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Pratyabhijñā is the Ultimate Path for Liberation

Rohit Kumar Choudhury is a young agricultural chemistry and soil science graduate from West Bengal. From a very young age he has had a keen interest in reading the Dharma shastras, and knowing about Sanatana dharma, reared as he was in a middle-class joint family steeped in culture. He spoke at the recently concluded conference on Tantra and Tantric Traditions on “Āgamas, establishing their authenticity and their revelation, dissemination from Parashiva and ancient Agamic Traditions.”

Very early, he started reading the Upanishads, Puranas and developed a keen interest in Indian philosophy especially Advaita Vedanta. As he explored Advaita philosophy and the Tantra shastras which are followed in Bengal by Śākteyas, he realised that there was a gap in the literature available of tantric texts in Bengal and often what was available was contradictory. Besides several Tantric texts, the Sivamahapurana, Sivagita and Ishwara Gita “heightened his interest in knowing more about the real nature of Shiva or parabrahman”, says Sri Rohit.

Source texts helped his search and he moved onward when he came across some Bengali books including – Tantra Tattva Praveshika by Swami Prajnanananda, Kashmir shaiva Darshan by Debabrata Sensharna and others. Next, he says, “due to Siva’s grace and my guru’s grace, I came across the book ‘Kashmir Shaivism: The Secret Supreme‘ written by Swami Lakshman Joo and ‘Shaktivishistadvaitatattvatrayvimarsh‘ by Kashi Jagadguru Chandrasekhara Shivacharya Mahaswamiji and finally found the ultimate text – the Shiva Sutras. My previous knowledge in Vedanta, Tantra and Yogic texts and paramaguru Shiva’s grace which makes the vast subjects of Kashmir Shaivism quite digestible for me.”

Sri Rohit’s journey is useful for other Tantric sadhakas who want to explore the various texts on Devi upasana. He gradually came across several tantric shaiva texts like – Netra Tantra, Svacchanda Tantra, Kamikāgama, Karanāgama, Mrigendrāgama, Mātangparameswarāgama, Rauravāgama, Sardhatrisatikalottara, Nisvasatattvasamhita, Goraksha Samhita, Kauljnananirnaya, Tantraloka, Malinivijayottara Tantra, Vamakeswarimatam, Kamakalavilasha etc. “Moreover, Bengali as well as Hindi books written by Mahamahopadhyaya Gopinatha Kaviraja influenced me immensely to understand the Advaita Tantric philosophy of Saivism. In addition I was influenced by the dualistic point of view of Saivism based on Siddhanta shaiva Tantras and several saidhhantika shaiva texts like Siddhānta Sārāvali, Siddhānta Prakāshika, Kiranavritti, Svayambhuvasutrasamgraha, Nadakarika, the shaivāgamas by M. Arunachalam etc. In this way I have entered this shivapat”

The worship of Shiva is indeed one of the oldest traditions in the world, mentioned in the Puranas and appearing in the seals of the Indus Valley. Sri Rohit believes that as per our old texts, Puranas especially Sivapuranam, Svetaswatara Upanishada, Vayupurana, Kurmapurana, Shiva Sutra (mentioned in Shivamahāpurana also), not only is the worship of Shiva but also the philosophical structure of Shaivism is as old as the whole of Sanatana Dharma.

In his paper presented at IndicA Academy’s recent conference on Tantra he gives references from authentic texts that Saivism (Shaiva Dharma) is one of the most ancient forms of Sanatana Dharma, “because Nandi itself is the symbol of Dharma and the another name of Shiva is Sanatana and all the 18 Vidyāsthānams (Dharma Shastras) have emerged from Shiva himself.”

He believes ancient Shaktism, Vaishnavism and its propagator, Ganapatya, Kaumara, Saura and all the sects were actually absorbed in Shaivism/shaiva sampradayam only at that time. “That’s why we find the names of early Vedic rishis, munis, sages in shaiva lineages are – Svetācārya, Swetāsva, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanātana, Vashista, Vrihaspati, Atharvan, Kaushik, Vamadeva, Gautama, Bharadwaja, Durvasa, Parshurama, Srikrishna, Srirama, Upamanyu, Jaigishavya etc.”

In this context, in his paper, he also mentions ancient shaiva philosophical texts like – Siddhānta Shikhāmani (conversation between Jagadguru Renukacarya and Sage Agastya), Nandikeswara Kāshika (composed by Nandikeswara) and it’s commentary ‘Tattvavimarshini’ composed by sage Upamanyu, Brahma Sutra Srikantha Bhashyam which was the earliest commentary of Brahma Sutra by Srikantasivacarya who belonged to the Pashpatacarya Sweta lineage (3200 B.C, as per Srikanthavijayam, written by Mahamahopadhyaya Siva Yogi Mudigonda Nagalinga shastry). He has shown all the structured guru shishya lineages of all the ancient shaiva traditions from the very beginning (shiva himself) according to Shāstra pramāna and Acārya Vachanas (To see the video click on the below link).

The Shaivāgamas recognise 10 āgamas which are dualistic in nature. These are held in high regard by all shaiva schools (Kashmir Shaivism as well as shaiva Siddanta of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka). There are in addition 18 other āgamas. Abhinava Gupta says these teach dualism and non dualism. Asked how these āgamas influenced the worship of Shiva, Sri Rohit says that Saivism is based on so many āgamas, among them 10 Sivabhedāgamas and 18 Rudrabhedāgamas are the main for the Saidhhāntik Shaiva traditions and Vedantic Shaiva Traditions.

“But, along with these 28 āgamas, an additional 64 Bhairavāgamas are considered as authentic texts in Trika System. Moreover, other than these 92 āgamas, there are also some āgamas and tantras which are also considered as foundational text of Shaivism/Sivasashana.”

(Figure 1: Sacred offerings to Shivalinga with Bael patra, flowers etc.)

For Sri Rohit, these āgamas are sacred and motivational. These āgamas are divided into four  pādas – jnānapāda/vidyāpāda, kriyāpāda, caryapāda and yogapāda. “Jnanapada teaches us about the philosophical aspects of Saivism and many shaivacharyas wrote commentaries on the Jnānapāda of the āgamas only. It is the Kriyāpāda section of āgamas or Tantras which describes the detailed tantric processes of worshipping shivabe it temple worship (parartha puja) or ātmārtha puja at home or inner worship (manasik pujan or sadhana). It is the Yogapāda section of āgamas, the inner sādhana or eternal worship of Shiva which was given mostly to sādhakas.”

So does the Agama division foster dualism? Asked about the works which have inspired him to look at Kashmir Shaivism which is significantly non-dualistic, Sri Rohit counters, “You can’t say that āgamas foster only dualism. It depends on your level of śaktipāta, how you see or explain this entire gross world made of 36 tattvas. For instance – Mrigendrāgama, Malinivijayottarāgama etc are actually dualistic in nature. But, Trika acaryas explained these texts from the monistic point of view. This is because the elements/tattvas, kriya, mantra, chakras?, adhwas etc in most of the cases, the tattva jnana is similar between all the Sidhhanta Shaiva Tantras and Trika Shaiva Tantras. It’s the acharya’s personal choice on how he commented upon a particular tantra according to his tradition. Sarvajnanottarāgama is also an āgama presenting Shaiva monistic view but dualistic shaiva acaryas comment upon it in a dualistic point of view.”

He quotes another example. “Based on the same Shaiva Tantras or āgamas, some shaiva traditions explained Parashiva(brahman) as both efficient cause (nimittakārana) and materialistic cause (upādāna kārana) of Jagat (eg. Skanda shaiva Siddhanta tradition, Nandinatha Sarvasiddhanta Tradition, Srikantha Sivadvaita tradition, Veer shaiva tradition, Trika etc). On the other hand, based on the same Shaiva āgamas, several Shaiva sects claimed that Parashivais only the mere efficient cause of jagad, not the material cause (eg Classical Shaiva Siddhanta, Meykandar Shaiva Siddhanta etc).”

Sri Rohit believes dualism, dual-nondualism and non-dualism are all absorbed in agama shastra. “The first stair to attain the ultimate non-dualism is dualism because we all live in the dualistic world. In kalyuga, due to the intense effect of Siva’s tirobhava shakti, it is almost impossible to directly obtain that supreme non-dualism without starting from dualism, just like a student can’t reach the Master’s level without completing graduation. Actually, it totally depends on Shiva’s level of Šaktipāta.”

Initially the shivaSutras, lectures of Swami Lakshman Joo and the Sivamahapurana and Gitas (Ishwaragita, Sivagita and Bhagavad Gita) inspired him to choose this path, and later the doctrine of Krama (Kramanaya Pradipika), Tantraloka, Vidyapada of several āgamas, Nandikeswar Kashika and the Upanishads.

As to why he was drawn to the Trika Sashtra where the Divine will has to pave the way for deliverance from the fetters of Maya, Mala and karma, Sri Rohit says it is because of his guru’s grace, Siva’s grace, Maa Kali’s grace and the grace of Swami Lakshmanjoo which made him understand or realize “that Pratyabhijñā or being aware about the ātmajñāna is the ultimate path for liberation. Crossing dualism, mono-dualism and several upāyās like anavopāya, shaktopāya one can attain the ultimate path of shamvopāya by Shiva’s grace and Trika Shaivism is only the system which can provide this pathway of attaining final liberation or Nirvana/Moksha, which we called Shivattva or Parabhairavattava.”

(Figure 2:  Final preparations at the pooja altar)

“Mayas, Malas are related to your thinking, how you identify or recognize yourself. I suggest to people to start their journey in this path from the basic stairs or bheda avastha externally until shiva does śaktipāta on them, because in these days of Kalyuga, one can’t start directly from the peak level without Siva’s grace or a proper master.”

Sri Rohit says that seeing the whole jagat as an expansion of one’s own consciousness and seeing the non-difference between self, all the jeevātmas, jagat and shiva is actually being free from the barriers of malas and maya. “This should be our thinking from the Paramārthika point of view.”

Sri Rohit is also consciously aware that at the vyāvaharika state, he can serve by spreading the essence of the shaiva path, re-establishing its philosophical aspects, establishing proper rituals, practices, doing dhyana, chintana, manana etc so that other people can also be enlightened. “Such karmas actually helps in upliftment of your spiritual position and also make you free from worldly desires and ultimately helps one in acquiring ātmajnana if Siva’s and guru’s grace is there. Such a state of realising the eternal bliss (ananda) while living in a worldly existence is called Jagadananda. In such a way, a gruhastha can become a Sivayogi or Avadhoota.”

While most traditions emphasise on sadhana, ritual and immersion in core texts, Sri Rohit says it is most critical to “get rid of the fetters of maya. You should think about beyond a common man’s thinking, beyond this materialistic life and world full of desire. Trika or Pratyabhijñā is that path which also make you feel the eternal bliss, for a gruhastha also, while living in this gross body.”

However, he does attribute a certain detachment or indifference to life circumstances because of his sadhana, rituals and also allowing him to make right decisions at the right time, and living in a state of benevolence. “Among the many paths, choosing the right one – Siva’s path and sustaining it – is the greatest achievement for me which would not have been possible without Siva’s Šaktipāta or grace. External sadhana and rituals bind not only me but also every person to the path of Dharma, which also helps in fulfillment of external bliss as well as internal bliss. And this way one can reach up to the level of eternal sadhana and the ultimate jñānanamārgam.”

While young in years, he has immersed himself in the texts. “Without immersion in the core text or Shastra jnana, it is not possible to sustain any tradition. Beside Sadhana, rituals, practices, it is the philosophy and logical reasoning (tarka, nyaya etc) which establishes any sect’s validation and authenticity over the other sects, otherwise, other sects will always try to refute your sect. That’s why it is important to regularly go through shastras, core texts etc. It is from the shastras we got the terms Siva, Trika, Pratyabhijñā. In today’s context, where we do not have gurukulas, proper Shaivacaryas etc, shastras are like Shastr (weapon – शस्त्र) to establish and sustain the real essence of Sanatana Dharma or shaiva Sanatana Dharma or trika etc.”

Sri Rohit Choudhury ji, besides upliftment in adhyatmik jagat, is also seeking to work on the upliftment of the Shaiva traditions, which he feels are deviating from their real path and essence. He is committed to researching Shaiva philosophy, its various dimensions, shastras, commentaries, rituals etc so that people are aware of its core teachings. “My first target was the Bengal region, my birth land, where Saivism is sadly found in the worst condition,” he says.

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