Kashmir Shaivism // Guidelines on How to Use the Scripture // Biography of Swami Lakshmanjoo


Kashmir Shaivism — An Exposition

Swami Lakshmanjoo

Translated from the Kashmiri 
and Edited
Dina Nath Muju (1975)

Based on discourses given by Swami Lakshmanjoo 
from time to time 
to his disciples, and revised by him.


kenesitam patati presitam manah kena prānah prathamah praiti yuktah
kenesitām vācam imām vadanti caksuh śrotram ka u devo yunakti
Kena Upanishad

Energized by whom does the mind cognize the world? 
Prompted by whom does the first life-breath vibrate? 
Who enables the voice to speak? 
Who directs the eyes and ears?

yan nu ma iyaṃ bhagoḥ sarvā pṛthivī vittena pūrṇā syāt kathaṃ tenāmṛtā syām
yenāhaṃ nāmṛtā syāṃ kim ahaṃ tena kuryām
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

If the entire earth, with all its wealth and pleasures were mine, 
how can that make me immortal?
What use is that which cannot help me to go beyond sorrow, 
bondage, and ignorance forever?

      At the dawn of civilization in ancient India, the Rishis asked such and similar questions and investigated them, giving rise to various philosophies and systems of thought. Questions continued to arise and to be answered, differently in different epochs. Whereas answers provided by most of the systems, such as Vedanta and Yoga, acknowledge the authority of the Vedas, some, like Buddhism, challenge this authority and attempt to answer independently. Shaivism, although not denying the supremacy of the Vedas, proceeded to answer, claiming the Tantras as its source.

      The Tantras are treatises of remote origin, independent of the Vedas, and of anonymous authorship. They are accepted by their adherents as of divine origin, like the Vedas, and are generally in the form of dialogues between Shiva and Shakti (The Unmanifest and the Manifest). They are ninety-two in number and are divided into three categories: dualistic, mono-dualistic, and monistic.

      Kashmir Shaivism, as it is called, is a recent recession of Tantric Shaivism and is absolutely monistic. It owes its origin to sage Vasu Gupta, who flourished in the first half of the ninth century AD and gave us the famous Shiva Sutras, which form its basis. Vasu Gupta was followed by an eminent line of thinkers and writers such as Somananda (9th Century AD), the author of Shiva Dristi and founder of the Pratyabhijnya school of thought; Utpalacharya (circa 10th Century AD), author of Ishwar Pratyabhijnya; and Abhinava Gupta (11th Century AD), author of a number of works, chief among which stands Tantra Loka, in thirty-seven volumes (an encyclopedia of Tantric knowledge) — to name only three of the most distinguished philosophers among them.


      This system postulates three ways or three phases of realizing the Shiva State — the Ultimate Reality:


•     The first way or phase is termed Anav-upaya (anavopaya), the method suitable for a limited being. It is meant for those who cannot yet rise above the interests of their limited selves and for whom the concrete and tangible are still more important than the abstract and intangible. 

     This method includes proper postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), and repetition of sacred sounds (mantra). An aspirant on this path is usually required to concentrate on some symbol, such as triangle, Swastika, cross, and so on, or on some picture, maybe of his preceptor (guru), or of some deity, while repeating the sacred word given to him by his preceptor. 

     At a later stage, the preceptor may teach one to concentrate on the psychic centers in one’s body. If properly done, this can lead to the awakening of psychic faculties and even more, depending on one’s earnestness, purity of conduct, and the extent one can go beyond one’s limited self. This method is also called the Way (Phase) of Action (Kriya-upaya).



•     The next way or phase, higher than the first, is called Shakta-upaya, or the Way (Phase) of Energy. Here the external symbols and aids are dispensed with. No special posture or breathing exercise is considered necessary. Mantra is retained, but its verbal repetition is replaced by deep contemplation at a non-verbal level. 

     The aspirant is required to contemplate so earnestly and with such awareness that he or she becomes one with the spirit of the Mantra and is permeated by its energy—for a Mantra is not merely a rhythmical arrangement of words, but a form of energy. Thus consciousness expands beyond the limited self. 

     The greatest Mantra is Hamsa (I am That). By contemplating on the different facets of this Mantra the aspirant is led to negate the individual “I” and merge it in the universal “I.” This method is also called the Way (Phase) of Wisdom (Jnyan-upaya) and is practiced long, even by the most advanced aspirants. It is considered quite capable of leading one to the next stage, which ushers in the highest Reality.

•     The third and highest method is called the Shambhav-upaya, or the Way (Phase) of Shiva. At the first stage, bodily organs are involved in the various practices prescribed therein. At the second, bodily organs have no important role to play, as such, but the function of the mind at deep contemplative levels remains and plays an essential role. 

     Now, however, in the last state, even the mind has to be dispensed with. No rules can be laid down here and no practices prescribed. Here the aspirant’s only concern is to be in that state of awareness where the movement of thought comes to a stop. 

     The only qualification is earnestness combined with deep, penetrative insight. Hence, this method is also called the Way (Phase) of Will (Ichhopaya). 

     With the cessation of thought processes, the state beyond mind dawns. To let it happen, suppression or sublimation of thinking is not the way, but rather an intense awareness of each thought and feeling at all times (including during sleep). 

     In this intensity of choiceless awareness, the ending of any thought, feeling, or perception can result in the dawning of Enlightenment. 

     When the cup is empty, something new can be put in it.

     Any method, however subtle, can be only a result of a thought process—a product of mind. Hence it cannot touch that which is beyond thought, beyond mind. The mind can penetrate, at best, up to its own frontiers. Do what it will, it cannot go beyond its limits of time and space. 

     Methods, one and all, are not only useless at this stage but rather obstacles. A method implies duality—a seeker and an object of search, a devotee and an object of devotion. The ever-present, all-pervading, all-knowing Totality needs not to be beseeched or coaxed. It arrives unsought, like a fresh breeze from the mountaintop, when the mind is free from thought and seeking.

      When an aspirant comes to the clear realization of this fact, the Shambhav-upaya  becomes An-upaya (No-Way, No-Method), or what may be translated as Beyond-Method

     In this state of non-dependence and effortless awareness, there is neither acceptance nor rejection, neither justification for nor identification with any feeling or thought. 

     In this void, the worshiper is the worshiped. This state is not beyond action and wisdom only, but beyond will, as well. 

     It simply is.


      Such is the path, yet there are hints available here and there, given out of compassion by those who have scaled the great heights, to help and encourage an earnest disciple to set his or her foot on the path. Shaiva scriptures are replete with such hints, though their esoteric meaning often remains obscure to those uninitiated in their mysteries. 

     One of these, the Vijñāna Bhairava, is more explicit and expounds 112 unique Modes of transcending the limitations of individuality. These Modes are really meant for advanced seekers who have reached that state of self-discipline where the need for laying down any formal discipline ceases. For such earnest aspirants, some situations — which are likely to be met with in the ordinary course of life — and some practices — for performing which one need not withdraw from ordinary activities of life necessary for physical and social well-being — are delineated. Shaivism does not advocate external renunciation and running away from the world — for the cosmos is in Shiva and Shiva is in the cosmos. There is no situation where Shiva is not.

      We cognize the external world by five senses — hearing, touch, sight, taste, and smell —which help us to gather knowledge, but which also, often, lead our minds astray. It is for this reason that usually all spiritual disciplines prescribe ways and means to curb and withdraw the senses from the world of manifestation. 

     Shaivism here takes a radically different stand. It attempts to make these very senses and their pleasures a stepping stone for the upward path. It elevates the pleasures of the senses from the plane of sensuality to that of sensitivity.

      This approach appears, no doubt, alluring, but the neophyte must be forewarned. It is perilous too. An undisciplined, unwary, or over-zealous beginner may easily stumble on the very first step and break his limbs. A very cautious approach is needed: a seriousness of purpose to realize the Truth and a wholehearted devotion to Truth alone, form the prelude to this search. Plainly speaking, it is not meant for those who are still held by the desire for gross pleasures.

      With this little introduction, we shall now describe the Modes as given in the above-named Tantra. The Modes, however, cannot be grouped under one head. There are some that belong to Anav-upaya (The Way/Phase of Action), many that are of Shakta-upaya (The Way/Phase of Energy), and a few of Shambhav-upaya (The Way/Phase of Shiva). Yet, if one would pursue any one of these steadfastly and intelligently, it can lead one, by stages, from Anav to Shakta and from Shakta to the Shamabhav state. 

     It is not desirable that an aspirant should try all 112 Modes. Different Modes are enunciated to suit different temperaments and different people at different stages of the path. So, earnest aspirants should select one or two Modes only, which, only after very careful consideration, appear to them best for themselves, in all their uniqueness, and then try these with perseverance and faith. After  making some progress, if necessary, an aspirant may change to some other Mode or Modes, but one should, in no case, try to be too ambitious and select a large number of Modes at one time, nor so fickle as to make constant changes. 

For decades in Kashmir, Denise and John Hughes and family studied closely with Swami Lakshmanjoo, who are steeped in the oral tradition as transmitted by the last enlightened master in that lineage.
     We shall attempt to explain, as clearly as possible, even things that have remained secret so far, but even then we cannot claim to replace the direct guidance of a worthy preceptor.

                                        Lectures on Practice & Discipline in Kashmir Shaivism 
by Swami Lakshman Joo Raina



by Kashmiri Pandit Dina Nath Muju

      Born in an affluent middle class family in 1907, the young Lakshman had every chance of becoming a successful gentleman appropriate to his times. His father, Shri Naryanjoo, was a thriving businessman and enjoyed a respectable position in society. 

      At that time a great savant and saint, Shri Swami Ramaji happened to be living in Kashmir. Swami Ramaji, besides being a profound scholar of various systems of Indian philosophy, had dived deep into the mysteries of Shaivism and the Tantras. He had not merely studied the Tantras, but had gone into their mysteries experientially. How far he had gone on this path is beyond our ken, but supernatural powers often exhibited by him and the personal experiences narrated by his disciples compel one to take him to have been a man of realization.

     During the latter part of his life, Swami Ramaji happened to take his abode in one of the houses owned by Shri Narayanjoo. Thus Narayanjoo had the good fortune of coming in close contact with this great saint, whom he served with heart and soul. When the baby Lakshman was born, the saint, on hearing the news of his birth, was overjoyed and declared that a great soul had incarnated, whom he would call his younger brother, Lakshman, he himself being Rama.

      The prophecy began early to appear true. Even at the age of five, the boy Lakshman used to go into trance. The father gave him the usual type of education prevalent at that time. The boy’s progress in studies was normal, but his behavior was somewhat different from that of the other boys at school. He was not given much to play or fun as were the others, but preferred to sit alone, in a meditative mood. 

      When he was about twenty years of age, he left his home one day, leaving behind a message written on a slip of paper informing his parents that he was going away “in search of the Highest.” 

     The impetuous youth was searched out and found meditating in a forest hermitage, a hallowed place away from the common haunts of man, about sixty kilometers from his hometown, Shrinagar. 

     His father persuaded him to return to his home, however, promising to build a hermitage for him on Ishbari mountain, a place renowned as the abode of ancient Shaiva saints, at a distance of only twelve kilometers from Shrinagar. 

     The building came up, and the young Lakshman moved there to lead a life of his own, devoted to study and spiritual experience.

      When Swami Lakshmanjoo was born, Swami Ramaji was fairly old. He passed away when the young Lakshman was only eight years of age. Before his departure from this world, however, Swami Ramaji entrusted the work of the spiritual guidance of the boy to his chief disciple, Swami Mahtab Kak. In due course, young Lakshman expressed his eagerness to undergo spiritual discipline, and Swami Mahtab Kak was only too willing to instruct him.

      Swami Mahtab Kak was a man of spiritual attainment, but was not scholarly as had been his great preceptor, Swami Ramaji. So while he guided his young disciple in spiritual practices, he was not particular for any deep study of texts. The young Lakshman’s thirst for knowledge, however, was great. He wanted to fathom deeper and learn for himself what the ancient teachers had taught. 

     Fortunately for him, an illustrious scholar of Shaivism, Shri Maheshwar Nath Razden, was living in those days. So, Lakshman approached him and began his study of Shaiva texts. Devoting the whole of his energy night and day to his studies, he soon attained mastery over almost all the texts, which, aided by spiritual experience, became illumined for him. 

     Swami Lakshmanjoo, then, possesses not only a full intellectual grasp of the ancient texts of Shaiva philosophy, but carries with it the practical knowledge of his personal experiences. This, no doubt, makes him, at present, the greatest living Shaiva teacher in Kashmir and perhaps one of the greatest teachers in India, too.  

      He lives at his little home at Gupta Ganga, Shrinagar, outwardly like a country gentleman of Kashmir, looking after his little garden, caring for flowers and lawns and one or two cows, which he keeps. He is usually bareheaded, except in frigid weather, and wears a long gown-like dress, not much different from the dress worn by the older generation of Kashmiris. He puts on no caste marks nor wears any rosaries or similar symbols to show outwardly that he is a saint or a religious teacher. For all intents and purposes, he looks like an ordinary householder.

      His personal life, however, is austere. He has never touched meat, liquor, or tobacco and is a celibate. He spends most of his time in study and meditation. Generally, he lives a life of his own for six days of the week, when few people can meet him, except by appointment, but on Sundays he keeps an open house. 

     There is generally a gathering of about one or two hundred men and women, both young and old, on this day. From morning till dusk, one can see him sitting, with his smiling face and affection beaming from his beautiful eyes, listening and talking to individuals and groups. It is on this day, too, that he holds a regular class, usually from noon until half past two in the afternoon, in which he teaches Shaiva texts.

     He enjoys his afternoon tea on this day, with all those who are present. It is often during these informal meetings that, if a right question is put, many doubts and uncertainties are cleared. He is always ready to give. 

      Though Swamiji has had very little formal education in modern languages and prefers to teach in Kashmiri, he sometimes, as necessity arises, teaches in English also, for the benefit of European and American scholars and aspirants who come to him from abroad to understand the traditional and occult meaning of the Tantras or for spiritual guidance. Such classes are usually held on Saturdays, in the afternoon. The teaching thus given carries, of course, no obligation with it.

      Thanks to Providence, Swamiji’s personal needs are met out of the patrimony inherited by him. So, he is not dependent on his disciples for his maintenance, nor is he anxious to build an ashram after his name, for which he should need to collect donations. This fact gives him a unique position of freedom.

      Swamiji’s teachings are not very much different from the main teachings of the Monistic School of Kashmir Shaivism. These teach that Shiva—the ultimate Reality, the First Cause—is not to him only transcendental unmanifest Reality, but also the Immanent and in manifestation, too. He says all that is exists because it primarily resides in Shiva. 

     We are because Shiva is—the only difference being that while Shiva is a state of absolute Freedom, Bliss, and Light, we are in a state of ignorance, being wrapped by the threefold impurities of (a) feeling a sense of individual or separative consciousness, (b) feeling the objective universe is other than Shiva, and (c) feeling an attachment to the fruits of our individual actions. 

     Swamiji teaches that Shiva, being omnipresent, can be realized in any and every walk of life. Hence, so-called renunciation of the world is not needed, nor are any rites required to invoke Him. Vasu Gupta has said in the the Spanda Karika: 

            tasmatsabdartha chintasu nas
            avastha nay a Shivah        

Hence, there is no state of consciousness 
in the contemplation of word or object (observer/observed, subject/object) 
that is not Shiva.

     To the writer, Swamiji is living in that state of consciousness. Whenever he explains some practice—and there are many practices in the Shaiva system—his whole emphasis is on awareness and one-pointed attention. He says that while eating, walking, talking, or doing any other action, ones whole attention should be given to that. 

Lakshmanjoo adds 
that one should 

for instance, 


be aware 
of every step 

only . . . 

but should 


the gaps 



If taking 

the interval 



If listening 
to music, 

the silence




When breathing,

the void


 inhalation . . . 

exhalation . . . 

When swinging . . . 

. . . between up

and down . . . 

Within intervals, 



two points . . .


in silence . . . 





only awareness . . .  






      One day we had quite a large gathering by a mountainside outside Shrinagar, where arrangements for a night’s board and lodging had been made by a disciple of Swamiji. It happened that the weather had turned rough. Swamiji, as would have any intelligent man of the world, went around seeing that everything was alright. 

      Although almost everything appeared upset, Swamiji went about calmly and with an unruffled countenance. The writer happened to watch him rather closely, and when he took a seat for a while I managed a word with him when no one else was within hearing distance. I referred to a verse in the Kakhyastotra, meaning by implication that Swamiji was enjoying, in the state of consciousness, the whole scene. Swamiji smiled with a nod in return, thus acknowledging what was said as true. The verse reads as follows:

      Sarvah shakticetas darsanadyah
      Sve sve vedye yaugapadyen visyak
      Kshiptva madhye hatakastambha bhuta
      Stisthanvishadhare aiko-bhasi.

      Letting all the sense, sight, and so on,
      Fest simultaneously on their respective objects,
      Stand in the center,
      Shining like a pillar of gold supporting the entire universe. 

     Whatever practices Swamiji might have followed in his early years, especially for rousing Kundilini, or maybe doing now, Swamiji stresses the point that God consciousness can be revealed while living an ordinary life of the world. The only requirement is that,  for universality to come, we must let our individuality go. In absence of this, no practice is of any avail.

      Yet, it is not so easy to be with Swamiji and make demands for his guidance as it may appear at first glance. He maintains that before setting foot on the path of discipleship, aspirants must have purified their conduct, thoughts, and feelings. They must be free from greed, anger, hatred, and lust. These are preliminary requirements. Only then can they aspire to really enter the Path, where they will have to dissolve their very ego, the limited “I,” for the universal “I”  to manifest: to let their I-Consciousness merge in universal consciousness. One has first to withdraw inward for realization of God consciousness, and then come out and see all the manifestation as the play of that very consciousness. 

      Though a Shaiva savant, Swamiji has an open mind for other systems of thought whose aim is spiritual unfoldment of the individual. Hence, one can find scholars and aspirants of different schools of thought coming to meet him, discussing spiritual problems with him, and listening to his talks. And he meets all with affection.


      It is said that a country without saints is like a land without trees, under the shade of which, travelers, tormented by the heat of the midday sun, could rest. 

     Kashmir today, is fortunate in having a majestic tree with outspread branches, in the person of Swamiji, offering shelter to many a weary traveler. 

~  1975
Dina Nath Muju


After having written to Kashmiri Pandit Dina Nath Muju in 1974, I was delighted in 1975 to receive this typewritten biography of Swami Lakshmanjoo he had written as an introduction to their translation of the 112 Modes of transcending. The bio was later published under the title "Swami Lakshmanjoo: A Brief Life Sketch." It appeared in a commemorative booklet, Drops of Nectar: Pandit Dina Nath Muju Memorial Trust, after the pandit's passing. The booklet states that Pandit Dina Nath wrote the piece in 1983, although it was actually written almost a decade earlier. 

Over the course of our correspondence Pandit Dina Nath also sent me many presents, including copies of texts in the Kashmiri series.

. . . as well as a copy of an issue of the journal of the Ishwar Ashram Trust, Malini.
The issue contains Dina Nath's short story "The Eternal Throb" based on Verse 38 of 
Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra

Also worthwhile:
this volume about a realized Kashimi Yogini: Sharika Devi: A Yogini of Kashmir.

And these Lectures on Practice.