The Stavacintamani of Bhatta Narayana (late 9th early 10th century CE) is a devotional stotra dedicated to the praise and worship of Siva and his power (sakti) who is responsible for creation maintenance and dissolution. The stotra is an outpouring of the state of the mature mind of one who practiced experienced internalized and lived this system of monistic Saivism. The quality of the verses and author’s personal fame suggest that bhatta Narayana was not merely an ardent devotee but a learned scholar familiar with the esoteric secrets of the saiva philosophy and practice. Ksemaraja’s commentary is intended to reveal the esoteric meanings of the original devotional text while simultaneously integrating this work into the canon of nondual Saivism. His lucid commentarial style primarily focuses on translating Bhatta Narayana’s poetic devotional verses into the terminology of yogic states and experiences based on the Pratyabhijna monistic philosophy. For example in verse 4 he states. The praise of the lord is nothing but the realization that the lord who is identical with this universe but appears in diversity is in reality non dual.
In his foreword to this book Prof. Rastogi observes Marjanovic’s approach is constructive at time comparative and felicity of language renders the overall presentation very lucid more particularly some of his renderings of Sanskrit terms into English impress at the first sight. In his treatment of the philosophical and doctrinal issues he appears authentic and tries to articulate the inherent intend of Ksemaraja. This work fulfills a long cherished need and serves as a welcome addition to the literature of Kashmir Shaivism in English. I am sure it will benefit not only students of Kashmir Shaivism but those of Indian spiritual traditions as well. With these words I commend this work to the readers for a rewarding trip to the Stavacintamani’s universe of devotion as understood and interpreted by Ksemaraja.
When Dr. Boris Marjanovic approached me and asked me to say a few words by way of a ‘foreword’ to his latest work I could not say no to him, for the simple reason that the nondual stream of Kashmir Saivism boasts of an extremely rich devotional sub-current which has received relatively much less attention from the modern academia. This so called sub-current, on a closer analysis, emerges as the focal terminus of the entire spiritual, Gnostic and cognitive pursuits, typically reckoned as mahaphala (‘great fruit’/ Summum bonum’) there by culminating into a cardinal doctrine of the system. Dr. Marjanovic, choosing to undertake to address this desideratum, deserves to be complimented. He seems to be alive to this reality when he finds Bhatta Narayana’s name being much less in vogue as compared to the known stalwarts of the system. According to him this was perhaps due to the fact that the Stavacintamani by virtue of being a short devotional stotra did not elaborate on the principles of nondual Saivism. However, within the tradition the scene is different. Those who are bred and brought up in the tradition are no doubt intimately conversant with this name. In fact some verses are so common and have become part of the Kashmir Saivists’ cultural psyche that these are spontaneously drawn upon and invoked with notable frequency as authentic sayings of great testimony by the learned and laity alike ever since the philosophical writings in Saivai monism began taking shape. Even a beginner knows of such verses
Even though he might remain unaware of their deep philosophical significance. These utterings seem to have cast their lasting impact across the broad spectrum of intellectual speculation. For instance the verses
Constitute the backdrop of the aesthetical and dramaturgic formulations of the Saiva theorists of poetics and performing arts. Likewise the opening verse.
Offers refuge to the Saiva apologetics of language to build up their formidable defense against the grammarian’s tripartite division of language leadings to the former’s conceptualization of para as the supreme state of speech. It’s no use multiplying the instance. One can easily conclude that the present devotional text of Narayana Kantha belonging to the earliest phase of the monistic Saiva philosophy of Kashmir has been aptly named as the wish granting jewel in the form of devotional stanzas (Stavacintamani).
Normally Kashmir monistic Saivism is viewed as advocating an extremely radical form of non dualism, but only a select few would vouch that it is equally a staunch votary of extreme non dualism in, bhakti too. In fact devotion forms an essential component of the agamic world—view. In his famous work Hinduism and Buddhism way back in 192l, Eliot draws our attention to this aspect of agamic vision. But the credit for the theoretical insights with particular I reference to the school of Pratyabhijna goes to Gopinath Kaviraj. Synthesizing bhakti with rigorous non dualism poses structural and Logical difficulties, as bhakti being etymologically grounded in Sanskrit root bhaj (‘to divide/ to resort to/ to partake of/ to serve’) has to have, by definition, some kind of dualistic semblance, which militates against the very spirit of nondual absolutism. Despite several editions and translations of the Sivastotravali of Utpala, Stavacintamani of Narayana and Vakhs of Lalla by some very eminent scholars, this problem receives serious and reconstructive attention, that too in a comparative framework, mainly from Kaviraj for the first time. Silburn did ponder over some of the related issues in the excellent ‘Introduction’ to her French translation of the Stavacintamani with her own (Ksemaraja inspired) commentary but her attitude remained text—bound and yoga—centric located within the non dual environ of Kashmir Saivism. Interestingly Ram Shankar Singh’ sannotated translation in Hindi, which was undertaken roughly at the same point of time (i.e., 1959-60) and published much later devoted a fairly large part of his Introduction to the treatment of bhakti by Narayanakantha. By sheer coincidence I also wrote a long dissertation around this period on the Stotras of Abhinava gupta where I attempted to take up certain issues pertaining to the metaphysic of Saiva bhakti but it was a contextually thematic study defined by minor devotional texts of Abhinava and went as far as they went. I have, nevertheless, always felt that the texts of the Stavacintamani and Sivastotravali and also that of the Samvitprakasa, authored by Vamana Datta, Abhinava’s teacher in the Vaisnava stream, are path-breaking writings and unfold an altogether unique vista of the absolutistic ontology of devotion, which though in quiet homology with the agamas went for a head of them integrating mysticism, metaphysics and aesthetics within. Besides, these reflected the contribution of Kashmir to the pan-Indian devotional movement that would flourish in days to come and the synthetic cultural identity of the later day Kashmir epitomized by Lalla and the Sufi Reshi upsurge that she gave birth to. Some of these concerns were deliberated at length in my ‘Prakkathana’(‘foreword’)7 to RS. Singh’s translation above referred to.
I therefore welcome the initiative of Boris Marjanovic for having undertaken to tread upon an area that could offer most cogent raison d ’étre behind perceiving Kashmir Saivism as theology, or ‘theosophy’ to use the term given by Larson} rather than philosophy, by a sizeable section of the present day scholarship. Bhakti, in fact, comes as a natural/logical explanation. Marjanovic’s work offers a complete package and there lies its apparent merit. He translates both Narayana’s Stavacintamani and Ksemaraja’s Vrtti into English with adequate and copious annotation, but in addition also provides the original Sanskrit text in Nagari. In so doing he excels over Silburn as• well as R.S. Singh. Both of them did not translate the Krtti. To my knowledge it is, thus, the first complete venture not only in English but in any European language till date in its given textual arena.
Marjanovic himself spells out the parameters of his approach. In his treatment he closely follows Ksemaraja, the commentator. This constitutes his major strength. It could likewise be interpreted as his limitation also, for it prevents him from appraising Narayana-kantha’s contribution in a much larger setting. However, to me it appears to be a patent advantage, since Ksemaraja enjoys a unique position among the post—Abhinavan Saivite system builders in general and bhakti—theoreticians in particular. He is the only traditional scholar who comments on both the foundational treatises of Saiva bhakti, Stavacintamani of Narayana and Sivastotravali of Utpala, constituting our only link for accessing these texts. What is striking, at both the places on his own testimony, he is having his precursor in some Rama (or Srirama, but Sri could well be an honorihc prefix) giving rise to the apprehension that the latter was perhaps first to gauge the importance of the bhakti dimension of the Saiva soteriology. This Rama is depicted as being one of the arrangers or compilers of Utpala’s devotional outpourings, which somehow got intermixed, into separate stotras. Similarly one such (Sri) Rama is said to have authored a commentary on the Stavacintamani now lost, which might have served as Ksemaraja’s model. Marjanovic does take notice of Ksema’s possible inspiration in Rama’s work. We are not sure if this commentary bore the name of Sadvivrti (on the lines of the famous sadvrtti of sadyojyotis on Rauravagama or that ramakantha on the ratnatraya of Srikantha the illustrious exponents of Saiva Siddhanta but one can be pretty certain that Ksemaraja was driven by an impulse to demonstrate the relative excellence and uniqueness of the approach adopted by him ko pi prakarso tra yat a keen student of the history of Kashmir Saivism can easily smeel that this is a case of intra school scholastic rivalry. According to M.S. Kaul duly endorsed by Mark Dyczkowski whom Marjanovic refers to the two Ramas happen to be identical being son of Narayana and pupil of Utpala. He is the same as the author of the commentaries on the Spandakarika and Bhagavad-Gita. The same rama is being credited with the editing of the stotravali and commenting upon the Stavancintamani. Though this identification might put certain chronological equations in a fix it needs not hold up our attention for the time being. This rama is none else than Ramakantha. Notwithstanding the fact that Rama kantha is a direct disciple of Utpala and Ksemarja happens to be a great grand disciple of the latter both tread two different paths in their respective expositions of the Spandakarika. Even Abhinavagupta the grand pupil of Utpala toes a different line in his commentary on the gita fromt eh one pusued by Ramkantha. What deserves to be particularly underlined is that these deviations are occurring within the two sub lineages of Utpala himself constituting one of the fountainheads of the Saiva movement of bhakti in the valley. What is more the convergence of the two primal sources Narayankarntha and Utpala Deva finally occurs is Ksemaraja via of course Rama with whose contribution we have lost all touch. Viewed against this scenario the translator’s focus and dependence on Ksemaraja stands him in good stead.
I would have however wished that the translator had brought out the respective nuances of Narayana’s trend setting contribution and Ksemaraja’s innovative exposition. For instance the upaya format which the original text appears to be embedded with comes from Ksemaraja and not from Naryanakantha. Likewise Narayana’s cryptic but significant allusion to the Saivayoga (verse 76) skipped by Ksemaraja demanded more pointed attention and elucidation. This observation needs not distract the reader from the merits of this valuable effort. Marjanovic’s approach is constructive at times comparative and felicity of language renders the overall presentation very lucid more particularly some of his renderings of Sanskrit terms into English impress at the first sight. In his treatment of the philosophical and doctrinal issues he appears authentic and tries to articulate the inherent intent of Ksemaraja. His comments on verse 36 and 117-118 call for special mention. His espousal pf distinction between faith in god and devotion to god comes with finesse during the course of discussion on the self evidence of consciousness as god and his allusions to modern physicists and Saivists difference there from deserve to be specially noted. His keen assessment of the extraordinary nature of memory acquaints the reader with the underlying structural thesis of the Saiva devotion.
This work fulfils a long cherished need and serves as a welcome addition to the literature on Kashmir Saivism in English. I am sure it will benefit not only students of Kashmir Saivism but those of Indian spiritual traditions as well. With these words I commed this work to the readers for a rewarding trip to the Stavacintamani’s universe of devotion as understood and interpreted by Ksemaraja.
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