Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka. 2003. 551 pp.

Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka. Delhi, MotiLal BanarsiDass, 2003. 551 pp.

from the Preface:         

This monograph is a first reading of one chapter of the Tantrāloka written a thousand years ago in remote Kashmir. Yet this chapter occupies an important position in a book which itself is the greatest work of the greatest thinker of his day for it was into the Kula ritual that Abhinavagupta was initiated by Śambhunātha and which he prized above almost all the rest. Abhinava states in 13.300cd-301ab:

‘Sequentially and according to the descent of power, [one is initiated] in the Siddhānta, then in the Left, in the Right, in the Mata, in the Kula, in the Kaula, then in the Trika which is in the Heart.’

A first glance is bewildering. The mixture of images and themes and codes makes the text unreadable. A second glance scandalises. The use of wine and sexual fluids, the use of women and the disregard for conventions – what have they to do with the great Abhinavagupta? Are they perhaps an aberration, the shadow side of genius?

Inescapably, however, we are forced to admit that Abhinava placed the Kula ritual almost at the summit of divine revelation. Only the Trika, i.e. the single mantra SAUḤ, stood higher. We are forced to attend more closely to the ritual. How does it, in fact, express the grandiose vision set out in the first half of the Tantrāloka? Or again, how does the theory of the first five chapters work out in practice?

This monograph will show that the Kula ritual, properly understood, is an exalted and simple way of life. It does involve wine etc. but not so as to create a dichotomy between body and spirit, enjoyment and liberation. The aim of the Kula ritual is to overcome the dualism of pure and impure, sacred and profane, divine and human, even good and evil. It wishes to show how ordinary life is the expression of consciousness, of Śiva himself in union with his śakti.

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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1 Response to Abhinavagupta: The Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantrāloka. 2003. 551 pp.

  1. Drink the wine (madya) that is the drink of yoga, while sexual intercourse (maithuna) is the supreme state. (The couple) Sound and the Drop (nādabindu) is the supreme meat (māṁsa) the yogi should eat by means of yoga. (302)

    Verse 302, Chapter 46 (page403), Manthānabhairavatantram Kumārikārikākhaṇḍaḥ (translated to English by Mark Dyczkowski).

    Notes

    This verse (302) explains the deep, spiritual nature of the three ‘Ms,’ namely madya – wine, maithuna – the fluids produced by sexual intercourse and māmsa – meat. Inebriated with the bliss of the wine he drinks by means of yoga, the yogi is instructed to consume the two breaths, the inhaled breath and the exhaled breath, which are the gross, outer manifestations of the sound (nāda) and the Drop (bindu) by conjoining them. This is the meat the yogi eats. Nourished, strengthened and energised by them, he applies himself to attain the supreme state. This is the union of Śiva and Śakti, the individual and the universal and with them all the opposites. This is the supreme form of sex (maithuna) and it is the supreme state the initiate attains by uniting with his partner, a state which is his partner’s inherent nature. These are the three M’s in their highest, most authentic form.

    The KVN (8/95-96) says:

    Wine (surā) is Śakti. Meat is Śiva and the one who eats it is Bhairava himself. The bliss that arises by the oneness of these two is said to be liberation. Bliss is the nature (rūpa) of Brahman established in the body. Wine is the one that makes it manifest which is why the yogis drink it.

    From the Notes accompanying Chapter 46 (Volume 11, page 352) by Mark Dyczkowski

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