The Śiva Sutras
Truth is the appearance of the Supreme Brahman; Truth is the most excellent of all Tapas; every act is rooted in Truth. Than Truth there is nothing more excellent. Therefore has it been said by Me that when the sinful Kali Age is dominant, Kaula ways should be practised truthfully and without concealment – Mahanirvanatantra IV, 77-78, Woodroffe translation
Shiva Sutra is a central text for Kashmir Shaivism. I first translated these mysterious verses in 1978, said to have been revealed to a sage Vasugupta in a dream. Waking, he went to the summit of a nearby mountain, and found a rock inscribed with the verses.
In 1979, Jaideva Singh produced a translation of the sutras, together with a long commentary and explanatory material. (Shiva Sutras, Motilal Banarsidas, 1979). I recommend this work to any student. The translation is probably far better too; but as my translation was written with the Shri Vidya in mind, I have decided to let it stand or fall on its own.
Shiva Sutra is divided into three sections and gives the core of the inner yoga practice and philosophy not only of Kashmir Shaivism but also of many other tantrik traditions.
1. Consciousness is the being.
2. Knowledge the fetters.
3. The yoni divisions are the body of time.
4. The matrikas are the seat of knowledge.
5. Endeavour is Bhairava.
6. In the union of the circle of the Shaktis is the dissolution of the universe.
7. The fourth enjoys and is contained in the states of waking, dreaming and
8. Knowledge is the waking state.
9. False imagining is the dream state.
10. Want of awareness is Maya, deep sleep.
11. The triad eaten by a Lord Hero.
12. Surprise-wonderment is the place of yoga.
13. Iccha Shakti is Uma, the Virgin.
14. All things the body.
15. When the collective-observation-shock is in the heart, dream vision
16. From being aware of the pure essence comes the shakti of non-duality.
17. Deliberation-pondering is being-wisdom.
18. World bliss is samadhi happiness.
19. In the abode of Shakti is creation of the body.
20. The collective abode of the elements is the universe, the elements
separately are the shocks.
21. From the appearance of pure knowledge come the many Shaktis of the lord of the circle (of the Shaktis).
22. By concentrating on the transcendent lake of female energy, mantra life is obtained.
1. Consciousness the mantra.
2. Endeavour the method.
3. The science-body-being the secret of mantra.
4. In the womb state of consciousness expansion the inferior science of the dream state.
5. In the arising of vidya, spontaneously, one may move in the void, like Shiva.
6. By means of the guru.
7. Awakened knowledge is the circle of the letters of the alphabet.
8. The body is the sacrifical ladle.
9. Knowledge is the food.
10. From the heap of knowledge arising from seeing in the dream state.
1. The being is consciousness.
2. Knowledge the fetters.
3. From the kalas, the thing called in non discrimination, Maya.
4. In the body the dissolution of the kalas.
5. The nadi dissolution is the victory over the elements, freedom from the elements, separation of the elements.
6. Siddhi from the appearance of delusion.
7. The victory over delusion is the victory of spontaneous knowledge, which is of endless extent.
8. From the waking state, the world is a ray.
9. The essence is the dancer.
10. The inner essence is the theatre stage.
11. The sense organs are the audience.
12. Insight from will is the pure siddhi.
13. Accomplishment means transformation into independence.
14. As there, so elsewhere.
15. Attention is the bija.
16. Asana is the happiness of immersion in Shakti.
17. One’s own measure is the measure suitable for measuring, giving guidance.
18. Imperishable knowledge means destruction of births.
19. In the Ka-series are Maheshvari and so forth, the beast-mothers.
20. Pour the fourth in the three like oil diffusing in water.
21. One should enter, immersed, by one’s own consciousness.
22. Equally the practice of breath produces a similar sight.
23. In the centre, emanating the lower.
24. In the measure of one’s own trust in the abode is this prevented again from appearing.
25. One knows equality with Shiva.
26. The existence of the body becomes a religious vow.
27. Conversation is mantra recitation.
28. The act of offering is being-wisdom.
29. Whosoever is in this state is the means of knowledge.
30. The universe becomes an aggregate of his Shaktis.
31. Both maintenance and dissolution.
32. Though subject to the cyclic law, one is not excluded from self experience.
33. Happiness and sadness become external.
34. Set free from that, one is complete.
35. The being of action is a heap of delusion.
36. Sundering the internal stream proceeding from action.
37. The creative Shakti from one’s own spirit-perception-feeling.
38. The primordial animating one with three parts.
39. Observation remaining, the body creates action externally.
40. From wanting external actions arises the collective being.
41. When really reaching that, through its destruction, the embodied being is destroyed.
42. When the element-sheaths are released, at that time one becomes supreme and equal to the lord.
43. The inherent union of breath.
44. What is meant by restraint in the centre of the brow? The left and right in the central channel.
45. Again and again comes all encompassing awareness.
1. The Fourth, i.e. Shiva, without attributes is pure Consciousness. The three, that is Shakti is with attributes, which are produced from the play of the three gunas. These three gunas manifest in a human as moon, sun, and fire chakras — the three areas of light which constitute the central nervous system.
2. Because Shiva wishes to know, He being one with Shakti is bound by knowledge, which is the very self of the three gunas.
3. The yoni-divisions are the kalas, there being 16 of the Moon. The 15 represent the modifications of the Moon in her waxing and waning, whilst the 16th which is Lalita- Tripurasundari herself is the Consciousness-Shakti.
4. The letters of the alphabet — 36 consonants and 15 vowels — constitute the Goddess in the form of Time. The Matrika Chakra Viveka propounds the following doctrine in relation to the Shri Yantra:
(After a table in the introduction to Matrika Chakra Viveka). The letters of the alphabet are evolutes, and placed in the different parts of the Shri Yantra, which is within the Wheel of Time itself. (As it represents the human body).
5. Effort or endeavour is Bhairava himself.
6. The Shakti circle is composed of the three gunas, which form Her body. Every Shakti there is, emanates from Her. Thus, in the Prayoga to the Bhavanopanishad, compiled by Bhaskararaya Machin, Her Body as manifested through the different Nityas, Kalas, Grahas, Yoginis, mudras, Vashinis, tattvas are separately enumerated. As She creates and maintains, She also dissolves.
7. The Fourth, the Turiya, Shiva Himself enjoys = eats, through the three states of wake, dream, and deep sleep — these three being subsequently developed in the next three sutras.
8. Knowledge, i.e. ordinary knowledge is the waking state. It is the Fourth alone who is the eternal omnipresent witness, the atma, the essence. And all these three states here enumerated are based on the three gunas, and therefore one is inseparable from the other. So that in the waking state there is dream and deep sleep, and so on.
9. The dream state is false notion, that is to say imagination, which causes us to mislead a rope for a snake etc.
10. Want of discrimination is declared to be deep sleep, which is Maya, that is to say Kulakundalini herself, the great artificer, She who plays, conceals, hides, reveals.
11. These three are eaten, consumed, by Shiva, that is to say He enjoys them, and is inseparable from them. As he is one with the triple Shakti, He is therefore in them all.
Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2021.Questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org