Trika Shaivism

Doctrines This is a Shaiva sect found in North India, especially Kashmir. It is also known as the Kashmiri school. However, it should be made clear that the term Kashmir Shaivism does not refer only to the Trika sect. It is composed of two radically opposed schools, the Trika and Krama with nondualistic traditions and the Shaiva Siddhanta which is dualistic. And in Kashmir itself, the dominant Shaiva doctrine is Shaiva Siddhanta, while the principal Shaiva cult is the worship of Svacandra Bhairava, which is a form of Shaivism between the two extremes of nonduality and duality (see Kashmir Shaivism, Shaiva Siddhanta, and Svacandra Bhairavas).
Trika Shaivism incorporated Tantric and Buddhist influences and adopted a monistic metaphysical doctrine similar to Advaita Vedanta (nondualist). The doctrines of Trika Shaivism have five main elements. First is the doctrine of the co-essentiality of the trika or triad. This constitutes the anu or nara, the individual, shakti, cosmic power, and Shiva, the ground of shakti. Second is the worship of a trika of the goddesses Para, Parapara, and Apara, who are associated with Kali. Worship of the three goddesses is equated with liberating awareness of the unity in pure consciousness. Third comes ascent through the three means of salvation, anava, ritual and yogic action, sakta, moving from intellectually perceived reality to self-transcendent revelation, and sambhava, inner self-realisation. Fourth is the hierarchy of seven levels of the contraction of the self from Shiva-mode to the individual. Lastly, the Trika claims to be a summation and key to all Shaiva orthodox and heterodox traditions.
Abhinavagupta, the greatest thinker of the sect, considered the Malinivijayottara Tantra the fundamental scripture of the Trika and the essence of multi-branched Shaivism. In his Malinivijayavarttika he expanded this claim and argued for paramadvayavada, supreme nondualism, with the Absolute being self-represented in both plurality and unity. The Trika was shown to be the embodiment in revelation of this Absolute, transcending and containing the dichotomy between orthodox (dualist) and heterodox (nondualist) aspects of Shaivism which were confronting each other in the early eleventh century CE. Abhinavagupta's great Tantraloka expounded all the theoretical, yogic, and ritual aspects of the Trika. His Paratrimsikavivarana studies the Kaula cult of the Trika with its worship of the goddess Tripurasundari or Srividya.
With the spread of Abhinavagupta's lineage to Tamil Nadu, the belief was propagated that Abhinavagupta was not a mortal but an avatara, incarnation, of Shiva.

History Trika Shaivism flourished in Kashmir from about 900 CE. Though all the known texts of Trika Shaivism come from Kashmir or are inspired by Kashmiri writers, it is doubtful that the Trika tradition originated in Kashmir. There is therefore a pre-Kashmirian phase of development which can be seen in the Siddhayogesvarimata Tantra, the Malinivijayottara Tantra, and the Tantrasadbhava Tantra. This early period was before 800 CE and was principally concerned with the trika of goddesses, who were associated with eight mother goddesses embodied in kulas, clans, of yoginis, supernatural-human females possessed by the mother goddesses.
A second phase of development incorporated Kali, first immanent in the trika of goddesses and then together with the pantheon of Krama Shaivism. Krama Shaivism was a group of mystical Kali cults which originated in Uddiyana (modern Swat) and Kashmir before the ninth century. The idealist metaphysics of Krama Shaivism had an important influence on Trika Shaivism.
From about 900 CE came the third phase of Trika Shaivism, characterised by the writings of Abhinavagupta, the great Kashmirian Shaiva theologian. Abhinavagupta lived from about 975 to 1025 CE. His father Vimala and his mother Narasimhagupta conceived him in Kaula ritual. He was descended from Atrigupta, a brahman scholar brought to Kashmir by King Lalitaditya (c. 724 to 760). His father was a learned Shaiva and trained his son in grammar, logic, and hermeneutics. His mother died when he was a child and he considered this the start of his spiritual progress. Becoming filled with devotion to Shiva, he gave up thoughts of marriage and led the life of a student in the homes of Shaiva scholars.
Abhinavagupta was a profound influence on Shaivism in Kashmir. He became famous all over India for his theory on the nature of aesthetic experience which he saw as linked between worldly awareness and the inner bliss of enlightened consciousness. Aesthetic study was a traditional Shaiva subject in Kashmir because of the importance of dance and music in liturgies and the aestheticism of the Kaula mystical cults. Abhinavagupta's disciple Ksemaraja popularised his works in simpler writings.
After Ksemaraja, Abhinavagupta's lineage spread to Tamil Nadu, where Sanskrit works by Tamils on Trika and associated forms of Shaivism were produced from the eleventh to the nineteenth century, thus maintaining the Kashmir tradition. The main centre for this was the great Shaiva temple of Cidambaram. The Trika tradition in Tamil Nadu influenced the cult of Shri Vidya. The Kashmirian tradition of the Shri Vidya reached Tamil Nadu in the twelfth century and was adopted by the Trika. The Trika became through this more a mixture of metaphysics and soteriological theory rather than a system of Tantric worship.
During the centuries of Muslim rule the tradition of Tantric ritual was kept alive by the priests, but it has declined to the point where today it faces extinction.

Symbols The trika of goddesses, Para, Parapara, and Apara, are Kali in her immanent form. Para is depicted in a benevolent form, while Parapara and Apara are shown as wild and terrifying, wearing a garland of skulls, and brandishing the khatvanga, the skull-topped staff of the Kapalikas, a now extinct Shaiva sect. For the symbolism of Kali see Devotion to Kali. The associated mother goddesses appearing as yoginis have both supernatural and human symbolism.
Within the Trika is a variety of erotico-mystical Kaulism associated with Matsyendranath (also known as Macchanda), who is typically shown as a yogin sitting on a fish and who is also an important figure with the Gorakhnathis (see separate entry).
Krama ritual plays an important part in the yearly Sivaratri festival.

Adherents These are concentrated in Kashmir and Tamil Nadu. In Kashmir they are mainly brahmans.

Main Centre
 Kashmir in North India and Cidambaram, Tamil Nadu, South India.