Kashmir Shaivism and Christianity, commentary on Śiva Sūtras 1.1, 2.1, 3.1

Kashmir SGanges-pray_lrghaivism and Christianity,

The Śiva Sūtras are the foundational text of Kashmir Shaivism. The opening phrases of each of its three chapters are themselves the foundation for the Sūtras. How do they relate to Christianity? The conclusion is that consciousness, properly understood, is in fact love.

Śiva Sūtras     1.1       caitanyam ātmā         ‘The self is consciousness.’

Consciousness is the self, the essence, the heart and the source of all things.

The statement ‘consciousness is the self ’ is a revelation and also an invitation to abandon all ideas and ambitions, even to abandon the ego and to recognise it is unsubstantial, contingent, relative – a most difficult act. The statement is an invitation to enter into the silence, to journey into darkness, as did Moses who went from the pleasant banks of the Nile into the desert and into the dark cloud of Mt Sinai.

It is possible to do this only if there is already a knowledge in depth, a sort of knowledge of the unknown, paradoxical as this may seem. It is, strictly speaking, the journey of faith into the Void.

Is consciousness personal? Yes, since it is the source of our limited, personal selves. No, since consciousness is not personal in the limited way we are. Consciousness is eminently personal. It is light itself.

Christianity understands consciousness to be God.


Śiva Sūtras     2.1       cittam mantraḥ          ‘Consciousness is the mantra.’

Consciousness cannot be ignorant of itself. Its self-knowledge is the primordial revelation. It is light to itself, light of light. The person, who becomes the silence beyond all words, suddenly, with exhilaration, comes to the awareness (vimarśa): ‘I am’. This is an unlimited and unbounded ‘I am’, which is not to be confused with the ego (ahaṁkāra). It is timeless and essential.

This is reflected in the great episode of Exodus 3 where Moses draws close to the burning bush and hears the words ‘I am’. This awareness, ‘I am’, is the supreme Word (paravāc). It springs from the Void and is not opposed to the Void or separate. It is the Word within all words.

The Gospel of John 1.1 reads:

‘In the beginning was the Word,

the Word was with God (ho theos)

and the Word was God (theos).

Jesus of Nazareth often says ‘I am’. To the disciples who are terrified by the storm on the lake he says: ‘Do not be afraid, I am’. Or again, elsewhere he says: ‘Before Abraham was, I am’. To the soldiers sent to arrest him he says: ‘I am’ and they fall to the ground. Jesus is understood to be the ‘I am’.

The ‘I am’ is powerful. It is the source of all words. Jesus is the Mantra within all mantras, the Being at the source of all beings. ‘Through him all things came to be’. (John 1.3)

This awareness is exciting, full of wonder (camatkāra) and possessed with endless energy and freedom. It will manifest itself.


Śiva Sūtras     3.1.      cittam ātmā    ‘The self becomes (a limited) consciousness’

The self becomes a limited consciousness within all the limits of individuality.

The Gospel of John 1.14 reads; ‘the Word became flesh’. The word ‘flesh’ refers to all the limitations of human existence. ‘Flesh’ is weak, ignorant, transient and mortal.

The unlimited Word takes on flesh freely. The ‘I am’ does not say ‘I am not’; ‘I am not this drunk, that no-hoper’. ‘I am’ can even say ‘I am the pure and the impure ’ for the Word transcends all and freely identifies with all.

Jesus is understood to be the Word made flesh. He is the authentic and ultimate guru. As ‘I am’ he is all, contains all and holds in unity. He knows the extremes: both the heights, since he is essentially ‘I am’, Light from Light; and the depths, since he is unjustly put to death in a terrible way. He is thus fully aware and knows both good and evil. He knows all that can be known.

Jesus can, therefore, truly teach from his own self. He reveals himself to his disciples: ‘We saw his glory’ (John 1.14). He is the image or the maṇḍala, by seeing which the disciples are initiated. By seeing the one who is ‘I am’ in the fullest sense the disciples realise also ‘I am’. It is their moment of liberation, of salvation.

Note that the disciple realises ‘I am’ within the limitations of his or her own weakness, so that every word becomes a mantra and every act performed is a sacred act. Furthermore, the ‘I am’ does not eliminate the ‘You are’ but rather says: ‘You are my very self’. It is the attitude of love. It is the attitude of Bhairava (bhairava-mudrā) where the external and the internal coincide. It is the state of resurrection, the last day.

Thus Christianity says that consciousness, properly understood, is in fact love. It holds that Love is the essence, the heart and the source. Thus the first sutra, 1.1, could be interpreted to mean: ‘God is love ’ (I John 4.16)





About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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