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Pratyabhijñ? (Sanskrit: , romanized: pratyabhijñ?, lit. 're-cognition') is an idealistic, monistic, and theistic school of philosophy in Kashmir Shaivism which originated in the ninth century CE. The term Trika was used by Abhinavagupta to represent the whole of Kashmir Shaivism, or to designate the Pratyabhijñ? system.
The name of the system is derived from its most famous work, vara-pratyabhijñ?-k?rik? by Utpaladeva.:254 Etymologically, pratyabhijñ? is formed from prati- ("re-") + abhi- ("closely") + *jñ? ("to know"), so the meaning is "direct knowledge of one's self," "recognition.":117
The central thesis of this philosophy is that everything is absolute consciousness, termed ?iva, and it is possible to "re-cognise" this fundamental reality and be freed from limitations, identified with ?iva and immersed in bliss. Thus, the slave (pa?u: the human condition) shakes off the fetters (pa) and becomes the master (pati: the divine condition).:254
The Pratyabhijñ? system had a period of intense development between the ninth and the eleventh centuries,:409 with a lineage of masters and disciples who wrote treatises and mystical poetry.
The founder of the Pratyabhijñ? school was Somananda (875-925 CE); his work ?ivadi is the basis of the system.:3 He was followed by his son and disciple Utpaladeva (900-950 CE) who wrote the most important treatise of the system, vara-pratyabhijñ?-k?rik?,:3:254 a philosophical treatise discussing the fundamental doctrine of the school and comparing it with various rival schools, analysing the differences and refuting them in the style of Buddhist logic. The name of the school is derived from the title of this work; in the rest of India, the whole Kashmiri Shaivite philosophy was sometimes referred to by the name Pratyabhijñ? stra.
Another important master of this school is Abhinavagupta, who carried out a synthesis between various schools of Kashmir Shaivism in his magnum opus, Tantr?loka;:3 Abhinavagupta also wrote two commentaries on vara-pratyabhijñ?-k?rik?. The disciple of Abhinavagupta, Kshemaraja, wrote a digest of the Pratyabhijñ? philosophy called Pratyabhijñ?-h?daya,:3:305 The Essence of Re-cognition, which is the most popular introduction to the system.
With regard to the problem of how the world comes by, Utpaladeva rejects the Advaita Ved?nta theory of eternal and independent ignorance (avidy?), which affirms that brahman (the absolute consciousness) is being affected by avidy? (eternal ignorance) by superposition, with a resulting enslavement of the inactive, subject consciousness to worldly life. In Kashmir Shaivism, avidy? (ignorance) and its cosmic aspect, m?y? (illusion), are nothing but ?akti, the power of ?iva; as ?akti, they are real for limited beings, but are simple manifestations of consciousness for ?iva.:25
In Advaita Ved?nta, with regard to the limited being (j?va), all activity belongs to the intellect (buddhi); in Kashmir Shaivism, activity is also ascribed to ?tman, who is not inert, but in possession of the five-fold actions of creation, maintenance, dissolution, occultation, and grace. A liberated j?va, in Advaita Ved?nta, is freed from the universe--but here, the universe appears as the real I-consciousness, a mass of consciousness and bliss.:25
In Advaita Vedanta, consciousness (cit) is only light (praka), but in Pratyabhijñ? it is also activity, doer-ship.:24
In the context of Kashmiri Shaivism, Pratyabhijñ? is sometimes classified as mbhavop?ya (the path of Shambhu, i.e., ?iva), and at other times as a?up?ya (the non-path). ?ambhavopaya and Anupaya are classes of practices related to consciousness directly; by contrast, the lower two classes of practice are ?aktopaya--the path of ?akti, which relates to the mind--and Anavopaya--the path of the limited being, which relates to the physical body. Thus, Pratyabhijñ? is considered to be the shortest, most direct path to liberation, an evolution[discuss] based on consciousness alone.
Even though it shares the same practices relating to the ascension of kundalini in the middle channel (sushumna nadi), Pratyabhijñ? claims instantaneous progression, while the Krama school maintains there is gradual progression.:362
With regard to the Spanda school, Pratyabhijñ? is more philosophical, putting the accent on instantaneous realisation (recognition) of the Ultimate, while the Spanda school is more practical (as per its fundamental text, Spandak?rik?), and puts its accent on the vibrating energy aspect of consciousness.
The most important difference between Pratyabhijñ? and Buddhism is related to the ontological ultimate: while Buddhism rejects the concepts of soul (atman) and god (vara), the Kashmiri Shaivites put them at the top of their world model.
In his philosophical treatise vara-pratyabhijñ?-k?rik?, Utpaladeva also rejects the vasana theory (the dream model of the world) of the Sautr?ntika school of Buddhist philosophy; he suggests another model for idealismiva, who is pure consciousness, manifests all objects internally, by virtue of his free will, sv?tantrya, and the objects appear as real and external to limited beings. He appeals to the analogy of the famed materialisation of objects by advanced yogins, purely by using their psychic powers.
?bh?sa (?- - slight, bh?sa - manifestation) - i.e. appearance in a limited way, or "slight manifestation of ?iva" :18 is the Pratyabhijñ? theory of manifestation. The supreme consciousness (samvit) is like a mirror and the universe is like a reflection appearing in it. The mirror analogy is often used to explain abh?sa because a mirror, like consciousness, can contain an infinity of different images without being itself affected.
Pratyabhijñ? affirms that the universe appears as an ?bh?sa in the mirror of supreme consciousness, samvit, but unlike a physical mirror which needs an external object to form a reflection, the image in the mirror of samvit is projected by samvit itself - this activity is called sv?tantrya, power of will. In other words, the universe appears inside samvit because ?iva so desires.
Advaita Vedanta proposes a somewhat similar theory of universe as an illusion superimposed on consciousness. The difference in Pratyabhijñ? is that the cause of manifestation is not an eternal separate principle of ignorance (avidy?), but the will of ?iva, and the creation itself is ontologically real, not just an illusion. It is made of ?bh?sas, which are nothing but the ideation of ?iva appearing as empirical objects.:19
Paradoxically, even though ?bh?sas have the nature of consciousness, they also exist externally on account of being manifested through the occultation power (maya) by ?iva. An advanced meditator is capable of seeing the world as ?bh?sa, a flash of consciousness (cit) and bliss (?nanda), identical with his own self (?tman) and non-differentiated (abheda). In other words, the light of consciousness shines from within the object of perception, as an intuition, a super-human direct kind of vision.
If the universe is contemplated from the point of view of manifestation, it appears as ?bh?sa, but when contemplated from the point of view of the Ultimate Reality, it appears as sv?tantrya. Sv?tantrya is the complementary concept of ?bh?sa accounting for the initial impulse of manifestation. The theory of sv?tantrya affirms that ?iva, the fundamental Reality, appears as distinct subjects and objects, but this does not conceal his real nature.:17 Thus, the free will of ?iva, which is absolute unity, is to manifest, to create multiplicity. This impulse to create is ?iva's playful nature (lil?).
The ?bh?sa concept focuses on the essential nature of manifestation. In order to analyze in detail the nature of stuff (tattva - literally "that-ness") the Pratyabhijñ? system appropriated the 25 tattva ontology of Samkhya and improved on it by expanding the upper tattvas. Instead of Spirit (Purusha) and Nature (Prakriti), Kashmir Shaivism has five pure tattvas representing the Ultimate Reality and then six more representing the occultation process (m?y?) which translates the non-dual pure Reality to time and space limited world and its subjects.
The soul (jiv?tman) is the projection of ?iva in manifestation. When taking on the five limitations (kañcuka) the infinite spirit appears as integrated in space and time, with limited powers of action and knowledge and a sense of incompleteness.
These five constrictions are the result of the action of an impurity called ava m?la. Its function is to make the unlimited appear as limited and severed from the whole. This does not mean that j?v?tman is limited, it just appears so on account of ignorance. J?v?tman is not created or born, but rather has the same status as ?iva, performing on a small scale the same actions that ?iva performs on a universal scale - creation, maintenance, dissolution, occultation and grace. However, his powers are circumscribed by m?las.
In order to open j?v?tman towards external objects it is placed within the subtle body, also known as the mental apparatus or puryaaka - the eight gated fortress of the soul. The eight gates are the five elements - earth, water, fire, air, aether plus the sensorial mental (manas), ego (ahamk?ra) and intellect (buddhi).
J?v?tman is further limited by two more impurities, in addition to the first one, ava m?la - the limitation of atomicity. Through the next impurity, m?y?ya m?la, things appear as dual / differentiated. The limited subject, j?v?tman, is immersed in a world full of external objects, in a fundamental duality between self and non-self.
Furthermore, through the third impurity - k?rma m?la - the subject has the illusion that he is the doer, though, limited in power. Atman, by contrast, when acts, is identified with ?iva and acts as a part of ?iva.
That is why the limited soul is described as enslaved (pa?u) while ?iva is the master (pati). By purification of the three impurities the limited soul too can recognize (Pratyabhijñ?) his real nature, becoming pati himself.
The m?la (meaning "dirt" or "impurity")  theory states that the infinite self, atman, is reduced and limited by three forces produced by ?iva. ?iva, by exercising his free will - sv?t?ntrya, takes contraction upon himself and manifests as countless atoms of consciousness (cida?u - consciousness quantas). Cida?u are enwrapped by material vestment.
As discussed above, the three malas are ava m?la - the limitation of smallness, m?y?ya m?la - the limitation of illusion and k?rma m?la - limitation of doership. K?rma m?la exists in the physical body, m?y?ya m?la in the subtle body, and ava m?la in the causal body. ava m?la affects the spirit and contracts the will, m?y?ya m?la affects the mind and creates duality, k?rma m?la affects the body and creates good and bad actions. They correspond to individuality, mind and body.
Of the three limitations, only the first one, ava m?la, which is the basis of the other two, is impossible to surpass through effort alone, without the help of divine grace (?aktip?t). ava m?la is manifested as residual impressions existing in the causal body (subconscious mind). It is the combined effect of the five limitations (kañcuka) taken together, the gateway from limited towards the unlimited, from the pure-impure (bheda-abheda) world of the ego towards the pure reality of the first five tattvas, culminating with ?iva and ?akti.
M?y?ya m?la manifests as the mind. In Pratyabhijñ?, the mind is seen as the root of illusion. The concept of mind here is different from Buddhism. In Buddhism, mind collates the aspect of awareness. Here, it is only related to the activity of thought forms, emotions, ego and the five senses. Thus, all cognitions being limited perceptions of the absolute, are illusions, on account of containing a sense of duality.
K?rma m?la manifests the physical body. Its essence is limitation of the power of action and the illusion of individual agency, the effect of which is the accumulation of karma in the causal body.
The maturity of malas of a person is related to the level of grace (?aktip?t) he is able to receive. With dedicated practice, k?rma m?la and m?yiya m?la can be surpassed, but then the practitioner must put his fate in the hands of ?iva, as ?iva alone can bestow the grace of lifting ava m?la and helping him recognize (pratyabhijñ?) his essential nature.
In Pratyabhijñ?, the concept of liberation (mok?a) is the recognition (pratyabhijñ?) of the original, innate awareness of self in which all this universe appears as ?iva-consciousness. That liberated being also attains what is called cid-?nanda (consciousness-bliss). In its highest form, this bliss is known as jagad-?nanda, literally meaning the bliss (?nanda) of the whole world (jagat).:27
In jagad-?nanda the universe appears as the Self (?tman). In a practical way the definition says that, when there is no need to sit in meditation for sam?dhi, that is jagad-?nanda, because then nothing except the supreme consciousness (samvit) is perceived. The mind rests in the unlimited consciousness:354 the inside becomes outside and vice versa, and there is a sense of oneness and total immersion. No matter what the liberated being is doing (eating, walking, even sleeping), he experiences bliss of the deepest level.
The purpose of Pratyabhijñ? is the recognition of the ?iva nature of the world (and oneself). In order to achieve that, it is necessary to induce a modified state of consciousness through the use of ?akti. ?akti, loosely translated as energy, is the dynamic aspect of ?iva, the link between finite (the human subject) and infinite (?iva). Thus comes about the fundamental principle: "Without the help of ?akti, pratyabhijñ? is impossible".
In order to awaken ?akti, the practice of "unfoldment of the middle" is prescribed. The middle has multiple meanings here: in its most basic form, it refers to the psychic channel passing through the spine (su?umn? n?d?) which is physically the central axis of the body. Unfoldment in the su?umn? n?d? is achieved by focusing the ascending breath (prana) and descending breath (apana) inside it. Thus, the two opposing tendencies being fused together a state of non-differentiation is achieved and the Kundalini energy ascends.
Another meaning of the "middle" is that of void or emptiness, but it does not refer to a lack of cognition, rather, it is a lack of duality in cognition. There are three principal manifestations of the void in the body: the lower one - void of the heart - associated with heart chakra, the second one is the intermediary void associated with the channel su?umn? n?d? and the third void is called "supreme" and associated with the crown chakra. To unfold these three voids entails a number of practices of focusing and surrender of consciousness in those three places.
A third meaning of "middle" is "the state which exists in-between cognitions, when one thought has ended and another one has not yet begun". These moments are considered essential for the revelation of the true nature of the mind. The usual practices are: dual thought destruction (vikalpa-k?aya), withdrawing of the cognitive energies into the heart (?akti-sa?koca), expansion of non-dual awareness into the external perceptions (?akti-vik?sa) and generating hiatus moments in thinking, when the pure awareness of the Self might be easier to apprehend (vaha-ccheda).:4:30
Let us review a few of the most important practices in more detail:
Pañca-k?tya is a general practice which underlies all the other practices. An essential feature of Kashmir Shaivism is the concept of activity inside the ultimate consciousness. ?iva acts, and his most important actions are five in number: creation, maintenance, dissolution, occultation and grace. But the limited beings are identical to ?iva, as nothing but ?iva exists, so, they too have the same five actions, on a limited scale.
These five actions are the object of meditation. They are associated with all the stages of cognition: creation is the initiation of a perception or thought, maintenance is dwelling on it, dissolution is returning of consciousness in its center. Then, the last two actions are associated with the movement towards duality and non-duality:30
The purpose of the meditation on the five actions is their dissolution into the void. This process is described with such metaphors as "hathapaka" meaning violent digestion, devouring something whole, in one gulp and "alamgrasa" - complete consumption of the experience.
In practice, a state of non-duality (Turiya) is over-imposed over the normal cognitions of daily life. Pratyabhijñ? is not focused on formal practice, but rather it is a philosophy of life. All moments of life are good for pañca-k?tya practice, as all cognitions can lead to the revelation of the Self. As experiences accumulate into the subject, they are to be burned into sameness. Through this device the karmic element is eliminated from one's actions, or, in other words, duality is digested out of experiences.
This process is one of microscopic, moment by moment noticing of experience and reframing it into the perspective of the non-dual subject. All experiences tend to leave subconscious traces, especially the negative ones. Such experiences are reduced to a "seed form", to spring forth again into existence, becoming memories or patterns of behavior. Whenever blocks arise in life, one should know they are just inside his consciousness and perform hathapaka to dissolve them.
This is in no way an analytical or dry activity. As this practice advances, a feeling of spontaneous delight (camatkara), not unlike an artistic experience, consumes the object of the experience spontaneously, as it appears. The body itself it charged with an intense state of bliss and consciousness is expanded beyond duality. In this state the aim of Pratyabhijñ? is realized inside the purified body and mind of the practitioner.
The most direct application of pañca-k?tya (the observation of the five actions of consciousness) is Vikalpa Kshaya, literally meaning "dissolution of thoughts". It is an activity by which the dualizing content of cognitions is dissolved into Atman, which is nondual by excellence. What remains is called avikalpa, that is, pure awareness.
A similar concept is citta-v?tti-nirodha  - the cessation of mental fluctuations. This verse is the famous definition of yoga from Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. There is also similarity with Vipasana, the Zen and Dzogchen traditions.
By focusing on the pure awareness substrate of cognition instead of the external objects, the practitioner reaches illumination. Dualizing thought constructs must be eliminated and in their place the light and ecstasy of pure awareness shines as the real nature of cognition.
Repeating the gesture of vikalpa-k?aya with all thoughts, as they appear, there is a gradual transformation at the subconscious level (causal body), leading towards identity with ?iva. Thus, the process resembles the pruning of the weeds in a garden.
Vikalpa-k?aya is also the classical technique for calming the agitated mind. In order to capture the underlying consciousness on the surface of which vikalpas have their play, the yogi enters a state of surrender, or, in other words an "alert passivity", because the use of force in this case would only lead to more mental agitation.:31
As vikalpas are being consumed in the light of consciousness, ?nanda also appears. An accumulation of repeated experiences of identification with ?tman in a state of intoxication with bliss form the foundation for stable sam?dhi.
A number of practical suggestions are offered in the Pratyabhijñ? texts: to concentrate on dvadasanta (above the crown chakra), to enter the void that exists between the moment one thought ends and another appears, or similarly, on the space existing between inhalation and exhalation  and to concentrate on an intense artistic emotion.
Vaha-cheda (cutting the two vital currents, pra and ap?na) leads to illumination by resting the ascending and descending vayus in the heart. By bringing a cessation to the dualizing activity of pra and ap?na, equilibrium is reached, and in this superior condition the true nature of the heart shines forth. A cryptic indication is to mentally pronounce consonants such as "k" without the supporting vowel ("a"). This paradoxical concept acts as a mechanism to induce a moment of hiatus in the mental activity, when the tension and pain are cleared. Such a technique belongs to the avop?ya :30 (the lowest of the three categories of techniques in Kashmir Shaivism).
?akti-sa?koca is an illumination technique based on the activation of the heart (the locus of projection of Atman) by retraction of one's energies back into their source. After letting the sense-organs reach to external objects, by bringing them back into the heart, all the energies of the five senses are accumulated inside (praty?hara). Just like a scared tortoise brings its limbs back into the shell, so the yogi should retract his ?aktis (energies of the senses) into ?tman. This reversal of the sense organs is intended to awaken the recognition of the real nature of the heart.
?akti-vik?sa is a method to dissolve duality (vikalpa-k?aya) out of the stream of sensorial impressions. While being engaged in the sense activity, the yogi should remain centered in ?tman (his heart), thus superposing the external perceptions onto the light of is revealed heart. This mental attitude is also called bhairav? mudra. Its effect is the realization of the nonduality of the external reality by recognizing the same essential nature (?tman, or ?iva) in all cognitions. Thus, the yogi attains stabilization of his nondual vision through systematic practice. Both ?akti-sankoca and ?akti-vik?sa are considered ?aktop?ya techniques - the intermediary category, of the mind.:30
There is a class of techniques which use two special moments in the breath cycle to achieve recognition of one's nature. If we consider the polarity of the upward moving current (pra) as positive, and the opposing current (ap?na) as negative, then the polarity of the inner energy currents reach zero - equilibrium - in the moments of rest between inhalation and exhalation. Those moments are targeted with the mental recitation of the two syllables of the ajapa mantra so-'ham or ham-sa. The locus of attention should be in the regions of the heart (an?hata) and above the crown (dv?danta). The continuous movement to and fro of awareness in-between these two centers, which are associated with two manifestations of the void - the void of the heart and the supreme void, brings about the activation of the median channel (su?umn? n?d?) and a state of non-duality.