A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

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

Part 21 - Dialectic of Śaṅkara and Ānandajñāna

It is well known that Śaṅkarācārya in his commentary on the Brahma-sūtra, 11. ii 11-17, criticizes the atomic theory of the Vaiśeṣikas. His first thesis is that the production of an effect different in nature from the cause, as in the case of the production of the impure world from pure Brahman, can be justified on the analogy of even the critics of the Vedānta, the Vaiśeṣikas. The Vaiśeṣikas hold that in the production of the dvy-aṇuka (containing two atoms) from the paramāṇu (single atom) and of the catur-aṇuka (containing four atoms) from the dvy-aṇuka, all other qualities of the paramāṇu and the dvy-aṇuka are transferred to the dvy-aṇuka and catur-aṇuka respectively, excepting the specific measures of pārimāṇḍalya (specific atomic measure) and aṇu-hrasva (specific measure of the dyads), which are peculiar to paramāṇu and dvy-aṇuka respectively.

Thus, though all other qualities of paramāṇus pass over to dvy-aṇukas produced by their combination, yet the specific pārimāṇḍalya measure of the paramāṇus does not pass to the dvy-aṇukas, which are of the aṇu-hrasva parimāṇa. So also, though all the qualities of dvy-aṇukas would pass on to the catur-aṇukas made out of their combination, yet their own specific aṇu-hrasva parimāṇa would not pass on to the catur-aṇukas, which are possessed of their own measure, viz. the mahat parimāṇa, uncaused by the parimāṇa of the dvy-aṇukas. This shows that the Vaiśeṣikas believe that the pārimāṇḍalya measure (parimāṇa) of the paramāṇus may produce an altogether different measure in their product, the dvy-aṇukas , and so the aṇu-hrasva measure of the dvy-aṇukas may produce an altogether different measure in their product, the catur-aṇukas , viz. the mahat parimāṇa.

On this analogy it may be contended that the Vaiśeṣikas have nothing to object to in the production of an altogether different effect (viz. the impure world) from an altogether different cause, the pure Brahman. If it is urged that the measure of the paramāṇu cannot pass on to the dvy-aṇuka only because its passage is rendered impossible by the taking possession of it by an opposite quality (the aṇu-hrasva parimāṇa), then a similar reply may be given in the case of the difference between the world and Brahman. Moreover, since, according to the Vaiśeṣika theory, all products remain for a moment without qualities, there is no reason why, when the dvy-aṇuka was produced, the pārimāṇḍalya measure should not pass on to it. At that moment, since the pārimāṇḍalya measure did not pass on to it as did the other qualities, it follows, not that the passing of the pārimāṇḍalya measure is opposed by the other parimāṇa, but that it naturally did not pass on to it. Again, it cannot be objected that the analogy of dissimilarity of qualities (guṇa) cannot be cited in support of the dissimilarity of substances.

Śaṅkara’s second thesis is that the Vaiśeṣika view that atoms combine is wrong, because, since the atoms are partless, and since combination implies contact and contact implies parts which come in contact, there cannot be any combination of atoms. Moreover, since before creation there is no one who can make an effort, and since the contact of atoms cannot be effected without effort, and since the selves, being unconscious at that time, cannot themselves make any effort, it is impossible to account for the activity without which the contact of the atoms would also be impossible.

So the atoms cannot combine, for want of the effort needed for such a contact. Śaṅkara’s third point is that the relation of samavāya upheld by the Vaiśeṣikas cannot be admitted; for, if to unite two different objects the relation of samavāya is needed, then samavāya, being itself different from them, would require another samavāya to connect itself with them, and that another, and that another, and so on ad infinitum. If the relation of contact requires a further relation of samavāya to connect it with the objects in contact, there is no reason why samavāya should not require some other relation in its turn. Again, if the atoms are regarded as always operative and combining, then there can be no dissolution (pralaya ), and, if they are always disintegrating, then creation would be impossible. Again, since the atoms possess the qualities of colour, etc., they must be the product of some simpler causes, just as other objects having qualities are made up of simpler entities.

Moreover, it is not right to suppose that, since we have the idea of non-eternality, this must imply eternality and that therefore the atoms must be eternal; for, even though it implies the existence of eternality, it does not imply that the atoms should be eternal, since there is such an eternal thing as Brahman. Again, the fact that the cause of the destruction of the atoms is not known does not imply that they are eternal; for mere ignorance of the ways of destruction does not imply eternality. Again, the Vaiśeṣikas are wrong in speaking of six different categories and yet hold that all the five other categories depend on substance for their existence or manifestation. A substance and its quality do not appear to be as different as two substances. A substance appears black or white, and this implies that the qualities are at bottom identical with the substance (dravyātmakatā guṇasya). It cannot, moreover, be urged that the dependence of other categories on substance consists in their inseparableness (ayuta-siddhatva) from it.

This inseparableness cannot be inseparableness of space; for, when threads constitute as their product a piece of cloth, then the threads and the cloth cannot be regarded as having the same space, yet, being cause and effect, they are to be regarded as ayuta-siddha , or inseparable; and yet the whiteness of the cloth is not regarded as abiding in the threads. If inseparableness means inseparableness of time, then the two horns of a bull, which exist at the same time, should also be regarded as inseparable; and, if inseparableness means inseparableness of character or sameness of character, then quality cannot be regarded as being different from substance. Again, since the cause exists prior to the effect, it cannot be regarded as inseparable from the cause, and yet it is asserted by the Vaiśeṣikas that their relation is one of samavāya , since they are inseparable in their nature.

Śaṅkara, however, seldom indulges in logical dialectic like the above, and there are only a few rare instances in which he attacks his opponents from a purely logical point of view. But even here he does not so much criticize the definitions of the Vaiśeṣikas as point out the general logical and metaphysical confusions that result from some of the important Vaiśeṣika theories. It is easy to note the difference of a criticism like this from the criticism of Śrīharṣa in his Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya, where he uses all the power of his dialectical subtleties to demolish the cherished principles of pure logic as formulated by the Nyāya logicians. It is not a criticism of certain doctrines in support of others, but it is a criticism which aims at destroying the possibility of logical or perceptual knowledge as a whole. It does not touch any specific metaphysical views, but it denies the power of perception and inference to give us right knowledge, and it supposes that it achieves its purpose by proving that the Nyāya modes of definition of perception and inference are faulty and self-contradictory.

Citsukha’s attempts are more positive; for he criticizes not only the Nyāya categories of logic, but also the categories of Vaiśeṣika metaphysics, and makes some positive and important statements, too, about the Vedānta doctrine itself. Ānandajñāna’s Tarka-saṃgraha is another important work of negative criticism of the Vaiśeṣika categories and in that sense a continuation on a more elaborate scale of Citsukha’s criticisms of the Vaiśeṣika categories. The importance of the Vaiśeṣika was gradually increasing, as it was gradually more and more adopted by Vaiṣṇava realistic writers, such as Madhva and his followers, and it was supposed that a refutation of the Vaiśeṣika would also imply a refutation of the dualistic writers who draw their chief support from Vaiśeṣika physics and metaphysics.

Ānandajñāna, also called Ānandagiri, was probably a native of Gujarat and lived in the middle of the thirteenth century. Mr Tripathi points out in his introduction to Ānandajñāna’s Tarka-saṃgraha that Ānandajñāna was a spiritual head of the Dvārakā monastery of Śaṅkara, of which Sureśvarācārya was the first teacher. He was a pupil of two teachers, Anubhūtisvarūpācārya and Śuddhānanda.

Anubhūtisvarūpācārya wrote five works, viz.

  1. a grammatical work called Sārasvata-prakriyā,
  2. a commentary on Śaṅkara’s commentary on Gaudapāda’s Māṇḍūkya-kārikā,
  3. a commentary on Ānandabodha Yati’s Nyāya-makaranda, called Nyāya-makaranda-saṃgraha,
  4. a commentary, called Candrikā, on Ānandabodha’s Nyāya-dīpāvalī,
  5. and another commentary, called Nibandha, on Ānandabodha’s Pramāṇa-mālā.

Nothing is known about his other teacher, Śuddhānanda, who is different from the other Śuddhānanda, the teacher of Svayamprakāśa of the seventeenth century, author of the Advaita-makaranda-ṭīkā.

One of the most distinguished of Anandagiri s pupils was Akhaṇḍānanda, author of the Tattva-dīpana, a commentary on Prakāśātman’s Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa, as he refers to him as śrīmad-ānanda-śailāhva-pañcāsyaṃ satataṃ bhaje in the fourth verse of his Tattva-dīpana.

Anandagiri wrote a large number of works, which are mostly commentaries.

Of these his

  • Īśāvāsya-bhāṣya-tippana,
  • Kenopaniṣad-bhāṣya-tippaṇa,
  • Vākya-vivaraṇa-vyākhyā,
  • Kathopaniṣad-bhāṣya-ṭīkā,
  • Muṇḍaka-bhāṣya-vyākhyāna,
  • Māṇḍūkya-Gauḍapādiya-bhāṣya-vyākhyā,
  • Taittirīya-bhāṣya-ṭippaṇa,
  • Chāndogya-bhāṣya-ṭīkā,
  • Taittirīya-bhāṣya-vārttika-ṭīkā,
  • Śāstra-prakāśikā,
  • Bṛhad-āraṇyaka-bhāṣya-vārttika-ṭīkā,
  • Bṛhad-āraṇyaka-bhāṣya-ṭikā,
  • Śāriraka-bhāṣya-ṭīkā (called also Nyāya-nirṇaya),
  • Gītā-bhāṣya-vivecana,
  • Pañcīkaraṇa-vivaraṇa, with a commentary called Tattva-candrikā by Rāma Tīrtha, a pupil of Jagannāthāśrama (latter part of the fifteenth century),
  • and Tarka-saṃgraha have already been printed.

But some of his other works, such as

still remain to be printed. It will thus be seen that almost all his works are but commentaries on Śaṅkara’s commentaries and other works.

The Tarka-saṃgraha and Tattvāloka (attributed to “Janārdana,” which was probably the name of Anandagiri when he was a householder) seem to be his only two independent works[1]. Of these the manuscript of the second work, in which he refutes the doctrines of many other philosophers, including Bhāskara’s pariṇāma doctrines, has, unfortunately, not been available to the present writer. The Tarka-saṃgraha is devoted almost wholly to a detailed refutation of the Vaiśeṣika philosophy.

The book is divided into three chapters. In the first chapter, dealing with the criticism of substances (dravya), he starts with a refutation of the concepts of duality, reality (tattva), existence (sattva), non-existence, positivity (bhāva) and negativity (abhāva). Anandojñāna then passes on to a refutation of the definition of substance and its division into nine kinds (according to the Vaiśeṣika philosophy).

He then criticizes the first substance, earth, and its diverse forms, as atoms (paramāṇu) and molecules (dvyaṇuka), and its grosser forms and their modified states, as bodies, senses and sense-objects, and continues to criticize the other substances such as water, fire, air, and the theory of creation and dissolution, ākāśa, time, space, self (ātman) and manas.

In the second chapter he goes on to the criticism of qualities (guṇa), such as

  • colour (rūpa),
  • taste (rasa),
  • smell (gandha),
  • touch (sparśa),
  • the effects of heat on the transformations of objects through molecular or atomic changes (pīlu-pāka and pithara-pāka),
  • number (saṅkhyā),
  • measure (parimāṇa),
  • separateness (pṛthaktva),
  • contact (saṃyoga),
  • separation (vibhāga),
  • the nature of knowledge,
  • illusion and dreams,
  • the nature of right knowledge and its means (pramāṇa and pramā),
  • perception (pratyakṣa),
  • inference (anumāna),
  • concomitance (vyāpti),
  • reason (hetu),
  • fallacies (hetv ābhāsa),
  • examples (drṣṭānta),
  • discussions,
  • disputations and wranglings,
  • testimony of the scriptures (āgama),
  • analogy (upamāna),
  • memory,
  • pleasure,
  • pain,
  • will,
  • antipathy (dveṣa),
  • effort (prayatna),
  • heaviness,
  • liquidity (dravatva),
  • virtue,
  • vice, etc.

In the third chapter he refutes the notion of action, class-concept or universality (jāti), the relation of inherence (samavāya) and different kinds of negation. The thesis designed to be proved in all these refutations is the same as that of Śrīharṣa or Citsukha, viz. that in whatsoever manner the Vaiśeṣikas have attempted to divide, classify or define the world of appearances they have failed.

The conclusion at which he arrives after this long series of criticisms and refutations reminds us of Ānandabodha’s conclusions in his Nyāya-makaranda, on which a commentary was written by his teacher Anubhūtisvarūpa Ācārya, to which reference has already been made when Ānandabodha’s views were under discussion. Thus Ānandajñāna says that an illusory imposition cannot be regarded as existent (sat) ; for, since it is non-existent in the substratum (adhiṣṭhāna) of its appearance, it cannot be existent anywhere else. Neither can it be regarded as absolutely non-existent (atyantāsat) ; for, had it been so, it would not have appeared as immediately perceived (aparokṣa-pratīti-virodhāt) ; nor can it be regarded as existent and non-existent in the same object.

The only alternative left is that the illusory imposition is indescribable in its nature[2]. This indescribability (anirvācyatva) means that, in whichever way one may try to describe it, it is found that none of those ways can be affirmed of it or, in other words, that it is indescribable in each and every one of those ways[3]. Now, since all appearances must have something for their cause and since that which is not a real thing cannot have a real thing as its material cause (na ca avastuno vastu upādānam upapadyate), and, since they are all indescribable in their nature, their cause must also be of that nature, the nescience of the substratum[4].

He then asserts that this nescience (ajñāna), which is the material out of which all appearances take their form, is associated with Brahman; for Brahman could not be regarded as omniscient or the knower of all (sarva-jña) without its association with ajñāna, which is the material stuff of the all (the knower, the means of knowledge, the objects and their relations)[5]. Everything else that appears except the one reality, the self, the Brahman, is the product of this ajñāna. This one ajñāna then can explain the infinite kinds of appearances, and there is not the slightest necessity of admitting a number of ajñānas in order to explain the diversity or the plurality of appearances. The many selves are thus but appearances produced by this one ajñāna in association with Brahman[6]. It is the one ajñāna that is responsible for appearances of the dream state as well as of the waking state.

It is the one ajñāna which produces all kinds of diversity by its diversity of functions or modes of operation. If there is only one reality, which through one ajñāna appears in all diverse forms of appearances, how is the phenomenon of self-consciousness or self-recognition to be explained? To this difficulty Ānandajñāna’s reply is that both the perceiving and the perceived self are but false appearances in the antaḥkaraṇa (an ajñāna product), and that it does not in any way infect the one true self with any kind of activity. Thus there is the one Brahman and there is one beginningless, indescribable ajñāna in connection with it, which is the cause of all the infinitely diverse appearances through which the former appears impure and suffers bondage, as it were, and again appears liberated, as it were, through the realization of the Vedāntic truth of the real nature of the self[7]. In fact there is neither bondage nor emancipation.

In view of the above it may be suggested that Ānandajñāna is following the same line of interpretation of the relation of ajñāna to Brahman whith was upheld by Vācaspati and Ānandabodha. Ānandajñāna’s position as an interpreter of Śaṅkara’s philosophy is evident from the number of able commentaries which he wrote on the commentaries of Śaṅkara and also from the references made to him by later writers. Mr Tripathi collects the names of some of these writers, as Prajñānānanda, Śeṣa Śārñgadhara, Vādivāglśvara, Vādīndra, Rāmānanda Sarasvatī, Sadānanda Kāśmīraka (a.d. 1547), Kṛṣṇānanda (a.d. 1650), Maheśvara Tīrtha (a.d. 1650) and others.

Footnotes and references:


See Mr Tripathi’s introduction to his edition of the Tarka-saṃgraha , Baroda, 1917.


pāriśeṣyād anirvācyam āropyam upagamyatāṃ sattvādīnāṃ prakārāṇāṃ prāg-ukta-nyāya-bādḥanāt. Tarka-sarngraḥa, p. 135.


yen a yena prakāreṇa paro nirvaktum icchati
tena tenātmanā 'yogas tad-anirvācyatā matā.
p. 136.


tasmād rūpyādi-kāryasyānirvācyatvāt tad-upādānam api adhiṣṭhānājñānam upādeyam.
p. 137.


pramāṇataḥ sarvajñatve ’pi pramātṛtvasya pramāṇa-prameya-sambandhasya cājñāna-sambandḥam antareṇāsiddḥeḥ tasmin ajñānavattvam avaśyam āsrayita-vyam anyathā sarvajñatvāyogāt.
      Ibid. pp.
137, 138.


ekas tāvad ātmā dvayor api āvayoḥ sampratipanno ’sti, tasya svājñānād eva avivāda-siddhād ekasmād atiriktaṃ sarvam pratibhāti;.. .samastasyaiva bheda-bhānasyāpāramārthikasyaikajñāna-sāmarthyād eva sambhavān nājñāna-bhede hetur asti.
pp. 138, 139.


Aḍvitīyam ātma-tattvam, tatra ca anāḍy anirvācyarn ekam ajñānam ananta-bheḍa-pratibhāna-nidānam, tataś cānekārtha-kaluṣitam ātma-tattvam baddham ivānubhūyamānam,vedānta-vākyottha-tattva-sākṣātkāra-parākṛta-sakāryājñānaṃ muktam iva bhāti; paramārthato na bandho na muktir iti sakaryājñāna-nivṛtty-upalakṣitam paripūrṇam ātma-tattvam eva parama-puruṣārtha-rūpaṃ sidḥyati.
p. 141.

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