The Philosophy of Advaita

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Item Code: NAF863
Publisher: Bharatiya Kala Prakashan
Author: T.M.P. Mahadevan
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9788180900624
Pages: 271
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 340 gm
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Book Description


I had an opportunity of reading Dr. Mahadevan's book, a few months ago, and thought it was a masterly survey of the Advaita doctrine, as set forth in the writings of Vidyaranya. While Sankara's system is fairly well known to English readers, later developments of the Advaita philosophy are not so well known. If we look at the growth of Indian religious and philosophical systems, we find that utmost liberty of thought compatible with the maintenance of the fundamental presuppositions is permitted and Vidyaranya develops the Advaita position in a striking way. It is not my purpose here to traverse the ground covered so well by the writer. I should like to say that Dr. Mahadevan expounds Vidyaranya's views with great clarity and penetration; his book fills a distinct need and will be a worthy addition to the literature in English on the subject.



In the present work an attempt has been made to present the philosophy of Advaita with special reference to Bharatitirtha- Vidyaranya. Bharatitirtha is a great name in the history of Advaita after Sankara. One of the most favoured books which has found a permanent place in a study of the Advaita system is the Pancadasi. But the work which is more important for Advaita dialectics is the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha which is a summary of the topics dealt with in the Vivarana of Prakasatman, which is a gloss on Padmapada's Pahcapadika, which in its turn is a commentary on the Sankara-bhasya on the first four aphorisms of the Vedanta-sutra. Another work of Bharatitirtha from which I have drawn material is the Drg-drsya-viveka. But since a systematic treatment of the Advaita philosophy was not possible from a knowledge of these treatises alone, I had also to draw largely from the works of other preceptors like Dharmaraja, Vimuktatman, Citsukha and Appayya Diksita.

The mass of Advaita literature has grown enormously in the post-Sankara period, necessitated by charges and counter- charges. The believer in a faith does not need much argumentation. He learns from his teacher the principal tenets of the system he comes to believe in; and because the method of exposition is direct, appealing more to the heart than to the head, there is not much room for disputation. But the darsanas (lit. points of view or visions) are not mere faiths demanding simple belief; they are philosophical systems as well. And so, the exponent of each metaphysical tradition his to maintain his position as against those of his opponents through dialectics. Much of this wordy warfare may appear to be quibble to those who are sceptical about philosophical pursuits. But, nevertheless, it shows the intellectual virility and argumentative skill of the philosophers of India. The present work purports to be a modest study of Advaita dialectics with particular reference to the works of Bharatitirtha.

In the first two chapters the epistemological position of Advaita is considered. Though the Advaitin admits six pramanas (means of valid knowledge), the final court of appeal is Scripture. The knowledge of Brahman that results therefrom is unsublatable and ultimate. Truth, according to the Advaitin, is that knowledge which is never contradicted; and error is born of avidya which it is not possible to determine either as real or as unreal. In the three chapters that follow, the definition of Brahman as existence- intelligence-bliss is examined. In the sixth chapter the saksi (witness) is defined as the real self of the jiva, and it is shown to be non-different from Brahman. In chapter seven there is discussion about Isvara and jiva and their mutual relation. The difference between pratibirmba-vada and avaccheda-vada is pointed out, and incidentally there is brought out the divergence of Views as between the Bhamati and the Vivarana schools. In the next chapter the doctrine of maya is treated from three different levels, and it is discussed how and why it appears to be a riddle to the inquiring mind. The last two chapters are concerned with the way and the goal. All Advaitins maintain that the principal means to release is jnana; but some of them tend to give a place, though secondary one, to contemplation and devotion. Moksa in the system of Advaita, as in the other schools of Vedanta, means not only cessation of sorrow but also attainment of positive bliss, though attainment here is figurative, as Brahman is eternally attained and ever realized.

To my knowledge this is the first attempt that has been made to present systematically the philosophy of Advaita as expounded by Bharatitirtha- Vidyaranya and to assess the contribution of that great scholar-saint to the Vivarana school in particular and to Advaita metaphysics in general. It is hoped that the .present treatise will help students of Indian philosophy in getting to know the main concepts of Advaita doctrine in relation to other systems of Indian thought and thereby make for extending, in however small a measure, the frontiers of knowledge.

The accomplishment of this work would have been well nigh impossible but for the help of my revered brother Svami Rajesvaranandaji at every stage of its production and publication. My first duty is to record my deep indebtedness to him. Especially in a task of this kind the value of the guidance of one who leads the life of an Advaitin cannot be adequately expressed. The seeds of Advaita sown by the Svami early in my life have grown under his constant care. Conscious as I am of my ignorance of the many intricacies of Advaita, if I have succeeded, though in a poor measure, to present the philosophical system in an intelligible way, it is not a little due to the impressions that were formed even before I had crossed the early teens of my life.

I am deeply indebted to Mr. S.S. Suryanarayana Sastri, Head of the Department of Philosophy in the University of Madras, who guided my work throughout. An adept in meta- physical ways of thinking Mr. Sastri has led me by the hand, steadied my faltering steps and shown me the direction whence to expect gleams of truth. Not only did he lend me his translations of such classic treatises on Advaita like the Vivarana Vivarana- prameya-sangraha, Ista-siddhi and Siddhantalesa; he trained me also to hunt in the treasure-house of knowledge. I express my sincere gratitude to Mr. P.N. Srinivasachariar, my professor at college, who gave me the knowledge which has served as the foundation of my effort. His advice has always been valuable and his example an inspiration.

To Sir S. Radhakrishnan I acknowledge my indebtedness for the very kind interest he has taken in my work and the Foreword he has written. And to the University of Mamas T owe my obligations for affording me all facilities, preparing the thesis. My thanks are also due to Vidyaratnakara Kodavasal Narasimha- chariar and Vedanta-siromani K.R. Lakshmana Sastri with whom I read some of the Sanskrit texts, and to all those who have contributed, in one way or another, to the success of this undertaking.



In these pages an attempt is made to present the philosophy of Advaita from a study of the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha Pancadasi and Drg-drsya-viveka. Tradition ascribes the author- ship of the Vivarana-prarmeya-sangraha to Vidyaranya whom it identifies with Madhava the son of Mayana, and the brother of Sayana and Bhoganatha. The Pancadasi is thought to be the work of Vidyaranya and Bharatitirtha. With regard to the authorship of the Drg-drsya-viveka opinion is divided. Brahrnananda Bharati, one of the commentators on the work, regards Bharatitirtha as its author. In some manuscripts bearing the commentary of Ananda-jnana it is found that Sri Sankaracarya is saluted as its author. Niscaladasa, in his Vrtti-prabhakara, ascribes the book to Vidyaranya.

Vidyaranya seems to have lived in the fourteenth century A.D. as the family guru of Harihara I and Bukka, the founders of the Vijayanagara kingdom and appears to have occupied the gadi of the Srngeri Matha from c. 1377 to 1386 A.D. Tradition attaches great importance to Vidyaranya. He is regarded as having been the friend, philosopher and guide of the early rulers of Vijayanagara, and in the field of religion and philosophy he is classed with the greatest of the post-Sankara Advaitins.

The tendency of late has been to discard the traditional identity between Vidyaranya and Madhava. Madhava, the reputed author of such works as the Parasara-smrti-vyakhya, Vyavahara-mddhava, Kala-madhaviya, Jivanmukti-viveka and Jaiminiya-nyayamala-vistara, was the brother of Sayana, the author of the Veda-bhasya. Both of them were politicians connected with the founding and development of the Vijayanagara empire. But Vidyaranya, it is said, was only "an insignificant ascetic who presided over the Srngeri Matha from c. 1377 to 1386 A.D." The works that are definitely attributed to Vidyaranya are only the 'Pancadasi' and the 'Vivarana-prameya- sangraha.’

The major portion of the contention of those who are against identifying Vidyaranya with Madhava is based on the argument from silence. It is said that the several inscriptions which refer to Vidyaranya and his several predecessors and successors in the Srngeri Matha do not identify him with Madhava, that the few inscriptions that refer to Madhavacarya and his brother Sayana never indicate any connection between him and Vidyaranya, that the works of Madhava and those of Vidyaranya do not bear testimony to the identity-theory and that no work can be cited either of contemporary authors or even of writers who flourished one or two centuries later which might clearly prove the identity. The other main argument advanced against the identity-theory is that it is extremely belated.

It is admitted that Bharatitirtha and Vidyatirtha were the preceptors of Madhava, for Madhava himself tells us that he was favoured by them. While Vidyaranya in his works praises Sankarananda and Vidyatirtha, it is said, nowhere he refers to Bharatitirtha. Madhava acknowledges Bharatitirtha as his preceptor, but Vidyaranya in the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha and the Pancadasi does not mention the name of Bharatitirtha at all. Hence, it is asked how both Madhava and Vidyaranya can be identical.

Further, it is observed, throughout the works of Madhava, King Bukka I is referred to as the patron, while the inscriptions of Vidyaranya are all of the reign of Harihara II (1377-1404). It is also contended that none of the inscriptions relating to Vidyaranya shows any connection between him and the building of the capital city of the Vijayanagara empire, and that in those inscriptions the capital is called Vijayanagara and not Vidyanagara." Even supposing that Vidyanagara was another name of the same city, it is said, the ascetic connected with the name and foundation of the empire, if any, should have been Vidyatirtha, the preceptor of Madhava, and not Vidyaranya. Since Madhava as well as his father were family ministers and teachers of the dynasty of Sangama, and since Madhava’s teacher was Vidyatirtha, the Pontiff of the Kanci Kamakoti Matha, it is likely that, when Sangama's son founded a new empire with Madhava as the chief minister, the latter sent for his teacher from which time Vidyatirtha must have taken his seat at Srngeri. From these and other considerations it is sought to be proved that the identity-theory is an invention of later admirers of Vidyaranya, who were anxious to make him the author of as many works as possible.

From the evidence we have on hand it cannot be conclusively proved that Madhava and Vidyaranya were identical. But the identity-theory seems tobe more probable than the opposite theory. From two copper-plate grants both dated 1336 A.D. we gather that Harihara I went out hunting in the forest on the southern bank of the Tungabhadra, where he saw a hound and a hare together inspite of their natural enmity, that he narrated this incident to Vidyaranya who was practising asceticism in the temple of Virupaksa and who advised Harihara to found a city on the spot called Vidyanagara, and that Harihara accordingly built the city from which he began to rule his kingdom. To question the authenticity of these grants on the grounds that the formation of the letters is modem and that the incident which they record, viz., a, hound and a hare being on good terms, is legendary, is not sound. '"It is not impossible that Harihara I should have built a capital for himself on the advice of Vidyaranya; nor is it unlikely that the city of Vidyanagara or Vijayanagara should have been built about 1336." The evidence of the copper-plate grants is corroborated by a few inscriptions of the Tuluva period which declare that the city of Vidyanagara was built by King Harihara I and named Vidyanagara in the name of Vidyaranya Sripada. Two inscriptions dated respectively 1538 and 1559 A.D. state that Harihara Raya built Vidyanagara in the name of Vidyaranya.

These evidences go to prove that Vidyaranya was connected with the founding of the Vijayanagara empire, that Vijayanagara had another name Vidyanagara almost from the very beginning, that the assertion that the inscriptions referring to Vidyaranya are all of the reign of Harihara II is groundless, and that it is needless to connect the name Vidyanagara with Vidyatirtha. "If the name Vidyanagara was really derived from Vidyaranya as the Tuluva inscriptions would have us believe, it cannot be denied that he had some share direct or indirect in building the city." It is evident from the inscriptions that Vidyaranya's counsel was sought by all the early kings of the Vijayanagara empire. Of Harihara II it is said, "By the grace of Vidyaranyamuni, he acquired the empire of knowledge unattainable by other kings." We learn that when Vidyaranya paid a visit to Varanasi where he stayed for some time (about 1356A.D.), Bukka I desired that Vidyaranya should return to Vijayanagara. He was not sure that his request would be complied with. So he secured a srimukha from the senior Sripada of Srngeri commanding Vidyaranya to return to Vijayanagara and despatched it to Vidyaranya together with his own request. It is said that Vidyaranya came back 'as he had great respect for his guru ', That Vidyaranya was famous during the time of the early kings of Vijayanagara for his wisdom and piety and that it is possible that the kings did seek his advice are evident from an inscription of Harihara II in which we find the following passage: "May the wonderful glances of Vidyaranya which resemble showers of camphor dust, garlands of kalhara flower, rays of the moon, sandal paste, and waves of milk-ocean, and which shower the nectar of compassion, bring you happiness. Can he be Brahms? We do not see four faces. Can he be Visnu? He has not got four arms. Can he be Siva? No oddness of the eye is observed. Having thus argued for a long time, the learned have come to the conclusion that Vidyaranya is the supreme light incarnate."

The considerations we have set forth above point to the greater probability of the identity-theory being true. Though the contention that Vidyaranya was not Madhavacarya and that he had nothing to do with the Vijayanagara empire is unconvincing, the distinction which the opponents of the identity-theory make between the author of such works as the Parasara-madhaviya, etc., and the author of the Pancadasi and the Vivarana-prameya- sangraha, etc., seems to be true. There appears to he a confusion between Vidyaranya and Bharatitirtha. It is possible for the reason we shall give below that both Madhava and Bharatitirtha had the surname Vidyaranya. It was said by the opponents of the identity-theory that works of Madhava, while referring to Bharatitirtha, do not make mention of Vidyaranya. That may be because, while Bharatitirtha was the preceptor of Madhava, the word Vidyaranya was the surname of the author. It was shown that the Pancadasi and the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha do not mention the name of Bharatitirtha and that therefore these are the works of Vidyaranya and not of Madhava, While it may be conceded that they are not the works of Madhava, it is probable that the name of Bharatitirtha is not mentioned in them by the author, not because Bharatitirtha was not the preceptor of the author of these works, but because Bharatitirtha himself was their author. The colophon to one of the manuscripts available in the Tanjore Palace Library makes use of the name Bharatitirtha- Vidyaranya. This shows' the possibility that Bharatitirtha also might have had the surname Vidyaranya.

Appayya Diksita in his Siddhantalesa attributes the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha to Bharatitirtha. He calls the work Vivaranopanyasa. That the Vivarana-prameya-sangraha had also the other name Vivaranopanyasa is borne out by the fact that the colophon at the end of the first varnaka names the work as Vivaranopanyasa. Appayya Diksita attributes several chapters of the 'Paincadasi' to Bharatitirtha while he makes no mention of Vidyaranya (i.e. Madhava).

That Ramakrsna Pandita at the beginning of his commentary on the Trpti-dipa mentions Bharatitirtha as the author is no ground for stating that the earlier chapters are the work of Madhava- Vidyaranya. The mention of Bharatitirtha in the Trpti-dipa may indicate his authorship not of that chapter alone, nor of that and the succeeding chapters alone but of the whole book. Ramakrsna Pandita no doubt pays obeisance to both Vidyaranya and Bharatitirtha. But this would at best prove that Ramakrsna was probably the disciple of both and not that the Pancadasi was the work of both. Niscaladasas’ evidence, according to which the first ten chapters are the work of Madhava- Vidyaranya and the other five that of Bharatitirtha, cannot be relied upon; for Appayya who lived very much earlier than Niscaladasa must have known better about the authorship of the Pancadasi than the latter. The Drg-drsya-viveka is also attributed by Appaya to Bharatitirtha- Vidyaranya. Since Brahmananda Bharati, one of the commentators, also acknowledges Bharatitirtha as the author of the Drg-drsta-viveka, we are led to think that the evidence of Appayya to correct. One other work which is ascribed to Bharatitirtha is the Vaiydsi- kanyaya-mala which serves as a good guide to the study of Sankara's Sutrabhasya.

From the evidence afforded by the Siddhantalesa of Appayya Diksita which is supported by other evidences we have set forth above, we are led to the conclusion that Bharatitirtha was the author of the three works and that the name Vidyaranya was an appellation which was common to both Madhava and Bharatitirtha. It is possible that either was referred to sometimes by one name and sometimes by the other and that therefrom resulted the confusion.

Bharatitirtha- Vidyaranya was the senior contemporary of Madhava- Vidyaranya. One of the inscriptions dated 1386 A.D. records thus: 'The swan Bukka sports happily near the lotus Bharatitirtha which, having sprung from Vidyatirtha possesses the fragrance of joy from a knowledge of non-dualism and expands by the rays of the sun of Vidyaranya.' From this passage we understand that Vidyatirtha was Bharatitirtha's preceptor and that Bharatitirtha was Madhava- Vidyaranya's preceptor. Both Bharatitirtha and Madhava seem to have been eminent Advaitins; and both of them were connected with the early kings of Vijayanagara. In a copy of a copper plate inscription found in a kadita in the Srngeri Matha dated 1380 Vidyaranya's (Madhava's) feats are stated to be more wonderful than those of Brahma, seeing that he can make the eloquent dumb and the dumb the most eloquent, and Bharatitirtha is described as the refuter of the doctrines of Bhatta (Kumarila), Buddha, Jina, Guru (Prabhakara), the Logicians and the Carvakas, and the establisher of the Advaita doctrine. Another inscription dated 1386 states that "the impressive and dignified discourses delivered by Bharatitirtha when expounding various works treating of obscure subjects resemble the uninterrupted flow of the Ganges from the slopes of the Himalayas.” Beyond the facts we have given above nothing is known about the details of Bharatitirtha’s life. He lived in the fourteenth century A.D.; he was the predecessor of Madhava-Vidyaranya in occupying the pontifical seat of the srngeri Matha. He was famous for his exposition of Advaita, and was revered by the early kings of Vijayanagara. While the passages from the inscriptions which we have quoted refer to the prowess and occult powers of Madhava-Vidyaranya, they speak of Bharatitirtha as a great scholar and exponent of Advaita.




  Foreword (v)
  Preface (vii)
  Abbreviation (xi)
  Introduction 1-7
Chapter- One The Ways of knowing 8-55
Chapter-Two Truth and Error 56-94
Chapter-Three Reality as Existence 95-111
Chapter-Four Reality as Intelligence 112-133
Chapter-Five Reality as Bliss 134-151
Chapter-Six TheWitness-Self 152-164
Chapter-Seven Isvara and Jiva 165-195
Chapter-Eight Maya 196-219
Chapter-Nine The Path to Perfection 220-236
Chapter-Ten Release 267-246
  Index 247

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