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Origin of the Name Spanda


is the original, primordial
subtle vibration that arises from
the dynamic interplay of the passive
and the creative polarizations of the
Absolute, and that by unfolding
itself into the energetic
process of differentiation
bringing forth the whole
of creation.


The word spanda, in Devanāgarī script.


is a Sanskrit term – derived from the root spadi: “to move a little” (kimcit calana) – for the subtle creative pulse of the universe as it manifests into the dynamism of living form. The term is a key concept of the Kashmir Ś
aivism monistic philosophy (ninth century) according to which the entire universe is nothing but conscious energy, and that everything in the universe is that consciousness expressed in different forms. Spanda can be translated as throb or pulse or to mean vibration, movement, or motion, referring to waves of activity issuing forth from an unseen source of spontaneous expression, emanating not only from the centre outward, but from everywhere at once. It might be described as the essence of a wave in the ocean of consciousness. An impulse or desire to create and enjoy, likened to an eternal spring, joyfully overflowing its inner essence into manifestation and inspiration, yet ever full, complete and unchanging.
On the transcendental plane, spanda is the pulsating radiance flashing forth of the Absolute consciousness who appears as the universal source and essential form of the Absolute's own energetic self-expression. On a more personal plane, spanda is the primordial energy whose manifestation reveals itself in our every experience, and it refers to consciousness as it orients through thought and intention to organize into authentic action. It is a continuous movement on an infinite spectrum of frequencies flashing forth of consciousness. It is the first stage of consciousness before it crystallizes into the reasoning process.
Thus, spanda is defined as the dynamics of consciousness, being not a physical movement, not a psychological activity (like pleasure) and not even a movement of energy (prāna), such as hunger and thirst, but being the subtle vibration which is the source and foundation of all these. "Spanda is the pulsation of the ecstasy of the divine consciousness", as Abinahavagupta (975-1025 c.e.) defines it. When we sense this pulsation inside us, we are sensing our own personal spark of that huge, primordial life force. It is the energy behind the breath, the heartbeat, and the movement of our thoughts and feelings. It is also the source of all our inner experiences. When we get deep into ourselves, we realize that this throb, this subtle pulsation, is actually ‘meditating’ us.

The Kashmir Ś
aiva school holds that the ultimate Reality itself ‘quivers,’ that is, is inherently creative. The unobjectified impulse of the Absolute to manifest itself – born of its inherent nature as a deliberation of its own volition – creates a stir, a throb (spanda) which vibrates as the primordial sound (nāda). This ur-sound concentrates itself into a point (bindu), a nucleus of condensed energy, the seed of the ultimate sound, containing within itself both the dynamic and static aspects, the two polarities as one closely knit unit (bearing in mind that these two polarities are merely a linguistic convention for the convenience of philosophical thinking and as a way of clarifying the two aspects of the one Absolute Reality: transcendental unity and universal diversity). This point encloses in itself all the possibilities of becoming, all that have to be created. Then, the point swells and, retaining simultaneously the original latent and potent status embodying the polarities, assumes a radius: the polarization takes place: the dynamic and static energies interact and, from the ensuing unfoldment, two more points emerge to form a triad of points: the primary triangle, the beginning of creation. Moving as a resonance, the pulsation of spanda exists continuously; and in all the different states of consciousness there is spanda: it is the residual, foundational substratum of the manifested world.

Spanda Foundation

The Spanda organisation was founded in the spirit of this meaning.
You can learn more on our logo here.



Selected Bibliography

Abhinavagupta, Īshvarapratyabhijnāvimarshinī (Doctrine of Divine Recognition), Pandey, K.C., trans. Vol. 3. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986.
Bhagavatotpala, Spandapradīpikā, ed. Kaviraj, G., Benares 1970.
Chatterjee, J.C., Kashmir Shaivaism, Srinagar: RPD, 1962.
Dyczkowski, M.S.G., The Doctrine of Vibration, Motilal Banarsidass, 1989.
Dyczkowski, M.S.G, trans. The Stanzas of Vibration: The Spandakārikā with Four Commentaries. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
Kaul, B.N., "Shaivism in Kashmir", Research-Kashmir Trika Philosophy and Culture, 1/1, 1959.
Pratyabhijnāhridayam: The Secret of Self-Recognition
, Singh, Jaideva, ed. and trans. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980.
Rudrappa, J., Kashmir Shaivism, Prasaranga, Mysore: University of Mysore, 1969.
, Singh Jaideva, trans. Delhi; Motilal Banarsidass, 1980.
Utpaladeva, Īshvarapratyabhijnākārikā, Torella Raffaele, ed. and trans. With the Author's Vritti. Corrected Edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2002.
White, David, Kiss of the Yoginī. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.



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