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A Cursory Look into Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka: One of Tantra's Deepest Roots


The light of consciousness in all things, including the sky and a great tree

Abhinavagupta, the 10th-11th century Kashmiri polymath, wasn't just a scholar – he was a revolutionary thinker. His magnum opus, the Tantraloka, delves into the secrets of Tantra. More than one lineage arose from this sacred text, thus making it an important primary source for understanding Tantra's mystical origins. Within its pages lies a treasure trove of ideas on consciousness that challenge some conventional Western notions and align with others.


For Abhinavagupta, consciousness wasn't a singular entity trapped inside the skull. It was a dynamic interplay between subject and object, a shimmering Mobius strip where the perceiver and the perceived become one. This transcended the duality that often defines Western thought. Imagine a world where the flower and the one admiring its beauty are inseparable aspects of the same experience. Two water droplets in one great sea. That's the essence of Abhinavagupta's perspective.


The Tantraloka speaks of a fundamental consciousness, the Shiva-Shakti principle, that permeates everything. This isn't a distant God, but the very energy that animates existence. Shiva is the pure consciousness that underlies all reality, while Shakti is the pure energy that emanates from it. Our individual consciousness, says Abhinavagupta, is like a spark from this universal fire. It's clouded by limitations cause by individuation, but with practices like Tantra, we can awaken it to its full potential.


This awakening isn't about achieving some lofty state, an enlightenment that ends your sacred journey. It's about recognizing the divine spark within ourselves and in everything around us. It's about appreciating the world not just with our minds, but with the totality of our being. Abhinavagupta uses metaphors of light – the Tantraloka itself means "exposition of principles" – to describe this process. By illuminating the inner darkness of ignorance, we tap into the radiant consciousness that lies dormant within.


Abhinavagupta's ideas on consciousness are not easy to grasp. They challenge our ingrained assumptions about self and reality. But for those willing to delve into the depths of the Tantraloka, a fascinating journey awaits- one that can transform our very perception of the world, bathing it in the light of a previously unseen inner luminescence.


Find yourself a copy of this text or stay tuned as I continue to discuss it here in the Leaf Pile. There are so many subtle seeds of wisdom in Abhinavagupta's writings that invite readers to remember the awakened conscious self in each of them resides all around and in all things. A gentle roadmap towards a more compassionate existence.


Ever Forward.

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