06 Sep

Though Hinduism has now virtually been rooted out of Kashmir, the region, at onetime, was a renowned center of learning. And,  its erudite and enlightened scholars such as Abhinavagupta (10th century), Augusta (8th century), Somananda (9th century), Utpaladeva (9th century), Anandavardhana (9th century) and others made immense contribution to the development of Indian Philosophies, literature and art.

The most outstanding of them was Abhinavagupta Acharya (c. 950 to c. 1020 C.E) a great philosopher, intellectual and a spiritual descendant of Somananda the founder of the Pratyabhijna, the “recognition” metaphysics school of Kashmiri Saivite monism. Abhinavagupta was a many sided genius and a prolific writer on Shaivism, Tantra, aesthetics, Natya, music and a variety of other subjects. Among his most notable philosophic works are the Isvara-pratyabhijña-vimarshini and the more detailed Isvara-pratyabhijña-vivrti-vimarsini, both commentaries on Isvara-pratyabhijña (Recognition of God) by Utpaladeva , an earlier philosopher of the pratyabhijna school .

Abhinavagupta’s  works on poetry , drama, and dance, include the Lochana a commentary on the Dhvanyaloka by Anandavardhana; and, the Abhinavabharati a detailed commentary on Bharata Muni’s Natyasastra covering almost every important aspect of Indian aesthetic and poetics . His theory of Rasa is a land mark in Sanskrit art and literature.

Abhinavagupta was born in Kashmir, probably around 950 A.D. The tradition has it that after his 70th year Abhinavagupta entered the Bhairava cave near the village Bhiruva, along with his 1200 disciples;  and , was never seen again.


Abhinavagupta opens his work Tantrasàra, with the Verse :

Vimalakalà-asrayà-abhinavasrsti-maha janani/bharitatanus ca pancamukha-guptarucir janakah /

tadubhaya-yàmala-sphurita-bhàva-visargamayam/Dhrdayam-anuttaràmr-takulam-mama samsphuratàt //

May my heart shine forth, embodying the bliss of the ultimate, for it is  one with the state of absolute potential made manifest in the fusion of these two, the `Mother’ grounded in pure representation, radiant in ever new genesis, and the `Father,’ all-enfolding [Bhairava], who maintains the light [of consciousness] through his five faces  {formed from the emissions produced through the fusion of these two, my mother Vimalà, whose greatest joy was in my birth, and my father [Nara]Simhagupta, [when both were] all-embracing  in their union. Translation by Alexis Sanderson


What little is known of him comes from his works; and, in his own words. At the end of Ishwar Pratyabhijna Vimarshini, a commentary on Kashmir Shaivism text ascribed to  Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta states that his remote ancestor Attrigupta, a great Shaiva teacher, who lived in Antarvedi – a tract of land lying between the Ganga and the Yamuna – migrated to Kashmir at the invitation of the King Lalitaditya (700-736 A.D) . He was followed, many generations later, by  Varahagupta another great scholar of Shaiva philosophy. His son, Narasimha Gupta, a great Shaiva teacher , was the father of Abhinavagupta. And Vimla or Vimalkala was the mother of Abhinavagupta (vimalakalāśray ābhinavasṛṣṭi mahā janan. His father’s maternal grandfather, Yashoraja, was a man of great learning and wrote a commentary on Paratrinshika . a dialogue between Bhairava (Shiva) and Bhairavi (Shakti) .

abhinavagupta parent


Abhinavagupta always described himself as kashmirika, as one hailing  from the land of Kashmira.

It is believed that Abhinava was a Yoginibhu, i.e. born of a Siddha and  Yogini. The Kaula system believes that a progeny of parents who are sincere devotees of Lord Shiva is endowed with exceptional spiritual and intellectual prowess; and ,will be a depository of knowledge.

Abhinava might not have been his real name, but one assigned to him by his teachers, because of his brilliance. He describes his work Tantraloka (1.20) : ‘This is the work written by Abhinavagupta, who was so named by his Gurus”- abhinavaguptasya kṛtiḥ seyaṃ yasyoditā gurubhirākhyā. The name Abhinava suggests the virtue of being “ever-new and ever creative, progressively innovating oneself”.And, it also suggests competence and authoritativeness. Abhinavagupta was, in fact, all these and more.

He was also referred to as Abhinavagupta-pada. The suffix pada signifies a reverential form of address (say, just as in Sri Shankara Bhagavat-pada) .  There is also a clever explanation of the term “gupta_pada” which translates to “one with hidden limbs” , a poetic synonym for snake. Thus, Abhinava was also regarded as an incarnation of Sesha , the legendary serpent.

Abhinava lost his mother Vimalakala when he was just two years of age. The pain of separation and the longing for his mother haunted him all his life. He, later in his works, frequently referred to his mother with love and reverence. The relation between the mother and the child, he said, is the closest that nature can forge. The bond of love and friendship between the mother and the child is the strongest; and, is the most enduring bond in the world.

While ruing the loss of his mother early in his childhood, Abhinavagupta reconciled to the fact , saying : It is the will of God , who prepares men  for the future work to be accomplished through them – Mata vyayu-yujadamum kils balya eva / Devo hi bhavi-parikramani samskaroti//

His father Narasimha-gupta (aka. Cukhulaka), after the death of his wife Vimalakala, assumed an ascetic way of life; and yet continued to bring up his three children (two sons : Abhinava, Manorata and the daughter Amba). He became more focused on his spiritual endeavor. He was Abhinava’s first teacher. Abhinava, later, recalled his father with gratitude for the training he received from him in Grammar (pitra sa sabda-gahane-krta-sampravesah), logic, literature and music (geya vidya).

Abhinava was a diligent pupil ; and, put his heart and soul in to his studies. By one account, Abhinava had as many as fifteen teachers; Narasimha Gupta, his father being his first teacher.  His other teachers were said to be : Vamanatha; Bhutiraja; Bhutiraja-tanaya; Laksmanagupta; Induraja; and Bhatta-Tota. These teachers taught the boy Abhinavagupta  varied subjects , such as : Tantras; Brahmavidya; monistic Saivism; Krama ; Trika; Dhvani; and Dramaturgy 

Among his teachers.  Lakshmana Gupta was the son and a direct disciple of Somananda, in the lineage of TryambakaHe taught Abhinavagupta the monastic subjects:  Krama,  Trika  and  Pratyabhijna   (except Kula).

His  two other teachers on these subjects were Bhutiraja and his son Helaraja, both of whom were adepts in Prathyabhijnana and Karma systems

The most prominent of his teachers was , of course, Shambhu Natha of Jalandhara (in the present-day Punjab). Guru Shambhu Natha, who preached monistic shaivism, initiated Abhinava in to Ardha_thrayambaka , a doctrine of Kaula school of Tantric tradition. It is said that Shambhu Natha asked his wife to act as a conduit (dauti) for transmitting the initiation through Kaula process (having sexual connotations). It was at the instance of Shambhu Natha that Abhinava authored his monumental Tantraloka, in which he compared Shambhu Natha to the sun in his power to dispel the darkness of ignorance; and to the moon shining over the ocean of Trika knowledge.

śrī śambhunātha bhāskara caraṇa nipāta prabhā pagata saṃkocam abhinavagupta hṛdambuja metad vicinuta maheśa pūjana hetoḥ //1. 21

[While on the topic of teachers, let me suggest to you , a  very scholarly dissertation submitted by Benjamin Luke Williams to the Harvard University during December 1917-Abhinavagupta’s Portrait of a Guru: Revelation and Religious Authority in Kashmir. Mr.Williams observes, among other things, : The conception of an ideal guru in the writings of Abhinavagupta lays stress on the guru’s capacity to awaken their disciple to an all-encompassing grasp of reality. It also exceeds this requirement through an implicit argument – modeled by Abhinavagupta’s narration of his own religious education – that the guru should be scholastically trained; and, be sensitive to the beauty of Sanskrit literature….the ideal guru should not only be a fully-enlightened master; but, should also be schooled in the finer points of Indian scholastic discourse and a connoisseur of Sanskrit poetry; in short, a multi-cultural Siddha. ]


As regards his immediate family, it is said, Abhinava had a younger brother Manoratha and an elder sister Amba. Manoratha was one among Abhinava’s earlier batch of disciples. And, one of his fellow students was Karna married Amba. Karna and Amba had a son Yogeshwardatta , who was precociously talented in Yoga. After the death of her husband, Amba too devoted herself entirely to Yoga and to the worship of Shiva. Later, Amba’s in-laws too became devote followers of Abhinava.

A cousin of Abhinava was Kshema who later became renowned as his illustrious disciple Kshemaraja. Mandra, the cousin and childhood friend of Karna, too became Abhinava’s disciple. Vatasika, Mandra’s aunt, took exceptional care of Abhinava and offered him support to carry on his life’s work. It was while staying in her suburban house at Pravapura (eastern district of the present-day Srinagar) that Abhinava wrote and completed his Tantraloka, in which he recorded his gratitude towards Vatasika for her concern, dedication and support. Abhinavagupta also mentioned his disciple Rāmadeva as being  faithfully devoted to scriptural studies and for serving his master.

He also mentions that while writing this text, he recollected all the shastras he had earlier learnt from all his Gurus

Ittham grhe Vatsalika-avartane sthitah samadhyaya matim/  bahuni purva-srutanya-kalayan svabhuddhya shashtrani tebhyah samavapya saaram


Abhinava did not become a wandering monk nor did he take on Brahmanical persuasions. He did not marry  (Dara-suta-prahrti-bandhakatham-naptaha); he followed an ascetic way of life; and yet, he lived in his ancestral home surrounded by the members of his family, loving friends and disciples. He lived the life of a scholar, a teacher and a Yogi immersed in Shiva. Referring to the atmosphere in his family, Abhinava said,” All the members of the family regarded material wealth as a straw and they set their hearts on the contemplation of Shiva”- Ye sampadam truna-mamamsata Shambh-seva –sampuritah svahrudayam hrdi bhavayantah (Tantraloka 12.)

He lived in a nurturing and a caring environment. An epoch pen-painting depicts him  seated in Virasana, surrounded by devoted disciples and family, performing on Veena while dictating verses of  Tantrāloka to one of his attendees, as  two dauti (women yogi) wait on him. He was ever surrounded by his friends and disciples.

Madhu raja , a disciple of Abhinavagupta, in his stotra praising his Guru,  calls him  ‘Abhinava Dakshinamurthi Devah’ – an incarnate of Sri Dakshinamurthi. The following is the gist of the Dhyanasloka composed by Madhuraja in honor of his Guru, as  translated by Dr. K . C. Pandey.

May that Supreme Being Sri Dakshinamurthi in the form of my Guru Abhinavagupta , who is an incarnation of Shiva Srikantha  ; and ,who has come to Kashmir ; may he protect us all.

His eyes are glowing with spiritual bliss. The center of his forehead is clearly marked with tri-pundraka, three lines drawn with the sacred ash (Bhasma). His ears adorned with Rudraksha are beautiful. His luxurious hair (Shikha) is tied with garland of flowers. His beard is long. His body shining like roses. His neck appears black, because of its being smeared with paste of camphor , musk , sandal, saffron etc., indeed looks splendid.


His long Yajnopavita is left loose. He is attired in silk cloth, white like the moon-beams. He is sitting majestically in Virasana, on a soft cushion placed over a throne of gold, over which is a canopy decked with strings of pearls . His right hand wearing the rosary of Rudraksha is resting on his right thigh; with his fingers gesturing Jnana-mudra . He, with his lotus-like delicate fingers of the left hand is also playing upon the Veena  spreading melodious and enchanting Music  (Nada) all around.

 He is seated in an open hall decorated with beautiful eye-catching paintings . And, the hall looks superb with rows of lamps and sweet-smelling garlands, colourful  flowers . And, the entire area is pervaded by the fragrance of incense and sandal etc. The hall is resounding with melodious songs and music on various instruments. There are also dancers displaying their skills joyfully. His assembly was also honoured by the presence of Yoginis and Siddhas who attained a high status.

The Great Guru Abhinavagupta is attended by all his pupils, such as Kshemaraja who devotedly sits at the foot of his master and studiously writing down the utterances of the Master. There are also two female messengers (Dutis) standing beside the Guru ; and, serving him with whisks. They also hold a jar full of water distilled from the grain kept soaked in water for three nights (Shiva –rasa). They also carry a box of betel-leaves, a basket of citron and lotus.

No wonder that about 1,200 of his friends and disciples faithfully followed Abhinavagupta, as he marched in to the Bhairava cave, reciting loudly his Bhairara_stava, never to be seen again.

[ Please click here for

Kāśmīrīya Mahāmāheśvara Ācārya Abhinavagupta (A biographical docu-feature on his life & works)


Here for Abhinavagupta’s Unique Contribution to Indian Tradition by Dr. N C Panda ]

Svacchanda Bhairava

A prolific writer on a wide ranging subjects , Abhinava  authored more than about 40 works, some of which survive to the present day.

Abhinavagupta’s works are sometimes classified according the branches of his triad (trika) will (icchā) – knowledge (jnana) – action (kriya).

But according to another classification, Abhinavagupta’s works fall into four broad groups.

The first group of his works deals with Tantra. His monumental encyclopedic work the Tantraloka or Light on the Tantras is an authoritative text. It explores doctrine and the inner meaning of rituals in the Shaiva and Shakta Agamas.

The text is named as Tantraloka; because, it is said to light up the path of the ardent followers of the Tantra (Alokamasadya yadiyamesha lokah sukham sancharita kriyashu)

The work came to be written at the request of  Manoratha  , his cousin and his pupils Mandra and others.The actual writing took place, while Abhinavagupta was staying in the house of Mandra , located in Pravarapura ( eastern district of the present-day Srinagar)

The text enumerates the Tantrik Agamas and the three methods of realizing the Ultimate Reality: SambhavopayaSaktopaya and Anovapaya. The Tantraloka , apart from being a philosophical work, is also a practical guide to the arnent students of Tantra-vidya.

iti samadhikamenam trimsatam yah sada budhah / ahnikanam samabhyasyetsa saksadbhairavo bhavet

Tantraloka is a detailed work divided into thirty-seven Ahnikas (Chapters).  It has been published with commentary of Jayaratha.  The topics discussed therein are : (1) the cause of bondage;(2) the way to freedom;(3)knowledge as distinct from ignorance;(4) the concept of Moksha ;(5) what is the ultimate reality ; (6) manifestation of the universe ;(7) Bimba-Pratibimba Vada; (8) Shaiva Agama; and,(9) Biographical notes.


Tantrasara is a summarized version of Tantraloka. The Tantrasara containing twenty-two Ahnikas deals with a variety of topics which have a  bearing on varied spiritual disciplines. It gives prominence to the various modes of spiritual disciplines prescribed for different classes of spiritual aspirants. It also explains the ancillary topics such as the concept of Divine Grace; different kinds of initiatory rites (Diksha); and, the modes of Shaiva worship etc. Besides, it also discusses the abstract aspects of   Trika School of philosophy. The entire text is replete with mystic symbols and description of esoteric practices.

Tantra-Vata-Dhanika is a small work in verse form, which aims to teach the principles of Shaiva Tantras in a nutshell.  Basically, this text is a brief summary of Tantraloka. It is like a seed, dhanika of the huge banyan tree, vata of Tantra ideology.

Paramartha-sara is text containing 105 karikas. It is called   Paramartha-sara,  because it encapsulates the essence (Sara) or the hidden (ati-gudham) principles of the Trika Philosophy, as explained by Abhinavagupta – aryasatena  tadidam samksiptam  sastra-saram-atigudham. This text is said to be an adaptation of the Adhara-karikas of the revered sage Sesha Muni, who is also referred to as Adhara  Bhagavan. The Paramartha-sara of Abhinavagupta, mainly, deals with subjects such as: metaphysical reality; ontology of Shaiva Siddantha; theories concerning creation; manifestation of thirty-six Tattvas; causes for human bondage;  and, the ways leading towards liberation etc. Yogaraja,one of  the  disciples  of Ksemaraja wrote a detailed  commentary on Paramartha-sara.

The other important work of this group is Malini-Vijaya Vivrti , a commentary. It is a voluminous work, composed in simple Sanskrit verse on the philosophic principles and doctrines of practice of Kashmir Shaiva Siddantha The alternate title of this text is Sripurva-shastra. It was, initially, addressed to two of his pupils: Karna and Mandra – sacchisya-karna-mandrabhyam codito‘ham punah.


The second group consists few small treatises like Bodh-Punch Dashika;  and  Stotras  or hymns in praise of deities such as Bhairava. The text is made of sixteen Sanskrit verses. It is called Bodha-panca-dasika, because,  in fifteen verses, it teaches  the basic principles of monistic Shaiva doctrine . It speaks of the Shaiva conception of Shiva and Shakthi; their relation; and, the consequent emanation of the universe etc .The last  and the sixteenth verse ,briefly  states  the object of the composition- sukumara-matin sisyan-prabodhay-itumanjasa / ime Abhinava-guptena slokah pancadasoditah// 

The Bhagavadgitartha-sangraha is a short commentary on Bhagavad-Gita, where Abhinavagupta gives the traditional interpretation from the Shaiva point of view.


A third group includes his works on art of the theater and art of writing plays; poetics; aesthetics and the rhetoric. The great scholar Prof. P.V. Kane remarked “his two works, i.e. Lochana and Abhinavabharati are monuments of learning, critical insight, literary grace and style.” Lochana, his commentary on  Dhvanyaloka of Anandavardhana is a highly regarded work in aesthetics. Abhinavabharati is an extensive commentary on Natyasastra of Bharata Muni. His analysis of Rasa is very appealing and distinguishable from other interpretations. For example, Bharata talks about eight types of Rasa, while distinguishing it from sthaayibhaava.

The Abhinavabharati and Lochana suggest that bhoga (pleasure) is produced not only by the senses but also by the removal of moha (ignorance). They also suggest that art and literature are not mere vinoda (entertainment) but are outpourings of the ananda arising of knowledge.

The Abhinavabharati is the earliest available, the most famous and celebrated commentary on the Natyashastra of Bharata, expounding , among other things , on the theory Rasa.


Abhinavagupta emphasized that intuition (prathibha), inner experience was the lifeblood of good poetry. He said , creativity (karaka) was the hallmark of poetry as it brings into the world a new art experience. Poetry need not aim to remind (jnapaka) what is already present; that , he said , was the function of sastras. A poet need not seek justification or approval of scriptural authority. He is the lord of his domain. He is the creator. Abhinava  recommend, the poet need not allow himself to be bound by logic, propriety and such other restrictions.

Abhinavagupta , in his Lochana, says prathibha the intuition might be essential for creation of good poetry . But , that flash of enlightenment alone is not sufficient . He explains , what sustains that vision is the “unmeelana_shakthi” which is something that charges the mind, opens up or awakens the potent faculties.

Abhinavagupta clarifies that prathibha is inspirational in nature and it does not, by itself , transform automatically, into a work of art or poetry. It needs a medium to  harness it, bring it forth through lively , delightful or forceful expression . And , that medium has to be cultivated, honed and refined diligently over a period to produce a work of class.

In this context, Abhinavagupta mentions three essentials that a poet has to keep in view. They are Rasa (rasa_vesha), Vaishadya and Soundarya.

The rasa concept is well known ; and,  is expounded by Bharata muni.

The second one refers to clarity in thought, lucidity in expression and comfortable communication with the reader.

The third is the sense of poetic beauty . A good poetry can manifest, according to him, only when the delightful combination of these three essentials are charged or supported by prathibha.

He cites Valmiki and kalidasa as classic examples; and, states it is the wonderful combination of those poetic virtues and prathibha that sets them apart from the rest of the tribe.

[Abhinavagupta , it appears had a special regard for Kalidasa. In his Locana, while commenting on Anandavardhana’s Dhvanyaloka, Uddyota-1 – DhvK_1.6and speaking of pratibhā-viśeṣam , the creative genius,  Abhinavagupta  ponders :

In this wonderful   stream of literature,  flowing  since the time immemorial, there have been varied types and class of poets . And, there have been some gifted  poets in each generation . But, tell me; how may of those can even be compared to the matchless , Sovereign (prabhṛtayo) Kalidasa. You might be able to name a very few , say, two , three or , at best, five; but, surely never  more than that.

pratibhā-viśeṣaṃ pari-sphurantam abhivyanakti / yenāsminnati vicitra kavi paramparā vāhini saṃsāre kālidāsa prabhṛtayo dvitrāḥ pañcaṣā vā mahākavaya iti gaṇyante / ]


The fulfillment of poetry is Ananda, joy. It therefore needs a good reader (Sah_hrudaya) who can understand, appreciate, empathize and enjoy the beauty of the poetry. He is an integral part of poetic experience.

Subash kak remarks “Abhinava emphasized the fact that all human creativity reveals aspects of the seed consciousness. This explains his interest in drama, poetry, and aesthetics.”

Nineplanets Navagraha 2

The last group constitutes his work on the Pratyabhijnyasastra, the monistic philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. In this group , we have his matchless contributions to this system. Among his most notable works in this category are the Isvara-pratyabhijña-vimarsini and the concise Isvara-pratyabhijña-vivrti-vimarsini, both commentaries on Isvarapratyabhijna (“Recognition of God”) by Utpaladeva, an earlier philosopher of the pratyabhijna school.

The Para-trisika-vivarana on the Trika system of yoga is very profound text detailing minute ideas regarding the esoteric principles and doctrines of the Trika system of Shaiva-yoga in its highest aspect. The text deals with Ultimate Reality, Para Tattva;  and the path to its realization, centered above on  the theory and practice of  mantra Yoga.

[ Abhinavagupta dedicates this monumental work to his Parama Guru Somananda saying : I have written this work after reflecting and meditating on the thoughts of Sri Somananda that have spontaneously entered my heart ; enabling me to realize the same pure state of Truth.

Tat-tattva-nirmala-sthithi-vibhaghi-hrdaye svayam pravistamiva / Sri Somananda-matham vimarshya  maya nibaddamidam// ]


Abhinavagupta was a devotee of Lord Shiva ; and, he led a celibate life. He is considered the greatest exponent of the Kashmiri Saivite monism. This school viewed Shiva (the manifestation of ultimate reality), the individual soul, and the universe as essentially one. The philosophy of pratyabhijna refers to the way of realizing this identity.

Kashmir Shaivism is intensely monistic. It is not much concerned with worshiping a personal god ; its emphasis is upon meditation , reflection and guidance by a guru. It aims at attaining the transcendental state of Shiva consciousness.

It explains the creation as Shiva’s abhasa, shining forth of himself in his dynamic aspect of Shakti. Abhasavada is therefore another name of the system . Shiva the Supreme Self is immanent and transcendent; and performs , through Shakthi , the five actions of creation, preservation, destruction, revealing and concealing. During this process , Shiva as the Universe Vishwanatha, on his own will creates , expands, flourishes , retracts in to a most minute form till the next cycle of creation and expansion.

Kashmir Shaivism is called Trika philosophy because all its interpretations are three fold. Trika stands for threefold science of the individual, the energy and the universal consciousness. It also represents three modes of knowledge of Reality, viz. non-dual (abheda), nondual-cum-dual (bhedabheda), and dual (bheda). The Trika School also argued that reality is represented by three categories : transcendental (para), material (apara), and a combination of these two (para_apara) . This three-fold division is again reflected in the principles of  Shiva, Shakti, anu or pashu. The Trika is also known as Svatantrya vadaSvatantrya and Spanda expressing the same concepts.

The purpose of Trika is to show how an individual rises to the state of universal consciousness through Shakthi. Shiva represents pure consciousness, Shakti its energy, and anu the material world. Pashu is the individual who acts according to his conditioning, almost like an animal; pashas are the bonds that tie him to his behavior; and pathi or pashupathi (Lord of the Flock) is Shiva personified whose knowledge liberates the pashu and makes it possible for him to reach his potential.

Abhinavagupta classified Trika philosophy into four systems : Krama  system,  Spanda  system,  Kula system and Pratyabhijna  system.

The mind is viewed as a hierarchical (krama) collection of agents (kula) that perceives its true self spontaneously (pratyabhijna) with a creative power that is vibrating  or pulsating (spanda)

Explaining the Spanda system, Abhinavagupta says whatever that appears to be moving is actually established in the unmoved point. Although everything seems to be moving , actually, they are not moving at all.

As for the Kula system, he says that Kula means the science of totality. In each and every part of the universe totality shines . Take an infinitesimally small object, in that you will find the universal energy. A macrocosm resides in microcosm .

The fourth, the Pratyabijnya system deals with the school of recognition. The Pratyabhijnya School, initiated by Sri Somananda; and developed by Utpaladeva, reached its culmination in Abhinavagupta. This School conceived Shiva (the manifestation of ultimate reality), the individual soul, and the universe as essentially one; Pratyabhijna refers to the way of realizing this identity.

Abhinavagupta, while explaining this school of recognition, says, man is not a mere speck of dust; but, is an immense force, comprising a comprehensive consciousness and capable of manifesting through his mind and body limitless powers of knowledge and action (Jnana Shakti and Kriya Shakti). The state of Shiva-consciousness is already there, you have to realize that and nothing else.

His non-dual philosophy, in essence, is similar to the one expounded by Sri Shankara. He considers the universe completely real, filled with infinite diversity and not different from Shiva , the supreme consciousness. He expands on this concept and shows that the various levels of creation, from the subtlest to the grossest, are all the same and Shiva.

He conceived Shiva, the I or Consciousness (Aham) , as an expression of the supreme freedom This concept of freedom (Svatrantya) is one of the principal achievements of Kashmiri Shaivism .

Abhinavagupta explains that Shiva brings about the manifestation of the world by the means of His svatantrya –shakthi or absolute autonomy by which he effects all changes without undergoing any change in Himself. The world is abhasa, pratibimba projected or reflected in the mirror of cosmic consciousness. Abhinavagupta  illustrates this  position  with  the aid  of  analogy of the reflection in  a mirror : just as earth,  water etc. are  reflected  in a clean mirror without being contaminated, so also the entire world of objects appears together in the one Lord consciousness- nirmale mukure yadvadbhanti bhumi-jala- dayah.. visvavrttayah.

Abhinavagupta asserts that Shiva, the Ultimate Reality, manifests himself as the world – asthasyadekarupena vapusa canmahesvara! Ghatadivat. He says;  in reality,  the jiva, the individual soul, is none other than the Lord Shiva Himself, having taken up the form of the bounded being – Shiva eva grhita pasu bhavah. The whole of this existence, according to Abhinavagupta, is indeed the manifestation of that Absolute Reality Shiva – Bharupam..paratattvam tasmin vibhati sat trimsad-atma jagat 


But, the basic difference between the Sri Shankara and Abhinavagupta is that the philosophy of Abhinavagupta is theistic absolutism.  It is similar to Vishitadvaita.  Abhinavagupta accepts the monistic and absolute  pure  consciousness   as  the  only  eternal reality; but, at the same time establishes Shakthi as the very essential nature of such monistic Reality. Hence, the aspect of the pure and perfect I-consciousness is His static aspect in which He is known as Shiva; and, the aspect of His phenomenal manifestation through the five divine activities is His dynamic aspect in which He is known as Shakthi.  Thus, Shiva is the basic eternal Reality and Shakthi is the divine nature of such Absolute Reality. Shiva and Shakthi are also said to be identical; the difference being just in nameittham nanavidhaih rupaih! kridaya prasruto nityameka-eva sivah prabhuh.

Abhinavagupta 3

Abhinavagupta was a mystic and a Sadhaka par excellence. According to him; one’s body is indeed a worthy place of worship. All the devatas , vidyas, cakras, trisulas, mandalas  etc. are present in the body.

Beyond this there is no other Dhama  , a place, which is more   suitable for true worship – deha-eva-param-lingam  sarvata tat-vatmakam  shivam.. Atraiva  devata cakram  bahirantah sada yajet .

Abhinavagupta advises that a serious seeker should  obtain proper initiation , Diksha , from a worthy Guru, who  has the immense power of grace. The Sadhaka through relentless practice of Mantra, Japa and Bhavana (contemplation), should strive to attain true realization – tat svarupam japah prokto Bhava –bhavapada-cyutah.

He categorized such means of achievement (Upaya) into:  Anavopaya; Saktopaya and Sambhavopaya.. These Upayas are hierarchical; and, are meant for different levels of  Sadhakas.

Abhinavagupta asserts  that Moksha is nothing else  but  the  awareness   of  one’s  true  nature –  Moksha hi nama naivanyah sva-rupa-prathanam hi sah . He assures,  an  aspirant  who  meditates on that Great Brahman, will truly realize Shiva in his heart.


Kashmir Shaivism, reached its culmination in the philosophy of Abhinavagupta and Kshemaraja (10th century) ; and,  in the theory of Recognition , Shaivite philosophy found its full flowering .

Together with Somananda’s disciple Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta is the most important representative of the School . Many believe Shiva himself appeared in Kashmir in the form of Abhinavagupta to enlighten the people. In any case , Abhinavagupta is a precious jewel of our heritage . His works and teachings continue to influence our thoughts.

Abhinavagupta talks about Shadanga_yoga, a system of yoga comprised of six aspects. According to him, prana (life force) and manas (mind) are interdependent. The Yoga consists in harnessing these two together. The disciplines of yama, niyama and aasana prescribed by Patanjali are meant for conditioning the body; they are the indirect methods.

Whereas, the methods that help directly are  dhyana  (meditation),  dharana (contemplation),  tarka (reasoning) and  Samadhi (absolute identity with the ideal). Contemplating on the identity of self and the Shiva  is essential; and it can be achieved through divine grace. It leads to emancipation and freedom from ignorance; and roots out the sense of duality. This he called it Pratyabhijnathe new method  (margo navaha).

guru charana




Images are from Internet


Tags: ,

28 responses to “Abhinavagupta

  1. facebook

    June 30, 2014 at 12:52 am

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and
    also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one these days.


    July 15, 2014 at 12:31 am

    It’s an amazing paragraph in support of all the online viewers; they will take benefit from it I am sure.

    • sreenivasaraos

      August 24, 2014 at 6:41 am

      Thanks for the visit and the comments

  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:49 am

    fantastic ..
    well researched…
    i enjoyed the variety of saivaite concepts…..


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:49 am

      dear shri sampath,

      thank you for the appreciation and recommendation.

      abhinavagupta was a many-sided genius .he excelled in each of his fields -tantra , kashmir shaivism, aesthetics ,literary criticism, nataya shastra and so on. he was an intellectual , a saint , a poet and a critic of high merit . it is hard to find anyone comparable to abhinavagupta in ancient indian annals or elsewhere in the world. and, as far the present period ;one does not even dare launch for a search in these days of specialization .

      what i posted was just an outline with a slight emphasis on his contribution to pratyabijnya school of kashmiri shaivite monism ; it hardly does justice to the great man .

      there is a detailed treatment of shakthi , the embodiment of universal energy and consciousness , in his school. that might perhaps interest you.

      i hope to post , someday , on his lochana a commentary on dhvanyaloka ( a work of anandavardhana on poetics) and his abhinavabharati , a commentary on bharata muni’s natyasastra.


      please keep talking


  4. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:49 am

    great read on the multi-faceted genuis. it’s simply amazing to read and know about all our scholars who were also versatile. please keep posting.


    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:50 am

      dear melody queen,

      thanks you for the comment.

      as you said abhinavagupta was a many-sided genius . he excelled in each of his fields -tantra , kashmir shaivism, aesthetics , literary criticism, nataya shastra and so on. he was an intellectual , a saint , a poet and a critic of high merit . it is hard to find anyone comparable to abhinavagupta in ancient or present day india or elsewhere in the world.

      what i posted was just an outline with a slight emphasis on his contribution to pratyabijnya school of kashmiri shaivite monism ; it hardly does justice to the great man .


  5. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:50 am

    dear sri,

    this is the first time i come across abhinava gupta!

    by the way, thanks for your visit and comment on my blog “how to…peace..”



    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:50 am

      dear shri rajan,

      thanks for the visit.

      you said “ this is the first time i come across abhinavagupta..!”

      i am glad i could introduce him to you and a few others.


  6. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:51 am

    dear srinivasa rao

    by any standard that was an exhaustive introduction to abhinava gupta, though you did concede personally that you could not do justice to his multi-faceted genius by equally introducing his other accomplishments/interests.

    thanks for this wonderful post!

    please pardon me if i am wrong, i guess you should have also mentioned siva sutras …? why didn’t you?

    best regards

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 21, 2015 at 6:51 am

      dear vajrapani,

      thank you for the comments and appreciation.

      yes , one can hardly do justice to the multifaceted genius of abhinavgupta.. i hope someday to write about lochana his commentary on anandavardhana’s dhvanyaloka and also on abhinavabharati a commentary on bharata muni’s natyasastra . it is not that i would be doing any better , but just for the pleasure of it.

      as regards your remark on siva sutra .yes , i agree it is a major text of the kashmir saivism ( particularly of the kashmir school of consciousness ); but it is a text that is closer to vasugupta (8th century) to whom it was revealed , it is said .and , in that blog i tried to focus on abhinavgupta; and my remarks about kashmir saivism too were with reference to abhinavgupta. i had no heart to make it more tedious by straying further.

      please keep talking.


  7. sreenivasaraos

    March 21, 2015 at 6:53 am

    Sir,1)Can you please tell the difference between kashmir shaivism and advaita vedanta?…..which is astika(vedic) school?2)why kashmir shaivism is not considered as one among the 6 astika schools of hindu ism?3)weather abhinava gupta of kashmir got defeated by adi shankara and made black magic against adi shankara?4)krishna only said brahman is NISKRIYA, in geetha…but how can kashmir shaivism say athman is having activity???…because abhinava gupta only wrote bhashya for bhagavath geetha….what he say for nishkriya brahman…of krishna there?and also Sir,1) why abhinava gupta is not considered as one among …the three great acharyas of india…that is 1)adi shankara 2)madhvacharya3)ramanujacharya???or in other words…why he is not considered as a great mathacharya of india?


  8. sreenivasaraos

    August 1, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Dear Srivatsa

    Mr. Maniappan R , a researcher , in his paper titled -‘ Pratyabhijna darsana and abhina vabharati with special reference to the bhavadhyaya and the rasadhyaya of natyasastra ‘ had written an entire chapter comparing the two systems – Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Saivism

    Please check the following link

    Pardon me for the delay in responding to your query


    • adbhutam

      June 19, 2020 at 8:45 am

      The link to the shodhganga article seems to be incorrect. We do not get the article but the Shodhganga site says: incorrect URL.

      • sreenivasaraos

        June 19, 2020 at 9:07 am

        Dear Adbhutam

        Sometimes these links do not work properly
        Try the following link

        Hope this works

        Please let me know

        Good Luck

        Stay safe healthy and happy

      • adbhutam

        June 22, 2020 at 4:58 am

        Thanks Sri Sreenivasa Rao, for your reply. I got the link with a friend’s help and have also posted the same above in the comments section. Your blogs are very informative and authentic.

      • adbhutam

        June 19, 2020 at 11:15 am Here, in the first few pages, a comparative study between Advaita and Abhinavgupta’s Shaivism is seen. Quite useful. Thank you Sri sreenivasa Rao for the lead.

  9. sreenivasaraos

    November 23, 2019 at 11:41 am

    OK Claudia

    Can you clearly specify which picture you are referring to , exactly

  10. Rajula

    September 3, 2020 at 6:06 am

    With reference to the two figures you mention, Sreenivas ji, Ramchandra and Gunachandra, of Natyadarpan: Am very interested in the views they were bringing and which did not it seems find favour with the stalwarts. Did anyone look at their text as you look? Or integrate their questioning or expand upon it…just wondering.

    Of course, thanking you always, whenever I am studying any part of your blog.

    Hope you are well in body and spirit.

    warm regards,

    • sreenivasaraos

      September 3, 2020 at 9:25 am

      Dear Rajula

      Thank you Maa for the visit.

      This of course has been much discussed by many scholars

      I , in my limited way, have briefly mentioned it in passing. I did not elaborate on that.

      But many have discussed it in detail

      For instance ; Dr. V M Kulkarni in his article Alaukika nature of Rasa published in Jstor .org has explained Ramachandra and Gunachandra’s postion in a little more detail at

      usually it is difficult to log into Jstor,

      please read. I hope it opens

      But, Dr. K H Trivedi , in his edition of Natya Darpana on Page 140 and on wards list out arguments why the the arguments of Ramachandra and Gunachandra cannot be accepted.
      please check here. I hope the page opens

      The general arguments appear to be that the tragedies have for over a long period been treated as
      a sort of art-appreciation and a source of entertainment.It is admired by all.

      Even in the present day , the movies depicting horror and violence are called ‘Thrillers’. And, the TV Serials are almost entirely about women put to misery. These are classed under ‘Entertainment’
      I some times wonder

      Please read the attached portions as also the comments of Dr Trivedi.

      Stay safe healthy and happy

      Keep talking


  11. Rajula

    September 15, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    Thank you so much. mii amazement at your deep scholarship grows with every interaction. And you are so kind in answering each and every query of your subscriber readers.

    Its such a labyrinthe already, once you enter through a single door. Like I have now ventured to Rasa and Abhinavgupta. Wonder how do you dive into such depths across a range of subjects…

    Thats true about tragedy. It in fact began with tragedy in Greek.
    However I have been hearing many scholars and writers speak often about India (tradition-al canon) not subscribing at all to the concept of tragedy. They say we don’t have tragedies. What do you think?

    keep well.

    • sreenivasaraos

      September 17, 2020 at 4:40 am

      Good Morning Rajula Maa

      Thank you for the visit.

      You are very generous and kindhearted.

      Regarding the Tragedies, as you observed, there has been much debate about their noticeable absence in the body of Sanskrit plays ,

      And, it , of course, is a fascinating problem from the cultural, literary and aesthetic point of view.

      Though the plays might not have ended on a sorrowful note, the plays are replete with sorrowful situations ..

      The Indian scholars argue that a drama, which above all , embodies Karuna Rasa or the sentiment of pathos is nothing but a tragedy , in as much as it excites the feelings of pity and terror which according to Aristotle are the essence of tragedy.


      But, there is no clear classification of plays depending on how they ended. It is mainly about what the principal characters stood for and the values they represented ; how the virtuous men and women faced their adversaries and adversities, within the frame work of Dharma and finally triumphed after sustained fighting. At the end, it was hailed as the triumph of the Dharma.

      The object of the play was to demonstrate the proper way to live, a way which the generations to come can follow and adopt.

      Many years back, I had , briefly, written about the problem of ‘Tragedy’ in the Indian Dramas, Greek comedies and Bollywood.

      On receiving your comment, I went back to read that..( perhaps , I could have written it better)

      It may perhaps interest you, since you are in the field . Please do check

      You may also read about the concept of Fate in the Indian ethos at ( if your time and patience permit)


      Thank you Maa

      Have a great Day

      P: S;

      BTW, were you able to open the links I had sent about Ramachandra and Gunachandra

      • Rajula

        September 18, 2020 at 7:27 am

        Yes, thanks very much. i was able to open both links. And am reading up on that. Have responded to your post on Tragic Consciousness. And will read the one on Fate now.

        Thanks again.


  12. Mandeera

    April 30, 2021 at 6:35 am

    Namaskar sir, would it be possible to share the link on Rasa theory as well as on the Rasas itself. Thank you in advance


    March 6, 2022 at 8:25 pm

    Kindly consider providing the address for publisher or availability of “Sanskrit Bhashya of Gita by ABHINAV Gupta Jee Maharaj”.

    • sreenivasaraos

      March 7, 2022 at 5:09 am

      Dear Sri Puneet

      Good Morning

      The Gitarthasangraha by Abhinavagupta is a relatively short commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita. Here, he provides the traditional interpretation of the Gita; but, from the Shaiva-Siddhantha point of view. And, it slightly differs from the Bhashya by Sri Shankara Acharya.

      His interpretation is mainly in the light of the Kashmir Shaiva Philosophy and Yoga; stepping aside from Samkhya or Vedanta.

      In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Abhinavagupta emphatically declared that freedom from all miseries can be obtained by seeing Him (Parama Shiva) in everything and everywhere; and, not by renunciation of the world.

      The framework of his approach is – jnana-karma-samucchaya – the reconciliation of the paths of knowledge and action.

      Abhinavagupta advises that while knowledge is important, action should not be sidelined. The two are equally important; as both emanate from consciousness (ज्ञानक्रियामयत्वात् संवित्तत्वस्य).

      It is essential that involvement in action does not bind one to the mundane (कर्मणां ज्ञाननिष्ठतया क्रियमाणानामपि न बन्धकत्वम्).

      The jnana, bhakthi (devotion) and karma also called vijnana. Actions are modified and transformed by knowledge, so that they are no longer necessary.

      According to Kashmiri Shaivism, the highest reality is the light (Prakasha) of pure consciousness; and it is manifested through Vimarsha. In the process of expansion of consciousness (creation), Vimarsha gives rise to powers of Iccha (will), Jana (knowledge) and Kriya (action). It maintains that the activity (Kriya) of Shiva is his very nature; and, is the result of his absolute freedom (Svatantra-shakthi). It asserted that Universe is real and is not an illusion.

      As Abhinavagupta puts it: actions flee before knowledge of Brahman like gazelles in the forest when the lion roars.

      He found the verse 6.31 of the Gita very apt for liking: the follower of the Yoga who resorts to Me as One who abides in all beings, abiding in oneness existing in all ways, that one dwells in Me.

      सर्वभूतस्थितंयोमांभजत्येकत्वमास्थित: | सर्वथावर्तमानोऽपिसयोगीमयिवर्तते || 31||

      G 6.31: the yogi who is established in union with me, and worships me as the Supreme Soul residing in all beings, dwells only in me, though engaged in all kinds of activities.

      Abhinavagupta visualizes the battle between Pandavas and the Kauravas as the conflict between Vidya (knowledge, perception) and Avidya (ignorance, blurred perception).

      Here, the Kauravas stand for ignorance and the Pandavas stand for knowledge. Arjuna’s battle has thus to be seen as the fight for knowledge, resulting in the free play of consciousness. Thus, all the verses, including 2.37-38, are interpreted in the light of this extended metaphor. One must cultivate the patience, energy and courage in this larger spiritual process whereby ignorance is eliminated.

      According to Abhinavagupta, the principal objective (pradhana-phala) of Mahabharata is attaining liberation. And, liberation is nothing but realizing one’s identity or non-difference (Abheda) with the Supreme Lord – Pratyabhigjana.

      As regards the availability of The Gitarthasangraha; it is available both on the net and in print.

      Please click here for: Shrimad-Bhagavad-Gita-With-The Gitartha-Sangraha of Abhinavagupta Dr. S. Satyanarayanan

      It provides the original text in Sanskrit along with the commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita. Dr. S. Satyanarayanan, in his scholarly introduction, explains the principles of Kashmir Shaiva Siddantha ; and, also comments on text

      Please click here for Abhinavagupta Gitartha Sangraha by Arvind Sharma . It provides a very detailed commentary and explanations in English.

      In case you want to buy a book (in print) , you may consider – Abhinavagupta’s Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita- by Boris Marjanovic , an erudite scholar well versed in Kashmir Shiva philosophy.

      It is published by Indica Books (2002) and also by Rudra Press (2005).
      It is available through amazon, Flipkart etc.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: