The incarnation of Lord Shiva
Abhinavagupta is considered as the greatest exegetical theologian who helped to popularise Kashmiri Shaivism with his commentaries and philosophical writings.
Today, the entire world is revolving around materialism, selfishness and self-centered goals. As a result we as human beings, the most important creation of God, are moving away from our creator and the path of spirituality but the fact remains that God was, is and will remain present in every single atom of this universe, or simply said as God to be omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Talking about the Hinduism and its philosophy, Lord Shiva or Shaivite holds a very important place. Although this philosophy had its takers and followers throughout the length and breadth of the country but Himalayas, snow clad with most part of the year is considered to be the real abode of Lord Shiva. It might be because of this very reason that Kashmiri Shaivism is regarded as the unique form of Shaivite philosophy. According to Kalhana’s Rajatarangini and Nilamata Purana, the inhabitants of Kashmir were Nagas (Serpents) who used to worship Lord Shiva as their nurturer and creator. Regardless to say, thousands of years ago this mystic land of Kashmir emanating godly and divine fragrance attracted every sacred and spiritual soul to its lap.
Kashmir was the chosen land by the gods themselves decorated with beautiful valleys and mountains, serene and peaceful atmosphere. It was actually the land meant to be the laboratory and the library of Shaivite philosophy. This land was the cradle of religious tolerance where Buddhist, Jain and numerous Hindu schools flourished together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The land of Kashmir has produced numerous personalities with spiritual attributes, contributing enormously to the Vedic age literature, yogic and meditative philosophy. These transcendentalists were concerned not only with their bodies and minds and the world at large but also with the transcendental subjects, above the body and mind and the world at large.
One such personality, as if sent by God himself to emancipate the veil of ignorance was Abhinavagupta (975-1025 AD). He was one of the greatest philosophers and literary critics with greatest contribution towards the Shaivism. Lalitaditya Muktapida (724 CE–760 CE) was an emperor of the Kashmiri Karkota dynasty. He had expanded his own empire, Kashmir from Jebreal (now in Afganistan) to Jalandhar, Punjab. At that time, it was the most powerful state of Northern Bharat. Once, he was in need of a knowledgeable scholar to act as an advisor in his court. After rigorous search across the country he got Atrigupta a great Shaiv teacher and scholar of Kannauj. Abhinavagupta belonged to the dynasty of Atrigupta. It is believed that his parents Narsimah Gupta and his mother Vimlakala underwent severe austerity to be blessed with the child with divine powers.
Abhinavagupta born in Kashmir was really a child with extra ordinary thinking and learning. He grew up into a person who was the master of Kula School of Shaivism and had the unique adeptness to clarify the meaning of ancient texts, through the application of reason and logic. He injected and infused a new meaning into the three great schools of Kashmir Shaivism namely Karma, Trika and Kula. He totally dismissed the idea that spiritual revelation is only possible in the purely monastic surroundings as well as the caste and gender restrictions are important for any sort of spiritual practice. But contrary to it, he advocated that a pure desire to attain enlightenment and spirituality is enough, no matter if the desire is slow or intense, or if one is a Brahmin or sweeper and outcaste, anybody can become one with Param-Bharva, that is supreme Lord, that is Lord Shiva. Abhinavagupta’s ideals were quite radical as per traditions of that time. Since, he spoke from the level of direct experience with logic and reasoning, so no one was capable of refuting him. Some poets asserted that Abhinavagupta was the incarnation of Lord Shiva himself.
Abhinavagupta is considered to be the greatest exegetical theologian who helped to popularise Kashmiri Shaivism with his commentaries and philosophical writings like-Pratimshika vivrana and Tantraloka. He was able to categorise Kashmiri Shaivism into four types-Krama system, Spanda system, Kula system, Pratyabijnya system, dealing with space and time, movement, science of totality and recognition respectively. Tantraloka appears to be written at the time when he attained his enlightenment. It is considered as one of the greatest achievements in Bharateeya religious thought .It is actually a twelve volume encyclopaedic work based on dozens of authoritative scriptures. Tantrasara is a brief summary of Tantraloka written in metrical form. Abhinavagupta also wrote on aesthetics, music and a variety of other subjects. His two famous commentaries on poetry, drama and dance, the Locana on the Dhvanyaloka and the Abhinavbharati on the Natyashastra realised master. He demonstrated unswerving devotion to Shiva, possessed the power of mantras, had control over the elements and had spontaneous knowledge of all scriptures. In his commentary on Bhagavad Gita, Gitarthasangraha, Abhinavagupta ardently stressed that freedom from all the miseries can be obtained by seeing Him in everything and everywhere and not by renunciation of the world.
The date of Abhinavagupta’s heavenly departure is estimated around 1025 CE. According to Kashmiri tradition he entered a cave village called ‘Birwa’ located in the Gulmarg range, along with 1200 disciples reciting Bhairava Ashtakam and was never seen again. Undoubtedly, his renunciation from the world created a huge void in the Hindu religion in general and Shaivism in particular. After Abhinavagupta this place was bestowed with innumerable saints and seers, sages and Savants, who took birth to establish universal brotherhood of man, irrespective of cast, creed, colour or religion. They did their best to alleviate the humanity from the worldly miseries. Such was the sanctity of this place that these mystic poets and sages were born in almost every next home and every corner of Kashmir. At present when the people of Valley are suffering from miseries, the only solace comes from the verses and sayings of these saints and Sufis. Lal Ded, Roop Bhawani, Swami Parmanand, Swami Kash Kak, Swami Nandbab, Swami Ashokananda, Swami Govind Koul, Krishanjoo Razdan, Nund Reshi, Khwaja Lassasahib and the long list of these saints belong to the spiritual genre. Almost all of them laid emphasis on the supremacy of Lord Shiva and his realisation through the path of devotion and complete surrender. They urged the people to rise above the bonding of any type and see the light within.
Perhaps Lakshaman Joo is the last of Shaivite scholars who worked tirelessly to keep the Shiva teaching enlivened by his translations into Kashmiri and even English language for the common man so that they should learn to be one with that supreme Lord. He tried his best to save the tradition of Shaivite philosophy which is the base and foundation of this place. In the absence of proper giver and taker (Guru-Shishya) relation, not only the people of this place but this place also as such has lost identity and existence. The pilgrimage sites like that of Kedarnath, Badrinath (at Utterakhand) Amarnath, Harmukh etc are not permanent inhibition sites. People can come here and pay their obscene only for a fixed period but there are many such places in Kashmir which are full of life, where people can live, although externally engaged with their daily chores but internally fully devoted and dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Although the impact of Shaivite teaching of Lakshmanjoo was long lasting but gradually the people of this region became directionless. People started doing everything and anything possible but devoid of devotion towards their creator. Those threads of spirituality which used to bind the people together started falling apart. This place which was meant for nurturing and propagation of Shaivite Philosophy lost its real essence and remained engaged in worldly and materialistic things quite evident from the condition of Kashmir as it is today. Kashmiri Shaivism is idealistic and realistic in essence and certainly advocating a pragmatic approach to life. To put it in a more precise manner, we can say that this place started losing its peace and tranquility with the losing edges of Shaivism. Going by the History, this Land should have produced innumerable Abhinavaguptas and Lakshmanjoos. Had the people remained undeterred under the harsh circumstances and sincere takers of Abhinavagupata’s Shaivite philosophy, this land would have really reached the Utopian state of divine pleasure.
Yajin Bhatt (The writer is a freelancer and social activist)