Tantrik Shaiva Philosophy in Context

Tantrik Shaivism and its Philosophy in Context

Part Three: The Exegetical Phase of Shaivism
(Part One is here, and Part Two is here)

NOTE: Here I've got my scholar hat on. This article is written in a more academic style, which allows a lot of information to be conveyed concisely. Pushing yourself to read something that's not easy or light reading is good for your brain! Literally, it helps maintain neuroplasticity and expands your mental capacity.

In a lucid and perspicacious article, European scholar Johannes Bronkhorst discusses the appearance in India of a “tradition of rational debate and inquiry“ that began in the classical period and flourished especially in the early mediaeval period.  He writes that this emergent tradition “obliged thinkers to listen to the criticism of often unfriendly critics, even where it concerned their most sacred convictions, such as those supposedly based on revelation, tradition, or inspiration.“ (2001: 475) Eventually, learned proponents of every school of thought were drawn into this sometimes combative intellectual arena, possibly because of the stiff competition for patronage engendered by the volatile political arena. The latter is described at length by Ronald Davidson (2002), who argues that Buddhism’s involvement in the emerging world of pan-Indian debate (beginning with Dignāga) constitutes a significant turning point for that religion.  

Once the Śaiva scriptures began to receive commentaries from learned exegetes, we see a wider and more specific awareness of the world of Indian philosophical discourse; yet still, the exegetes refer to these other texts infrequently relative to their intra-sectarian references. (We may get a sense of this by considering the citations in the encyclopedic Śaiva manual the Tantrāloka of Abhinavagupta. Probably nearly a third of this work of nearly six thousand verses consists of citations and paraphrases from well over a hundred other works, and yet among these only a handful are non-Śaiva.) The exegetes were familiar with and often engaged the Indian intellectual tradition of setting forth an opponent’s view and then refuting it in more or less detail, depending on the learning of the audience.  This was part of a strategy to validate the Śaiva tradition and its scriptures on three levels: that of yukti, or reason (especially when addressing non-Śaivas); of āgama, or appeal to commonly held scripture (especially when addressing Śaivas of a rival school); and of sākṣātkara, or direct (spiritual) experience (especially when addressing the members of one’s own sect or initiatory group [kula]).  

As noted above, it was Dharmakīrti whom the Śaivas of several schools took on as their principal non-Śaiva interlocutor, as well as Dharmottara, one of his successors. For example, Dharmakīrti is quoted no less than 44 different times in a single chapter of a work by dualist Śaiva exegete Rāmakaṇṭha. Raffaele Torella writes that the masters of Buddhist logic “are opponents [of the Śaivas], of course, but they are evoked so constantly and always with such profound respect, particularly Dharmakīrti, that the nature of their relationship is not immediately evident.“ (1992: 327) Here he is referring mainly to nondual Śaivas (such as Utpaladeva and Abhinavagupta) who engaged most frequently with the Pramāṇavārttika, Pramāṇaviniścaya, Pramāṇasamuccaya, and Nyāyabindu, and were clearly aware of some of the commentaries on those works as well.  Torella discusses this engagement and the resulting dialectic in two important articles (1992 and 2001).*  

Rāmakaṇṭha: Saiddhāntika Śaiva philosopher

To take up the first example of this dialectic, the intellectual connection between Śaivas and Buddhists can easily be seen in the work of a dualist exegete of the Śaiva Siddhānta school, Bhaṭṭa Rāmakaṇṭha. Alex Watson has recently published a thorough examination of the latter’s views in a book entitled The Self’s Awareness of Itself: Bhaṭṭa Rāmakaṇṭha’s Arguments against the Buddhist Doctrine of No-Self (Watson 2006).  This work is a study primarily of a philosophical śāstra of Rāmakaṇṭha called the Nareśvara-parīkṣā-prakāśa.  In it, Watson clearly shows Rāmakaṇṭha’s “sympathy with and understanding of“ the Buddhist position (2006: 214), for Rāmakaṇṭha positions his Buddhist interlocutor above other so-called ’Hindus‘ (like the Sāṅkhyas, Naiyāyikas etc.) in terms of their relative understanding of the true nature of being (216).  In fact, Rāmakaṇṭha’s strategy in the first two chapters of this text is to have his Buddhist opponent refute the arguments of all the other schools, so that when he himself refutes the Buddhist, he will be seen to have claimed the intellectual victory over all.  This strategy clearly entails a vision of the Buddhist interlocutor as a ’proximate other‘ rather than a ’remote other‘. Watson says, “He stands with Buddhism against the Brāhmaṇical realist traditions in denying a Self beyond cognition.“ (215)  Indeed, in Rāmakaṇṭha’s Kiraṇa-vṛtti he uses almost identically worded arguments to those of his Buddhist interlocutor in Nareśvara-parīkṣā-prakāśa, but here attributes them to his own school! (215-6)  It would appear that the only difference he has with the Buddhist is that, while both agree that there is no perceiving self apart from consciousness, the Buddhist believes that consciousness to be a flux, different with each cognitive perception, while Rāmakaṇṭha believes that the same consciousness, stable and not contingent on its objects, witnesses different perceptions. (Watson writes, “It is not so much a dispute over the existence or non-existence of an entity, but rather over the nature of an entity they both agree to exist.” This fact is obscured (and thus overlooked by many scholars) by the rhetoric of the ātmavāda vs. anātmavāda positions, which appear more diametrically opposed than they are in this case.) But this agreement on many points would not be sufficient for Rāmakaṇṭha to make the Buddhist his ally in argumentation if he perceived the latter as wholly “other”.

Utpaladeva and Somānanda: nondual philosophers

We see a similar strategy utilized in a central work of Śaiva nondualist philosophy, the Īśvara-pratyabhijñā-kārikās (ĪPK, early 10th cen.) of Utpaladeva. This monumental yet concise work of philosophical dialectic is also deeply engaged with Buddhist thought. Not only that: it paraphrases or alludes to arguments of the Sāṅkhyas, Kaumārilas, Vijñānavādins, Sautrāntikas, Vaibhāṣikas, Prāmāṇikas, and Vaiyākaraṇas, especially the figures of Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, and Bhartṛhari. These interlocutors are sometimes agreed with and other times opposed.   Whole chapters are given over to present the Buddhist view, and as we saw with Rāmakaṇṭha, Utpaladeva will sometimes have his closest Buddhist interlocutor do his arguing for him, such as in chapter two of section one.  Torella writes in the annotations to his translation of the ĪPK:

The target of Buddhist criticism here are some ātmavādins whose (various) positions are only partially shared by the Śaiva ātmavādin. One might almost say that Utpala sometimes uses the Buddhists’ own weapons to demolish doctrines which, though apparently closer to the Śaiva positions, remain, however, extraneous to what is their core and essential tenor. (1994: 89, fn1) 

Perhaps Utpala opposes his Buddhist interlocutor to the Naiyāyikas to avoid offending the latter, as many of them were Śaivas of the exoteric (i.e. non-Tantric) variety (1994: xxii-xxiii), and were well entrenched in Kashmirian society (as we see from the Nyāya-mañjarī, composed in Kashmir by Jayanta Bhaṭṭa, a Vaidika Śaiva).  This, incidentally, demonstrates that there were important links between exoteric and esoteric Shaivism, despite fundamental doctrinal differences, as illustrated by the well-known maxim antaḥ kaulo bahiḥ śaivo lokācāre tu vaidikaḥ (we are internally Kaula, externally Śaiva, and Vaidika [only] in our daily affairs). Note that Utpala also authored another work, the Īśvara-siddhi (Proof of God), written from a Naiyāyika viewpoint, arguing against Mīmāṃsā, Sāṅkhya, and Bauddha views. 

Utpaladeva’s body of work served a crucial role in the developing Śaiva theology of the nondual current.  He was an initiate into the sect of the Trika (with strong Kaula and Krama influences), a Śākta Śaiva cult of three goddesses that was little-known but nevertheless had a wide geographical distribution. The early Trika had no philosophical component as such, and Utpala—along with his followers and his own teacher—succeeded in bringing it into the realm of pan-Indian rational discourse and debate, thereby establishing its credibility and making it tenable in a wider sphere. In fact, long after the cult of the Trika had vanished, Utpala (and his successor and commentator Abhinavagupta) were cited as authorities that provided the philosophical framework for other Śākta Śaiva schools, such as that of the South Indian Śrīvidyā (aka Traipura-darśana), Anuttarā, and Mahārtha sampradāyas.** Utpala’s work also serves to demonstrate the great importance accorded to Buddhist thought by so-called ’Hindus‘ in this period (ca. 925 CE), and that, in fact, the close proximity of his views to those of the Yogācārins, and sympathetic treatment of them, may be seen as evidence that certain sects that modern scholars would wish to label as branches of “Hinduism“ had in fact as much (or more) in common with the Bauddhas as they did with other so-called Hindus (as I will argue at length in part two of this essay).  As part of his demonstration of the degree to which the Śaivas internalize logical Buddhist discourse, despite their rhetoric of vehement opposition to the latter, Torella writes:

Th[e] lengthy examination and criticism of the teaching of the Buddhist logicians resulted in, or at least was accompanied by, the peculiar phenomenon of a more or less conscious absorption of their doctrines and their terminology, that was to leave substantial traces in the structure of the Pratyabhijñā [nondual Śaiva philosophy]. This may have been a deliberate choice by Utpala: to increase his own prestige by assuming the ways and forms of a philosophical school which was perhaps the most respected and feared… (1994: xxii)

The Theory of Ābhāsas: Śaiva Synthesis and Innovation

One example of the above, which I will treat briefly, is Utpala’s innovative theory of ābhāsas.  In the context of the idealist doctrine that all objects of experience are projections within consciousness, ābhāsas are the Śaiva equivalent of the Bauddha theory of dharmas. That is, they are the constituents of which any object is made, the various universals such as blueness roundness etc. that make it up, each connected with a specific word. (Note that there are also subjective ābhāsas, namely the liking one has for an object [yathāruci], its utility [yathārthitva], and things one knows about it due to one’s education or experience of it [yathāvyutpatti]; ĪPK II.3.3.) When these are mutually delimited and further particularized by the factors of space and time, we have an object present to the senses with apparently independent reality (such as a specific round blue pot), i.e. a svalakṣaṇa (or vyakti in Brāhmanical terms). Yet it is not independent, and as an object it is constituted solely by the synthesizing power (anusandhāna) of the mind and expressed in the discourse (vikalpa) that (somewhat artificially) attributes a single word to this collection of ābhāsas, which as the term implies are in fact simply ’illuminations‘ that shine forth within apperceptive consciousness. 

Now, clearly this theory draws heavily on Bhartṛhari (on which see below), the Pramāṇa school and the Vijñānavāda. We see the first influence in the concept of each ābhāsa being a universal connected to a word, the second in the notion of svalakṣaṇa, and the third in each ābhāsa being an element of consciousness, which gives them their coherence. But the great Śaiva exegetes were not mere synthesizers; they were also innovators, and there is another, unique twist to the ābhāsa theory.  For the Buddhists, svalakṣaṇa designates the unique place, time and form of an object as its intrinsic nature; though it consists of specific dharmas, as an existent object in an instant of perception the svalakṣaṇa is an absolutely undivided reality. However, for the Śaivas, it is simply a particularization, a ’contraction‘ (saṅkoca) of a more expanded universal potential (vikāsita-svabhāva) within consciousness (its potential to become a pot, or to manifest its potness, if you will). It is particularized by a specific place, time and form: the phrase used for this is svarūpa-saṅkoca. And further, the svabhāva of ’potness‘ (or whatever) is itself a particularization of the transcendent nature of (the singular) Consciousness, an instantiation of its capacity to represent itself to itself in any conceivable form: that is, of its vimarśa, or self-reflective awareness.  This is the fundamental Śaiva monistic doctrine the Vijñānavādins would never allow, for though they also assert that all objects are present only in consciousness (citta-mātra) and that they are all co-dependent, theirs is a world of co-dependent fragments of knowable reality, each known to a particular individual’s consciousness at a particular time—both the knower and the known are momentary and impermanent in their co-arising.***  By (stark) contrast, Utpala wants a coherence and unification to his universe, achieved through the positing of a single, transcendent subject (i.e. Paramaśiva) which is itself undivided Light (avichinnābhāsa) though it simultaneously contracts into each particular ābhāsa. Torella writes:

Utpala’s constant preoccupation is to show, in every context he deals with, the need for a single, dynamic subject that unifies and animates the discontinuity of reality and constitutes the substratum of every limited subject, as well as of every form and activity of everyday life. (1994: xxix)

Furthermore, Utpala posits (against the Yogācārins) that the phenomenal world, though all consciousness, is nevertheless real, for each object is a coagulation of conscious energy in its objective aspect and each subject a contracted locus of the universal Subject; and both, while impermanent in the sense of ever-changing, do have duration and essentiality (svabhāva).

We turn now briefly to Utpala’s teacher, Somānanda, who in many ways is more narrowly sectarian, yet predated and informed Utpala’s efforts to legitimate Śaiva doctrine through logical debate.  Somānanda was the author of the Śivadṛṣṭi (which received a commentary by Utpala), in which he aggressively engages in vigorous dialectic with other schools. He attacks the dualism of the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika (which Utpala later carefully skirted), and also those who claim the phenomenal world is unreal (the Vijñānavādins) or merely vivarta, appearance (the Vedāntins).  He further attacks the Vijñānavādins’ denial of an abiding subject, arguing that every action needs an agent, including the action of knowing. Nevertheless, Somānanda is one of the first Śaiva authors in whom we see a strong Vijñānavāda influence in the central doctrine that “being“ is being united with the manifestation of consciousness (cidvyaktiyogitā; Torella 1994: xv).  It is significant in this regard that some Buddhist scholars believe the citta-mātra doctrine to have developed in Kashmir (Williams 2000: 229). This influence will be discussed briefly below.


Bhartṛhari’s Legacy in Shaivism

The influence of the Grammarian and proto-Vedāntin Bhartṛhari on the Śaiva exegetes can hardly be overestimated, though once again they adopt many of his terms of discourse and ideas while altering or discarding the most fundamental ones.  It is clear that they had read his Vākypadīya and its commentary, for it is the basis for their exposition of the concept of the Word (vāk), a fundamental notion for Śaiva theology. Bhartṛhari himself seems to be midway between the Buddhist Vijñānavāda and the Śaiva Pratyabhijñā or Recognition philosophy: he posits an absolute reality, a unified totality which is somehow greater than the sum of it parts (as the sense of a word is more than the combination of its phonemes), which is divided or carved up by language: “By force of this [discursive understanding], every produced thing is distinguished”; “Things proceed from words; (for) they create the distinctions (in the world)” (Bronkhorst 2001: 481-2). For Bhartṛhari, the phenomenal world is unreal insofar as it is constituted in our experience as an artificial division of an indivisible One. The Vijñānavāda is seen here in the notion of a conscious continuum of experience artifically divided into subject and object (parikalpita-svabhāva, in their terms) and the Pratyabhijñā is presaged in the notion that the analytic delineation of aspects of the whole is a linguistic process. But Bhartṛhari does not appear to posit the idealism of those schools.  However, his link with the Śaiva side is stronger, for the ’linguistic mysticism‘ we find as a central doctrine of the Trika, both on scriptural and exegetical levels (the most salient example being the scripture called Parātriśikā and its –vivaraa commentary by Abhinavagupta, entirely on linguistic mysticism), seems to proceed directly from (the spirit of) Bhartṛhari’s assertion “the power residing in words is the basis of this whole universe“ (VāPa 1.122).  But note that when Bhartṛhari calls the whole universe a “transformation of the Word“ (VāPa 1.124) he is thinking of the Veda, which is emphatically not what the Śaivas had in mind.  We may see this in the fact that while Bhartṛhari posited a tripartition of the Word (into the divisions or planes called Paśyantī, Madhyamā, and Vaikharī, each modifying Vāc), he was criticized for this allegedly incomplete analysis by the Śaiva exegetes of the Trika, who took over his schema but added a wholly transcendent level, that of Parā Vāc—which they also worshipped cultically as their highest Goddess. Abhinavagupta wrote in one of his two commentaries on Utpala’s ĪPK: “For us, the totality of phonemes is the supreme Lord himself; the (linguistic) Goddess Mātṛkā (in both distinct and indistinct forms) is his Power.“ Thus though they agreed with Bhartṛhari’s famous statement that there is no cognition in which the Word does not figure, they argued that the Word completely transcends the discursive realm as normally understood, in the form of the self-aware consciousness (vimarśa) which possesses the capacity to express, the very potency of language. In other words, for these (Śākta) Śaivas, Vāc is not to be characterized as śabda but as śabdana-śakti: the very power of symbolization and expression which constitutes the very essence of reflective awareness (vimarśa).  

To summarize the Śaiva view of the four levels of the Word, Parā is totally beyond the distinction of the three planes and yet constitutes the deepest identity of each of them. That is, while coinciding with no single plane, it is the ’level‘ from which the three other planes derive the capacity of performing their respective functions; thus it embodies the very divine will presiding over this free manifestation of progressive contraction or particularization in the other three grades. Paśyantī, then, is the plane of nirvikalpa awareness, without spatio-temporal differentiation, but possessing a subtle differentiation of vācya and vācaka. It is described as a kind of internal discourse like a murmuring; words are 'condensed'.  This level is infused with the light of divine Will-power or icchā-śakti. Madhyamā is the substratum of the various vikalpas; discursive thought is brought about on this level in the three aspects of the antaḥkaraṇa in the form of imagination, ego-reference, and deliberation (respectively). The Madhyamā level is described as ‘internal language‘, the language of thought (cintana), as well as the prāṇa and the subtle body. Vaikharī, of course, which can be translated as either ’manifested‘ or ’organic‘, is the level of articulate, ordinary speech.  But given its source, it is no surprise that in this Śaiva theory of Mātṛkā even ordinary speech can shape our experience of reality.  

We see, then, both similarities and significant differences with Bhartṛhari’s ideas in the Vākyapadīya.  An unsolved puzzle in the study of the Śaiva appropriation of Bhartṛhari is the fact that Somānanda engages in a long and vituperative attack on the former (in Śivadṛṣṭi ch. 2), and appears to have nothing good to say about him; yet Somānanda’s direct disciple Utpala has reverance for Bhartṛhari, incorporating many of the latter’s teachings, and seems embarrassed by his teacher’s attitude; a shift unusual for its rapidity in a tradition that takes the Guru-disciple relation as sacrosanct.  Another of Bhartṛhari’s doctrines that Utpala incorporated and made central to Trika theology is that of prakāśa and vimarśa (aka pratyavamarśa), where the former signifies the manifesting light of consciousness as the ground of all being, and the latter the dynamic self-awareness that makes cognition and representation possible.  We see these terms, e.g., in the Vākyapadīya, which states “it is the Word that makes everything recognizable [vārūpatā… pratyavamarśinī]“.  We cannot survey these rich terms (prakāśa and vimarśa ) in depth here, but they become two of the most central terms in Abhinavagupta’s voluminous theological writings, as discussed in my nonacademic book Tantra Illuminated.


The Vedānta of Gauḍapāda, Bhartṛhari, and Śaṅkara

We will close with a brief consideration of the possible influence of Vedānta on Śaiva thought.  Many have assumed that Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedānta—which become the most famous variety of Vedānta in the late medieval and early modern periods—must have been an influence on the nondual Śaiva exegetes (popularly grouped under the rubric “Kashmir Shaivism”), for they were also advaitins and monists.  The only trouble with this assumption is that there is no evidence to support it.  None of the Śaiva exegetes ever refer to Śaṅkara, either as inspiration or opponent. A vivartavāda does appear in Śaiva works (which appears to be the same type as that attacked by early Buddhist authors such Bhāviveka), but strictly in the role of opponent, and it is not given much consideration. Śaiva nondualism (Parameśvarādvaya-vāda) could hardly be more different from Śaṅkara’s advaita, asserting as they do the reality of the world over and against any illusionist doctrines. The world is a transformation of consciousness, and each object thus a real form of one and the same consciousness. This might seem to put them in the pariṇāma-vāda camp, though the Trika avoids such classification by asserting (e.g. in the Recognition Sutras or Pratyabhijñā-hṛdaya) that the doctrine that distinguishes their school is that the highest principle of reality (paraṃ tattvam, śiva-tattvam) is for them simultaneously immanent (viśvamayam) and transcendent (viśvottīrṇam). That is, while it becomes the entire universe, it also remains itself, untouched by all its transformations. So the Śaiva nondualists do not hold a māyā-vāda doctrine as espoused by Śaṅkara’s school, recognizing that it is philosophically incoherent for a monist doctrine to posit an avidyā that is neither a part of nor different from Brahman (Śaṅkara’s invocation of the term anirvacanīya or “inexplicable” in this regard seems particularly weak). Rather, they follow Bhartṛhari is asserting that avidyā is a concealing śakti of the Lord, and Māyā is not delusion but rather the creative power of God.  This further allows them to posit (with Śaṅkara, but coincidentally) that liberation is a cognitive/epistemological shift, for though Māyā creates differentiation the latter is a cause of suffering only insofar as it is viewed with ignorance, i.e. with lack of awareness of the unifying ground. This doctrine may owe something to Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka, for which too the difference between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa is simply cognitive.

Therefore when we speak of Vedānta’s influence on Shaivism, we must speak only of the Vedānta of Gauḍapāda and Bhartṛhari (with Mandanamiśra as an opponent and Śaṅkara going unmentioned). This phase of early Vedānta may be seen as a bridge (or in-road) between the doctrines of Vijñānavāda Buddhism and those of the Vaidika sphere, Gauḍapāda being clearly influenced by the former. We may see Gauḍapāda’s similarity to both the Vijñānavāda and Shaivism in his Māṇḍūkya-kārikā:

This duality…of the perception and the perceiver is [in reality] only the vibration of consciousness. But consciousness [in its true or expanded state] is devoid of objects: that is why it is called eternally free from bonds. (4.72)

This verse could as well have been penned by a nondual Śaiva, and indeed seems to be echoed by the Śaiva Utpaladeva at ĪPK I.5.15 and 19. Yet it also, with slight adjustments, could have appeared in a Vijñānavāda text. Its vision of reality dwelt at the core (but did not exhaust the scope) of Śaiva theology for many centuries.  It may even be the case that the apparent Vijñānavāda influence we see on some nondual Śaiva doctrines came solely through the work of Gauḍapāda and Bhartṛhari.


The purpose of these three articles, taken together, has been to present evidence that demonstrates that Shaivism was a distinct and self-contained religion in the medieval period, influenced by but not formed out of other schools of thought in the Indian cultural milieu. We have seen that the Śaiva scriptures, while aware of earlier currents such as Sāṅkhya, constitute a unique and primarily self-referential genre of theology, cosmology, and praxis.  By contrast, the Śaiva authors of the exegetical period worked hard to bring Śaiva discourse into the realm of pan-Indian intellectual debate, responding especially to Buddhist interlocutors, who they regarded as their most worthy opponents, and whose doctrine (in its Vijñānavāda instantiation) paralleled their own more closely than any of the other so-called ’Hindu‘ sects. The ’Hindu‘ school which did share perspectives with Shaivism, that of early Vedānta, probably did so because of Vijñānavāda influence. We saw a special indebtedness to Īśvarakṛṣṇa, Dharmakīrti, and Bhartṛhari. When drawing on non-Śaiva sources, however, the Śaiva exegetes did not hesitate to reconfigure, alter, and recontextualize ideas and arguments, to the point of even dropping tenets their original authors would have regarded as fundamental. A diachronic analysis of Śaiva textuality, then, reveals a unique body of revelations with largely undocumented antecedents**** being progressively justified, legitimated, and brought into the Indian intellectual mainstream by the apologetic hermeneutics of skilled and educated exegetes.  Yet, at the same time, those very exegetes (on the nondualist side) concealed through their legitimizing discourse a form of practice done in secrecy that preserved some of the transgressive elements of the earlier untamed heterodox tradition. These elements disappeared slowly, and at the present time the surviving Tantric sects (such as the Śrīvidyā still found in the South) no longer have any transgressive elements; though there is some suggestion of their persistence among the Bauls of Bengal and Bengali saints such as Rāmakṛṣṇa Paramahaṃsa, who, however, have only tenuous links to the “high classical“ Śaiva Tantra discourse discussed here.

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* Though there is no scope in this paper to delve into the specifics of the complex intellectual debates in question, I wish to provide an example of the sort of dialectic to which Torella refers.  In his article on “The Word“ (2001) Torella shows how the Bauddhas deny any necessary association of discursive thought per se with the immediate sensation of external objects. The nondual Śaivas agree, but (drawing implicitly on Bhartṛhari) posit that the Word is present on the level of pure perception/sensation (which is prior to cognition) in the form of the śabdana-śakti that inheres in the very manaskāra or mental attention which is necessary for any perception. The object awakens the potential verbal signification insofar as it is associated with a samskāra that constitutes an impulse towards signification (śabda-bhāvanā).  The relevant distinction here is between abhilāpa (verbal expression, whether actually spoken or not) and antasanjalpa (inner indistinct discourse, triggered by the fact of manaskāra). The Śaivas argue that the latter is present from the first moment of perception and makes the former possible. We see in the ĪPK of Utpaladeva the notion that the Word in the form of vimarśa-śakti must be present at the first moment of sensation, else (for example) how can one take off running with distinct purpose but without a thought? (ĪPK I.5.19) We should note that there is no vikalpa on the level of pure perception (perception-without-interpretive-cognition [Paśyantī]) and thus no subject/object split yet, indicating an agreement with (and influence by?) the Vijñānavāda Bauddha position.

** We see evidence of the latter in numerous citations of these two exegetes and others in Maheśvarānanda’s Mahārtha-mañjarī, and allusions to Abhinava in both the scriptures of the Śrīvidyā (e.g. the Yoginīhdaya) and their commentaries, e.g. that of Jayaratha. Indeed, it is noteworthy that Jayaratha’s massive commentary on Abhinava’s Tantrāloka was apparently written from within a Śrīvidyā social context, as the commentator was an initiate of that school rather than the Trika.

*** This is what Torella and Bronkhorst’s presentation of the situation seems to imply, but there seems to be some confusion on this point, for Paul Williams’ presentation of the Yogācāra defines the flux of consciousness or paratantra-svabhāva as “one mentalistic primary existent as substratum” of experience and apparent subject-object duality (2000: 158). The use of the word ‘one’ (he cites Vasubandhu’s use of the term ekadravya also) is the source of my confusion, for how can the flux of consciousness be one without positing one and only one subject?

**** Except in the realm of ritual—for though it did include uniquely Śaiva elements (esp. mantras), the form of the daily ritual was modelled on Vedic smārta ritual, as Sanderson (1995) has shown.

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Bisschop, Peter. Early Shaivism and the Skandapurāṇa: Sects and Centres. Groningen Oriental Studies XXI. Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2006.

Bronkhorst, Johannes.“The Peacock’s Egg: Bhartṛhari on Language and Reality“ in Philosophy East and West 51:4 (Oct 2001).

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