For my doctoral research, I will prepared a critical edition and annotated translation of the Niśvāsamukha, the opening book of the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā. The Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā is one of the oldest surviving Hindu tantric scriptures. Various scholars, such as Śāstrī (1905:lxxvii; 137–140), Goodall and Isaacson (2007:4), Goudriaan and Gupta (1981:33–36), Sanderson (2006:152) and Bagchi (1929:757ff.), have repeatedly stressed the religious and historical importance of the Niśvāsatattvasaṃhitā in their works, especially for the study of Indian religious history. The text has not yet been published. Since there is only a single surviving manuscript, dating back to the 9th century, my research will prevent the very real threat of decomposition into unintelligibility of this significant historical document and its loss to the scholarly community.

Since the Niśvāsamukha deals with the lay Śaiva religious duties, my research will contribute to the religious and cultural history of ancient India, particularly around the 7th century, on the basis of written testimony. This also concerns changing norms of religious and material practice in India, as, in some cases, we come across practices that are no longer attested these days.

The Niśvāsamukha provides us with information that is—if at all—sparsely documented in other sources. Its most remarkable feature is its structural framework, which presents a large range of religious teachings as five streams of knowledge originating from Śiva. A significant feature of this narrative is its incorporation of both Śaivas and non-Śaivas—indeed it includes all the religious traditions of India, with the exception of Buddhism and Jainism. Presenting all scriptures of other schools as having originated from the five faces of Śiva stands in stark contrast to the far less inclusive orthodox presentations prevalent in other works. This account of the Niśvāsamukha is unique. Although its main focus is on the Mantramārga, as we have seen, it embraces a broad range of teachings and brings them together as streams of knowledge originating from the five faces of Śadāśiva. This means that it gives authority to all of these teachings, at least to some degree. This does not just put distinct traditions together or merely acknowledge their validity, but it effectively encompasses discrete beliefs, philosophies, and rituals, and makes them function in harmony under a single authority. This account of the five streams of knowledge is reminiscent of the modern concept of the inclusivistic character of Hinduism.