Kashmir, the repository of Hindu knowledge systems

Kashmir, the abode of mother goddess Sharadamba, is a seat of enlightenment. No other place in India has produced so many masters as Kashmir. Kashmir is the centre of all knowledge with Acharya Abhinavagupta as the greatest exponent of all forms of knowledge and spiritual practices. Kashmir is not only the progenitor of Shaivism, but also been the unifying point of Buddhism, Nyaya Mimamsa, Siddha, Tantra and Sufi traditions. The white magic of Acharya Abhinavagupta can be seen in his exposition of the Rasasutra- aesthetic bliss or Samvid Vishranti, where consciousness rests. Abhinavagupta has mentioned nine teachers with utmost reverence.  It is rare to find such a fusion in a single master. Unfortunately, hardly anyone even knows about him in the conflict-ridden state.  This apathy towards the tradition of intellectual depth that Kashmir produced has its negative implications on the whole country. In fact, the sage Bharata who gave Natya Shastra, the greatest treatise on dramaturgy and allied arts hailed from this land and was a practitioner of Trika Sutra. Even Tirumular who wrote the Tantra Tirumandiram and gave the famous dictum Anbe Sivam or Love is God, is believed to have descended from the Himalayas and settled at Chidambaram. This forerunner of the southern Shaiva Siddhanta school described the dance of Shiva as the Nadanta sphere where everything ceases in action  and only consciousness remains, akin to the Abhinava principle of ‘This, I am – Aham idam’.  The frequency of the ceaseless vibration in which the dance of Shakti fused with Shiva is taking place is unimaginable, forget being able to externally hear or witness. This is the expansion of the Lord Nataraja in static or Nishanna posture but representing the cosmic movement.

The credit of re-establishing the Shaivite philosophy in Kashmir goes to Vasugupta who gave Shivasutras. He emphasized this dancing vibration in the Spandashastra. It is in the nature of the soul to be blissful but due to Maya, the curtain of ignorance veils its nature and plays varied roles similar to an actor on stage.  Nartaka atma means ‘soul is the actor’.  Like a person, who while keeping his self in the background holds on to the roles of many characters, the soul, too, keeping its nature hidden plays a worldly role.  Rango’ntaratma i.e. the conscience is the stage and the senses are the spectators (prekskanindriyani).  In this way a complete dramatic presentation is going on in our inner world.

Our modern research methodology divides Indian philosophy to just six traditions. The ritualistic Shaiva, Shakta, Pancharatra traditions on esoteric Tantrik sciences behind worship, have been forgotten. The manuscripts of Abhinavagupta’s works have been found surprisingly, in the south, especially  Kerala.  His works were extolled with reverence in the whole of ancient India.  When he left for his final journey, he had ten thousand disciples in Kashmir.  He is believed to have entered the Bhairava Cave  and left for the final abode; simply disappeared into Samadhi. This holy cave remains neglected, leave alone being a protected monument.

The snow- clad Mahadeva hills of Kashmir, on the peaks of which, Lord Siva himself gave the Agama scriptures resonate with the philosophy of self recognition or realization of the one subject Shiva through the reduction in identity with Shakti or objects – Pratyabhijna.  Kashmir is the venerated land of Trika or Pratyabhijna.  This divine consciousness is indispensable to understand the contemporary situation of  Kashmir and decide the future course of action. Shivopadhyaya, the writer of Vijnabhairava tantra, yet another giant of a treatise on Yoga and meditation, was the last Shaivite scholar of eighteenth century.  The modern master who gathered the moorings and popularized to some extent in our times was Swami Lakshman Joo.

About the author

Dr Padmaja Venkatesh (Suresh)

Experienced and noted artiste of Bharatanatyam, teacher, researcher, TV host and social worker, Dr Padmaja holds degrees in Commerce, Law, Diploma in choreography, a Masters in Philosophy and a doctorate. Her institution Aatmalaya Academy, Bangalore imparts training and has a charitable wing Kalachaitanya for propagating arts for lesser privileged and rural children.

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