990 – 1015 A.D. Kashmir
To write on the life and teachings of the brilliant Kashmir Shaivite saint and intellectual genius Abhinavagupta, is to enjoy his presence – and hopefully to encourage readers to pursue their own study of him.
A list of books and web links will be in a separate section.
I will begin by partially quoting a description given by one of Abhinavagupta’s pupils which is translated by Professor Dr. Kanti Chandra Pandey in his wonderful book ‘Abhinavagupta, An Historical and Philosophical Study’:
“…Abhinavagupta…has come to Kashmir out of deep compassion…His eyes are rolling with spiritual bliss… His luxuriant hair is tied with a garland of flowers. His beard is long. His body is rosy… He is dressed in silk-cloth, white like the rays of the Moon, and is sitting in the Yogic posture … on a soft cushion over a throne of gold with a canopy, decked with strings of pearls, in an open hall – full of crystals, beautified by paintings, smelling extremely sweet on account of garlands of flowers, incense and lamps, perfumed with sandal etc., constantly resonant with vocal and instrumental music and dance, and crowded with female ascetics and saints of recognized spiritual power, - in the center of a garden of grapes.”
This is not the usual description of saints and yogis. It is intriguing. There must be something about Abhinavagupta’s way, his Kashmir Shaivism that is unique. An embrace of the glory and beauty of life is evident in this description. Perhaps we can reach the Oneness through Its myriad manifested ‘appearances’.
There are many more qualified than I am – the scholars who have labored through years of mastering Sanskrit and given us the precious gems of translations, and there are the disciples who have dedicated their lives to Kashmir Shaivism’s spiritual disciplines. They are the doors, the gateways through which you may enter into the magnificent presence of Abhinavagupta, the enlightened Kashmir genius. He is the ‘real thing’!
Over the years in my continual study of the Bhagavad Gita, I have realized that when I am in doubt or confused in regard to a particular verse, I turn to Abhinavagupta’s Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (Gitartha-Samgraha, translated by Boris Marjanovic) and invariably my confusion is cleared. He pulls back the veils and points to the truth.
The result of this ongoing experience has made me feel Abhinavagupta’s preeminence, his ascendency and power as a thinker, a teacher and authentic revealer of the Divine. He became That.
I have come to trust him as I trust the Bhagavad Gita itself. In his commentary, Abhinavagupta states that the verses in the Bhagavad Gita are indeed uniquely capable of granting enlightenment (moksha).
There is a tradition in Kashmir concerning Abhinavagupta’s death. It is said that one day when he was finished with his work here on Earth, he walked into a cave with 1200 of his disciples. In the cave there is a small hole where none but a child could pass – this is where Abhinavagupta went and never returned. Did he simply vanish into a higher dimension.
Abhinavagupta incarnated in the Kali Yuga to clear up the endless confusions that had infected metaphysical truth. He is not easy - but the careful, concentrated, devoted study of his works will provide you with a superb abundance of wisdom and bliss.
The usual way of shortening Abhinavagupta’s name is A.G. and I will also use that abbreviation occasionally.
So, we begin ….