A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 2

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

This page describes the philosophy of madhusudana sarasvati (a.d. 1500): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the twenty-ninth part in the series called the “the shankara school of vedanta (continued)”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 29 - Madhusūdana Sarasvatī (a.d. 1500)


Madhusūdana Sarasvatī, who was a pupil of Viśveśvara Sarasvatī and teacher of Puruṣottama Sarasvatī, in all probability flourished in the first half of the sixteenth century.

His chief works are

His most important work, however, is his Advaita-siddhi , in which he tries to refute the objections raised in Vyāsatīrtha’s Nyāyāmṛta [2] against the monistic Vedānta of Śaṅkara and his followers. Materials from this book have already been utilized in sections 6, 7,8,9 and io of the tenth chapter of the present work.

More will be utilized in the third volume in connection with the controversy between Vyāsatīrtha and Madhusūdana, which is the subject-matter of Advaita-siddhi. Madhusūdana’s Siddhānta-bindu does not contain anything of importance, excepting that he gives a connected account of the perceptual process, already dealt with in the tenth chapter and also in the section “Vedāntic Cosmology” of the present volume. His Advaita-ratna-rakṣaṇa deals with such subjects as the validity of the Upaniṣads: the Upaniṣads do not admit duality; perception does not prove the reality of duality; the duality involved in mutual negation is false; indeterminate knowledge does not admit duality; duality cannot be proved by any valid means of proof, and so forth.

There is practically nothing new in the work, as it only repeats some of the important arguments of the bigger work Advaita-siddhi and tries to refute the view of dualists like the followers of Madhva, with whom Madhusūdana was in constant controversy. It is unnecessary, therefore, for our present purposes to enter into any of the details of this work. It is, however, interesting to note that, though he was such a confirmed monist in his philosophy, he was a theist in his religion and followed the path of bhakti, or devotion, as is evidenced by his numerous works promulgating the bhakti creed.

These works, however, have nothing to do with the philosophy of the Vedānta, with which we are concerned in the present chapter. Madhusūdana’s Vedānta-kalpa-latikā was written earlier than his Advaita-siddhi and his commentary on the Mahimnaḥ stotra[3]. Rāmājñā Pāṇḍeya points out in his introduction to the Vedānta-kalpa-latikā that the Advaita-siddhi contains a reference to his Gītā-nibandhana ; the Gītā-nibandhana and the Śrīmad-bhāgavata-ṭīkā contain references to his Bhokti-rasāyana, and the Bhakti-rasāyana refers to the Vedānta-kalpa-latikā ; and this show’s that the Vedānta-kalpa-latikā was written prior to all these works.

The Advaita-ratna-rakṣaṇa refers to the Advaita-siddhi and may therefore be regarded as a much later work. There is nothing particularly new in the Vedānta-kalpa-latikā that deserves special mention as a contribution to Vedāntic thought. The special feature of the work consists in the frequent brief summaries of doctrines of other systems of Indian philosophy and contrasts them with important Vedānta views.

The first problem discussed is the nature of emancipation (mokṣa) and the ways of realizing it: Madhusūdana attempts to prove that it is only the Vedāntic concept of salvation that can appeal to men, all other views being unsatisfactory and invalid. But it does not seem that he does proper justice to other views. Thus, for example, in refuting the Sāṃkhya view of salvation he says that, since the Sāṃkhya thinks that what is existent cannot be destroyed, sorrow, being an existent entity, cannot be destroyed, so there cannot be any emancipation from sorrow.

This is an evident misrepresentation of the Sāṃkhya; for with the Sāṃkhya the destruction of sorrow in emancipation means that the buddhi , a product of prakṛti which is the source of all sorrow, ceases in emancipation to have any contact with puruṣa , and hence, even though sorrow may not be destroyed, there is no inconsistency in having emancipation from sorrow. It is unnecessary for our present purposes, however, to multiply examples of misrepresentation by Madhusūdana of the views of other systems of thought in regard to the same problem. In the course of the discussions he describes negation (abhāva) also as being made up of the stuff of nescience, which, like other things, makes its appearance in connection with pure consciousness.

He next introduces a discussion of the nature of self-knowledge, and then, since Brahma knowledge can be attained only through the Upaniṣadic propositions of identity, he passes over to the discussion of import of propositions and the doctrines of abhihitān-vaya-vāda, anvitābhidhāna-vāda and the like. He then treats of the destruction of nescience. He concludes the work with a discussion of the substantial nature of the senses. Thus the mind-organ is said to be made up of five elements, whereas other senses are regarded as being constituted of one element only. Manas is said to pervade the whole of the body and not to be atomic, as the Naiyāyikas hold. Finally, Madhusūdana returns again to the problem of emancipation, and holds that it is the self freed from nescience that should be regarded as the real nature of emancipation.

Footnotes and references:


Rāmājñā Pāṇḍeya in his edition of Madhusūdana’s Vedānta-kalpa-latikā suggests that he was a Bengali by birth. His pupil Purusottama Sarasvatī in his commentary on the Siddhānta-bindu-ṭīkā refers to Balabhadra Bhattācārya as a favourite pupil of his, and Pāṇḍeya argues that, since Bhattācārya is a Bengali surname and since his favourite pupil was a Bengali, he also must have been a Bengali. It is also pointed out that in a family genealogy (Kula-pañjikā) of Kotalipara of Faridpur, Bengal, Madhusūdana’s father is said to have been Pramodapurandara Ācārya, who had four sons—Śrlnātha Cūḍāmani, Yāda-vānanda Nyāyācārya, Kamalajanayana and Vāglśa Gosvāmin. Some of the important details of Madhusūḍana’s philosophical dialectics will be taken up in the treatment of the philosophy of Madhva and his followers in the third volume of the present work in connection with Madhusūdana’s discussions with Vyāsatīrtha.


The Advaita-siddhi has three commentaries, Advaita-siddhy-upanyāsa, Bṛhat-ṭīkā, and Laghu-candrikā, by Brahmānanda Sarasvatī.


He refers to the Vedānta-kalpa-latikā and Siddhānta-bindu in his Advaita-siddhi, p. 537 (Nirnaya-Sāgara edition). See also Mahimnaḥ-stotra-ṭīkā, p. 5.

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