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The Pulsating Heart and Its Divine Sense Energies: Body and Touch in Abhinavagupta's Trika Śaivism

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This paper is a study of the significance of body and touch in the embodied thinking and lifeworld of the Hindu Tantric visionary Abhinavagupta (c. 975–1025 C.E.). I elucidate Abhinavagupta's embodied phenomenology of Śiva-Who-Is-Being, focusing on his multivocal metaphor of the pulsating heart and its divine sense-energies. I show that Abhinavagupta understood the central act of salvation, the recollection (vimarśa) of Being, or ultimate consciousness, as being a bodily felt process. Abhinavagupta drew on an earlier body of discourse and practice, the Kaula Trika substratum, whose pivotal ritual was that of sexual union. Thus, Abhinavagupta recovered the body and senses for consciousness in a sensuous and erotic phenomenology, so that vimarśa was understood precisely as the “body's recollection of Being,” the bodily felt awareness of the Pulsating Heart.

Affiliations: 1: Hiram College, Department of Religious Studies, Hiram, OH 44234, USA;, Email:


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