Sankara, the eighth-century Indian philosopher, is generally regarded as the greatest thinker in the long history of Indian philosophy as well as in the metaphysical tradition known as Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta, the school or system founded by him, stress the Advaita or non-dualist approach to the problem of existence and ultimate reality, and has been the main current to thought in India for hundreds of years.
Most of Sankara's works are commentaries on other classics of Indian thought, like Upanisads, the Bhagavadgita, and the Brahmasutra. The Upadesasahasri, or "A Thousand Teachings," here critically edited and translated into English, is, however, the only independent and non-commentary work that can safely be attributed to him; the other independent writings traditionally ascribed to him are all probably spurious.
Here Sengaku Mayeda, the author, has provided scholars and general readers with a critical edition based on the study of 27 metrical and 11 prose manuscripts and with an exact and readable English translation based on his definitive edition of the work along with his extensive introduction to the work. With his clear and reliable translation and elaborate introduction to Sankara's life and thought, he has made this classic of Indian philosophy accessible to a wider readership.
About the Author
Sengaku Mayeda, Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania) and D. Litt. (University of Tokyo), is Professor Emeritus of the University of Tokyo, Executive Director of the Eastern institute founded by the Late Dr. Hajime Nakamura.
Among his English publications, there are Sankara's Upadesasahasri (1973), Critically Edited with Introduction and Indices and A Thousand Teachings: The Upadesasahasri of Sanskara (1979), Translated with Introduction and Notes; they are the original versions of the present publication for which he was conferred a Japan Academy Award in 1988. He also authored Vedanta Philosophy (1980), An Introduction to Indian Philosophy (2000), and other books and articles in Japanese. He edited Japanese Studies in Indian Philosophy (1989). The Way to Liberation: Indological Studies in Japan, vol.1 (2000), and A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy by Hajime Nakamura Part Two (2004).
Foreword of Vol.I
Of the multitude of works, long and short, attributed to the great Sankaracarya, the commentator on the Brahmasutra, only four are generally accepted as actually being by him. Of these four three are commentaries on older works, but the fourth stands as an independent product, not tied to any other work. This fourth work is the Upadesasahasri, which is Sankara's own exposition of his philosophy. This fact gives it great importance, which it fully deserves, as a valuable document in the history of Advaita.
Dr. Mayeda, as a student of Advaita, was acquainted with the Upadesasahasri before he entered upon his studies for his degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and since the text of the Upadesasahasri had never been critically edited, he asked that he be permitted to prepare an edition of it as his doctoral dissertation.
After receiving his doctorate Dr. Mayeda continued his studies in the field of Vedanta in India and Germany, wrote papers on various problems in the field of Vedanta, and checked his ideas on them and on the Upadesasahasri with distinguished Vedanta scholars in India, Japan and the West.
This present work by Dr. Mayeda gives to the world of scholars concerned with the history of India's philosophic thought, and especially to scholars working on the Vedanta, an authorship. His edition, I believe, will be of value not only to Indic scholars but also to those students of Indian philosophy who are not accomplished Sanskritists but have enough Sanskrit to compare translations with the text.
It is an honour which I prize and a pleasure which I cherish to present Dr. Mayeda's work to the world of Indic specialists and to the larger world of students of the history of philosophy.-W. Norman BrownUniversity of Pennsylvania
Foreword of Vol. I
Sankaracarya, considered by many scholars to be the greatest philosopher of India, has been discussed in various ways, East and West. But what is the most authentic and reliable text of Sankara's works upon which we can base our critical studies on his philosophy?
Dr. Sengaku Mayeda has proved with ample evidence and due justification that the Upadesasahasri is the very text through which we can approach the philosophy of this great teacher of India. He has collated twenty-seven manuscript preserved in various libraries of different countries and fourteen printed texts to prepare this critical edition, and by way of this careful and critical method he has translated the whole text into English, with detailed footnotes.
Dr. Sengaku Mayeda is a promising scholar of international caliber. Upon graduating from the University of Tokyo, he continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania under the guidance of Professor W. Norman Brown. Having acquired the Ph.D. degree there, he was then sent to Indian Studies in 1962-63., and studied with Professor V. Raghavan and Professor T.M.P. Mahadevan. He moved on to the University of Munster, Germany, to complete his studies on the Vedanta at the Institute of Indian Studies headed by Professor Paul Hacker, a Pioneer in critical and historical studies in this field. After one year's stay in Munster, he retuned to his Alma Mater in Philadelphia as an assistant professor. On completing his term in Philadelphia, he returned to his motherland to teach at Gakushuin college (formerly Peers' College), Kelo University and the University of Tokyo. His impressive record and his strict scholarly attitude reflect the wonderful outcome of his long endeavor.
It would not be too much to say that a genuinely critical and scholarly approach to the history of the Advaita school has been made feasible with this work of Dr. Mayeda, and excellent works in the past on the Advaita school should be brought to reappraisal and re-examination in this light.
Just recently, Dr. Mayeda has been appointed an associate professor of the University of Tokyo to teach Indian Philosophy as my successor. It is with great pleasure that I introduce at this time his noteworthy work to the international scholarly world.-Hajme NakamuraUniversity of Tokyo
Preface of Vol. I
Among many works traditionally ascribed to Sankara (ca. A.D. 700-750), the great exponent of the Advaita Vedanta, the Upadesasahasri, here edited, is one which is generally recognized as genuine.
The study of Sankara has mostly centered around his chief work, the Brahmasutrabhasya, and his commentaries on the Upanisads. In comparison with these works the Upadesasahasri is a minor one. It is, however, the only independent, non-commentary work that can safely be attributed to him. The other independent writings ascribed to him are all probably spurious. Furthermore, the Upadesasahasri occupies an important position in the history of the Advaita doctrine. It gave a speculative basis to the Naiskarmyasiddhi of Suresvara, one of Sankara's direct pupils. These two works and Sarvajnatman's Samksepasariraka have been called a trilogy, which provides us a unique means for judging the position of the Advaita doctrine at a very important stage of its development. Besides, in my opinion, there is no better introduction to Sankara's philosophy than the Upadesasahasri, especially its Prose Part.
At least 16 editions of the Upadesasahasri have so far been published in India. No critical edition is known to me. It seems to have been generally believed that the texts of Sankara's works have been preserved with so high a degree of fidelity that they need no critical edition. But my examination of 42 manuscripts and 14 printed editions of the Upadesasahasri has revealed not only considerable variation in their readings but also conspicuous differences in their transmission. It has also disclosed that all of the printed editions seem to be derived from a single source and all belong to one and the same stream of transmission. Here I present a text, which consists of the Matrical Part (Padyabandha) and the Prose Part (Gadyabandha) prepared from 27 and 11 selected manuscripts respectively. The text is accompanied by Introduction, Critical Apparatus, Index of Quotations and Index of Words. My annotated English translation and study of Sankara's philosophy therein are planned to constitute another volume.
It is a great pleasure for me to express my deepest gratitude to Dr. W. Norman Brown, Professor Emeritus of Sanskrit, and University of Pennsylvania, under whom I worked out my doctoral dissertation, the basis of the present edition of the Upadesasahasri. Without his introduction to the handling of manuscripts and his hearty consideration of me in every respect, my preparation of this work could not have been undertaken. He has been kind enough also to check my English.
I would like to acknowledge my sincerest appreciation of the warm guidance and encouragement that have graciously been given to me by Dr. Hajime Nakamura, Professor of Indian Philosophy, University of Tokyo, ever since I was introduced to Indian philosophy by him in 1952. He has also generously made all the arrangements necessary for the publication of this book.
Acknowledgements are due to other notable scholars, especially Professor Paul Hacker, University of Munster, who has been a constant source of inspiration and useful suggestions, and to Professor J.F. Staal, University of California at Berkeley, who rendered me friendly assistance as my academic adviser. I am also very grateful to Professor T.M.P. Mahadevan, University of Madras, with whom I was privileged to associate during my stay in Madras, and to Professor V. Raghavan, University of Madras, who was always ready to help me acquire manuscript of the Upadesasahasri.
I extend my hearty thanks to the American Institute of Indian Studies for the financial assistance (Faculty Research Fellowship 1962-63) which enabled me to study and collate many manuscripts of the Upadesasahasri in India. My profound gratitude is due to the Eastern Institute (Toho Kenkyo Kai, Tokyo) for its favorable offer to incorporate this work in its monograph series. I am deeply indebted to the following institutions which have generously given me access to their materials: the Adyar Library (Madras), the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Calcutta), the Bhandakar Oriental Research Institute (Poona), the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library (Madras), the India Office Library (London), and the Sarasvati Bhavana (Banaras). I also wish to thank the Journal of the American Oriental Society (New Haven) and the Journal of the Oriental Institute (Baroda) for permitting me to use the material. I had published in their pages.
There are, of course, many other teachers, scholars, and friends in America, India, Germany, and Japan to whom I owe much, directly and indirectly. Let me also express my thanks to them all.
Foreword of Vol. II
We are fortunate to have Sankara's A Thousand Teachings available in this excellent translation at an affordable price. No other Vedanta text is so accessible and so effective in introducing students to the central issues of Advaita Vedanta. Sankara (700-750) is generally regarded as one of India's greatest philosophical and religious thinkers, and A Thousand Teachings is the best introduction to his thought. Because of his critique of Mimamsa, Samkhya, Buddhism and other traditions, it is also an excellent introduction to the whole field of Indian philosophy. In my experience this text is without equal in successfully engaging students in thinking about the central issues that have shaped the on-going Advaita tradition and that have dominated the history of Indian philosophy.
In a Thousand Teachings, the only clearly authentic work of Sankara that is not in the form of a commentary, we find the central teachings of non-dualistic Vedanta set out in clear and direct language. Philosophers will be impressed by the careful conceptual analysis and vigorous argumentation Sankara employs to support his own views and to refute the competing views of others. In the second chapter of the prose part, the philosophical centerpiece of the text, the teacher keeps questioning the student, pushing him to analyze his claims and to examine the arguments supporting them. In doing so, the student repeatedly challenges the teacher's claims and arguments, creating a profound and subtly argued philosophical dialogue in the process.
Students of religious thought, on the other hand, will find this text an interesting example of how reason is used to support revelation, for Sankara acknowledges that despite the power of reason, ultimately it is Sruti (revelation) that is the source of truth. Furthermore, though reason can clarify truth and remove objections to it, its confirmation is not found in logic, but in experience, in the experience of meditative insight. This understanding of the relationship between revelation, reasoning, and meditation - typical of much Indian thought - underlies the organization of the text. Of the three chapters of the prose part, the first recalls the Sruti teachings concerning liberating knowledge, the second provides rational clarification and removes conceptual difficulties, and the third directs the seeker of knowledge to meditation.
In part I, in the nineteen chapters addressed to students as a kind of textbook of Vedanta, Sankara combines the authority of revelation (sruti) with philosophical reasoning to answer the main questions raised by a non-dualistic interpretation of reality. Each short chapter addresses a specific question, as illustrated here by a brief analysis of the first four chapters.
Chapter 1, "Pure Consciousness," takes up the question, why is knowledge alone capable of realizing final beatitude? Why not action? Sankara explains that since the Self is of nature of pure consciousness can be effective in removing the ignorance that stands in the way of blissful self-realization. Action, on the other hand, because it belongs to the body and therefore is not of the nature of pure consciousness, cannot be effective in removing this ignorance.
Chapter 2, "Negation," addresses the question, Why is the way of negation effective in realizing the Self? Here Sankara explains that what is of the nature of object can be negated, but what is of the nature of pure subject can never be negated. Therefore negation can serve as an effective way of discriminating the pure Self from the self identified as an object.
Chapter 3, "The Lord," continues the discussion of negation, addressing the question, If the way of negation is followed to its limit, wouldn't we arrive at mere nothingness, the nihilistic emptiness (sunyata) of the Buddhists? Sankara answers that negation removes only the qualities falsely imposed on the pure Self. What is negated in not Atman, but the characteristics of objects that are non-Atman, superimposed on Atman through ignorance. This is why negation arrives not at nihilistic emptiness but at Atman, the ultimately real.
Chapter 4, "I-Notion," asks, How can action, which is rooted in identification of Self with the agent, Produce its result when this identification has been removed by the knowledge that the true Self is not an agent? Sankara answers that actions undertaken as a result of ignorant identification with agency continue to produce their results, but when it is realized that Self is not agent then no new actions and results are produced. Agency and action result from mistaking the body for the Self. "A man who has knowledge of Atman, which negates the notion that body is Atman
. Is released even without wishing," says Sankara.
In Part Two, addresses to teachers, Sankara explains how the teacher should guide a student who is seeking liberation from the suffering of samsara. Chapter 2, the heart of this part of the text, is in the form of a dialogue which may well represent actual exchanges between Sankara and his students. The student displays a highly critical intelligence, refusing to accept the teacher's word when it runs counter to his own understanding. Time and again, the student objects to questionable distinctions, questions the appropriateness of examples, and challenges the teachers analyses and arguments. But these philosophical exchanges are not motivated by mere curiosity; they are important means of arriving at the truth that will deliver one from the bondage of suffering.
The dialogue begins with the student asking, "How can I be released from transmigratory existence?" Noting that he experiences suffering in both the waking and dreaming state, he asks about the cause of this suffering: "Is it indeed my own nature or due to some cause, my own nature being different?" The student is keenly aware that if suffering is an inherent feature of human existence no release is possible. He goes on to say, "If this my own nature, there is no hope for me to attain final release, since one cannot avoid one's own nature. If due to some cause, final release is possible after the cause has been removed."
When the teacher replies, "This is not your own nature but is due to a cause," the student asks, "What is the cause? And what will remove it? And what is my own nature?" Upon being told that the cause is ignorance, which can be removed by knowledge, the student asks, "What is that nescience? And what is its object? And what is knowledge
In the continuing dialogue the teacher explains the fundamental Vedic teaching presented in the Upanisads: One's innermost being, the Atman, is the ultimate reality, Brahman. The knowledge wherein this identity is realized removes the ignorance constituted by wrong identification with the body-mind and recovers the original perfection of the Self, releasing one from the sufferings of this samsaric existence.
Thus, in response to the student's questions the main concerns of Advaita Vedanta are addressed, namely: (1) how is release from suffering possible? (2) Is suffering inherent in human existence? (3) Or is it caused by something outside of one's own nature? (4) What is the nature of Self? (5) What is the cause of suffering? (6) If the cause is ignorance, how can it be removed? (7) What is ignorance? (8) How is ignorance related to knowledge? (9) How is it possible for the self, said to be of the nature of knowledge, to be ignorant? (10) If the ignorance which causes suffering does not belong to the Self, then can it cause the self to suffer/
To answer these questions the teacher must explain the difference between what is truly real and what only appears to be real and explain how what is merely appearance can be superimposed on what is ultimately real. In these explanations the unique response of Advaita Vedanta to the generic problem of how to attain release from suffering is fully laid out in this rich dialogue.
Let me turn now to Professor Sengaku Mayeda's translation of the text and his critical study of Sankara's life and thought. The translation is a model of accuracy that allows the force of the original to shine through. The notes following each chapter are helpful and to the point.
The introduction to the life and thought of Sankara by Professor Mayeda is a masterpiece that will be appreciated by students and teachers alike. Through a careful examination of A Thousand Teachings in the larger context of Sankara's other works and in relation to its place in the whole field of Indian philosophy, Professor Mayeda has given us an excellent introduction to Sankara, opening the door to a deep appreciation of his thought and to further study.
Sankara (700-750) has usually been regarded at the greatest philosopher of India since P. Deussen praised his philosophy and compared it with those of Parmenides and Kant. It has also been pointed out that, like Meister Eckhart, he was not so much a philosopher as a theologian. Sankara was indeed a metaphysician or theologian, but, like Gotama Buddha and other great religious teachers, he was primarily concerned with the salvation of people suffering in transmigratory existence here in this present world and not with the establishment of a complete system of philosophy or theology.
This book contains an annotated English translation of Sankara's Upadesasahasri or "A Thousand Teachings," accompanied by an Introductory Essay. The translation is based upon my edition of the text which has been published in a romanized version of the Sanskrit .
As already stated in the Preface there, it is not my purpose to point out yet again the importance of the Upadesasahasri in the history of the Advaita Vedanta, which has been the main current of thought in India for many centuries. But it is perhaps necessary to describe briefly the character of the Upadesasahasri.
The Upadesasahasri consists of two parts, one in verse and the other in prose. The verse or Metrical Part (Padyabandha) comprises nineteen chapters (prakarana). Manuscripts indicate that the two parts were regarded as independent works, as it were, and studied or commented upon separately. They also suggest the possibility that any single chapter could be selected, copied, and studied apart from the rest. This means that reading of the text may begin anywhere.
In the Metrical Part, perforce translated here into prose, three kinds of meter and used, but the prevailing one is anustubh, which consists of 8 syllables to a quarter. Chapter 8, 10, and 19 are entirely composed in the vamsastha meter with 12 syllables to a quarter. This meter is also used in verses 41-50 of Chapter 14, verse 54 of Chapter 15, and verses 68-74 of Chapter 16. The only use of the sragdhara meter, which has 21 syllables to a quarter, is found in verse 81 of Chapter 17.
In the Metrical Part, the author discusses and repeatedly explains many basic problems of Advaita or "non-dualism" from different points of view, sometimes in the form of a dialogue. He first denies the validity of all kinds of action caused by ignorance. At the same time he asserts that knowledge is the remover of ignorance which is the cause of transmigratory existence (samsara). He states that Atman (self) cannot be negated and explains the identity of Atman with the Lord. Again making clear the nature of actions, he points out the cause of delusion, sharply distinguishes Atman from the intellect and declares that, from the standpoint of the highest truth (paramatrha), I am the supreme Brahman, or absolute. The main topic is the great sentence "tat tvam asi" (Thou art That), to which the longest chapter, the eighteenth, consisting of 230 verses, is devoted. All these subjects are not systematically expounded. The entire exposition is pervaded by the author's firm faith in Atman. He passionately refutes the teachings of other philosophical schools - Lokayata, Buddhist, Jain, Samkhya, Vaisesika, and so forth. This vigor of his polemic is easily seen in verse I, 16, 65: "As contradict the scriptures and reasoning, they should never be respected. Their faults can be pointed out hundreds and thousands of times."
The Prose Part opens, in a simple style, with the declaration that the author will explain how to teach the means of final release for the benefit of the seekers after final release; the means is knowledge of the identity of Atman with Brahman. He describes the qualifications of pupil who is to receive an invitation to knowledge, and also the qualifications of a teacher: a pupil should be a seeker after final release while a teacher should already be released.
In the Vedanta school there are three stages in the attainment of final release: (a) hearing, (b) thinking, and (c) meditation. They appear to correspond to the first, second, and third chapters, respectively, of the Prose Part. In the first chapter the teacher expounds to a pupil the purport of the scriptures using numerous citations from both the revealed texts and the traditional text. In the second chapter the pupil reflects on the purport of the scriptures over and over again by means of his own reasoning and by discussing with the teacher such fundamental themes as nescience and superimposition. The third chapter describes the parisamkhyana meditation.
The Prose Part must have been written on the basis of Sankara's practical and pedagogical experiences. The question and answer exchanges between a teacher and his pupil in the Prose Part probably were based upon such interchanges between the author and his disciples. The prose part is a handy guide for teachers, while the Metrical Part is, as it were, a textbook for the pupils.
Four years have already passed since the publication of my edition of the text, though I have intended to publish the translation without delay. One of the reasons for this delay was the fact that there was nobody who could look over my English, which is not my mother tongue. Fortunately Mr. Trevor Leggett, who is not only a specialist in Japanese Buddhism and culture but also versed in Sankara's philosophy, kindly ready the manuscript of this translation and suggested changes in English expression. Without his warmhearted cooperation this translation could not have been completed. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to him.
Thanks are also due to Dr. Marie G. Wanek, my former student in Indian philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, who also helped me improve my English translation.
Publication subsidy of the University of Tokyo Press. I am grateful for the support of these organizations.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend