Kaula (Hinduism)

Kaula, also known as Kula, Kulamārga ("the Kula practice") and Kaulācāra ("the Kaula conduct"), is a religious tradition in Shaktism and tantric Shaivism characterised by distinctive rituals and symbolism connected with the worship of Shakti. It is claimed to have flourished in India primarily in the first millennium AD. The details of the sects were unknown until the Christian missionaries distorted and used Tantric texts to claim that the Hindu texts were immoral.

Kaula preserves some of the distinctive features of the Kāpālika tradition, from which it is derived.[1] It is subdivided into four subcategories of texts based on the goddesses Kuleśvarī, Kubjikā, Kālī and Tripurasundarī respectively.[2] The Trika texts are closely related to the Kuleśvarī texts and can be considered as part of the Kulamārga.[3]

In later Hatha Yoga, the Kaula visualization of kundalini rising through a system of chakras is overlaid onto the earlier bindu-oriented system.[4]:770, 774

Kaula and Kula

The translation of the term Kula in English is considered difficult and has raised some problems for researchers.[5] The basic meaning is "family", "group" or "self-contained unit".[6] This is explained by Flood as referring to the retinues of minor goddesses depicted in the schools' literature.[7]

Philosophically the term is said to represent a unifying connectedness, beneath the various objects, processes and living entities of this world, which may be identified with these goddesses as aspects of the supreme deity, in some regions the god Shiva, elsewhere a goddess.[8] Another meaning sometimes given to the term kaula is that of a "group of people" engaged together in the practice of spiritual discipline.

Kaula practices are based on tantra, closely related to the siddha tradition and shaktism. Kaula sects are noted for their extreme exponents who recommend the flouting of taboos and social mores as a means of liberation. Such practices were often later toned down to appeal to ordinary householders, as in Kaśmiri Śaivism.[9]