Śaivism: Trika Śaivism

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The Śaivas of the Trika tradition were the principal propagators of the nondualist idealism that flourished in Kashmir from about 900 ce. Although all the known exegetical literature of the Trika is Kashmirian or inspired by Kashmirian authors, there are reasons to doubt that the tradition was Kashmirian in origin. The earliest and probably pre-Kashmirian phase of its development is seen in the Siddhayogeśvarīmata Tantra, the Mālinīvijayottara Tantra, and the Tantrasadbhāva Tantra. These Tantras lack the exegetes' doctrine that the world is the projection in and of consciousness, and their liturgies and yogic systems share the absence of the goddess Kālī/Kālasakarii, whose cult was later central to the Trika.

In the earlier period (probably before 800 ce) Trika Śaivism is defined by a system of ritual whose goal is the assimilation of the power of a "triad" (trika ) of goddesses, Parā, Parāparā, and Aparā, the first benevolent, the other two wild and terrifying, garlanded with skulls and brandishing the khatvāga, the skull-topped staff of the Kāpālikas. Associated with the cult of these sect-defining deities was that of the eight mother goddesses and their embodiments in "clans" (kula ) of yogini s. The latter are both supernatural apparitions and human females considered to be permanently possessed by the mother goddesses. They were to be invoked and/or placated with offerings of blood, flesh, wine, and sexual fluids by power-seeking adepts whose affinity with one or other of these clans was divined at the time of initiation.

This cult of supernatural power through the manipulation of impurity incorporated Kālī in the second phase of its development, first alone, as the transcendental goddess immanent in the original three as her emanations (this is seen in the Devyāyāmala Tantra and in parts of the Jayadrathayāmala Tantra ), and then accompanied by the pantheon of Krama Śaivism's cycle of cognition, as in the Trikasadbhāva Tantra and Trikahdaya Tantra. Since the Krama originated in the far Northwest, it is probable that this second phase of the Trika developed in Kashmir.

The third phase of the Trika (from c. 900 ce), represented principally by the Tantrāloka, Mālinīvijayavārtika, and Parātriśikāvivaraa of Abhinavagupta, shows the tradition competing with the Śaiva Siddhānta for authority within the mainstream of Kashmirian Śaivism. Equipped in the Pratyabhijñā with a respectable metaphysics, it distanced itself from the visionary, power-orientated world of the early Trika. Its sect-defining rituals are directed inward to self-contemplation in unmotivated performance, so that in principle they can be abandoned when gnostic self-cultivation no longer requires their support.

Behind this level of Tantric ritual, which gave the sect its broad base in the Śaiva community, this phase of the Trika preserved, as the cult of the virtuosi, a variety of the erotico-mystical Kaulism associated with the perhaps mythical saint Macchanda (also known as Matsyendranātha). This tradition had its roots in the cult of the clans of the eight mother goddesses seen in the first phase of the Trika, in related Śaiva cults (e.g., that of the Picumatabrahmayāmala Tantra ), and in Buddhist adaptations in the Heruka Tantras, but broke away from this substratum by rejecting the external aspects of the culture of the cremation grounds. This trend toward mystical interiorization is extremely marked in the Trika Kaulism of Abhinavagupta, who propagated a meta-aesthetics in which orgasm with the consecrated female partner or "messenger" (dūtī )the key moment of higher Kaula practicewas to reveal the all-containing dynamism of the absolute self radiating in blissful consciousness as the reality embodied and less directly perceived in the structure of its divine powers worshiped by lesser adepts in the Tantric and preliminary Kaula rituals.

Distinctive of the third phase of the Trika are (1) the doctrine of the co-essentiality of the "triad" (trika ) of the individual (au or nara ), cosmic power (śakti ), and the ground of śakti, Śiva; (2) the equation of the worship of the three goddesses in their Kali-ground with liberating awareness of the unity in pure consciousness of (a) precognitive impulse, cognition, and action, (b) object, medium, and agent of cognition, and (c) projection of, immersion in, and retraction of content in consciousness; (3) the ascent through the three means of salvation: the āava (through action, both ritual and yogic), the śākta (through the gradual intensification of a purely intellectual representation of reality toward its self-transcendence in nondiscursive revelation), and the śāmbhava (self-realization unmediated by thought, in the inner vibrancy of the precognitive impulse); (4) the hierarchy of seven levels of the contraction of the self, from the Śiva-mode to that of the individual; and (5) the claim to catholicity: The third phase of the Trika claims to be the summation of and key to all Śaiva traditions, both "orthodox" (i.e., Śaiva Siddhānta) and "heterodox" (i. e., the Bhairavatantras, Kaulism, and the Krama). After Abhinavagupta and his pupil Kemarāja, the third phase of the Trika spread to the Tamil country. There it provided the theoretical basis for and influenced the form of the cult of Śrīvidya.

See Also



Abhinavagupta. Tantraloka. Translated by Raniero Gnoli as Luce delle sacre scrittureTantraloka. Turin, 1972.

Abhinavagupta. Tantrasara. Translated by Raniero Gnoli as Essenza del Tantra. Turin, 1979.

Padoux, André. Recherches sur la symbolique et l'énergie de la parole dans certains textes tantriques. Publications de l'Institut de Civilisation Indienne, fasc. 21. Paris, 1963.

Sanderson, Alexis. "Maala and Agamic Identity in the Trika of Kashmir." In Mantras et diagrammes rituels dans l'hindouisme, edited by André Padoux. Paris, 1986.

Alexis Sanderson (1987)