by JPN Trakru
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
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
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:
||Karma and Trika
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.
of monastic Shivasim Subject
under whom he took guidance
Utpaladeva Lakshamangupta Bhairava
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.
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:
: 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.
: 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.
: It is psycho-physical
limitations, all that the self is associated with because of the said two
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.
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.
G .T. Deshpande]