Abhinavagupta

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Abhinavagupta ( 950 to  1020 C.E) Kashmir. India.

'' In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, Gitarthasangraha, Abhinavagupta emphatically declared that freedom from all miseries can be obtained by seeing Him (Paramshiva) in everything and everywhere, and not by renunciation of the world. While in Vedanta the negation of facts of experience was the requirement for realization of the self, Shaivism taught that the self was realized through embracing the facts of experience and recognizing itself in every aspect of the universe.'' ~ Source of quotes

Extract From Article -http://www.sutrajournal.com/a-thousand-years-of-abhinavagupta-by-jeffrey-lidke

At the heart of’Abhinavagupta's writings is the linking of a trinitarian theological and ritual tradition together with a philosophy of intuitive perception in which the ability to cognize is itself recognized as proof of the presence of divinity. The influence of the former arose from his initiation into Triadic (Trika) Tantra. That training revealed to him a Godhead whose being gave expression through a myriad of triads, which he learned to worship and internalize through the use of mystical diagrams known as yantras.

Foremost among these divine triads was the trinity of goddesses known as Supreme (Parā), Supreme-Nonsupreme (Parāparā) and Nonsupreme (Aparā). These three divinities were in turn associated with a host of other theological and epistimelogical triads including the three powers of will (icchāśakti), knowledge (jñānaśakti), and activity (kriyāśakti), the triad of God (Śiva), Goddess (Śakti) and man (nara), the triad of past, present and future, the triad of scriptures as dual (dvaita), dual-cum-nondual (dvaitādvaita) and nondual (advaita), levels of initiation as mild, medium and intense, etc.

Containing within itself and pervading each of these triads, Abhinavagupta recognized one singular, Supreme Lord, Parameśvara, as itself the ultimate source of all the triads. This supreme consciousness Abhinavagupta understood to be nondistinct from one’s very own self-awareness. Drawing from both literary and aesthetic theory, Abhinavagupta identified the literary and artistic principles of intuitive insight  and interpretive resonance, as indicators of divine awareness itself . In other words, the ability of an individual to recognize an object, to have the “aha!” moment, to experience the flash of insight was identified by Abhinavagupta as the presence of a Godhead that reveals itself through each and every act of self-awareness.

It was this brilliant insight that formed the foundation of Abhinavagupta’s philosophical writings as distilled in his final work, Reflections on the Recognition of the Lord. For Abhinavagupta the intuitive flash of insight  is the very principle that makes possible the recognition of one’s own conscious self as the God that one seeks.

Toward the aim of experiencing this intuitive flashing forth, Abhinavagupta himself prescribed and engaged in a complex host of artistically-grounded ritual practices through which the sensations triggered by contact of the senses with ritually prescribed sense objects would be fused and channeled toward a unitive cognitive act in which the ritualist would perceive him or herself as being pervaded within and by the body of God . In this way, Abhinavagupta established a profound connection between the “tasting of aesthetic experience”  with the “tasting of spiritual experience”, a link made possible through the synthesizing of his Tantric training with his immersion into the field of Indian art, grammar and literature.

Abhinavagupta’s brilliant systematization of multiple fields of religious, philosophical artistic and literary knowledge itself is nowhere better captured than in these words from his final work, Reflections on the Recognition of the Lord:

One who realizes that the powers of knowledge  and activity  are but manifestations of the independent power of God and that these manifestations are nondistinct from oneself and from the very essence of the ultimate, whose form is the Lord —a person [in this way] “resonating” entirely with the awareness that knowledge and activity are really one—whatever this person desires he or she is certainly able to accomplish. Such a person abides in a state of complete mystical absorption, even though still in a body. 

In this typically luminous passage Abhinavagupta identifies the mystical absorption of his Tantric practice with the cognitive act of resonance  that flashes forth as the awareness that one’s own embodied consciousness is itself the very presence of supreme consciousness that is the object and goal of one’s meditative and ritual practice. In this way, Abhinavagupta affirms that mystical realization is itself a creative, cognitive act, one in which divinity itself recognizes its own presence in and as the embodied cosmos , on both cosmic and personal levels.

Extra Note - 

Kashmir Shaivism is a philosophy that embraces life in its totality. Unlike puritanical systems it does not shy away from the pleasant and aesthetically pleasing aspects of life as somehow being unspiritual or contaminated. On the contrary, great importance has been placed on the aesthetic quality of spiritual practice in Kashmir Shaivism. In fact, recognizing and celebrating the aesthetic aspect of the Absolute is one of the central principles of this philosophy.

— Balajinnatha Pandita

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