The Sarvadarsanasamgraha of Madhavacarya is an interesting specimen of author herein presents the synopsis of sixteen – Carvaka, Bauddha, Jaina, Ramanuja, Purnaprajna, Pasupata, Saiva, Pratyabhijna, Rasesvara, Vaisesika, Nyaya, Jaiminiya, Paniniya, Samkhya, Patanjala and Advaita – philosophical systems current in the fourteenth- century south India in their most important tenets and maintains the principal arguments by which their followers were endeavoured to maintain them. In course of his sketches of these systems, Madhavacarya frequently explains at length obscure details of these different systems.
Sarvadarsanamgraha presents all these Darsanas from the Vedantic point of view. These had attracted to their study the noblest minds in India throughout the medieval period of its history. There were numerous sects of Bauddha, Jaina and Hindu philosophical systems and we come across many of them in this book.
This present retypeset edition is quite reader-friendly as we have made a few changes to this edition as value-adds and by incorporating the present-day diacritics.
This English translation of Sarvadarsana-samgraha must evoke keen interest among scholars of philosophy, and researchers and students of philosophy across the globe.
Prof. E.B. Cowell (1826-1903) was the first professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge University. During 1856-67 he worked as professor of English History at Presidency College, Calcutta. Also, he was Principal, Sanskrit College from 1858 to 1864. While in Calcutta, he studied Hindustani, Bengali, and Sankrit with Indian scholars. He returned to England to become the first Professor of Sanskrit at Cambridge, a position he held until his death in 1903. He was also a Fellow of Corpus Christi College. He became an honorary member of the German Oriental Society (DMG) in 1895, was awarded the Royal Asiatic Society’s first Gold Medal in 1898, and in 1902 he became a founding member of the British Academy. Prof. Cowell translated many works from Sanskrit and Persian to English.
Prof. A.E. Gough, took his MA from Lincoln College, Cambridge and was Professor of Philosophy at Presidency College, Calcutta. He also served the Sanskrit College, Benares, as Professor of Anglo-Sankrit and later as its Principal. He was also the Principal of the Calcutta Madrasa. He translated many Sanskrit works into English and published a series of articles on the Philosophy of Upanishads and Ancient Indian Metaphysics in Calcutta Review.
Sanskrit is not only one of the most ancient and the richest languages, it is also one of the richest repositories of knowledge systems. These systems have grown though vigorous exchange of ideas and debates. For more than three millennia, Sanskrit functioned as a potential vehicle for carrying out subtle and meaningful between diverse traditions. The interactions between schools of thought through Sanskrit led to the enrichment and further stimulation of the thought processes and advancement of knowledge. In this process, the Sastric traditions would get rejuvenated and perception for future be evolved.
Various types of texts involving diverse genres were created for cultivation and advancement of these knowledge systems. They can be classified into two categories – the Prakarana-granthas or texts dealing with a particular system and Samgraha-granth, the texts presenting the essentials of various systems. While the Prakarana-granthas were required for the sustenance of a particular school of thought or philosophical system, the Samgraha-granthas revealed the holistic perspective and interrelationships of diverse disciplines.
The importance of the texts under the second category – the Samgraha-granthas – can never be overemphasized. It has always been a challenging task to prepare a Samgraha-grantha, considering the enormous mass of literature produced under different philosophical systems. An author of a Samgraha-grantha had not only to acquire mastery in these systems and the text related to each one of them, he himself ought to be a philosopher par excellence with capability to analyse the trajectories of various systems as well as to synthesize the traditions, giving them a new shape and order, even recognizing the unknown systems or reorganizing the existing ones. Saddardanamuccaya of Haribhadra and Sarvadarsanasamgraha of Madhavacarya are noteworthy examples of such attempts.
Haribhadra (approximately sixth-seventh century CE) enriched the Indian tradition of philosophical debates by his enormous contributions. He exhibits extraordinary sensitivity to understand the point of view of systems standing in opposition to each other. Even though he was a devout follower of Mahavira, he had authored a commentary on Nyayapravesakasutram of Dinnaga. Saddarsanasamuccaya by him is the first Samgraha-grantha of Bharatiya Darsanas – introducing the existing philosophical systems. Haribhadra presented a digest of six systems of philosophy in Saddarsanasamuccaya – three orthodox (astika darsanas) and three non-orthodox (nastika darsanas). His account of these darsanas is, however, somewhat sketchy and he has devoted more attention to the refutation of the Vijnanavada than presenting the tenets of other systems.
Sarvadarsanasamgraha of Madhavacarya (fourteenth century CE) is definitely the most comprehensive authentic samgraha text of Indian philosophies. Madhavacarya formulated his own perspective and methodology of discourse. He presents the systems in ascending order of their acceptability in his own view. The very order of chapters in Sarvadarsanasamgraha gives a perspective to the understanding of the sixteen systems discussed by him, viz. – Carvaka, Bauddha, Arhata, Ramanuja, Purnaprajana, Nakulisa, Saiva ,Pratyabhijna, Rasesvara, Vaisesika, Nyaya, Mimamsa, Panini, Samkhya, Yoga and Sankara Darsana. The least acceptable ones are treated in the beginning and the systems like Patanjala Yoga and Sankara Vedanta are discussed in the last chapters to suggest that they are the most perfect ones. Madhavacarya takes up the main contention of each systems, then refutation of the other systems according to it, and then the arguments that have been advanced therein in consideration to the possible doubts and objects that may be raised by other systems.
On the basis of their order of presentation by Madhavacarya, the philosophical systems, referred to as matas or siddhantas and later on as darsanas can be grouped into two categories – the realist and idealist. A more rational grouping of various darsanas can be made at micro-level on the basis of Sarvadarsanasamgraha. Accordingly, darsanas are divided into two groups – the nastikas and the astikas. The former are of two types – Adhyaksikas (those who uphold perception as the only means of knowledge) and Tarkikas (rationalists). The astika philosophers are also of two Kinds – the Sagunatmavadins and the Nirgunatmavadins. The Sagunatmavadins are of two types – Tarkikas (rationalists) and Srautas (those who hold the authority of Sruti or scriptures alone). The Tarkikas are again of two types – Spastatarkikas (direct rationalists) and Pracchannatarkikas (indirect rationalists).
The very title of this work implies that Madhava intended to take stock of all the systems of philosophy as developed till his times. He not only brought the number of systems to sixteen, he visualized the channels of their growth in historical perspective. With his brilliant mind, he not only presented the essentials of each system in a nutshell, he was also able to reveal the tenets the tenets of the system with clarity and insight. For example, his account of Vaisesika philosophy not only sums up the methodology and the objectives of the systems, it also bring out its distinguishing feature from the Nyaya system. The Vaisesika remains unshaken in his understanding of the twofold consciousness – Madhava saya, and here lies his visesa (specialty).
I well remember the interest excited among the learned Hindus of Calcutta by the publication of the Sarvadarsanasamgraha of Madhavaccarya in the Bibliotheca Indica in 1858. It was originally edited by Pandit Isvaracandra Vidyasagara, but a subsequent edition, with no important alterations, was published in 1872 by Pandit Taranath Tarkavacaspati. The work had been used by Wilson in his “Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus” (first pulished in the Asiatic Researches, vol. XVI, Calcutta, 1828); but it does not appear to have been ever much known in India. MS. Copies of it are very scarce; and those found in the noeth of India, as far as I have had an opportunity of examining them, seem to be all derived from one copy, brought originally from the south, and therefore written in the Telugu character. Certain mistakes are found in all alike, and probably arose from some illegible readings in the old Telugu original. I have noticed the same thing in the Nagari copies of Madhavas commentary on the Black Yajurveda, which are current in the north of India.
As I was at that time the Oriental Secretary of the Bengal Asiatic Society, I was naturally attracted to the book; and I subsequently read it with my friend Pandit Mahesacandra Nyayaratna, the present Prinsipal of the Sanskrit College at Calcutta. I always hoped to translate it into English; but I was continually prevented by other engagements while I remained in India. Soon after my return to England, I tried to carry out my intention; but I found that several chapters, to which I had not paid the same attention as to the rest, were too difficult to be translated in England, where I could no longer enjoy the advantage of reference to my old friends the pundits of the Sanskrit College. In despair I laid my translation aside for years, until I happened to learn that my friend, A.E. Gough, at that time professor in the Sanskrit College at Benares, was thinking of translating the book. I at once proposed to him that we should do it together, and he Kindly consented to my proposal; and we accordingly each undertook certain chapters of the work. He had the advantage of the help of some of the pandit of Benares, especially of Pandit Rama Misra, the Assistant Professor of Samkhya, who was himself a Ramanuja; and I trust that, though we have doubtless left some things unexplained or explained wrongly, we may have been able throw light on many of the dark sayings with which the original abounds. Our translations were originally published at intervals in the Benares pandit between 1874 and 1878; but they have been carefully revised for their present republication.
The work itself is an interesting specimen of Hindu critical ability. The author successively passes in review the sixteen philosophical systems current in the fourteenth century in the south of India, and gives what appeared to him to be their most important tenets, and the principal arguments by which their followers endeavoured to maintain them; and he often displays some quaint humour as he throws himself for the time into the position of their advocate, and holds, as it were, a temporary brief in behalf of opinions entirely at variance with his own. We may sometimes differ from him in his judgement of the relative importance of their doctrines, but it is always interesting to see the point of view of an acute native critic. In the course of his sketches he frequently explains at some length obscure details in the different systems; and I can hardly imagine a better guide for the European reader who wishes to study any one of these Darsanas in its native authorities. In one or two cases (as notably in the Bauddha, and perhaps in the Jaina system) he could only draw his materials second-hand controversialist; but in the great majority he quotes directly the woks from the works of their founders or leading exponents, and he is continually following in their track even where he does not quote their exact words.
The systems are arranged from the Vadanta point of view, - our author baving been elected, in CE 1331, the head of the Samarta order in the Matha of Srnageri in the Mysore territory, founded by Sankaracarya, the great Vedantist teacher of the eighth century, through whose efforts the Vedanta became what it is present – the acknowledged view of Hindu orthodoxy. The systems form a gradually ascending scale – the first, the Carvaka and Bauddha, being the lowest as the furthest removed from the Vedanta, and the last, the Samkhya and Yoga, being the highest as approaching most nearly to it.
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