Sunday, November 10, 2013

Abhinavagupta, Tantrāloka and Kashmir Shaivism (990 AD)


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"Abhinavagupta (Sanskrit: अभिनवगुप्त) (c. 950 – 1020 AD) was one of Kashmir's greatest philosophers, mystics and aestheticians. He was also considered an important musician, poet, dramatist, exegete, theologian, and logician — a polymathic personality who exercised strong influences on Indian culture. Abhinavagupta was strongly influenced by Buddhist logic…. He was born in the Valley of Kashmir in a family of scholars and mystics and studied all the schools of philosophy and art of his time under the guidance of as many as fifteen (or more) teachers and gurus. In his long life he completed over 35 works, the largest and most famous of which is Tantrāloka, an encyclopedic treatise on all the philosophical and practical aspects of Trika and Kaula (known today as Kashmir Shaivism). Another one of his very important contributions was in the field of philosophy of aesthetics with his famous Abhinavabhāratī commentary of Nāṭyaśāstra of Bharata Muni."….

"Kaula-Chakra ….Tantrāloka is the masterwork of Abhinavagupta, who was in turn the most revered Kashmir Shaivism master. On account of its size and scope it is a veritable encyclopedia of nondual Shaivism, a treasure text containing the synthesis of the 64 monistic āgamas and all the schools of Kashmir Shaivism. The work contains both ritualistic and philosophic aspects, spanning over 37 chapters. Chapter 29 is entirely dedicated to the so-called kula-chakra - a tantric practice which includes ritualized sexual activity. Abhinavagupta also wrote a condensed version of Tantrāloka named Tantrasāra. The whole work has been translated into Italian by Raniero Gnoli…..

Kshemendra (Ksomendra)(c. 990 – c. 1070 CE) was a Kashmirian poet of the 11th century, writing in Sanskrit…..Born into an old, cultured, and affluent family, both his education and literary output were broad and varied. He studied literature under "the foremost teacher of his time, the celebrated Shaiva philosopher and literary exponent Abhinavagupta".

"Alexander Csoma conjectured that S'ambhala must have been the capital of a kingdom ihat flourished in the early centuries of Christ and that S'ridhdnya Kataica was the Cuttak of modern Orissa. The last of tlic kings of S'ambhala is, however, not mentioned in the Ju!a Tantra. It is stated that a king named Samudra Vijaya arrived at S'ambhala in 618 A.D., and shortly after that the period called, in the Tibetan chronology, (Me-kha-rgya-Mtsho*, commenced. It is also stated that in 622 A.D., at Makha (Mecca) the Muhamadan religion was established. From what can be gathered from Tibetan histories and works on Kdla Chakrait may be conjectured that this S'ambhala, very probably, was the capital of the Bactrian Empire of the Eastern Greeks who had embraced Buddhism. It is also conjectured that the modern city of Balkh must have been the site of their latest capital. The name of King Menander {Minendra) who erected a very lofty chaiti/is discussed by the Kashmirian poet Kshemendra, in the Avadānakalpalatā, a work that was finished iu about 1035 A.D."....

"Kaula or Kula describes a type of Hindu tantrism reckoned by Gavin Flood to derive from Kapalika or "cremation ground" asceticism, and to divide into northern, eastern, southern and western schools across the subcontinent. The Kaula tradition is sometimes more simply divided into two main branches, Purva Kaula and Uttara Kaula…..The Kaula lineage is closely linked to the Siddha and Nātha traditions…..Aham, the heart or "subjective I", is a central concept in Kaula ideology, conceived of as the most sacred reality, home of consciousness (Cit) and bliss (Ananda), place of union of the cosmic couple Shiva and Shakti. The term Aham refers to the same reality as other terms like anuttara (unsurpassed), Akula (beyond the group), Shiva (The Lord), Cit (supreme consciousness) as well as "feminine" aspects as Ananda and Shakti. Each term brings a specific viewpoint, but none of them can fully describe the Supreme Reality….On the individual level, the heart is the binding force of all conscious experiences – the individual being is considered a Kula composed of eight elements: five senses, ego (ahamkar), the mind and the intellect. These eight are not disconnected, unrelated processes but rather a unified, interrelated family ("kaula") based on consciousness as the common substrate….. The concept of "Spiritual Heart" is so important that even the supreme realization in Kashmir Shaivism is described in relation to it. The so-called Kechari Mudra is an attitude described as "the ability of consciousness to freely move (charati) about in the space (kha) of the heart". ("kha"+"charati" forming "kechari")"…..

Francesco Sferra...Born in Rome, Italy, in 1965, is presently Director of the Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici, Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale“……His main research areas are: tantric traditions in pre-13th century South Asia, especially Vajrayāna Buddhism; Śaivism; and classical Indian philosophy of language.
(1999) “The Tantroccaya by Abhinavagupta. An English Translation”, Annali dell’Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli 59.1-4: 109-133.
(2001) “La Tantravaṭadhānikā di Abhinavagupta”. In: Raffaele Torella (ed.) Le parole e i marmi. Studi in onore di Raniero Gnoli nel suo 70° compleanno, Serie Orientale Roma 92.1-2, IsIAO, Roma, pp. 743-769.
M. Kaul and F. Sferra, Abhinavagupta’s Short Works. Critical Edition and Translations. (provisional title)
“On Knowability. The Concept of vedyatā According to Abhinavagupta. An Analysis of Tantrāloka 10.19-97ab”.

Muller-Ortega, Paul E. The Triadic Heart of Siva: Kaula Tantrism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir. State University of New York, 1989 A study of the symbol of the heart, a central element in the work of Abhinavagupta…. great Kashmir sages like Abhinavagupta, Vasugupta, Utpaladeva, and Ksemaraja did not write for the scholars in academia. They wrote for the seekers of enlightenment….In this ultra-esoteric text, Professor Muller-Ortega considers the symbolism and function of the Heart (the Hridya, distinct from the anahata heart chakra) in the spiritual enlightenment process, as perceived within the tantric tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. When the Heart (immanent Consciousness, or Soul) is no longer contracted (by entangling thought-forms), then it radiates as Siva, en-Light-ened Consciousness. But for Siva to recognize himself and shine freely, the Heart-knot must be cut. And this "cutting" is precipitated by Grace, the descent of Divine Power (Shaktipat)….Kashmir Shaivism is a rich and intricate spiritual tradition, and Muller-Ortega's in-depth study of the Heart is a unique and wonderful consideration of this tradition……

"The Tantraloka is a most profoundly unique work. Written in eleventh century Kashmir by the great Abhinavagupta, in it he expounds Anuttara Trika, the ‘most excellent’ form of Trika Shaivism. Despite its length, every word is saturated with meaning. Every concept illumines a profound aspect of the Trika Shaivism it teaches. Abhinavagupta reveals an amazingly rich Trika Tantric vision of the oneness of the Great Light of Shiva consciousness overflowing with the astonishingly beautiful effulgence of its radiant manifestation. Here we penetrate and are penetrated into the Heart of non-dualist Kashmiri Shaivism, taught by the greatest of all Kashmiri masters……Tantrasara, a summary of the Tantraloka written by Abhinavagupta himself. …..


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….November 2013


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