Why māyā (illusion) is svātantrya (freedom) in Kashmir Shaivism

In this important excerpt from The Magical Jewel of Devotion in Kashmir Shaivism – Bhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa’s Stava Cintamani, Swami Lakshmanjoo explains why, in Kashmir Shaivism, māyā (illusion) is really svātantrya (freedom).

Audio 4 (45:26)

यस्याः प्राप्येत पर्यन्त-विशेषः कैर्मनोरथैः ।

मायामेकनिमेषेण मुष्णंस्तां पातु नः शिवः ॥७३॥

yasyāḥ prāpyeta paryanta-viśeṣaḥ kairmanorathaiḥ /

māyāmekanimeṣeṇa muṣṇaṁstāṁ pātu naḥ śivaḥ //73//

Let that Lord Śiva protect us (pātu naḥ śiva; naḥ means, us), let that Lord Śiva protect us from all sides, whose māyā, whose illusive energy of māyā, paryanta viśeṣaḥ kairmanor-athaiḥ prāpyeta, . . .*

Paryanta viśeṣaḥ: Paryanta viśeṣaḥ means, the last understanding of what māyā really is. Māyā is just the concealing nature of Lord Śiva. The concealing energy of Lord Śiva is māyā. But, in fact, this concealing energy of māyā is just the svātantrya śakti of Lord Śiva.

ERNIE: His freedom.

SWAMIJI: It is only freedom! It is only [because of] freedom that He conceals His nature–out of His freedom, free will.131

JOHN: He’s not forced by any karma or anything else to do that.

SWAMIJI: No, He conceals according to His play. That is paryanta viśeṣaḥ. That is the ending quality of māyā. The last ending quality of māyā . . . what is that last ending?

JOHN: Svātantrya śakti.

SWAMIJI: Svātantrya śakti, entry in svātantrya śakti. And that entry in svātantrya śakti of māyā, that is paryanta viśeṣaḥ; paryanta viśeṣaḥ, the last understanding of māyā, what māyā actually is. It is said in the Pratyabhijñā Darśana:132 Māyā is actually the energy of svātantrya śakti of Lord Śiva. Māyā is not ignorance. Actually, māyā is not ignorance, māyā is just the freedom of Lord Śiva. By His free will He conceals His nature, [but it is] not that He has concealed His nature and now He has not revealed His nature. Although It is revealed to [a person], at the same time, He makes ignorant persons feel that It is concealed. Actually, It is not concealed. This is the position of māyā. Māyā is nothing, māyā is divine.

ERNIE: Swamiji, in other schools, māyā is . . .

SWAMIJI: Māyā is very bad. In our school, māyā is divine.

ERNIE: Is divine. And they hold that that is . . . what is it?

SWAMIJI: What is it? For instance, [they say], don’t go to sex, don’t go . . . [but we say], see the beauty of Ellen133 and divert your attention towards God consciousness, bas.

JOHN: This is ours, not theirs.

SWAMIJI: That is ours.

JOHN: Theirs is?

SWAMIJI: (question ignored) This māyā becomes svātantrya śakti then.134

JOHN: And they would [say] to just reject everything?

SWAMIJI: If you find attachment, individual attachment, that is māyā. That you should leave. You should feel everything [as] divine, then there is no māyā, there is svātantrya śakti.135

ERNIE: No but, in the Buddhist School, they feel that it’s the absence of knowledge?

SWAMIJI: They feel [that], yes.

JOACHIM:  It is unreal, it is not reality.

SWAMIJI: It is not real.

ERNIE: It’s not real. In Vedānta, they hold that māyā is . . . ?

SWAMIJI: Ignorance.

JOHN: Yes, but in this particular illustration . . .

SWAMIJI: Not only in Ellen, I mean, anybody.

DEVOTEES: (laughter)

JOHN: But in this particular one, for a Vedāntin to look at Ellen and see anything, that would just all be false.

SWAMIJI: Vedānta directs us [that] you should not see –“citra nikatam api naram na paśyati”–you must not see a woman, [even] a photograph of a woman. What to say of seeing a woman and talking to her? It is a blunder [according to Vedānta].

ERNIE: This is a very important difference in Śaivism, . . .


ERNIE: . . . this concept of māyā.

SWAMIJI: Everything is divine, if you feel like that. So, that is paryanta viśeṣaḥ.

*. . . and kairmanorathaiḥ prāpyeta, and Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, all of these gods and sages and ṛṣis and yogis are craving for that last point of māyās understanding, what māyā is, and that māyā, that ignorance, eka nimeṣeṇa muṣṇaṁ, You destroy it; instantaneously You destroy that misunderstanding of māyā. Let that Lord Śiva protect us in this way.136

Have you understood it?


End Audio 4 (50:50)


131 See Appendix 5 for an explanation of svātantrya śakti.

132 The Doctrine of Recognition (pratyabhijñā). “The Trika System is comprised of four sub-systems: the Pratyabhijñā System, the Kula System, the Krama System, and the Spanda System. These four Systems, which form the one thought of the Trika System, all accept, and are based on, the same scriptures.” Kashmir ShaivismThe Secret Supreme, 19.129.

133 Ernie Montano’s girlfriend at that time.

134 This is the Śaivite understanding of māyā.

135 “Svātantrya śakti and māyā are one. Svātantrya śakti is that state of energy which can produce the power of going down and coming up again. And māyā is not like that. Māyā will give you the strength of coming down and then no ability of going up. Māyā śakti is that energy, universal energy, which is owned by the individual being, the individual soul. The same energy, when it is owned by the Universal Being, is called svātantrya śakti.” Kashmir Shaivism–The Secret Supreme, 7.47.

136 “Bhaṭṭa Nārāyaṇa does not [only] say “me”, as he includes all of his brothers and sisters who are with him, [that they] should be protected.” Stava Cintāmaṇi (1990).

  1. October 17, 2011

    Wonderful, thank you for these most enlightening commentaries! Large difference from being surrounded by ignorance {maya} to being surrounded by Infinite Divinity.

    Please continue, I am most grateful.


  2. October 17, 2011

    Thank you for these wonderful videos & audios! It is stellar to hear the differences between vedanta’s view of maya as unreal and ignorance compared to Kashmir Shaivism’s view that maya is completely Divine. Huge difference!

    Thank you again, please continue…


  3. September 23, 2015

    That is G R E A T !!!!!!

  4. September 1, 2016

    Would that also include all forms of morality and beliefs in right and wrong, and thru jnana (or jñānasantāna or?) one eventually sees all things as a roll of the dice or play (lila), and understands, for lack of a better term, necessity and causation whether it was from ago a moment, a minute, a millennia, or a thousand ages?

    This came to mind, quoted in a work on Pratyabhijñā by Ratié. Articles on jnana and similar steps would be great.

    … the flow of cognitions jñānasantāna, such as [when we say] “there is a tree in this forest”.

  5. September 2, 2016

    SWAMIJI: Everything is divine, if you feel like that.

  6. June 24, 2018

    Koti koti Pranaam swami ji. Jai ho Guru Dev ji. How beautifully explained the real meaning of gayatri mantra. Thanks for sharing so wonderful vedio’s.

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