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Aesthetic experience as a paradigm for religious experience in Tantric Śaivism of Kashmir

Aesthetic experience as a paradigm for religious experience in Tantric Śaivism of Kashmir

Seminar / 60h / 6 ECTS / winter semester. Coordinator: prof. Raffaele Torella (Sapienza University, Rome)

The philosophy and the religious worldview of Kashmirian non-dual Śaivism, culminating in its greatest spiritual master and philosopher, Abhinavagupta, is impregnated by a basic aesthetic flavour (and, moreover, it is to be noted that Indian aesthetics as a whole has Abhinavagupta as its most prominent figure). A major characteristic of this aesthetic-aristocratic attitude in religious experience is the downgrading of all painful effort, seen as plebeian feature. The aristocrat intends to show that what inferior people can achieve only at the cost of long and painful exercises is accessible to him promptly and very easily. However, such ‘easiness’ is all but easy for ordinary (and not aesthetically refined) man.


Raffaele Torella - Biodata

Born in Rome on 28/6/1950. 1981-1997 Researcher; 1997-2003 Associate Professor; 2003 to date Full Professor, holder of the Chair of Lingua e Letteratura Sanscrita at Istituto Italiano di Studi Orientali of Sapienza University of Rome, where he also taught for years “Indian Philosophy and Religion” and “Indology”.

Coordinator of the South Asia Section in the Doctoral Course in “Studies in Asia and Africa”, Sapienza University of Rome.

Scientific Coordinator for the Erasmus-Socrates exchange programme and International Relations, Istituto Italiano di Studi Orientali; responsible for the exchange programmes with the universities of Vienna, Halle-Wittenberg, Cracow, Paris-Sorbonne, Prague, Helsinki, Stockolm, Leiden, Salamanca, Malaga, Vilnius, Bucarest, Lausanne, Leipzig and Jadavpur (India).

Many research journeys to India and Europe with stays at the major indological institutions and MSS libraries. Active participations in several international conferences (VI to XIII World Sanskrit Conference, etc.), seminars, and in the meetings for the project of a Dictionary of Technical Terms of Hindu Tantric Literature (University of Vienna, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000) in the framework of the agreement between the Accademia dei Lincei and the Austrian Academy of Science.

Lectures: State University Tokyo, University of Vienna, All Souls College (Oxford), University of Lausanne, University of Marburg, University of Halle-Wittenberg, University of Québec (Montréal), University of Vancouver, University Jagiellonica of Cracow, Sorbonne- Paris IV, University of Praga, University of Lucknow, Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts (New Delhi), JNU (New Delhi), University of Berkeley, University of Manoa (Hawaii), Columbia University (NewYork), University of Salamanca, University of San Pietroburgo, University of Jadavpur (Kolkata), University of Kolkata,Yale University, University of Malaga, Berlin Tagore Centre, Cornell University, Manipal (India), etc.

Direttore Scientifico and Direttore Responsabile of Rivista degli Studi Orientali (Sapienza University of Rome) and the Nuova Serie Orientale, series of monographs connected with Rivista degli Studi Orientali.

Ph.D. examiner at Oxford, Marburg, La Trobe (Australia), Lausanne, Paris-Sorbonne, Cambridge, etc.

Member of the Jury for Professorship, Paris-Sorbonne, (2011, 2013)


Directeur d’études invité at EPHE, Paris-Sorbonne (April-May 2006). Visiting professor at University of Malaga (May-June 2008).

Visiting professor at Indian Institute for Advanced Study, Shimla (August 2010, October 2012, Sept-Oct. 2013).

Scientific coordinator (with D. Pingree) of the section “Science in India” in the multivolume work “History of Science”, published by the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani (Rome 2002).

National Coordinator of the research project (PRIN) “Passion and emotions in the civilisation of India and Tibet”.

(with Bettina Bäumer) Scientific Responsible and Organizer of the First International Workshop on Utpaladeva (Indian Institute for Advanced Study, Shimla 2010).

Coordinator of the research project “Uomo e natura nel pensiero e nella storia sociale dell’India” (2011-2013, Rome, Sapienza)

Co-responsible of the section “Tantra and Agama” in the XIV World Sanskrit Conference (Delhi, January 2012).

Scientific responsible and organizer of International Conference on “The human person and nature in classical and modern India” (Rome, March 2013).

Member of the Editorial Board, Hindu Studies Series, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi. President of Italian Association for Sanskrit Studies (A.I.S.S.) 2015 to date

President of University Council of Studies on Africa and Asia (CUSTAA) 2016-2019

Research interests: Tantrism, Kaśmir Śaivism, Śaiva Āgamas, Vaiṣṇava Pañcarātra, logical- epistemological schools of Buddhism, linguistic speculation, manuscriptology.


Selected publications:



The Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikā of Utpaladeva with the Author's Vṛtti. Critical Edition and Annotated Translation, Serie Orientale Roma LXXI, IsMEO, Roma 1994, pp. LIV, 273. (II edition, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 2002; reprint 2013).

(Ed.) Le Parole e i Marmi, Studi in onore di Raniero Gnoli nel suo 70°compleanno, 2 vols., Serie Orientale Roma, IsIAO, Roma 2001, pp. 1030.

(with G. Boccali), Passioni d’Oriente. Eros ed emozioni in India e in Tibet, Torino, Einaudi, 2007.

Il pensiero dell’India: Un’introduzione, Roma: Carocci Editore, 2008. (Ed. it., Introduction) A. Padoux, Tantra, Torino: Einaudi 2010.


(Ed. it., Introduction) A. Aklujkar, Corso di Sanscrito, Milano: Hoepli 2010 (co-ed. C. Mastrangelo).

The Philosophical Traditions of India: an Appraisal, Varanasi: Indica Books 2011.

Gli Aforismi di Śiva con il commento di Kṣemarāja (Śivasūtravimarśinī), Milano: Adelphi, 2013.

(Ed. with B. Bäumer) Utpaladeva, Philosopher of Recognition, Delhi: DK Printworld 2016.



Latest Articles:

“How is verbal signification possible: understanding Abhinavagupta’s reply”, Journal of Indian Philosophy 32 (2-3), 2004, pp. 173-188.

“Studies in Utpaladeva’s Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vivṛti. Part I. Apoha and anupalabdhi in a Śaiva garb”. In: K. Preisendanz (ed.), Expanding and Merging Horizons. Contributions to South Asian and Cross-Cultural Studies in Commemoration of Wilhelm Halbfass, Vienna 2007, pp. 473-490.

“Studies in Utpaladeva’s Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vivṛti. Part II. What is memory?”. In: Indica et Tibetica. Festschrift für Michael Hahn zum 65. Geburtstag von Freunden und Schülern überreicht, herausgegeben von Konrad Klaus und Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Wien 2007, pp. 539- 563.

“Studies in Utpaladeva’s Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vivṛti. Part III. Can a cognition become the object of another cognition?”. In: D. Goodall, A. Padoux (eds.), Mélanges tantriques à la mémoire d’Hélène Brunner, Pondicherry 2007, pp. 475-484.

“Studies in Utpaladeva’s Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vivṛti. Part IV. Light of the subject-light of the object”. In: B. Kellner et al. (eds.), Pramāṇakīrtiḥ. Papers dedicated to Ernst Steinkellner on the occasion of his 70th birthday, Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, Heft 70.1-2, Wien, 2007, pp. 925-939.

“From an adversary to the main ally: The place of Bhartṛhari in the Kashmirian Śaivādvaita”. In: M. Chaturvedi (ed.), Bhartṛhari: Language, Thought and Reality. Delhi, 2009, pp. 343-354.

“Observations on yogipratyakṣa”. In: WATANABE, CH. et ALII (Eds.) Saṃskṛta-sādhutā - Goodness of Sanskrit. Studies in Honour of Professor Ashok N. Aklujkar, New Delhi 2012, pp. 470-487.

“Studies in Utpaladeva’s Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vivṛti. Part V. Self-awareness and yogic perception”. In: Voegeli, F. et al. (eds.). Devadattīyam. Johannes Bronkhorst Felicitation Volume. Worlds of South and Inner Asia 5, Peter Lang, Berne 2012, pp. 275-300.

“Inherited cognitions: prasiddhi, āgama, pratibhā, śabdana (Bhartṛhari, Utpaladeva, Abhinavagupta, Kumārila and Dharmakīrti in dialogue)”. In: Eltschinger, V & Krasser, H (eds.) Scriptural authority, reason and action, Proceedings of a Panel at the XIV World Sanskrit Conference, Kyoto, September 1st-5th 2009, Vienna 2013. pp. 455-480.

“Pratyabhijñā and philology”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2013, 133.4, pp. 705- 713


“Utpaladeva’s lost Vivṛti on the Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikā”, Journal of Indian Philosophy 42, 2014, pp. 115-126.

“Notes on the Śivadṛṣṭi by Somānanda and its commentary”, Journal of Indian Philosophy 42, 2014, pp. 551-601

“Passions and emotions in the Indian philosophical-religious traditions”, in P. Bilimoria, A. Wenta (eds.) Emotions in Indian Thought-Systems, London: Routledge 2015, pp. 57-101.

“Purity and impurity in Non-dualistic Śaiva Tantrism”, in Proceedings of the International Conference “Religions: fields of research, method and perspectives”, Studia Religiologica, Cracow Jagiellonian University , 48.2, 2015, pp. 101-115.

“A Vaiṣṇava Paramādvaita in X c. Kashmir? The work of Vāmanadatta”, in E. Franco, I. Ratié (eds.) Around Abhinavagupta: Aspects of the intellectual history of Kashmir from the ninth to the eleventh century, Leipziger Studien zu Kultur und Geschichte Süd- und Zentralasiens, Band 6, Leipzig 2016, pp. 427-450.

“Śaiva Nondualism”, in J. Tuske (ed.) Indian Epistemology and Metaphysics (Bloomsbury Research Handbooks in Asian Philosophy), London: Bloomsbury 2017, pp. 183-205.

“Abhinavagupta’s attitude towards yoga”, JAOS 139-3, 2019, pp. 647-666.

“Abhinavagupta as an aristocrat” in Cristina Scherrer-Schaub Felicitation Volume, ed. V. Eltschinger, V. Tournier, and M. Sernesi. Series Minor, Università di Napoli “L'Orientale.” Naples: Università di Napoli “L'Orientale. (forthcoming).

“Beauty” in Gedenkschrift Helmut Krasser, ed. V. Eltschinger et al., Harvard Oriental Series., Harvard (forthcoming).



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