Gitartha Samgraha (critical Study)

by Partha Sarathi Sil | 2020 | 34,788 words

This page relates ‘Tattvas (Principles) 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).

3. Tattvas (Principles) of Kashmir Śaivism

According to Kashmir Śaivism, this manifested universe is a reality. Through Śiva-Siddhānta the experient can remove the defilements called the āṇava-mala, the māyīya-mala and the Kārma-mala and then he can perceive the manifested true creation of the universe which is nothing nut the Parama-Śiva’s self manifestation as the Śakti tattva. Those who believe in the undivided non dualism, they admit only One Parama-Śiva, called by various names as Caitanya, Ātman, Samvit etc. are the insentient synonym of the Supreme being[1] while Paramaśiva, Parameśvara are the names of the Supreme Beings sentient names. The Kashmir Śaivites hold that ātman is of the nature of prakāśa-vimarśa, pure illumination and self-revelation. Prakāśa represents the self-effulgent while requires no other agent for its illumination. In the illuminating nature of caitanya, consciousness, there is a constant pulsating power innate in caitanya that makes the ever-shining illumination into a self-revealing illumination, otherwise called vimarśa. These characteristics, self-effulgent illumination and self-revelation are inseparable aspects of caitanya’s nature. Though the Kashmir Śaivism has included the Śiva–tattva and Śakti tattva among the 36 tattvas, Utpalācarya and Somānanda in their books Īśvarapratyabhijñā-kārikā and Śivadṛṣṭi respectively have mentioned that Śiva and Śakti tattvas are eternally existent outside the creation[2]. The text ṣadtriṃsattattvasandoha has, however, holds that the Śiva and Śaktitattvas are two different levels in the creation. Abhinavagupta has mentioned Paramaśiva as a consciousness of functions because He with the power of his divine freedom performs five functions incessantly. These functions are nigraha, sṛṣṭi, sthiti, saṃhāra and anugraha.

Kashmir Śaivism is an ardent advocate of the philosophy of non-dualism (akhaṇḍādvayavāda). In Kashmir Śaiva philosophy, Caitanya or Sambid as the ultimate reality conceived in non expressed form (nirākārarūpa) or Parameśvara or Paramaśiva conceived in corporeal form (sākārarūpa). The Supreme reality Caitanya or Parameśvara is endowed with divine Śakti, technically called the power of Divine Freedom (Svātantrya Śakti) and it manifests himself as the multiplicity of the world out of its free will (Svecchayā). It is held that the Supreme Reality Caitanya or Samvid was immersed in his bliss nature (ānandaghanasvarūpa) prior to His self manifestation as the world. He was the nature of fullness (Paripūrṇa Svarūpa) one without a second. But at one point of time, desire arises in it or Him to make the bliss nature within to flow out side Himself as the world of His free will, exercising His Divine Śakti. We may find similar instances in Tattiriya Upaniṣad. Kashmir Śaiva texts describe the self manifestation by Caitanya or Parameśvara exercising His Divine Śakti as His extension in the form of Divine Śakti (Sva-Śakti Svarūpa). The Supreme Lord exercising His Divine Śakti said to manifest himself in two different forms side by side. He manifests Himself in minimal form as 34 tattvas as planes constituting of whole manifestation or cosmos. Caitanya or Supreme Lord manifests himself as infinite number of limited subjects and objects of the knowledge of Pramātā and Prameya for the experience and enjoyment on each levels of manifestation of the world. Divine Śakti doing the tasks of self manifestation of Supreme Lord by functioning in three different forms in three spheres of Mahāmāyā, Māyā and Prakṛti Śakti. The Divine Śakti functioning in pure form as Cit Śakti in the sphere of Mahāmāyā reveals three levels of creation namely that Sadāśiva tattva, Īśvara Tattva and Sadvidyā tattva existing in hieratical order of descending kind. The Supreme Lord called Mantramaheśvara, Mantreśvara and Mantratma in three different stages of experience. The experience is mainly the non-difference (abheda) between limited subjects and objects. Then the Māyā Śakti is existing after the sphere of Mahāmāyā tattva. Māyā Śakti functions as the power of obscuration (acchādana). Prakṛti Śakti comes after the level of Māyā Śakti, and functions as a Cit Śakti (gross material power). Prakṛti Śakti manifests herself as infinite number of gross material objects for their experience and enjoyment (jñāna and bhoga). Being material power (Jada Śakti) Prakṛti cannot bring emancipation (mukti) of limited subjects. The process of manifestation of 23 levels of Prakṛti tattva during the period of formation of gross world is mainly for the enjoyment. All these tattvas exist in subtle form in the Divine Śakti. Abhinavagupta had given an analogy to describe the manifestation of the world. He says that the beautiful plumes in a peacock remain hidden when it moves here and there but peacock dances it spreads its beautiful plumes as an expression of joy. In a similar way the Supreme Lord reveals His Śakti with full of joy during the manifestation of all tattvas or the world. Prakṛti Śakti is also responsible to manifest all 23 tattvas for providing the limited subjects (Pramātā) with instruments (indriyas) beginning with manas (mind), buddhi (intellect) and ahaṃkāra (ego-experience) and external sense organs (jñānendriyas) and five power of actions (karmendryas) and five tanmātras (subtle elements) and five mahābhutas (gross elements).
The term ‘pratyabhijñā’ has its own significance in the development of Advaita Śaiva school of Kashmir Śaivism. Mādhavācārya firstly presented that term in his book Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha to summarise the ideas of this school of Kashmir Śaivism. Abhinavagupta has used the term ‘Trika’ in his literatures. Other writers used the term ‘śivādvayavada’ to explain their thought in this domain. Pratyabhijñā means re-cognition. Somānanda, a great scholar of Kashmir Śaivism, Trika has been used to explain the Advaita system of Kashmir. Abhinavagupta has given many reasons in his literature to explain this term Trika.

It is well-known that among the 64 Bhairava-āgamas, spreading a non-dualistic approach of Śaivism, Trika of Mālini, Siddha and Nāmaka āgamas is of most importance. Mostly this monastic philosophy based on these three āgamas[3]. In this school, Śiva, Śakti and their union; Śiva, Śakti ana Nara (the embodied soul); Parāśakti, aparāśakti and parāparāśakti have been defined as Trika in various places[4].Sometime, it is also note that Āgamaśāstra, Spandaśastra and Pratyabhijñāśāstra together known as Trikaśāstra.[5] In Kashmir Śaivism, the supreme reality or parāsaṃvid or caitanya not only an abstract metaphysical idea but it is also identified as Paramaśiva also. The Paramasiva or supreme lord is equipped with His endless powers that is known as Śakti, or the power of divine freedom (svātantrya-śakti). The Śaiva system divides the manifested world into thirty six principles. These categories have classified into two adhvas (root) namely Śuddha and Aśuddha. Among these thirty six tattvas Śiva tattva is the first manifestation of the Cit. It is purely subjective reference. The experience of this state is pure aham (I) consciousness. 24 The first stake of His divine śakti takes the form of śiva-tattva. Here is the translation of first verse of pratyabhijñāhṛdayam–“As the supreme Lord, beyond whom nothing exists (anuttara), when exercising His own free will He ‘vibrates’ or moves out towards His self-manifestation as the universe, the first flutter of his power of divine freedom is called the śiva tattva by those who know the truth.”[6] Under the influence of Kaula system, Abhinavagupta stated that the Anuttara or Paramaśiva is the thirty seventh category which has been supported by Utpalācārya in his text Pratyabhijñākārikā. Here also no identical gap between Śiva and Paramaśiva too[7]. According to utpalācārya, “Śiva tattva is not a level in transcendental experience to be represented as ‘I’ consciousness or ‘self’, but it is a metaphysical principle in which powers of knowledge and action are held in unity and that is capable of manifesting innumerable creations and annihilations of the entire mass of tattvas as mere reflections of itself”[8]. In Kashmir monistic philosophy, the divine śakti of the supreme lord completely fused with Śiva. Śakti is the second stage of self-manifestation of Lord and through the śakti, Śiva unfolds the universe gradually. Divine śakti operates here as the power of negation (niṣedhavyāpārarūpa). Though it is very difficult to say that this is the second stage of manifestation because almost simultaneously it appears with the first. Without a flame, ray is not possible so here it is the same way for the being and its consciousness. In Advaita Śaiva Philosophy, the multiplicity of the universe cannot appear directly and in a arbitrary order in lord’s self experience of unity. So, there is the relevance of Śakti principle, by which as the power of negation logically all things can be established. The involution of Supreme lord towards Śaktitattva may be regarded as the end of the state of supreme lord’s fullness nature and the beginning of the era of dichotomy in Lord’s self experience that became more prominent at every step of his involution. This manifestation is marked by the addition of the element of, ‘am’ to the ‘I’ as “I am” (Ahamasmi)

Sadāśiva-tattva is the third principle in the order of manifestation of this universe. The will power (Icchaśakti) always controls it. In this state supreme lord also known by sādākhya tattva. Prof. Sensharma also cleared this in a simple way in his book namely “The Advaita Saiva Philosophy of Kashmir, -“The universe–about to be manifested in the subtle, ‘ideal’ form which is technically known as sat (being), having been catalysed by the idam (the ideal ‘this’-ness, or the object of experience) appears for the first time in the self experience (svātmaparāmarśa) of the supreme lord”[9].

The lowest degree of the principles are the gross elements. They are known by pancña mahābhūtas, the five great elements. They are namely, pṛthvī (earth), jala (water), tejas (fire), marut (air), and ākāśa (ether). The last one is not a observable element as earth, fire, air and water. Mainly it is space, that is untenanted where we can move. It is the elements in which the rest four elements have room to exist. The whole universe is based on these five elements. Later the five elements we can transfer to the five tanmātrās. They are correspond to the five mahābhūtas. Gandha arises from the element of earth, the domicile of smell. The next is rasa tanmatrā, come out from the element of water. The element of fire is the cause of rūpa tanmātrā. The sparśa tanmātrā, the sensation of touch, came out from the element of air. Another one, śabda-tanmātrā rises from ether, the residence of sensation of sound.

After five tanmātrās comes out the five tattvas which are recognized as the five karmendriyas, the five organs of action. These organs are namely vāk, pāṇi, pāda, pāyu and upastha. The next five tattvas are the five organs of cognition, the organs of knowedge. They are known by jñānendriyas, namely ghrāṇa, rasanā, cakṣu, tvak and śrotra. The next tattvas are antaḥkaraṇasas. The word antakḥkaraṇas means the internal organs, they are manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahamkāras (ego). Rising still further we came to the two tattvas of prakṛti and puruṣa. In Śaivism, puruṣa is not a realized soul. This puruṣa is bound in five ways which are five kañckas, namely niyati, kāla, rāga, vidyā and kalā. Along with māyā tattvas all total ṣaṭ (six) kañcukas. Through the grace at the time of knowledge, māyā is transformed into Śakti, the energy of parama-śiva. Pure subjectivity is found in the tattva known as suddha-vidyā tattva. Purer subjectivity will come in the next two tattvas, īśvara tattva and sadāśiva tattva. The final two tattvas are the purest form of subjectivity. Those two independent tattvas are śakti and śiva tattva.

The next tattva is Śadāśiva tattva. This is the third category of the power of will or icchā śakti. Here the experience gradually develops from Śiva-Śakti principles which may be formulated in the thought as ‘I am’. As the manifestation of īcchāśakti, the sadākhyā or the sadāśiva-tattva may be also spoken of the state of self realisation as ‘being’ which is to start action. Abhinavagupta compares this state with of an artist’s desire to produce something special. In this state, the self experience of supreme lord. Here, the lord is the subject who takes the form of ‘ahameva idam’ or ‘I am this’; herein, the self experience of lord (aham) shines as an important one by dominating the totality of the universe in an ideal form that is idam. It is heldthat the supreme lord showers the grace upon the fettered limited beings or jīva from this sadāsiva-tattva[10]. The experiencer of this state is called as ‘mantra maheśa’ and the object which is the cause of affection is known as ‘ānavamala’.

In the next stage supreme lord reveals himself as the īśvara -tattva, the power of knowledge predominates in it. It is held that the totality of the universe, existing is an ‘ideal’ form has shown by the term idam, and that becomes so prominent within his self experience that it takes the form of ‘idameva aham’ (‘This am I’), wherein idam overshadows aham or the subject. In this state ‘this’ element in the Sadāśiva tattava finds predominance. Here the divine śakti known by jñānaśakti dominates on this level. So the activity of knowledge-power, the dichotomy of the universal subject and the universal object gets a secure root in the supreme lord’s self experience that is known as svātmaparāmarśa. For that, confusion may arises to know the real nature of the Īśvara tattva and Supreme Lord. Here Supreme Lord is Parameśvara or Parama Īśvara, but both are not same. So, According to Prof. Sensharma, “the Advaita Śaiva texts designate the supreme reality as the parameśvara, who is both the material and the efficient cause of the world manifestation; therefore he occupies the highest position, remaining aloof from the process of the self manifestation of the universe. The Īśvara tattva occupies the forth position from the top in the hierarchy of the tattvas.”[11]

The next tattva or category is Sadvidyā. It is marked by the dominance of action (kriyā). This is the final involutional movement by the Supreme Lord within the state of pure creation. In this level, both poles, aham and idam become equally prominent and balanced. The self experience by the Supreme Lord can be described as being of the nature of ‘duality within unity’ (bhedābheda-vimarṣa) at this level. Representation of Śaiva ontology has been presented by Dr. Rajnish Mishra in his paper titled “Agamic Assupmtion of Indian Literary Theories: An Exposition Based on Abhinavagupta”[12]. The chart has been reproduced here:

(36 Tattvas or Principles)



Footnotes and references:


Sen Sharma, An Introduction to the Advaita Śaiva Philosophy of Kashmir, p. 8


śaktiśaktimatorabhedaḥ, deśapāṇḍe, pa.42
jaḍā bhedarūpatvāt kāryaṃ cāsyā jaḍaṃ yataḥ ||
vyāpinī viśvahetutvāt sūkṣmā kāryaikakalpanāt |
śivaśaktyavinābhāvānnityaikā mūlakāraṇam ||, Tantrāloka, 9/141-142.


Tantrāloka, 1/25


Sensharma, Kāśmīra Śaivadarśana, P-38.


Sensarma, TASPK, P-26


Sen Sharma, The Advaita Saiva Philosophy of Kashmir, P-82




Deshpande, Abhinavagupta, Pp. 53-54.


The Advaita Saiva Philosophy of Kashmir, P-84.


The Advaita Śaiva Philosophy of Kashmir, p. 85.


Ibid, p-86.


Evam, forum on Indian representations 4:1 &2 (2006), P-126.

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