A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1932 | 241,887 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of shankara and his school: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the seventh part in the series called the “the shankara school of vedanta (continued)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

It is difficult to say exactly how many books were written by Śaṅkara himself. There is little doubt that quite a number of books attributed to Śaṅkara were not written by him. I give here a list of those books that seem to me to be his genuine works, though it is extremely difficult to be absolutely certain. I have chosen only those works which have been commented on by other writers, since this shows that these have the strength of tradition behind them to support their authenticity.

The most important works of Śaṅkara are his commentaries on the ten Upaniṣads,

  1. Iśā,
  2. Kena,
  3. Katha,
  4. Praśna,
  5. Muṇḍaka,
  6. Māṇḍūkya,
  7. Aitareya,
  8. Taittirīya,
  9. Chāndogya
  10. and Bṛhad-āraṇyaka and the Śārīraka-mīmāṃsā-bhāṣya.

The main reasons why a number of works which probably were not written by him were attributed to him seem to be twofold; first, because there was another writer of the same name, i.e. Śaṅkarācārya, and second, the tendency of Indian writers to increase the dignity of later works by attributing them to great writers of the past. The attribution of all the Purāṇas to Vyāsa illustrates this very clearly.

Śaṅkara’s Īśopaniṣad-bhāṣya has one commentary by Ānandajñāna and another, Dīpikā, by the other Śaṅkara Ācārya.

His Kenopaniṣad-bhōṣya has two commentaries, Kenopaniṣad-bhāṣya-vivaraṇa and a commentary by Ānandajñāna.

The Kāthakopaniṣad-bhāṣya has two commentaries, by Ānandajñāna and by Bālagopāla Yogīndra.

The Praśnopaniṣad-bhāṣya has two commentaries, by Ānandajñāna and Nārāyaṇendra Sarasvatī.

The Mimḍakopaniṣad-bhāṣya has two commentaries, by Ānandajñāna and Abhinavanārāyaṇendra Sarasvatī.

The Māṇḍūkyopaniṣad-bhāṣya has two commentaries, by Ānandajñāna and Mathurānātha Śukla, and a summary, called Māṇḍūkyopaniṣad-bhāṣyārtha-saṃgraha, by Rāghavānanda.

The Aitareyopaniṣad-bhāṣya has six commentaries, by Ānandajñāna, Abhinavanārāyaṇa, Nṛsiṃha Ācārya, Bālakṛṣṇadāsa, Jñānāmrta Yati, and Viśveśvara Tīrtha.

The Taittirīyopaniṣad-bhāṣya seems to have only one commentary on it, by Ānandajñāna.

The Chāndogyopaniṣad has two commentaries, called Bhāṣya-tippana , and a commentary by Ānandajñāna.

The Bṛhad-āraṇyakopaniṣad-bhāṣya has a commentary by Ānandajñāna and a big independent work on it by Sureśvara, called Bṛhad-āraṇyakopaniṣad-bhāṣya-vārttika, or simply Vārttika, which has also a number of commentaries; these have been noticed in the section on Sureśvara.

His Aparokṣānubhava has four commentaries, by Śaṅkara Ācārya, by Bālagopāla, by Caṇḍeśvara Varman (Anubhava-dīpikā), and by Vidyāraṇya.

His commentary on Gaudapāda’s Māṇḍūkya-kārikā, called Gauḍapādiya-bhāṣya or Āgama-śāstra-vivaraṇa, has two commentaries, one by Śuddhānanda and one by Ānandajñāna.

His Ātma-jñānopadeśa has two commentaries, by Ānandajñāna and by Pūrṇānanda Tīrtha;

the Eka-śloka has a commentary called Tattva-dīpana, by Svayamprakāśa Yati; no commentary however is attributed to the Viveka-cūdāmaṇi, which seems to be genuinely attributed to Śaṅkara;

the Ātma-bodha has at least five commentaries, by Advayānanda, Bhāsurānanda, Bodhendra (Bhāva-prakāśika), Madhusūdana Sarasvatī and RāmānandaTīrtha;

The Ātmānātma-viveka has at least four commentaries, by Padmapāda, Pūrṇānanda Tīrtha, Sāyaṇa and Svayamprakāśa Yati.

The Ātmopadeśa-vidhi is said to have a commentary by Ananda-jñāna;

the Ānanda-laharī has about twenty-four commentaries, by Appaya Dīkṣita, Kavirāja, Kṛṣṇa Ācārya (Mañju-bhāṣiṇī), Keśava-bhaṭṭa, Kaivalyāśrama (Saubhāgya-vardhinī), Gaṅgāharī (Tattva-dīpikā), Gaṅgādhara, Gopīrāma, Gopīkānta Sārvabhauma (Ānandalaharī-tarī), Jagadīśa?, Jagannātha Paṅcānana, Narasimha, Brahmānanda (Bhāvārtha-dīpikā), Malla bhaṭṭa, Mahādeva Vidyāvagīśa, Mahādeva Vaidya, Rāmacandra, Rāmabhadra, Ramānanda Tīrtha, Lakṣmīdhara Deśika and Viśvambhara and Śrīkaṇtha bhaṭṭa and another called Vidvan-manoramā.

The Upadeśa-sāhasrī has at least four commentaries, by Ānandajñāna, by Rāmā Tīrtha (Padayojanikā), Bodha-vidhi by a pupil of Vidyādhāman, and by Śaṅkarā-cārya.

His Cid-ānanda-stava-rāja, called also Cid-ānanda-daśaślokī or simply Daśa-ślokī, has also a number of commentaries and subcommentaries, such as the Siddhānta-tattva-bindu by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī;

Madhusūdana’s commentary was commented on by a number of persons, such as Nārāyaṇa Yati (Laghu-tikā), Puruṣottama Sarasvatī (Siddhānta-bindu-sandīpana), Pūrṇānanda Sarasvatī (Tattva-viveka), Gauda Brahmānanda Sarasvatī (Sid-dhānta-bindu-nyāya-ratnāvalī), by Saccidānanda and Śivalāla Śar-man.

Gauda Brahmānanda’s commentary, Siddhānta-bindu-nyāya-ratnāvalī, was further commented on by Kṛṣṇakānta (Siddhānta-nyāya-ratna-pradīpikā).

Śaṅkara’s Dṛg-dṛśya-prakaraṇa was commented on by Rāmacandra Tīrtha;

his Pañākaraṇa-prakriyā has again a number of commentaries—that by Sureśvara is Pañcī-karaṇa-vārttika, and this has a further commentary, called Pañcī-karaṇa-vārttikābharaṇa, by Abhinavanārāyaṇendra Sarasvatī, pupil of Jñānendra Sarasvatī.

Other commentaries on the Pañākaraṇa-prakriyā are Pañcīkaraṇa-bhāva-prakāśikā, Pañcīkaraṇa-ṭīkā-tattva-candrikā, Pañcīkaraṇa-tātparya-candrikā and Pañcīkaraṇa-vivaraṇa by Ānandajñāna, Pañcīkaraṇa-vivarana by Svayamprakāśa Yati and by Prajñānānanda, and a sub-commentary called Tattva-candrikā.

Śaṅkara also commented on the Bhagavad-gītā; this commentary has been examined in the chapter on the Bhagavad-gītā in the present volume.

His Laghu-vākya-vṛtti has a commentary called Puṣpāñjali, and another, called Laghu-vākya-vṛtti-prakāśikā, by Rāmānanda Sarasvatī; his Vākya-vṛtti has a commentary by Ānandajñāna, and another commentary, called Vākya-vṛtti-prakāśikā, by Viśveśvara Paṇḍita.

He starts his Vākya-vṛtti in the same manner as Īśvarakṛṣṇa starts his Sāṃkhya-kārikā, namely by stating that, suffering from the threefold sorrows of life, the pupil approaches a good teacher for instruction regarding the ways in which he may be liberated from them. Sureśvara in his Naiṣkarmyasiddhi also starts in the same manner and thus gives a practical turn to the study of philosophy, a procedure which one does not find in his Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya. The answer, of course, is the same as that given in so many other places, that one is liberated only by the proper realization of the Upaniṣad texts that declare the unity of the self with Brahman.

He then goes on to show that all external things and all that is called mind or mental or psychical is extraneous to self, which is of the nature of pure consciousness; he also declares here that the effects of one’s deeds are disposed by God (Īśvara), the superior illusory form of Brahman, and not by the mysterious power of apūrva admitted by the Mīmāmsists. He concludes this short work of fifty-three verses by insisting on the fact that, though the unity texts (advaita-śruti) of the Upaniṣads, such as “that (Brahman) art thou,” may have a verbal construction that implies some kind of duality, yet their main force is in the direct and immediate apperception of the pure self without any intellectual process as implied by relations of identity.

The Vākya-vṛtti is thus conceived differently from the Aparokṣānubhūti , where yoga processes of posture and breath-regulations are described, as being helpful for the realization of the true nature of self. This may, of course, give rise to some doubts regarding the true authorship of the Aparokṣānubhūti, though it may be explained as being due to the different stages of the development of Śaṅkara’s own mind; divergences of attitude are also noticeable in his thoroughgoing idealism in his commentary on Gaudapāda’s Kārikā, where the waking life is regarded as being exactly the same as dream life, and external objects are deemed to have no existence whatsoever, being absolutely like dream-perceptions—as contrasted with his Śārīraka-mīmāṃsā-bhāṣya , where external objects are considered to have an indescribable existence, very different from dream-creations.

The Upadeśa-sāhasrī, which in its nineteen chapters contains only six hundred and seventy-five stanzas, is more in a line with the Vākya-vṛtti, and, though the well-known Vedānta topics are all slightly touched upon, greater emphasis is laid on the proper realization of the Vedāntic unity texts, such as “that art thou,” as means to the attainment of Brahmahood.

There are also a number of short poems and hymns attributed to Śaṅkarācārya, such as

  • the Advaitānubhūti,
  • Ātma-bodha,
  • Tattvopadeśa,
  • Prauḍhānubhūti, etc.,

some of which are undoubtedly his, while there are many others which may not be so; but in the absence of further evidence it is difficult to come to any decisive conclusion[1].

These hymns do not contain any additional philosophical materials, but are intended to stir up a religious fervour and emotion in favour of the monistic faith. In some cases, however, the commentators have found an excuse for extracting from them Vedāntic doctrines which cannot be said to follow directly from them.

As an illustration of this, it may be pointed out that out of the ten ślokas of Śaṅkara Madhusūdana made a big commentary, and Brahmānanda Sarasvatī wrote another big commentary on that of Madhusūdana and elaborated many of the complex doctrines of the Vedānta which have but little direct bearing upon the verses themselves. But Śaṅkara’s most important work is the Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya, which was commented on by Vācaspati Miśra in the ninth century,  Ānandajñāna in the thirteenth, and Govindānanda in the fourteenth century.

Commentaries on Vācaspati’s commentary will be noticed in the section on Vācaspati Miśra. Subrahmaṇya wrote a verse summary of Śaṅkara’s commentary which he calls Bhāṣyārtha-nyāya-mālā; and Bhāratī Tīrtha wrote also the Vaiyāsika-nyāya-mālā , in which he tried to deal with the general arguments of the Brahma-sūtra on the lines of Śaṅkara’s commentary.

Many other persons, such as Vaidyanātha Dīkṣita, Devarāma bhaṭṭa, etc., also wrote topical summaries of the main lines of the general arguments of the Brahma-sūtra on the lines of Śaṅkara’s commentary, called Nyāya-mālā or Adhikaraṇa-mālā. But many other persons were inspired by Śaṅkara’s commentary (or by the commentaries of Vācaspati Miśra and other great writers of the Śaṅkara school) and under the name of independent commentaries on the Brahma-sūtra merely repeated what was contained in these.

Thus Amalānanda wrote his Śāstra-darpaṇa imitating the main lines of Vācaspati’s commentary on Śaṅkara’s commentary; and Svayamprakāśa also wrote his Vedānta-naya-bhūṣaṇa , in which for the most part he summarized the views of Vācaspati’s Bhāmatī commentary.

Hari Dīkṣita wrote his Brahma-sūtra-vṛtti, Śaṅkarānanda his Brahma-sūtra-dīpikā and Brahmānanda his Vedānta-sūtra-muktā-valī as independent interpretations of the Brahma-sūtra, but these were all written mainly on the lines of Śaṅkara’s own commentary, supplementing it with additional Vedāntic ideas that had been developed after Śaṅkara by the philosophers of his school of thought or explaining Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya[2].

Footnotes and references:


The Ātma-bodha was commented upon by Padmapāda in his commentary Attna-bodha-vyākhyāna, called also Vedānta-sāra.


Some of these commentaries are:

  • Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣyārtha-saṃgraha by Brahmānanda Yati, pupil of Viśveśvarānanda,
  • Brahma-sūtrārtha-dīpikā by Venkata, son of Gaurī and Śiva,
  • Brahma-sūtra-vṛtti (called also Mitākṣarā) by Annam bhaṭṭa,
  • and Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya-vyākhyā (called also Vidyā-śrī) by Jñānottama Bhattāraka, pupil of Jñānaghana.

The peculiarity of this last work is that it is the only commentary on the eka-jīva-vāda line that the present writer could trace.

In addition to these some more commentaries may be mentioned, such as

  • Brahma-sūtra-vṛtti by Dharma bhaṭṭa, pupil of Rāmacandrārya and pupil’s pupil of Mukundāśrama,
  • Sūtra-bhāṣya-vyākhyāna (called also Brahma-vidyā-bharaṇa) by Advaitānanda, pupil of Rāmānanda and pupil’s pupil of Brahmānanda,
  • Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya-vyākḥyā (called also Nyāya-rakṣā-maṇi) by Appaya Dīkṣita,
  • Brahma-tattva-prakāśikā (which is different from an earlier treatise called Brahma-prakāśikā) by Sadāśivendra Sarasvatī,
  • Brahma-sūtro-panyāsa by Rāmeśvara Bhāratī, by a pupil of Rāmānanda,
  • Śārīraka-mīmāṃsā-sūtra-siddhānta-kaumudi by Subrahmanya Agnicin Makhīndra,
  • Vedānta-kaustu-bha by Sītārāma;

none of which seem to be earlier than the sixteenth century.

But Ananyānubhava, the teacher of Prakāśātman (a.d. 1200), seems to have written another commentary, called Sārīraka-nyāya-maṇimālā. Prakāśātman himself also wrote a metrical summary of the main contents of Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya called Sāriraka-mīmārnsā-nyāya-saṃgraha, and Kṛṣṇānubhūti, in much later times, wrote a similar metrical summary, called Sārīraka-mīmārnsā-saṃgraha.

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