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  1. Perspective
  2. Trika
  3. Yoga pathways

The perspective

"Man is predestined to know himself"
"Finally you will find yourself behind yourself"
"Liberation is from the person, not for the person"

These three statements of my teacher Jean Klein provide a perspective of (Kashmir)yoga.
The first statement indicates that in creation a force is working that eventually leads men to Self-realisation (realisation of their unborn self, their Buddha nature).
The second statement indicates that, living as a human being, we lead a kind of double life. The first "yourself" in this statement is the "Self" in the word "Self-realisation" or - as the Buddhists say - your real Buddha nature. The second yourself in this statement is the person, that is to say the image we make of ourselves by identifying with the body and feeling and thinking.
The third statement indicates that, when Self-realisation takes place there is a sudden and radical shift of emphasis. First we identify with the body and feeling and thinking, and we consider ourselves a person in time and space. When Self-realisation takes place we experience our unborn true Self, outside time and space. Then we see that the person is only an expression of what we really are.
To elucidate the perspective and to provide a basis for Kashmiryoga, we shall first consider some insights of the spiritual tradition of Kashmir. A familiar name for this tradition is "Trika".


Trika (the triple science) distinguishes three aspects of reality: God (or as they say in Kashmir: Shiva), Energy (Shakti) and individual (jiva, anu). Also to denote God, the universal consciousness, three names are used: Bhairava, Rudra and Shiva. Because the universal consciousness is always coupled with energy one often mentions:

  • Bhairava - Bhairavi
  • Rudra - Raudri (or Rudrani)
  • Shiva - Shakti
One of the oldest, most authoritative Tantras of Kashmir is the Vijñana Bhairava Tantra (Treatise on becoming aware of the divine reality). In this text it is said that in fact Shiva and Shakti are one. This is compared with the power of fire to consume things, which is not considered detachable from the fire itself. Vers 19 of this text:

"Only in the beginning of penetrating the highest Truth one distinguishes between both aspects (Shiva and Shakti)".

Abhinavagupta, the most important representative of the Kashmirtradition, calls this tradition Svatantryavada, which means "system of freedom or autonomy".

This implies that Shiva enjoys absolute freedom, that Shiva is autonomous and thus dependent on nothing. To express his free will, Shiva uses his energy, which for this reason sometimes is denoted as 'Svatantryashakti". From Svatantryashakti innumerable energies come into being, which sometimes are represented as a wheel with innumerable spokes (Shaktichakra) with Shiva in the centre.

Also Vijñana Bhairava states (verse 152) that the core of the divine reality is autonomy (svatantra), bliss (ananda) and consciousness (cit). To discover the relation between man, the individual, and the divine reality (Shiva-Shakti) we consider some ways in which Shiva manifests himself:

Shiva as cosmic magician (Shiva Mayavin)

Shiva not only creates with the help of his Shakti the cosmos, but he himself is going to live in his own creation. Man is Shiva who entered his own creation and who to this purpose veils himself with his veiling energy (mayashakti). From mayashakti arise five so called armour energies (Kañcukas), which restrict his energy (Shakti) in various ways. Because of the veiling energy plus the five armour energies Shiva manifests as a multitude seemingly separate individuals (jivas, anus) who have restricted knowledge and power and who are no longer aware of their true divine nature. When he manifests himself in this manner, Shiva is always coupled with his Shakti. This is also the experience of every human being. He is consciousness plus energy, but his possibilities are restricted.

Shiva as shepherd of the ignorant human beings (Shiva Pashupati)

Shiva is also love and therefore he manifests in creation an energy (anugrahashakti) which drives on the human beings on their path of development. Anugrahashakti means: energy (Shakti) that grasps (graha) the individual human being (anu). At a certain point in his development, in the human being a desire for spiritual development arises. Mostly he orientates himself by reading spiritual books, by looking for a teacher, by practising yoga, by practising meditation, etcetera. Nisargadatta, a famous realized teacher, living in Bombay in the 20th century described for his students the working of anugrahashakti as follows: "By His (Shiva's) grace your mind is engaged in finding the truth, and by His grace you will find it". So the best translation for anugrahashakti is probably grace energy.

Shiva as king of the dancers (Shiva Nataraja)

The whole process of creation (1), of veiling Himself (2) and functioning in His own creation as ignorant beings, of sustaining creation (3), of revealing Himself (in people who realize the Self) (4) and of dissolving again creation (5), may be considered as a cosmic dance. In this cosmic dance Shiva performs with his Shakti these five cosmic functions.

In creation, grace energy (anugrahashakti) is always active and absolutely "impersonal". When this energy at the end of the spiritual path of a human being suddenly effectuates Self-realisation, the experience of his true Buddha nature, this is called Shaktipata (literally: the descent of the divine energy).

Jean Klein once said that the only thing you can do as a human being to be accessible to this energy, is "to be open".

A really spiritual human being feels that all his knowledge is of no avail here. He accepts and resigns himself to the notion that he can do nothing. He then rests in "not knowing", his mind relaxes and becomes empty. He becomes "a valley", able to receive the rain of Shaktipata. Shaktipata transforms the veiling energy (mayashakti) and the five armour energies (kañcukas).

What does Self-realisation mean for daily life? When we once asked Jean Klein, he answered: "You are driven by fears and desires and that stops after Self-realisation. You distinguish between "I" and "The other", but for me there is no more "other". "

For a realized man all human beings are expressions of the divine consciousness. The Vijñana Bhairava says in verse 100: "He who has consciousness as characteristic is in all bodies and in essence all is One. The one who realizes that everything is made from this consciousness is a human being that has conquered the future."

Abhinavagupta says in his "eight couplets on the ultimate reality" (anuttarashtika) about Self-realisation: "This bliss does not resemble the intoxication brought about by wine nor is it like the happiness caused by wealth and it can not even be compared with the happiness that arises by uniting with the beloved one. The appearance of this light of consciousness cannot be compared with the light of a lamp, neither with the light of the moon or the sun. The state of bliss that arises when you are freed of the accumulated experiences of separation, is like the relief you experience by putting aside a heavy load. The appearance of this light is like the discovery of a treasure once lost, the realm of universal non-duality."(couplet 4)

Yoga pathways

In "THE PERSPECTIVE" I mentioned that in creation a power is active that will bring us eventually to Self-realisation. In "TRIKA" it is told that this power is the so-called grace energy (anugrahashakti), that leads the development of men in such a way that spiritual maturity is furthered. Besides, this energy has the power to transform the veiling energy (mayashakti) and the five restricting energies (kañcukas), resulting in Self-realisation.
To facilitate understanding human development and the effect of yoga we now consider the model of the human being according to the yoga tradition.
According to this model our true Self lives in a vehicle or body that consists of five sheaths (koshas) that pervade one another . One sheath is the physical body (annamayakosha, literally: the sheath that is build up by food).
The remaining four sheaths exist of finer energies and therefore together they may be called the subtle body.
The sheath next to the physical body is "the energy body" (pranamayakosha), also named vitality sheath, that completely pervades the physical body and vivifies it. It also vivifies the following more subtle sheaths: the mental body (manomayakosha), the body of intuitive insight (vijñanamayakosha) and finally the body with which happiness is experienced (anandamayakosha).
The energy body not only vivifies the other koshas, but also enables the interaction between them.

To imagine the spiritual pathways a human being can go, the image of a mountain is suitable. On this mountain there is an extended network of pathways. It is possible to reach the top (Self-realisation) by many different routes. To go a spiritual pathway equals climbing the mountain, while the climber is more or less attracted by the top. The closer the climber is to the top, the stronger the attraction he or she experiences.
The three stages (upayas) of our spiritual path which Trika distinguishes correspond with three different levels of spiritual maturity, that is with three successive zones of the mountain (at the foot of the mountain, halfway to the top, near the top).

At the outset of our spiritual journey we are in the haze at the foot of the mountain. Although we still catch a glimpse of the top only now and then, we already experience a certain attraction and feel the desire to do something for our development (for instance yoga, meditation, read spiritual books, visit teachers, etcetera). At this level we still are held back by self-images, while the free functioning of our body and our mind is hampered by automatisms. On this level our mind is often rather restless.
A path on this level is called "path of the individual" (anavopaya). Yoga-bodywork (mostly called "hatha yoga") in combination with observing the functioning of body and mind is a means to attain a higher level on the mountain.
Although usually yoga-bodywork is particularly recommended to improve health, it is a means to purify and open the subtle body as well.
The strength of the yoga-bodywork as practised in Kashmir is emphasizing activation of the energy body (pranamayakosha). Because of this, the purifying and transforming effect on the subtle body becomes stronger. Put differently: If, in practising yoga-bodywork the energy body is consciously activated, the psychological and spiritual effects are stronger.
Activation of the energy body still has another important effect. To elucidate this I repeat (see TRIKA) that Shiva, in the process of creation, uses mayashakti and the five restricting energies to veil himself and restrict his energies. Because of this he "forgets" his true nature, and identifies with the body and the corresponding feeling and thinking. Owing to this identification the idea of being a "somebody", a person, a separate individual, arises. In reality there is no "somebody", except as a thought-construct. The idea to be a "somebody" (this is the "ego-projection" or "ego") is only a figment of the mind.
Because of the ego, feeling and thinking are constantly active to secure the image of the person. This involves muscular tensions which, if they occur regularly, are programmed in the cortex of the brain. If during yoga practice the energy body is activated and if one "listens" to the body, then it turns out that the body is capable to free itself from this unnatural muscular tensions. Then the wrong programming in the brain dissolves and the concerning muscles regain their natural suppleness.

What in English language is called "the mind", is in fact the functioning of the koshas in the subtle body.
Yoga-bodywork harmonizes and purifies the mind. The mind becomes clear and finally is set at rest (cittavishranti). Then dreamless sleep becomes slightly conscious and is experienced as "sweet". This brings about a spontaneous tendency to meditate. Especially in the early morning, when the "echo" of sleep still reverberates in us, after adopting a posture that is suited for meditation (e.g. the posture of the adept = siddhasana, the lotus posture = padmasana or the half lotusposture = ardha padmasana) the waking state will become meditative.
We then set foot on "the pathway of energy" (shaktopaya), the next level of spiritual development, halfway to the top.
Another effect of yoga-bodywork may be the awakening of the dormant life-energy (kundalini) and the opening of the central channel of the life-energy (sushumna). Also when this occurs we find ourselves on "the pathway of energy".
On this level of spiritual development there is the possibility that the usual way of thinking is transformed into "bhavana", especially during meditation. Bhavana is a form of imagination, led by the heart, arising from intuition. This form of imagination has a certain transforming power.
Abhinavagupta describes bhavana as follows: "A tendency, an aim at a spiritual goal, active below the surface, expressing itself in thought-images".
To summarize: The pathway of energy (shaktopaya) is the level of different kinds of meditation. Inspiration by a teacher, by art or by spiritual texts may play a part here.
Finally, there is the third pathway, the "pathway of Shiva" (Shivopaya). Although that is in fact beyond the reach of the present text, it may be mentioned for the sake of completeness that on this level the ability is developed to dissolve thinking in intuitive knowing (mati). The pathway of Shiva is the level where thoughts (vikalpa's) dissolve (vikalpakshaya). Then also all forms of duality dissolve.
If a yogi walks on the pathway of Shiva he finds himself already close to the top of the mountain and is strongly attracted by it.

In the aforesaid, the possibilities of thinking are chosen as the criterion to indicate the level of spiritual development (1. only ordinary thoughts: vikalpas; 2. imagination with creative power: bhavana; 3. dissolving of thinking into intuitive knowing: mati).
Another criterion, that in my opinion speaks for itself, are desires. In someone at the foot of the mountain worldly desires will prevail. Well known mystics from Kashmir, like Lalla and Utpaladeva express in their writings a strong yearning for the divine. This means that they walked on the way of Shiva. From their writings it is clear that during their lifetimes both are put on the top of the mountain by Shaktipata.
A third criterion for spiritual maturity is the degree of eclipse of reality by mayashakti. This criterion is also the most basic one and can be "translated" into the two criterions mentioned before. At the start of spiritual development the eclipse is total. A good comparison is to see mayashakti as a closed cover of clouds, completely obscuring the sun. As soon as you hear or read that in fact you are something different from what you always thought, and as soon as you realize that this might be true, the first thin patch in the cover of clouds comes into being and the first glimpse of the sun is received. As spiritual development advances, intuition grows and now and then during meditation powerful images arise (bhavana) about what we intuitively sense. Then in the cover of clouds holes begin to appear and this may cause an experience of enlightenment (cittasambodha). We are here on the "pathway of energy" (shaktopaya) halfway to the top of the mountain. The experience of enlightenment does not mean absolute freedom yet. It is true that the cover of clouds has become thin and that more and more holes appear, but it is still there. However, the experience of enlightenment causes a polarisation of the desires (icchashakti). The result is that all desires are going to reach out for the sun, that is for our true being, our real Buddha nature. This "invites" Shaktipata and then, suddenly the cover of clouds dissolves (cittapralaya). If this happens to a human being, he or she is called a jivanmukti, a human being that is fully liberated during life.

The description of the mountain with the three spiritual levels gives an idea of how a human being gradually may develop spiritually, by way of recognizable levels, until eventually the top (Self-realization, Buddha nature) is reached.
However, not everybody necessarily has to walk this gradual path. Sometimes someone who finds himself at the foot of the mountain (level of the pathway of the individual) suddenly, through Shaktipata, is put near the top of the mountain (level of the pathway of Shiva) or even on top of the mountain. This also may happen to someone who finds himself halfway the mountain (level of the pathway of energy). In most cases a realized teacher then functions as channel for Shaktipata.
The Kashmir tradition even recognizes the existence of the "no-pathway" (anupaya). In some very rare cases a human being, who seemingly is not engaged in spiritual practices, is suddenly "hit" by Shaktipata and with no effort whatsoever is put on top of the mountain.