Kaula or Kula describes a type of Hindu tantrism reckoned by Gavin Flood [Harvnb|Flood|1996, p. 166] to derive from
Kapalikaor "cremation ground" asceticism, and to divide into northern, eastern, southern and western schools across the subcontinent. The Kaula tradition is sometimes more simply divided into two main branches, Purva Kaula and Uttara Kaula. [ [http://www.advaitavedanta.co.uk/content/view/162/1/ Commentary on Saudarya Lahiri, Verse 32, 2008-01-17] ] The Kaula lineage is closely linked to the Siddhaand Nātha traditions. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 55]
The translation of the term "Kula" in English is considered difficult and has raised some problems for researchers. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 59] The basic meaning is "family", "group", "self contained unit". [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 100] This is explained by Flood as referring to the retinues of minor goddesses depicted in the schools' literature. [Harvnb|Flood|1996]
Philosophically the term is said to represent a unifying connectedness, beneath the various objects, processes and living entities of this world, which may be identified with these goddesses as aspects of the supreme deity, in some regions the god
Shiva, elsewhere a goddess. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 102] Another meaning sometimes given to the term "kaula" is that of a "group of people" engaged together in the practice of spiritual discipline.
Kaula practices are based on
tantra, closely related to the siddhatradition and shaktism. Kaula sects are noted for their extreme exponents who recommend the flouting of taboos and social mores as a means of liberation. Such practices were often later toned down to appeal to ordinary householders, as in Kaśmiri Śaivism. [Harvnb|Flood|1996, p. 166]
"Kaula" encompasses both daily life and mystical practices. Similarly to other tantric schools, it chooses a positive (affirmative) approach: instead of prescribing self-limitations and condemning various actions, it embraces such actions in a spiritual light. [Touched By Fire, The Ongoing Journey Of A Spiritual Seeker, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D., Rajmani Tigunait, page 188] Thus, sexuality, love, social life and artistic pursuits are considered vectors of spiritual evolution. The main focus in "Kaula" is on practical methods for attaining enlightenment, [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 14] rather than engaging in complex philosophical debate. Whatever is pleasant and positive can be integrated in its practice.
The principal means employed in the "Kaula" practice are: "the spiritual family", the practice of initiation
rituals, "the couple" (sexual rituals such as maithuna), "the body" (spiritual alchemyinside one's own body), "the energy" ( shakti) (controlled especially through the use of mantras and mystical phonemes) and "the consciousness" (seen as the epitome of one's whole being and of the universe itself). [Kundalini, Energy of the depths, p177-178] [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p.s 58, 61]
The first phase of development is linked to the attainment of a state of non-duality described as an "absorption into the spiritual heart",
nirvikalpa samadhior experiencing the "uncreated light" of consciousness ("prakāśa") [The Cultural Heritage of India, IAST|Haridāsa Bhaṭṭācāryya, Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Page 521] [Tantra: The Supreme Understanding: Discourses on the Tantric Way of Tilopa's, Osho, Page 19] (read a number of subjective accounts of this experience).
Group practices, which are restricted to the members of a "kaula" (family), [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 61] , include rituals, festivities, initiations and the secretive tantric sexual union. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 62] The purposes of this practice are: the initiation of novices, the expansion of consciousness [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 62] and expression of the bliss already attained as participants become more and more advanced. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 127]
The key to the effectiveness of group practice is held to reside in the harmony of minds and hearts of the participants. [Luce dei Tantra: Tantrāloka, Abhinavagupta, translation by Raniero Gnoli] When a compatible spiritual group is created, it can greatly accelerate the spiritual evolution of its members.
Abhinavaguptadeclares that such a group can enter a state of oneness and universal consciousness without effort. [ Tantralokaby AbhinavaguptaCap28.v373-v380] He explains this by the notion of reflection ("pratibimba"), a process of unification, an effortless overflow of spiritual energy. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 61]
The relation between a "Kaula's" parts is realized through mutual reflection. Reflection ("pratibimba") is used here in the sense of "containing an image of the other objects inside", a concept similar to that of the
hologram. The number of possible interactions and reflections between the members of a "Kaula" is much larger than the number of elements it contains. [Harvnb|Lakshmanjoo|1988, p. 29] Kashmir Saivism declares that each part is in fact "Akula" ("Shiva") in essence; [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 97] thus there is a connection between the parts through their common "Akula" substrate. As each part contains "Akula", in its essence, it automatically contains everything [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 59] - this is how the mutual reflection is said to be realized.
Almost half of the
Tantralokais dedicated to rituals, usually evoking the union of complementary sets such as man and woman, a faculty and its object or inhalation and exhalation. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 117] The practice of ritual may involve the construction of a mandala, [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 119] visualization of a goddess or group of goddesses ("Śakti"), [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 119] recitation ( japa), performed in a state of "rest inside the creative awareness" ("camatkāra"), [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 120] oblation into fire and its internalized version - the burning of the objects and means of knowledge into the "fire" of non-dual consciousness ("parāmarśa"). [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 123]
The power of a ritual lies in its repetition. A pure disciple will attain the supreme state even by simply staying for a short time in presence of a
guruwithout any instruction (see the article on shaktipat), but less prepared ones need reinforcement and gradual accumulation.
"Kaula" puts a special emphasis on the physical body in spiritual practice [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 59] "as a vessel of the Supreme" and, as such, not an obstacle tortured in ascetic practices. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 60] Repeated submergence into the state of
non-dualityis supposed to induce secondary effects on the physical body due to the activity of the spiritual energy ("śakti") and may be called tantric body alchemy (see internal alchemy). Starting from the expanded consciousness of the self ( atman), the body (and in the end, the exterior reality too) is infused with the experience of non-duality. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 60]
The non-dual, experienced initially only in consciousness, is extended to the whole body. The "kaula" adept will discover "kaulika" - the power (
siddhi) of identification with the Universal Consciousness experienced in the physical body, [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 6] generated spontaneously, without any effort (formal meditation, postures - asana, concentration - Dharanaand other forms of exertion in yoga). [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 34] This process is described as the descent of the energy of the non-dual consciousness into the physical. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 60] Then consciousness manifests as a free force, entering the senses, and producing extroverted samadhi. At this point, consciousness, mind, senses and physical body are "dissolved" into oneness, expanded into the spiritual light of consciousness.
As a consequence, any perception of the exterior reality becomes nondual. It becomes possible to live submerged in a continuous state of union with "Shiva" even while performing regular day to day activities. This form of extroverted, all inclusive
samadhiis the pinnacle of spiritual evolution, "bhairavi mudra", "jagadananda" or "bhava samadhi". The yogi experiences everything as pure light and ecstasy ("cit-ananda") and does not feel any difference between interior and exterior any more. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 60]
Yamala - the tantric couple
Abhinavagupta: "The couple ("yamala") is consciousness itself, the unifying emission and the stable abode. It is the absolute, the noble cosmic bliss consisting of both "Shiva" and "Shakti". It is the supreme secret of "Kula"; neither quiescent nor emergent, it is the flowing font of both quiescence and emergence." ( Tantraloka) [ Tantralokaby AbhinavaguptaCap. 29 Verse. 116-117a]
The sexual practices of the "Kaula" schools, also known as the "the secret ritual", are performed with a so called "external Shakti" (sexual partner) [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 114] as opposed to the purely meditative practices which involve only one's own spiritual energies (the interior "Shakti"). The role of the sexual "Kaula" ritual is to unite the couple, yogini (initiated woman) and siddha (initiated man), and induce one in the other a state of permanent awakening. [Kundalini, energy of the depths, Lilian Silburn, p. 160] This achievement is made possible by the intensity of their love. [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 45]
In their exalted state, the two become absorbed into the consciousness of the Self. Becoming united on all the levels, physical, astral, mental and even in their consciousness, they reconstitute the supreme couple of "Shiva" and "Shakti". [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 136]
The "Kaula" sacrifice is reserved for the few, the elite who can maintain a state of "Bhairava" (spiritual illumination) in sexual union. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 102] Other couples, even if they reproduce the ritual to the letter (as perceived from outside), if they do not attain the "Bhairava" consciousness, are merely engaging in a sexual act.
"Initiation by the mouth of the yogini("yoginī-vaktra")", is a method by which the adept unites with a purified "yoginī" (advanced female practitioner) and receives the unique experience of the illuminated consciousness. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 82] . He is to see her as both his lover and guru.
The energy generated during the tantric sexual act is considered a form of "subtle emission", while the act of ejaculation is considered a form of "physical emission". [See
Sexual sublimation, Ojasand Visarga] In Kashmir Shaivism, the energy of emission ("visarga śakti") is considered to be a form of "ānanda" (bliss).
Depending on the orientation of one's consciousness, introverted or extroverted, emission can be of two kinds: rested and risen. In "Śānta", the rested form of emission, focus is absorbed just on one's own Self in an act of transcendence. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 263] In "Udita", the risen form, the focus is projected on the Self (
Atman) of one's lover - a state associated with immanence. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 263]
"Santodita" - beyond "udita" and "śānta" - is the uniting form, cause of both "śānta" and "udita" emissions. "Santodita" is described as universal bliss ("cidānanda"), undivided consciousness, [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 261,263] "kaula" (the group of two as one) [Kundalini, energy of the depths, Lilian Silburn, p. 187] and an "outflow of the pulsation of "Shiva" and "Shakti". [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 268] This kind of translation from the physical act to the mental and to consciousness itself is a characteristic of the tantric world view.
Mantric meditation is the most common form of tantric practice. In the "Kaula" system, this practice is associated especially with the group of phonemes. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 62] [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 82] The 50 phonemes ("IAST|varṇa") of the
Sanskritalphabet are used as "seed" mantras denoting various aspects of consciousness("cit") and energy("śakti"). The group("kula") of Sanskrit phonemes form a complete description of reality, from the lowest("earth") to the highest ("Śiva" consciousness) level. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 63]
The ritual "setting out" of the phonemes imitates the emanation of the cosmos from the supreme I-consciousness of "Śiva". [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 81] In another ritual, the phonemes are identified with specific zones of the body through the practice of "nyāsa", infusing the body with spiritual energy. This mystical state of culminates in the "kaula" of the body - perfection of the ensemble of organs, senses and mind - and such a being is known as a
siddha(accomplished one). [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 117] The adept attains a form of bodily enlightenment where, through the power of mantras, one comes to recognize the divinities within the body. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 60]
Initiation into mantric practice is based on a transfer of power and the link (lineage) of the heart. The word or phoneme is not useful in itself, as it does not have efficiency unless the disciple received his initiation from an authentic master. [Harvnb|Dupuche|2003, p. 80]
Applications of the term
While the manifest reality is described as "Kula" (a variant form of the term "Kaula"), the unifying factor, the Deity, is termed "Akula". [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 59] "A" means "beyond", or "non", thus "Akula" is "beyond kula". As the substrate of all manifestation is "Akula", such is also the basis of any "Kula". So "Kula" families are united by a common substrate, the transcendent "Akula".
In every one of its instances, on various levels of the universe, "Kula" is a contraction ("IAST|saṃkoca") of totality, [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 59] thus in each "Kula" there is a contracted form of the universe, a contracted form of "Shiva" ("Akula") himself. Such an affirmation has been popularized under slogans like "Consciousness is Everything" in some recent Kashmir Shaivism related publications for the large public. [The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism, Consciousness is Everything, Swami Shankarananda]
Often at the highest level of reality "Shiva" and "Shakti" form the supreme couple, or the ultimate "Kula" (family). [Harvnb|Pandit|2003, p. 109] "Shiva", under various names ("anuttara" - absolute, "prakāśa" - uncreated light, "cit" - supreme consciousness, "Akula" - beyond the groups of manifestation) and "Shakti", under a similar plethora or names ("Vimarsa" - reflection in consciousness, "Visarga" - creative energy that emits the Universe, "Kundalini" - fundamental energy of the body, "spanda" - atemporal vibration, "Kauliki" - that which is "sprung" in "Kula"). The two are always in indissoluble union in a perfect state of bliss. Ultimately there is no difference between "Shiva" and "Shakti", they are different aspects of the same reality. The supreme "family" by definition spans both manifestation and transcendence.
In Kashmir Shaivism, Supreme Consciousness ("Cit", identical to "Akula") is considered to be the substrate of manifestation. Consciousness is the ultimate principle, the
monadof the universe, always present as substrate in every external object, be it gross (physical), subtle (mental) or subtlest (relating to the causal bodyor soul). Thus external world, body, mind and soul are considered kindred parts of the whole, concretisation of the supreme "consciousness". [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 5, 31] From this perspective, Kulais the totality of manifestation, in gross, subtle and supreme form. [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 34] Even if "Cit" is not directly involved in the process of manifestation (as it is said to be unmanifest), [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 137] it is always present in every possible facet of manifestation. [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 78] Thus, it is said to be the substantial cause of manifestation (manifestation is made of "Cit", "like pots are made of clay") and also the efficient cause ("like the potter is the efficient cause in the activity of creating pots"). [Harvnb|Muller-Ortega|1989, p. 72]
A closely related concept is "Kaulika", the binding force of the "Kula". The term literally means "sprung in "Kula". [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 34] "Kaulika" is another name for "Shakti", the spiritual energy. "Shakti", as described in Kashmir Shaivism, does a paradoxical thing - she creates the universe, with all its diversity and at the same time remains identical to "Shiva", the absolute transcendent. Thus, "Kaulika" is an energy both of spirit and matter. Bridging the two, "Kaulika" creates the path of evolution for consciousness from ego to spirit.
The manifestation of "Kaulika" proceeds from the absolute ("anuttara") in the process of cosmic creation ("mahasristi"). [Harvnb|Singh|2005, p. 77] Thus "Kaulika" should not be seen as mere energy, or just the link between matter and spirit, but also identical to the absolute. Even if she is the dynamic aspect of the absolute, she does not rank lower than "Shiva", her divine consort.
*Citation | last = Dupuche | first = John R. | title = Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual, as Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka | publisher = Motilal Banarsidass Publishers | year = 2003 | isbn = 8120819799
*Citation | last = Flood | first = Gavin D. | title = An Introduction to Hinduism | publisher = Cambridge University Press | location = Cambridge | year = 1996 | isbn = 0521438780
*Citation | last = Lakshmanjoo | first = Swami | title = Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme | publisher = SUNY Press | year = 1988 | isbn = 0887065759
*Citation | last = Muller-Ortega | first = Paul | title = The Triadic Heart of Siva | publisher = State University of New York Press | location = Albany | year = 1989 | isbn = 0887067875
*Citation | last = Pandit | first = Moti Lal | title = Trika Saivism of Kashmir | publisher = Munshiram Manoharlal | location = New Delhi | year = 2003 | isbn = 8121510821
*Citation | last = Singh | first = Jaideva | title = Paratrisika Vivarana by Abhinavagupta: The Secret of Tantric Mysticism | coauthors = Swami Lakshmanjee, Bettina Baumer | publisher = Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (Pvt. Ltd) | year = 2005 | isbn = 8120804724
While Kaula is primarily an oral tradition and does not place a high value on the creation of texts, there are some texts associated with the tradition. Muller-Ortega, following Pandey, summarizes the literature of the Kashmiri school as follows: [Muller-Ortega (1989), pp. 57-58]
* [http://www.nathorder.org/wiki/Nath_Kula_Kaula Nath Kula Kaula]
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