Many of the current popular Non-dual teachers in the West, both from the USA and UK, seem to present a version of Advaita which is a mix of Shankara’s philosophy and Kashmir Shaivism. Their audience, who are usually less inclined to accept the requirement of a prolonged prior mental preparation (called the “Purification of the mind” (cittasuddhi) insisted by the traditional Advaita, savour this mix essentially for two reasons. One is that the Karma theory and the concept of rebirth which are very much an integral part of Shankara’s teaching gets rarely mentioned by the Western teachers. The other is that the Western tech-savvy mind appears to prefer a world that is One seamless Whole without divisions (a–dvaita) as the Reality in preference to a world which becomes totally apparitional as Shankara avers, post Self-realization.
A recent publication titled “Liberation and the World- in Advaita Vedanta and Pratyabhijna” by Klara Hedling** attempts to pin point precisely where the Advaita philosophy of Shankara differs from the Non-dualism of Kashmir Shaivism. An excerpt from it follows:
“Both Advaita Vedānta and the Pratyabhijñā maintain that the Absolute is essentially Cit or Caitanya (pure awareness), but they disagree on how this nature should be understood (121). As we have seen, Śankara struggles with explaining how the world of multiplicity and change can be related to Brahman, the nature of which is pure and undifferentiated consciousness. Moreover, Advaita Vedānta frequently refers to Brahman (and Ātman) as a witnessing consciousness (saksi–caitanya). According to both the Sāṃkhya and Advaita Vedānta, the Self (Puruṣa/Ātman) is to be inactive (niṣkriya) and pure Existence or Being (Sat) only. Ultimate reality or Brahman according to Advaita Vedānta is Prakāśa (primordial light) and Jñāna (knowledge) but without Vimarśa or activity. According to the Pratyabhijñā philosophy, on the other hand, the pure Caitanya also possesses Divine power (Śakti) or creative Energy that is said to be non-different from Cit and which enables the Caitanya to be self-conscious and always reveal itself (122). Because Advaita Vedānta does not recognize any activity or power (Vimarśa Śakti) attributed to Brahman, this gets them into the difficulty in explaining the
creation and existence of the phenomenal world. In order to explain the world, Śankara must appeal to the concept of māyā that in association with Íśvara (Saguna Brahman) can be said to manifest the world. As we have seen in Part 1, this has implications for how the world should be regarded and ultimately it is held to be unreal. The problem is that if there is nothing but Brahman and Brahman is devoid of all activity, the creation of the world becomes utterly mysterious. Because the Pratyabhijñā philosophy maintains that the Absolute is both Prakāśa and Vimarśa, it avoids this difficulty and can offer a different explanation of the creation of the world. The fundamental difference between the two philosophies, then, is the understanding of the nature of Cit. In the Śiva
Sūtras it is maintained that; “Awareness which has absolute freedom of all knowledge and activity is the Self or nature of Reality” (123). According to the Pratyabhijñā, Parama Śiva is not only pure consciousness, but also has absolute power of Will (Icchā) that translates itself into Knowledge (Jñāna) and Action (Kriyā). The chief characteristic of Parama Śiva is the concept of Svatantrya (124) that refers to the absolute sovereignty or freedom of will of Śiva. It is this free will of Śiva that is the power to create and manifest anything, which as we will see, is ultimately responsible for the creation of the universe.”
** — This Publication available at: https://www.academia.edu/29150502/Liberation_and_the_World_in_Advaita_Vedanta_and_Pratyabhijna
121 — Sen Sharma, The Philosophy of Sadhana, 20.
122 — ibid
123 — Shiv sutras, 6.
124 — According to Singh, the word Svatantrya literally means self-dependence. It is a technical term of this system and Singh argues that there are at least three important ideas involved in this concept: 1. the absolute sovereignty or lordship of Śiva (meaning that Śiva has absolute freedom to create anything He desires and wills and as such does not depend on any external material or means) 2. Vimarśa or the self-revealing power or Self-consciousness of the Absolute 3. Jñāna (knowledge) and Kriyā (activity, action) since these are included in the absolute freedom of Śiva. Singh, Siva Sutras, 9.