Pratyabhijna is a school of thought or a religious and philosophical system in the
Kashmir Shaivism sect of Hinduism, where the god Shiva is recognized and
revered as the supreme being and reality. This school of thought is believed to
have been established in the ninth century CE and was founded by Somananda. His
work, the Sivadrsti, serves as the foundation and cornerstone of the philosophy.
Pratyabhijna is a Sanskrit word that refers to an act of recognition. It
actually originates from the well-known work entitled Isvara Pratyabhijna Karika, which was written by Utpaladeva, who
was the son and follower of Somananda. In a literal sense, the word
Pratyabhijna is comprised of the words prati,
which means “something knew now appearing as forgotten”, abhi, which means “immediate”, and jna, meaning “to know”. As such, it is
said that the Pratyabhijna not only means a simple act of recognition but
actually a direct knowledge of oneself.
as an idealistic, monistic, and theistic school of philosophy, from the time
that it was first established in the ninth century until the eleventh century, the
concepts of the Pratyabhijna were thoroughly developed and furthered. The main
premise of the Pratyabhijna is that everything is absolute consciousness and
that the world is a manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva. In other words,
everything is Shiva and this is what individuals must recognize. This
recognition is what liberates Hindus from limitations, unites them with Shiva,
and lets them experience bliss. Furthermore, it is also what will lead an
individual to moksha or liberation from samsara, known as the continuous cycle
of birth, death, and rebirth through reincarnation. Through this, the human
condition and all its limitations and weaknesses are transformed into a divine
condition or pati.
A number of
different masters and followers of the philosophy wrote an array of treatises
and mystical poetry about the Pratyabhijna. Expounding on the initial works of
his father and master, in the Isvara Pratyabhijna Karika, Utpaladeva examines
the central dogmas of this religious and philosophical system. He does so by
discussing it in juxtaposition to other schools of thought which rival or
contradict the Pratyabhijna and subsequently refuting them.
the father and son, another vital master of the Pratyabhijna is Abhinavagupta.
He wrote a number of works expounding on the philosophy, including two commentaries
on it. In addition to these, he also wrote the Tantraloka, which is considered
his masterpiece. In the Tantraloka, Abhinavagupta recognizes and highlights a
synthesis among the various schools of thought within Kashmir Shaivism,
including the Pratyabhijna. Following Abhinavagupta, his own follower, who was
named Ksemaraja, wrote another synopsis of the Pratyabhijna philosophy. This
work is called the Pratyabhijna Hrdayam and translates to “the spontaneous
recognition of the essence of the heart”. His work is widely popular and is
considered an ideal introduction to the Pratyabhijna school of thought.
it is said that the primary objective of the Pratyabhijna is the awareness and
recognition of the Shiva nature of not only the world but also of oneself. The
way to attain this awareness is through the use of Sakti. Sakti is described as
the energy or the dynamic characteristic of Shiva, which serves as the link
between the finite or human subject and the infinite, which is Shiva. This, therefore, leads to the fundamental maxim that without the aid of Sakti,
Pratyabhijna is impossible and Pratyabhijna is essential in order to achieve
moksha, which is, of course, an ultimate goal for all Hindus.
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