The Worship of Shiva

Shaivism—The Worship of Shiva as Transcendental Reality

Shaivism is one of the main branches of Hinduism. It is the religious and philosophical tradition centered on the worship of Shiva as the transcendental Reality. Signs of the worship of Shiva dating from as far back as 2500 B.C. have been found in archeological sites in India. Adherents of the many schools of Shaivism have produced a vast literature, which expresses both non-dual and dualistic perspectives.

In the Shivastotravali (Shaiva Devotional Songs), the great mystic Utpaladeva gives a taste of Shaivite devotion:

“He who utters the name of Shiva

Hundreds and hundreds of times

Grows great through the showering

Of the sweet, sublime nectar.

The marvelous power of this word

Enters even into the hearts of fools.

And that word, which flows like honey

From a nectar-crescent of the moon,

And causes the highest nectar to flow—

That is the sound of Shiva.

Blessed are they who have this sound

Ever on their lips.”

Kashmir Shaivism

One of the most refined schools of Shaivism is known as Trika Yoga or non-dual Kashmir Shaivism. This Tantric philosophy and practice views the world as a manifestation of Shiva (the Supreme Consciousness). This Pure Consciousness is conceived of as not inert, but dynamic, with its dynamism being a quality that is not separate from Consciousness itself. The Absolute is a paradox—both stillness and a dynamic vitality unified in a dynamic Stillness. In the Stillness of the absolute, that dynamism is spanda (the Sacred Tremor of the Heart).

The phenomenal world with all its energies (shakti) is viewed as real. It exists and its very being is rooted in Consciousness (Shiva). The goal in Kashmir Shaivism is to merge into Shiva or better said, to realize our existing identity with Shiva, thus realizing that our existence is nothing but the boundless energy of Consciousness.

Allowing Creative Energy to Flow

The spiritual practice associated with Kashmir Shaivism is a form of Kundalini Yoga. Its essence is the release of tensions in all dimensions, allowing creative energy to flow without obstruction. Its practice is intended to develop awareness of this energy (the subtle body, the system of energy channels and chakras), to the point where we experience it not merely as our finite self, but as the Infinite Self, the Universal Consciousness that underlies all reality.

Expressing this non-dual understanding of Shiva, Abhinvavagupta, the great teacher of Kashmir Shaivism, wrote: “The truth is, therefore, this: the Supreme Lord manifests freely all the varied play of emissions and absorptions in the sky of his own nature.”

Hridaya Yoga gets the concept of spanda (the primordial vibration that creates a link between the immanent and transcendent) from Kashmir Shaivism.


Learn more about Shiva in the Hridaya Yoga Retreat: Module 1 Intensive.