Review of the Book:
"The author has chosen the astonishing iconographical image of Ardhanarishvara, Shiva and Parfati uniteddd in a single figure, to illustrate the inner significance of the myth, and has also, in an act of bold philosophic imagination, used this image to highlight the basic tenets of Kashmir Shaivism."..Dr. Karan Singh.
About the Author:
Harsha V. Dehejia has doctorate in Medicine and Ancient Indian Culture from Bombay University. He is also a member (by examination) of the Royal College of Physicians of London and Glasgow as well as Canada. He is a practising physician and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Religion of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He is married to Sudha and has two sons Vivek and Rajeev, both of whom are economists.
The glory of Hindu philosophy lies in its many splendoured and multiple approaches to the divine. Hinduism is the only religion in the world not based upon the teachings of single individual or text which means that it is not pegged to any rigid formulation of the spiritual path but rather represents the collective wisdom of seers and sages down from the Vedic age at least five thousand years ago to our own day. Hinduism thus provides a unique spectrum of approaches to spiritual striving and aspiration.
Some schools of thought posit an absolute which is beyond name and form. Sankara’s advaita being the most powerful exposition of this path. However there is a profusion of other brilliant expositions by great Acaryas or teachers such as greatest exponent of what has come to be known as Kasmir Saivism. This creative reinterpretation of the eternal truths embodied in the Vedas and Upanisads continues down to own century when spiritual giants like Swami Vivekananda Sri Raman Maharsi and Sri Aurobindo made their unique contribution to the unfolding panorama of Hindu Philosophy.
It is important to understand that Indian philosophy is not merely an intellectual gymnastic but revolves around a cluster of intellectual physical and spiritual disciplines which should lead to a sharpening and clarifying of consciousness and finally to spiritual realisation. The Sanskrit word for philosophy is darsana which means to see not merely to think or to rationate. Indeed philosophy devoid of spiritual content is looked upon in the entire eastern tradition as a dry and ultimately sterile intellectualism.
Kasmir Saivism can be described as the most prominent system
in what is known as the Tantric tradition. Tantra, which is in some ways a progression from Vedãntic thinking, involves not a negation of life, but rather a positive life-affirmation, seeking to promote a set of values which are ethically good as well as pleasant to the individual. The long and interesting history of Tantra shows that while it is based upon Vedic foundations, it has incorporated a number of other lesser known but extremely virile traditions, which over the centuries, developed in various parts of India and Nepal. The central concept of Kamir aivism is that Siva is not only the creator of the universe but also permeates its every atom, so that the world is not to be wished away as an illusion but cherished as the voluntary manifestation of the power and glory of the divine. The formless, blissful Siva, becoming the universe, involves what is known as spanda or vibration, which is why Kasmir Saivism is also called Spandacasrra.
The first significant series of texts and studies on Kasmir Saivism were brought out during my father’s reign in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is now heartening to see a renewed interest by modem scholars in this fascinating school of Hindu philosophy. The present work by Dr. Harsha V. Dehejia approaches the basic tenets of Kasmir Saivism through the central myth of the marriage of Siva and Pãrvati, representing the union of the blissful, formless spirit with the dynamic energy that permeates the universe. This is a myth full of symbolic significance, and is reflected throughout the Hindu tradition in various forms literary as well as iconographical. The famous Madurai sculpture of Visnu giving Parvati’s hand in marriage to Siva is a classic example of this, as also the shrine of Suddha Mahãdeva near Jammu where, according to legend, the marriage actually took place.
The author has chosen the astonishing iconographical image of Ardhanarisvara, Siva and Parvati united in a single figure— half male and half female, to illustrate the inner significance of the myth, and has also, in an act of bold philosophical imagination, used this image to highlight the basic tenets of Kãmir Saivism, and has brought home the fact that this is often referred to as the Yoga of delight or the Yoga of art, and involves a transmutation of consciousness, not by a process of negation, but by a joyous affirmation. He was focused our attention upon the mirror in Parvati’s hand in which seeing his own consciousness reflected Siva attains integrality which then results in the creation and sustenance of what the Upanisads call this magnificent universe.
An even more dramatic symbol is the glorious iconography of Siva Natraja Lord of the cosmic Dance a syncretic image which includes creation (the drum) destruction (the fire) preservation (the upraised hand) and the liberating wisdom. Here again the creativity symbolic duality between the male and female elements are symbolized by the fact that in one ear Nataraja wears a male earing and in the other a female one. Perhaps in his next book Dr. Dehejia could use this great figure to further exposit the joyous and life affirming philosophy of Kasmir Saivism. Meanwhile I have pleasure in commending parvatidarpana to all those who are interested in Hindu philosophy and its creative interpretations.
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