Kashmir Shaivism is not a religion. It is a philosophy open to those who have the desire to understand it; hence, for its study there are no restrictions of caste, creed or color.
Kashmir Shaivism called the Trika philosophy, the three-fold science. To clarify, this three-fold science is based on the three energies of Lord Shiva. These three energies are called Para, Parapara, and Apara (Supreme, Intermediate, and Inferior). ''''Para'''' means the Supreme energy of Lord Shiva, otherwise known as His subjective energy. ''''Parapara'''' is the medium, the Intermediate energy of Lord Shiva. It is called His cognitive energy. The third, Apara, is Lord Shiva''''s Inferior energy and is referred to as His objective energy.
In fact, the human being resides in the objective Inferior energy of Lord! Shiva. This Trika philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism teaches us how this individual being, immersed in inferior energy, can be carried towards the Supreme, subjective energy of Lord Shiva through His cognitive, Intermediate energy. So the purpose of studying this Trika system is to rise from objective energy through cognitive energy and finally be one with the subjective energy of Lord Shiva.
As long as one resides in objective energy one is the victim of sadness and sorrow and is entangled in the wheel of repeated births and deaths. So one has to emerge from objective energy and enter into subjective energy, in which one is liberated from all this sadness, and becomes absolute in the attainment of final beatitude.
For this journey Trika thought has laid down three means within the body of cognitive energy, for it is cognitive energy alone that can carry you towards the subjective energy of Lord Shiva. The purpose of cognitive energy is to develop the limited being''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s capacity and ability to receive God consciousness. In the body of cognitive energy, as we have said, are three means. The first and Supreme mean is called Sambhavopaya. The second, Intermediate mean is called Saktopaya, and the third, Inferior mean is called Anavopaya. These means are handled and practiced according to the ability of the seeker.
S A M B H A V O P A Y A
Sambhavopaya is that path of which the Sadhaka must rid himself of the recitation of Mantras - of Sadhana based on breathing; meditation on particular deities; concentrating on some spiritual thought; and so on. He has only to develop his awareness of "I" - consciousness, and that, too, not in any particular place. By the constant awareness of this "I"- consciousness, individual "I" - consciousness quickly vanishes as it is united with His subjective energy and becomes Jivan-Mukta (released in life).
This path is meant for those seekers who reside at the highest level of ability.
S A K T O P A Y A
Saktopaya is the means in which the aspirant or seeker has to develop concentration upon God-consciousness by means of some particular spiritual thought bestowed by the Master. Here the Sadhaka has to concentrate on that particular thought of God-consciousness without the support of Pranayama; Mantra, and so on. He must develop God consciousness simply and only by meditating upon this thought. He has nothing to do with these discarded methods. That single thought of God consciousness will alone carry him to the Supreme State of Transcendental Being. Saktopaya is meant for those who have neither the highest nor the lowest power of meditating energy.
A N A V O P A Y A
Anavopaya is that means in which a Sadhaka who is endowed with an inferior capacity of mind and meditation must develop God-consciousness by resorting to meditation on the two breaths - inhalation and exhalation; to the practice of Pranayama; the recitation of Mantras. In this third inferior path a Sadhaka has, of course, to develop God-consciousness, but, as he is not gifted with higher meditating capacity, he has to seek the support of these inferior methods (Pranayama, etc.) so that finally he may be carried to God-consciousness.
In fact, this system of Kashmir Shaivism is based upon Tantras revealed by Lord Shiva. These Tantras are divided into three classes. One class is that of the monistic Tantras. They are called Bhairava Tantras.
The second class of Tantras is founded on the mono-dualistic aspect of Kashmir Shaivism. These Tantras are called Rudra Tantras.
The third class is based on dualistic Shaivism. These Tantras are called Shiva Tantras.
The philosophy of these Tantras was re-originated at the beginning of Kaliyuga by the sage Durvasa. Many centuries later this Tantric philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism was taught by four great Masters in four great Schools Pratyabhijna School, Krama School, Kula School and Spanda School.
Pratyabhijna means recognition. The realization of what one has always been in one''''s essential timeless nature. This system was expounded in Kashmir by Somananda.
The Krama School is grounded in space, time and form. Its purpose is to develop such strength of awareness that one transcends the circle of time, space and form and thus becomes timeless, spaceless and formless. This thought of the Krama School of Shaivism was taught by Sri Erakanatha.
The third School of Kashmir Shaivism called the Kula system. The purpose of this School is to discard individual energy and to enter into blissful energy of the totality. This thought was re-originated and taught by Sumatinatha in Kashmir.
The fourth, the Spanda School of this system was re-originated in Kashmir by Vasuguptanatha. Spanda means "Vibration" and the system which goes by its name directs the aspirant to concentrate on each and every movement in this world. Even the movement of a blade of grass will carry you to God-consciousness.
In fact these four Schools are not separate from each other. All the four carry the Sadhaka to the throne of Universal God-consciousness.
This thought of Kashmir Shaivism so great, world affirming and universal that it has deeply impressed many western minds also, hoisting out as it does wonderful vision of this whole Universe as nothing but the Blissful energy of an all pervading consciousnessóLord Shiva. Some other time I shall vividly explain more and more of the secrets of Kashmir Shaivism