A number of Hindu philosophies put great emphasis on the idea of Consciousness. Among them, the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism is outstanding. It is an ancient philosophy that had its heyday in medieval times and has returned to prominence in recent years. Its foundational text is the Shiva Sutras by Vasugupta, from the ninth century CE.
Kashmir Shaivism virtually disappeared for a number of centuries, until Swami Lakshmanjoo revived it in the 20th century. Another important figure in Kashmir Shaivism’s spread was Swami Muktananda, who presented its teachings to a broad audience.
Kashmir Shaivism is a philosophical system, and also includes a wealth of yogic practices and meditations (upaya) for the practitioner to attain the state of liberation, or complete freedom (svatantrya).
The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism says that the universe begins as pure Consciousness (Shiva). At this stage, there is only One. Then, Shiva decides to become many. He contracts and becomes individual human souls, and also the material world. After some time, these souls begin to wake up and investigate their true nature. They meditate and do spiritual practices and eventually recognise their true identity as Consciousness. So Kashmir Shaivism says that everything is Consciousness in the beginning, in the middle and in the end, and there is nothing apart from Consciousness.
Kashmir Shaivism is particularly appealing to the modern reader because it does not deny the reality of the world, but says that the world is a “play of Consciousness”.