Abhinavagupta (10th/11th century)

  • Mystic and Tantric Master from Kashmir

    Abhinavagupta is an outstanding figure in Indian culture: he was a philosopher, exegete, master of logic and aesthetics, poet, dramatist and musician.

    Abhinavagupta lived in Kashmir, near today's Shrinagar. He was born into a Brahman family of scholars where he received his early training from his father; later he studied with important gurus. Among his works the Tantraloka is a key text - an encyclopedic treatise on Shaivism.

    According to Abhinavagupta, one must become Shiva in order directly to share in the cosmic consciousness and vital energy of the god. This “Shiva-becoming” is a recognition of the “being-Shiva” which is the very essence of each being. It is a holistic experience of one's own divine nature. It is not a retreat from the world that leads to liberation but complex ritual practices and the unity of body and mind.

    A particular characteristic of Abhinavagupta's spirituality is his connection between aesthetics and mysticism. It is only a short step from the aesthetic to the mystical experience: he calls aesthetic experience the “younger brother” of the experience of the absolute. Contrary to a spirituality which is hostile to the body and the world, he is concerned with the experience of the divinity of the body and the cosmos for “everything is Shiva”.