Millennium of Abhinavagupta: His Contribution to World Thought

International seminar (27 December 2017)

Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (Pune, India)

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[Abstracts courtesy of convenor Prof. Shrikant Bahulkar]

Abhinavagupta on ‘Reflection’

Mrinal Kaul

[Centre for Religious Studies, Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities, Manipal University]

There is a certain level of complexity attached to the idea of ‘reflection’ in Abhinavagupta (fl.c. 975-1025 CE) and it is discussed by him at various intellectual platforms. At one level it is a debate between the realists and the absolute idealists where Abhinavagupta is obviously seeing ‘reflection’ as an absolutely idealistic notion. However, realism is not rejected by these Śaiva non-dualists. Following the tradition of his masters Abhinavagupta is attempting to establish the ‘realism of idealism’ or as K.C.Pandey (1963) would call it ‘Realistic Idealism’. Abhinavagupta uses mirror-trope to explain away this fundamental idea. His idea of reflection should be understood as a subjective idea of self-reflexive awareness that has the autonomous potential to exist or manifest by itself. It does not need external support like, forinstance, an image of face cannot exist in a mirror if there is no face in front of it. To put it inother words that even the so called illusory objects are understood to be as real as the realobjects themselves.

At another level it becomes the problem of subject and object where apart from radically shifting the hermeneutic reins into the hands of ‘a’ subject there is a strong attempt to establish the absolutely autonomous and self-sufficient nature of ‘the’ subject that should beunderstood as beyond the binary of the realistic notion of both subject and object. From the absolute point of view it is the undifferentiated Consciousness alone that is beyond the notion of subject and object yet containing within itself the differentiated nature of both.The question I have posed is if at all we should ignore the novelty of Abhinavagupta’s Śaiva theory of reflection in his works other than those related to the Pratyabhijñā epistemology ofrecognition where only the pure analytical justification for reflection is discussed. As I haveargued that Abhinavagupta’s basic philosophical intuition is embedded in the Krama tradition. His vision of reality is both mystical and erotic following a deep symbolic-ritual scheme. And this depth can only be overcome when Abhinavagupta is studied across the scriptural traditions that he is a part of.


Ahaṁ vimarśa- The Central principle of Pratyabhijñā Philosophy

Its significance, relevance and application in present time

Nihar Purohit

A seeker undergoes a natural seeking process which is termed as ātma-jijñāsā, quest for the Self. Fulfillment of this quest is considered to be fulfillment of life. The questionremains, Who am I? Offering reply to this question great beings have been stating since timeimmemorial - So’ham, I am That. Still the question remains , Who is That? What is its nature?What are the ways to recognize That? Is recognizing ‘That’ equivalent to regconizing oneself?Can that which is ‘other’ ever be myself? If this is true then one will have to understand how ‘I’ became ‘That’? or ‘That’ became ‘I’?

This cardinal question has be dealt by all Indian Philosophies. A philosophy which has evolved a composite and holistic approach to knowing this reality in its most dynamic andintrinsic way is the Trika philosophy. This philosophy calls this seeking Ahaṁ vimarśa. Boththese terms have been adequately dealt in this system in its most essential form. Actually itforms the core of this tradition.

It is our common understanding that one of the seminal understanding offered by Kashmir Shaivism or one of the contribution of this tradition to the pravāha of sanātana tradition is the doctrine of Pratyabhijñā. This doctrine is the rasa or the essential nectar ofśaivāgama. This tradition states that knowledge per say is of the nature of Pratyabhjñāna. It isself -reflective in nature. The ‘Self’ or ‘Aham’ always remains at the center of our experience. Soto delve deeper into the mechanism of Pratyabhijñā, the philosophers of this non dual traditiontook immense effort to understand, explain and articulate the term ‘vimarśa’.

Vimarśa basically means saṁvedana sāmarthya, the capacity of perception or knowledge, or the ability of feeling, or the power of experience. The same understandingapplied individually can be articulated as our capacity of perceiving and knowing our truenature, our ability to feel the subtleness of the Supreme Self, our power to experience thedepth of infinity. Vinarśa is the highest Self-awaring consciousness.This term irrefutably becomes the fulcrum around which the whole tradition revolves.Whether it is understood from the point of view of epistemology, metaphysics or soteriology,vimarśa and its understanding holds the key to understand and experience the core of ourbeing. In this paper we will understand the significance of this core principle in this tradition aswell as in our own experience. This paper will shed light on understanding various termsthrough which this core concept is viewed like Parāmarśa , āmarśa , pratyavamarśa. We willunderstand how applying these teachings can enhance the experience of our life.The very same core concept is also seen by other terms like svātantrya, aiśvarya, pūrṇāhantā. This paper will discuss various implications of these terms.

In the non-dual Śaiva philosophy, Absolute consciousness is defined as nitya sāmarasya (eternal harmony or essential oneness) of Śiva and Śakti. The same is also seen as eternal harmony oftwo aspects prakāśa and vimarśa, the same is eternal harmony of knowledge and bhakti.In Veda the Supreme is articulated in the terms of sat-cit and ānanda. In this philosophythe same is articulated in the terms of prakāsa and vimarśa. It takes a step further in the articulation of sat-cit-ānanda.

There is two fold nature of Absolute, as understood in this system’

1. Prakāśa – Innate power of manifestation

2. Vimarśa- Innate power of perception.

Vimarśa, the autonomy of consciousness, is the very nature of the light of the subject. It is the very life of sentiency. It is through the power of Vimarśa that brings forth object from himself, which are not apart from him.

This tradition explains that if prakaśa is the inner content of ‘sat’ then vimarśa is its innate power of Self-awareness, or innate power to recognize oneself as ‘sat’.‘cit’ can be divided in both aspects of prakāśa and vimarśa, as prakāśa it is self-shining and asvimarśa it is self-awaring consciousness.

Vimarśa also represents ānanda aspect which is considered to be the source of all spiritual pursuit.

There are various aspects of Vimarśa but for this paper we will focus on a very important aspect, i.e. svātma-avamarśa.

Vimarśa is understood as prakāśātmā, as nature of Light consciousness. Why is it essential to have vimarśa as a essential part of Absoute? The Absolute principle is considered absolute because:

1. It is of the nature of Pūrṇatā, fullness. It is self-fulfilling in nature. It is complete within itself. Expression of this fullness is called ānanda.

2. It has complete knowledge of its own fullness.

3. It has complete freedom, freedom in knowing and freedom in doing, jñāna-kriyāsvātantrya.

4. It’s capacity to Self-shine as complete ‘one’. The capacity to experience everything as ‘oneself’.

Studying the above parameters, if the Absolute principle has to be actualized, one must assimilate them in oneself. This paper will go deeper in understanding how that can be done in this contemporary period of time.

This understanding has the capacity to revolutionize the world. This is because, once this higher way of perceiving is recognized there are immense possibilities on offer. This is because vimarśais also understood as pratibhā, the self- intuitive power hidden within ourselves. To understandhow to remain in touch with this pratibhā, this paper will discuss the nature of three foldcreation as discussed in the seminal text of Tantrasāra by Āchārya Abhinavagupta.

Understanding this three-fold creation or visarga sṛṣṭi helps us to see creation of our perception at an altogether different level. This threefold ness of sṛṣṭi discusses the emanation at theSupreme, subtle and gross level. By applying this knowledge we can elevate our perceptionfrom gross to Supreme. This results in change of quality the way we create our world from adual perspective to non-dual perspective. Having the non-dual or akhanda vision has thepossibility to make this world a more inclusive, sensitive and better place to live. Through thisperception the world can be shown to lead a life of unity awareness or unity consciousness asthe Śiva sutra states “Caitanya ātmā”. The nature of the Self is consciousness which pervadeseverywhere, in everything and as everything.

Reality: Synthesis of Prakāśa and Vimarśa

Fundamental logic of Pratyabhijña system of Kashmir

Meera Rastogi

Pratyabhijña system represents the philosophical aspect of monistic tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. Being exponent of integral absolutism it considers reality, having the nature of consciousness as transcendental and immanent both. It advocates two aspects of the supreme-prakaśa and vimarśa, just to include content and process both in one undivided whole.

First one, because of its purity, is able to illumine and reflect upon itself; and second one is freedom to apprehend itself in multifarious ways. Thus, the reality is a self-illumined and self-aware whole. whatever is present in first aspect is manifested in various forms by other one. Whatever shines in consciousness that alone exists and is so affirmed by vimarśa only. The whole process of creation represents this self- affirmation. Thus, vimarśa may be summed up as agency of prakaśa which reflects in form of creative will. This self- reflective awareness approves everything identical to the consciousness, where spatial- temporal limitations do not exist so externality lies in only separateness.

This synthetic notion of reality promotes the all-inclusive approach leading to fuller appreciation of life and world in philosophical discussions and due course of spiritual practices. Now this system presents totally different world view from other idealist philosophical systems, e.g. Bauddha and Vedanta. In this system, the reality has dynamicity, implicit in its nature while its unity remains intact. Thus, here the process of bondage and freedom is nothing other than unrevealing and revealing of the real nature of the self. This dynamicity reflects its sovereignty, which is the result of its free will, i.e. vimarśa .

Here, prakaśa is the tool of unity and vimarśa is the tool of multiplicity.Thus, this reality coordinates the threads of unity and diversity in one and appears perfect. Prakaśa is the aspect devoid of any impurity so everything can be reflected here, while the function of vimarśa is to confirm the variety of those reflected and again identify them with prakaśa , removing all kind of duality consciousness.This system propagates that universal consciousness always reflects itself in this continuous process of extroversion and introversion which is termed as spanda. In this process three successive steps–will, knowledge and action take place. In this way the consciousness knows itself, verbalize itself and affirms itself. It visualizes and creates both. This constant affirmation makes it more and more vivid.

This type of synthetic notion of Reality is capable of explaining every sphere of life, empirical or transcendental – whether it is metaphysics, epistemology, ontology, cosmology, axiology or aesthetics. In every context, only these two concepts are the last repose for any logical reduction. Abhinavagupta has tried to evolve the whole thesis underlining the interaction of the two while addressing different issues in different contexts.

This paper will try to present how this system intertwines all the aspects of empirical and trans-empirical in a compact whole and tackles all the problems through these two notions.

Paper will be presented in Hindi.

Abhinavagupta’s rasa-aesthetics and Bharata’s sacrificial theater

Humor and its semblance in ‘The Little Clay Cart’ (Mṛcchakaṭikā)

Sunthar Visuvalingam

As a ritual performance, the brahmanical sacrifice ( yajña), around which the semiotics of Vedic life revolved, could be undertaken only by twice-born upper-castes and officiated exclusively by trained orthodox brahmins. Participation of otherwise excluded lower castes was ensured through transposition onto public festivals, popular pilgrimages with their mythological backdrop, (antinomian) tantric praxis, individual life-cycle rituals ( saṁskāra), etc., and especially the all-inclusive classical theater (nāṭya). Abhinava declares that the ‘stage manager’ ( sūtradhāra), though of lowly ( śūdra) caste, deserves to be addressed as “Ārya” for he is fully initiated ( dīkṣita) into the innermost secrets of Bharata’s nāṭya- veda.

My comprehensive hermeneutics of ‘The Little Clay Cart’ (Mṛcchakaṭikā) shows how this ‘profane’ ( prakaraṇa) drama not only remains a yajña in disguise, but helps clarify the inner meaning and purpose of this foundational Vedic institution. The dīkṣita state of the (royal) protagonist ( nāyaka) as sacrificer ( yajamāna) has been split off into his indispensable equal and alter ego, the ‘great brahmin’ ( mahā- brāhmaṇa). While provoking laughter that punctuates the play’s aesthetic surface, this clown’s ‘follies’ serve to cloak his transgressive role as bearer of the sacred enigma ( bráhman). The murderous plot repeatedly underlines the ‘guileless’ buffoon’s (ritual) complicity with the even more ridiculous figure of the villain Śakāra, in whom the ‘evil’ ( duṣṭa-) dimension of the dīkṣita’s embryonic regression (- baṭuka) has been more fully developed. Falsely accused, Cārudatta, romantic hero as substitute victim, is reprieved at the very moment when ‘evil’ king Pālaka, just about to immolate the sacrificial goat, is slain. Abhinava’s cryptic declaration that the vidūṣaka deploys ‘the semblance of the comic’ ( hāsyābhāsa) that nevertheless generates humor ( hāsya) confirms that this foremost exponent of radical Tantrism entertained an esoteric understanding of the sacrificial underpinnings of worldly theater that is only hinted at in his otherwise encyclopedic commentary on Bharata’s founding treatise. Having assumed the cosmogonic role of Brahmā in the ritual preliminaries ( pūrvaraṅga) and conversing in Sanskrit in the prologue, it is the ‘brahmin’ sūtradhāra who steps onto the profane vernacularized stage as the deformed jester bearing the crooked stick ( kuṭilaka) of his patron god.

Sheldon Pollock has gleefully ‘exposed’ Abhinava as a ‘plagiarist’ who “shamelessly” (mis-) appropriated Bhaṭṭa Nāyaka’s explanation of the universalization ( sādhāraṇīkaraṇa) of aesthetic relish ( rasa) on the ritual ( mīmāṁsaka) model of the impersonal generalization of the Vedic injunction to perform the yajña. Nāyaka’s crucial insight is known to us, however, only through his successor’s attribution by name and generous acclaim, even while simplifying and streamlining his over-complex tripartite mechanism ( bhāvaktva, sādhāraṇīkaraṇa , bhojakatva). Bharata’s and Kālidāsa’s presentation of nāṭya as a yajña rendered delightful to the senses was, instead, taken for granted by classical playwrights and traditional commentators, including Abhinava, even if the implications of this homology were never made publicly explicit for obvious reasons. The generalized process of (aesthetic) ‘identification’ ( tanmayībhavana with and through the nāyaka- yajamāna) that sustains our enjoyment of rasa also ensures that the rest of us ‘connoisseurs’ (vicariously) participate willy-nilly in the sacrifice, whether we know it or not.


Author Bio:

Sunthar Visuvalingam, born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, of Sri Lankan Tamil ancestry, is an independent researcher on Indic traditions based in Chicago since 2001. His PhD thesis on “ Abhinavagupta’s Conception of Humor: Its Resonances in Sanskrit Drama, Poetry, Hindu Mythology and Spiritual Praxis” (1984) was strongly recommended for a DLitt degree and earned him a personal commendation from the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University. He was instrumental in inviting foreign specialists to participate in the international conference on Abhinavagupta at the BHU Musicology Dept. (1981) and remained actively involved in the subsequent IGNCA national conference there (1982). He has collaborated throughout in his anthropologist-wife Dr. Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam’s extensive fieldwork on the popular worship of Abhinava’s supreme tantric (Kaula) deity Bhairava in Banaras, Katmandu and elsewhere. Their paradigm of “ transgressive sacrality” was the object of a three-panel pilot international conference at the South Asia Annual conference at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (1986). Among their joint-papers proposing an acculturation model of Indian religious history are “Abhinava-Bhairava: Toward a Unitive Understanding of Indic Traditions” (BORI, 2017), “ A Paradigm of Hindu-Buddhist Acculturation: Pacali Bhairab of Katmandu” (Evam, 2004), “ Between Mecca and Banaras: An Acculturation Model of Hindu-Muslim Relations” (Islam and the Modern Age, 1993), “ Bhairava in Banaras: Negotiating Sacred Space and Religious Identity” in Visualizing Space in Banaras (2006), and “ Violence and the Other in Hinduism and Islam” (Perspectives on Violence and Othering in India, 2015). He has been guest-editing the collective volume Abhinavagupta: Reconsiderations (2006, 2017), which includes papers from the two BHU conferences and his comprehensive introductory overview “ Towards an Integral Appreciation of Abhinavagupta’s Aesthetics of Rasa” (updated 2017). He contributed the chapter on “ Hinduism: Aesthetics, Drama, Poetics” to the Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts (2014, ch.24). His publications, including the forthcoming “Indian Carnival and Human Freedom: From Transgressive Sacrality to Global Spring?” Bakhtin in India (2017), based on his keynote address at this international conference (Gandhinagar, 2013), are inspired by Abhinava’s constructive vision and way of thinking. Since 2001 he has been hosting and animating the global website for collaborative multilingual publishing that aims to apply and extend Abhinava’s insights, making them more accessible to non-specialists, otherwise deterred by the unnecessary jargon of academese.

Table of Contents

Semblance of Rasa: Abhinavagupta’s bisociative conception of humor (hāsya) 2

1. “Semblance of any rasa produces hāsya” – incongruity and impropriety 4

2. “All the rasas are included in hāsya” – rasābhāsa and puruṣārtha 10

3. “Hāsyābhāsa is itself productive of hāsya” – the brahma-bandhu’s enigmatic wit 19

4. “Vidūṣaka thus deploys the semblance of humor” – to laugh or not to laugh? . 23

Transgressive sacrality and ritual clown: ‘Origin’ of the Sanskrit Drama . 30

Dīkṣā: The Little Clay Cart as Womb of the Brahmanical sacrifice (yajña) 36

Born of the Yoginī: Vedic cosmogony, Kaula sexual union, ‘Original’ sacrifice . 43

Kingship, Violence and Sacrifice: Deconstructing the Scapegoat 49

Universalization: Abhinava’s rasa-aesthetics and Bharata’s sacrificial theater . 53

Bibliography . 65