The Origin of the Shiva Sutras

In the valley of Kashmir 860-925 AD lived Vasugupta. He was recognized as an enlightened master, and a man who possessed superior knowledge and wisdom. Fully God-realized, he was filled with a tremendous purity of heart and was intensely devoted to the Lord Shiva, the Supreme Maheshvara. He did not accept the various teachings of those masters who lived in Kashmir at that time.

One night Lord Shiva infused a dream into Vasugupta’s consciousness for the purpose of restoring those secret teachings that had been lost to the world even in Vasugupta’s time. The dream revealed the existence of a large special rock at the foot of Mahadeva Mountain.

Shiva told Vasugupta to go that rock and lift it, for underneath a great esoteric teaching would be found inscribed into it. Vasugupta awoke and set off to search for this sacred rock. Upon finding the rock nestled on the side of a small stream, he touched it and the mere touch of his hand caused the huge rock to at once turn over - and written on it there underneath were the Shiva Sutras.

Vasugupta was filled with wonder and joy. He began to study these sutras and over time absorbed them and shared them with his best students, always remembering that in the dream Shiva had cautioned him to reveal them only to those who are fit for grace. So it was then, so it is now.


::spandashakti7_small.jpg The Shiva Sutras – One

The beginning sutra (a thread) reveals to us that everything and everyone in this entire universe is in fact the Free Will of the Supreme Consciousness. Everything is the Oneness. And the Oneness is absolute Free Will Consciousness. What more is there to know?

The Oneness takes on the temporal ‘appearance’ of Separation as the many Selves – you and me and every other being in all the Myriad Realms in this universe. We appear to be separate, but in reality are not. There is only the One, only one Self (Paramatma), one Soul.

For those of us who have not yet achieved enlightenment, this truth is difficult to ‘feel’ because we identity with our individual personality-self and not with the eternal Self within, which is always patiently waiting for us to turn inward and recognize the truth of our real being.

Once we reconnect with that Supreme Consciousness within, we realize that ‘there is no plurality of Self. Consciousness is only one Self’ [JS]. The Sanskrit word (caitanya) for consciousness is non-relational, meaning there is no subject-object relation. There is no word in English that conveys this subtle distinction.

The fact that English is inadequate to describe the metaphysical concepts in the Shiva Sutras makes conveying their meaning a real challenge. I will try my best, but now and then I will revert the Sanskrit words as defined by Kashmir Shaivism.

For example the Sanskrit word PRAKASA is defined as pure consciousness, shining, luminous, effulgence. Prakasha is not physical light, but rather the light of consciousness by which everything appears. There is no English equivalent.

The entire universe is the absolute Free Will (svatantrya) of the Supreme Consciousness. Everyone is an expression of the Free Will of the Supreme Consciousness – the good and the bad. Everything is filled with God Consciousness and therefore ‘nothing is right and nothing is wrong’ [SLJ]. It is all God.

We are the Veiled portions of the Oneness playing here in the eternal cycles of creation/expansion and contraction/dissolution of Time and Space. When we are weary of our ‘play’ we turn within and in longing seek that which we have always been. We recognize the God-within as our real Self and not the individual personal-self, our current life body data-collecting vehicle.

The means by which we come to realize our God Consciousness is also God Consciousness, because there is ‘nothing that exists and nothing that that not exist’ [SLJ] anywhere that is not God Consciousness.

We already are that which we seek! So as Swami Lakshmanjoo says, ‘then there is no need to realize anything, it is already realized.’ These kind of mind-cracking perplexing contradictions are wonderful and propel us beyond linear material-world thinking. You will come to love them.

The first verse of another Kashmir Shaivite text, the Pratyabhijnahridayam, resonates with this Shiva sutra. It uses a lovely metaphor to describe the Free Will of the Supreme Consciousness playing: ‘…the universe comes forth into being (literally opens its eyelids), and continues as existent, and when it withdraws its movement, the universe also disappears from view (literally shuts its eyelids)’ [JS].

Thus it is God’s Play – the ‘playfulness’ of the Oneness that conceals Itself, hides enfolded ubiquitous within this universe which is the appearance of temporal multiplicity we know as Life on the earth-plane.

Like lovers who have been separated and are intensely reunited, it is in this sense of Play (LILA), a sort of cosmic hide-and-seek, that the One sweetly reveals Itself to Itself over and over in varying ways throughout the endless Cycles of Time.

As the 14 Century Sufi poet Mahmud Shabistari said so beautifully - ‘Beneath the curtain of each atom lies concealed the life increasing beauty of the face of the Beloved.’



Pratyabhijnahridayam, The Secret of Self-Recognition, translated by Jaideva Singh, Sanskrit Text with English Translation Notes and Introduction; Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd. Delhi, 1963, 2003.

MAHMUD SHABISTARI: The Secret Garden, translated by John Pasha; The Octagon Press, London 1969.