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....

21. Ānandabodha



R. Thangaswami
Nyāya, Vyākaraṇa, Vedānta Śiromaṇi

Śrī Vyāsa in the first aphorism of the Brahma-sūtra indicated that the knowledge of Brahman is the cause of the removal of bondage. This idea has been developed by Śaṅkara in his adhyāsa-bhāṣya stating that bondage itself is mere illusion. This doctrine has been subjected to severe criticism by the pluralistic, the and the Pūrvamīmāṃsā schools. A school of Advaitins took up the defence of the doctrine of Śaṅkara on the basis of logical arguments; and Ānandabodha belongs to that school.

Two methods can be noticed in the books devoted to the criticism of rival schools. Of these, the earlier method is characterised by close reasoning, depth of sense and diction, sweet to the ear: it is conversational in form. When the modern logicians like Gangeśa transformed logic into something entirely new, scholars from Madhusūdanasarasvatī to Brahmānanda-sarasvatī rose to refute them and, giving them their due, used a highly technical language. This is the later style; and Ānandabodha’s is the earlier style. Unlike the other style it is neither artificial nor difficult; but there is no dullness in the presentation of ideas, statement of reasons, and choice of words. Expressions characterised by rigorous reasoning and elegant wit reveal Ānandabodha’s eloquence and dialectical skill.

Ānandabodha’s Preceptor: A commentary, Dīpikā , by Ānandabodha available in manuscript in the Madras Government Oriental Manuscripts Library on Prakāśātman’s Śabdanirṇaya has a stanza “namo .... ātmavāsābhidhānāya gurave guṇa-veśmane”. In the other works of Ānandabodha there are no verses of salutation to the teacher but only a verse of obeisance to the Supreme Being in whom plurality is assumed; this verse also states the four anubandhas, that is, the essential aspects of a work. From this we conclude that Ānandabodha was the disciple of Ātmavāsa.

Ānandabodha is usually regarded as the disciple of Vimuktātman. In his work Pramāṇamāl ā he quotes from the Iṣṭa-siddhi, mentioning the source of the quotation thus:

(?) etadevoktam gurubhiḥ
‘nānyatra kāraṇāt kāryam na chet tatra kva tad bhavet’.

From the word ‘gurubhiḥ’ it is proper to conclude that Vimuktātman was his vidyā-guru and Ātmavāsa was his dīkṣā-guru. But the commentary Saṃbandhokti by Chitsukha on Pramāṇamālā which is still in manuscript does not refer to Vimuktātman as the preceptor and Ānandabodha as his disciple; and it prefaces the quotation from the Iṣṭa-siddhi referred to above thus:

“uktam artham iṣṭa-siddhi-kāra-vachanena dṛḍhayati”.

Vimuktātman must have flourished before Sarvajñātman. The latter in the fourth chapter of his work Saṃkṣepaśārīraka says:

chitibhedam abhedam eva vā dvayarūpatvam atho mṛṣātmatām
panhṛtya tamo nivartanam prathayante khalu muktikovidāḥ.

His commentators are agreed that the term muktikovidāḥ refers to the author of the Iṣṭa-siddhi. Sarvajñātman refers to the author of the Iṣṭa-siddhi in his other work Pañchaprakṛyā.[1]

Prakāśātman in the Vivaraṇa refers to the view of the Iṣṭa-siddhi. Hence we may conclude that Vimuktatman flourished before Sarvajñātman and Prakāśātman. And, he could not have been the disciple of Vimuktātman who must have flourished earlier than Sarvajñātman. The term ‘guru ’ in the Pramāṇamālā is intended to show respect towards Vimuktātman. We may, therefore, take Ānandabodha to be the disciple of Ātmavāsa.


The date of Ānandabodha:

Ānandabodha in his work Nyāya-makaranda refers to the views of Prakāśātman, the author of the Vivaraṇa who flourished in the 11th Century A.D. Anubhūtisvarūpa who flourished between the middle of the 12th Century and the first half of the 13th Century wrote commentaries on all the three works of Ānandabodha. Hence we may take that Ānandabodha flourished in between the middle of the 11th Century and the first half of the 12th Century.

Ānandabodha wrote three works, namely, Pramāṇamālā,Nyāya-dīpāvalī, and Nyāya-makaranda. Of these, the Nyāya-makaranda is the most important one. This is of a polemical nature and refutes the doctrines of the Sāṅkhyas, Bauddhas, Vaiśeṣikas, Naiyāyikas, Pūrvamīmāṃsakas and Jñānakarma-samuccaya-vādins by using the accepted procedure of debate.

Noteworthy among his contributions are the refutation of the difference between jīva and Brahman, rejection of difference in objects of knowledge, establishment of the anirvachanīya theory of error, phenomenal nature of the universe, self-revealing nature of the self, self as of the form of consciousness, the view that words refer (also) to accomplished or existing things, the doctrine of impartite sense, conception of liberation, the substratum of avidyā, and the doctrine that liberation results from knowledge only.


Doctrines established in the Nyāya-makaranda:

The main doctrine of Advaita is that the universe is phenomenal. It is by nature constantly changing and evolving and is ever unstable. So it does not satisfy the definition of Reality propounded by Śaṅkara, namely, that reality is that which does not fail to have that nature determined as belonging to it The universe which evolves every moment, is always unsteady, and as a rule changing cannot answer to this definition; so also the various entities which are present in the universe.

Then, is the universe absolutely and always false? The reply to this question is presented with great effort aided by the support of scripture and reason, Using the analogy of silver that appears in nacre. The Upaniṣads say ‘Ether was born from Ātman’. Here the ablative case in ‘from Ātman’ stands for the cause, material as well as efficient. This cannot be said to be self-contradictory and impossible, as, in the ease of the nacre-silver, both kinds of causality are seen to exist in the same thing, nacre. Here, if there is no silver but only the recollection of silver once seen in the shop, how can there be the effort on the part of the percipient to pick up the thing before him. So, silver has to be postulated as existing there; otherwise the effort cannot be accounted for.

What is the material, and the efficient cause of this illusory silver? As regards all effects, both these kinds of causality are necessary. As the destruction of the effect is, as a rule, inferred from the destruction of the cause, we have to determine that as the cause of the silver, the destruction of which would lead to the destruction of the silver. It is the silver that is destroyed by means of the perceptual knowledge of the nacre. The causality of the knowledge of nacre in the destruction of the silver arises through the destruction of the nescience present in nacre. This naturally leads to the conclusion that nescience present in nacre is the material cause of the silver.

Again, where the nacre is totally unperceived, there silver does not appear. So we have to say that the perception of nacre in its general form is also a cause. Thus the nacre perceived in its general form (i.e. as possessed of ‘thisness’) is the efficient cause; this itself is also called the substratum. Altogether, the nacre known in its general form and unknown in its particular form is the cause of silver. Known in its general form, it is the efficient cause; unknown in its particular form, it is the material cause. This co-ordination of these two kinds of causality is technically known as vivarta (transfiguration). The etymology of the term vivarta is: vi —opposite, varta —existence, i.e. having an existence (reality) different from that of the effect, whereas paṛṇāma or modification is becoming an effect having the same degree of reality. Thus the nacre-silver is the modification of the nescience present in nacre, and t ransfiguration of the nacre itself. In the Upaniṣadic passage quoted above (Ether is born from Ātman) the ablative case in ‘from Ātman ’ should be understood to refer to Ātman as the transfigurative cause. The universe is the modification of nescience present in Ātman and the transfiguration of Ātman itself.

Now a question arises. Unlike the nacre-silver, the universe is not seen to be sublated; so, how can it be said to be the modification of nescience? The reply is detailed with the support of scriptural passages like ‘neha nānāsti kiñchana’ (There is no plurality here). The sublation of the world is known from these passages. It cannot be said that this passage does not deny the plurality relating to the universe but only that pertaining to the Ātman. For, what is the authority for assuming that the scripture denied plurality in particular, i.e. in regard to Ātman? On the contrary, it denies plurality in general. Also, plurality, not well known in regard to Ātman, does not stand to reason and so there arises no question of its denial. Nor is it a case of plurality of the creation of the universe being denied, as there will clearly arise lack of unanimity as well as prolixity.

So, multiplicity of Ātman cannot at all be a subject of denial here; and as there can be no other subject of denial, we have to take that the difference between jīva and Īśvara is denied.

Nor can this passage be taken to deny difference between Īśvara and inert matter. It is well-known that the attributes of matter cannot exist in Īśvara, and so the difference cannot be denied. So, what is denied is the difference between jīva and Īśvara.

Now, the next point to be discussed is whether the denial pertains to all time or to a limited time. Two such kinds of denial are well-known:

  1. The pot is not on the ground (This pertains to limited time);
  2. Wind has no colour (This relates to all time).

If the passage ‘neha nānāsti kiñchana’ is denial of the first kind, then ‘iha’ will refer to Brahman as the substratum; this means Brahman is related to time. It is self-contradictory to say that Brahman is eternal and is related to time. So only the second type of denial remains, and this must be meant by the passage. This denial is technically called bādha (sublation).

Now, one question naturally arises. This denial would lead to the contingency that the universe is never related to Brahman; so, how can one justify scriptural passages describing creation of the universe, etc.? The reply is that the passages describing creation deal not with creation (primarily) but with Brahman which is one and undivided. There is a great dispute as to whether the substratum of the universe is one or many. The Advaitins say it is one; the dualists say that it is manifold. Among the dualists omitting the sub-divisions, there are varieties from the materialists to the Yoga school of philosophers. In short, all philosophers except Śaṅkara are dualists. This must be discussed.

Those who follow scriptures or reason as regards creation must be asked: Why is there difference among scriptural passages themselves regarding the order of creation? One passage says ether was born of Ātman, another says fire, water, food, etc., were born from Ātman. Elsewhere mind, etc., are spoken of as created from Ātman. Yet another passage speaks of creation as constituted of the three guṇas. Thus there is no unanimity regarding the order of creation. Further, scripture speaks of liberation through self-knowledge; it does not say it is got through knowledge of creation. A passage says ‘ tam eva viditvā atimṛtyum eti, nānyaḥ panthā vidyate ayanāya ’ But there is no passage which speaks of any special result as arising from the knowledge of creation. So, according to the maxim ‘In the presence of the fruitful statement the fruitless one becomes accessory’, the creation becomes accessory to knowledge, as it is in the presence of self-knowledge which is fruitful. So, according to the rule that accessories are fruitful only through the principal, it is reasonable to conclude that the fruit of self-knowledge is the same as that of knowledge of creation. So, the main purport of the passages conveying creation is not the knowledge of creation but of the Supreme Being. And, this is accepted by tradition. This is shown by reason also. Creation which is perceived by us is traced by different philosophers to different causes like atoms. If we follow these divergent assumptions we cannot arrive at a single substratum of the universe and in its absence, knowledge will not be adequate to lead to self-knowledge. So we have to postulate a single entity as substratum; this cannot be anything but the self. Otherwise, ‘the knowledge of all from the knowledge of one’ is not possible. If this substratum is the self, there can be no real origination from it as the self is changeless. So the account of creation is given only to establish the Supreme Being which is the sole substratum.

Again, those who zealously assert the reality of creation cannot justify their acceptance of liberation. Philosophers differ in regard to liberation, from the (nihilist) Buddhist to the Vaiśeṣika, Ānandabodha has critically examined almost all views on liberation.[2] Is liberation the cessation of bondage? Bondage is a series of sufferings; in the view of those who say that creation is real how can there be a cessation of this series of sufferings? It cannot be said that cessation is brought about in the manner in which a pot is annihilated by means of a club. Of course, the cessation may be possible as, in the Nyāya view, the self’s qualities exist only for two moments and in the Sānkhya view an opposite process can destroy the previous process. But how can there be a cessation of suffering which is of the nature of non-recurrence? Nobody says that such recurring destruction or cessation constitutes liberation; all are unanimous in conceiving of liberation as eternal. So, if the universe is eternal, then suffering also is eternal and thus, liberation is as unreal as a flower sprung from the sky.

Liberation is accepted in all schools and we must say what its cause is. Scripture states its cause to be self-knowledge and not the knowledge of pot or cloth or the categories accepted by the Naiyāyikas. Suffering is born of ignorance of self and from the knowledge of self arises the destruction of suffering which is the effect of ignorance.

Liberation is of the nature of total destruction of suffering and the manifestation of bliss, eternal and unsurpassed; and this is nothing but the destruction of avidyā. The Supreme Being is One; it is bliss independent, absolute and unsurpassed, but owing to avidyā it appears as having a second, as sullied by the attributes of the cycle of births and deaths and as having the designation of jīva (individual self). Thus, the cycle of births and deaths is none other than beginningless avidyā, while liberation is its destruction and is dependent on the rise of the knowledge of Brahman which is beyond all differentiation and also immediate. This is the definition of liberation given in the Nyāya-makaranda.[3] So, the falsity of bondage which is of the nature of suffering is proved on the ground that it is the product of avidyā.

Just as nacre-silver is not admitted to be real, on account of its being sublated by the perception of its substratum, so also the universe which is sublated by the intuitive knowledge of Brahman is not real. Further the universe in its ramifications is born of assuming the self to be enjoyer. This characteristic of being an enjoyer depends on the superimposition of body on the self and the relation of the self to the body. This superimposit i on is due to avidyā. So it is established that the universe which consists of the objects of enjoyment , enjoyer, etc., is derived from avidyā which is also known as ‘māyā’ or illusion. Māyā is the same as avidyā and it is a positive entity, opposed in nature to knowledge. It has varied powers and they are inferred from the products arising from it.

This māyā has consciousness as its substratum. Now, the question arises : how can there arise māyā in regard to the self which is of the nature of consciousness, just as there can be no darkness while the sun is shining? The solution to this problem is found in the Nyāya-makaranda. The existence of māyā has to be accepted by all schools as none can deny the universal experience, ‘I am ignorant’.

Those philosophers who admit the existence of the self have to grant that the self is of the nature of consciousness. Some speak of consciousness as the attribute and not the very nature of the self and explain the perception of the self in association with this attribute. They have to explain how they can speak of the existence of the self during deep sleep. The conception that the self is eternal but its perception arises from a knowledge which is adventitious and momentary cannot support in any way the doctrine of the eternality of the Self.

The position is this: Those who admit the self to be eternal have also to admit that the self is of the nature of knowledge and, being ever perceived, is self-revealing.

There arises another question. How are we to account for the judgment, ‘I am ignorant’? The answer to this question is: We have to say that the self, being known in its general characteristics and unknown in its particular nature is the substratum of avidyā. Hence, in keeping with experience, the self is the locus of māyā or avidyā.

Another question is raised. Is the individual self the locus of māyā, or the Supreme Self? In the former case, māyā would be many (which would mean that the material cause of the universe is also manifold); in the latter case, oneness would be lost. Thus there would result a paradox that the very Being which is to be resorted to for the removal of māyā is its locus. And the blind cannot lead the blind.

This question is answered thus: There is no fault in either cases. In the view of the Dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda where māyā is considered as the transformative material cause, the plurality of māyā is acceptable. This does not mean that the oneness of material cause is lost; the Dṛṣṭi-sṛṣṭi-vāda speaks only of the transfigured cause, and this cause is the One, Supreme Being. Thus it is logical that the Brahman which has no beginning and end is the locus of avidyā or māyā.[4] So it is correct to say that the Supreme Being itself undergoes the cycle of births and deaths because of avidyā and is released through knowledge. It is Brahman and not jīva, that is the locus for avidyā.[5]

Another objection is raised in his other work Pramāṇamālā.[6] If the universe is derived from māyā, it must be unreal, just as nacre-silver. This means that all the phenomena in the world and all knowledge are unreal. Even the knowledge of Brahman got from scriptures must be unreal because scripture is a part of the universe and it being unreal the knowledge imparted by it also must be unreal. This objection is wrong, since unreality does not mean absolute nothingness. It is neither real like Brahman, nor unreal like a hare’s horn, but it is different from the two. The universe is neither absolutely real, nor absolutely unreal, but it is neither real nor unreal.[7] This is Ānandabodha’s definition of unreality given in Ānandānubhava’s Nyāyaratnadīpāvalī, and Chitsukha’s Tattvapradīpikā. This is referred to and elaborated by Ānandajñāna in his Tarkasaṅgraha. This definition has been refuted by Vyāsatīrtha in his Nyāyāmṛta; and Madhusūdana-sarasvati in his Advaita-siddhi answers all the objections and proves that the definition is logically sound.

Footnotes and references:


Bulletins of the Sanskrit Department, University of Madras, p. 69.


Nyaya-makaranda, pp. 270-271.


Vide, p. 288.


Nyyāa-makaranda, p. 313.


Ibid., p. 336.


Pramāṇamālā, p. 16.


Nyāyamakaranda, pp. 115, 125, 145, 155, 305, 306. See also Pramāṇamālā, p. 16.

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