Expounded by Utpaladeva
Jankinath Kaul 'Kamal'
Pratyabhijna School is quite akin to the non-dual
vedantic thought of Ajatavada explained by
Gaudapada. Vasugupta was the first propounder of
Shaivism in Kashmir. He flourished in the middle
of the late Eighth Century A.D. Worship of
different deities, Yoga systems and Shaiva faith
have already been in practice here. According to
Dr. K.C. Pandey, Kula, and 'Krama' system of
Shaivism existed here much before Atri Gupta and
Sangamaditya were invited by king Lalitaditya
(725-761 A.D.) to settle in Kashmir. 'Agamas' are
believed to be as old as 'Vedas'. It is natural
that after the lapse of a certain cycle of time an
established system of ' hought begins to fade
away. Its revival, which emanates from God
Himself, is also natural. - Shaivism was thus
revived in Kashmir when Lord Shiva Himself
revealed 'Shiva-sutras' to Vasugupta in the
vicinity of Harwan Village. He re-established the
faith by explaining the Sutras to his disciples.
With this he combated the growing Buddhism in
Kashmir. This faith developed into two school of
thought-one Spanda system of thought and the other
Pratiyabhijna Philosophy; Siddha Somananda's
Shivdrishti explains the latter. His teachings
were imbibed well by his disciple Utpaladev, who
possessed a sharp intellect. This brilliant
disciple reestablished the thought of
'recognition' with his illustrious work Ishwara -
Pratyabhijna. It is stated that Utpala was
motivated to write the Karikas at the request of
his son Vibhramakara, who wanted to imbibe them.
In this treatise Utpala reflects the wisdom taught
to him by his preceptor. It is an exhaustive
exposition of the Philosophy of Recognition.
Persian Scholars of Kashmir have termed it
Khird-i-Kamil, "Wisdom of the sage".
Together with various commentaries on this book
and other similar works there grew up a mass of
literature round the Pratyabhijha Karikas of
Utpala. This work assumed such importance that the
whole system of Kashmir Shaiva philosophy came to
be known as Pratyabhyha Darshan in India and the
know little about the early life of Utpala, who
grew to be a great mystic saint of Kashmir. This,
however, comes to us by tradition that he lived
somewhere at Nowhata in Srinagar and that his time
was the middle of the ninth century A.D. This is
also as calculated from the date available in
Rajatarangini. From the colophones of the works of
his contemporary authors and those who followed
him, we know that he was a Brahmin and lived a
married life. His father's name was Udayakara.
Utpala was followed by his disciple Lakshmana
Gupta, one of the preceptors of the great
Abhinavgupta, who wrote an exhaustive commentary
and gloss on this work.
Utpala's Ishwara Pratyabhijha is difficult to
assimilate as it deals with abstruse logic, yet it
is a perfect work on this philosophy It is not
only a set of philosophic doctrines but also
contains instruction on practical yoga. It is,
therefore, interesting for aspirants of the
highest ability, who can develop constant
awareness of Supreme Consciousness. The three
means advocated by Kashmir Shaivism in general are
recognised in this philosophy. It is, however,
known as Anupaya - the means without any means.
The doctrine as summed up by Abhinavagupta is:
the five great functions are to be followed. Since
there is no existence of impurity, whence can
there be any erosion: it is only a change in point
of view. Otherwise, nothing has happened to Shiva.
No Jeeva Bhava has been assumed by Him." (Abhinavagupta's
doctine of 'Recognition' was explained by
Somananda to Utpaladev with the help of the
girl and a boy whose marriage was fixed and who
did not know each other, one day happened to sit
together along with their relatives and friends at
a fair. During this short company the girl served
tea to the party in which one was her would-be
groom. There was no stir of feeling in either of
them. But while tea was being served, a common
acquaintance gave a hint of the scheduled marriage
to the one sitting by his side. Instantly a wave
of the feeling of love ran through the bodies of
both. The girl recognized her lover." In the
same way 'Jeeva' recognizes himself in Shiva with
the help of his preceptor. This is the philosophy
of 'Recognition' in a nutshell. Utpala explained
this more comprehensively than his teacher had. He
sat and wrote his abstruse aphorisms during calm
moments. It was his self-introspection which got
established as philosophy. Gaudapada, the grand
preceptor of 'Adi Shankaracharya' also had
expounded a similar philosophy earlier. It is
known as 'Ajatavada' in the Advaita vedanta
philosophy. He says that nothing is born and so
nothing dies. It is only the change in vision that
fne world appears as such." Utpala explained
the philosphy in his own way and convincingly too.
goes that Utpala, during the later period of I his
life, would often be in spiritual ecstasy. His
practices had ripened by the divine grace of Lord
Shiva as a result of which he uttered notes full
of divine rapture, intensely musical and pregnant
with esoteric meaning. These utterances, verily,
reveal the 'heart of Utpala'. He gave the same
philosophy an exclusively devotional tinge. He
sang verses in different tunes in praise of his
Lord, expressing non-dual devotion, 'Abheda Bhakti'.
He was so engrossed in ecstasy that he could
notkeep a record ofhis composition. He 'floated'
divinity also recedes to duality more often than
not, while the soul resides in the body, Utpala at
times came down to it when he opened his eyes to
look around, his spiritual joy predomenated in
him. Filled with divine consiousness he would find
his own mental reflection outside and get
instantly drawn within. Once in spring, being in
his ecstatic mood for long, Utpala opened his eyes
and saw almond blossoms strewn by wind on the
ground. At once he exclaimed: "Ah! devotees
have performed worship and adorned the Lord with
flower wreaths. Only I fall back." Uttering
this he instantly got into Samadhi again.
time, while running in divine ecstasy, Utpala's
locks got entangled among bushes. He felt that his
beloved Shiva was catching hold of him. Imagining
this he got drawn into meditation. To common
people this may mean that Utpala was a psychologic
abnoramlity with a soft heart. Since psychology
has no approach to the spiritual field, as it is
beyond the range of mind and matter, Utpala is
known to have measured a considerable divine
height. He needed not to sit for meditation. Shiva
was always in his being just as Mother Kali's
Divinity was always present in Paramahansa
Ramakrishna's being. He sang in a melodious tune
while panting for the final beatitude of Shiva,
addressing him with earnest devotion. This speaks
of the extent of his joy, the expression of which
was termed Janun-i-Kamil - divine ecstasy of the
sage by the Persian scholars.
Utpaladev is said to have composed in this state a
large number of verses many of which were
collected and compiled by his disciples Sri Ram
and Adityaraja. Finally, these were classified
into twenty hymns by a great scholar Vishwavarata,
who gave each hymn his own heading. The collection
is named Utpala's Shivastotravali. This
information has come down to us from Kshema Raja,
a later author, and a disciple of Abhinavagupta.
his exhaustive commentry on Sivastotravali
Kshemaraj tells us, at the very outset of the
book, that Utpala had, however, named three hymns
himself. These are Sangrastotra, Jayastotra and
Bhaktistotra - thirteenth, fourteeth and fifteenth
chapters respectively as arranged in the book.
Unplumbed deeps of one's heart get stirred as the
rhythm on reciting of the verses touches one's
ears. One sits rapt and breathless. A new life, a
new course of study and meditation seems to begin.
The centre of interest gets shifted. You continue
to sing to yourself or the muse on the versified
lines. Tears of joy, like pearls, trickle down the
eyes and one virtually forgets oneself. Utpala
addresses his beloved:
Lord: just, a while to listen to me
pleasure and pain, in a nut-shell, I tell.
being with thee is joy Supreme,
of thy grace, I suffer again.
you have a feeling of the joy of soltitude that is
experienced by listening to the shrill voice of a
morning bird or the continued flow of a waterfall.
Utpala, for all purposes, was a mystic, a loving
and pure-hearted soul whose example we much later
again find in Lalleshwari, Nund Rishi and Ropa
Bhawani. Swami Rama Tirtha was also one of such
exalted modern saints.
the chief characteristic of Utpala's language is
symbolism, it appeals to all sects of people,
especially to those who understand it. His power
of penetrating human hearts enraptures one with
his dynamic touch. He sang:
Lord: I may possess like common people, desire for
enjoyment in the world. But with this difference
that I should look upon these as thyself - without
the least idea of duality.
laid stress on reconciliation of knowledge and
devotion which practically means earnestness in
knowing the self. He categorically expressed:
is naught but thy existence in the Universe for
those endowed with knowledge of self."
worship is great celebration for those who are
blessed by thee."
these statements ever befit thy earnest
devotees." Again he gushed
their actions bear fruit who worship thee for
their fulfilment. But every act of thy devotees
who reside in thee is the fruit by itself."
lyrical songs of Utpala are pithy and pierce
through the very recesses of the heart of a
devotee who is endowed with Divine grace. Utpala
sang, rather uttered these notes like a singing
bird, not for others but for himself, drowned into
the Divine. His own feelings and emotions, joys
and sorrows and above all his intense longing as
an earnest seeker of spiritual Truth are vividly
pictured in the hymns.
philosophy of Recognition can be summed up in the
lines of Carol Schnieder
sad with you is more beautiful
being happy Anywhere else."
exactly conveys what Utpaladeva says to Lord Siva.
Janki Ntith Koul 'Kamal 'is a well-known scholar
and writer. Recently, he got a prestigious award -
a Certificate of Honour - from the President of