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Tantraloka Of Abhinavagupta

Abhinavagupta, lead exponent and staunch adherent of Trika philosophy of Kashmir, was a versatile writer. Abhinavagupta (10th century CE) wrote as many as twenty-four books (as per some scholars it is 44). His works can be divided into two parts – independent works and commentaries. The most important among his independent work is Tantraloka.

It is called Tantraloka (XXXXVII.426) because it enlightens its reader about the Tantric path of salvation. It is the most voluminous of all works of Abhinavagupta, and it deals exhaustively with all the matters connected with the non-dualistic sixty-four agamas. It touches upon both ritualistic and philosophical matters, as well as the teaching of Kula, Tantra and Krama systems. Tantraloka is not merely a philosophical treatise, but a guide for seekers of Truth. He boldly states (Tantraloka, I.288) that the wise person who studies continuously the entire work consisting of 37 chapters becomes Bhairava, formidable Shiva, himself.

The important points discussed in Tantraloka are as follows –

  • The nature of the absolute
  • Cause of bondage
  • Nature of malas
  • Conception of liberation according to Trika and other systems
  • Process of manifestation of the universe
  • Nature of 36 tattvas
  • Four means (upayas) to realization of the Ultimate Reality
  • Svatantrya Vada (theory of Absolute Will)
  • Shaiva rituals and other gudha (esoteric) subjects like – varna (speech sounds), mantra (specific sonic-syllables generating the desired effect), bhavana (focusing of the mind), Hridaya (center of consciousness), prana (life breath), sadhaka (an aspirant of the ultimate liberation), guru (spiritual teacher), diksha (rites of initiation in meditation), nyasa (body postures), dhyana (concentration), japa (continuous articulation of mantra physically or mentally), puja (worship), Shaktipata (flow of energy), blessings of the Supreme Self and moksha.