Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Virendra Qazi, a Kashmir Shaivism exponent, reveals to Rishi Rathod the nuances of this spiritual path and how it is different from other branches of Shaivism
Based in Delhi, Virendra Qazi, a Kashmiri Pandit, was born and brought up in Kashmir. He did his graduation in natural sciences and acquired a master’s degree in public administration.
He was a general manager (business development) in National Building Construction Corporation and had a long tenure with Steel Authority of India Limited.
He has been teaching and propagating the knowledge of Kashmir Shaivism for the past 25 years not only in India but also in countries such as the USA, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, England, and the Middle East. He represents the classical/traditional knowledge and practice of Kashmir Shaivism.
Since childhood, many sages and saints have guided him towards the divine path. He has deeply studied and done sadhana (spiritual practice) on the 13th-century mystic poetess and saint Param Shaivi Yogini Lalleshwari. He works on her oral teachings and spreads the wisdom far and wide.
Thank you for giving your time to share your light with the readers of LP
Let me do pranam (obeisance), before we begin, to Lord Shiva, who resides in all of you in the form of your inner divinity. Kindly remember that whether you feel high, low, happy, or unhappy, the divine light is fully shining within you. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are totally manifest in you. All you have to do is to recognise this reality. This is the essence of Kashmir Shaivism.
In this mystic knowledge, Lord Shiva is the speaker and Lord Shiva is the listener; Lord Shiva is asking Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva Himself is answering Lord Shiva.
Just focus your attention on this beautiful line in Shiva Drishti, a text written by Acharya Somananda. He starts it with the simple shloka (Sanskrit couplet), “Let Lord Shiva, who is my self, do pranam to his real nature, to universal Shiva, through His own shakti (energy) for removing bondage, a limitation which is Shiva Himself.”
This is the essence of the wisdom of Kashmir Shaivism. Referring to it, Rabindranath Tagore said, “Kashmir Shaivism has penetrated to that depth of living thought where diverse currents of human wisdom unite into a luminous synthesis.”
Q. Please tell us something about your early life and your journey into Kashmir Shaivism.
I was born, brought up, married, and educated in Kashmir. My childhood was immersed in nature, cut off from the outside world, and in living a simple life in the Himalayas. We had a lot of interactions with holy people and saints. Many sages used to come to our house. My first spiritual obsession was with the mystic poetess of Kashmir, Lalleshwari, popularly known as Lalla. She was a supreme Shaiva Yogini. I often narrate her inspiring story of how an ordinary village girl reached supreme heights of godhood through sadhana despite adverse circumstances. She had a stepmother-in-law who would torture her. But she faced every challenge presented by life with patience and equanimity. Since my childhood, I was fascinated by her sayings called ‘lalvaks’ in Kashmiri. It was my daily routine to cite her vaks (sayings) to friends and family members. Her sayings offer us the totality of spirituality. They convey the whole spectrum from the rustic mundane life to supreme heights of godliness. I have made a lot of effort to preserve her works, wisdom, and teachings. I also did a ballet of her works.
What is fascinating is that her sayings convey the essence of Kashmir Shaivism. Lalleshwari presents the cream of Kashmir Shaivism in simple, local language. This gives a great opportunity to common folk to learn and practise this subtle wisdom. My next passion was how to make Kashmir Shaivism simple and practical for the common people. I am grateful to a great mystic and master who initiated me, talked to me, and guided me on meditation practices, which filled me with passion for this subject. Despite my busy job, I would always take time out for doing the sadhana (spiritual practice) aspect of this spiritual wisdom.
Q. I am intrigued by your name. The first name tells me that you are a Hindu, but your Muslim surname confuses me. What’s the story behind this?
Actually, we are Kashmiri Pandits. You can call it a professional surname. Our original surname is ‘Raina,’ which means ‘Rajnayak,’ whose work was to advise and read scriptures to the king. My father and grandfather were judges. I have learnt from my seniors and elders that we used to register the marriages of Muslims. For this purpose, a Qazi used to come to our house and we would apply the seal of the Maharaja on marriage certificates. Because of this, people around us started calling us ‘Qazi,’ and that is how we got this surname. A Qazi basically is a religious judge.
Q. What is the difference between Kashmir Shaivism and other Shaivite traditions?
People often ask this question, and I feel keen to explain various Shaivite traditions and Kashmir Shaivism. We can broadly categorise four Shaivite traditions in India. One is called Shaiva-Siddhanta which is also called Tamil Shaivism. It is a very ancient Shaivism and is very close to Kashmir Shaivism except that it is purely dualistic in nature. However, Kashmir Shaivism is strictly advait or non-dualistic. Shaiva Siddhanta is based on life and teachings of 42 “Nainmars” or saints. I was in touch with Siva Subramanium Swamiji a great saint in Hawaii, USA, who ardently practised and followed Shaiva-Siddhanta. We would exchange our observations and learnings on the path.
The second tradition is called Lingayat, or Veer Shivaya, which is very popular in Karnataka, South India. It was founded by Basavanna, the 12th-century Lingayat saint, poet, and philosopher. It was a reformist movement meant to make Shaivism easier to understand and practise. He made his own principles called Basava’s six vachanas. It is very popular in Karnataka, and they have many Lingayat mathas (monasteries).
Among the remaining two traditions, Shaivism based on Advaita Vedanta was propounded by Adi Guru Shankaracharya. Vedanta is the essence of the Upanishads. Kashmir Shaivism is inspired and based on Tantra. We also call it Agamas. At this stage, it is important to understand that the root and inspiration of Kashmir Shaivism is Tantra, while that of Advaita Shaivism is the Upanishads. They have a lot of similarities like Brahman, moksha, etc. but with fundamental differences. Advaita Shaivism says the world is maya (illusion) and only Brahman (Divine) is satya (truth), whereas we, in Kashmir Shaivism, say that everything has its root in the Divine. Even maya is shivmayi because it is created by the Divine.
There are other traditions too like the Pashupata, Lakula, and Dualistic Shaivism traditions, but we will not go into their details. Kashmir Shaivism is strictly Advaita philosophy. It is the essence of Malini Vijaya Tantra, Shiv Sutras, and other basic agamas. Although it is called ‘Kashmir Shaivism,’ in none of the scriptures will you find mention of this term. Maharaja Pratap Singh invited a great scholar, Jagdish Chandra Chatterjee, from Bengal. There were a lot of texts on the subject that were scattered. Jagdishji did the pioneering work of compiling the texts. He got it printed in Bombay and named it ‘Kashmir Shaivism.’ Ever since, it has been called by this name everywhere.
Q. Many believe that spirituality expects you to renounce worldly things. As I understand Kashmir Shaivism, it doesn’t say anything like that. Can you please elaborate on this?
This is a very important question. Please remember Kashmir Shaivism addresses life in totality. The goal is bhoga and moksha (indulgence and salvation). Why do I say bhoga and moksha? Because both emanate from the divine consciousness, Lord Shiva. We have to live in this world, created by Lord Shiva, in total harmony and be seekers of truth. They say Lord Shiva, by His own will, adopts maya, whereby He becomes the jiva (individual soul). Kashmir Shaivism teaches us how the jiva can again become Shiva. So, above all, this material world is the creation of Lord Shiva. We had many great masters who lived family lives. Everything is divine, and there is nothing which is not divine. There is no question of leaving this world when everything is His creation. You have to live in harmony with this material world and be the seeker. That is the purpose of Kashmir Shaivism.
Q. You mentioned the concept of Shiva’s grace called ‘Shaktipath.’ Can you please explain this for our readers?
I will say Shaktipath is the fundamental reality of Kashmir Shaivism, on which the beginning and end of our sadhana is based. Shaktipath is the descent of divine grace, which is independent of human effort. Now, the question arises: How can we realise the Divine? Does it happen through our own efforts? The answer is no. We can only go back to God through His mercy and grace. And this grace is called Shaktipath, the divine grace, which can come to anyone whom Lord Shiva chooses. We have plenty of examples of this, like Valmiki becoming the divine writer of the Ramayana. It was due to grace. While doing sadhana, we should always remember we will only get transformed by His grace. But we must certainly make efforts to become worthy of His grace, or Shaktipath. The great Acharya Abhinavagupta says that Shaktipath, or grace, is in everybody’s life. It’s only a question of the degree of grace bestowed by Lord Shiva. More grace will mean less effort required by us. Less grace will demand more sadhana. Sometimes, Lord Shiva blesses someone with extreme grace called ‘Tirvatam Shaktipath.’ That is how great sages are born. This concept of grace is explained in Shiv Sutra and some agamas also.
Q. So we just have to continue our sadhana and wait for the right moment for Shiva to choose us for Shaktipath?
Beautifully stated. I will add more: I tell my divine friends to start their sadhana right away. And as they move further and further in their sadhana, I tell them they will find the differences vanishing between themselves and Shiva. Just a little bit of persistence in sadhana, and you will feel that you are very close to God. You have become a divine person. What more do you want? So, let us start the practice of awareness right now.
Q. Today, when distress is all around us, possibly due to the pandemic and other nefarious forces creating disharmony in our society, how can the practice of Kashmir Shaivism provide help to the common people?
I address friends on this current disturbing situation every day. I tell them that the first and foremost thing is to think positive. This will help us connect with the Divine. If we are not positive and have no faith in ourselves, negative forces will attack us very easily. People having a doubting nature will be impacted the most. Those who are mentally peaceful and internally strong will be less impacted and will sail through the situations. I also tell friends to avoid listening to and viewing negative news. Connect to the Divine, and make yourself internally strong. That is the only thing we can do. People must imbibe their divine nature and let humility, love, and compassion guide their relationships.
Q. Are there any prerequisites for becoming a student of Kashmir Shaivism?
The eligibility to become a student of Kashmir Shaivism is beyond caste, creed, culture, age, and gender considerations. Anyone can become a student and adopt it at any stage of their life. I keep meeting senior people who ask if it is possible at their age? My answer is that divine grace can come at any time. The only prerequisite is imbibing humility, love, and compassion. This will make your path smooth for learning and practising Kashmir Shaivism. You must have full faith in yourself and always be positive because the Divine is within you.
Q. In Sanatana Dharma, the bhakti movement has played a great role in transforming people spiritually. We don’t know what place bhakti has in Kashmir Shaivism. Please elaborate.
Just think Lord Shiva is asking questions to Himself and is answering them too. What we call bhakti becomes param bhakti, or supreme devotion, in Kashmir Shaivism. When you tread the path of Kashmir Shaivism you will have supreme knowledge and supreme bhakti. Remember the great Acharya of Kashmir Shaivism, Acharya Utpaldeva, who was a great logician and who wrote Pratyabhijna Darshan, the book of logic for Self-realisation. When he was presenting the book to the audience, they thought that he would focus on logic and not venture into topics like atman (soul), existence, consciousness, etc. But Utpaldeva began with deep gratitude and surrender to Lord Shiva. “Kadam chit Maheshwar das bhavasa pratibigya,” which means “ I don’t know how and why Lord Shiva accepted me as his das (slave). I never deserved this favour. And because of this das bhava (slave-like devotion), this knowledge has come to enlighten the world.” On this spiritual path, you will experience supreme bhakti and supreme knowledge.
Q. What is sadhana in Kashmir Shaivism? What do students need to do on an everyday basis to progress?
In our programmes, we teach the basics of Kashmir Shaivism with emphasis on sadhana, or practice. Having knowledge is one thing, but without practice, how can knowledge sustain? In the programme Inner Awakening with Kashmir Shaivism, we focus on three systematic steps:
• A holistic personality transformation
The motivation to imbibe humility, love, and compassion as our basic nature. This makes us worthy to receive divine grace. At the individual level, 100 per cent faith in oneself is needed. You must love yourself, as the Divine resides in you, and always be positive about the future as divine ways cannot go wrong.
• Ultimate reality and awareness of the level of Consciousness
Spiritual integration of divine and material life is important because both emanate from Shiva. In fact, Shiva becomes jiva by imbibing maya and other material factors. Consequently, jiva must become Shiva. The Shiv Sutras give us this awareness and make us aware of the level of sadhana we have reached so that we can improve and reach higher levels.
• Vigyan Bhairav Meditation
These are very subtle, internal, mystic, and ultimate techniques to connect to your inner divinity, which Lord Shiva revealed to Mata Parvati.
Q. The younger generation these days is getting influenced by many Western thoughts and ideologies. That is not a problem, but without going deeper into their own culture, history, and scriptures, they remain alienated from their roots. What do you think should be done?
I would say I have great faith in the younger generation. They have a pure consciousness. We should provide them with a positive environment and opportunity. As far as learning our culture is concerned, let parents be the role models, and 100 per cent, the children will adapt. Since they are a clean slate, they will learn faster and will ask questions, unlike the older generation. Hence, you have to provide them with the right environment to grow. Seniors need to be dedicated to this.
Q. What is your message for the readers of Life Positive?
Again, let me offer pranam to Lord Shiva, who is residing in all of you as your inner divinity. Let me humbly say we are seeking many paths and many methods, but ultimately, we have to focus only on one path. Many paths will not give you that divine nectar. You have to be steadfast on one single path only. When you have reached the highest, all rituals will end. In Kashmir Shaivism, this divine fulfilment is created through Shiv Sutra and the techniques described in the Vigyan Bhairav Tantra. I repeat, the most important thing is to have complete faith in yourself and keep a positive mindset while maintaining the posture of humility, love, and compassion. We have systematic learning for beginners to start with and practice. There are many other techniques also that people can adopt. Do not compromise on these virtues; you will surely transform from ignorance to your true Shiva nature.
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