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For the small Hawaiian islet, see Kaula.

ries of scriptures. It is immersed in the nectarof-the-left. (Tantrloka)[9]

Kaula or Kula describes a type of Hindu tantrism

reckoned by Gavin Flood[1] to derive from Kapalika
or shmashna asceticism, and to divide into northern,
eastern, southern and western schools across the subcontinent. The Kaula tradition is sometimes more simply divided into two main branches, Purva Kaula and Uttara
Kaula.[2] The Kaula lineage is closely linked to the Siddha
and Ntha traditions.[3]

Actions or objects are not seen impure in themselves,

rather the attitude is the determinant factor. Spiritual ignorance is the only impurity and knowledge is pure.[10]
As long as one is identied with the supreme consciousness, there is nothing impure.[11] The adept is unaected
by any external impurity[12] and makes use of what is
reprehensible to attain transcendence.[13] Here arises the
antinomian and asocial character of Kaula and the lefthanded forms of Tantra.

Kaula as South Indian Tantric

2.2 Sacrice
Main article: Sacrice

The translation of the term Kula in English is considered

dicult and has raised some problems for researchers.[4]
The basic meaning is family, group or self-contained
unit.[5] This is explained by Flood as referring to the
retinues of minor goddesses depicted in the schools

Kaula sacrice (yajna) is dened primarily as an inward

act. Any action performed with the purpose of evoking the supreme reality is said to be sacrice.[14] However, if sacrice were performed only interiorly, there
would be a lack of externality and therefore limitation
and dualism.[15] That is why Kaula adepts also perform
symbolic external sacrices making use of a sacred place
and various rituals.

Philosophically the term is said to represent a unifying

connectedness, beneath the various objects, processes
and living entities of this world, which may be identied
with these goddesses as aspects of the supreme deity, in
some regions the god Shiva, elsewhere a goddess.[7] Another meaning sometimes given to the term kaula is that
of a group of people engaged together in the practice
of spiritual discipline.

There are six main types of sacrice according to the six

supports"; external reality, the couple, the body, the central channel of the subtle breath (susumna), the mind and

Kaula practices are based on tantra, closely related to the

siddha tradition and shaktism. Kaula sects are noted for
their extreme exponents who recommend the outing of 2.3 Freedom
taboos and social mores as a means of liberation. Such
practices were often later toned down to appeal to ordi- Kaula stresses the language of self-suciency, liberation
and freedom.[17] Socially the Kaula may be viewed as an
nary householders, as in Kamiri aivism.[8]
alternative society, complete in itself, which supports the
freedom of the devotee from interior mental and egotistic
limitations and from exterior social and cultural precon2 Fundamental concepts
At a social level deconditioning is realized by detaching
The concepts of purity, sacrice, freedom, the spiritual
from traditional restrictions with regard to what is conmaster (guru) and the heart are core concepts of the Kaula
sidered pure and impure and through the adoption of the
spiritual family of the guru. At the mental level freedom
is attained by the awakening of Kundalini through asana,
pranayama, mudra or mantras, the amplication and sub2.1 Purity and impurity
limation of the vital and mental energy and the elevation
In this sacrice, the wise man should use
of consciousness. The culmination of this process is spirthe very ingredient which is forbidden in the seitual illumination.


Absolute freedom is to be found only in the revelation

of the unity of the spirit with God, a state described as
Atma-vyapti or re-absorption into the true Self (atman) or
Shiva-vyapti: re-absorption into the supreme consciousness of Shiva.[18] To be free is to be absolved from the necessity of rebirth conditioned by karmic restraints. Consciousness expands 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, there
are no conditioning desires or needs to be fullled and
bliss is directly present in consciousness.[19]

2.5 The Heart

freedom to create, maintain and destroy the universe pertaining to iva himself. It is considered that iva, above
any restriction or conditioning, creates the universe of
his free will as a playful expression of his spirit (lila).
Here the kaulas are unlike Advaita and Veda, where there
is the conception that maya (cosmic illusion) is superimposed upon the brahman (absolute), inducing a sort
of illusory creation. Here, creation is considered real,
and the will to create is considered free and unfettered.
Svatantrya is identical to Ananda (bliss) and vimara (reexive consciousness/auto-consciousness).

On the cosmic level, the Heart of the Lord (aham) is

the substrate of the family of 36 elements forming all
manifestation. The concept of Spiritual Heart is so
important that even the supreme realization in Kashmir
Shaivism is described in relation to it. The so-called
Kechari Mudra is an attitude described as the ability
of consciousness to freely move (charati) about in the
space (kha) of the heart.[28] (kha"+"charati forming

Aham, the heart or subjective I, is a central concept in

Kaula ideology, conceived of as the most sacred reality,
home of consciousness (Cit) and bliss (Ananda), place of
union of the cosmic couple Shiva and Shakti. The term
Aham refers to the same reality as other terms like anuttara (unsurpassed), Akula (beyond the group), Shiva (The
Lord), Cit (supreme consciousness) as well as feminine
aspects as Ananda and Shakti. Each term brings a specic viewpoint, but none of them can fully describe the
Kaulas basic method is the experience of the freedom of Supreme Reality.
consciousness[20] in the heart, ultimately reected in the On the individual level, the heart is the binding force of
center of the being as Kechari Mudra. This mudra (atti- all conscious experiences the individual being is considtude) means the ability of consciousness to freely move ered a Kula composed of eight elements: ve senses, ego
(charati) about in the space (kha) of the heart.[21] The (ahamkar), the mind and the intellect. These eight are not
disciple learns to recognize iva as the ultimate reality. disconnected, unrelated processes but rather a unied,
The practices pertaining to consciousness are explained interrelated family (kaula) based on consciousness as
in such texts as Vijna Bhairava Tantra, Spanda Kriks the common substrate.[27] Kaula prescribes practices that
and iva Stras.
reintegrate the eight rays of the soul into the supreme
Kashmiri Shaivism describes freedom as svtantrya - the consciousness.

3 Practices


Main article: Guru

Guru is the path (gurur upya).[22] This statement
from the most revered sacred text of Kashmir Shaivism,
the iva Sutras, summarizes the schools conception of the
guru-disciple relationship. Kaula functions as a form of
guru yoga, where the disciples only essential practice is
to surrender himself to his guru, accepting the spiritual
impulse bestowed upon him by his master. Disciples eminently open towards their gurus spiritual inuence are
named spiritual sons and held to know the highest state of
consciousness[23] by their direct link to their gurus illuminated heart.[24]

Similarly to other tantric schools, Kaula chooses a positive (armative) approach: instead of prescribing selflimitations and condemning various actions, it embraces
such actions in a spiritual light.[29] Thus, sexuality, love,
social life and artistic pursuits are considered vectors of
spiritual evolution. The main focus in Kaula is on practical methods for attaining enlightenment,[30] rather than
engaging in complex philosophical debate. Whatever is
pleasant and positive can be integrated in its practice.

The principal means employed in the Kaula practice

are the spiritual family, the practice of initiation rituals,
the couple (sexual rituals such as maithuna), the body
(spiritual alchemy inside ones own body), the energy
(shakti) (controlled especially through the use of mantras
The guru is considered to form a single Self (atman) with and mystical phonemes) and the consciousness (seen as
of ones whole being and of the universe
his disciples. As such, he leads the disciples to the dis- the epitome
covery of their own Atman with his own consciousness,
exalted into the supreme state.[25] Like re kindled from The rst phase of development is linked to the attainment
a candle to another candle, the revelation of the self is of a state of non-duality described as an absorption into
passed from master to disciple directly, not through words the spiritual heart, nirvikalpa samadhi or experiencing
or exterior practices, but mediated by the direct transfer the "uncreated light" of consciousness (praka)[33][34]
(read a number of subjective accounts of this experiof akti.[26]


Physical practices



Group practice

Group practices, which are restricted to the members of

a kaula (family),[35] include rituals, festivities, initiations
and the secretive tantric sexual union.[36] The purposes
of this practice are the initiation of novices, the expansion of consciousness[37] and expression of the bliss already attained as participants become more and more

due to the activity of the spiritual energy (akti) and may
be called tantric body alchemy (see internal alchemy).
Starting from the expanded consciousness of the self (atman), the body (and in the end, the exterior reality too)
is infused with the experience of non-duality.[52]
The non-dual, experienced initially only in consciousness,
is extended to the whole body. The kaula adept will discover kaulika the power (siddhi) of identication with
the Universal Consciousness experienced in the physical body,[53] generated spontaneously, without any effort (formal meditation, postures asana, concentration
Dharana and other forms of exertion in yoga).[54] This
process is described as the descent of the energy of the
non-dual consciousness into the physical.[55] Then consciousness manifests as a free force, entering the senses
and producing extroverted samdhi. At this point, consciousness, mind, senses and physical body are dissolved into oneness, expanded into the spiritual light of

The key to the eectiveness of group practice is held

to reside in the harmony of minds and hearts of the
participants.[39] When a compatible spiritual group is created, it can greatly accelerate the spiritual evolution of its
members. Abhinavagupta declares that such a group can
enter a state of oneness and universal consciousness without eort.[40] He explains this by the notion of reection
(pratibimba), a process of unication, an eortless overAs a consequence, any perception of the exterior reality
ow of spiritual energy.[41]
becomes nondual. It becomes possible to live submerged
The relation between a Kaulas parts is realized through in a continuous state of union with Shiva even while permutual reection. Reection (pratibimba) is used here in forming regular day-to-day activities. This form of exthe sense of containing an image of the other objects troverted, all inclusive samdhi is the pinnacle of spirinside, a concept similar to that of the hologram. The itual evolution, bhairavi mudra, jagadananda or bhava
number of possible interactions and reections between samadhi. The yogi experiences everything as pure light
the members of a Kaula is much larger than the num- and ecstasy (cit-ananda) and does not feel any dierence
ber of elements it contains.[42] Kashmir Saivism declares between interior and exterior any more.[56]
that each part is in fact Akula (Shiva) in essence;[43] thus
there is a connection between the parts through their common Akula substrate. As each part contains Akula, in its 3.2.1 Yamala the tantric couple
essence, it automatically contains everything,[44] this is
how the mutual reection is said to be realized.
Abhinavagupta: The couple (yamala) is consciousness
Almost half of the Tantraloka is dedicated to rituals, usu- itself, the unifying emission and the stable abode. It is
ally evoking the union of complementary sets such as the absolute, the noble cosmic bliss consisting of both
man and woman, a faculty and its object or inhalation Shiva and Shakti. It is the supreme secret of Kula; neiand exhalation.[45] The practice of ritual may involve the ther quiescent nor emergent, it is the owing font of both
construction of a mandala,[46] visualization of a goddess quiescence and emergence. (Tantraloka)[57]
or group of goddesses (akti),[47] recitation (japa), perThe sexual practices of the Kaula schools, also known as
formed in a state of rest inside the creative awareness
the secret ritual, are performed with a so-called exter[48]
(camatkra), oblation into re and its internalized vernal Shakti (sexual partner)[58] as opposed to the purely
sion the burning of the objects and means of knowledge
meditative practices which involve only ones own spiriinto the re of non-dual consciousness (parmara).[49]
tual energies (the interior Shakti). The role of the sexThe power of a ritual lies in its repetition. A pure disciple ual Kaula ritual is to unite the couple, yogini (initiated
will attain the supreme state even by simply staying for a woman) and siddha (initiated man), and induce one in the
short time in presence of a guru without any instruction, other a state of permanent awakening.[59] This achievebut less prepared ones need reinforcement and gradual ment is made possible by the intensity of their love.[60]
In their exalted state, the two become absorbed into the
consciousness of the Self. Becoming united on all the levels, physical, astral, mental and even in their conscious3.2 Physical practices
ness, they reconstitute the supreme couple of Shiva and
Kaula puts a special emphasis on the physical body in Shakti.
spiritual practice[50] as a vessel of the Supreme and, as
such, not an obstacle tortured in ascetic practices.[51] Repeated submergence into the state of non-duality is supposed to induce secondary eects on the physical body

The Kaula sacrice is reserved for the few, the elite who
can maintain a state of Bhairava (spiritual illumination)
in sexual union.[62] Other couples, even if they reproduce
the ritual to the letter (as perceived from outside), if they

do not attain Bhairava consciousness, are merely engaging in a sexual act.


4 Applications of the term

Initiation by the mouth of the yogini (yogin-vaktra)",

is a method by which the adept unites with a puried yogin and receives the unique experience of the illuminated
consciousness.[63] He is to see her as both his lover and

While the manifest reality is described as Kula (a variant

form of the term Kaula), the unifying factor, the Deity,
is termed Akula.[77] A means beyond, or non, thus
Akula is beyond kula. As the substrate of all manifestation is Akula, such is also the basis of any Kula. So
The energy generated during the tantric sexual act is con- Kula families are united by a common substrate, the transidered a form of subtle emission, while the act of ejac- scendent Akula.
ulation is considered a form of physical emission.[64] In
In every one of its instances, on various levels of the
Kashmir Shaivism, the energy of emission (visarga akti)
universe, Kula is a contraction (sakoca) of totality,[78]
is considered to be a form of nanda (bliss).
thus in each Kula there is a contracted form of the uniDepending on the orientation of ones consciousness, in- verse, a contracted form of Shiva (Akula) himself. Such
troverted or extroverted, emission can be of two kinds: an armation has been popularized under slogans like
rested and risen. In nta, the rested form of emission, Consciousness is Everything in some recent Kashmir
focus is absorbed just on ones own Self in an act of Shaivism related publications for the public.[79]
transcendence.[65] In Udita, the risen form, the focus is
Often at the highest level of reality Shiva and Shakti form
projected on the Self (atman) of ones lover a state asthe supreme couple, or the ultimate Kula (family).[80]
sociated with immanence.[66]
Shiva, under various names (anuttara - absolute, praka
Santodita (beyond udita and nta) is the uniting form, - uncreated light, cit - supreme consciousness, Akula
cause of both nta and udita emissions. Santodita - beyond the groups of manifestation) and Shakti, unis described as universal bliss (cidnanda), undivided der a similar plethora or names (Vimarsa - reection in
consciousness,[67] kaula (the group of two as one)[68] and consciousness, Visarga - creative energy that emits the
an outow of the pulsation of Shiva and Shakti.[69] This Universe, Kundalini - fundamental energy of the body,
kind of translation from the physical act to the mental spanda - atemporal vibration, Kauliki - that which is
and to consciousness itself is a characteristic of the tantric sprung in Kula). The two are always in indissoluble
world view.
union in a perfect state of bliss. Ultimately there is no
dierence between Shiva and Shakti, they are dierent
aspects of the same reality. The supreme family by def3.3 Mantra practice
inition spans both manifestation and transcendence.
Mantric meditation is the most common form of tantric
practice. In the Kaula system, this practice is associated especially with the group of phonemes.[70][71] The
50 phonemes (vara) of the Sanskrit alphabet are used
as seed mantras denoting various aspects of consciousness (cit) and energy (akti). The group (kula) of Sanskrit
phonemes form a complete description of reality, from
the lowest (earth) to the highest (iva consciousness)
The ritual setting out of the phonemes imitates the emanation of the cosmos from the supreme I-consciousness
of iva.[73] In another ritual, the phonemes are identied
with specic zones of the body through the practice of
nysa, infusing the body with spiritual energy. This mystical state of culminates in the kaula of the body (perfection of the ensemble of organs, senses and mind) and
such a being is known as a siddha (accomplished one).[74]
The adept attains a form of bodily enlightenment where,
through the power of mantras, he comes to recognize the
divinities within the body.[75]
Initiation into mantric practice is based on a transfer of
power and the link (lineage) of the heart. The word or
phoneme is not useful in itself, as it does not have eciency unless the disciple received his initiation from an
authentic master.[76]

In Kashmir Shaivism, Supreme Consciousness (Cit, identical to Akula) is considered to be the substrate of manifestation. Consciousness is the ultimate principle, the
monad of the universe, always present as substrate in every external object, be it gross (physical), subtle (mental)
or subtlest (relating to the causal body or soul). Thus external world, body, mind and soul are considered kindred
parts of the whole, concretisation of the supreme consciousness.[81] From this perspective, Kula is the totality
of manifestation, in gross, subtle and supreme form.[82]
Even if Cit is not directly involved in the process of manifestation (as it is said to be unmanifest),[83] it is always
present in every possible facet of manifestation.[84] Thus,
it is said to be the substantial cause of manifestation (manifestation is made of Cit, like pots are made of clay) and
also the ecient cause (like the potter is the ecient
cause in the activity of creating pots).[85]
A closely related concept is Kaulika, the binding force of
the Kula. The term literally means sprung in Kula".[86]
Kaulika is another name for Shakti, the spiritual energy.
Shakti, as described in Kashmir Shaivism, does a paradoxical thing she creates the universe, with all its diversity and at the same time remains identical to Shiva, the
absolute transcendent. Thus, Kaulika is an energy both of
spirit and matter. Bridging the two, Kaulika creates the
path of evolution for consciousness from ego to spirit.

The manifestation of Kaulika proceeds from the absolute (anuttara) in the process of cosmic creation (mahasristi).[87] Thus Kaulika should not be seen as mere energy,
or just the link between matter and spirit, but also identical to the absolute. Even if she is the dynamic aspect
of the absolute, she does not rank lower than Shiva, her
divine consort.


Kashmiri School of Kaula

[6] Flood 1996

[7] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 102
[8] Flood 1996, p. 166
[9] Tantrloka, Chapter 29, l. 10
[10] Dupuche 2003, p. 87
[11] Dupuche 2003, p. 84
[12] Dupuche 2003, p. 84
[13] Dupuche 2003, p. 87

While Kaula is primarily an oral tradition and does not [14] Dupuche 2003, p. 182
place a high value on the creation of texts, there are some
texts associated with the tradition. Muller-Ortega, fol- [15] Dupuche 2003, p. 104
lowing Pandey, summarizes the literature of the Kashmiri [16] Dupuche 2003, p. 183
school as follows:[88]
[17] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59


[18] Kundalini, the Energy of the Depths, Lilian Silburn


[19] Lakshmanjoo 1988, p. 3, 9


[20] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60


[21] Khe carati iti kechar[ii], Par-trik Vivaraa, Jaideva

Singh, page 5


[22] iva Sutras of Vasugupta, Cap II, Verse 5


[23] Dupuche 2003, p. 157


[24] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 166


[25] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 62

[26] The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, Tenzin Wangyal
Rinpoche, p. 99

See also

[27] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59


[28] Khe carati iti kechar[ii], Singh 2005, p. 5

Kundalini energy

[29] Touched By Fire, The Ongoing Journey Of A Spiritual

Seeker, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D., Rajmani Tigunait, page 188


[30] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 14


[31] Kundalini, Energy of the depths, p177-178


[32] Muller-Ortega 1989, p.s 58, 61


[33] The Cultural Heritage of India, Haridsa Bhacryya,

Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Page 521

[1] Flood 1996, p. 166

[34] Tantra: The Supreme Understanding: Discourses on the

Tantric Way of Tilopas, Osho, Page 19

[2] Commentary on Saudarya Lahiri, Verse 32, 2008-01-17

[35] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 61

[3] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 55

[36] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 62

[4] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59

[37] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 62

[5] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 100

[38] Dupuche 2003, p. 127

[39] Luce dei Tantra: Tantrloka, Abhinavagupta, translation

by Raniero Gnoli
[40] Tantraloka by Abhinavagupta Cap28.v373v380
[41] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 61


[76] Dupuche 2003, p. 80

[77] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59
[78] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59

[42] Lakshmanjoo 1988, p. 29

[79] The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism, Consciousness is Everything, Swami Shankarananda

[43] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 97

[80] Pandit 2003, p. 109

[44] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59

[81] Singh 2005, p. 5, 31

[45] Dupuche 2003, p. 117

[82] Singh 2005, p. 34

[46] Dupuche 2003, p. 119

[83] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 137

[47] Dupuche 2003, p. 119

[84] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 78

[48] Dupuche 2003, p. 120

[85] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 72

[49] Dupuche 2003, p. 123

[86] Singh 2005, p. 34

[50] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 59

[87] Singh 2005, p. 77

[51] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60

[88] Muller-Ortega (1989), pp. 57-58

[52] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60

[53] Singh 2005, p. 6
[54] Singh 2005, p. 34
[55] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60
[56] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60
[57] Tantraloka by Abhinavagupta Cap. 29 Verse. 116-117a
[58] Dupuche 2003, p. 114
[59] Kundalini, energy of the depths, Lilian Silburn, p. 160
[60] Singh 2005, p. 45
[61] Dupuche 2003, p. 136
[62] Dupuche 2003, p. 102
[63] Dupuche 2003, p. 82
[64] See Sexual sublimation, Ojas and Visarga
[65] Dupuche 2003, p. 263
[66] Dupuche 2003, p. 263
[67] Dupuche 2003, p. 261,263
[68] Kundalini, energy of the depths, Lilian Silburn, p. 187
[69] Dupuche 2003, p. 268

8 References
Dupuche, John R. (2003), Abhinavagupta: The
Kula Ritual, as Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the
Tantrloka, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN
Flood, Gavin D. (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
ISBN 0-521-43878-0
Lakshmanjoo, Swami (1988), Kashmir Shaivism:
The Secret Supreme, SUNY Press, ISBN 0-88706575-9
Muller-Ortega, Paul (1989), The Triadic Heart of
Siva, Albany: State University of New York Press,
ISBN 0-88706-787-5
Pandit, Moti Lal (2003), Trika Saivism of Kashmir,
New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, ISBN 81-2151082-1
Singh, Jaideva; Swami Lakshmanjee, Bettina
Baumer (2005), Paratrisika Vivarana by Abhinavagupta: The Secret of Tantric Mysticism, Motilal
Banarsidass Publishers (Pvt. Ltd), ISBN 81-2080472-4

[70] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 62

[71] Dupuche 2003, p. 82

9 External links

[72] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 63

[73] Dupuche 2003, p. 81
[74] Dupuche 2003, p. 117
[75] Muller-Ortega 1989, p. 60



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