Gitartha Samgraha (critical Study)

by Partha Sarathi Sil | 2020 | 34,788 words

This page relates ‘History of Kashmir Shaivism’ of the study on Abhinavagupta’s Gitartha Samgraha commentary on the Bhagavad Gita: one of the core texts of Indian Philosophy. The Gitartha Sangraha is written in the light of Kashmir Shaivism and brings to Shaiva metaphysics and Yoga integrated in the Bhagavadgita. This study deals with Abhinava’s vision about the purpose of human existence and the accomplishment of salvation (i.e., self-realisation).

1. History of Kashmir Śaivism

Since ancient times a philosophical tradition which has been following as a spiritual exercise in parallel with the Vedic tradition, is named Tantrāgama. Among the Tantric Āgamas the Śaiva, Śākta and Vaiṣṇava tantras were famous. According to Dr. Sensarma, “Ancient Indian tradition, however, traces the origins of Śaiva cult of Āgamic thought current, which is believed to be ancient as the Vedic systems. However, it must be admitted in fairness that there is no literary evidence to support the theory of a parallel existence of Āgamic and Vedic ideologies”[1]. So, it may be found through a careful reading that mainly Upniṣadas hold the presence of Śaivite thought in Vedic thoughts. It is well known that Upaniṣadas are known to us as rahasyavidyā. In the present text we have found that term as well in a same way. According to some scholars, Atharvaveda is the source of Āgamic thought. Though it is a matter of research but we can see the descriptions of occult practices in Atharvaveda which may create a link between Vedic and Āgamic tradition.

We have references of eight number of Śaiva philosophical sects in all. They are Pāśupata, Lakulīśa-Pāśupata, Nandikeśvara śaiva, Śaiva-Śiddhānta, Trika or Kāśmir-Śaiva, Vīra-Śaiva, Raseśvara-Śaiva and Viśiṣṭādvaita-Śaiva sect. In view of the philosophical schools all the Śaiva sects can be divided into three classes, such as dvaita or dualistic, dvaitādvaita or dualistic-cum-nondualistic Śaiva sect and Advaita or non dualistic Śaiva sect. These three divisions have been mentioned by Abhinavagupta in his Tantrāloka. The Pāśupata and Śaiva Siddhānta may be placed under dualistic schools. The Lakulīśa Pāśupata and Vīra-Śaiva sects are non dualistic-cum-dualistic while the Nandīkeśvara Śaiva, Raseśvara Śaiva, the Viśiṣṭādvaita school of Śaivism and the Trika Śaiva school com under non dualistic schools of Śaivism.

Most probably the Śaivism is the oldest philosophical concept in India, because the seals discovered at Mahenjadaros and Harrapa contain evidences of the existence of the Śaiva followers[2]. There are images of Paśupati inscribed on those seals. Abhinavagupta has mentioned in his commentary on the ‘Mālinīvijayavārttika’ and “Parātriṃśikā Vivarana’ that Śaivism was in existence in Vedic period[3].

It is understood that the main reason behind the extinction of all the Śaiva śāstras is the gradual decay of the Preceptor and disciple tradition[4]. However, due to Lord Śaṅkara’s grace Śaivism was revived again in this world. The most compassionate God Śiva assumed the form of Śrī Kaṇṭha and appeared in Kailāśa mountain. He instructed the most patent sage Durvāsas to regain and establish the Śiva śāstra. Instructed by the Lord Śiva Durvāsas produced three mind-born sons with the power of his yoga. The three sons were Tryambakanātha, Āmardakanātha and Śrīnātha. Among them Tryambakanātha acquired the knowledge of all non dualistic Bhairava Śāstras, Āmardakanātha received the knowledge of all dualistic Śaiva Śāstras and Śrīnātha received the knowledge of all dualistic-cum-non dualistic Rudra-Śāstra. Thus the three branches of knowledge spreaded in this world. Tryambhakanātha by virtue of his yoga produced one mind-born daughter who familiar with the name Ardhatryambaka recession. The Tryambaka and Ardhatryambaka recessions primarily belong to non dualistic Bhairava Śāstra[5].

It can be known that the Tryambaka, Ardha-Tryambaka Āmardaka and Śrīnātha are the three and a half recessions which were prevalent in ancient times. The number of dualistic śāstras were ten, dualistic-cum-non dualistic eighteen and non dualistic sixty four. It is notable that Āmardakanātha’s dualistic recession has included only the dualistic Śaiva Śāstras, while the dualistic-cum-non dualistic Rudra recession contains eighteen Rudra-Śāstras together with dualistic Śaiva Śāstras and non dualistic Bhairava Śāstras having sixty four Śāśtras include the dualistic-cum-non dualistic and also dualistic Śāstras. Therefore, the total number of Śāstras as calculated are, 10 in dualistic recession, 28 in dualistic-cum-non dualistic recession and 92 in non dualistic recession.
The knowledge of Bhairava Śāstra was spreaded up to fourteen generations through the mind born sons. The fifteen generations, though versed in the Bhairava Śāstra, was unable to produce the mind-born son due to some mala (impurity). He was wandering and met some Brāhmaṇ’s daughter who was qualified in virtues and having a beautiful complexion in her youth. He married that girl and produced a virtuous son named Saṅgamāditya. In course of time he (Saṅgamāditya) travelled Kaśmīr and domiciled there. He produced a son named Varṣāditya. In this way the tradition of learning from preceptor to disciple turned from father to son. From Varṣāditya knowledge came down to his son Aruṇāditya to his son Ānanda. Ānanda, the learned scholar of all the Bhairava Śāstra gave birth to Somānanda Nātha who was the author of the famous book Śivadṛṣṭi. Then the knowledge of this Śāstra was received by the disciple Kṣemarāja Ācārya from his guru Somānanda Nātha and the tradition of pertaining knowledge by father to his son changed since that time as the tradition of preceptor and disciple. Śrī Utpaladeva, the famous commentator of the text Śivadṛṣṭi and the Ācārya of the Pratyabhijñā philosophy, was a disciple of Somānada. Śrī Utpaladeva’s disciple was Śrī Lakṣmaṇagupta and Lakṣmaṇagupta’s disciple was Ācārya Abhinavagupta, the famous and well-versed personality of all the Śāstras.

The predecessor scholars had mentioned four schools of Trika Śāstra or Bhairava Śāstra. They are Kaula school, Pratyabhijñā school, Karma school and the Spanda school. All the four schools are repository of Jñāna and Yoga. But it is admitted that the Kaula and the Pratyabhijñā schools focused on the primary of Jñāna while the Krama and Spanda schools on Yoga. The earliest founder of Kaula School was Somānanda. From him Sumatinātha received this knowledge. Sumatinātha’s disciple was Śambhunātha and latter’s disciple was Abhinavagupta. The Pratyabhijñā school was introduced by Somānandanātha. His disciple was Utpaladeva and the name of the latter’s disciple was Lakṣmaṇagupta. Lakṣmaṇagupta’s disciple was Abhinavagupta. The founder of the Krama School which primarily focused on yogic aspects, was Śivānandanātha. He gave advice to his three women disciples named Keyūravatī Devī, Madanikā Devi and Kalyāṇikā Devī. These three women again taught the Śāstra to three accomplished yogins. They are Śrī Govindarāja, Śrī Cakrabhānu and Śrī Erakanatha respectively. Somānanda Ācārya acquired knowledge from Śrī Govindarāja and through the process of guru-śiṣya Abhinavagupta attained knowledge of this Śāstric school. Śrī Cakrabhānu taught this Śāstra to his disciple Udbhaṭanātha and from Udbhaṭanātha Abhinavagupta had the knowledge of Krama school succeedingly. Erakanātha used to engage himself engrossed in yoga as a result advancement of this sect through the tradition of guru-śiṣya was lacking. The Spanda school was founded by Vasugupta. During his time Kashmir was under the influence of the Buddhists. Ācārya Vasugupta went to the foot of Mahādeva Mountain and observed penances there to propitiate Lord Śiva. Lord Śiva appeared in his dream and ordered him to go to a particular place of the mountain-foot where in some sacred piece of stone the mysterious Sūtras of Lord Śiva were engraved. The knowledges of those Sūtras were to be transmitted to the favourable disciples. Being instructed by Lord Śiva in dream Vasugupta founded out that stone and as soon as he touched the stone, all the Śivasūtras appeared to him by the Lord’s grace. He studied and realized the Śiva-sūtras completely. Then he taught this knowledge to his disciple Ācārya Bhaṭṭakalaṭa. The knowledge of this Spanda School was acquired by Mahāmāheśvarācārya Abhinavagupta. In this way Ācārya Abhinavagupta became conversant with the knowledge of the four schools of the Bhairava Śāstra.

Pratyabhijñā branch:

Krama Branch:

Footnotes and references:


Sensarma, An Introduction to the Advaita Śaiva Philosophy, P-17.


Debabrata Sensharma, Introduction, Kāśmīrśaivadaśana, P.19.




śaivādīni rahasyāni pūrvamāsanmahātmanām |
ṛṣīṇāṃ vaktrakuhare teṣvevānugrahakriyā ||
kalau pravṛtte yāteṣu teṣu durgamagocaram |
kalāpigrāmapramukhamucchinne śivaśāsane || Trikrahasyaprakriyā.,P.6.


śrīmacchrīkaṇṭhanāthājñāvaśātsiddhā avātaran |
tryambakāmardakābhikhyaśrīnāthā advaye dvaye ||
dvayādvaye ca nipuṇāḥ krameṇa śivaśāsane |

ādyasya cānvayo jajñe dvitīye duhitṛkramāt ||
sa cārdhatryambakābhikhyaḥ santānaḥ supratiṣṭhitaḥ ||
ataścārdhacatasro'tra maṭhikāḥ santatikramāt || Trikrahasyaprakriyā P.3.

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