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Abhinavgupta

by JPN Trakru

King Lalitaditya of Kashmir brought Atrigupta from Kanoj to Kashmir around AD 740, and requested Atrigupta to settle and live in Kashmir permanently. Another Scholar Sangmaditya who had married a Brahmin girl came to Kashmir in the course of his wanderings. Both Sangmaditya and Atrigupta were Saiva scholars and came to settle down in Kashmir. In the same period, the great Shankaracharya, who flourished between AD 780 and 820 visited Kashmir and was honoured there. The period between AD 750 and 900 appears to be full of activity in the field of Saiva monism in Kashmir.  And the fact that King Lalitaditya brought Atrigupta from Kanoj and requested him to settle permanently in Kashmir suggests that kings of Kashmir were also interested in this activity.

King Lalitaditya ordered a good house to be built on the bank of the river Vitasta (Jhelum) on a plot opposite the temple of Sitamusmalin (Siva) for Atrigupta to settle there permanently. A big jagir was granted to him for maintenance.

Atrigupta was a very learned Brahmin. He had attained scholarship in all branches of Knowledge in general and Siva shastra in particular. Atrigupta belonged to the Agastya gotra and was the ancestor of Abhinavgupta. Abhinavgupta’s grandfather was Varagupta. He was also a great scholar and a devotee of lord Siva. The Scholastic traditions were maintained in the family from generation to generation.

Abhinavgupta’s father, Narsimhagupta alias Cukhulaka was also a great scholar and had equal proficiency in all the Shastras. He too was a great devotee of Siva. Vimlakala  was Abhinav’s mother; she was a pious and religious lady. Narsimhagupta and Vimlakala made a happy couple and carried on household duties not for any worldly attachment but because it was ordained by the Shastras. Their family atmosphere was thoroughly religious and scholarly. Abhinavgupta was born to this couple between AD 950 and 960.

Abhinavgupta rose to the position of Acharya of the Siva sects in Kashmir by his exposition of the Siva philosophy and practice of life of a Siva yogi. It is believed among Saivas that it is only yoginibahu who can properly understand and intelligently propound the tenets of Siva monism. Hence he is believed to be a yoginibahu. According to Siva tenets the parents desirous of a son of the status of a yoginibahu, should rise above all worldly desires at the time of meeting. The mother should identify herself with Shakti and the father with Shiva. It is traditionally believed in Kashmir that Abhinavgupta was born of a yogini.

Abhinavgupta studied Mahabhasya under his father Cukhulaka. He was well versed in grammar. His proficiency in grammar is evident at every point in his writings. Pandit Vamancarya Jahalkikar says that Abhinav was sent to a pathshala when he was just a boy. His teachers were highly impressed by his versatile intelligence and keen memory. 

Abhinavgupta, born in a family, which had a long tradition of scholarship and devoutness to lord Siva. He spent every day of his life in an atmosphere, which was surcharged with scholarly and devotional spirit. Besides his parents, his family consisted of uncle Vamanagupta, a younger brother Manoratha and five cousins. His uncle Vamanagupta was a scholar and a poet. Abhinava studied under him for sometime. Abhinavgupta had an insatiable desire for learning, he studied different shastras under different teachers and even travelled out of Kashmir to do so. The teachers and the subjects he studied under them, are as follows:

Name of Teacher Subject
Narasimhagupta (his father)  Grammar
Vamanatha    Dvaita Tantra
Bhutiraja Brahmavidya
Bhutirajatanya Karma and Trika Darsana
Bhatta Induraja Dhvanyaloka
Bhatta Tauta Dramaturgy
Sambhunatha (from Jalandhara) Kaulgama

Abhinavgupta was greatly attached to his mother but while he was still a boy, the cruel hands of death snatched his mother away from him. After his mother's death the only center of attachment was his father, the focus both for his filial and papillary love. But his father also soon afterwards, renounced his worldly life and took the order of the saniyasin. These events turned away Abhinava's mind from all worldly attachments and he took to the path of devotion towards lord Shiva. The change was so firm that he made up his mind never to marry. This was a turning point in his life and it put an end to his interest in secular literature and his domestic life. Thenceforth he went from teacher to teacher in quest of Agamic knowledge, which would advance his spiritual leanings. His great work Tantraloka bears testimony to the great zeal with which he pursued the study of Agamic literature and the proficiency that he attained in it. His study of Agamas  appears to have begun under Lakshmangupta. He studied all the three branches of Agamic lore viz Krama, Trika, and Kula.  Pratyabhinjna system is a branch of Trika system.

Branches of monastic Shivasim Subject

Spanda     Prtyabhijna    Karma     Kula         

Teachers under whom he took guidance   

Vasugupta           Kallata          Bhaltenduraja     Somananda     Utpaladeva      Lakshamangupta  Bhairava      Sumatinatha        Helraja           Bhutiraja     Mukula         Sambhunatha

All these branches in monastic Saivism agree to the concept of ultimate principal. They have however shown different methods of realising that ultimate. Abhinavgupta having read and practiced all these methods was a proper person to synthesize them into one common system acceptable to all. He did that in his famous epitomic Tantraloka, a statement based on Shastra, Yukti and Anubhava. Which gave him the honour of being recognized as Acharya of all the sects.

Monastic Shiva Philosophy

It will be easy for us to get an idea of the philosophy of the Saiva system from Pratyabhijna literature. Saivasim both in theory and practice is open to all without any restriction of caste. One who has keen desire for knowledge and liberation is free to study and practice Saivism.  However there is a distinction between one who desires to practice Saivism and attain liberation in his life and the one who is keen on the study of Saiva philosophy with all its intricacies. For a simple follower of Saiva ritual, only firm determination will suffice but in the case of a person interested in Saiva Philosophy, determination alone will not do, he must posses knowledge of Vedas, Vedangas, six systems of Philosophy, Grammar and Tarka. Then only will he be able to understand and appreciate the necessity of the arguments in Pratyabhijna. The aim of all the systems of Indian philosophy in general and Pratyabhijna in particular is to help the individual in realization and to point out ways and means by which that end is to be achieved i.e. removing the evil of ignorance. All the systems of Indian philosophy hold that ignorance is the cause of bondage (Bandana) and only Knowledge is the cause of Moksha (liberation). Bondage according to Saiva philosophy is due to impurity (mala) which is of three types viz.1. Anavamala    2) Karmamala  3) Mayamala. They are explained as under:

Anavamala : This is innate ignorance, it consists in the loss of universality and cosequent forgetfulness of its true nature. It is mere consciousness of supposed imperfections.

Karmamala : It is of the nature of indefinite desire. The impurity of innate ignorance (Anavamala) is the condition of indefinite and limitless desire. It is a potential desire, which as such has no definite object. But when it actualises, it is responsible for countless association of the self with creations of Maya.

Mayamala : It is psycho-physical limitations, all that the self is associated with because of the said two impurities.

For Saiva Philosophy, the self-realization brings with it, an understanding in which there is a new interpretation and appreciation of the universe. According to this system, therefore, self-realization is self-recognition (Pratyabhijna). Self-realization in fact is a matter of divine grace, which comes through the agency of a guru. It may also come directly without the agency of guru. 

Every person knows that it is his soul, which knows and acts. Philosophy tells us that man's soul is identical with the universal soul. We are not conscious of the universal power of knowledge and action which is already there in us, because of the innate ignorance (Ajnana) which works as an impediment in the knowing of the real power of the soul. Unless we are made conscious of them we shall never recognize the nature of the soul and be conscious of it. It is to make us conscious of the power of knowledge and action, that Pratyabhijna is necessary. Our knowledge got from the reading of the philosophical books is intellectual (Bauddha jnana). It is not spiritual (Paurusa Janana).  The intellectual knowledge can only give us an idea of the universal power of the self. That does not suffice for liberation. It is only the spiritual knowledge that liberates us. The consciousness of these powers in us can change our whole personality so much that our attitude of viewing life becomes altogether different. This new and different interpretation of the universe, which leads us to extreme happiness, is the result of Pratyabhijna. The Pratyabhijna, therefore, removes our limited power of knowledge and action in respect of the soul and reveals before us the same soul in its universal form, the recognition of which leads us to happiness and gratification.

Conclusion

Abhinavgupta was the greatest Acharya of monastic Saivisim in Kashmir, his place among the ex-founders of monastic Saivasim is the same as that of Shri Shankracharya in expounding the advaita Vedanta. For Saivas in Kashmir, he was the final authority in the matter of Saiva thought and ritual. In the field of poetics and aesthetic thought, writers in that field have acknowledged him as the final authority. The absolute monastic thought of India flowed through two currents namely the Advaita Vedanta of Sankara and Saiva darsana of Abhinavgupta, one started from Nigama (veda) and other from Agama (Monistic Saivisim) But ultimately they meet in the same point in the form of realization of the absolute as One.

[Ref: Abhinavgupta  by  G .T. Deshpande]

Source: Milchar

  

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