Great intellectuals of Kashmir

The beautiful land of Kashmir has been the seat of many schools of Indian philosophy since thousands of years. Over time, these various systems integrated themselves into what is now identified as the 'Kashmiri school of Shaiva Philosophy'.

It is a well-reasoned system bearing striking similarities with the Vedantic doctrine, differing in one or two significant aspects.

The basic premise of this system is that the ultimate reality of this universe is only one, which is pure and undifferentiated, manifesting itself in various forms and phenomena of this world. There is nothing else that exists apart from it, meaning that everything that is seen is only a manifestation of that one supreme reality. Realising this truth is the ultimate goal of life.

One of the greatest intellectuals in Indian spiritual thought and Kashmiri philosophy in particular is Abhinavagupta who lived in the latter half of the tenth century. With his profound thoughts expressed in numerous works, he has expressed his intense devotion embedded with gems of evergreen truths.

An ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, he says in his 'Ishwara Stotra' that the Lord pervades every kind of moving and static object. The Lord is without beginning or end, who is pure consciousness to whom man must surrender himself, who is the support of the true devotee. Though Abhinavagupta is portrayed as a Shaivaite philosopher, his writings show a remarkably eclectic approach, relevant for all times and for all creeds.

When he says that taking to a life of noble thoughts imparts a superior power to the mind, a boldness in service to humankind and a contemplative approach to life to face its vicissitudes, Abhinavagupta is voicing eternal truisms. "Man is a contracted or congealed form of the universal consciousness and recognising one's own nature as the spirit of Lord Shiva, the form of this supreme reality is the goal of life" says Abhinavagupta.

Another obscure Kashmiri philosopher is Malhana who in his 'Shiva Panchastavi' says the Lord with his innate qualities of purity, omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence casts his effulgence on the devout to destroy their undesirable traits and lead them to higher levels of consciousness.

Another thinker Bilhana says that since the Lord resides within us, there is no need for deep meditation. Just obeisance at his feet will confer great merits. Reminiscent of the Veerashaiva philosophy, he asks, "When the body itself is a temple, what else is needed for worship? If life is long, there is delay in reaching you. If it is short, your worship ends. Either way, we are clueless. Pray, guide us," asks Bilhana movingly.

Jagaddhara, another accomplished poet says in his 'Stutikusumanjali', "Where the mind is controlled, where is the need for other disciplining efforts? If speech is pleasing and true, where is the need for flattery? If there is kindliness and compassion, why are rituals and vows needed? If there is true devotion to the Lord, where is the need for other kinds of happiness?


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