Spandakārikā is one of the most important foundational texts of Kashmir Śaiva Darshana. It is a collection of verses on the doctrine of Spanda, a mystical term which can roughly be translated as vibrationless vibration, divine throb, divine creative pulsation. This tradition states that it is also experienced as sphurattā (radiating effulgence, vigour, power of existence of the self), balaṁ (strength), sāra (essence), udyoga (upward rising force or effort), hṛdayaṁ (heart) and śakti (supreme energy).
Spandakārikā acts as a free hand commentary to another foundational text, the famed Śivasūtra. While Śivasūtra gives us the essence of reality in a seed form, Spandakārikā offers us the explanation and practice to experience the ultimate reality. Together they complement one’s understanding and give a comprehensive knowledge of one’s own true self.
The subject of the text is regarding the nature of Spanda. Swami Lakshman Joo, the great contemporary Śaivācārya of Kashmir, states in his book, the Mystery of Vibrationless Vibration in Kashmir Shaivism (pp. 271),
“This universe, which is a world of Consciousness, is filled with and is one with the supreme state of God Consciousness. God consciousness is Spanda, a unique reality of supreme movement filled with nectar and an outpouring of the supreme bliss of independence.”
It is an esoteric and highly sublime subject and has been comprehensively explained in the numerous commentaries of Spandakārikā. Spandakārikā consist of 3 niḥṣyanda or flows namely: Svarūpa Spanda, Sahaja Vidyodaya and Vibhuti Spanda. The first section deals with the Svarūpa, essential nature of Spanda and delineates the various methods through which Spanda tattva can be realized. Since the first section speaks of recognizing that Spanda as the innermost self, ahaṁ, it deals with introvertive absorption or nimīlana samāveśa. The second part of the text is aptly named as sahaja vidyodaya and explains how Spanda is not only the innermost self but also the real identity of the whole universe. It thus gives importance to extroverted absorption or unmīlana samāveśa through the rise of sahaja vidya, pure knowledge. The third section describes the supernatural powers that manifest in an aspirant through the realization of Spanda.
In Kṣemarāja’s Spanda Nirnaya, which an excellent commentary of the Spandakārikā, he gives the phalaśruti or the fruits of the study and assimilation of this text. He states that through the attainment of this treasure house of knowledge, which is exceedingly difficult to get, and through it being well preserved in the cave of one’s Heart or Hṛdaya, just as Vasugupta has attained, we too can attain the ultimate recognition. Thus, the grand reward of the knowledge of Spandakārikā is nothing short of complete and permanent realization of the Self.