a sequence of deities that successively encodes the projection of content, immersion in content, retraction of content into the state of latent impression within the subject, and finally the dissolution of these subjective impressions in the implosion of consciousness into its pristine, nondiscursive potentiality. In some traditions, pure luminosity (bhāsā ) is worshiped as a fifth phase englobing these four as its creative vibrancy. Fortifying this gnostic ritual with the expansive joy of caste-free sexual union and the consumption of wine, flesh, and the impurities of the body, the initiate penetrates through the inhibition of external values and the rebirth-generating bondage of self-awareness that this inhibition entails, thereby attaining the conviction that his individualized consciousness is but the spontaneous play of these universal powers. No longer enslaved by the appearance of subjection to the not-self in consciousness, he achieves liberation within the very flow of extroverted cognition.

This neo-Kāpālika mysticism of the Krama reached its highest theoretical and liturgical coherence in Kashmir in the preceptorial lineage of Jñānanetranatha (fl. c. 850900). Emerging out of the Krama of Uiyāna, the outstanding works of this Kashmirian tradition are three texts, each entitled Mahānayaprakāśa (Illumination of the Great Doctrine), one anonymous (between 1000 and 1200) and the others by Arasiha (fl. c. 10501100) and Śitikaha (fifteenth century?). While remaining a distinct sectarian tradition, the Krama strongly influenced the Trika, the other major Śaiva soteriology in Kashmir. Krama deities were incorporated into the core of the Trika pantheon in the second phase of Trika, and in its third phase the guru s who propagated the Pratyabhijñā (in the tenth century) took initiations in the lineage of Jñananetranātha. It is probable that this Krama background inspired their idealist nondualism. Among them Abhinavagupta contributed to the literature of the independent Krama, while his better-known exegesis of the Trika attempts to show that the Trika's categories contain the Krama as their essence. The independent Krama, influenced in turn by the Pratyabhijñā, spread in the twelfth century to the Śaiva centers of the far South. Of this phase there are the Mahārthamañjarī (Flower-cluster of the Great Doctrine) by Maheśvārananda of Cidambaram (fl. c. 11751225) and the Cidgaganacandrikā (Moonlight of the sky of consciousness) by Śrīvatsa, probably of Śucīndram (between 1075 and 1150).

Apart from these Kashmirian and southern developments, forms of the Krama flourished outside Kashmir as the basis of the cult of the goddess Guhyakālī. The earliest and richest work of this tradition is the Kālīkulakramārcana of Vimalaprabodha (before 1000), drawing on both the tradition of Uiyāna and that of the Jayadrathayāmala. Many liturgical texts of this branch of the Krama survive in the Kathmandu valley, where the cult of Guhyakālī (often identified with Guhyeśvarī, the principal local goddess) has continued into modern times. It is also to the Śaiva Newars of Nepal that is owed the preservation of manuscripts of the Krama scriptures, which are mentioned and quoted by the early authors of Kashmir but have not survived there.

See Also



Rastogi, Navjivan. The Krama Tantricism of Kashmir, vol. 1. Delhi, 1979.

Silburn, Lilian, trans. Hymnes aux Kāli: La roue des énergies divines. Publications de l'Institut de Civilisation Indienne, fasc. 40. Paris, 1975.

Silburn, Lilian, trans. La Mahārthamañjarī de Maheśvarānanda, avec des extraits du Parimala. Publications de l'Institut de Civilisation Indienne, fasc. 29. Paris, 1968.

Alexis Sanderson (1987)