Abhinanagupta was considered a important musician, poet, playwright, exeget, theologian and logician, being a personality that has exerted an exceptional influence on Indian culture.
About the great sage Abhinanagupta is said to have been an avatar of Shiva
Even today it is unanimously accepted as one of the greatest spiritual masters, philosophers, mystics and Indian aestheticians. Although India had many aestheticians, Abhinanagupta remains unique through the masterful synthesis of all visions and theories up to him, giving them a much broader, deeply spiritual perspective.
Birth and the first part of life
He was born in the Kashmir Valley (c. 920 – 1020 A.D.), into a family of Brahmans with high spiritual concerns.
In Kashmir it is considered that a descendant of parents with very high spiritual pursuits and achievements (“established in the supreme essence of Bhairava”) results in being a being with special spiritual endowments.
His own birth is in the same way as claims that he was in fact an embodiment of the god Bhairava, conceived by extraordinary circumstances in which his mother and father engaged in the ritual sexual union. His birth, in other words, was not the beginning of his journey of life, but rather the appropriate means by which a being of the god entered the world,in order to reveal the ancient wisdom towards the end of providing a way of liberation for worthy seekers.
His mother, Vimala,died when Abhinanagupta was just two years old. Because of this, he grew with a tendency to distance himself from the world and focused on his concerns and spirtual effort.
His father, Narasimhagupta,after the death of his wife, favoured an ascetic lifestyle while raising his three children.
He had a cultivated mind and a special heart, adorned, both, with an exceptional devotion to Maheshvara (Shiva) – as Abhinanagupta himself says.
He was Abhinanagupta’s first teacher,instructing him in grammar, logic and literature.
All the people around him had very elevated spiritual concerns
and, therefore, Abhinavagupta benefited from a very favorable environment that allowed him to make gigantic steps in himself and for mankind, thus managing to complete a work of the magnitude of “Tantraloka”.
According to Kashmiri tradition, around 1025 C.E., he entered a cave while reciting Bhairavastava along with 1200 disciples and they were never seen again. They supposedly meditated until they translated into another dimension.
He studied all the spiritual, philosophy and art schools of his time, under the guidance of more than 15 masters of the time,of which were: Vaishnavas, Buddhists, Shaiva Sidhanta and Trika.
Vmanatha trained him in dualist shivaism and Bhutiria in dualist shivaism – nondualist.
Lakshmanagupta, a direct disciple of Somandanda, on Trayambaka line was highly respected by Abhinanagupta and initiated it in aspects related to non-dualist Shivaite schools: Krama, Trika and Prathyabhijna (except Kahula School).
Shambunatha you initiated him into the mysteries of the fourth school nondualist- Ardha Trayambhaka – Kakla school.
For Abhinanagupta, Shambhunata was like the sun, in its power to dispel ignorance.
Abhinanagupta received Shambhunata’s initiation through Shambhunata’s wife, using a very high special tantric process, which can only be practiced by being with a great spiritual achievement.
Shambhunata asked his student to write Tantraloka, and therefore the influence of this master will be felt throughout the opera.
From Jayaratha we learn that Abhinanagupta manifested all six qualities necessary to be a perfect recipient of the state of shaktipata – the divine grace manifested in a man’s being:
- an unabated faith in God
- possession of absolute spiritual efficiency in working with mantras
- control of the essential principles of manifestation (tattves), including here the 5 subtle elements known
- capacity (which allows the successful completion of any activity undertaken)
- poetic creativity
- intuitive spontaneous knowledge of all areas of knowledge.
Abhinavagupta probably completed his extensive studies and stages of mystical achievement up to the age of thirty
At that time, he lived the rest of his life as a prolific teacher and author, transforming his house in Kashmir into a place of spiritual learning (āśrama) in which he wrote his numerous works and participated in the training of the many disciples who were attracted to him like bees to honey. The vibrant framework of Abhinanagupta’s world at this time is described palpably by his disciple Madhurāja in “Verses of Meditation” (Dhyānaśloka) in” His Reflections on the Lord Teacher” (Gurunātha Parāmarśa).
In these verses of the most cited, Abhinavagupta is considered as a divine incarnation, which is located in a grape garden inside a pavilion adorned with crystal and beautiful works of art. The room is scented with the scent of flowers, incense and oil lamps.
Beautiful women dance to the instruments and songs of master musicians, all in the adoration of the master, Abhinanagupta, who is surrounded by students and various spiritual aceptors. The eyes of the long-haired master are described as trembling in ecstasy, as he sits in a yogic posture, holding a prayer mudra with one hand and a musical instrument in the other.
In this wonderful portrait of Madhurāja, we get a clear vision of Abhinanagupta as one who lived and embodied the ecstatic states about which he wrote in such powerful and inspired ways.
Like Leonardo Da Vinci and other Renaissance scholars, he was suddenly a philosopher, artist and visionary– embodying his knowledge through multiple mediums. In other words, Abhinanagupta was much more than just a writer. Certainly, each of Abhinanagupta’s writings, whether on the subject of tantric ritual, philosophy or aesthetics, represents a mystically charged artistic vision in which divine reality is understood as an ever-creative impulse that appears in the heart that is itself identified as the supreme and most sublime location of divinity.
For Abhinanagupta, in other words, art, the path of spirituality and divine reality were clearly one and the same
In abhinanagupta’s mind, this cosmos is God’s artistic creation,a creation in which each of the smallest unity of creation itself embodies and reflects the divine artist who is its origin. For this reason, artistic expression – be it poetry, drama, painting, music or any other artistic medium – is equally capable of achieving a spiritual achievement as a yogic practice. For Abhinanagupta, the artist is a yogin, and the yogin is an artist. The final artistic expression is life itself that presents the opportunity of spiritual realization, an event that allows the individual to recognize his own identity as distinct from the identity of that final artist who is the source and even the creation itself.
Abhinanagupta reconstructed, rationalized, classified and systematized spiritual, mystical and philosophical knowledge in a coherent form,using in it all the resources of his time.
His work will be a source of knowledge for a long time from here on out in the modern era. Various contemporary scholars have rated it as “brilliant and holy,” “a pinnacle of the development of Kashmir’s Shivaism” and “being in possession of the ultimate achievement in yoga”
In his rather long life he completed over 60 works , the largest and most important of which is “ Tantraloka ” – an encyclopedic treatise on all the spiritual, philosophical and practical aspects of the Trika and Kaula systems within Kashmirian Shivaism.
Of great value is the great treatise on aesthetics from the profound perspective of the spirituality of Shivaism in Kashmir – “Abhinavabharati“, which is an extensive commentary of Nityashastra by Bharata Muni.
Many of India’s philosophers have written hymns to express their love for God, but also their mystical living. Thus, we also find at Adhinavagupta such a hymn of adoration.
Among his most important works are:
Tantraloka – the light of tantra – is a synthesis of all Trika systems and is, for the time being, translated into very few languages.
Because this work is vast, Abhinavagupta also wrote another work – Tantrasara – “The Essence of the Tantra” which is a summary of the first, which was further summarized in Tantroccaya and, which was then summarized again in Tantravaṭadhānikā – “The seeds of the tantra”.
Pūrvapañcikā was a comment by Pūrvatantra, aka Mālinīvijaya Tantra, lost today.
Mālinīvijayā-varttika – “Comment to Mālinīvijaya” is a commentary on the first verse of Mālinīvijaya Tantra.
Kramakeli – “The Krama Game” was a comment by Krasamastotra, now lost.
Bhagavadgītārtha-saṃgraha – “Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita” – translated by Boris Marjanovic .
Other mystical works are:
Parātrīśikā-laghuvρtti – “a short comment on Parātrīśikā”,
Paryantapañcāśīkā – “Fifty Verses on Supreme Reality”,
Rahasyapañcadaśikā – “Fifteen Verses on Mystic Doctrine”,
Laghvī prakriyā – “Short Ritual”,
Devīstotravivaraṇa – ” commentary on The Hymns of Devi “
Paramārthasāra -” The essence of Supreme Reality.
Abhinanagupta composed a number of devotional poems, most of which were translated into French:
Bodhañañcadaśikā – “Fifteen Verses on Consciousness”,
Paramārthacarcā – “The Debate on Supreme Reality”,
Anubhavaniedana – “Indoor tribute”
The verses of Experience “Anuttarā-ikā -” The 8 tips about Anuttara “,
Krama-stotra – a hymn, different from the fundamental text of the Krama school,
Bhairava-stava -” Hymn for Bhairava “,
Dehasthadevatācakra-stotra -” The hymn of the wheel of the deities that now live in the flesh,”
Paramārthadvādaśikā -” Twelve Verses on Supreme Reality “
Mahopadeśa-vi-śatikā -” Twenty Verses of the Great Doctrine.”
Another poem Śivaśaktyavinābhāva-stotra – “Hymn on the inseparability of Shiva and Shakti” was lost.
One of the most important works of Anhinavata is
“Comment to the Verses on the Recognition of the Lord” and
Ρśvarapratyabhijñā-vivρti-vimarśini – comment on the explanation of ρśvarapratyabhijñā.
This treaty is fundamental in transmission in the school Pratyabhijña (the Kashmir subsidiary Sivaism based on the direct recognition of God) nowadays. Another comment on a thing by Pratyabhijña – Śivadρtyā-locana ( “Light on Śivadρi”) is now lost. Another lost comment is Padārthapraveśa-nirρaya-tika and Prakīrρkavavaraρa – “Comment on a manwritten” – referring to the third chapter of Vākyapadīya of Bhartrihari.
Two more philosophical texts of Abhinanagupta are
Kathāmukha-tilaka – “Ornament of the preface of speeches” and
Bhedavāda-vidāraρa – “Confronting dualistic theses”.
Works poetic and dramatic
The most important work in Abhinanagupta’s philosophy of art is Abhinavabhāratī – a long and complex comment on Natya Shastra de Bharata Muni.
This has been one of the most important factors contributing to the Abhinanagupta’s fame to this day. Its most important contribution was the theory of the Race (aesthetic savors).
Other poetic works include:
Ghaρa-karpara-kulaka-vivρti, a comment on Kālidāsa’s “Gha-akarpara”;
Kāvyakauρulearnervaraρa, a “Commentary to the Wonder of Poetry” (a work by Bhaρa Tauta), now lost, and
Dhvanyālokacana, “Illustration of Dhkanyāloka “, which is a famous work by Anandavardhana.
Abhinanagupta’s brilliant systematization of several areas of religious, artistic and literary knowledge per se is nowhere better captured than in these words in his final work, “Reflections on Recognition of Lord”:
One who realizes that the powers of knowledge (jñāna) and activity (kriyā) are but manifestations of svātantrya (the independent power of God) and that these manifestations are not distinguishable by themselves and by the essence of the latter, whose form is the Lord (īśvararūpa) – a person ,in this way) “resonates” entirely with the awareness that activity and knowledge are truly one – whatever this person wants, he or she is certainly able to achieve. Such a person remains in a state of complete mystical absorption (samāveśa), even if it is still in a body. Such a person, still in the flesh, is not only released while he is alive (jīvanmukta), but has in fact achieved the final realization of identity with the supreme master (parameśvara).“Reflections on Recognition of Lord”