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Utpaladeva – Teacher of Kashmir Shaivism

Utpaladeva, also known as Utapalacharya, is associated with Kashmir Shaivism as an exponent of what is known as recognitive school of Kashmir Shaivism. He was the teacher of Abhinavagupta’s instructor, Lakshman Gupta, and a true disciple of Somananda.

According to the tradition, Utpaladeva lived near Vicharnaga, to the north of Srinagar, and belonged to the end of the 9th and first half of the 10th century CE. He has written a number of treatises, but, unfortunately many of his works are lost; those surviving include Ajadapramatrsiddhi, Ishwarasiddhi, Sambandhasiddhi and the commentaries on the later two works.

His commentary on Shivadrishti is available (1 to 4 ahnika) only in part. This commentary was written at the request of his own son Vibhramakara and a brahmchari named Padmananda.

Shivastotravali of Utpaladeva is a collection of devotional verses composed by him at different periods, in various conditions, and discovered by his admirers. These verses were composed by the author simply to give expression to this feeling, thoughts, and experiences during various stages of his spiritual life.

Utpaladeva is famous for his Ishvarapratyabhijnakarika. In this book, Utpaldeva has tried to present a summary of the philosophy of his guru Somananda, and though his work is shorter in bulk than Shivadrishti, it assumed so much importance that the entire Pratyabhijna system came to be known after it even outside Kashmir.

He wrote two auto-commentaries on his Karika – Vritti and Vivrti (party available). Pratyabhijnakarika truly reveals the sharpness of his intellect, original thinking and masterly exposition, intimate knowledge of monistic tradition of the Shaiva Agamas and the recognitive sadhana to realize Lord Shiva.

Utapaladeva advocates the permanence and universality of the Self and criticizes Vijnanavadins theory of Kshanikavada (momentariness) and individuality. He asserts that freedom of will, thought, and action is the essence of being. He vehemently opposes the passive Brahman of Vedanta and lack of integrity between Purusha and Prakriti of the Samkhya system. However, his contribution to the field of Kashmir Shaivism is unforgettable and enduring.