Abhinavagupta was one of the most outstanding Acharyas of the Shaiva philosophy. We learn from references about him in Tantraloka and Paratrimshika Vivarana that he lived in Kashmir about the end of the tenth and the beginning of eleventh centuries A.D. The earliest ancestor of Abhinavagupta was a famous Brahmin, Attrigupta, who lived in Autarvedi, the ancient name of tract of land lying between the Ganga and the Yamuna. Attrigupta, a great Shaiva teacher, was invited by King Lalitaditya, who ruled over Kashmir from 700-736 A.D. A spacious house was soon built by the orders of the king on the banks of the Jhelum (Vitasta) for Attrigupta and a big Jagir was granted to him for his maintenance. Many generations after him, one of his descendants, named Varahagupta, became a great scholar of Shaiva philosophy. His son, Narasimhagupta, alias Chukhala, father of Abhinavagupta, was also a great Shaiva teacher. Kashmir Shaivism
Abhinavagupta was a great scholar and Shaiva teacher, who possessed knowledge in all matters relating to Kashmir Shaivism. The versatility of this genius was recognised in his own time. He was one of the best authorities on Shaiva philosophy and various branches of Sanskrit literature. The great Acharya sat at the feet of many teachers for the traditional and authoritative knowledge. Such was his humility and devotion that these teachers imparted to him all the learning they possessed. The celebrated author of Kavya Prakash, Rajanaka Mammatta calls him the Shankaracharya of Kashmir.
There are eight great Yogic powers explained in Shastras as follows:
The first is the superhuman power of becoming as small as an atom;
The second is the Yogic power of increasing the size of one’s own body at will;
The third is the supernatural power of assuming excessive lightness at will;
The fourth is the superhuman power of obtaining anything desired;
The fifth is the Yogic power of attaining irresistible will;
The sixth is the superhuman power of commanding the whole world;
The seventh Yogic power is to fascinate the whole universe; and
The eighth is to possess unrestrained will viz. whatever he wills comes true.
All these eight Yogic powers were possessed by Acharya Abhinavagupta.
In Malinivijayotara Shastra six great signs of spiritual advancement are explained as follows:
The Six Signs
(1) Unswerving devotional attachment to Shiva;
(2) Full attainment of Mantra Siddhi;
(3) Attainment of controlling power over all the five elements;
(4) Capacity to accomplish the desired end;
(5) Mastery over the whole science of rhetorics and poetics; and
(6) The sudden dawning of the knowledge of all the Shastras.
These six great spiritual signs also were observed by discerning people in Abhinavagupta and in his time everybody looked upon him as Shiva incarnate.
Kashmir Shaivism is called Trika philosophy. Trika means threefold science of man and his world. This Trika contains the science of (individual), (the energy) and (the universal). The purpose of Trika is to show how an individual rises to the state of universal through energy. The Trika philosophy is classified by Abhinavagupta in four systems which are Krama system, Spanda system, Kula system and Pratyabijnya system.
Abhinavagupta says that Krama deals with space and time. He explains that actually there is no space. When one deals with forms, the space appears. When one is established in formless state of being, for him there is no space. In the same way when there is something to be done, then only the existence of time shines and when you have nothing to do, then time has no existence.
Explaining the Spanda system, Abhinavagupta says that it is that movement which actually is no movement. Spanda makes us realise that whatever is in movement actually is established in unmoved point. So although everyting seems moving actually it is not moving at all.
Science of Totality
As for the Kula system(kaula margam-read my old blogs about saivisam), he says that Kula means the Science of Totality. In each and every part of the universe totality shines – throughout. Take a small part of any object. In that part you will see the universal energy existing.
The Pratyabijnya system deals with the school of recognition. Abhinavagupta, while explaining this school of recognition, says;
To make it clear, at the time of God-realization nothing new is realised; on the contrary, the Yogi feels that this state of God-consciousness which he was experiencing was already known to him.
In this school of recognition, Abhinavagupta says, the state of God-consciousness is already there. He comes to the conclusion that in this universe you have to see and realise the Kingdom of God- consciousness only everywhere and nothing else.
Many works have been atributed to Abhinavagupta though only a few are extant. Some of the works of his authorship are:-
(1) Bhairavastotra; (2) Malinivijaya Vartika (3) Bharata Natya Shastra-Tika; (4) Dwanmalokalochana; (5) Natyalochana; (6) Purva-Panchika; (7) Gitarthasangraha; (8) Bodha Pancha Dashika; (9) Paramartha Charcha; (10) Dehastha Devatachakrastotra; (11) Paratrimshike Vivarana; (12) Paratrimshika Lagu Vitti; (13) Kramastotra; (14) Ishwara Pratyabijnya-Vimarshini; (15) Ishwar Pratyabijnya Vivriti Vimarshini; (16) Paramartha Sara; (17) Tantraloka; (18) Tantra Sara, etc. Besides these, he wrote many other works. Madhuraja, a devotee of Abhinavagupta, writes that:
Lord Shree-Kantha-Nath Shiva Himself appeared in Kashmir in the form of Abhinavagupta to enlighten the people. Madhuraja also asserts that Abhinavagupta was, in fact, the incarnation of Bhairava-Nath Shiva. In conclusion I would say that Abhinavagupta was the pride of Kashmir. He is even now the pride of Kashmir, as his works and teachings continue to deeply influence the discerning people.( notes&reference:swami lakshmanjoo articles about abinavagupthapatha achariya)