A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

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

Part 8 - Maṇḍana, Sureśvara and Viśvarūpa

General tradition has always identified Maṇḍana with Sureśvara and Viśvarūpa; and Col. G. A. Jacob in his introduction to the second edition of the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi seems willing to believe this tradition. The tradition probably started from Vidyāraṇya’s Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya , where Maṇḍana is spoken of as being named not only Umbeka, but also Viśvarūpa (viii. 63). He further says in x. 4 of the same work that, when Maṇḍana became a follower of Śaṅkara, he received from him the name Sureśvara. But the Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya is a mythical biography, and it is certainly very risky to believe any of its statements, unless corroborated by other reliable evidences.

There is little doubt that Sureśvara was the author of a Vārttika , or commentary in verse, on Śaṅkara’s Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad (which was also summarized by Vidyāraṇya in a work called Vārttika-sāra, which latter was further commented on by Maheśvara Tīrtha in his commentary, called the Laghu-saṃgraha).

The Vārttika of Sureśvara was commented on by at least two commentators, Anandagiri in his Śāstra-prakāśikā and Anandapūrṇa in his Nyāya-kalpa-latikā.

In a commentary on the Parāśara-smṛti published in the Bib. Ind. series (p. 51) a quotation from this Vārttika is attributed to Viśvarūpa; but this commentary is a late work, and in all probability it relied on Vidyāraṇya’s testimony that Viśvarūpa and Sureśvara were identically the same person.

Vidyāraṇya also, in his Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha p. 92, quotes a passage from Sureśvara’s Vārttika (iv. 8), attributing it to Viśvarūpa. But in another passage of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha (p. 224) he refers to a Vedānta doctrine, attributing it to the author of the Brahma-siddhi. But the work has not yet been published, and its manuscripts are very scarce: the present writer had the good fortune to obtain one. A fairly detailed examination of the philosophy of this work will be given in a separate section.

The Brahma-siddhi is an important work, and it was commented on by Vācaspati in his Tattva-samīkṣā, by Anandapūrṇa in his Brahma-siddhi-vyākhyā-ratna, by Śaṅkhapāṇi in his Brahma-siddhi-ṭīkā, and by Citsukha in his Abhiprāya-prakāśikā. But only the latter two works are available in manuscripts. Many important works however refer to the Brahma-siddhi and its views generally as coming from the author of Brahma-siddhi (Brahma-siddhi-kāra). But in none of these references, so far as it is known to the present writer, has the author of Brahma-siddhi been referred to as Sureśvara.

The Brahma-siddhi was written in verse and prose, since two quotations from it in Citsukha’s Tattva-pradīpikā (p. 381, Nirṇaya-Sāgara Press) and Nyōya-kaṇikā (p. 80) are in verse, while there are other references, such as Tattva-pradīpikā (p. 140) and elsewhere, which are in prose. There is, however, little doubt that the Brahma-siddhi was written by Maṇḍana or Maṇḍana Miśra; for both Śrīdhara in his Nyāyakandalī (p. 218) and Citsukha in his Tattva-pradīpikā (p. 140) refer to Maṇḍana as the author of the Brahma-siddhi.

Of these the evidence of Śrīdhara, who belonged to the middle of the tenth century, ought to be considered very reliable, as he lived within a hundred years of the death of Maṇḍana; w'hoever Maṇḍana may have been, since he lived after Śaṅkara (a.d. 820), he could not have flourished very much earlier than the middle of the ninth century. It is, therefore, definitely known that the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi and the Vārttika were written by Sureśvara, and the Brahmasiddhi by Maṇḍana. The question regarding the identity of these two persons may be settled, if the views or opinions of the Brahmasiddhi can be compared or contrasted with the views of the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi or the Vārttika. From the few quotations that can be traced in the writings of the various writers who refer to it it is possible to come to some fairly decisive conclusions[1].

Of all passages the most important is that quoted from the Brahma-siddhi in the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha (p. 224). It is said there that according to the author of the Brahma-siddhi it is the individual persons (jīvāḥ, in the plural) who by their own individual ignorance (svāvidyayā) create for themselves on the changeless Brahman the false world-appearance. Neither in itself, nor with the māyā , or as reflection in māyā , is Brahman the cause of the world (Brahma na jagat-kāraṇam). The appearances then are but creations of individual ignorance, and individual false experiences of the world have therefore no objective basis.

The agreement of individual experiences is due to similarity of illusions in different persons who are suffering under the delusive effects of the same kinds of ignorance; this may thus be compared with the delusive experience of two moons by a number of persons. Not all persons experience the same world; their delusive experiences are similar, but the objective basis of their experience is not the same (saṃvādas tu bahu-puruṣāvagata-dvitīya-candravat sādṛśyād upapadyate).

If this account is correct, as may well be supposed, then Maṇḍana Miśra may be regarded as the originator of the Vedāntic doctrine of dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda, which was in later times so forcefully formulated by Prakāśānanda. Again, in Prakāśātman’s Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa (p. 32), it is held that according to the author of the Brahmasiddhi both māyā and avidyā are nothing but false experiences (avidyā māyā mithyā-pratyaya iti).

About the function of knowledge as removing doubts he is said to hold the view (as reported in the Nyāya-kandalī, p. 218) that doubt regarding the validity of what is known is removed by knowledge itself. In the Nyāya-kaṇikā (p. 80) it is said that Maṇḍana held that reality manifests itself in unlimited conceptions of unity or universality, whereas differences appear only as a result of limited experience. Again, in the Laghu-candrikā (p. 112, Kumbakonam edition) Maṇḍana is introduced in the course of a discussion regarding the nature of the dispersion of ignorance and its relation to Brahma-knowledge or Brahmahood.

According to Śaṅkara, as interpreted by many of his followers, including Sureśvara, the dissolution of ignorance (avidyā-nivṛtti) is not a negation, since negation as a separate category has no existence. So dissolution of ignorance means only Brahman. But according to Maṇḍana there is no harm in admitting the existence of such a negation as the cessation of ignorance; for the monism of Brahman means that there is only one positive entity. It has no reference to negations, i.e. the negation of duality only means the negation of all positive entities other than Brahman (bhāvādvaita).

The existence of such a negation as the cessation of ignorance does not hurt the monistic creed. Again, Sarvajñātma Muni in his Saṃkṣepa-śārīraka (11.174) says that ignorance (avidyā) is supported (āśraya) in pure consciousness (cin-mātrāśrita-viṣayam ajñānam), and that, even where from the context of Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya it may appear as if he was speaking of the individual person (jīva) as being the support of ajñāna , it has to be interpreted in this sense.

Objections of Maṇḍana, therefore, to such a view, viz. that ignorance rests with the individuals, are not to be given any consideration; for Maṇḍana’s views lead to quite different conclusions (parihṛtya Maṇḍana-vācaḥ tad dhy anyathāprasthitam)[2]. The commentator of the Saṃkṣepa-śārīraka , Rāmatīrtha Svāmin, also, in commenting on the passage referred to, contrasts the above view of Maṇḍana with that of Sureśvara, who according to him is referred to by an adjective bahu-śruta in the Saṃkṣepa-śārīraka text, and who is reported to have been in agreement with the views of Sarvajñātma Muni, as against the views of Maṇḍana.

Now many of these views which have been attributed to Maṇḍana are not shared by Sureśvara, as will appear from what will be said below concerning him. It does not therefore appear that Maṇḍana Miśra and Sureśvara were the same person. But, if Vidyāraṇya, who knows so much about the views of Maṇḍana, had identified them in the Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya, that might lead one to pause. Now Mr Hiriyanna seems to have removed this difficulty for us by his short note in J.R.A.S. 1924, where he points out that Vidyāraṇya in his Vārttika-sāra refers to the author of the Brahma-siddhi as a different authority from the author of the Vārttika, viz. Sureśvara.

Now, if Vidyāraṇya, the author of the Vārttika-sāra, knew that Maṇḍana, the author of the Brahma-siddhi, was not the same person as Sureśvara, he could not have identified them in his Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya. This naturally leads one to suspect that the Vidyāraṇya who was the author of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha and the Vārttika-sāra was not the same Vidyāraṇya as the author of Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya. Another consideration also leads one to think that Vidyāraṇya (the author of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha) could not have written the Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya.

Ānandātman had two disciples, Anubhavānanda and Śaṅkarānanda. Anubhavānanda had as his disciple Amalānanda, and Śaṅkarānanda had Vidyāraṇya as his disciple. So Amalānanda may be taken as a contemporary of Vidyāraṇya. Now Amalānanda had another teacher in Sukhaprakāśa, who had Citsukha as his teacher. Thus Citsukha may be taken to be a contemporary of the grand teacher (parama-guru), Ānandātman, of Vidyāraṇya. If this was the case, he could not have written in his Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya (xiii. 5) that Citsukha, who lived several centuries after Padmapāda, was a disciple of Padmapāda. It may therefore be safely asserted that the author of the Śaṅkara-dig-vijaya was not the author of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha.

Now, if this is so, our reliance on the author of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha cannot be considered to be risky and unsafe. But on p. 92 of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha a passage from the Vārttika of Sureśvara (iv. 8) is attributed to Viśvarūpa Ācārya. It may therefore be concluded that Maṇḍana, the author of the Brahma-siddhi, was not the same person as Sureśvara, unless we suppose that Maṇḍana was not only a Mīmāṃsā writer, but also a Vedānta writer of great repute and that his conversion by Śaṅkara meant only that he changed some of his Vedāntic views and accepted those of Śaṅkara, and it was at this stage that he was called Sureśvara.

On this theory his Brahma-siddhi was probably written before his conversion to Śaṅkara’s views. It seems likely that this theory may be correct, and that the author of the Vidhi-viveka was also the author of the Brahma-siddhi ; for the passage of the Brahma-siddhi quoted by Vācaspati in his Nyāya-kaṇikā is quoted in a manner which suggests that in all probability the author of the Vidhi-viveka was also the author of the Brahma-siddhi. It may also be concluded that in all probability Viśvarūpa was the same person as Sureśvara, though on this subject no references of value are known to the present writer other than by the author of the Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha.

Footnotes and references:


A copy of the manuscript of the Brahma-siddhi and its commentary was consulted by me in the Adyar and the Govt. Sanskrit MSS. Libraries after the above section had been written, and a thorough examination of its contents, I am happy to say, corroborates the above surmises. The Brahma-siddhi is expected to be shortly published by Prof. Kuppusvāmi Śāstrī, and I consulted the tarka-pāda of it in proof by the kind courtesy of Prof. Śāstrī in Madras in December 1928. A separate section has been devoted to the philosophy of Maṇḍana’s Brahma-siddhi.


Mr Hiriyanna, in J.R.A.S. 1923, mentions this point as well as the point concerning avidyā-nivṛtti in Maṇḍana’s view as admission of negation.

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