That more than 1100 participants registered in less than 48 hours to be part of a webinar organised by Central University Jammu to celebrate Abhinavgupt Jayanti is an indicator of growing interest about the forgotten Genius from Kashmir. This is a positive and very encouraging development at a time when entire world is fighting Covid-19 pandemic that started from Wuhan China.
Thankfully, recently there is trend among youngsters to know about past is growing. More people seem to be enquiring about ancient Kashmir and its achievements in various fields of human activity. It certainly is a welcome development.
Abhinavgupt-one of the greatest saint-philosophers of Kashmir- figures prominently in search about Kashmir.
Who was Abhinav Gupt?
“Few in India appreciate that he (Acharya Abhinavagupt) represents the acme of Indian culture, integrating the best of the religion, ritual, intellect, spirituality, aesthetics, linguistics, and philosophy of his times and leaving an unmatched legacy for future generations, writes Prof. Makarand R Paranjape Centre for English Studies, School of Language Literature and Culture Studies JNU.
Christopher Wallis a scholar and practitioner of the Yoga tradition says, “There is one figure who stands out above all others, who appears as the very lynchpin of the tradition, who is the convergence point of much that had come before and the source of much that was to come after: the unparalleled master Abhinavagupta”.
PratapBhanu Mehta, wrote about Acharya Abhinavgupt in The Indian Express that, “There are moments of intellectual achievement that are beyond measure. In any reckoning of Indian intellectual history, one figure whose achievement is almost unparalleled is Abhinavagupt. Although usually described as a Kashmiri Saiva philosopher, the range of his work and its originality defy easy classification. He lies at the centre of so many currents of intellectual thinking: Aesthetics, literary criticism, dramaturgy, music, tantra, yoga.”
Peter Ronald Desouza, professor at the CSDS and holds the Dr S. Radhakrishnan Chair of the Rajya Sabha, 2015-17 in an article titled Re-imagining India’s iconography and published by The Hindu suggested consider renaming the science museum after Aryabhata; and the Mandi locality (New Delhi) , where all the arts academies are located, after Abhinavagupta.
“Abhinavagupta was not only a prolific writer, but was also a man of letters, of unfathomable wisdom, deep philosophical insight, an aesthetician and above all a yogi par excellence” says Prof. M.L. Pandit a renowned expert on the subject.
In the words of Ishwarswaroop Swami LakshmanJoo, “he (Abhinavgupta )was pride of Kashmir.”
Prof RehmanRahi, recipient of GyanPeeth award and one of the most loved poets of Kashmir, wrote the official anthem of Kashmir University, called the KU Tarana. He lovingly paid obeisance to the towering intellectual heritage of Kashmir, “This is the land (where) Abhinava Gupt's ocean of knowledge surges high.”
Family back ground Yoginibhu Abhinava
Ancestors of Abhinavagupta came to Kashmir from present day Kanauj. LalitadityaMuktapeeda the famous King of Kashmir, who after defeating King Harsha came to know about the family of scholars (Atrigupta) in the Doab area.
Impressed with his scholarship, the victorious King so earnestly requested the Atrigupta to accompany him that former could not refuse. Lalitaditya established the family on the banks of vitasta near Srinagar and gifted a big Jagir.It was in the family of Attrigupta that Abhinavagupta was born after some 200 years. It was a family of scholars and the tradition continued for centuries.
His father Narsimhagupta alias Cukhulaka also was a great intellect and proficient in all the shastras besides being a Shiva devotee. Vimalakala a pious a religious lady was the mother of Abhinavagupta. The couple lived virtually by scriptures.
Dr. Kanti Chander Pandeyis credited for his pioneering work to reintroduce Abhinavagupt to present generations. His book Abhinavagupta - a historical and philosophical study published by Chaukhamba publications in 1935 is valuable service to mankind.
Writing about society of Kashmir at the time of the birth of Abhinavagupta, Dr. KC Pandey writes, “the people then believed in the efficacy of religious observance. For each worldly gain there was prescribed a separate elaborate ceremony. .... It is enjoined in the Shiva scriptures that parents desirous of a son, who in Shiva terminology is called Yoginbhu, should raise above all the worldly ideas at the time of meeting and that the mother should identify herself with Shakti and Father with Shiva.”
Abhinavagpta himself refers to his being a yoginbhu in first shloka of Tantaraloka- the encyclopaedic Shiva text.
It is pertinent to remind our readers that this custom of identifying with Shiva and Shakti is still prevalent in one way or the other in KP community life. Posh pooza in the Lagan ceremony and Narivankhalun of yagnyopavait ceremony can easily be identified with this belief. If no more Abhinavagupta’s are born in our community the parents are to be blamed who are unable to rise above the worldly matters.
Personhood of Abhinavagupta
It is very clear that Abhinava’s parents were advanced Shaiva practitioners who conceived him in Kaula ritual; he was thus said to be yoginī-bhū, 'born of an awakened yoginī,' and thereby possessing a special capacity for liberation.
Abhinava lost his mother when he was still a child. His father also renounced the world soon after and took to asceticism. These incidents only contributed to his passion for spirituality and learning. When it came to sources of learning he describes himself as a bee, going from flower to flower, collecting the nectar of each of these branches of the tradition in order to make them all into the sweetest honey. (TA 37.63)
Abhinava learned Sanskrit from his father, Narasiṃhagupta, and received initiation into the Kālī-worshipping Krama lineage at an early age from his father’s Krama Guru, Bhūtirāja, who had been a direct disciple of the famous Chakrabhānu. But later he studied with many gurus—more than fifteen Śaiva teachers in all, plus teachers of logic, exegesis, Buddhism, Jainism, and Vaishnavism. (TĀ 13.335) But it was not until he met his true master (sadguru) that his realization was complete.
It is said in the Kaula tradition that full awakening can only be transmitted by a guru who has himself attained it. This guru, for Abhinava, was a man named ŚambhuNātha- a master of both forms of the Trika (Kaula and non-Kaula), from the Jālandharaśakti-pīṭha. It was to this master that Abhinava attributed his Self-realization though he respected & loved all his teachers.
Why do we still remember and revere him 1000 years later? In the history of Sanskrit literature, writes Dr. KC Pandey, “We do not come across another writer with such an extensive intellectual background as Abhinavagupta. Though we have not yet discovered all his works to appreciate it fully , yet the available works in themselves are sufficient to give us an idea of vast literature on various subjects that he had thoroughly read so as to criticise the views contained therein or to quote an authority from it,” (Page 215).
He was a great synthesizer of not only different schools of thought but also of various faculties with a person also.
AbhinavguptaJayanti on 2nd June 2020 is an opportunity to correct the distortions affected on the real identity of Kashmir –Which is Pen (scholarship, excellence) and not Gun- (Violence).Kashmiri Shaiva Darshan we know, comprehends three systems; the Krama, The Kula and The Pratibhijnya.
Pratbhijnya means self-recognition. Time has come to recognise ourselves as individuals as well as a collective. But be cautious! Mere talk of a lamp does not dispel darkness. Likewise mere verbal chanting of scriptures will not remove ignorance.
Author is former Member Legislative Council Jammu and Kashmir and Spokesperson BJP J&K