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....

22. Chitsukha



S. Krishnamurti Sastri
Nyāya Śiromaṇi

Chitsukha is one of the outstanding āchāryas who contributed to the development of the dialectical phase of Advaita. The background to his distinctive contribution may be stated in brief.

From the time of Nāgārjuna, Chandrakīrti, and Āryadeva, the Bauddhas had taken to the use of the dialectical method of logical discussions. In the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries the Naiyāyikas also adopted this method, and Nyāya authors such as Jayanta, Udayana, Vātsyāyana, and Uddyodakara vigorously introduced than in philosophy. But though these writers utilized the dialectical method of Nāgārjuna’s arguments, there was little attempt on their part to develop the formal side as such of the method. It was only the later Nyāya writers that began to devote special attention to the dialectic as a method and develop it with rigorous attention to its form. This they sought to do by formulating definitions for the various categories of experience and offer criticisms with emphasis on the formal and scholastic side of arguments. This movement, namely logical formalism, which was steadily growing among the Naiyāyikas in the tenth and eleventh centuries attained its culmination in the works of writers like Raghunātha Śiromaṇi, Jagadīśa Bhaṭṭāchārya, Mathurānātha Bhaṭṭāchārya, and Gadādhara Bhaṭṭāchārya. One notable instance of this over-emphasis on formalism and scholasticism is the formulation of the mahā-vidyā modes of syllogism by Kulārka Paṇḍita in the eleventh century.

The mahā-vidyā modes of syllogism were invented by Kulārka Pāṇḍita for refuting the Mīmāṃsā arguments for the eternality of sounds and proving the non-eternality of sounds. But if these modes of syllogism could be regarded as valid, they would have a general application, i.e. they could be used for proving or disproving any theory or doctrine. The special feature of the mahā-vidyā syllogism was that it attempted to formulate definitions for all that is knowable. Kulārka Paṇḍita’s Daśa-ślokī-imahā-vidyā-sūtra contains sixteen different types of definitions for sixteen different types of mahā-vidyā syllogisms. Such an attempt naturally produced a reaction on the Advaitic doctrine that all that is knowable is indefinable and unreal, which consequently appeared to be losing ground. In the eleventh century and in the early part of the twelfth century writers like Ānandabodha and his commentator, Anubhūtisvarūpa attempted to uphold the Advaitic doctrine on logical grounds. But it was Śrī-Harsha who in the third quarter of the twelfth century for the first time effectively refuted the entire logical apparatus of the Naiyāyikas. With Śrī-Harsha thus began the special study of the dialectical method among Advaitic writers—though the use of the dialectical method in Advaita could be traced back even to āchārya Śaṅkara who utilized it in the refutation of the Bauddha, Jaina, Vaiśeṣika, and other systems of philosophy. Śrī-Harsha’s work was carried on by Chitsukha in the early part of the thirteenth century, by Ānandajñāna or Ānandagiri in the latter part of the same century and subsequently by a number of minor writers, by Nṛsiṃhāśrama Muni in the sixteenth century followed by his pupil Nārāyaṇāśrama, and by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī in the seventeenth century.

The formal criticisms of Śrī-Harsha produced a new awakening among the Naiyāyikas who began to devote their whole attention to perfecting the formal accuracy of their definitions and methods to the utter neglect of the development of the content of their philosophy. This naturally enabled the Naiyāyikas to employ their tools successfully in debates. But as a result of this it became essential for Advaitins also to master the methods of this new formalism for the defence of their own views to the neglect of new creations in philosophy. Thus in the history of Advaita dialectic we can find two stages. In the eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, when the controversies of the Advaitins were mainly with the Bauddhas, Mīmāṃsakas, and Naiyāyikas, the element of formalism in the Advaita arguments was at its lowest, and the arguments were based largely on the analysis of experience from the Advaita standpoint and its general approach to philosophy. But in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the controversy was largely with the Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika schools and was based on considerations of logical formalism more anything else. For the most part criticisms were nothing more than criticisms of Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika definitions. From the thirteenth century onwards the Advaitins’ attack was directed against the followers of Rāmānuja and later of Madhva, who, themselves adopting the method of dialectic, were strongly criticizing the arguments of the Advaitins. But this change of target for the Advaita writers meant little change in their strategy. The method of dialectic had attained such an importance that though the Vaiṣṇava critics brought many new considerations into the controversy, the dialectical method never lost its high place in the argument of the Advaita thinkers.

When we consider the place of Chitsukha in the history of Advaita against this background, we find that he was one of the pioneers of dialectical Advaita. Chitsukha flourished in the early part of the thirteenth century. He was a pupil of Gauḍeśvara āchārya, also called Jñānottama. (This Jñānottama was a saṃnyāsin, and is the one who wrote Nyāya-sudhā and Jñāna-siddhi, and is different from the Jñānottama [miśra] who wrote a commentary on Sureśvara’s Naiṣkarmyasiddhi). Chitsukha wrote a commentary on Ānandabodha Bhaṭṭārakāchārya’s Nyāya-makaranda and also on Śrī-Harsha’s Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya and an independent work called Tattva-pradīpikā or Chitsukhī. In the Tattva-pradīpikā he quotes Udayana, Uddyodakara, Kumārila, Padmapāda, Vallabha (Līlāvatī), Śālikanātha, Sureśvara, Śivāditya, Kulārka Paṇḍita, and Śrīdhara (Nyāya-kandalī). This work has been commented on by Pratyagbhagavān (A.D. 1400) in his Nayana-prasādinī. In addition to these Chitsukha produced a work called Vivaraṇa-tātparya-dīpikā and an index to the adhikaraṇas of the Brahma-sūtra, called Adhikaraṇa-mañjarl, and wrote a commentary on the Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya of Śaṅkara, called Bhāṣya-bhāva-prakāśikā, a commentary on the Pramāṇamālā of Ānandabodha, and a commentary on Maṇḍana’s Brahma-siddhi, called Abhiprāya-prakāśikā.

The writer with whom Chitsukha is intimately connected is Śrī-Harsha. Śrī-Harsha lived probably during the middle of the twelfth century- His most important work is the Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya, In this he refutes all the definitions of the Nyāya system by which it justifies the reality of all that is known, and tries to show that the world which is experienced is purely phenomenal, having only relative existence based on practical grounds. The essence of Śrī-Harsha’s dialectic is this. The reality of the tilings one defines depends upon the unimpeachable character of the definitions; but all definitions are faulty, as they involve the fallacy of argument in a circle (chakraka); and hence the real nature of things can in no way be defined. Our world of experience consists of knower, known, and knowledge. None of these can be defined without reference to the rest. On account of this relativity, it is impossible to define the reality of any of these. The only reality is the self-luminous Brahman of pure consciousness.

A characteristic feature of Śrī-Harsha’s refutation is that while he showed that the formal definitions of the categories put forward by the Nyāya were faulty, he did not attempt to show that the concepts involved in those definitions were impossible. The way in which a concept is presented may be faulty, but this does not mean that the concept itself is false. If the concepts representing the world appearance are to be shown as false, they must themselves be analysed and shown to be fraught with such inherent contradictions that, in whatever way they are defined, they will not be rid of these contradictions. Iśrī-Harsha does not seem to make any deliberate attempt to do this. This deficiency is made good by Chitsukha.

In his Tattva-pradīpikā Chitsukha not only furnishes, like Śrī-Harsha, a refutation of the Nyāya categories, thereby defending the doctrine of Advaita, but also gives us a very keen analysis and interpretation of some of the more important concepts of Advaita-Vedānta. Thus Pandit Harinātha Śarmā in his Sanskrit introduction to the Tattva-pradīpikā speaks of this work as being not only a defence of the philosophy of Advaita but also an exposition and interpretation of it:

advaita-siddhānta-rakṣako’py ūdvaita-siddhānta-prakāśako vyutpādakaś cha’.

The work is written in four chapters. In the first chapter Chitsukha deals with the interpretation of the Advaita concepts such as self-revelation (sva-prakāśatva), the nature of the self as consciousness (atmanaḥ samvid-rūpatva), and the nature of ignorance as darkness. In the second chapter he refutes the Nyāya categories such as difference, separateness, and quality. In the third chapter he deals with the possibility of realizing Brahman and how release comes through knowledge. In the fourth chapter he deals with the nature of the ultimate state of liberation. The first two chapters form the major portion of the work, and the third and fourth are much smaller in size. This may be taken as itself an indication of the main purpose of the work which was on the one hand to defend Advaita by the refutation of the Nyāya system and on the other to expound and interpret the Advaita concepts.

Chitsukha owes the basis of his work to the earlier contribution of Śrī-Harsha, and the kinds of Nyāya categories discussed by Chitsukha are mostly the same as discussed in Śrī-Harsha’s Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya. But the arguments of Chitsukha are in many cases new and different from those given by Śrī-Harsha. Chitsukha’s general approach to the refutation of the categories is also slightly different. For, as Dasgupta says,

“unlike Śrī-Harsha, Chitsukha dealt with the principal propositions of the Vedānta, and his refutations of the Nyāya categories were not intended so much to show that they were inexplicable or indefinable as to show that they were false appearances, and that the pure self-revealing Brahman was the only reality and truth.”[1]

Footnotes and references:


See S. N. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. II, pp. 46-163.

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