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....

27. Pratyagsvarūpa



S. R. Krishnamurti Sastri
Nyāya, Vedānta Śiromaṇi

In order to keep alive the Advaitic tradition for the benefit of posterity, many Advaitic preceptors wrote treatises on Advaita; and among them Pratyagsvarūpa is prominent. His preceptor is Pratyak-prakāśapūjyapāda and Pratyagsvarūpa praises him as the source of the sacred river vidyā that removes ajñāna.

vidyānadīmūlam vidyāgurum

Pratyagsvarūpa wrote only one work and that too is a commentary by name Nayanaprasādinī on the Pratyaktattvapradīpikā or Tattvapradīpikā of Chitsukhāchārya. The title Nayanaprasūdmī is significant, as the study of this work leads to dear perception by removing blindness in the form of ajñāna and brings forth delectation to the heart.

ajñānatimirajetrī mānasanayanaprasādinī ṭīkā

The Tattvapradīpikā of Chitsukha closely follows the method of Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya of Śrī-Harsha. To appreciate the place occupied by Śrī-Harsha, Chitsukha and Pratyagsvarūpa in the history of Advaita in the post-Śaṅkara period, it is necessary to consider some of the authors who preceded them in the immediate past—authors who were active in opposing the new philosophy of Śaṅkara. The latter opponents of Śaṅkara and his school fall into two main groups—the Buddhists and the Naiyāyikas. These two formed the main targets of the criticisms of the Advaitins in the five or six centuries immediately following Śaṅkara. In the field of Nyāya there was a revival of activity which was directed mainly against the concept of jagan-mithyātva. In the times before the 13th or 14th century, if we may draw a rough demarcation like that, the orthodox darśanas and particularly the Nyāya were concerned with opposing the Buddhist schools. After this period when the influence of Buddhism waned, the attention of the orthodox schools turned in a more pronounced manner against each other. Different schools of Vedānta developed and the controversies in the field of philosophy were concerned with these differing stand-points within the fold of Vedānta. The renewed activity in the field of Nyāya may be said to have received a fresh impetus from the new technique developed by one Kulārka-paṇḍita in his mahāvidyānumāna. Śrī-Harsha, Chitsukha, Ānandapūṛna, and Pratyagsvarūpa appeared on the scene at this stage and opposed the Buddhistic and Nyāya schools. At the end of the 14th century, Advaita definitely triumphed over the other schools and reached its highest point

While the Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya following the vitaṇḍa type of discussion only refutes the view-points of other schools, the Tattvapradīpikā explains and establishes the Advaitic concepts also. It critically examines the view-points of the orthodox and heterodox schools. And, the Nyāya school comes in for a good deal of criticism. The prāchīna-nyāya works are replete with the discussions regarding the nature of the soul. The Tattvapradīpikā critically reviews them. While commenting on these portions, Pratyagsvarūpa refers to the works, and the authors, and he cites the relevant passages. One Nyāya writer Vādivāgīśvara, the author of the work Mānamanohara is severely criticised by Chitsukha and Pratyagsvarūpa. The Tattvapradīpikā examines the views of the Nyāya works that are not examined by the Khaṇḍana-khaṇḍa-khādya. And, Pratyagsvarūpa while commenting on these sections, gives the names of the works and authors. While the Tattvapradīpikā refers to a particular view-point and criticises it, Pratyagsvarūpa in his commentary gives all the possible arguments in favour of the opponent’s view-point and later proves them to be unsound. The greatest contribution of Pratyagsvarūpa to Advaita lies in this that all the objections that are raised later by the dualistic schools have already been anticipated and answered by him.

Like the commentator Ānandapūrṇa-Vidyāsāgara, Pratyagsvarūpa also is indifferent to the identity of the authors of the views he examines. For example, while examining the Nyāya conception of liberation in the fourth section of the Tattvapradīpikā, Pratyagsvarūpa refers to a passage from the Yogasūtra-bhāṣya and says that Patañjali is the author of that passage,[1] which he is not. At the end of each pariccheda, Pratyagsvarūpa gives a verse summarizing the subject-matter of the entire chapter. Later Brahmānanda in his commentary on the Advaitasiddhi adopts this method.

The Tattvapradīpikā freely uses the ma hā-vidyānumāna. And Pratyagsvarūpa employs this type of syllogism while discussing not only the Nyāya school but also the view-points of the other schools. As has been stated already, the Tattvapradīpikā deals with the views of the prācliina-nyāya . And this provides an occasion for Pratyagsvarūpa to explain the theories of prāchīna-nyāya. While dealing with the theory of error and the concept of liberation of the Buddhistic school, Pratyagsvarūpa cites passages from the works of the Buddhistic school. A careful study of this work undoubtedly yields profound knowledge of both the orthodox and heterodox schools of thought. This author closely follows the Vivaraṇa school. The Tattvapradīpikā establishes that tamas is an object of visual perception. Pratyagsvarūpa raises the objection that this view is against the conclusive view of Advaita that tamas is an object of the witness-self (sākṣī), and holds that the author Chitsukha shows his power of reasoning (yuktivaibhava) here.

Of all the concepts of Advaita, the concept of avidyānivṛtti is the most difficult one to understand. The Tattvapradīpikā deals with this. Three theories are prevalent in Advaita, and they are:

(i) avidyānivṛtti is identical with Brahman,

(ii) It is different from Brahman; but it is not real in the sense in which Brahman is, nor unreal in the sense of an absolute nothing, nor real and unreal at once. It is also not anirvachanīya because avidyā is anirvachanīya and so its removal must be something other than anirvachanīya. So avidyānivṛtti is a fifth kind,

(iii) It is of the nature of the intuitive knowledge of Brahman that annihilates avidyā. All these three theories are advocated by Vimuktātman. Maṇḍana prefers the last view.

vidyaiva vādvayā śāntā tadastamaya uchyate.[2]

Pratyagsvarūpa while commenting on this section sets forth an argument to prove the soundness of the last view. He says that annihilation of a particular thing as a separate category is neither seen nor intelligible except the rise of the annihilating factor. Knowledge of Brahman is the annihilating factor of avidyā and avidyānivṛtti is identical with knowledge of Brahman.

na hi virodhyudayam antareṇa virodhinivṛttirnāmānyā dṛśyate yujyate vā.

Pratyagsvarūpa wrote only one work and that too a commentary. But this commentary can be considered to be an independent treatise on Advaita. And thus he occupies a unique place in the history of Advaita.

Footnotes and references:


Tattvapradīpikā, Nimaya-sagar press, 1915, p. 361,


Ibid., p. 381.

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