A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

This page describes the philosophy of vidyaranya (a.d. 1350): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twenty-fifth part in the series called the “the shankara school of vedanta (continued)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

In addition to the Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha Mādhava wrote two works on the Śaṅkara Vedānta system, viz. Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha and Pañcadaśī; and also Jīvan-mukti-viveka. Of these the former is an independent study of Prakāśātman’s Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa , in which Mādhava elaborates the latter’s arguments in his own way. His other work, Pañcadaśī, is a popular compendium in verse. Both these works attained great celebrity on account of their clear and forcible style and diction. Vidyāraṇya is reputed to be the same as Mādhava, brother of Sāyaṇa, the great Vedic commentator. He was a pupil of Śaṅkarānanda, who had written some works of minor importance on the Upaniṣads[1].

Vidyāraṇya in his Pañcadaśī repeats the Vivaraṇa view of the Vedānta, that, whether in our awakened state or in our dreams or in our dreamless condition, there is no moment when there is no consciousness; for even in dreamless sleep there must be some consciousness, as is evident from the later remembrance of the experience of the dreamless state. The light of consciousness is thus itself ever present without any change or flickering of any kind. It should therefore be regarded as ultimately real. It is self-luminous and neither rises nor sets[2].

This self is pure bliss, because nothing is so much loved by us as our own selves. If the nature of self had been unobscured, we could not have found any enjoyment in sense-objects. It is only because the self is largely obscured to us that we do not rest content with self-realization and crave for other pleasures from sense-objects. Māyā is the cause of this obscuration, and it is described as that power by which can be produced the manifold world-appearance. This power (śakti), cannot be regarded either as absolutely real or as unreal. It is, however, associated only with a part of Brahman and not with the whole of it, and it is only in association with a part of Brahman that it transforms itself into the various elements and their modifications. All objects of the world are thus but a complex of Brahman and māyā. The existence or being of all things is the Brahman, and all that appears identified with being is the māyā part.

Māyā as the power of Brahman regulates all relation and order of the universe. In association with the intelligence of Brahman this behaves as an intelligent power which is responsible for the orderliness of all qualities of things, their inter-relations and interactions[3]. He compares the world-appearance to a painting, where the white canvas stands for the pure Brahman, the white paste for the inner controller (antaryāmin), the dark colour for the dispenser of the crude elements (sūtrātman) and the coloration for the dispenser of the concrete elemental world (virāt), and all the figures that are manifested thereon are the living beings and other objects of the world. It is Brahman that, being reflected through the māyā , assumes the diverse forms and characters. The false appearance of individual selves is due to the false identification of subjectivity—a product of māyā —with the underlying pure consciousness—Brahman. Vidyāraṇya then goes on to describe the usual topics of the Vedānta, which have already been dealt with.

The chief and important feature of Vidyāraṇya’s Pañcadaśī is the continual repetition of the well-established Vedāntic principles in a clear, popular and attractive way, which is very helpful to those who wish to initiate their minds into the Vedāntic ways of self-realization[4]. His Vivaraṇa-prameya-saṃgraha is a more scholarly work; but, as it is of the nature of an elaboration of the ideas contained in Pañca-pādikā-vivaraṇa, which has generally been followed as the main guide in the account of Vedānta given in this and the preceding chapter, and there being but few ideas which can be considered as an original contribution of Vidyāraṇya to the development of Vedāntic thought, no separate account of its contents need be given here[5]. The Jīvan-mukti-viveka, the substance of which has already been utilized in section 17 of chapter x, volume 1 of the present work, is an ethical treatise, covering more or less the same ground as the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi of Sureśvara.

Footnotes and references:


Bhāratītīrtha and his teacher Vidyātīrtha also were teachers of Vidyāranya. Vidyāranya thus seems to have had three teachers, Bhāratī Tīrtha, Vidyā Tīrtha and Śaṅkarānanda.


nodeti nāstamety ekā saṃvid eṣā svayam-prabhā. Pañcadaśī,
      1. 7, Basumati edition, Calcutta, 1907.


śaktir asty aiśvarī kācit sarva-vastti-niyāmikā.
.. .cic-chāyāveśataḥ śaktiś cetaneva vibhāti sā.
     40. Ibid. ill.


There are four commentaries on the Pañcadaśī :— Tattva-bodhinī, Vṛtti-prabhākara by Niścaladāsa Svāmin, Tātparya-bodhinī by Rāmakṛṣṇa and another commentary by Sadānanda. It is traditionally believed that the Pañcadaśī was written jointly by Vidyāranya and Bhāratī Tīrtha. Niścaladāsa Svāmin points out in his Vṛtti-prabhākara that Vidyāranya was author of the first ten chapters of the Pañcadaśī and Bhāratī Tīrtha of the other five.

Rāmakṛṣṇa, however, in the beginning of his commentary on the seventh chapter, attributes that chapter to Bhāratī Tīrtha, and this fits in with the other tradition that the first six chapters were written by Vidyāranya and the other nine by Bhāratītīrtha.


He also wrote another work on the Vivaraṇa, called Vivaraṇopanyāsa, which is referred to by Appaya Dīkīita in his Siddhānta-leśa, p. 68— Vivaraṇopanycse Bhāratītvriha-vacanam.

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