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 Spandakārikā-s (Spanda Karikas) Pure - Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir

A running commentary on the Śivasūtra-s - Pure translation


Hi, Gabriel Pradīpaka again. The discovery of Śivasūtra-s by Vasugupta marked the beginning of Trika system (also known as "Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir"), at least in its formal aspect. On Śivasūtra-s this entire philosophical system is based (an overview of the Trika literature). After Śivasūtra-s were discovered and spread by Vasugupta, he felt that he should somehow write a kind of running commentary on them. He did so, and his commentary was known as Spandakārikā-s (a collection of concise statements in verse --kārikā-s-- about the Primordial Vibration or Throb --Spanda--). Spanda is synonymous with Śakti (I-consciousness). Spanda is the Power of Śiva, by which He is conscious of Himself. Besides, Spanda allows Him to manifest, maintain and withdraw the entire universe. Spanda is a Divine Throb, but not in a physical sense at all! It is a kind of movement in the space of Consciousness. Śiva is with no movements, but somehow something is moving in Him and this is Spanda. Well, it is difficult to explain this by using limited terms as it is a Divine Reality which lies beyond all words. There are four commentaries on Spandakārikā-s:

Vṛtti (by Kallaṭa --a disciple of Vasugupta--)

Spandapradīpikā (by Bhaṭṭotpala)

Vivṛti (by Rāmakaṇṭha)

Spandanirṇaya (by Kṣemarāja)*

*It is to be noted that there is another commentary by Kṣemarāja called "Spandasandoha", but it is only a commentary on the first aphorism of Spandakārikā-s.

Spandanirṇaya by Kṣemarāja was written in prose, and it is considered to be the most authoritative among the four. It is a very long commentary indeed, full of scholar terms and sesquipedalian compounds (long and abstruse compounds) to which Kṣemarāja seems to be addicted. On the other hand, Vṛtti by Kallaṭa gives a simple explanation of the kārikā-s. In turn, Bhaṭṭotpala wrote a commentary which is principally a compilation of quotes extracted from other books. However, the commentary by Rāmakaṇṭha (i.e. "Vivṛti") closely follows Vṛtti by Kallaṭa. As you can see, only Kallaṭa and Kṣemarāja wrote original commentaries.

I will be showing here only the translation of Spandakārikā-s. If you want a detailed explanation of the kārikā-s or aphorisms, go to "Scriptures (study)/Spandanirṇaya" in the Trika section.

This is a "pure translation" document, that is, there will be no original Sanskrit, but sometimes there will be a minimal quantity of transliterated Sanskrit in the translation itself of the text. Of course, there will not be any word for word translation. Anyway, there will be transliterated Sanskrit in the explanatory notes. If you are a blind person using a screen reader and do not want to read the notes, or simply if you are not blind but want to skip the notes, click on the respective "Skip the notes" to keep reading the text.

Important: All that is in brackets and italicized within the translation has been added by me in order to complete the sense of a particular phrase or sentence. In turn, all that is between double hyphen (--...--) constitutes clarifying further information also added by me.


 Section I: Svarūpaspanda

(Spanda as one's own nature)

We laud that Śaṅkara --an epithet of Śiva-- who is the source or cause of the glorious group of powers, (and) by whose opening (and) shutting of (His) eyes (there is) dissolution and emergence of the world||1||

Since He has a unveiled nature --rūpa--, there is no obstruction to Him anywhere, in whom all this universe1 rests and from whom it has come forth||2||

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1 Lit. "effect", that is, the universe is the effect while Spanda is its cause.

 Even in the variety (of states, such as) wakefulness, etc., which --i.e. "the variety of states"-- is not separate from that (Spanda, the principle of Spanda) continues to flow. (Spanda) does not (ever) depart from Its own essential nature as the Perceiver or Experient --upalabdhṛ--||3||

"I (am) happy, I (am) pained, I (am) attached", etc. Those cognitions remain evidently in another, in whom the states of happiness, etc. are strung together (like beads in a necklace)||4||

Wherein (there is) neither pain nor pleasure nor object nor subject; (wherein) the state of insentience does not even exist... that is, in the highest sense, (the principle of Spanda)||5||

 That principle (of Spanda) should be inspected with care (and) respect, by which this group of organs or instruments --intellect, ego, mind, powers of perception and powers of action--1, (though) insentient, (proceeds) as (if it were) sentient by itself, (and) together with the inner group (of Karaṇeśvarī-s or goddesses of the senses) enters into the states of "Pravṛtti" --i.e. to go toward external things--, "Sthiti" --i.e. to maintain those very external things for a while-- (and) "Saṁhṛti" --i.e. to dissolve those things in one's own Self--, inasmuch as this natural Freedom of Its (exists) everywhere||6-7||

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1 In other words, 5 Jñānendriya-s (Powers of perception), 5 Karmendriya-s (Powers of action), mind, ego and intellect.

 This (limited individual) does not direct or drive the goad of desire. But yet, by getting in touch with the Force or Power of the Self, (that) person becomes equal to That||8||

When the agitation of that (limited individual) who is incapacitated by his own impurity --aśuddhi-- (and) who wishes --abhilāṣī-- to do actions --i.e. to act-- thoroughly dissolves, then the Supreme State occurs||9||

In that case, his innate nature characterized by knowledge (and) activity (appears), by which (that person) then knows and does all that is desired (by him)||10||

 How (can) this vile transmigratory path (be) his who abides or stands astonished, as it were, while beholding that essential nature (or Spanda) as presiding over (the entire universe)?||11||

Nonexistence cannot be contemplated, and there is no absence of stupefaction in that (condition either), because by coming into contact with "abhiyoga" --i.e. by hearing the declaration made by the person who has just emerged from that state--1, it is true that it --i.e. the condition of stupefaction-- (really) existed||12||

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1 Even though, "abhiyoga" literally means "application", it is to be translated here as "the declaration made by a person who has just emerged from Samādhi or perfect concentration". It is not my own invention, as the sage Kṣemarāja makes that point clear in his Spandanirṇaya (the most authoritative commentary on Spandakārikā-s).

 For this reason, that artificial knowable1 (is) always like the state of deep sleep. However, that principle (of Spanda) is not thus perceived or realized, (that is), as a state of recollection||13||

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1 In short, "nonexistence" referred to in the previous stanza.

 It is said that (there are) two states in this (principle of Spanda, viz.) the state of deed (and) the state of doer. Of those, the state of deed is perishable, but the state of doer (is) imperishable||14||

Only the effort which is directed to deed disappears in this (state of Samādhi)1. When that (effort) has disappeared, (only) a fool (would) think "I have disappeared"||15||

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1 The author refers to the Samādhi of void.

 There is never cessation of that inner state or nature which (is) the abode of the attribute of omniscience, on account of the nonperception of another1||16||

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1 Only Śiva is the subject or perceiver and nobody else. If there would be another subject watching His cessation, then that person would be Śiva too and thus He would not cease at all. And if there would not be anyone else perceiving His cessation, then, how might such a cessation be asserted? Śiva is forever the only subject and there can never be His cessation or disappearance.

 To the perfectly awakened one, there is, always (and) constantly, the perception of That --i.e. the Self--, (and this perception of the Self) stays (throughout) the three states (of consciousness). However, to the other one --i.e. to the one who is not fully awakened--, (there is) that --i.e. the perception of the Self-- (only) at the beginning (and) end (of each state)||17||

The all-pervading (Self) shines forth in the two states (of wakefulness and dreaming) accompanied by (His) Supreme --parama-- Power --śakti-- whose nature is knowledge (and) knowable. Nevertheless, in the other than those (two)1, (He appears only) as Consciousness||18||

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1 That is, in deep sleep.

 The emanations of Spanda that begin with the qualities of "Prakṛti", (and) which obtain their own existence by resorting to generic Spanda, does not ever stand in the way of one who possesses knowledge (of the Self)||19||

Nonetheless, these (very emanations of Spanda), laboring diligently and incessantly to cover or veil their --i.e. of the people who have unawakened intellects-- (real) state or nature, cause people of unawakened intellect to fall into the terrible course or way of Transmigration, from which it is difficult to come out||20||

 For this reason, he who (is) constantly prepared for discerning the principle of Spanda, attains his own (essential) state or nature quickly, (even in) wakefulness||21||

Spanda is firmly established in that state or condition into which (a person) enters (when he is) excessively angry, exceedingly pleased or delighted, reflecting "what do I do?", or running (for his life)||22||

Having taken hold of that (supreme) state (of Spanda, a great Yogī) remains firm by resolving "Whatever this (Self) will tell me, that I will do, certainly"||23||

By taking refuge in that (supreme state of Spanda), both moon --i.e. apāna--1 (and) sun --i.e. prāṇa--2 (meet together) in the course or way of Suṣumnā, (and by rising up) through the upward path, (and) by (even) abandoning the sphere of the Brahmā's egg3, they both get (finally) dissolved --they come to an end--||24||

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1 "Apāna" is the specific vital energy that enters the body through inhalation.

2 "Prāṇa" is, in this case, the specific vital energy that goes out of the body through exhalation.

3 Brahmāṇḍa or "Brahmā's egg" is generally symbolic of "macrocosm" plainly, but in this particular context, it is to be understood as "body and Brahmarandhra". Brahmarandhra is the "Brahmā's hole", and it is to be found in Sahasrāracakra, in the crown of the head.

 Then, moon --i.e. apāna-- (and) sun --i.e. prāṇa-- get reabsorbed in that Great Ether. (To the partially awakened one, that condition is) like the state of deep sleep, (and thus) he remains stupefied. (However, a Yogī who) is not covered (by the darkness of ignorance) remains awakened and enlightened (in that very condition)||25||


 Section II: Sahajavidyodaya

(The emergence of natural knowledge)

Grabbing hold of that Force, Mantra-s, full of the omniscient power, proceed to occupy themselves with their (respective) functions (toward the embodied beings), just as the powers of perception and action of (those very) embodied beings (proceed to occupy themselves with their own functions by also getting hold of that Force)||1||

(Mantra-s,) whose denotation (as specific deities) has ceased, (and) who are devoid of all limitations of office, get absorbed in that (Force or Spanda) together with the mind of (their) worshipers. Therefore, these (Mantra-s) are of the nature of Śiva||2||

Because the individual soul is identical with all since all entities arise (from him, and) inasmuch as he has the feeling or perception of identity (with those entities) due to the knowledge of them all1, therefore, there is no state that is not Śiva, (whether) in word, object (or) thought --cintā--. The experient himself, always (and) everywhere, remains in the form of the experienced||3-4||

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1 In other words, "because the individual soul knows them all".

 Or he who has that knowledge or realization (and) is constantly united (with the Supreme Self) views the whole world as a (divine) play. He is liberated while living, there is no doubt (about it)||5||

Only this (is) the emergence of that object of meditation in the mind of the meditator. (In short,) for a sādhaka or spiritual aspirant with firm will, there is realization of (his) identity (with that dhyeya or object of meditation)||6||

Only this (is) the obtainment of the Nectar leading to Immortality, only this (is) the perception of the Self. And this initiation conducive to Nirvāṇa or Final Emancipation bestows the real state of Śiva||7||


 Section III: Vibhūtispanda

(Supernatural powers originating from Spanda)

Just as the Sustainer (of this world), when requested with desire, produces (all) things which abide in the heart of that embodied soul who is awake after causing the emergence of moon (and) sun, so also in dream, by abiding in the central channel, does (He) certainly reveal always (and) most clearly (his) desired things to him who does not neglect his entreaty||1-2||

Otherwise, the manifesting Power, according to its characteristics, is always free (to act) as in the case of the common people, during the two states of wakefulness (and) dream||3||

Undoubtedly, just as a thing that is perceived indistinctly (at first), even though an (extremely) attentive mind (might be involved in the process of perception), appears more clearly afterward, when beheld with the vigorous exertion of one's own power1, so, by grabbing hold of the (Cosmic) Force, whatever thing which actually exists in any form, in any place, in any condition, that (very thing) is immediately manifested in that manner||4-5||

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1 It refers to Cakṣurindriya or the power of seeing. This power causes the eyes to see, but it is not an organ but an energy.

 Even a weak person, by grabbing hold of that (Spanda or Cosmic Force), is engaged (in doing) what is to be done (and succeeds subsequently) through that very Principle. Likewise, he who is extremely hungry conceals1 (his) desire to eat||6||

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1 In the sense of "overcomes".

 Just as (there is) omniscience, etc. with regard to the body when it is governed or presided by this (principle of Spanda), so (also), through the establishment in one's own Self, there will be thus everywhere||7||

Depression (is like) a plunderer in the body. It glides1 from ignorance. If it is destroyed by that Unmeṣa --see the next aphorism--, how might that (depression) exist without (its) cause?||8||

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1 Literally, "glide of that" or "its glide", that is, the glide of glāni or depression.

 That is to be certainly known as Unmeṣa wherefrom there is emergence of another (awareness --according to Kṣemarāja-- or thought --according to others--) in one (person) who is (already) occupied with one thought. One should perceive that (Unmeṣa) by himself||9||

From this (Unmeṣa), Vindu --divine light--1, Nāda --divine sound--, Rūpa --divine form-- (and) Rasa --divine taste-- soon appear to an embodied soul as a disturbing factor||10||

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1 It can also be written "Bindu".

 When (a Yogī) desiring to see, as it were, all objects, abides pervading (them all), then, what (is the point) of saying much (about it)? He will perceive or experience (that) by himself!||11||

Beholding all that is within the range of one's own perception by knowledge, one should always remain awake (and) put all in one place --i.e. in Spanda--. Consequently, he is not pressed or afflicted by another||12||

He who has (his) glory deprived by Kalā, is used or enjoyed --i.e. falls prey to-- by the group of powers derived from the multitude of words. (Hence,) he is known as paśu or limited being||13||

The rise of ideas which (takes place) in that (paśu or limited being implies) the loss of the sap of the Supreme Nectar of Immortality. From that, (such a conditioned being) becomes dependent. That (rise of ideas) has its sphere of influence in Tanmātra-s --the subtle features of all things--||14||

The powers1 (are) constantly ready to conceal or veil the essential nature of this (limited being), because there can be no rise of ideas without intermixture of words||15||

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1 Brāhmī, Yogīśvarī, Māheśvarī, etc. (i.e. the powers presiding over the varga-s or groups of letters --e.g. Brāhmī presides over Kavarga or Ka group formed from "ka, kha, ga, gha and ṅa"; see the Sanskrit alphabet--).

 This very Power or Śakti of Śiva, whose nature is activity, abides in the paśu or conditioned being (and) binds (him). (However, when Śakti) is known or realized as staying (in the aforesaid paśu) like the way toward one's own Self, produces success||16||

Completely stopped and besieged by Puryaṣṭaka1 which arises from (the five) Tanmātra-s --i.e. subtle elements-- (and) resides in mind, ego (and) intellect, the subservient (limited being or paśu) experiences the rise or generation of ideas derived from that (Puryaṣṭaka, along with) the enjoyment (of pleasure and pain coming from those very ideas). He transmigrates due to the continuance of that (Puryaṣṭaka). Therefore, we (proceed to) explain the cause of this dissolution of transmigration||17-18||

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1 Lit. "city of eight", Puryaṣṭaka is an epithet of the subtle body (sūkṣmaśarīra or liṅgaśarīra), as it is formed from "buddhi (intellect), ahaṅkāra (ego), manas (mind) and the five Tanmātra-s or subtle elements". This is made clear by the subsequent explanation of the author.

 But, when taking root firmly in one place --i.e. in the principle of Spanda--, then, by controlling the disappearance and emergence of that (Puryaṣṭaka, the ex-limited being) becomes the (real) enjoyer (and,) consequently, he (also) becomes the Lord of the group (of śakti-s or powers)||19||


 Section IV: Epilogue

(Two stanzas serving as a conclusion)

I pay homage to that wonderful speech of the Guru, which (is full of) manifold words --pada-- (with their respective) meanings, (and) enables (one) to safely cross the fathomless ocean of doubt||1||

Besides, (the act) of having obtained this treasure of knowledge, which is difficult to attain, (together with the act of) finally preserving (it) in the cave of the heart, is doubtless always for the good of the whole world, just as (it was for the good of) Vasugupta||2||


 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

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