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....
T. R. SUBRAMANIAM
Among the commentators on the Sūtrabhāṣya of Śrī Śaṅkara, Govindānanda occupies a unique place. His commentary known as Ratnaprabhā is being carefully read by the students of Advaita. The author is profoundly influenced by the views of Padmapāda and Prakāśātman. He has had access to the Prakaṭārthavivaraṇa, a commentary on the Sūtrabhāṣya of Śaṅkara by Anubhūtisvarūpāchārya, because there are many instances where he shows the influence of that work. It may be added here that Anubhūtisvarūpāchārya also is a follower of the Vivaraṇa school. Anubhūtisvarūpāchārya is rather devastatingly critical of Vāchaspatimiśra’s interpretation of the Sūtrabhāṣya of Śaṅkara. Amalānanda the author of the Kalpataru defends Vāchaspati’s interpretation and replies to the criticisms of Anubhūtisvarūpāchārya without mentioning his name. An express identification of the reply of Amalānanda as directed against Anubhūtisvarūpa can be had in the Ratnaprabhā.
prakaṭārthakāraistu pāṭhaka-prasiddaḥ antodāttasvaraḥ pāribhāṣika iti vyākhyātam, tadvyākhyānam kalpataruhārair dūṣitam.
In the interpretation of the Sūtrabhāṣya , Govindānanda closely follows Padmapāda. The latter while commenting on the word mithyā-jñāna occurring in the adhyāsabhāṣya interprets it to mean nescience which is indeterminable and positive in nature. Vāchaspatimisra, on the other hand, interprets it to mean superimposition or erroneous cognition.
His contention is that the author of the bhāṣya speaks of avidyā which is indeterminable and positive in the devatādhikaraṇa. And so in the chatussūttrī portion it is not necessary to refer to nescience that is positive in nature. He, therefore, maintains that there are two kinds of nescience. One is positive in nature and the other is erroneous cognition or superimposition. And the latter kind is referred to by the word mithyājñāna in the adhyāsabhāṣya. The correctness of this interpretation is substantiated by the bhāṣya text —tametam evam lakṣaṇam adhyāsam paṇḍitāḥ avidyeti manyante. Vāchaspatimiśra while commenting on this text observes that the superimposition of the not-self on the inner self is alone the cause of all evil, not the delution of silver, etc., hence, that alone is nescience.
‘pratyagātmanyanātmādhyāsa eva sarvānartha-hetuḥ, na punā rajatādivibhrama iti sa eva avidyā’.
From the above interpretation it would be clear that Vāchaspatimiśra considers superimposition itself to be one kind of nescience.
Govindānanda, on the other hand, interprets the word mithyājñana to mean nescience that is positive in nature.
mithyājñānanimittah—mithyā cha tad ajñāmm cha........
mithyātve sati sākṣāt jñānanivartyatvam ajñānasya lakṣaṇam.
And, in this light he interprets the text —‘tametam evam lakṣaṇam adhyāsam paṇḍitāḥ avidyeti manyante’. He says that adhyāsa or superimposition is termed avidyā because it is an effect of avidyā’
‘ākṣiptam samāhitam uktalakṣaṇalakṣitam adhyāsam, avidyākāryatvād avidyeti manyante’.
About the locus and content of avidyā Govindānanda’s view is not clear. Śrī Śaṅkara in his bhāṣya on the Brahmasūtra — ‘tadadhīnatvādarthavat (1.4.3) points out that avidyā is parameśvarāśrayā and in it the individual souls rest.
‘parameśvarāśrayā māyāmayī mahāsuptiḥ, yasyām svarūpa-pratibodharahitāḥ śerate saṃsāṛṇo jīvāḥ’.
‘jīvādhikaraṇāpyavidyā nimittatayā viṣayatayā īśvaram āśrayate iti īśvarāśrayetyuchyate na tvādhāratayā’.
Govindānanda, on the other hand, does not interpret the word parameśvarāśrayā and hence his view regarding the locus of avidyā is not known. He, however, refers to avidyā as īśvare kalpitā. From this we may take that according to Govindānanda Brahman is the locus of avidyā.
While commenting on the Brahma-sūtra ‘aśuddham iti chet na śabdāt’ (3.1.25) Śrī Śaṅkara observes that the Vedic sentence ‘na himsyāt sarvābhūtāni’ conveys a general rule (utsarga) and the Vedic text ‘agnīṣomīyam paśumālabheta’ sets aside the general rule (apavāda). Vāchaspatimiśra observes that each of the two Vedic texts is a valid pramāṇa. And, one pramāṇa cannot contradict the other pramāṇa which is equally valid. So we cannot say that the Vedic text ‘agnīṣomīyam paśum ālabheta’ sets aside the import of the Vedic text ‘na hiṃsyāt sarvā bhūtāni’. In fact the scope of each of the texts differs and so there arises no question of the one contradicting the other. The Vedic text ‘na hiṃsyāt sarvābhūtāni imposes a prohibition with reference to killing of animals out of desire. The Vedic text ‘agnīṣomīyam paśum ālabheta’ permits killing of an animal in a sacrifice. Thus the scope of each of the Vedic texts differs and there is no relation of utsarga and apavāda between the two. Govindānanda accepts this interpretation.
‘vastutaḥ tasya rāgaprāptahimsāviṣayatvād vaidhahiṃsāyām apravṛtteh’
There is a discussion whether the Upaniṣadic text
‘ātmā vā are draṣṭavyaḥ śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyāsitavyaḥ’
(that) conveys the sense of injunction with reference to śravaṇa, manana and nididhyāsana, and if so what kind of injunction is admitted. This is discussed in the bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra’—
‘sahakāryantara-vidhi pakṣeṇa tṛtīyam tadvato vidyādivat’.
Anubhūtisvarūpa in his Prakaṭārthavivaraṇa holds that there is apūrvavidhi. Prakāśātman in his Vivaraṇa maintains that there is niyamavidhi. And, Vāchaspatimiśra maintains that there is no injunction at all. Anubhūtisvarūpa in the Prakaṭārthavivaraṇa while commenting on the bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra referred to above criticises Vāchaspati as one who does not know the import of the Sūtra - bhāṣya. Govindānanda holds that there is apūrvavidhi; and he observes that some commentators who do not know the import of the bhāṣya on the sūtra say that there is no vidhi at all.
‘etat sūtrabhāṣyabhāvānabhijñāḥ sannyāsāśramadharmaśravaṇādau vidhirnāstīti vadanti.’
This charge is levelled against Vāchaspatimiśra.
As regards the nature of the individual soul, he admits the well-known theory of pratibiṃbavāda advocated by Padmapāda. While commenting on the bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra ‘ābhāsa eva cha’ (2.3.50), Govindānanda observes that the consciousness reflected in avidyā and its effects such as intellect, etc., is the individual soul. And, while commenting on the bhāṣya on the Brahma-sūtra, ‘tadadhīnatvādarthavat’ (1-4-3), he says that the plurality of the limiting adjunct accounts for the plurality of the individual souls.
Govindānanda is an able commentator of Śaṅkara like Vāchaspatimiśra, Prakāśātman, and Amalānanda. On crucial points he differs from Vāchaspatimiśra, and in this he is very much influenced by Anubhūtisvarūpāchārya.
Footnotes and references:
Brahmasūtra-śaṅkarabhāṣyam with the commentaries of Ratnaprabhā, Bhāmatī and Nyāyanirṇaya (Nirnaya-sagar Pressm 1909), p. 311.
Ibid, p. 621.
Ibid, p. 818.
Ibid, p. 561.
Ibid, p. 296.