The Concept of Sahaja Vidya in Trika or Kashmiri Shaivism
Summary: A brief essay on the meaning and significance of Sahaja Vidya according to the Shiva Sutras which forms the basis for Trika Shaivism or Kashmiri Shaivism/p>
The meaning and significance of Sahaja Vidya are well known to those who practice Kashmiri Shaivism or Trika Shaivism. However, similar ideas are found in other traditions of Hinduism and in the Vedas and Tantras. Therefore, once they are introduced to the idea of what it means, most people who practice some form of Hinduism or Yoga or Tantra traditions will easily understand it. The Shiva Sutras, which forms the basis of Trika or Kashmiri Shaivism, is an authoritative text on this subject. This essay is based upon it.
Sahaja Vidya means
Sahaja means true, natural, pure or original. Vidya means knowledge or awareness. Sahaja Vidya means knowledge of your pure or original state. In the Vedic tradition it is known as Brahma Vidya or Atma Vidya. In Shaivism it is equated with the pure consciousness of Shiva. In the Upanishads it is extolled as the Supreme state of Brahman. It is also equated with the transcendental state of Turiya or Samadhi. Those who attain it become liberated or enter the pure state of Shiva, the Supreme Self or Brahman.
In Kashmiri Shaivism, Sahaja Vidya refers to the spontaneous knowledge or awareness that "I am the eternal Parama Shiva" or “I am the Pure Self” or “I am pure consciousness” as opposed to the deluded awareness that “I am a living being” or “I am the mind and body.” Nothing much happens if you just know it or read about it. The awareness that you are the pure Self or Shiva himself must be firmly established in you and become a living reality in all the four states of consciousness namely the wakeful (jagrat), dream (svapna), deep sleep (susupta) and transcendental (turiya) states.
Only then, a yogi is qualified to be called a true siddha or an accomplished one, in whom Shiva and Shakti are ever awake and in perfect union. Abiding in that pure and absolute state, a Shiva yogi becomes a living and breathing Shiva with the understanding that he is the supreme, eternal Shiva, without doubt or duality and without any impurities.
Sahaja Vidya is eternally present in all creation just as Shiva is. It is natural or innate to the whole existence. Unlike the mental consciousness which arises from your perceptual and cognitive abilities, it is not created by experience or perception or memory or by the accumulation of mental knowledge. It is eternal, indestructible and ever present, whether we know it or not and whether we are awake or asleep. It is our inherent, spontaneous and eternal nature, which remains covered by our surface consciousness. It is pure awareness minus all that which you accumulate in the world through your actions, perceptions, learning, knowledge, relationships, and so on. Hence, it is also known as suddha vidya or pure consciousness.
The surface consciousness of your mind is not your original state because it is artificially formed, dependent upon your mind and senses and external to you. You are not born with it. It comes into existence after you are born, as your accumulated memorial, experiential and perceptual knowledge. It is also conditioned by the world, mirrors the world and exists in you as a construct of the world.
Since it is ridden with desires, attachments, egoism and delusion, it is considered impure and an impediment to know yourself or be yourself. It may help you deal with the world but does not help you to be free from it. From the perspective of karma and rebirth, it is a burden because it binds you to the cycle of births and deaths. It also binds you to certain beliefs, habits, desires, relationships and the value system from which you will find it difficult to escape.
The three methods to attain Sahaja Vidya
The Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta, which forms the basis of Kashmiri Shaivism, suggests three methods by which you can overcome the impurities of your surface consciousness and enter the supreme state of pure consciousness. The first one, which is the easiest, is by seeking the help of Shiva or your guru and letting them help you. In this approach, yogis renounce everything and look to Shiva for liberation, meditating upon him as their pure, blissful and illuminating Self (Chaitanya Atma). They surrender to the will of Shiva and wait for the awakening to happen. At some point, by the grace of Shiva and Shakti, pure consciousness spontaneously manifests in them. This method is known as Sambavopaya.
In the second approach, you invoke the Para Shaktis or the pure energies in your body using your mind power and mantra power (mantra shakti) and with their help neutralize the deluding shaktis of your mind and body to enter the deeper state of transcendental consciousness (Turya) and abide in it. As you overcome the impurities, pure shaktis awaken in you and assist you. This method is known as Shaktopaya.
The third method is known as Anavopaya, which is also the most difficult. In this method, you rely upon your limited physical self to purify the lower and intermediate maya shaktis which are present in the 31 tattvas of your body. You engage in meditative practices to detach yourself from your gross, subtle and subtlest bodies, realizing the underlying unity of the tattvas and elevating them to their divine counterparts. Through breath control (pranayama), you gain control over the nerve channels in your body (nadi samharam) and free your consciousness from the control of the elementary shaktis. With these methods you overcome maya and gradually soak your mind (citta) with blissful Turiya in all the four states of consciousness.
Thus, in the first method you rely upon the illuminating Self; in the second method, upon the mind and its Shaktis, and in the third upon your body, its elements, tattvas, nadis and energies. These are the different methods to overcome the field of Maya and become established in the pure consciousness, in which Shiva tattva and Shakti tattvas exist in perfect union.
When you succeed in these efforts, you reach the purest and the highest state of your original consciousness, or Sahaja Vidya. In the Shiva Sutras, Vasugupta declares that when a yogi attains it he can accomplish anything and know anything by the power of his will. He automatically acquires all the powers and the Shaktis which are associated with it and which assist Shiva in the macrocosm to perform his functions as the Supreme Being.
As the knowledge of his essential nature becomes united with the knowledge of the world without duality or division, the enlightened yogi becomes Shiva himself and sees the world being projected and illuminated by his own light and consciousness. For him, his pure self becomes his stage, in which his body participates as an actor, while his senses participate in that drama of life as the audience without becoming involved with it.
Information about Sahaja Vidya is found in the Shiva Sutras of Vasu Gupta who lived in the eight century. His text forms the basis of Kashmiri Shaivism. However, the sutras are cryptic and difficult to understand without some basic knowledge of Shaivism and Advaita philosophy. Many commentaries of the text are available for free on the Internet. My own translation of Shiva Sutras with elaborate commentary is available in Kindle format at Amazon.com. Its bare translation (without commentary) is available at Hinduwebsite.com at this link.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Ten Reasons Why You Should Worship Shiva
- The Symbolism of Snakes and Serpents in Hinduism
- Mantra and Yoga
- Nataraja, The Lord of the Cosmic Dance
- The Panchanana Aspects and Forms of Shiva
- Pashupata Shaivism Philosophy and Practice
- What Shankara Means?
- Lord Shiva as Isvara, the Manifested Brahman
- What is the Truth About Shiva's Essential Nature?
- Shiva the Unconventional God of Opposites
- Significance of Lord Shiva
- Famous Saints of Saivism
- Hinduism - The Role of Shakti in Creation
- Hindu God Lord Shiva (Siva) - the Destroyer
- Tantra and Tantric Rituals of Hinduism and Buddhism
- Symbolic Significance of Trimurthis or The Hindu Trinity
- Advaita For Practical People
- Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
- Life’s Lessons from Mother Nature
- Essays On Dharma
- Esoteric Mystic Hinduism
- Introduction to Hinduism
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- Essays On Karma
- Hindu Rites and Rituals
- The Origin of The Sanskrit Language
- Symbolism in Hinduism
- Essays on The Upanishads
- Concepts of Hinduism
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- Hindu Festivals
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- Right Living
- Yoga of Sorrow
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- Concepts of Buddhism
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