Cosmology in Kashmir Shaivism
There is now, and has been for sometime, a lot of discussion about the existence of Extra Terrestrial beings (ET’s), and the possibility that for many centuries ET’s they have visited the planet earth.
Today the internet is rife with videos of UFO sightings, and confessions of high ranking officials, most of whom testify that aliens have not only visited, but some in fact may be living amongst us.
The Vedas, ancient Hindu poems, thought to be the oldest of all the Indian texts, describe Vimanas of various shapes and sizes: the “ahnihotra vimana” with two engines, the “elephant-vimana” with more engines, and other types named after the kingfisher, ibis and other animals.
Unfortunately, Vimanas, like most scientific discoveries, were ultimately used for war. Atlanteans used their flying machines, “Vailixi,” a similar type of aircraft, to literally try and subjugate the world, it would seem, if Indian texts are to be believed. The Atlanteans, known as “Asvins” in the Indian writings, were apparently even more advanced technologically than the Indians, and certainly of a more war-like temperament. Although no ancient texts on Atlantean Vailixi are known to exist, some information has come down through esoteric, “occult” sources which describe their flying machines. Similar, if not identical to Vimanas, Vailixi were generally “cigar shaped” and had the capability of manoeuvring underwater as well as in the atmosphere or even outer space.
This article is not to dispel or credit any of the above, but to give a different perspective on teachings that for thousands of years have accepted the premise that, ‘we are not alone in this multifarious universe’.
Although the ancient Vedic literature have given ample detail in their descriptions of the Cosmos, none have looked so closely at the subject of Cosmology as the Svacchanda Tantra of Kashmir Shaivism.
Chapter ten of this ancient text, first penned some 1,500 years ago, gives a detailed description of the worlds and their overlords (cosmic rulers) which make up the known universe of the Shaiva tradition. The illustrious philosopher/saint/yogi, Abhinavagupta (10-11CE) drew extensively from the Svacchanda Tantra while relating his magnum opus the ‘Tantrāloka’ a treaty which shed light (āloka) on the all the important points of knowledge contained within the ancient Tantras.
Abhinavagupta devotes an entire chapter of his Tantrāloka (8th) to the subject of Cosmology based almost entirely on the verses of the Svacchanda. Therein he describes one hundred and eighteen worlds in great detail, and not only gives the size of each of these realms, but also the names of the inhabitants (an assortment of asuras, devas and devīs), including the overlords (Rudras) who take great pride in presiding over their respective domains. Abhinavagupta, the true scientist that he was, admits that in his meditative state he experienced all of these worlds, after which he humbly concluded:
“I have experienced one hundred and eighteen worlds in my samādhi, but I feel, beyond this there must be more worlds. So there is no limit to Lord Shiva’s creation.”
A verse from the Shaiva texts amply describes Abhinavagupta experience:
“I bow to that Shiva who is bodhābdhim, the great ocean of consciousness, where in that ocean the all-knowing Brahmā, Viṣṇū, Rudra, Īśvara and Sadāśiva are seen as mere bubbles.”
In his translation of Tantrāloka 8, Swami Lakshmanjoo (1907-1991), the last living exponent of the oral tradition of Kashmir Shaivism, mentions that our world or loka (i.e., our earth including the solar system) is one of sixteen similar worlds which exist within the circle of the earth element. He added that our earth was the sixth in a structural hierarchy, where there are ten worlds above our and five below our known solar system.
After studying these Tantras in detail, Swami Lakshmanjoo spent years meditating on the reality of these abstruse theories, many of which were shrouded in mystery. Following in the footsteps of the great Shaiva master, Swami Lakshmanjoo admitted that he too, experienced the reality of the 118 worlds, just as Abhinavagupta had done some 1000 years earlier. In his translations, Swamiji added some personal experiences which were not contained in the original texts.
One might ask, “How is it that yogis, such as Abhinavagupta, Swami Lakshmanjoo, were able to experience the 118 worlds while sitting passively in meditation (samādhi). The answer to this is found in the Kula System of Kashmir, which not only recognizes the individual as a microcosm of the macrocosm, but also gives the techniques of how to directly experience this reality. It is based on the experience of what is termed cit kuṇḍalinī, the rise of consciousness, to a level where the yogi directly experience that all things are contained in one point (the bindu point, analogues with the super-particle of quantum physics), and that that point can be found in all things. Here is a mystical point, well known in Indian philosophy, which transcends both space and time, and yet includes all space and time within itself. Hence, the 118 worlds are contained in the bindu point, and the bindu point is the source of the 118 worlds. Here lies the source of time travel, though it requires many years of meditation, or possibly a number of lifetimes to achieve, or simply the descent of grace from Shiva Himself.
The Vedic scriptures, like the Shaiva texts, recognise that mount Meru forms the central piece of the known cosmos. But, for the Shaivas, this mystical golden mountain, exists only in the centre of the earth circle, which itself has a diameter measuring in light years. The Tantrāloka describes Meru as a huge golden mountain surrounded by numerous mountain ranges which, though dwarfed in size compared to Meru, measure on average 100,000 yojanas in height. On mount Meru there are eight great townships inhabited by divine beings. In these places the inhabitants enjoy all sensual pleasures to their hearts content. Swamiji adds that, “this golden mountain is where people residing in this earth go . . .”
Surrounding these mountain ranges there is a great salt water ocean, and in eight directions (N, S, E, W, and in between) there are eight great islands surrounded by innumerable smaller islands. The life expectancy of the inhabitants of these islands ranges from anywhere between 9,000 to 13,000 years.
There are detailed descriptions of all the areas, mountain ranges, islands and oceans surrounding mount Meru, but what is most interesting to us should be that many hundreds of thousands of yojanas to the south of Meru we come to the province of King Bhārata, who rules over nine islands (dvipas), which are the continents of the planet earth. The great King Bhārata bequeathed eight of these islands to his sons, giving what is today known as India to his daughter Kanya.
In his translation, Swami Lakshmanjoo adds that the word Bhārata means ‘development’ and that the domains ruled by King Bhāratā were considered to be specially conducive to human development. He added that India was first and foremost for the development of consciousness and inner spirituality, whereas the other eight sections were considered best for material development. The text mentions that the maximum life expectance of the inhabitants of Bhāratā’s kingdom was 100 years.
Moving further south from our solar system there are a number of oceans and islands, some of which are inhabited by what one would best describe as the ancient cave men of our own prehistoric history. The text states, “those people are always dirty, and they have long hair and long beards. They live in caves, and eat leaves, and blades of grass, and their lifespan is not more than 80 years.”
Returning to our subject of Extra Terrestrials, it would make perfect sense that the inhabitants of some of these more advanced worlds (lokas) or galaxies, would have superior technologies for their transportation. When asked if these were actual physical worlds Swami Lakshmanjoo humorously replied, “you can reach there, but you would need a special saucer where no fuel is required. Otherwise your fuel will exhaust and you will get finished.”
In the mid seventies, there were a lot of UFO sightings in Switzerland, many surrounding the headquarters of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation Program. When asked if flying saucers were real, Maharishi replied, “No, they are not! but if they come and offer you to go for a ride you should refuse, and just go on with your meditation practice.” Then the Maharishi added, “but you should especially stay away from the ‘cigar shaped’ ones,” after which he burst into laughter.
THE BIG PICTURE
In the final analysis, one must look at the Shaiva perspective, in that the tradition from which Swami Lakshmanjoo teaches is a purely Monistic. In brief, though one in essence, only Shiva and his energy Shakti are responsible for the creation of the universe and everything that exists therein. Shiva, as consciousness, is the space in which everything exist. Shakti, as bliss and energy, constitutes the infinite diversity that fills that space.
In this cosmic play of concealing (tirodhana) and revealing (anugraha or grace), Shiva covers himself with his own Shakti, in order to focus totally on the mundane enjoyments of worldly life through the limited senses, at least until such a time that He graces Himself with the knowledge that there is much more to life than these limited senses can perceive.
So, are UFOs and Extraterrestrials real? I leave the answer up to the reader.
What is most encouraging is that if you are reading this then you are presently living in the kingdom of Bhāratā (planet earth), which the text states emphatically, is the most conducive place in which to achieve liberation (mokṣa), i.e., enlightenment in the body. For the aliens who may be reading this, I am sure this knowledge will be liberating in itself.