About the name क्रम (Krama)

Kashmir Śaivism is known as the Trika System. The word “Trika” means “the threefold science of a person and his world” with the goal to enable one’s rise from individuality to universality. The Krama (क्रम) system is one of four subsystems that comprise the Trika system.

Based on the Kālīkula (Kālī worship) branch of Tantric Śaivism, this uniquely Kaśhmirian lineage called itself the Krama (‘sequence’) or the Mahānāya (‘great way’) in reference to its radical non-dualist approach to Yoga, which internalized ritual worship of goddesses as the cyclical phases (krama) of one’s own awareness; jīvanmukti (‘liberation while living’). The Krama (‘Sequence’ or ‘Cycle’), derives its name from the representation of awareness and cognition as cyclical stages / phases of awareness that are compared to goddess manifestations of the formless Kālī, the heart of consciousness itself. The Krama was the most philosophically non-dual among the schools of Kashmiri Śhaivism. The Krama system moves in space and time, but finally leads to Paramaśiva, who is beyond space and time [3].

In the words of Swamy Lakshmanjoo, “The twelve Kalis are said to be the twelve movements of any one cognition. For example, if you look at any object such as a pot, the sensation travels from your thought to the place of the pot, and then returns again from the place of the pot to your thought, giving you the sensation whereby you realize this pot. You do not realize this pot at the place of the pot, you realize this pot in your mind. Your perception has moved from inside to the pot, and then returned again from the pot to your thought. And these movements are distributed in twelve ways as the twelve Kalis in the Krama system.” [1]

The 12 Kālī-s controlling any process of perception are split into three groups of 4 each, where the first 4 represent the “knowable or object”, the next 4 for knowledge and means of knowledge/perception, and the final 4 for the “subject” (the perceiver), respectively [2].

Group 1: The Object
  1. Sṛṣṭikālī
  2. Raktākālī
  3. Sthitināśakālī
  4. Yamakālī
Group 2: For knowledge and means of knowledge or perception
  1. Saṁhārakālī
  2. Mṛtyukālī
  3. Bhadrakālī or Rudrakālī
  4. Mārtaṇḍakālī
Group 3: For the subject (the knower or perceiver)
  1. Paramārkakālī
  2. Kālāgnirudrakālī
  3. Mahākālakālī
  4. Mahābhairavaghoracaṇḍakālī or Mahābhairavacaṇḍograghorakālī

The fourth goddess in each of the three groups (object, knowledge/means of knowledge, subject) is the unmentionable / unspeakable aspect (anākhyā) of the previous three goddesses, i.e., she makes the products of those three goddesses “unmentionable, unspeakable”. Therefore, the fourth goddess is always indefinable regarding the previous three goddesses.

Group 1 Kālī-s:

  1. Sṛṣṭikālī - the creation of the object of knowledge in Parasamvit (Srishti).
  2. Raktākālī - preservation of the object of knowledge, which is the external manifestation of the subject himself (Sthiti).
  3. Sthitināśakālī - the disappearance of the object, that is, the completion of its own existence, its external manifestation (Samhara).
  4. Yamakālī - when transcendental consciousness goes beyond the limits of perception of objects of knowledge and at the same time all processes in them, as distinct from themselves. Objective transcendence (Anakhya).

Group 2 Kālī-s:

  1. Saṁhārakālī - this state is somewhat similar to Sṛṣṭikālī in that the object is being perceived, but in Sṛṣṭikālī the object is different from you, and in Samharakali it is both different and you (Srishti).
  2. Mṛtyukālī is a process of knowing the disappearance of the appearance of an object in itself, but at the same time the object does not collapse, but returns to its source, through which it manifested itself. (Sthiti)
  3. Bhadrakālī - the ability to transform experienced objects stored in memory, for example, in the process of acquiring more perfect, transcendental knowledge (Samhara).
  4. Mārtaṇḍakālī - a group of twelve senses (indriyas), including the five senses of perception, the five organs of action, manas and buddhi, is like the shining of the sun. Ahamkara (Ego), despite the fact that in other contexts it is recognized as an inner feeling, it is not considered as such here, because it is identical with the subject, because it has every object that the indriya can relate to. All indriyas function only when they are connected with Ahamkara, just like an axe acts when it interacts with the hand. Thus, Mārtaṇḍakālī is nothing more than Parasamvit because it leads to the merging of the twelve indriyas, where they completely lose themselves and become nameless. For the same reason, the Mārtaṇḍakālī corresponds to the Anakya Shakti (Anakhya).

Group 3 Kālī-s:

  1. Paramārkakālī - the power by which the enlightenment of all aspects of the true “I” occurs. It is a creative force in relation to its limited and transcendental ego (Srishti).
  2. Kālāgnirudrakālī - also called Mahakali, because it contains everything within itself, not excluding even time. Awareness of the integration of your own “I” with all its eternal aspects (Sthiti).
  3. Mahākālakālī - an experience that characterizes Mahākālakālī - “I am all that.” But there is a higher experience in which the element “it” is missing. The difference between these two experiences is that the first “I” rests on “this”, and the last “this” exists without the “I”, remaining within itself. Parasamvit is called Mahākālakālī, because it produces the fusion of “I”, which shines as opposed to “this”, as well as “I am all that” - in “Pure Self”, “Perfect I”, which is free from all relationships with “objectivity”, “this”. It represents the power of the destruction of the subject (Samhara).
  4. Mahābhairavaghoracaṇḍakālī - “Perfect Self”, subject, object, means of knowledge and knowledge, are in complete identity with pure self- consciousness (Anakhya).

Although the Krama school existed even in the early Kaliyuga (around 5000 years ago) due to the efforts of the great sage Durvāsās, it was refounded by Erakanātha (also known as Śivānandanātha) in the late 7th century AD. This sage initiated only three disciples who were women: Keyūravatī, Madanikā and Kalyāṇikā. These three gurvī-s (female gurus) were very famous and extremely knowledgeable about the Krama school.


[1] Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme - Swamy Lakshmanjoo

[2] Nathas.org

[3] https://shaivayoga.com/kashmir-manuscripts_files/Intro_Krama.pdf