Preceptors of Advaita

by T. M. P. Mahadevan | 1968 | 179,170 words | ISBN-13: 9788185208510

The Advaita tradition traces its inspiration to God Himself — as Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa or as Sadā-Śiva. The supreme Lord revealed the wisdom of Advaita to Brahma, the Creator, who in turn imparted it to Vasiṣṭha....

12. Sureśvara

SURESVARA

by

S. V. Subrahmanya Sastri 

Vedanta Śiromaṇi

The Guruparaṃparāsto Ira of the Śṛṅgeri Āchāryas published by Dr Hultzch says that Śrī Śaṅkara after establishing a Maṭha on the banks of the river Tuṅgabhadrā reached Kāñchī. After consecrating Kāmākṣī Devi and after appointing Viśvarūpa (Sureśvara) to spread Advaita from his own Āśrama, Śaṅkara attained immortal bliss there. It says:

vatra saṃsthāpya kāmākṣīm jagāma paramaṃpadam,
viśvarūpayatim sthāpya svāśramasya prachāraṇe.

The manuscripts of Śaṅkara-vijaya of Ānandagiri preserved in the Madras and Mysore Government Oriental Manuscripts Libraries state in the chapter sixty-five that Śrī Śaṅkara installed one of the five Sphaṭika Liṅgas called the Yogaliṅga in the Kāmakoṭi-pīṭha at Kāñchī and ordained Sureśvara to be in charge of that pīṭha.

tasmāt muktikānkṣibhiḥ sarvaiḥ śrīchakrapūjā kartavyā iti niśchitya tatraiva nijāvāsayogyam maṭhamapi parikalpya lotra, nijasiddhāntapaddhatim prakāśayitum antevāsinam sureśvaram āhūya yoganāmakam liṅgam pūjaya iti tasmai datvā tvam atra kāmakoṭipīṭham adhivasa iti vyavasthāpya śiṣyajanaiḥ paripūjyamānaḥ śrīparamaguruḥ sukhamāsa.

Sureśvara was commissioned by Śrī Śaṅkara to write treatises elucidating his works. He accordingly prepared a most voluminous Vārtika on the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣadbhāṣya and a shorter one on the Taittirīyopaniṣadbhāṣya, both of which were published with the commentary of Ānandagiri, at the Ānandaśrama Press, Poona. Besides these we have his Mānasollāsa, explanatory of Śrī Śaṅkara’s short poem entitled Dakṣiṇāmūrti-stotra, the  Pañchīkaraṇa-vārtika based on a prose work cn Śaṅkara named Pañchīkaraṇa. and the Naiṣkarmyasiddhi which reiterates the views embodied in the Upadeśasāhasrī, another important work of Śaṅkara. We shall now briefly set forth the Advaitic doctrine as expounded by Sureśvara.

The Advaitins assign an important place to the Upaniṣads and hold that the Upaniṣadic seniences(?) such as ‘tat tvam asi’ ‘aham brahmāsmi’, etc., signify Brahman which is absolute, truth, and consciousness, and which is the sole reality. Ii is in this connection that the Advaitins consider the question concerning the relation of the words of the Upaniṣadic texts to Brahman. Words signify their senses through three kinds of signification, and they are:

  1. primary signification,
  2. secondary signification,
  3. and signification based on similarity.

These three are defined as follows:

The primary signification is the process through which the primary meaning of a word is conveyed. The secondary signification is when the primary sense of a word is incompatible with the senses of the other words of a sentence the word conveys another sense invariably connected with its primary sense. This is adopted in the casa of ‘The hamlet is on the Ganges’. Here since the literal meaning, viz., the hamlet being on the current of the Ganges is discrepant, thu word ‘Ganges’ abandons its primary sense and secondarily signifies its bank which is invariably connected with the current of the Ganges—the primary sense. The signification based on similarity (Gauṇī-vṛtti) is: When the primary sense of a word is incompatible, the word conveys the other sense which has the same qualities that arc present in its primary sense and this process is known as signification based on similarity. This kind of signification is adopted in the case of “Devadatta is a lion”. Here since the litoral moaning, viz., ‘Devadatta being a lion’ is discrepant, the word ‘lion’ signifies the person ‘Devadatta’, who has the qualities of valour, cruelty, etc.,—the qualities which are present in the primary sense of the word ‘lion

Among these three kinds of signification, the primary one and the one based on similarity do not admit of varieties.

But the secondary signification is of three kinds:

  1. jahallakṣaṇa,
  2. a-jahallakṣaṇa,
  3. and jahad-ajahallakṣaṇa,

These three are defined and illustrated as follows:

i) Jahallakṣaṇa is that where the word totally abandons its primary sense and signifies the other sense invariably connected with its primary sense. This is adopted in the case of ‘The hamlet is on the Ganges’ already referred to.[1]

ii) A-jahallakṣaṇa is that where a word without abandoning any part of its primary sense signifies the other sense connected with its primary sense. This kind is adopted in the case of ‘The red (horse) stands outside’.[2] Here the primary sense of the statement, viz., the quality of redness standing is incompatible; and the incompatibility is removed by understanding from the word ‘red’, without excluding its primary sense, a horse to which redness belongs.

iii) Jahad-ajahallakṣaṇa is that where a word by excluding a part of its primary sense conveys another part. This is adopted in the case of the sentences such as—‘This is that brahmin’.[3] This sentence involves a partial contradiction in this that ‘brahmin’ as related to past time and a different place (referred to by the word ‘that’) is identified with brahmin as related to present time and a particular place (referred to by the word ‘this’)- Hence the word ‘this’ and ‘that’ discard a part of their primary sense, viz, the relation of present and past time and place, and convey the other part, viz., the person-in-himself.

Thus the secondary signification is threefold. So far the explanation of the three kinds of signification. It remains to see what kind of signification is adopted by the words of the Upaniṣadic texts in conveying Brahman. The words cannot convey Brahman through primary signification because of the absence of media through which the words could primarily convey their senses. Every word employed to denote a thing denotes that thing as associated with a certain genus, or act or quality or mode of relation. But Brahman which transcends both speech and mind, which is free from all qualities has no genus, possesses no qualities, does not act and is related to nothing else, in which case the primary signification would hold good. Hence Brahman cannot be primarily conveyed by the words of the Upaniṣadic texts. Now it is to be examined whether Brahman can be secondarily signified and, if so, what kind of secondary signification can be adopted. Śrī Śaṅkara, in his Svātmanirūpaṇa holds[4] that jahallakṣaṇa and ajahallakṣaṇa arc not applicable and jahad-ajahallakṣaṇa alone should be adopted. Sureśvara, on the other hand, would maintain tha t jahallakṣaṇa should be adopted in the interpretation of the words of the Upaniṣadic texts.[5] He further holds that the signification based on similarity (Gauṇi-vṛtti) also may be adopted. The arguments of Sureśvara in favour of the adoption of those two kinds of signification may be briefly stated as follows:

It has been said that a word can secondarily signify that sense alone which is invariably connected with its primary sense. Hence, in order to make any further analysis of what is secondarily signified by the words ‘tat ’ and ‘tvam’ in the Upaniṣadic text ‘tat tvam asi ’ it is necessary to find out their primary meanings. The primary meaning of the word ‘tat' is Īśvara and that of the word ‘tvam.’ is jīva. Sureśvara holds Īśvara and jīva to be the reflections of pure consciousness, i.e. Brahman, in avidyā and intellect respectively. He further holds that the reflection in entirety is false or indeterminable either as sentient or insentient. Īśvara , although indeterminable, is falsely identified with the consciousness that serves as the original and is viewed as the creator of the universe. Jīva too, although indeterminable, is falsely identified with the pure consciousness that servos as the original and is viewed as the agent, enjoyer, etc. This theory is known as ābhāsa-vāda. The primary meanings of both the terms are indeterminable and hence they must be discarded. The terms totally abandon their primary sensor: and secondarily signify the pure consciousness with which their primary senses are falsely identified. Sureśvara thus adopts the secondary signification known as jahallakṣaṇa. It has been said that Śrī Śaṅkara favours the adoption of jahadajahallakṣaṇa . This is as it should be; because Śrī Śaṅkara holds the reflections of the pure consciousness in avidyā and intellect not to be indeterminable, but to be real. This theory is known as pratibiṃba-vāda. According to t his theory, the consciousness that is reflected is real; but the state of reflection (pratibiṃbatva) pertaining to the consciousness is indeterminable. Thus the reflection of pure consciousness is partly real and partly indeterminable. Īśvara, as the reflection of pure consciousness in avidyā, is real; but Īśvaratva, i.e. the state of reflection pertaining to the reflected consciousness is indeterminable. Similar explanation applies to the reflection of consciousness in the intellect. The words ‘tat’ and ‘tvam’ discard a part of their primary sense, i.e. Īśvaratva and jīvatva, and secondarily convey the other part, i.e. the consciousness which is identical with the original. Śrī Śaṅkara thus admits jahad-ajahallakṣaṇa. Sureśvara no doubt admits the foundation laid by Śrī Śaṅkara; but he has made improvement on it.

Sureśvara in his Naiṣkarmyasiddhi admits Gauṇīvṛtti also in the interpretation of the terms of the Upaniṣadic texts. The word ‘tat’ secondarily signifies the absolute consciousness which is the essential nature of its primary sense, that is, Īśvara, through the common feature of consciousness present in both the primary and secondary senses. Similarly the word ‘tvam’ secondarily signifies the inner consciousness which is tile witness of pleasure, pain, etc., and which is the essential nature of its primary sense, that is, jīva, through the common feature of inwardness, subtlety, etc. Thus both the terms signify the pure consciousness through signification based on similarity. It must be noted here that although consciousness, subtlety, etc., are the essential nature of Brahman or Ātman, yet they are, by courtesy, spoken of as the attributes of Brahman or Ātman. Sarvajñātman in his Saṃkṣepaśārīraka refers to this view; and this view according to Madhusūdana Sarasvatī is only a ‘prauḍhivāda.[6]

As regards the locus and content of avidyā, Sureśvara considers the differentiation between the locus and content to be unnecessary and therefore maintains[7] that Brahman is the locus and content of avidyā.

On the practical side of Advaita, Sureśvara holds[8] that the rituals including the optional ones (kāmya-karmas) when performed without any attachment to their fruit generate in the mind of the aspirant the desire to know Brahman. In his Naiṣkarmyasiddhi,[9] Sureśvara criticises the view that the Upaniṣadic texts give rise to only mediate knowledge which later becomes immediate by meditation; and he holds the position that the intuitive knowledge of Brahman arises directly from the Upaniṣadic texts.

Sureśvara in his commentaries on Śrī Śaṅkara’s works elucidates the Advaitic doctrine expounded by Śrī Śaṅkara; and his commentaries are very valuable aids to the understanding of the texts of Śrī Śaṅkara. In authority they are second only to the best writings of Śrī Śaṅkara.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

Svātmanirūpanam by Śrī Śaṅkara, v. 33,

[2]:

Ibid, v. 34.

[3]:

Ibid., vv. 35, 36,

[4]:

vide w. 33, 34 and 35.

[5]:

vide Siddhāntabindu (Kāśī Sanskrit series), pp. 219-222.

[6]:

Vedāntakalpalatikā (Sarasvatībhavana series), p. 48.

[7]:

Naiṣkarmyasiddhi (Bombay Sanskrit and Prakrit Series No. XXXVIII), pp. 105-106. Compare Saṃkṣepaśārīraka, I, 319.

[8]:

Bṛhadāranyako’paniṣadbhāṣyavārtika, 4, 4, 1052.

[9]:

(this note is missing from the book)

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