A Genius of His Time
Abhinavgupta was born into a Kashmiri Pandit family. "Abhinavagupta" was not his real name, rather a title he earned from his master, carrying a meaning of "competence and authoritativeness". Abhinavgupta was a one-word title given to him, and he was most likely from the Kaul clan and therefore a Brahmin. In his analysis, Jayaratha (1150-1200 AD) - who was Abhinavagupta's most important commentator - also reveals three more meanings: "being ever vigilant", "being present everywhere" and "protected by praises". Raniero Gnoli, the only Sanskrit scholar who completed a translation of Tantrāloka in a European language, mentions that "Abhinavagupta" also means "new", as a reference to the ever-new creative force of his mystical experience.
From Jayaratha, we learn that Abhinavagupta was in possession of all the six qualities required for the recipients of the tremendous level of śaktipāta, as described in the sacred texts (Śrīpūrvaśāstra) : an unflinching faith in God, realization of mantras, control over objective principles (referring to the 36 tattvas), successful conclusion of all the activities undertaken, poetic creativity and spontaneous knowledge of all disciplines.
Abhinavagupta's creation is well equilibrated between the branches of the triad (Trika) will(icchā) - knowledge(jñāna) - action(kriyā), respectively, devotional songs, academical/philosophical works and works describing ritual/yogic practices.
As an author he is considered a systematizer of the philosophical thought. He reconstructed, rationalized and orchestrated the philosophical knowledge into a more coherent form, assessing all the available sources of his time, not unlike a modern scientific researcher of Indology.
Various contemporary scholars have characterized Abhinavagupta as a "brilliant scholar and saint", "the pinnacle of the development of Kasmir Śaivism" and "in possession of yogic realization".
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