“What if I met the great Sage Abhinavagupta?(Part 3) – An Imaginary Dialogue with Abhinavagupta during COVID 19 times” by Niharika Sharma
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A cloudy night after the solar eclipse, Sage Abhinavagupta, sat on the river bank waiting for Ved to sneak out of his house. Abhinavagupta thought to himself, that a student is always in search of a Guru but the Guru is also looking for a student to impart the knowledge and build further on it. He could see the little boy as his disciple who already had the potential of a Yogi. Ved had the curiosity and stillness in him at the same time. Abhinavagupta observed Ved’s desire to pursue the Tantric path to get rid of Pauruṣa ignorance (existential). Ved unknowingly was seeking liberation.
Abhinavagupta – I see that you sneaked out of the house at night again.
Ved – Oh! You are here. I was anxiously waiting for your arrival. I contemplated our discussion on pratyabhijñā. But if we virtually mean spiritual transformation or removal of mala, why do you refer to it as jñāna (knowledge)?
A – It is not the physical dirt we are talking about Ved. Mala here means ignorance or ajñāna. The removal of this mala is only possible by jñāna (knowledge). Imagine you cut your hand while flying a kite in your dream. But the realisation that it is just a dream is needed to know that your hand is unharmed and there is no kite. This knowledge effects in the opposite direction, a practical change, so-called pauruṣa knowledge. dvaitaprathā tadajñānam … (Tantrāloka 1.30) Mala essentially represents the distinction of the Self from the rest of the world. Pratyabhijñā is jñāna as the essence lies in enlightenment, awakening or rising to the highest level of consciousness/awareness/Prama-Śiva. Knowledge is not the knowledge of this or that per se. It may indicate any kind of illumination. In tantra, the highest jñāna is “I am all”. This awareness leads to the perfect “I” (pūrṇāhantā).
V – According to you, Trika School admits of no physical reality. The only reality is Consciousness; the reality of the world is ābhāsa (epistemic or ideal). The transformation is thus epistemic just like the change from dream state to the waking state. So ignorance acts as a primordial forgetfulness of one’s true nature whereas pratyabhijñā is remembrance.
A – Ved you have understood it correctly. Pratyabhijñā is also different from ordinary knowledge. It is the immediate knowledge of the Self. It is due to pratyabhijñā one knows oneself as pūrṇāham or Śiva. To regard yourself different from pūrṇāham is ignorance. yastu sarvāṇi bhūtāni …. cātmānam || (Īśā Upaniṣad 6) In the spiritual sense, ignorance is selfishness and egoism. Whereas jñāna is selflessness and love. Pratyabhijñā is the perfect all-embracing love. The Upaniṣads also refer to this unity.
V – But what is the mode/form of this knowledge? What is its content?
A – Here mode refers to ‘how’ we know and content refers to ‘what’ we know. The mode of pratyabhijñā knowledge is intuitive and immediate. One knows the Self directly not through some meditation. Ved in Trika philosophy, the knower and known are one. I am not referring to knowing oneself in the subject-object mode of knowing as discussed in Nyāya school. Trika school position is perfectly aligned with Advaita Vedānta. One knows oneself in a self-illumined way, not in the object way such as we know table and chair. The Self does not make itself its object but is self-illumines (svayamprakāśa). The content is the Self itself. It is the case of self-realisation (ātma-pratyabhijñā). But there is a subtle difference from Advaita Vedānta. In Advaita Vedānta, the Self-knowledge can only come through scriptures or a teacher. It cannot arise spontaneously. Whereas in Trika Philosophy, the scripture and a teacher can bring additional benefit and is generally how realization is brought about. However, the light can arise from within. The light can shine when the consciousness is purified. In Tantrism finding a Guru is of utmost importance but we don’t rule out the possibility of self-enlightenment. As Buddha said, attadīo bhava or ātmadīpobhava, “Be yourself your lamp”.
V – Is this the reason why you encourage me to find the answers myself? But I am never able to find the answers.
A – Ved you can find the answers yourself. The only reason why you can grasp all the knowledge is that you have the answers within you. I can see that you are on the path to attain Śivahood. The only shackles you need to break are of the ego – consciousness of individual ‘I’ as different from others. Ego is not a necessary trait of the Self. It is a limiting and differentiating factor. Ego comes to the state of paśu or aṇu. Ego is only necessary when Self has to differentiate with others. It limits the Self to one particular individual deprived of the entire world. Ved gradually when the Self feels its unity with all, then the limited Self becomes the unbound Self and the ego virtually goes.
V – But…
A – What is bothering you Ved?
V – How will “I” be able to get rid of this ego? I understood the process but how am I supposed to be free of this “I”?
A – Ved, unknowingly you are free. Do you know the theistic notion of Self-surrender?
V – Yes. In theistic bhakti, individual Self is required to surrender completely to God.
A – Yes. In Tantric sādhanā, the act of surrender itself is significant. In Buddhism, the surrender or self-renunciation is without God. This surrender is the path of knowledge (jñāna-mārga). In Trika philosophy, surrender is the path of devotion (bhakti-mārga). This is seen as particularly beneficial. The Trika schools accept all kinds of sādhanās, as they all aim at thinning the ego. But when you learn the art of completing surrendering to a Guru or Śiva, you know yourself.
Ved was quiet for some time. He wasn’t eager to ask any questions. Abhinavagupta shifted his loving gaze from the river to Ved.
A – I can still feel something bothering you.
V – I have some more questions but I have surrendered to my Guru. Śiva will bestow his grace through you.
A – I will meet you soon Ved. This time I can see that you are ready to accept the Truth in you.
V – I will wait for you as always.
Stay tuned for more about “Dialogues with Philosophers during COVID-19 times” 😊
With Conscious Care, Together we shall overcome!
Care Consciously! #DefeatCorona !
Disclaimer: The opinions endorsed by the speaker is solely the author’s and not in any way endorsed by the Institute/Programme.