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....

20. Ānandānubhava



V. K. Kalyanasundara Sastri

Sāhitya-Vedānta Śiromaṇi

Ānandānubhava has written three valuable treatises on Advaita Vedānta. The Iṣṭa-siddhi-vivaraṇa, as the name indicates, is a commentary on the Iṣṭa-siddhi of Vimuktātman. The Nyāyaratnadvpāvali and the Padārtha-tattva-nirṇaya are his independent works. In addition to these Advaita works, he has also written a commentary on the Nyāyasāra of Bhāsarvajña. Ānanda-giri has written a commentary, Vedāntaviveka, on the Nyāyaratna-dīpāvall. The Padārtha-tattva-nirṇaya has been commented upon by Ānandagiri and Ātmasvarūpabhagavān.

In the colophon of the Nyāyaratnadīpāvali, Ānandānubhava is described as a pupil of Narayaṇajyotis. We come across in this work references to Rumania, Prabhākara, Viśvarūpa, Maṇḍana, Vāchaspati, Sucharitamiśra, Ānandabodha, and others. Ānandabodha, a celebrated teacher of Advaita, has written the Nyāya-makaranda, the Nyāyadīpāvalī and the Pramāṇamālā. It is believed that Ānandabodha must have lived about 1100 A.D. Ānandanubhava has written a commentary on the Iṣṭa-siddhi of Vimuktātman. The latter is assigned to the period between 850 A.D. and 1050 A.D. From these it is clear that Ānandānubhava must have lived after Vimuktātman and Ānandabodha. Chitsukha in his Tattvapradīpikā refers to Ānandānubhava. The date of Chitsukha is said to be 1220 A.D. And so, Ānandānubhava could not have been later than Chitsukha. Most probably, he must have lived in the' second half of the twelfth century A.D.

The Padārtha-tattva-nirṇaya seeks to refute the categories of the Vaiśeṣika system and also the views of the Bauddhas, the Sāṅkhyas, the Mīmāṃsakas and others. The work is divided into two chapters. The prima-facie view (pūrva-pakṣa) Is cogently explained in the first chapter, while the final view (siddhānta) is established in the second chapter. Ānandānubhava vindicates the Advaita view that Brahman alone is real and that the phenomenal world of diversity is just an appearance.

The Nyāyaratnadīpāvali is one of the authoritative, polemical treatises on Advaita Vedānta. Ānandānubhava establishes the fundamental standpoint of Advaita not only on the authority of the Upaniṣads but also by reasoning. According to Advaita, Brahman or the Self which is the ultimate reality is one only without a second (ekameva advitīyam). The real nature of the non-dual Brahman is missed due to the beginningless avidyā. Coming under the spell of avidyā, we look upon the pluralistic world as real; and we are deeply attached to it. Bondage is our attachment to the non-real. If the ignorance of the real is responsible for our bondage, it can be removed only by the knowledge of the real. In other words, liberation can be attained only by the knowledge of Brahman. It is wrong to think that Advaita Vedānta which maintains that mokṣa can be attained by the right knowledge of the Self belittles the importance of karma and upāsana. Karma purifies the mind and the knowledge of the Self is manifested in such a pure mind. It cannot directly lead to mokṣa. The function of karma is restricted to the preparatory stage. Control of intellect, external senses, etc. (śamadamādi), have to be practised, as they are also useful to the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman-While the help of karma is indirect, that of practices like control of intellect, external senses, etc., are direct to the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman.

Following the arrangement of chapters in the Brahmasūtra of Bādarāyaṇa, Ānandānubhava has divided the Nyāyaratnadīpāvali[1] into four chapters. The first chapter begins with the discussion about the validity of the Vedic testimony. By means of elaborate discussion, Ānandānubhava establishes the view that the Vedas, which are apaurusheya are a source of valid knowledge. This is followed by a discussion about the validity of knowledge. After refuting the views held in other systems, Ānandānubhava establishes the Advaita view that (i) truth is intrinsic, and that error is extrinsic and that (ii) the validity of knowledge is due to conditions which are intrinsic to knowledge itself. In the course of the discussion of the causality of the universe, Ānandānubhava maintains the view that the blend of pure Brahman and māyā (māyā-śabalita-brahman) is the material cause. By elaborate arguments, he proves that the Self is of the nature of existence (sat), knowledge (chit) and bliss (ānanda).

On the model of the second chapter known as avirodhādhyāya of the Brahmasūtra, Ānandānubhava shows in the second chapter of the Nyāyaratnadīpāvali that the so-called scriptural contradictions do not exist with regard to the Vedāntic view and that all other views are incorrect. There is an elaborate discussion of the different theories of error. After refuting the views of others, he establishes the soundness of .the anirvachanīyakhyāti of Advaita. His discussion of the paramāṇuvāda of the Vaiśeṣikas is important as well as interesting, for he proves in the course of the discussion that atoms must have parts.

The third chapter of the Nyāyaratnadīpāvali is mainly concerned with the means to the realisation of Brahman. He argues that karma is not directly conducive to the attainment of liberation, and that the combination of knowledge and action (jñāna-karma-samuchchaya) is untenable. In this chapter, the scriptural sanction with regard to sannyāsa of the ekadaṇḍin type and of the tridaṇḍin type is also discussed. Ānandānubhava points out that śruti and smrti texts lend support to the sannyāsa of the ekadaṇḍin type followed by Śaṅkara.

Ānandānubhava discusses in the fourth chapter the nature of liberation, the removal of avidyā and jīvanmukti. Though like other Advaitins he admits jīvanmukti , he points out that from the ultimate point of view even jīvanmukti must be considered to be māyā. Brahman which is non-dual can never be said to be born or destroyed. In the absence of creation and destruction, there is no bondage; and in the absence of bondage, there is no seeker after liberation, and there is none free from bondage. In support of his stand he quotes from Gauḍapāda’s Māṇḍūkyakārikā:[2]

na nirodho na chotpattir na baddho na cha sādhakaḥ,
na mumukṣur na vai muktaḥ ityeṣā paramārthatā.

In the remaining part of this paper let us consider in detail Ānandānubhava’s explanation of the locus of avidyā (avidyāśraya) and of the removal of avidyā (avidyā-nivṛtti).

The post-Śaṅkara Advaitins take sides in answering the question regarding the locus of avidyā . While Prakāśātman holds the view that Brahman, the pure impartite consciousness, is the locus of avidyā, Vāchaspati argues that the jīva is the locus. Ānandānubhava follows the standpoint of Prakāśātman, which has come to be known as the Vivaraṇa view.

The four possible alternatives that one might think of with regard to this question are: (i) that Brahman is the locus of avidyā, (ii) that Īśvara who is omniscient, etc., is the locus of avidyā, (iii) that an insentient object is the locus of avidyā, and (iv) that the jīva is the locus of avidyā. By showing the untenability of the last three alternatives, Ānandānubhava maintains the view that Brahman, the pure consciousness alone, is the locus of avidyā.[3]

Īśvara who is omniscient cannot serve as the locus of avidyā, for Īśvara Himself comes into being as a result of the association of avidyā with the self-luminous consciousness. Since avidyā is posited even prior to Īśvara, the latter cannot be the locus of the former.

It may be argued that Brahman or the Self cannot be the locus of avidyā, as the two are diametrically opposed to each other. Brahman is of the nature of knowledge; and avidyā is just the opposite of it. If so, how can Brahman be the locus of avidyā? Ānandānubhava answers this objection by pointing out that there is no opposition between the self-luminous Brahman and avidyā. It is only the knowledge which arises from pramāṇa (pramāṇa-jñānam) which being opposed to ignorance (avidyā) removes it. The Self which is self-luminous consciousness is not only not opposed to it, but reveals it, as a lamp reveals the existence of an insentient object, say, pot. Ānand ā nubhava cites the case of deep-sleep to show how avidyā can co-exist with the self-luminous consciousness (svarūpa-jñāna .)

The view that an insentient object can serve as the locus of avidyā is untenable. For one thing, there is no 'pramāṇa which reveals the existence of avidyā in an insentient object; nor is it made known through sākṣin, as there is no relation between consciousness and the insentient. Secondly, the positing of avidyā in an insentient object does not serve any purpose. The two-fold work of avidyā is concealment and projection: that is to say, avidyā conceals the true and projec t s the false. What is by its very nature insentient and therefoie does not reveal itself need not be concealed. So it is impossible to think of an insentient object as being the seat of avidyā.

Let us now consider the view that the jlva is the locus of avidyā. There are two reasons which contribute to the plausibility of this view. First, the jlva is sentient, and so while an insentient object cannot be the seat of avidyā, the jīva can. Second, the experience of ‘I am ignorant’ shows that the \jlva is the seat of avidyā. Ānandānubhava argues that this view, too, is not acceptable. The jīva is what it is because of the association of the internal organ (antaḥkaraṇa) which is itself a product of avidyā. How can the jīva, being dependent on a product of avidyā which is therefore earlier, be the locus of avidyā? Further, those who uphold the view that the jlva is the locus of avidyā must clearly specify whether the jīva as qualified by the internal organ (ahaṃkārādi-viśiṣṭa-jīva) is the locus or the jīva as indicated by the internal organ (ahaṃkārādi-upalakṣita-jīva) is the locus. The jīva is a complex of consciousness and internal organ. The former view considers the relation between the two as that of the qualified and the qualifier, similar to the relation between rose and the red colour. The latter view takes the internal organ as a mark (upalakṣaṇa) indicating consciousness in the same way as a crow serves to indicate the house on the top of which it is perched. Ānandānubhava argues that the former view is untenable, for it seeks to rest avidyā on the internal organ too, which qualifies consciousness, and this amounts to maintaining that the cause, viz., avidyā is seated on its own effect, viz., the internal organ.

It may be argued that avidyā and its product, viz., the internal organ, form a series in such a way that the one is preceded by the other alternatively constituting a continuous chain backwards like the seed-sprout series; and so the difficulty of the cause (avidyā) resting on its own effect (internal organ) does not arise. And also the objection of infinite regress is not possible, since the series is anādi. This argument, according to Ānandānubhava, overlooks an important point of difference between the two. In the case of seed-sprout series, there are individual differences (vyakti-bheda) with regard to seeds and sprouts- But this is not possible in the case of avidyā. It is true that erroneous cognitions and their impressions are many; but all of them are the product of avidyā which is one and the same.

Ānandānubhava brings out the difficulty involved in this view in another way also. If it be said that the jīva qualified by the gross body (sthūla-śarīra-viśiṣtaḥ) is the locus of avidyā. then the gross body differs from birth to birth, and so it will result in different centres of consciousness. Such a consequence is undesirable, for there will not be any continuity between one life and another life; and in the absence of continuity, one will not reap the consequences of the deeds done in the previous birth and one may get certain good or bad results, without being the merit of the earlier deeds. If, on the other hand, it be said that the jīva qualified by the subtle body (sūkṣma-śarīra-viśiṣṭaḥ) is the locus of avidyā , the destruction of the subtle body in the state of liberation will also involve the destruction of consciousness of the individual. If it is argued that the subtle body is not destroyed in the state of liberation, then there is no difference between liberation and bondage. For all these reasons, the view that the jīva qualified by the internal organ is the locus of avidyā is untenable. The view which considers the internal organ as a mark (upalakṣana) will lead to Ānandānubhava’s standpoint; for the internal organ as a mark is separated from consciousness which it serves to indicate, and so avidyā is seated only in consciousness.

After refuting the explanation of the nature of liberation given by the Naiyāyikas, the Sāṅkhyas and others, Ānandānubhava sets forth the Advaita view that the removal of avidyā (avidyō-nivṛtti) is liberation. He states the possible objections against the view, criticises them and finally establishes the soundness of the Advaita view of liberation.[4]

The critics are interested in proving the untenability of the very conception. They argue that avidyā-nivṛtti cannot be said to be real (sat) or unreal (asat) or both (sadasat) or indeterminable (anirvachanīya) . If it be said to be real, is it other than Brahman or identical with Brahman? If it is other than Brahman, it will give rise to dualism which is not acceptable to the Advaitin. The other alternative, so the critics argue, fares no better. In what sense can it be said to be identical with Brahman? There are two possible alternatives here: either avidyā-nivṛtti gets itself merged in Brahman or Brahman gets itself merged in avidyā-nivṛtti. If the former, then it is eternal in as much as Brahman is eternal, and so knowledge (jñāna) is not required; if the latter, Brahman has to be treated as a negative entity in as much as avidyā-nivṛtti is negative. Can it be said to be unreal (asat) ? Even this possibility is ruled out by the critics. If it is unreal like the sky-flower, there arises again the futility of knowledge. If it is unreal, it cannot be brought into being- If it be argued that it can be brought into being, then sky-flower, etc., which are unreal can also be brought into being; and this is absurd. It cannot be both real and unreal at the same time, as it goes against the law of contradiction. Since avidyā is said to be anirvachanīya, avidyā-nivṛtti too cannot be anirvachanīya.

The critics further point out that it is not possible to explain avidyā-nivṛtti as a fifth mode (pañchama-prakāra) as other than the four possibilities mentioned above. First, there is no pramāṇa which would justify it. For the sake of argument let us suppose, so the critics argue, that there is avidyā-nivṛtti which is a fifth mode. It is incumbent upon the Advaitin to say whether it is removable or not. It cannot be removed by jñāna; the latter can remove only ajñāna; and there is no other means available to the Advaitin to bring about its disappearance. There is also another difficulty here. The disappearance of avidyā-nivṛtti will mean the re-emergence of avidyā, which is not desirable. The other alternative, viz., that it is not removable, may now be considered. The question that arises here is whether it is knowable or not. If it be said that avidyā-nivṛtti which is not removable (i.e. which is eternal) is knowable, the Advaita view that “whatever is perceived is illusory” has to be given up. If avidyā-nivṛtti is said to be eternal and also is knowable, the world also which is knowable may be said to be eternal. It is not open to the Advaitin to formulate the vyāpti as “whatever is perceived other than avidyā-nivṛtti is illusory”. To the Advaitin there is no real other than avidyā-nivṛtti. If it be said that it is not knowable, then no efforts nssd be taken for attaining it. The critics, therefore, argue that it is impossible for the Advaitin to show that the conception of avidyā-nivṛtti is intelligible and tenable. The untenability of the conception of avidyā-nivṛtti will, according to the critics, undermine the central thesis of Advaita, viz., that the Self is non-dual and that the world which is a product of avidyā is illusory.

Ānandānubhava argues that the explanation of avidyā-nivṛtti as a fifth mode (pañchama-prakāra) is quite sound and that the critics have not really shown the conception to be unintelligible and untenable. Since avidyā is indeterminable, its removal has to be explained only as a fifth mode. It cannot be real, for in that case avidyā too will become real. Since it has avidyā as its p ratiyogī and also since it is brought into being, it cannot be unreal like the sky-flower. Nor can it be both real and unreal as it amounts to breaking the law of contradiction. It cannot be indeterminable (anirvachanīya), since avidyā is indeterminable. So it has to be explained as a fifth mode, as something other than all the four mentioned above.

It is true, says Ānandānubhava, that avidyā-nivṛtti is different from real and unreal in the same way as avidyā is different from real and unreal. But that is no reason for characterising it as anirvachanīya. If avidyā is said to be anirvachanīya, it is not because of its being different from real and unreal (sadasat - vilakṣaṇa), but because it is removable by knowledge. In other words, anirvachanīya, according to Ānandānubhava, is to be explained in terms of removability by knowledge (jñānanivartyatv a)[5]. Avidyā is anirvachanīya, because it is removable. But avidyā-nivṛtti is not removable by knowledge. On the contrary, it is brought into being by knowledge. It is knowable in as much as it falls within the scope of experience. It is wrong to think that it is not removable. Only if it is maintained that it is not removable, it will be prejudicial to the inference by which the Advaitin proves the illusoriness of the world- Ānandānubhava cites the authority of Scripture to show that avidyā-nivṛtti too is removable. The Bṛhadāraṇyaka text says: “In it there is no diversity”.[6] The purport of this text is to show that there is nothing else, either positive or negative, other than Brahman; and in this total denial avidyā-nivṛtti is also included. Ānandānubhava takes pains to show that his standpoint is quite consistent with the view of Vimukt ā tman, the author of the Iṣṭa-siddhi. The explanation of avidyā-nivṛtti as a fifth mode (pañchama-prakāra) is acceptable to Vimuktātman,[7] as he himself adopts this mode of interpretation in the Iṣṭa-siddhi. It is true that he equates avidyā-nivṛtti with the non-dual Self subsequently in the same work.[8] Ānandānubhava’s elucidation of Vimuktātman’s position makes it clear that any suggestion that Vimuktātman is vacillating between these two explanations and that he is not consistent is unwarranted. Since there is nothing else, either positive or negative, other than the Self, avidyā-nivṛtti cannot be given a permanent standing as a negative something coeval with the Self. If Vimuktātman seeks to equate avidyā-nivṛtti with the Self, it is to show that the Self, indicated by avidyā-nivṛtti, is bereft of everything, positive as well as negative.

Footnotes and references:


Critically edited with Introduction by V. Jagadisvara Sastrigal and V. R. Kalyanasundara Sastrigal (Madras Govt. Oriental Series No. CLXVI, 1961). This work will be referred to hereafter as NRD).


ii, 32.


NRD , pp. 344-346.


NRD, pp. 382-386.


This is also the standpoint of Vimuktātman.


IV, iv, 19.


Iṣṭa-siddhi (Gaekwad Oriental Series, Baroda), p. 85.


Ibid., p. 371.

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