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A Thousand Years of Abhinavagupta*

by Dr. Jeffrey S. Lidke January, 2016

Cosmological painting, Rajasthan, India

Cover of a Shakta Manuscript with Uma-Maheshvara LACMA AC1999

A thousand years ago to the year one of the world’s most prolific and brilliant literary critics is said to have penned his final work. If our historical estimations on the birth date, the date of Abhinavagupta’s final literary work — his luminous commentary, Reflections on the Recognition of the Lord (Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vimarśinī) — and death are accurate, then this brilliant Kashmiri polymath put down his pen around the age of 66 at the time of the winter solstice in 1015, some five years before dying, or as lore would have it, transforming back into his divine, Bhairava self. Looking back through the lens of time we can only imagine what Abhinavagupta would have done after concluding his final work. Certainly, his options would have been many. During his life (ca. 950-1020) he had over 19 respected teachers who aided him in the mastery of a variety of subjects, ranging from grammar to logic to Buddhist philosophy to tantric ritual and meditative practice to art, music and aesthetics. One wonders, did he put down his pen and pick up his brush? Did he sip wine with a beloved consort (dūtī) or did he tune his veena and play an intoxicating raga? Or did he sit in meditative stillness after first engaging in the worship of the deities of his tantric tradition? Perhaps he did all these things.

Certainly, the great master had many options at his disposal for how he might live out his ‘retirement’ days. By that point he had written at least 44 works (21 extant, 23 referenced from known works), ranging across four general categories: philosophy, Tantra, aesthetics and hymns. His education was unrivaled. He had esteemed teachers in grammar, poetry, logic, philosophy, esoteric ritual practice, yoga, art, music and aesthetics. By the end of his career he had already earned widespread regard as one of the greatest teachers, writers and spiritual masters of his day. A millennium later, he is recognized by many as being not just one of India’s greatest intellectuals but as one of the most brilliant writers, philosophers and aestheticians the world has ever known.

Born of a Yoginī

It is safe to say that Abhinavagupta’s life both began and ended with a proverbial ‘bang’. In the opening verse to his Distillation of the Tantra (Tantrasāra) Abhinavagupta poetically links his own birth with the birth of creation itself. The preeminent Abhinavagupta scholar, Alexis Sanderson, brilliantly renders Abhinavagupta’s invocatory double meaning as follows:



May my heart shine forth, embodying the bliss of the ultimate, [for it is] {one with the state of absolute potential made manifest in the fusion of these two, the ‘Mother’ grounded in pure representation, radiant in ever new genesis, and the ‘Father,’ all- enfolding [Bhairava], who maintains the light [of consciousness] through his five faces}/{formed from the emissions produced through the fusion of these two, my mother Vimalā whose greatest joy was in my birth, and my father [Nara]siṁhagupta [when both were] all-embracing [in their union]}.

(Sanderson 2005, 89)

With these words Abhinavagupta begins his brilliant synopsis of the spiritual tradition that he himself would bring to an apex, namely the Tantra, or specifically the Tantra of the Embodied Triad (Trika Kaula), which itself was a particular lineage within the broader spectrum of pan-Indian Tantra (Dyczkowski 1992, 12; White 2005). Abhinavagupta’s creative synthesis of the Embodied Triad placed emphasis on the use of the body as a means to attaining a non-dual state of recognition of the all-pervasive nature of divine consciousness, termed Bhairava or Parameśvara. True to the tenor of his Embodied Triad tradition, Abhinavagupta begins his Distillation of the Tantra by equating his own self with the Self of the cosmos at large. In this interpretive spirit, he conflates the divine couple, the goddess mother Śakti and supreme father Bhairava, with his own mother and father, Vimala and Narasiṁhagupta whose physical union, enacted according to the injunctions of Tantric ritual, created Abhinavagupta, just as the union of Śakti and Bhairava, is understood to birth the cosmos, not just at the beginning of time, but at the beginning of all the times that the universe has been recreated (that number itself being infinite). In this way, Abhinavagupta affirms the most profound and central tenet of his Embodied Triad tradition: one’s own I-awareness is itself that supreme awareness that is God.[1]

Shiva and Parvati,The National Museum of Oriental Art

Shiva and Parvati,The National Museum of Oriental Art

A Bearer of Many Lineages

Abhinavagupta’s cosmicized description of his own birth matches the claims that he was in fact an incarnation of the god Bhairava, conceived through extraordinary circumstances in which his mother and father engaged in ritualized sexual union (Rastogi 1987, 20). His birth, in other words, was not the beginning of his life-journey but rather the appropriate means by which a god-being entered into the world for the sake of revealing ancient wisdom toward the end of providing a path of liberation for worthy seekers. Similar to the narrative of the historical Buddha, Abhinavagupta lost his mother Vimala at an early age. Thereafter, he was raised by his father, Narasiṁhagupta together with his brother Manoratha and sister Ambā. His father was a pious Brahmin, devoted to the worship of lord Śiva. He was Abhinavagupta’s first teacher or guru, instructing him in grammar, logic and Sanskrit literature (Gnoli 1999, 4). After his early training in his father’s home, Abhinavagupta would then go on to study with some twenty esteemed teachers, from a variety of traditions and disciplines (Pandey 1963, 12). Although his father was a Śaivite, or follower of the Hindu god Śiva, Abhinavagupta would study from Vaiṣṇavas, Buddhists and teachers from other, non-Śaivite, lineages.

Of his many teachers, five stand out (Müller-Ortega 1988, 45-47). The first of these is Lakṣmanagupta, disciple of Utpaladeva in the lineage of the revered Somānanda, author of the Vision of Śiva (Śivadṛṣṭi) and initiate of the esteemed Tryambaka lineage (Nemec 2011). From Lakṣmanagupta, Abhinavagupta learned several systems of non-dual philosophy and practice that were central to his own eventual systematization, including the Triad ( Trika) and Recognition (Pratyabhijñā) systems. From Bhūtirāja he learned the Sequence (Krama) system. Under the tutelage of Bhāskara he learned the Vibration (Spanda) system and guided by Bhaṭṭa Tauta he immersed himself in aesthetics and philosophy of language. The most important of his many teachers is undoubtedly Śambhunātha who initiated Abhinavagupta into the Kaula or Embodied tradition and guided him into what Abhinavagupta believed to be the highest stages of spiritual realization. So great was Abhinavagupta’s adoration for Śambhunātha that he compared him with the sun and described him as “the moon appearing over the ocean of Trika knowledge” (Dupuche 2008, 7). It is from Śambhunātha that Abhinavagupta received the esoteric and sacred descent of power (śaktipāta) that awakens the Coiled Power (kuṇḍalinī-śakti) at the base of the spinal column leading to the purification of the subtle body as a result of the ascendance of this spiritual energy into the crown of the head — an ascendance that is said to bring about full recognition of one’s divine nature (Ferrario 2015; Wallis 2007; Lidke 2005; Silburn 1988). Just as Abhinavagupta was conceived through an act of esoteric Tantric, sexual ritual so was his initiation by Śambhunātha bestowed via a secret sexual rite in which a Tantric messenger (dūtī) served as the conduit for his mystical awakening. In his Light on Tantra (Tantrāloka), the massive compendium on Tantric practice that Abhinavagupta would later write at the behest of Śambhunātha, Abhinavagupta would devote an entire chapter to this rite, which he termed the rahaysa-vidhi or “secret injunction” (Lidke 2005; Dupuche 2008).

kal bhairav

Kaal Bhairava, Hanuman Dhoka, Kathmandu, Nepal

A Renaissance Mystic

Abhinavagupta likely completed his extensive studies and stages of mystical realization by his mid-thirties. At that point he lived out the rest of his life as a teacher and prolific author, turning his home in Kashmir into a place of spiritual learning (āśrama) in which he wrote his many works and attended to the training of the numerous disciples who were drawn to him like bees to honey. The vibrant setting of Abhinavagupta’s world at this time is described palpably by his disciple Madhurāja in the “Meditation Verses” (Dhyānaśloka) from his Reflections on the Lord Teacher (Gurunātha Parāmarśa). In these oft-quoted verses, Abhinavagupta is hailed as a divine incarnation who sits amidst a garden of grapes within a pavilion adorned with crystal and beautiful works of art. The room is fragrant with the smell of flowers, incense and oil lamps. Beautiful women dance to the instruments and songs of master musicians all in adoration of the master teacher, Abhinavagupta, who is surrounded by students and various spiritual adepts. The eyes of the long-haired master are described as trembling in ecstasy as he sits in a yogic posture, holding a prayer bead in one hand and a musical instrument in another (see full translation by Masson and Patwardhan 1969, 38-39).

In this wonderful portrait by Madhurāja, we get a clear vision of Abhinavagupta as one who lived and embodied the ecstatic states about which he wrote in such powerful and inspiring ways. Like Leonardo Da Vinci and other renaissance scholars he was at once a philosopher, artist and visionary, embodying his knowledge through multiple mediums. In other words, Abhinavagupta was far more than just a great writer. Rather, his writings are testimony to his holistic mastery of multiple fields of experience and expression — philosophy, grammar, poetry, Tantra and art. While Pandey believed that Abhinavagupta’s career can be marked by three distinct stages in which he first wrote solely on Tantra, then aesthetics and then philosophy (Pandey 1963, 41) it is more likely the case, as Gnoli has pointed out, that his interest in and writings on philosophy, Tantra and aesthetics interpenetrated each other throughout his literary career (Gnoli 1999, 56). Certainly, each of Abhinavagupta’s writings, whether they be on the topic of Tantric ritual, philosophy or aesthetics represent a mystically-charged artistic vision in which the divine reality is understood as an ever-creative impulse arising within the heart which is itself identified as the ultimate and most sublime location of divinity.

For Abhinavagupta, in other words, art, the spirituality path and the divine reality were clearly one and the same. In the mind of Abhinavagupta, this cosmos is God’s artistic creation, a creation within which every smallest unit of that creation itself embodies and reflects the divine Artist which is its origin. For this reason, artistic expression — be it poetry, drama, music painting or any other artistic medium — is just as capable of bringing about spiritual realization as yogic practice. For Abhinavagupta, the artist is a yogin and the yogin is an artist. The ultimate artistic expression is life itself which presents the opportunity for the attainment of spiritual realization, an event which empowers the individual to recognize his or her own identity as non-distinct from the identity of that ultimate Artist who is the source and very body of creation itself.

At the heart of Abhinavagupta’s writings is the linking of a trinitarian theological and ritual tradition together with a philosophy of intuitive perception in which the ability to cognize is itself recognized as proof of the presence of divinity. The influence of the former arose from his initiation into Triadic (Trika) Tantra. That training revealed to him a Godhead whose being gave expression through a myriad of triads, which he learned to worship and internalize through the use of mystical diagrams known as yantras. Foremost among these divine triads was the trinity of goddesses known as Supreme (Parā), Supreme-Nonsupreme (Parāparā) and Nonsupreme (Aparā). These three divinities were in turn associated with a host of other theological and epistimelogical triads including the three powers of will (icchāśakti), knowledge (jñānaśakti), and activity (kriyāśakti), the triad of God (Śiva), Goddess (Śakti) and man (nara), the triad of past, present and future, the triad of scriptures as dual (dvaita), dual-cum-nondual (dvaitādvaita) and nondual (advaita), levels of initiation as mild, medium and intense, etc. Containing within itself and pervading each of these triads, Abhinavagupta recognized one singular, Supreme Lord, Parameśvara, as itself the ultimate source of all the triads. This supreme consciousness Abhinavagupta understood to be nondistinct from one’s very own self-awareness. Drawing from both literary and aesthetic theory, Abhinavagupta identified the literary and artistic principles of intuitive insight (pratibhā) and interpretive resonance (dhvani), as indicators of divine awareness itself (Larson 1976; Timalsina 2007; Lawrence 2013; Cuneo 2015). In other words, the ability of an individual to recognize an object, to have the “aha!” moment, to experience the flash of insight was identified by Abhinavagupta as the presence of a Godhead that reveals itself through each and every act of self-awareness. It was this brilliant insight that formed the foundation of Abhinavagupta’s philosophical writings as distilled in his final work, Reflections on the Recognition of the Lord (Īśvarapratyabhijñāvimarśinī). For Abhinavagupta the intuitive flash of insight (pratibhā) is the very principle that makes possible the recognition of one’s own conscious self as the God that one seeks. Toward the aim of experiencing this intuitive flashing forth, Abhinavagupta himself prescribed and engaged in a complex host of artistically-grounded ritual practices through which the sensations triggered by contact of the senses with ritually prescribed sense objects would be fused and channeled toward a unitive cognitive act in which the ritualist would perceive him or herself as being pervaded within and by the body of God (Sanderson 1986). In this way, Abhinavagupta established a profound connection between the “tasting of aesthetic experience” (rasāsvāda) with the “tasting of spiritual experience” (brahmāsvāda), a link made possible through the synthesizing of his Tantric training with his immersion into the field of Indian art, grammar and literature (Larson 1976).

Abhinavagupta’s brilliant systematization of multiple fields of religious, philosophical artistic and literary knowledge itself is nowhere better captured than in these words from his final work, Reflections on the Recognition of the Lord:

One who realizes that [the powers of] knowledge (jñāna) and activity (kriyā) are but manifestations of the svātantrya [independent power of God] and that these manifestations are nondistinct from oneself and from the very essence of the ultimate, whose form is the Lord ( īśvararūpa)—a person [in this way] “resonating” entirely with the awareness that knowledge and activity are really one—whatever this person desires he or she is certainly able to accomplish. Such a person abides in a state of complete mystical absorption (samāveśa), even though still in a body. Such a person, while still in the body, is not just liberated while living (jīvanmukta) but has in fact attained the ultimate realization of identity with the supreme lord (parameśvara).

(Īśvarapratyabhijñāvimarśinī 4.1.15)

In this typically luminous passage Abhinavagupta identifies the mystical absorption (samāveśa) of his Tantric practice with the cognitive act of resonance (dhvani) that flashes forth (pratibhā) as the awareness that one’s own embodied consciousness is itself the very presence of supreme consciousness that is the object and goal of one’s meditative and ritual practice. In this way, Abhinavagupta affirms that mystical realization is itself a creative, cognitive act, one in which divinity itself recognizes its own presence in and as the embodied cosmos (kula), on both cosmic and personal levels.

Svacchanda Bhairava

Svacchanda Bhairava, Rajasthan, India

Returning to the Cave of God

In a number of his writings Abhinavagupta dallies with the etymological resonances of his name, offering, among other interpretations, the rendering that his name itself highlights that he is a teacher or revealer of “ever new” (abhi-nava) “secrets” (gupta). Indeed, Abhinavagupta’s entire life is one in which he himself was first awakened to the secrets of creation by his own teachers and then from that point on dedicated his remaining days to teaching, writing, experiencing and revealing those great secrets of the nature of existence.

We have observed the way in which Abhinavagupta perceived his birth as appropriately cosmic. It should come as no surprise that the day of his so-called “death” was likewise transcendentally indicative of the depths of his personage. On that eventful date, somewhere around 1020 C.E. it is said that Abhinavagupta entered Bhairava Cave near the city of Srinagar in his native land of Kashmir, India together with 1200 disciples (Müller-Ortega 2000, 574). Therein, Abhinavagupta is believed to have chanted a hymn to Bhairava, the supreme deity of which he himself was identified as an earthly incarnation. Abhinavagupta was never again seen in human form. This was not a death by any ordinary convention but an alchemical transformation of a body that had long since been recognized as perfected and awakened through the practices that had been revealed to him by his own masters. At the heart of these practices was the teaching that the entire cosmos is itself the body of God, a body that is luminous, ever-awakened, consciousness. A master like Abhinavagupta does not and cannot die for he recognizes that there is no “death” but only awakening into the recognition that death itself is nothing more than the illusion of separation from God.

Abhinavagupta captures this profound state in his Quintessence of the Supreme Truth (Paramārthasāra):

If one comes to know one’s own Self as the very nature of divinity, as immaculate intelligence comprised of a knowing subject who transcends the universe, [who is] omnipresent like an unsetting arisen sun, comprising a divine will devoid of [the restrictions of the] space-time continuum, immovable, imperishable—[perceiving oneself in this way as] the completely perfect Lord who is the sole agent in the formation of the dissolution and arising of the multitude of powers [that give rise to and sustain creation], being the wise creator of the laws of creation, etc.—for such an omniscient yogin how could there be [death and subsequent] transmigration? Where would he roam, and why?

(Paramārthasāra 64-66)

Let us close by imagining ourselves as among those 1200 disciplines who entered together with Abhinavagupta into the Cave of Bhairava at the end of his life 1,000 years ago. Sitting with the other disciples and chanting the Hymn of Bhairava (Bhairavastotram) one imagines that Abhinavagupta therein revealed his final secret: that he himself had fully become that “unsetting arisen sun”, that principle of life ever transcendent to death, being itself the light of illuminating wisdom. Perhaps in the darkness of the cave we actually perceive a tangible light emanating from Abhinavagupta’s body and entering into our own, penetrating to a place of insight that awakens in our own heart, that interior cave of wisdom, the recognition of the deepest truths of our being.

While our closing meditative journey back to Abhinavagupta’s final act of revelation occurs solely in the realms of imagination, the illuminating impact of Abhinavagupta on the many disciples of his day and on the thousands of subsequent students, teachers and scholars who continue to find inspiration in his many extant works is quite real. A thousand years after he entered the Bhairava Cave never to be seen again we are still only just beginning to appreciate the treasure trove of secrets illuminated by this great Kaśmirī master who left in his wake a priceless legacy of timeless and universal, revelatory wisdom.


The Author and Editors of Sutra Journal wish to acknowledge the inspiration for this millennial piece to Christopher (Hareesh) Wallis who was the first to call our attention to the passing of a thousand years since the departure of the great Abhinavagupta. His outstanding piece can be found here:

Selective Bibliography on Abhinavagupta and Kashmir Śaiva Studies[2]

Abhinavagupta, Rājānaka & Balajinnātha Paṇḍita. 1992. Essence of the exact reality, or, Paramārthasāra of Abhinavagupta. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Bansat-Boudon, Lynne & Kamalesha Datta Tripathi. 2015. An Introduction to Tantric Philosophy: The Paramārthasāra of Abhinavagupta with the Commentary of Yogarāja Introduction, notes, critically revised Sanskrit text, appendix, and indices by Lynne Bansat-Boudon. Routledge Studies in Tantric Traditions. New York: Routledge.

Baumer, Bettina. 2011. Abhinavagupta’s Hermeneutics of the Absolute: An Interpretation of his Parātriśikā Vivaraṇa. DK Printworld.

Biernacki, Loriliai. 2013. “Panentheism and Hindu Tantra: Abhinavagupta’s Grammatical Cosmology.” In Loriliai Biernacki & Philip Clayton, eds., God’s Body: Panentheism Across the World’s Religious Traditions (New York: Oxford University Press): 161-176.

Chakravarty, H.N. & Boris Marjonovic. 2012. Tantrasāra of Abhinavagupta. Portland: Rudra Press.

Cuneo, Daniel. 2015. “Rasa: Abhinavagupta on the Purpose(s) of Art.” In Nair Sreenath, ed., The Natyashastra and the Body in Performance: Essays on Indian Theories of Dance and Drama (New York: McFarland): 72-88.

Deshpande, G.T. 1989. Abhinavagupta. Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.

Dupuche, John. R. 2008. Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as Elaborated in Chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Dwivedi, R.C., and Navjivan Rastogi, eds. 1987. The Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta with the Commentary of Jayaratha. 8 vols. Originally edited by Madhusudan Kaul Shastri and Mukunda Rama Shastri. Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies.

Dyczkowski, Mark S. G., trans. 1992. The stanzas on vibration: The Spandakārikā with Four Commentaries: The Spandasaṃdoha by Kṣemarāja; the Spandavṛtti by Kallaṭabhaṭṭa; the Spandavivṛti by Rājānaka Rāma; [and] the Spandapradīpikā by Bhagavadutpala. Albany: State University of New York Press.

____. 1987. The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of the Doctrines and Practices of Kashmir Shaivism. SUNY Series in the Shaiva Traditions of Kashmir. State University of New York Press.

Ferrario, Alberta. 2015. “Grace in Degrees: Śaktipāta, Devotion, and Religious Authority in the Śaivism of Abhinavagupta.” Ph.D. dissertation in religious studies, University of Pennsylvania.

Gnoli, Raniero, ed. and trans. 1999 [1972]. Abhinavagupta, luce dei Tantra: Tantrāloka. Milan: Adelphi Edizioni.

____. 1968. The Aesthetic Experience According to Abhinavagupta. Varanasi: 100 D. Lawrence Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office.

Hanneder, Jürgen. 1998. Abhinavagupta's philosophy of revelation: an edition and annotated translation of Mālinīśloklavārttika I, 1-399. Groningen Oriental Studies, 14. Leiden: Brill.

Kaviraj, Gopinath. 1966. “The Doctrine of Pratibhā in Indian Philosophy.” In Aspects of Indian Thought. Burdwan: University of Burdwan.

Lakshman Joo, Swami & John Hughes. 2003. Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme. AuthorHouse.

Larson, Gerald James. 1976. “The Aesthetic (Rasāsvāda) and the Religious (Brahmāsvāda) in Abhinavagupta's Kashmir Śaivism.”Philosophy East and West 26: 371-3871974.

____. “The Sources for Śakti in Abhinavagupta's Kashmir Śaivism: A Linguistic and Aesthetic Category.” Philosophy East and West 24: 41-56.

Lawrence, David Peter. 2013. “The Disclosure of Śakti in Aesthetics: Remarks on the Relation of Abhinavagupta’s Poetics and Nondual Kashmiri Śaivism.” In Southeast Review of Asian Studies (SERAS), Volume 25: 90-102.

Lidke, Jeffrey S. 2013. “Quintessence of the Highest Purpose: A Translation, Introduction and Analysis of Śrī Abhinavagupta’s Paramārthasāra.” Journal of Indian Research, Vol. 1, Number 4 (October-December): 1-24.

____. 2005. “Interpreting Across Mystical Boundaries: An Analysis of Samādhi in the Trika-Kaula Tradition.” In Knut Jacobsen, ed., The Theory and Practice of Yoga: Essays in Honour of Gerald James Larson (Leiden: Brill): 143-180.

Masson, J.L. and M.V. Patwardhan. 1969. Śāntarasa and Abhinavagupta’s Philosophy of Aesthetics. Pune: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.

Müller-Ortega, Paul E. 2000. “On the Seal of Śambhu: A Poem by Abhinavagupta.” In David G. White, Ed., Tantra in Practice (Princeton University Press): 573-586.

____. 1988. The Triadic Heart of Śiva: Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-Dual Shaivism of Kashmir. Śaiva Traditions of Kashmir Series. State University of New York Press.

Nemec, John. 2011. The Ubiquitous Śiva: Somānanda’s Śivadṛṣṭi and His Tantric Interlocutors. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Padoux, André. 1990 [1963]. Vāc: The concept of the Word in selected Hindu Tantras. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Pandey, Kanti Chandra. 1963. Abhinavagupta: An Historical and Philosophical Study. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Studies. Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office; Enlarged 2nd edition.

Paṇḍita, Balajinnātha. 1989. History of Kashmir Shaivism. Utpal Publications.

____. 1973. Kaśmīra-Śaiva-Darśana. Jammu: Śrī Raṇavīra Kendrīya Saṃskṛta Vidyāpīṭha.

Rastogi. Navjivan. 2013. “Quintessentiality of Camatkāra in Rasa Experience: RevisitingAbhinavagupta.” In Navjivan Rastogi and Meera Rastogi, eds., Abhinavā: Perspectives on Abhinavagupta, Studies in Memory of K.C. Pandey on his Centenary (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal): 429-455.

____. 1987. Introduction to the Tantrāloka. New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Ratié, Isabelle. 2011. Le Soi et l’Autre. Identité, différence et altérité dans la philosophie de la Pratyabhijñā. Leiden-Boston: Brill.

____. 2006. “La Mémoire et le Soi dans l’Īśvarapratyabhijñāvimarśinī d’Abhinavagupta.” Indo-Iranian Journal 49 (1-2): 39-103.

Sanderson, Alexis. 2005. “A Commentary on the Opening Verses of the Tantrasāra of Abhinavagupta.” In Sadananda Das & Ernst Fürlinger, eds., Sāmarasya: Studies in Indian Arts, Philosophy, and Interreligious Dialgoue (Delhi: DK Printworld): 89- 148.

____. 1988. “Śaivism and the Tantric Traditions.” In Stewart Sutherland, ed., The World's Religions (London: Routledge): 660-704.

____. 1986. “Mandala and Āgamic Identity in the Trika of Kashmir.” In André Padoux, ed., Mantras et Diagrammes Rituelles dans l'Hindouisme (Paris: Éditions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique): 169-214.

____. 1985. “Purity and Power among the Brāhmans of Kashmir.” In M. Carrithers, S. Collins & S. Lukes. eds., The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 190-216.

Sastri, Mukunda Ram, ed. 1982. The Tantrasāra of Abhinavagupta. Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies, no. 17. Reprint; Delhi: Bani Prakashan.

Shastri, Madhusudan Kaul, ed. 1987. The Īśvarapratyabhijñāvivṛtivimarśinī by Abhinavagupta. 3 vols. Kashmir Series of Texts and Studies. Reprint, Delhi: Akay Book Corporation.

Singh, Jaideva, ed. and trans. 1989. A Trident of Wisdom: Translation of Parātrīśikā - Vivaraṇa. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Skora, Kerry Martin. 2013. “The Bodily Efflorescence of Words: The Crossing of Divine-Voice and the Body-Self in Abhinavagupta’s Cosmology.” In Southeast Review of Asian Studies (SERAS), Volume 25, 70-89.

Silburn, Lilian. 1988. Kuṇḍalinī: Energy of the Depths. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Subramania Iyer, K.A., and K.C. Pandey, eds. 1986. Bhāskarī (Īśvarapratyabhijñāvimarśinī of Abhinavagupta with commentary by Bhāskara). Vols. 1-2. Reprint, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Timalsina, Sthaneshwar. 2007. “Metaphor, Rasa, and Dhvani: Suggested Meaning in Tantric Esotericism.” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 19: 134-162.

Torella, Raffaele, ed. and trans. 2013. The Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikā of Utpaladeva with the Author’s Vṛtti. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Private Limited.

Tripathi, Ramasagara, ed. 1975-1981. Dhvanyāloka of Ānandavardhana with the Locana of Abhinavagupta. 3 vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

Vasudeva, Somananda. 2004. The Yoga of the Mālinīvijayottaratantra: Critical Text, Translation and Notes. Collection Indologie. Institut Francais De Pondichery Ecole Francaise D'Extreme-Orient.

Wallis, Christopher. 2007. “The Descent of Power: Possession, Mysticism, and Initiation in the Śaiva Theology of Abhinavagupta.” In Journal of Indian Philosophy, Volume 36, Issue 2, 247-295.

White, David Gordon. 2006. Kiss of the Yoginī: Tantric “Sex” in its Asian Contexts. University of Chicago Press.


[1] That such a claim resounds with potential solipsistic delusion is a danger of which Abhinavagupta himself was quite aware. In his writings he frequently distinguished between a lower level of awareness and a higher, perfected awareness in which ego is subsumed into the transcendent bliss of God, which Abhinavagupta termed the Supreme Lord (Paramārthasāra 59-66).

[2] This bibliography is meant to provide an introduction to the top scholarship on Abhinavagupta around the world. If there are authors or works not in this bibliography that should be present, I apologize. The authors and works listed represent the primary influences in my own career.

Jeffrey S. Lidke

by Jeffrey S. Lidke

January, 2016

About Jeffrey S. Lidke

Jeffrey S. Lidke is chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. A graduate of the doctoral program at the University of California Santa Barbara (2000), Dr. Lidke's primary research interests include Tantrism, Indian aesthetics and the neuroscience of contemplative practice. His publications include Viśvarūpa Mandir: A Study of Changu Narayan Nepal's Most Ancient Temple (Nirala 1996) and the forthcoming Beyond and Within the Three Cities: Śākta Tantra and the Paradox of Power in Nepāla-Maṇḍala (DK Printworld 2015) in addition to a number of reviews, chapters and articles.

Jeffrey's study of South Asian religions has included extensive field research in India, Nepal, Bali and Bhutan as well as personal training in music, Tablā, meditation, martial arts and yoga.

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