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Symbol of Unity


Guru in Kashmir Shaivism and Guru in Lalla Ded Vakh

By Prof. M.L. Koul

In the annals of Kashmir Shaiva-praxis guru (preceptor, spiritual director) has been accorded a distinguished stature of respect and reverence for the part he plays in initiating and guiding disciples in spiritual trajectories. High-level spiritual attainments and exemplary wisdom alone are the titles of guru. A siddha purusha, a perfect soul, is what guru is. Such a soul alone is qualified to have disciples whose spiritual destinies he shapes and moulds through Shaiva practices or his personal grace (shaktipat).

Guru in Shaiva parlance is Shivaguru or sat-guru. He is Shiva, acts as Shiva or at the behest of Shiva. A devotee or his disciple bows to him in absolute supplication for having set him onto the trail of Shiva and cultivated him into a frame a pre-requisite to recognise his pristine nature of Shiva.

In his highly acclaimed commentary on Shiva-Sutra Khemraj informs that guru is one who teaches Reality or Truth (grinati updishyati tatvikam artham iti guru). He reveals the potencies of mantra to his pupils (sah guru...mantra viryi prakashakah). In spand-karika Bhatta Kallat eulogises his guru for the benediction of ferrying his boat across the ocean of doubts (agad samshai ambodi sam utran tarinam) through his illuminating teachings. In Malinivijay Tantra guru is described as one who fully knows the essentials of thought (Kashmir Shaivism) he is wedded to and throws light on the power of Mantras.

In the same Tantra guru is said to have power of grace (parmeshwari anugrahika shakti). If pleased with his disciple, guru reveals to him all the hidden truth about 'matrikacakra' which exactly as per Shaiva thought is Shiva's manifestation of the universe from the first letter 'a' to the last letter 'h' comprising Sanskrit string of letters.

No knowledge without guru (guru bina na jnanam) is a cliched statement underpinning the vital significance of guru in the attainment of Jnan which is Shiva-consciousness.

Guru as an embodiment of spiritual knowledge and radiance is extra careful of not impinging on the sense of self-worth and self-image of a disciple.

Guru in the manner of a psychoanalyst peers through the mind (chitta) of a disciple, measures his level of consciousness and his intuitive quality to recognise his pristine nature of Shiva and puts him on the highway of quest. A Shiva-Guru is more than aware that his disciple either a 'muud' (inferior in consciousness) or 'su-prabuddha' (superior in consciouenss) has a sense of autonomy.

Without impairing it he cognises it as a positive factor contributing to his spiritual advancement. Keen to awaken his disciple to the inward reality of 'self' Guru replenishes and reinforces all what his disciple has as it is deemed fundamental to 'self' and its cognition. Concerted effort on part of guru is to expand and broaden his sense of self-worth, selfimage and autonomy which are limited and inhibited because of his conditioned existence of an 'anu', a bound jiva.

Shiva guru, even if a monk, assiduously prepares his disciple for the world.

He in no way commands him to robe himself after the manner of a recluse (sanyasin). He tastefully sublimates, refines and tempers the attitudes and proclivities of a seeker for a balanced mind which acts as a receptacle for flashes of Shiva-consciousness. The microcosmic body along with its multiple senses and potentialities are harnessed and not suppressed as Shiva-guru is for affirmative view of life and world. A seeker remains in the world, a meshy layer of dualities, and gains an insight into his original nature of Shiva right in the world. No prescriptions are there to abandon the world and live the life of a recluse.

What concerns Shiva-guru most is that he moulds his disciple in sync with his cultural bequest and cultural setting.

He roots him in the indigenous soil he is a product of and reinforces his linkages with the same roots. His icons are native, his gods are native, his holy places are the Shiva-dhams littered over the whole native place and his world-view belongs to him as a legacy.

He worships water flowing in the vitasta and his logic is not rock-hard as is found in desert cultures. Shiva-guru firmly rooted deep down in his native soil enriches and fertilises the broad swathes of spiritual way of life through his teaching and preaching based on catholicity of outlook and broad values of humanism.

To him, Shiva is world and world is Shiva. It is a philosophical position which shocks the believers of rock-hard logic that narrows the space for pluralistic ways of life and pluralistic ways of thought.

Guru as an expert in the Shaiva academics expands the intellectual horizons of his pupil, sharpens his thinking abilities and leads him with an awakened mind and brain to attain his spiritual destiny of Shivahood. A constant interaction between a pupil and his guru is the mechanism through which the pupil learns about metaphysical issues along with their complexities and intricacies and removes cobwebs of his doubts and misunderstandings and the guru exposits all the fundamental issues of the thought-model he actually symbolises. All the line of Shiva-gurus from Vasgupta to Bhatta Kallat to Somanand to utpaldev to Abhinavgupta and last but not the least Swami Laxman Ji Maharaj have been remarkable theoreticians of Kashmir Shaivism.

Scholarship and Shaiva-Yoga have been two facets of all the Shiva-gurus. Jnan (knowledge) and self-recognition (spirituality), to them, have not been dichotomous.

Shiva-guru is essentially a man of culture. His aesthetic faculties are sharp and tempered. Invested with profound knowledge of the whole spectrum of heritage he revitalises and refurbishes it through an interactive process of imbibing and interriorising the reigning values and critically analysing and evaluating them. Revitalisation and perpetuation of the contours of native culture is the leit motif of a Shiva-guru.

Abhinavgupta, a profile thinker and siddha purusha was an exemplary aesthete.

Having thoroughly studied aesthetics as a component of the extensive mosaic of Indian culture at the lotus feet of his erudite guru, Tota Bhatt, he made a precious contribution to the realms of aesthetics through his path-breaking commentary on Anandvardhan's 'Dwanyalok' from a Shaivite perspective.

Guru, in sum, is an aesthete and deals with the finer stuff of beauty. Most of the Shiva-gurus have been deep-set lovers of music, drama, dance and poetry and used them as resource to share the finest aesthetics of Shiva as the source of beauty.

Much like six systems of Indian philosophy Kashmir Shaivism is not only a logically structured model of thought but also contains a whole range of practices for the realisation of spiritual destiny of a seeker. Shaiva-Yoga what Kashmiri Shaivites call it is a regimen of practices for all types of seekers having individual differences. Guidance and initiation of an accomplished Shivaguru or satguru is a must for all types of seekers at various levels of consciousness.

Shiva-guru unhesitatingly showers grace (shakhtipat) on an aspirant who is extremely awake and has inituitive ability to recognise his real swaroop (nature) of Shiva. His mere look at the aspirant works as an alchemy that melts his dross (malas) encasing him and frees him from knots and complexes that bind him as an 'anu' or 'pasu'. Guru's grace on such an aspirant is without reason and logic and totally un-asked for. Guru's shakhtipat (grace) on an aspirant means his mergence (samavesh) into Shivaconsciousness.

Such grace for Shivaconsciousness is known as 'Shambhva' methodology. Khemraj puts in his commentary on Shiva-Sutra-akinchit chintakasya guruna pratibodhata Jayate yah samavesha shambhava asau udahritah Deficient in inspiraion and intiative faculty Shiv-Guru puts such an aspirant to a regular and uninterrupted practice of knowing his innate reality. He is taught and directed to imagine himself to be Shiva only and that alone as his reality.

A sort of auto-suggestive technique this type of Shaiva-Yoga is known as shakhta-yoga, bhavanana-yoga or chitta-sambodh yoga.

--Malinivijay Tantra writes.

uccar rahitam vastu chetsa eva vichintayan

yam samavesham aapnoti shaktah so atra abhideyate

An aspirant innately having low level of consciousness and steeply mired in the gross stuff of the world is prescribed anava-yoga. Shiva-guru in view of his deficiences introduces him to a regimen of pranaym (breathing exersises) and dyan, concentration on an icon, a mantra or a syllable. Such practices raise his level of consciousness so as to motivate him for higher levels of methodologies for attainment of mergence (samavesh) into or identity with Shiva.

Guru is a liberator, uplifter and path finder of the aspirants who are intensely motivated to pursue the path of spiritual quest. He Is a crutch to those who are lacking in Shiva consciousness. Guru, more than most, is a vital link between a seeker and his ultimate destination. His relations with his pupil are the same that we witness between father and son. Ved Vyas labelled as 'vishal buddhi' tyPifies guru. 'Vyas purnima' as a commemorative date stands enshrined in the calender of Kashmiri Pandits, which is nearly 5000 year old. Guru in reality is Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.

As revealed by her treasure- trove of Vakhs it can be said with certitude that Lalla Ded had intense spiritual sensibilities which were tapped for final fruition by her guru, Sidda Srikanth. A name in Shaiva thought and Shaiva Yoga, Sidda Srikanth, was the family guru of Lalla Ded. In the style of Shiva-guru he had continuous sessions of debates and discourses with her with a view to sharpening her philosophical clarity on issues relevant to the Shaiva thought. Lalla Ded flumoxed her guru when she interpreted 'prakash' luminosity, tirth-holy place, 'bandhav'-real kins and 'sokh' a pleasurable feeling in a manner that completely contradicted the views that he harboured on them. It was sufficient to convince Siddha Srikanth of the philosophical mould of Lalla Ded.

In one of her extra-ordinary discourses with her guru Lalla Ded unequivocaly conveys that Siddha Srikanth was a man of omniscience, had recognised his Shiva swaroop (real nature) and was possessed of calm and collected mind. She begged of him to give her refuge and anchorage as she was love-consumed quite keen to merge into the ocean of Shiva's bliss. She also drew his attention to the evanescence of time and implored him to initiate her and others present at the time of debate without loss of time. Says Lalla Ded Syada mali syado syada kathan kan thav kal ava kuthan ta kariv kyaha In a candid vein Lalla Ded conveys that she pestered her guru ruthlessly to explain to her the nature of the 'Nameless' and in the process got tired and exhausted. Then she conveys her impression that the 'nameless' is the source of something (universe) which lies submerged, there in an undifferentiated form.


gwaras pritsham sasi late yas na kenh vanan tas kyah nav

pritshan pritshan thachista loosas kenh nas nisha kyah tam draw !!

There are ample internal evidences available from Lalla Ded Vakhs that she through her regular interaction with her guru, Siddha Srikanth, who is parmeshwar to her, allayed her doubts and misgivings about metaphysical issues and Shaiva-yoga praxes. She implores him to teach her (grinati updishati tatvikam artham iti guru) the secret about pran and apan as to why one is hot and the other is cold though both rise from the same region. says Lalla Ded he gwara parmeshwara bhavatam cheya chuy antar vyud dwashivai whopdan kandpura ha-ha kwa turn ta ha-ha kwa tot Pran and apan are the two lexical words in all versions of Yoga. But, Lalla Ded during the interaction is promped to know about the Shaiva meanings of these two lexical words. In Shaiva Yoga the lexical word 'chandrama' denotes the breath emerging from outer dwadashant moving towards 'hridaya' and the breath emerging from inner dwadashant (hridaya) moving towards outer-dwadashant.

The first is apan-breath and the second is pran breath. The breath moving outside (pranvayu) is naturally hot. It is at the 'hridaya' that apan-vayu halts and pran-vayu emerges.

In the same way it is at the outer-dwadashant that pranvayu ends and apan-vayu emerges. Both pran and apan vayus are the gross forms of the original all-pervading 'pranshakti'.

In his classical work 'Ascent of Self', Prof. B.N. Parimoo has characterised the said-Vakh as a soliloquy, posing the question and answering it herself. But, the author of the write-up after due thought does not agree to the view of Prof. Parimoo. The second line of the Vakh- "bhavatam cheya chuy antar vyud" is significant which surely conveys that she wants her guru to express (bhavatam) his own views on the Shaiva Yoga meanings of pran and apan vayu as he has knowledge about it and knows about it experientially.

Lalla Ded having undergone numerous sessions of discourses with her Shiva guru for awakening and sharpening of her Shiva-consciousness was finally imparted 'diksha' which in the words of Ram Kanth, a noted Shaiva scholar of Kashmir, is a sort of consecration ceremony only to initiate one into the higher life, bestowing on the initiate the boon of self-knowledge and casting away the dirts due to sense of difference (swaroopasambodhadanatmako bhedamayabandha - ksapanalaksansca samskarvisesah).

Lalla Ded had diksha, an initiation through a 'vachan", which means a word (vachak pad) embedded with denotative meaning (vachya). The embedded meaning as conveyed by the line (nebra dopnam andar acheun) is the reference to the senses as shackles (pasa) which are to be withdrawn for attainment of Shiva-consciousness.

Though Lalla Ded has used 'mantra' in many a Vakh, yet in the small Vakh under reference she uses 'kunuy vachun' which is for mantramantra varnatmakah sarvey sarvey varnah shivatmakaha Mantra comprising impregnated letters or symbols are pointers to 'ahanta', I consciousness of Shiva. What Srikanth did with Lalla Ded through 'kunuy vachun' or Mantra was to direct her mind (chitta) to 'ahanta', Iconsciousness of Shiva. In Shaiva Yoga mantra is the main shakhtopaya for selfrecognition (pratibijjna).

The 'kunuy vachun' or mantra deeply impacted her psycho-physical frame throwing her into a convulsion of joy and ecstasy (tawai hyutum nangai nachun).

The vakh reads as

gwaran dopnam kunuy vachun nebra

dopnam andrai achun Sui Lalli gava

mea vakh ta vachun tawai hyutum nangai nachun

The word of Shiva-guru which is mantra, divine power clothed in sound, coupled with the ritual of cleansing of her body and mind with the holy waters of Ganga as the symbol of absolute purity led Lalla Ded to attain Shivahood while in life, thereby conquering the fear of death.

Sings Lalla Ded:-

gwara kath hridayas manzbag ratam

ganga zala navum tan ta mann

Sodih Jeevan mokhtai provum

yama bhayi cholum polum arat

Motivated with a deep sense of responsibility unto others Lalla Ded declaims that absolute trust and faith in the word of Shiva-guru, his mantra, the ever fleeting mind under the control of Jnan (Shivaconsciousness), the outward directed senses completely pacified and calmed are the gateway to final bliss (anand) surmounting the existential fear of death and anybody generating fear by putting a man to death.

Says Lalla Ded:-

gwara shabdas yus yach patch bare

gyan vagi rati chyath torgas yandrai shomith

anand kare adakus mari bai maran kas

The internal evidence of the vakhs does not buttress the view that Lalla Ded's case was that of guruna pratibodtah', generating 'samavesh', mergence into the ocean of Shiva consciousness, characterised as 'shambava upaya'. What I have gleaned from all versions of Vakhs is that her guru had mapped her ascent step by step and stage by stage. She had tried the methodoligies of 'anava yoga' which stress measures like pranayam, concentration (dyan) on some form of icon or any other symbol as suggested to her by her venerable guru and pilgrimages to holy places for purification of mind and body. Because of her deep sense of 'loss and married life pain' as a result ship-wrecked married life Lalla Ded must have deep disturbances (ksob) agitating her mind (chitta). So, taking up the anava methodology was necessary to pacify her mind and steadily she must have been led to adopt 'shakta' methodologies to develop a frame necessary for further ascent of being one with Shiva.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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