A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1940 | 232,512 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of date of bhaskara: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the first part in the series called the “the bhaskara school of philosophy”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Udayana, in his Nyāya-kusumāñjali, speaks of Bhāskara as a commentator on the Vedānta in accordance with the traditions of the tridaṇḍa school of Vedānta and as holding the view that Brahman suffers evolutionary changes[1]. Bhaṭṭojī Dīkṣita also, in his Tattva-viveka-ṭīkā-vivaraṇa, speaks of bhaṭṭa Bhāskara as holding the doctrine of difference and non-difference (bhedābheda)[2]. It is certain, however, that he flourished after Śaṅkara, for, though he does not mention him by name, yet the way in which he refers to him makes it almost certain that he wrote his commentary with the express purpose of refuting some of the cardinal doctrines of Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtra. Thus, at the very beginning of his commentary, he says that it aims at refuting those who, hiding the real sense of the sūtra, have only expressed their own opinions, and in other places also he speaks in very strong terms against the commentator who holds the māyā doctrine and is a Buddhist in his views[3]. But, though he was opposed to Śaṅkara, it was only so far as Śaṅkara had introduced the māyā doctrine, and only so far as he thought the world had sprung forth not as a real modification of Brahman, but only through māyā.

For both Śaṅkara and Bhāskara would agree in holding that the Brahman was both the material cause and the instrumental cause (upādāna and nimitta) Śaṅkara would maintain that this was so onlv because there was no other real category which existed; but he would strongly urge, as has been explained before, that māyā, the category of the indefinite and the unreal, was associated with Brahman in such a transformation, and that, though the Brahman was substantially the same identical entity as the world, yet the world as it appears was a māyā transformation with Brahman inside as the kernel of truth. But Bhāskara maintained that there was no māyā, and that it was the Brahman which, by its own powers, underwent a real modification; and, as the Pañcarātras also held the same doctrine in so far as they believed that Vāsudeva was both the material and the instrumental cause of the world, he was in agreement with the Bhāgavatas, and he says that he does not find anything to be refuted in the Pañcarātra doctrine[4]. But he differs from them in regard to their doctrine of the individual souls having been produced from Brahman[5].

Again, though one cannot assert anything verv positively, it is possible that Bhāskara himself belonged to that particular sect of Brahmins who used three sticks as their Brahminic insignia in preference to one stick, used more generally by other Brahmins; and so his explanation of the I ’edānta-sūtra may rightly be taken as the view of the tridaṇḍī Brahmins. For in discussing the point that fitness for Brahma-knowledge does not mean the giving up of the religious stages of life (āśrama), with their customs and rituals, he speaks of the maintenance of three sticks as being enjoined by the Vedas[6].

Mādhavācārya, in his Śaṅkara-vijaya, speaks of a meeting of Śaṅkara with bhaṭṭa Bhāskara, but it is difficult to say how far this statement is reliable[7] From the fact that Bhāskara refuted Śaṅkara and was himself referred to by Ldayana, it is certain that he flourished some time between the eighth and the tenth centuries. Paṇḍita Vindhyeśvarī Prasāda refers to a copper-plate found by the late Dr Bhāwdājl in the Mārāthā country, near Nasik, in which it is stated that one Bhāskara bhaṭṭa of the lineage (gotra) of Śāṇḍilya, son of Kavicakravartī Trivikrama, who was given the title of Vidyāpati, was the sixth ancestor of Bhāskarācārya of Śāṇḍilya lineage, the astronomer and writer of the Siddhānta-śiromaṇi; and he maintains that this senior V idyāpati Bhāskara bhaṭṭa was the commentator on the Brahma-sūtra[8]. But, though this may be possible, yet we have no evidence that it is certain; for, apart from the similarity of names[9], it is not definitely known whether this Vidyāpati Bhāskara bhaṭṭa ever wrote any commentary on the Brahma-sūtra. All that we can say, therefore, with any degree ot definiteness, is that Bhāskara flourished at some period between the middle of the eighth century and the middle of the tenth century, and most probably in the ninth century, since he does not know Rāmānuja[10].

Footnotes and references:


Tridaṇḍa means “three sticks.” According to Manu it was customary among some Brahmins to use one stick, and among others, three sticks.

Paṇḍita Vindhyeśvarī Prasāda Dvivedin, in his Sanskrit introduction to Bhāskara’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtra, says that the Vaisnava commentators on the Brahma-sūtra prior to Rāmānuja, Taṅka, Guhadeva, Bhāruci and Yāmunācarya, the teacher of Rāmānuja, were all tridaṇḍins. Such a statement is indeed very interesting, but unfortunately he does not give us the authority from which he drew this information.


“Bhaṭṭabhāskaras tu bhedā-bheda-vedānta-siddhānta-vādī”; Bhaṭṭojī Dīk-sita’s Vedānta-tattva-ṭīkā-vivaraṇa, as quoted by Paṇḍita Vindhyeśvarī Prasāda in his Introduction to Bhāskara’s commentary.


sūtrā-bhiprāya-saṃvṛtyā svābhiprāyā-prakāśanāt
vyākhyātaṃ yair idam śāstraṃ vyākhyeyaṃ tan-nivṛttaye.
     Bhāskara’s Commentary, p. i.


    “je tu bauddha-matāvalambino māyā-vādinas te’ pi anena rtyāyena sūtra-kāreṇai' va nirastāḥ.”

    Ibid. II. 2. 29.

In another place Śaṅkara is referred to as explaining views which were really propounded by the Mahāyāna Buddhists —

    vigītaṃ vicchinna-mūlaṃ māhāyānika-bauddha-gāthitaṃ māyā-vādaṃ vyāvarṇayanto lokān vyāmohayanti.

    Ibid. 1. 4. 25.


Vāsudeva eva upādāna-kāraṇaṃ jagato nimitta-kāraṇaṃ ceti te manyante. . .
tad etat sarvaṃ śruti-prasiddham eva tasmān nātra nirūkaruṇīyaṃ paśyāmaḥ.
     Bhāskara-bhūṣya, ii. 2. 41.




Ibid. III. 4. 26, p. 208; see also Paṇḍita Yindhyeśvarī’s Introduction.


Śaṅkara-vijaya, xv. 80.


Paṇḍita Vindhyeśvarī Prasāda’s Introduction.


We hear of several Bhāskaras in Sanskrit literature, such as

  • Lokabhāskara,
  • Śrāntabhāskara,
  • Haribhāskara,
  • Bhadantabhāskara,
  • Bhāskaramiśra,
  • Bhāskara-śāstrī,
  • Bhāskaradīkṣita,
  • bhaṭṭabhāskara,
  • Paṇḍita Bhāskarācārya,
  • Bhaṭṭabhās-karamiśra,
  • Trikāṇḍamaṇḍana,
  • Laugākṣibhāskara,
  • Śāṇḍilyabhāskara,
  • Vatsa-bhāskara,
  • Bhāskaradeva,
  • Bhāskaranrsirnha,
  • Bhāskarāranya,
  • Bhāskarānandanātha,
  • Bhāskarasena.


  He makes very scanty references to other writers. He speaks of Śāṇḍilya as a great author of the Bhāgavata school. He refers to the four classes of Māheśvaras, Pāśupata, Śaiva, Kāpālika and Kāthaka-siddhāntin, and their principal work Pañcādhyāyi-śāstra ; he also refers to the Pāñcarātrikas, with whom he is often largely in agreement.

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