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References - Svātantrya[edit]


Svātantrya, from the Sanskrit, sva meaning self and tantram meaning dependence[1] ('self-dependency', or 'free will') is the Kashmir Shaivism concept of divine sovereignty. Free will is considered to be an energy that emanates from the supreme Paramaśiva [2], a wave of motion and energy (spanda) that acts as the fundament of the world [3], or in another view, the original word (logos, pārāvak)[4]. It does not use any external instrument[5] at it itself is the first stage of creation.

In antithesis with the Vedantic concept of Brahman[6], which is a mere conscious witness without effective power, being inflicted with the illusion (or maya) of creation by an external force, in Kashmir Shaivism it the creation is actively willed into existence by the supreme consciousness (Śiva) by the means of his irresistible will force (Svātantrya).

Svātantrya is a concept that goes to the root of many spiritual matters in Kashmir Shaivism[7], like, the divine sovereignty of Śiva (God)[8], consciousness (caitanya), creative power (vimarśa), mantric efficiency and Kundalini.

Divine Sovereignty[edit]

In its acception of divine sovereignty, svātantrya is described as an absolute power of action, or, absolute power of freedom [9]. This power arrises from the mirror-like ability of the supreme consciousness (caitanya) to contain images (vimarśa)[10][11] - the whole universe being a mere image shining inside this unique god-consciousness.

Svātantrya has a number of traditional attributes such as: perfect fullness (of the energy of will)[12], self sufficiency[13], autodetermination[14][15], the power of doing and undoing - essence of the subject[16], supreme creativity[17], sovereignty[18], source of knowledge (jñāna) and action (kriyā)[19] and beyond contradictions[20] - it exists beyond laws of any kind and is the source of all laws in the universe.

Supreme Creative Energy[edit]

The Kashmir Shaivism theory of creation affirms that the world was willed into existence by the sovereign force of Śiva. Thus, the world has no external causes outside Śiva's Svātantrya.[21][22][23]

This power creates multiplicity (māyā) from the original unity of the absolute[24][25], and as such, it exists inside and beyond māyā[26]. It is the seed of the universe [27], the matrix (mātrkā) of generative phonemes[28], the ultimate creative force[29].


Kashmir Shaivism affirms that the whole creation shines inside the supreme consciousness. This theory is called prakāśa-vimarśa, that is, the theory of world being composed of two thigs: the self shining conscious light (prakāśa) and its ability to contain a reflection of itself and of the creation (vimarśa)[30][31]. Svātantrya is identical to vimarśa, the reflection, and also to ānanda, the supreme bliss. To reflect itself is to know absolute bliss (ānanda) - thus, vimarśa is the same to ānanda from an experiential point of view[32][33]. Ānanda is the internal state of consciousness, its natural state. Thus svātantrya, being united to ānanda and vimarśa is a fundamental quality of the subject[34][35][36].

Svātantrya is the first stage of creation, an undifferentiated energy, or looking from bottom up, we could also say that it is the force that unifies all the energies of the creation[37]

The first manifestation of svātantrya is will (icchā). Then come the energies of knowledge (jñāna) and action (kriyā) together with cit and ānanda forming the supreme pentad of Śiva, the so called "pure creation"[38][39].

As speech is the central activity of consciousness, svātantrya is also identified with the supreme aspect of speech, pārāvak, the creative logos (logos spermatikos)[40].

Alternate Names[edit]

Svātantrya has a number of synonyms such as: maheśvaraya (from maheśvara which means supeme lord)[41], or aiśvarya (similarly, from the word Iśvara which also means Lord)[42]. It has been personalized as the Goddess (devi) [43], the virginal feminine deity Uma (virginity being a symbol of existence outside the reach of profane world)[44] and the playful goddess Kumārī[45]. Other scriptures also refer to svātantrya as the Glory of Siva[46] on account of it being identical to the 'ocean' of uncreated light (prakāśa) and cosmic bliss (ānanda) - cidānanda-ghana.

Svātantryavada - The Theory of Divine Sovereignty[edit]

  • svatantryavada - the theory that the Absolute has unimpeded, sovereign will [47]

In Reation to Mystical Practices[edit]

In the mystical practices of Kashmir Shaivism, svātantrya is equaled to both the sovereign will of Śiva, solely deciding the descent of divine grace (śaktipāt) and the will of the adept as he becomes more and more submerged into the divine.

According to Kashmir Shaivism, spiritual realization is more than a state of illumination (defined as pure witness , non-dual consciousnes or atma-vyapti) [48]. Full spiritual realization means to know bliss (ānanda) and to control the energies (śakti) and the mantras[49]. The root of this so called spiritual efficiency is svātantrya, the operative, dynamic aspect of the absolute.

After the first attainment of spiritual illumination, an adept is confronted with the problem of stabilizing this experience. The Kashmir Shaivism scriptures declare that stability is based on the attainment of svātantrya[50]. Thus, while the incipient practitioner aims for the experience of the nondual consciousness of Śiva, the advanced ones focus on the assimilation of all the energies into this consciousness. Svātantrya being the root of all energies, it becomes automatically the final step of the spiritual practice.[51].

The will of such an advanced practitioner becomes more and more efficient as it identifies with the will of Śiva. Yet, his actions are necessarily without base in egoism (without the attributes of good or bad)[52] - an attitude that defines the discipline of karma yoga.

All the spiritual paths (upāyas), that of Śiva (śāmbhavopāya), that of Śakti (śāktopāya) and that of the man (āṇavopāya) are subsumed under the umbrella of svātantrya as it is the sole mediator of divine grace[53]. The adept who has attained svātantrya is beyond the need for formal meditation - that is - for him to meditate or to act in everyday life is identical - he does all his actions from a state of perfect unity with Śiva from now on. This is the culmination of the Kashmiri Shaivite spiritual practice[54]. Such an adept does not exert himself in maintaining this state of consciousness because it is his own nature. From his point of view, everything is made of just forms of consciousness, his own consciousness, also identified with the consciousness of Śiva at this stage. The energy he possesses is the risen form of Kundalini[55]. His mantras have spiritual efficiency[56]. His heart (hṛdaya) is the receptacle of all objects[57].

Kashmir Shaivism doctrine affirms that nothing can determine Śiva to bestow the final spiritual realization - it is solely based on the unconditioned svātantrya, or, from the opposite perspective, there is no obstacle that can separate the disciple from becoming one with Śiva because he has svātantrya which is the ultimate power that cannot be impeded by anything[58]. Thus, in Kashmir Shaivism there is this paradoxical concept that nothing needs to be done, as the supreme realization can appear without effort, but also, no matter what effort one undergoes, he cannot determine Śiva to liberate his self (ātman)[59]. Yet, this is not an invitation to abandon hard work but a justification for humility.

In a meditation prescribed in Vijñana Bhairava Tantra, one is supposed to unite his vital energy (prāṇa) with svātantrya in the mystical force center that exists 12 finger widths above the head, dvadaśānta[60].


The concept of Kaula is intimately connected to that of self sufficiency and freedom[61]. Autonomy is emergent from the way a Kula (group) is formed: its composing parts are not random or unconnected but rather complementary to each other, forming a family or unity in their ensemble. Paradoxically freedom is attained inside web like connections of the Kula because the Kula, being complete in itself, is free; it doesn't need anything exterior to be fulfilled.

Freedom emerges from the heart[edit]

Kaula's basic method is the experience of the freedom of consciousness [62] in the heart. As freedom is gradually related to the exterior reality, body, mind and soul, it ultimately reflected in the center of the being - the consciousness, as Kechari Mudra. This mudra (attitude) means "the ability of consciousness to freely move (charati) about in the space (kha) of the heart"[63]. When such an attitude is successfully realized, one's consciousness can experience at will all the facets of ananda (bliss), aham (the heart) and the universe, at all its levels.

Ultimate form of freedom[edit]

To be spiritually evolved is considered here equal to being truly free. Absolute freedom is to be found only in the revelation of one's spirit and the union of the spirit with God, a state described in the terms Atma-vyapti: resorption into the pure consciousness of the Spirit (Atman) and Shiva-vyapti: resorption into the supreme consciousness of Shiva[64]. To be free is to be absolved from the necessity of rebirth, or in other words unconditioned by karmic restraints.

As consciousness expands, there is a stage where it passes into the so called pure reality, a level that is considered to exist beyond time and space, where the powers of knowledge and action are unfettered and there are no conditioning desires or needs to be fulfilled, but rather bliss is directly present in consciousness.[65] This is the place of the true freedom in the vision of the Kaula system.

Social deconditioning[edit]

At a social level deconditioning is realized by detaching from the traditional restrictions with regard to what is considered pure and impure, what is considered an acceptable way of expressing love and sexuality and through the adoption of the spiritual family with the guru as the spiritual father, playing from now on a role more important than one's blood-related family.

The freedom cherished by the participants in a Kaula family should not be confused with rebelliousness and anarchy - it is freedom from interior mental and egotistic limitations and from exterior social and cultural preconceptions. One of the most important aspects of this freedom is asserted in the esoteric and often radical sexual practices; contrary to the majority of spiritual paths, the Kaula way doesn't reject sex as sin but integrates it as a major vector of spiritual practice. Because its approach is often misunderstood, Kaula has been traditionally a practice reserved for the few, an elite formed of those who can shed their ingrained conditionings and adopt a tantric or alchemical perspective on the corporal practices.

The traditional connotations of the concept of freedom are social (freedom to associate), political (freedom of opinion) and physical (freedom to move). In Kashmir Shaivism freedom is understood as interior rather than exterior: freedom to access one's spiritual inheritance[66].

Tantric body alchemy related to becoming free[edit]

At the mental level freedom is attained in a process of gradual expansion. The bodily alchemy involving the awakening of Kundalini through asana, pranayama, mudra or mantras prepare the disciple through the amplification and sublimation of the vital and mental energy, and with it, the elevation of one's consciousness. The culmination of this process is the spiritual illumination which is the moment one penetrates with consciousness into his spiritual heart (aham).

Living in a state of freedom[edit]

At the level of the spiritual heart the disciple learns to recognize Śiva as the ultimate reality, identical to himself, his mind and even the exterior reality. From now on, one lives in a pure world, a world that is described as a compact mass of consciousness(cit) and bliss(ananda). The practices pertaining to consciousness are explained in such traditional texts as Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra, Spanda Kārikās and Śiva Sūtras.

Freedom pertaining to Shiva himself[edit]

Ultimately, Kashmir Shaivism describes freedom as svātantrya - that is freedom to create, maintain and destroy the universe pertaining to Śiva himself. In Kashmir Shaivism it is considered that Śiva is above any restriction or conditioning, and thus he proceeds to the creation of the universe of his free will, as a playful expression of his spirit (lila), unlike, for example, Veda, where there is the conception that maya (cosmic illusion) is superimposed upon the brahman (absolute), inducing a sort of illusory creation. Thus, here, creation is considered real, and the will to create is considered free and unfettered. Svatantrya is identical to Ananda(supreme bliss) and vimarśa(reflexive consciousness/auto-consciousness).


  1. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 9
  2. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 10
  3. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 262
  4. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 16
  5. ^ The Pratyabhijna Philosophy - G.V. Tagare, p. 10
  6. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 9
  7. ^ The Mirror of Self-Supremacy or Svatantrya-Darpana - B.N. Pandit, p. 11
  8. ^ History of Kashmir Saivism - B.N. Pandit, p. 86
  9. ^ The Trika Saivism of Kashmir - M.L. Pandit, p. 183
  10. ^ Triadic mysticism - P.E. Murphy, p. 199
  11. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 9
  12. ^ Vac - Andre Padoux, p. 247
  13. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 7
  14. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 7
  15. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 12
  16. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 219
  17. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 9
  18. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 9
  19. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 9
  20. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 122
  21. ^ Towards Transcendence - M.L. Pandit, p. 156
  22. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 8
  23. ^ The Pratyabhijna Philosophy - G.V. Tagare, p. 77
  24. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 17
  25. ^ Abhinavaguptas Comentary on the Bhagavad Gita - B. Marjanovic, p. 16
  26. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 133
  27. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 167
  28. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 177
  29. ^ The Stanzas on Vibration - M.S.G. Dyczkowski, p. 345
  30. ^ Doctrine of Divine Recognition - K.C. Pandey, p. 95
  31. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 110
  32. ^ Vac - Andre Padoux, p. 247
  33. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 7
  34. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 122
  35. ^ Towards Transcendence - M.L. Pandit, p. 193
  36. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 22
  37. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 30
  38. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 20
  39. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 176
  40. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 16
  41. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 17
  42. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 144
  43. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 47
  44. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 53
  45. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 46
  46. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 110
  47. ^ Pratyabhijnahrdayam - J. Singh, p. 17
  48. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 148
  49. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 69
  50. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 149
  51. ^ Siva Sutras - Jaideva Singh, p. 149
  52. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 25
  53. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 33
  54. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 32
  55. ^ The Aphorisms of Siva - M.S.G. Dyczkowski, p. 72
  56. ^ The Aphorisms of Siva - M.S.G. Dyczkowski, p. 85
  57. ^ Abhinavaguptas Comentary on the Bhagavad Gita - B. Marjanovic, p. 305
  58. ^ Shiva Sutras - Swami Lakshmanjoo, p. 26
  59. ^ The Himalayan mysticism - R. Nataraj, p. 17
  60. ^ Vijnana Bhairava - Swami Lakshman Joo, p. 59
  61. ^ Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59
  62. ^ Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60
  63. ^ In Sanskrit: Khe carati iti kecharī, Singh 2000, p. 5
  64. ^ Silburn 1988
  65. ^ Lakshman-Jee 1988, p. 3, 9
  66. ^ Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60


  • Muller-Ortega, Paul (1989), The Triadic Heart of Siva, Albany: State University of New York Press, ISBN 0887067875 
  • Singh, Jaideva (2000), Paratrisika Vivarana by Abhinavagupta; the Secret of Tantric Mysticism, City: Motilal Banarsidass Pub, ISBN 8120804724 
  • Lakshman-Jee, Swami (1988), Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme, SUNY Press, ISBN 0887065759 
  • Silburn, Lilian (1988), Kundalini: The Energy of the Depths : A Comprehensive Study Based on the Scriptures of Nondualistic Kasmir Saivism, SUNY Press, ISBN 0887068014