Saturday, April 8, 2017

An evening well-spent in Abhinavagupta Research Library in Varanasi

I have frequently seen myself a scholar withdrawn, having enjoyed the most valuable part of my life in those crusty, otherwise inanimate words written by writers of all ages, putting their hearts and souls and made such wonderful objects called books.  I was spending my days in Varanasi abandoned my time in the streets of this ancient city, sitting on ghats all day long, sometimes quite restlessly. I kept lots of books with me during my journey, though I looked at them only now and then. I didn’t wish to practice resignation in Varanasi but to observe how people were living in this oldest city with zest.

More and more I was feeling that why we would box everything into advantages and disadvantages. I was engaged in thinking why we were so involved in starving ourselves before we were hungry? It came to me that I was not an exception in this living, probably because I was also a part of this tasteless urban life. So, I desperately wanted to get rid of this futile thinking, at least not in my travel.

Read More about Varanasi

Two days spend in some good and bad experiences. I had already spent a few days in Varanasi, and one fine morning I got a call from my friend Yann who lived in the city. He had a very beautiful house in the heart of the city, with a terrace, nice garden and absolute silence in all of his rooms. We spent some good time with French tea and handmade cookies.  He told me about Abhinava Gupta’s library and Bettina Baumer. A well-known indologist and one of the scholars of Kashmir Saivism, she had lived in India for more than four decades. 

A brief tryst with Abhinavagupta Library (संविदालय ) and Kashmir Shaivism

Abhinavagupta Research Library
In the afternoon I went to the library. I met Bettina 'Sharada' Bäumer, an Austrian born scholar who dedicates her life in abstruse philosophy and in the field of inter-religious dialogues. I found her very gentle and humble. She showed me the library though not much talked about the philosophy. She gave me three books to study and showed me the study room. Surprisingly, there was no conventional study table in the room. There were four bookshelves and one tanpura (a classical string musical instrument). I felt very relaxed in the room and studied those books for straight two hours. When I came out of the study, she already left the library.

Kashmir or Kashmiri Saivism 

It is a system of philosophy known as the Trika System. The Sanskrit work Trika means ‘threefold’. In Kashmir Saivism, also scholars wrote it Kashimiri Saivism, trika is used to refer to threefold signs of humankind and their world. These three signs are Shiva, Shakti and the bound individuals (nara), and the three energies of Shiva. These three energies are Para Shakti – the supreme energy, parapara Shakti (medium energy), and apara Shakti (inferior energy).

Trika philosophy explains that the realm of apara Shakti, the lowest energy is found in states of wakefulness (jagrat), and dreaming (swapna). The domain of medium energy, is established in the state of sound sleep (susupti). The province of para Shakti, the supreme energy is found in Turiya state. Turiya state transcends the three common states of consciousness – waking consciousness, dreaming and dreamless sleep.

Kashmir Shaivism is a nondualist Tantric practice that is one of the oldest forms of spiritual practice in India. There are still many yogis and practitioners follow the teachings including some of the proponents in 20th century. One such name is Swami Lakshman Joo, who was a Kashmiri Brahmin, revived the tradition and made a great contribution to this legitimate field of spiritual inquiry.

Information on Abhinavagupta Research Library

The research library has been established by the Trika Interreligious Trust at Varanasi, as a place for study and research on Indian spiritual and religious traditions with special emphasize on Saivagama/Tantra and Kashmir Saivism. The library has a vast collection of books including Veda, Agama/Tantra, Kashmir Saivism, Indian philosophy, Traditions of Banaras, Indian Art and Aesthetics/Musicology, Hinduism and Buddhism.

The research library is in collaboration with scholars and institutions like Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Central University for Higher Tibetan Studies (Sarnath), Institute for Religious Studies, University of Vienna (Austria), centre for Intercultural Theology, University of Salzburg (Austria).

Opening Timing: Daily from 2 to 6 p.m. (except Sunday).

Activities: Occasional seminars are organized on topics related to the special focus of the library, as well as text study (Sanskrit), individually or in a group, with a scholar or pandit. Also, music programmes are occasionally organized. 

There is also a space for meditation in the library.

Address: B-2/114, Bhaidaini (near Ma Anandamayi Hospital), second floor, Varanasi – 221001
Director: Dr. Bettina Baumer ‘Sharada’

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