Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka in Post-Modern Parallels
Author : Gautam Chatterjee
The philosophy of Indian Philosophy is not a-priori. But the worship of Siva or Rudra goes back to the Vedas. If we consider the excavation of Mohenjodaro and Harappa as pre-vedic (according to John Marshall's view over the Indus Valley Civilization, and also the views from R.C. Majumdar and A.D. Pusalkar), we can come across the found image of Pasupati, as Pulaskar writes, the representation of male gods, the most remarkable is a three-faced deity, has at least three concepts which are usually associated with Siva viz. that he is (i) trimukha (threefaced), (ii) pasupati (lord of animals, in Kasmira Saivism, the term 'pasu' means individual soul, pasa means maya and pati means Lord), and (iii) yogisvara or Mahayogi. The first two aspects are apparent from the seal itself. The deity is sitting cross-legged in a padmasana posture with eyes turned towards the tip of the nose which evidences the yogisvara aspect of the deity. It has been suggested by some scholars that the Siva-cult was borrowed by the Indo-Aryans from the Indus culture but as there is a reference to Siva in the Rigveda itself. Siva may not be a later intruder in the Hindu pantheon. '
Again, in the Yajurveda we have the Satarudriya. The Taittiriya Aranyaka tells us that the whole universe is the manifestation of Rudra. Some of Upanisads, the Mahabharata and some Puranas glorify Siva or Rudra. We find Rudra in the Atharvaveda, Brahmanas, Upanisads and Sutras.
In the Puranas, Siva is demonstrated with two aspects, benevolent and malevolent, Siva is generally worshipped by 'linga' i.e. phallic form and 'in the shape of man' i.e. anthropomorphic form (greek anthropos means man, morphe means shape). The puranas invariably present Siva with a single head whereas the installation of Siva's image with five heads (pancamukhasiva), we find in religious place of worship like Varanasi (or Kasi), in both the Visvanatha temples. We also find lingas with five faces (pancamukhalingas), also known as pancavaktra (Pancavaktramahadevah in Skanda Purana). The Ardhanarisvara form of Siva is too found in the Puranas. And finally the twenty-seventh chapter of Vayu Purana explains in detail the eightfold form of Siva. Rudra, Isana, Pasupati, Mahadeva, Nilalohita, Sankara. Siva, Sadasiva, Sambhu, Vyomakesa, Trinetra, Trilocana, Tryambaka, Virupaksa, Nilakantha, Nilagriva, Srikantha, Sitikantha, Astamurti, Santa are few names, we can find these for Siva in the Puranas.
In Indian Philosophy, linga originally meant symbol or sign of creation, grammatically it is sex, and etymologically, linga and langala (plough, as Przyluski studied) are of austro-asiatic origin and the same thing. In nigama and agama, therefore we find clear traces of Siva from the ancient time, historically and religiously, as an essential cult. the sacred literature of the Saivas is called Saivagama. Srikantha places it side by side with the Vedas. Madhavacarya refers to the four schools of Saivism - Nakulisa-pasupata, Saiva, Pratyabhijna and Rasesvara - in his percept 'Sarvadarsanasamgraha, written in twelfth century. Here mentioned Saiva indicates the dualistic school of siddhantasaiva, the belonging of Madhavacarya.
After six long centuries, Pandita Isvaracandra Vidyasagara found the copies of this precept 'Sarvadarsana samgraha' in the late nineteenth century. During this dark period, people were unaware of Saivism and saivagamas of ancient India. No other traces were there in Moghul period. Pt. Vidyasagara found one copy of the same Samskrta script in Kolkata and two more copies from Kasi. He edited the entire script, consisting of fifteen major philosophies of ancient and medieval India and published it in book form from Asiatic Society of Bengal (nos.63 and 142, Bibliotheca India) in 1853. Pt. Vidyasagara was then principal of the Samskrta College, Calcutta. After receiving this book with Samskrta text, E.B. Cowell and A.E. Gough translated it into English with fifteen philosophies and published it by indicating in the index that Madhavacarya and compiled sixteen philosophies. Recently the sixteenth, i.e. the advaita philosophy of Samkara is published from Adyara Library and Research centre, Adyara, chennai in 1999. Klaus K. Klostermaier has translated the Samskrta text into English.
Therefore he was actually Vidyasagara ji who brought about this great work of Madhavacarya into light so that, after the English version by Cowell and Gough, the whole world, we came to know about Kashmira Saivism or the philosophy of Pratyabhijna and scholars traced the major works of this non-dualistic school from the Kasmiri Panditas for the very first time in late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Hence the Saiva system (or systems) came to the notice of the modern scholars in 1858 A.D. The four- The Nakulisa-Pasupata system, the Saiva system, the Pratyabhijna or Recognitive system and the Rasesvara or Mercurial system-among sixteen systems appeared for the first time when these published in the Bibliothica Indica. Inspite of that, the Pratyabhijna Sastra remained unknown to the modern scholars. In the year 1875, G. Buhler discovered in Kasamira (Kashmir), the works composed by Kashmiris under the general name Saiva Sastra. The available Literature shows that there were eight system of the Saiva Philosophy as - Pasupata, Siddhanta, Nakulisa Pasupata, VisistadvaitaSaiva,Visesadvaita Saiva, Nandikesvara Saiva and Monistic Saiva of Kashmira. Abhinavagupta, the great polymath of Kashmira, has categorised these as three Saiva systems- Dvaita,Dvaitadvaita and Advaita. Besides the four among sixteens in Sarvadarsanasamgraha, we find two more sects-Kapalika and kalamukha, in Yamuna's Agamapramanya. Saivism is again divided into Vira Saivism (or Sakti visistadvaita) and Saiva Siddhanta. the former is also known as Ligayata (or Satasthala). Though according to Sripati Pandita, Vira Saivism is Visesadvaita and not Sakti Visistadvaita. Scholars regarded this as Sakti Visistadvaita. K.C. Pandey puts this in the category of Visesadvaita. I consider this as sakti visistadvaita on the authentic basis of Puranas and my revered guru Pt. Vraja Vallabha Dvivedi. Saiva Siddhanta calls itself Suddhadvaita, the name which Vallabha's school bears. Whereas Vallabha means by the word 'Suddha' 'that which is free from the impurity of Maya (mayasambandharahita) and by the word 'Advaita' 'the Non-dual Brahman', Saiva Siddhanta takes the word 'Suddha' in the sense of 'unqualified' and the word 'Advaita' in the sense of 'Dvaita devoid of duality' which means that difference is real in existence. That means, though, matter and souls are real yet they are not opposed to Siva but are inseparably united with Him who is the supreme reality. This suggests the influence of Aprthaksiddhi of Ramanuja. Saiva Siddhanta agrees with Madhava in giving them substantive existence. Siddhanta Saiva is dualistic and Madhavacarya had faith in this dualistic philosophy.
Pratyabhijna is re-cognition, to recognize, slightly different from remembrance. A love-sick woman cannot get any consolation and joy even though her lover may be present near her until she recognizes him. the moment recognition dawns she becomes all joy. She does not need to remember. She recognizes him at once because she had not forgotten him. She knew her before, and knows him even from vismrti (forgetfulness) to smrti (remembrance) is abhijnana, like in the story of Dusyanta and Sakuntala. the simile of the love-sick woman is elseto the purpose of pratyabhijna than the simile of dusyanta. Let us take the later simile as approach. the remembrance takes place into the mind of dusyanta as sphota, i.e. the meaning of something explodes into the mind of dusyanta so that he is now able to recognize Sakuntala as his wife which he had forgotten. Similarly, the modern pandits of Kashmir Saivism say that 'I have forgotten that I am world of suffering, for I am wondering in this world of suffering, for I know but have forgotten, so remembrance is must. Now I have the remembrance that 'I am that' or 'you are me' i.e. 'tat tvam asi'. This is Recognition and this at once overcomes bondage. The liberated soul becomes one with Siva and ever enjoys the mystic bliss of oneness with Lord and dissolves into Jivanamukti.
And the other approach is that 'There is' and I have to recognize thaere is that which is, that 'I am that' that emptiness, the Siva. And this can happen in one single life, happen in one single moment. This entire world is full of reality. the word 'reality is derived from 'res', thing (like the word 'true' derived from Latin 'verus', means 'that which is' , or German 'wahr', the English root meaning of the word 'True' is 'honest and faithful'. And the root of the English word 'thing' is fundamentally the same as the German 'bedingen', means to condition, to set the conditions or determine). Hence the reality is that which is conditioned in time and space, subject to birth, grow decay and death. So this world of such reality- where every 'thing' is interrelated, interdependent- is actually the content of human consciousness, as J. Krsnamurti used to say. Whereas Siva means that which is good, benevolent, tranquility, ecstasy, freedom, all in aqbsolute sense. Reality is relative, really. We can look at this reality outside and inside, as witness, put the things in order and can negate the order. Emptiness happens in serene silence. Because thought is thing or things are thoughts, as Bishop Berkeley used to say. No-thing-ness is the void or emptiness within the human consciousness which exists as 'that is' as Samkara, means, sam (in Indian Dramaturgy, sama is the permanent emotion, sthayi bhava of santa rasa, Abhinavagupta has described in his commentary 'Abhinava Bharati' of Indian dramaturgy Natyasastra of sage Bharata in detail where he talks about sahrdaya who is having a mind of 'vimala pratibha'. Adhikari catra vimalapratibhanasalihrdayah. This pure intelligence, he also describes in the third ahnika of Tantraloka as a key word nirmalavatva, the stainless purity) karoti iti samkara, means, He who puts out or extenguishes all the animal impulses as dross which are nothing but the thought-constructs or ideation, vikalpas, is Samkara. This citta, full of real things, thoughts can transform into citi (the technical term of Kashmira Saivism for pure consciousness), devoid of all vikalpas. And Kashmira Saivism provides that an individual soul can start with a pure thought, suddha vikalpa that I am Siva and this entire world is my own grand splendour, vibhuti or vilasa out of my own svatantrya.
So primarily Kashmira Saivism was a philosophy of dualism-ahanta and idanta, subjective and objective consciousness and after that it spread out all over the realm of wisdom as visvahanta or visvamaya and visvottirna, immanent and transcendent. This is the central philosophy of Kashmira Saivism, emerged in the ninth century A.D. as a monistic saivism. He is Anuttara, state of Parama siva, the Highest Self, the Absolute, one than whom nothing is higher, the first vowel 'a', the Prakasa aspect of 'a', Vimarsa is his glory, this world, contrast to Samkara's maya. Here it is positive, creative, vimarsa aspect of the Absolute Reality.
'Tantraloka' is a creation of Acarya Abhinavagupta, a compendium of all tantra texts available in several forms as works, akara grantha, a mine of great wisdom where each and every perspective of tantra (is regarded as Sruti or Agama, revelation as opposed to a Smrti or Nigama, Tradition, pancama veda, 'Srutisakhavisesah', NisvasatattvaSamhita, one of the oldest available tantra, comprehends-meaning to hold it all together-that the Tantra is the culmination of the exoteric science of the Vedanta and the Samkhya. another old Tantrika text, 'Pingalamata' says, the Tantra, first communicated by Siva, came down through tradition. It is Agama with the chracteristics of chandas (Vedas). Vaidika mahavakyas, like Prapancasara. Tanyate vistarayate jnanam anena, i.e. by which knowledge is spread or developed is Tantra) is elaborately explained. It seems at first glance that this is a grantha of upasana, text of worship rituals, at a greater extent it is but actually this consists of the entire philosophical wisdom of Kashmir Saivism, that's why this is put in the pratyabhijna sastra, not in the category of agama sastra, for it contemplates (manana or vicara) over the principles (tattvas) and pratyabhijna sastra is actually manana sastra or vicara sastra.
Liberation or salvation (mukti or moksa) is the meaning, goal and ever-relevant light of Asian country India and Indian philosophy. From pre-Vedic period to this post modern age, this essence of Indian philosophy is still remaining. In quantum, liberation does not depend on time or space, on birth and death. It is simply Self-realization depends on this life only, here and now. In one single verse, Acarya Abhinavagupta has put it in an impeccable way before the messy conglomeration of several thoughts concerning to salvation or moksa. The salvation is nothing else but the essential nature or form of one's own self, the awareness of one's true nature. This is named Atma-samvit in Pratyabhijna philosophy.