Pandit H.N. Chakravarty(1918-2011) was a traditional scholar of Tantra and Kashmir Saivism in Varanasi who contributed much to the continued teaching of the tradition. The present volume is a tribute to his memory by some of his students and admirers. It contains original articles on important Tantras and Tantric traditions of Kashmir (by Bettina Sharada Baumer, Advaitavadini Kaul, Mark Oyczkowski, Annette Wilke, John Dupuche) and on the philosophy and aesthetics of non-dualist Kashmir Saivism (by John Nemec, Navjivan Rastogi, Mrinal Kaul. Sadananda Das, David Peter Lawrence, Ernst Furlinger, Aleksandra Wenta, Hamsa Stainton). The volume is illustrated with biographical photos and iconographical images.
Bettina Sharad a Baumer, Indologist from Austria and Professor of Religious Studies (Visiting Professor at several universities), has lived and worked in Varanasi since 1967. She is the author and editor of a number of books and over 50 research articles. Her main fields of research are non-dualistic Kashmir Saivism, Indian aesthetics, temple architecture and religious traditions of Odisha. and comparative mysticism. She has been Coordinator of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Varanasi. She has translated important Sanskrit texts into German and English. Her important publication is Abhinavagupta’s Hermeneutics of the absolute, Anuttaraprakriya (2011). In 2015 she received the Padrna Shri award from the President of India. She has been National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (2015-17), and is Director of the Abhinavagupta Research Library, Varanasi. She has been extensively giving seminars on texts of Kashmir Saivism in India and Europe over the last 20 years.
Hamsa Staintonis an Assistant Professor in the School of Religious Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and he earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University. His interests include Saivism and Tantric traditions, religion in Kashmir, Indian aesthetics, bhakti traditions, the McGill University, and Sanskrit literature. His current research and recent publications focus on the popular genre of Sanskrit devotional poetry called the stotra ("hymn of praise"), especially in the religious and literary history of Kashmir.
Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) through its Kalakosa Division has remained engaged in the study of the sastras received from various branches of the holistic tree of the Indian tradition. These studies culminate into three fundamental publication series, the Kalatattvakosa, Kalamulasastra and Kalasamalocana, focussing on concept, text and analysis respectively.
The tantra sastras of the Kashmiri Saiva tradition are the most vibrating branch of the vast tree of Indian tradition that is catching global attention today from the scholars and the masses alike. The fundamental aspect of this tradition upholds the philosophy that concerns individual growth irrespective of any cast, creed or gender. According to this tradition every aspect of the existing phenomena is a part of that ultimate truth known as supreme consciousness or Parama Siva (the state of ultimate bliss). It prescribes the means of achieving individual growth for different categories of individuals having different levels of the intellect, but at the same time it assures the possibility of achieving the ultimate growth for all. Therefore, each individual must strive on the path to achieve inner growth here and now while performing all sorts of worldly chores, establishes the theory of Kashmiri Saivism.
There exists an extensive corpus of the tantras of Kashmiri Saiva tradition in the form of manuscripts which have become part of various public and private collections. IGNCA has had the privilege of digitising the major part of the manuscripts kept in the Oriental Library of Jammu and Kashmir at Srinagar. Much remains unexplored from this collection.
The year 2016/17 was observed as the millennium year of Acarya Abhinavagupta, the towering figure of this tradition. IGNCA played an important role by organising four seminars at different regions of India for generating common awareness and interest. These seminars included a major international seminar organised at New Delhi in December 2016. The event was inaugurated by the Honb'le Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar on 15th December 2016. The minister also felicitated the galaxy of scholars gathered at the event from various parts of India and abroad to make presentations in their respective fields of expertise. The purpose of all these seminars was to unfold the treasure holding the highest ideas related with the philosophy concerning life. The proceedings of these seminars are in the process of preparation for publication and we hope to see them published soon.
Meanwhile, IGNCA has come up with a commemoration volume on Pandit Hemendra Nath Cakravarty who was a dedicated and practising scholar of the Kashmiri Saiva tantras. He also remained associated with IGNCA especially in the project based on the key concepts of Indian Arts, the Kalatattvakosa. This volume is very useful for the scholars involved in the studies on the tantras. I am grateful to Prof. Bettina Sharada Baumer and Dr. Hamsa Stainton for collecting the contributions of high research value and submitting the well edited material for publication to IGNCA. I may also thank each contributor of this volume for sharing their research on the tantras, including Dr. Advaitavadini Kaul, Head of Kalakosa Division of IGNCA. Dr. Kaul's contribution has also been immense in the preparation of this volume at various levels followed by the final publication with a conscientious handling.
I am pleased to place in the hands of readers this aptly titled volume Tantrapuspanjali: Tantric Traditions and Philosophy of Kashmir - Studies in Memory of Pandit H. N. Chakravarty, as a step towards motivating and generating interest especially among the young readers towards understanding the holistic philosophy of our own nation.
The Tantras of Kashmiri Saiva tradition are the source of most fundamental concepts, which have stamped a whole culture and spiritual tradition, and which are prevalent in ritual practices of initiation, yoga, a non-dual view of reality, cosmology, the supremacy of guru and related areas. No doubt some of these concepts do occur in other schools of thought as well but in the Kashmiri Saiva tradition we find its own distinctive approach. The great authors have referred to the highest reality as paramadvaita - the supreme non-duality, because the arguments of the Saivas of Kashmir have come out from personal experiences combined with logic and intellectual speculation. The personal experience guided them through their deep yogic states to clarify their doubts, have clear understanding of the reality and thereby recognize one transcendental reality and identify oneself with the absolute non-dual state of consciousness known as Parama Siva.
In the Kashmiri Saiva tradition we find a long lineage of saints/scholars especially from the 8th/9th century onwards, who were not just thinkers but they were also mystics of a very high spiritual order. Continuing with their deep study of Saiva tantras/agamas along with critical analysis of other existing schools of thought they came up with fresh interpretations. Such works functioning as aids to scholars also contributed in continuing the tradition. Many great mystics touched the heights of spirituality, absorbed in spiritual ecstasy and complete devotion, their outpourings that have come down to us are the mystic devotional poems. These stotras or stutis as they are commonly known, have been the means of spiritual elevation for many. It is interesting to note that from the 14th century onwards there has come up another genre of the Saiva literature composed in Kashmiri language. The foremost example of this literature is the opening vakli (verse) of this preface, by the well-known Saiva yogini Lallesvari.
No doubt Utpalacarya and Abhinavaguptapadacarya will remain at the top as torchbearers of this great tradition, their works attract the attention of most of the scholars today. Much more remains yet unexplored in its entirety. A crucial requirement remains for looking into the whole corpus of the Kashmiri Saiva tantras and sastras housed in different collections, to bring to light many unknown details and also the contributions of lesser known saint scholars who continued on their trajectory to achieve the highest goal of sadharna and also helped common people to walk on the path.
As they say that the tradition never dies, the Kashmiri Saiva tradition has been a living tradition all through, and in spite of having to confront historical upheavals from time to time, it is still a living tradition to some extent. Pandit Hemendra Nath Chakravarty of Varanasi (1918-2011), disciple of the great Pandit Gopinath Kaviraj, was a true sadhaka and a scholar of the Kashmiri Saiva tantras who inspired his students. The spiritual grace overflowed from his spontaneous laughter. Panditji has many admirers of his scholarship and his persona. He has left a legacy of scholars whom he taught with open heart and with whom he shared the true knowledge of this tradition. The present volume is the expression of a humble tribute to Panditji from some of his students and admirers.
Pandit Hemendra Nath Cakravarty was one of the key members associated from the very beginning with our ongoing project of Kalatattvakosa (on the Indian key concepts) at IGNCA. The purpose of launching this project at the Varanasi office was mainly for the availability of scholars like Panditji to receive continued guidance for this herculean project. In fact, Prof. Bettina Sharada Baumer had engaged him for the Kalakosa project at Varanasi. IGNCA will always remain grateful to Panditji for his unassuming support to this project till his last. Prof. Bettina Sharada Baumer and Dr. Hamsa Stainton deserve admiration for achieving success in the most challenging task taken by them in collecting the original research materials, quite appropriate and befitting contributions for Panditji's commemoration volume. They approached IGNCA for its publication. It has been a proud privilege for me personally to take up the publication process forward under the Kalasamalocana series (on the analytical and critical studies) of IGNCA. The present collection of studies focussing on the Saiva tantras of Kashmir is yet another Significant addition to the series. I express my heartfelt thanks to Prof. Bettina Sharada Baumer and to Dr. Hamsa Stain ton for their continued cooperation and deep understanding. Working with both of them has been an experience that will be cherished for long. It is also a great opportunity for us at IGNCA to express our deep gratitude to Shri Vinay lain for designing the beautiful cover. Sincere thanks are due to Shri Vikas Arya of M/s Aryan Books International for handling the materials quite meticulously for publication. It is heartening to see the combined efforts coming to fruition in the form of this Tantrapuspanjali
How does a tradition stay alive? And at the opposite end, how does it decline? In the Indian tradition we find many examples where a single person-saint, yogi, philosopher, guru, Pandit, or in whatever role-has not only kept a tradition alive, but often revived it after a decline or near oblivion. In Varanasi (Banaras) there is a saying about several scholars that they are or were an institution by themselves, implying that they were not dependent on any University or other religious or academic institution. Their independence and recognition was solely based on their knowledge, their experience, their rootedness in the tradition. Pandit Hemendra Nath Chakravarty fully exemplified this. Banaras has been a centre for Tantric studies of different traditions, including the Bengal school and the non-dualist Kashmir Saiva traditions, as well as other schools of Saivism, Saiva Siddhanta, Virasaivism, and Srividya, in the tradition of Bhaskararaya etc. In the zoth century the towering figure among all the scholars in Varanasi, whose vast and deep knowledge of Tantra attracted a number of students, was M.M. Gopinath Kaviraj. Thakur Jaideva Singh, a scholar of musicology, philosophy and Kashmir Saivism, moved to Varanasi especially in order to meet and study with Gopinath Kaviraj. A great grammarian, Acarya Rameshvar jha, after meeting his Guru Swami Lakshman Ioo in Kashmir, became another centre and authority in the field of Kashmir Saivism.' These great scholars, each one unique and independent, were yet connected, and had a common sense of total dedication to the tradition.
Pandit H.N. Chakravarty, who came as a refugee from East Bengal (now Bangladesh), belonged to the tradition, and he was one of the foremost disciples of Gopinath Kaviraj. After the passing of his Guru, Panditji (as he would be called respectfully and affectionately) became himself a major teacher of the Tantras and other texts of Kashmir Saivism, attracting students from India and from all over the world. The contrast between the poor living conditions of Panditji and his family (and the tiny space available for his teaching) and his vast knowledge and selfless dedication was astonishing. In a world totally dependent on institutions, structures, positions, money and external recognition it is difficult to describe the very different atmosphere in which scholars like him lived, studied and taught. But it is due to them that the tradition of learning-in the case of Panditji, of non-dualist Kashmir Saivism-e-has lived on for decades. Hemendra Nath Chakravarty was born in 1918 in the village of Kalihati, in the district of Mymensingh in former East Bengal (now Bangladesh). His father, Taraka Nath Chakravarty, was an ayurvedic physician, and the family belonged to the Kaulika tradition, which worshiped Daksina KalL Thus he grew up within a Sakta tradition, which he continued to practice his whole life. Hemendra Nath did his matriculation at the village high school in 1935, and studied Sanskrit and later Samkhya at the Balananda Brahmacharyashram in Deogarh (Bihar). In 1939 he went to Varanasi and studied Nyaya under the famous Pandit Vibhuti Vibhushana Bhattacharya. In 1944 he graduated in Nyaya Tirtha, and 1945 in Tarka Tirtha from the Calcutta Government Sanskrit Association. He obtained a REd. in 1950, which enabled him to work as a teacher in Varanasi for a number of years. He met the illustrious Pandit Gopinath Kaviraj for the first time in 1958 and became his disciple. This was the beginning of a long and deep association and learning. Having been trained as a logician in the dualistic system of Nyaya-Vaisesika, he was drawn towards the non-dualist system of Kashmir Saivism, It is thanks to his training under his Guru that he became one of the foremost exponents of this tradition. After the death of Kavirajji in 1976, Panditji became a prominent teacher of the texts of Tantra and Kashmir Saivism in Varanasi until his own death in 2011. For some time he taught Sanskrit and Puranas at the Kanyapith of Mata Anandamayi Ashram. He was one of the editors of the commemoration volumes for Gopinath Kaviraj, brought out by Anandamayi Ashram, titled Navonmesa (co-edited with Jaideva Singh and G. Mukhopadhyaya). He was also closely associated with the editorial team of the volumes on Hindu Spirituality in the series of World Spirituality, mainly Dr. Bithika Mukherjee, Prof. K. Sivaraman and 1. In this context I discovered him and invited him to join the Alice Boner Institute for Fundamental Research in the Indian Arts, where we were editing texts from Orissa on Silpa. In 1986-87 the newly created Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts under the leadership of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan decided to open a branch in Varanasi, and I was appointed as Honorary Coordinator. Soon after its establishment I invited Panditji to join this new institution as "Chief Pandit," and his presence and collaboration was very precious and fruitful. We were mostly engaged in the planning and editing of the volumes of Kalatattvakosa; A Lexicon of Fundamental Concepts of the Indian Arts, to which he contributed several articles.
Alongside his work with IGNCA, his private teaching continued, which had already started in 1972. Many internationally known scholars of Tantra and non- dual Kashmir Saivism were his students at some point of time, including many of the contributors to this volume. This book is an expression of their gratitude and indebtedness to their teacher.
Panditji's style of teaching was different from the traditional way, in the sense that he was open to questions and suggestions, and that his enthusiasm and fascination with the texts were never subjected to a purely grammatical or technical analysis. While remaining faithful to a tradition-based interpretation, his range of interests and learning enriched his teaching. Moreover, his sense of humour paired with his sharp critical faculties made every session with him a joyful experience.
In 2003 Panditji received the "Thakur jaideva Singh Award" from the Trika Interreligious Trust for his merit in teaching Kashmir Saivism, He also participated in some important interreligious seminars organised by the Abhishiktananda Society. He had inherited his interest and openness to mysticism in other traditions from his Guru.
Panditji attained his samadhi on 30th March, 2011.
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