A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

This page describes the philosophy of padmapada (a.d. 820): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the eleventh part in the series called the “the shankara school of vedanta (continued)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Padmapāda is universally reputed to be a direct disciple of Śaṅkarācārya, and, since the manner of his own salutation to Śaṅkarācārya confirms this tradition, and since no facts are known that can contradict such a view, it may safely be assumed that he was a younger contemporary of Śaṅkarācārya. There are many traditional stories about him and his relations with Śaṅkarācārya; but, since their truth cannot be attested by reliable evidence, it is not possible to pronounce any judgment on them. Only two works are attributed to him, viz. the Pañca-pādikā , which is a commentary on Śaṅkara’s commentary on the first four sūtras of the Brahma-sūtra and Śaṅkara’s introduction to his commentary known as th eadhyāsa and the sambhāvanā-bhāṣya , and the Ātma-bodha-zyākhyāna , called also Vedānta-sāra.

This Pañca-pādikā is one of the most important of the Vedānta works known to us. It was commented on by Prakāśātman (a.d. i 200) in his Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa[1].

The Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa was further commented on by Akhaṇḍānanda (a.d. 1350), a pupil of Anandagiri, in his Tattva-dīpana.

Ānanda-pūrṇa (A.D. 1600), who wrote his Vidyā-sāgarī commentary on Śrīharṣa’s Khaṇḍana-khatiḍa-khādya and also a commentary on the Mahā-vidyā-viḍambana, wrote a commentary on the Pañca-pādikā.[2]

Nṛsiṃhāśrama also wrote a commentary on the Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa, called the Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa-prakāśikā, and Śrīkṛṣṇa also wrote one on the Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa.

Aufrecht refers to another commentary by Amalānanda as Pañca-pādikā-śāstra-darpaṇa ; but this is undoubtedly a mistake for his Śāstra-darpaṇa, which is noticed below.

Amalānanda was a follower of the Vācaspati line and not of the line of Padmapāda and Prakāśātman. Rāmānanda Sarasvatī, a pupil of Govindānanda, the author of the Ratna-prabhā commentary on the Śāṅkara-bhāṣya, wrote his Vivaraṇopanyāsa (a summary of the main theses of the Vivaraṇa) as a commentary on Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya ; but this was strictly on the lines of the Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa, though it was not a direct commentary thereon.

Vidyāraṇya also wrote a separate monograph, called Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha, in which he interpreted the Vedāntic doctrines on the lines of the Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa.

Of all these the Vivaraṇopanyāsa of Rāmānanda Sarasvatī was probably the last important work on the Vivaraṇa line; for Rāmānanda’s teacher Govindānanda, the pupil of Gopāla Sarasvatī and the pupil’s pupil of Śivarāma, refers in his Ratna-prabhā commentary to Jagannāthāśrama’s commentary on the Śāṅkara-bhāṣya, called the Bhāṣya-dīpikā, and also to Ānandagiri’s commentary as “vṛddhāh,” p. 5 (Nirṇaya-Sāgara Press, 1904). Jagannātha was the teacher of Nṛsiṃhāśrama; Govindānanda must therefore have lived towards the end of the sixteenth century. Rāmānanda may therefore be placed in the early part of the seventeenth century. Govindānanda himself also in his Ratna-prabhā commentary followed the Vivaraṇa line of interpretation, and he refers to Prakāśātman with great respect as Prakāśātma-śrī-caraṇaiḥ (. Ratna-prabhā , p. 3).

Padmapāda’s method of treatment, as interpreted by Prakāśātman, has been taken in the first and the second volumes of the present work as the guide to the exposition of the Vedānta. It is not therefore necessary that much should be said in separate sections regarding the Vedāntic doctrines of these two great teachers. But still a few words on Padmapāda’s philosophy may with advantage be read separately. Padmapāda says that māyā, avyākṛta, prakṛti, agrahaṇa, avyakta, tamaḥ, kāraṇa, laya, śakti, mahāsupti, nidrā, kṣara and ākāśa are the terms which are used in older literature as synonymous with avidyā. It is this entity that obstructs the pure and independently self-revealing nature of Brahman, and thus, standing as the painted canvas (citra-bhitti) of ignorance (avidyā), deeds (karma) and past impressions of knowledge (pūrva-prajñā-saṃskāra) produce the individual persons (jīvatvāpādikā).

Undergoing its peculiar transformations with God as its support, it manifests itself as the two powers of knowledge and activity (vijñāna-kriyā-śakti-dvayāśraya) and functions as the doer of all actions and the enjoyer of all experiences (kartṛtva-bhoktṛtvaikā-dhāraḥ). In association with the pure unchangeable light of Brahman it is the complex of these transformations which appears as the immediate ego (ahamkāra). It is through the association with this ego that the pure self is falsely regarded as the enjoyer of experiences.

This transformation is called antaḥkaraṇa, manas, buddhi and the ego or the ego-feeler (ahaṃ-pratyayin) on the side of its cognitive activity, while on the vibratory side of its activity (spanda-śaktyā), it is called prāṇa or biomotor functions. The association of the ego with the pure ātman , like the association of the redness of a japā flower with a crystal, is a complex (granthi) which manifests the dual characteristics of activity of the avidyā stuff and the consciousness of the pure self (saṃbhinnobhaya-rūpatvāt).

On the question as to whether avidyā has for both support (āśraya) and object (viṣaya) Brahman Padmapāda’s own attitude does not seem to be very clear. He only says that avidyā manifests itself in the individual person (jīva) by obstructing the real nature of the Brahman as pure self-luminosity and that the Brahman by its limitation (avaccheda) through beginningless avidyā is the cause of the appearance of infinite individual persons. But Prakāśātman introduces a long discussion, trying to prove that Brahman is both the support and the object of avidyā as against the view of Vācaspati Miśra that avidyā has the Brahman as its object and the jīva as its support (āśraya). This is thus one of the fundamental points of difference between the Vivaraṇa line of interpretation and the interpretation of the Vācaspati line. In this Prakāśātman agrees with the view of Sureśvara and his pupil Sarvajñātman, though, as will be noticed, Sarvajñātman draws some nice distinctions which are not noticed by Sureśvara.

Padmapāda draws a distinction between two meanings of falsehood (mithyā), viz. falsehood as simple negation (apahnava-vacana) and falsehood as the unspeakable and indescribable (anirvacani-yatā-vacana). It is probably he who of all the interpreters first described ajñāna or avidyā as being of a material nature (jaḍātmikā) and of the nature of a power (jaḍātmikā avidyā-śakti), and interpreted Śaṅkara’s phrase “mithyā-jñāna-nimittaḥ” as meaning that it is this material power of ajñāna that is the constitutive or the material cause of the world-appearance. Prakāśātman, however, elaborates the conception further in his attempts to give proofs in support of the view that avidyā is something positive (bhāva-rūpa). These proofs have been repeatedly given by many other later writers, and have already been dealt with in the first volume of the present work.

Padmapāda is also probably the first to attempt an explanation of the process of Vedāntic perception which was later on elaborated by Prakāśātman and later writers, and his views were all collected and systematized in the exposition of the Vedānta-paribhāṣā of Dharmarāja Adhvarīndra in the sixteenth century. Describing this process, Padmapāda says that, as a result of the cognitive activity of the ego, the objects with which that is concerned become connected with it, and, as a result of that, certain changes are produced in it, and it is these changes that constitute the subject-object relation of knowledge (jñāturjñeya-sambandhaḥ).

The antaḥkaraṇa, or psychical frame of mind, can lead to the limited expression of the pure consciousness only so far as it is associated with its object. The perceptual experience of immediacy (aparokṣa) of objects means nothing more than the expression of the pure consciousness through the changing states of the antaḥkaraṇa. The ego thus becomes a perceiver (pramātṛ) through its connection with the underlying consciousness.

Prakāśātman, however, elaborates it by supposing that the antaḥkaraṇa goes out to the objective spatial positions, and assumes the spatial form of the objects perceived. Hence what Padmapāda conceived merely as the change of the antaḥkaraṇa states through the varying relation of the antaḥkaraṇa with its objects, is interpreted in the definite meaning of this relation as being nothing more than spatial superposition of the antaḥkaraṇa on its objects. In inference, however, there is no immediate knowledge, as this is mediated through relations with the reason (liga). Knowledge however would mean both mediate and immediate knowledge; for it is defined as being the manifestation of the object (artha-prakāśa).

On the subject of the causality of Brahman Padmapāda says that that on which the world-appearance is manifested, the Brahman, is the cause of the world.

On this point Prakāśātman offers three alternative views, viz.

  1. that, like two twisted threads in a rope, māyā and Brahman are together the joint cause of the world,
  2. that that which has māyā as its power is the cause,
  3. and that the Brahman which has māyā supported on it is the cause of the world, but in all these the ultimate causality rests with Brahman, since māyā is dependent thereon.

Brahman is sarva-jña (omniscient) in the sense that it manifests all that is associated with it, and it is the Brahman that through its māyā appears as the world of experience. The doctrines of avaccheda-vāda and pratibimba-vāda explained in the first volume of the present work are also at least as old as Padmapāda’s Pañca-pādikā , and both Padmapāda and Prakāśātman seem to support the reflection theory (pratibimba-vāda), the theory that the jīva is but a reflected image of Brahman[3].

Footnotes and references:


Prakāśātman also wrote a metrical summary of Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya and a work called Śabda-nirṇaya, in which he tried to prove the claims of scriptural testimony as valid cognition.


As Mr Telang points out in his introduction to the Mahā-vidyā-viḍambana, it seems that Ānandapūrna lived after Śaṅkara Miśra (a.d. 1529), as is seen from his criticism of his reading of a passage of the Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya, p. 586 (Chowkhambā).


See volume I, pp. 475, 476. These two doctrines were probably present in germinal forms as early as the ninth century. But gradually more and more attention seems to have been paid to them. Appaya Dīkṣita gives a fairly good summary of these two doctrines in the Parimala, pp. 335-343, śri Vāni Vilāsa Press, Srirangam, without committing either himself or Vācaspati to any one of these views.

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