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....

32. Lakṣmīdhara



P. Therugnanasambandam
M.A., L.T.

Lakṣmīdhara, the author of the Advaitamakaranda, a prakaraṇa work on Advaita Vedānta, has to his credit two other works, namely, a commentary on Śrīmad Bhāgavata and Bhagavannāmakaumudī dealing with nāmasaṃkīrtana as a means of attainment of puruṣārthas and with the meaningfulness of the Purāṇas. This is evident from the author’s own statement in the latter work which is as follows:

yena bhāgavatavyākhyā kṛtāmṭtatarangiṇī 
advaitamakarandaścha so’karonnāmakaumudīm

Since Bhagavannāmakaumudī is commented upon by Anantadeva Bhāratī who lived in the 17th century, Lakṣmīdhara could not have flourished later than this period. Brahmānanda Bhāratī, the author of the Puruṣārthaprabodha has commented upon the work of Bhāratītīrtha, guru of Śrī Vidyāraṇya who lived towards the dose of the 14th century A.D. Lakṣmīdhara is quoted by Brahmānanda Bhāratī in his commentary on the Vākyasudhā, and hence the author may be placed in the early half of the 15th century.

It is suggested by the editor of the Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts of the Tanjore Sarasvatī Mahal Library (Vol. XIII, No. 7635) that Lakṣmīdhara was the disciple of Anantānanda Raghunātha Yati and that after taking the order of sannyāsa he was known as Krishnendra as is made out by a manuscript of Advaitamakarandavyākhyā (No. 7641).

Sri S. Srikantha Sastri states that Lakṣmīdhara was the son of Simhala, sister of Śrī Vidyāranya, and that he was probably identical with the natron of the Kannada Poet Madhura in the time of Devarāya I (1406 A.D.).

Iṣṭarthakalpavallī, a commentary on Anargharāghavanāṭaka refers to the fact that Lakṣmīdhara, the commentator came to be known as Rāmānandāśrama when he became a sannyāsin. He is described there as Mīmāṃsādvayapāragah and son of Yajñeśvara and Sarvāmbikā of Charakuri family in Guntur district. He is also credited with the authorship of Śrutiranjam, a commentary on Prasannarāghava and Ṣaḍbhāṣāchandrikā, a Prākrit grammar, and a few other works. But whether this Lakṣmīdhara who flourished in the court of Tirumalaraya of Vijayanagar (1567-1575 A.D.) is identical with Lakṣmīdhara, the author of Advaita-Makaranda as claimed by the editor of the Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts of the Tanjore Sarasvatī Mahal Library (Vol. XII, p. 5102), needs examination, as the above information regarding his parentage, name of preceptor, name in sannyāsāśrama, names of works and the period in which he lived does not agree with the information contained in other manuscripts and printed work of Advaitamakaranda.

The author himself in the colophon to Bhagavannāmakaumudī gives the name of his father as Narasiṃha and of his guru as Anantānanda Raghunātha. In the same work he mentions his other two works that have already been referred to.

From the above facts it appears that Lakṣmīdhara, the author of Advaitamakaranda, son of Narasimha and disciple of Anantānanda Raghunātha assigned to the 15th century by the editor of Vani Vilas publication is different from the Lakṣmīdhara of Cherukuru family who flourished in the court of Tirumalaraya of Vijayanagara in the later half of the 16th century.

The work bears a felicitous name, Advaitamakaranda, which as the author himself describes towards the end of the work, is sweet like the honey collected from the autumnal lotus (Śara-dāmbhojasaṃbhṛta), capable of delighting the bees, viz., those learned in the śāstras (vidvadbhṛngāḥ). ‘Advaitam’ is Brahman and ‘makaranda’ is rasa, and the title gives the subject-matter of the work, the nature of Brahman, that is identical with rasa, ‘raso vai saḥ’. The nature of Brahman can be known only by ‘anubhava’ as the sweetness of honey is experienced only by one who tastes it and not by one who listens to an exposition about its nature.

The work contains twenty-seven verses dealing with the nature of Brahman that is not different from the soul. These verses are commented upon by Svayaṃprakāśayati, disciple of Kaivalyānanda Yogīndra, in a lucid and authoritative manner. The author invokes the blessing of his iṣṭadevatā Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Blissful and Eternal (anantānanda Kṛṣṇa), a term which can be taken to make an oblique reference to his teacher Anantānanda Raghunātha, though the commentator takes it only as a devatānamaskāra presumably because he was not aware of this fact, being separated by several centuries from the period of the author.

The central thesis of this work is ‘brahmaivāham’. The scriptural statements ‘aham brahmāsmi’, ‘ānandaṃ brahma’; etc., find effective support in the reasoning contained in the second verse of this work. The non-difference of the soul and Brahman is often challenged by the realists on the ground of perceptual testimony like ‘wham īśvaraḥ’. The commentator clearly brings out that there is no possibility of either the bāhya or mānasa type of perception relating to the soul as it is formless and beyond even the reach of mind.

That the soul is indestructible is established by the author after examining the several ways in which destruction of a thing can be brought about. According to Bauddhas, a thing is destroyed by itself (svato nāśaḥ). Secondly, a thing is destroyed by contact with something else as a pot is destroyed by a stick. Thirdly, a thing is destroyed when its substratum ceases to exist as the colour of a cloth when the cloth is destroyed. The first is countered by the ‘pratyabhijñā’ that everyone experiences in forms like ‘yo’aam suptaḥ svapnam adrākṣam sa eva idānīm jāgarmi’. The second type of destruction also is not possible because the soul is all-pervasive and impartible. The third type of destruction also is inconceivable because there is no substratum for the soul. It is only guṇa, kṛyā, jāti, etc., that have an āśraya or substratum and the soul is not any of these.

That the knowledge of the universe is rendered possible only by association with an intelligent being is elucidated by the analogy of a pot, the existence of which is cognised only in the presence of light,

The author sets forth how the state of wakefulness, dream, and sleep pertain to the ego (ahaṃkāra) and not to the soul, the witness (sākṣī) of those states. The commentator cites the vyāpti, the invariable concomitance ‘yo yajjānati na sa taddharmavān’ in dissociating the soul from the sixfold transformation, viz., origin, existence, growth, change, decay, and cessation. Kartṛtvam, sākṣitvam, etc., are only apparent attributes, the soul in reality being attributeless.

On the validity of karmakāṇḍa of the Veda that speaks about sacrifices and heaven, the author as an Advaitin can only concede a lesser degree of reality to such things, Brahman being the ultimate Reality.

As Dr S. Radhakrishnan observes,

“In later Advaita the comparison of the world to a dream has been stretched to the breaking point.”

Advaitamakaranda says,

‘In this protracted dream which the world is, projected in that great sleep of ignorance reading the self, flash forth the glimpse of paradise, emancipation, and so forth.’

The distinction of ‘bhogya’ and ‘bhoktā’ is held to be a sort of fictitious superimposition on the intelligent soul which is none other than Brahman. Any change noticed in the universe is of no consequence so far as their adhiṣṭhāna, the Brahman, is concerned in the same way as the waves on the surface of the ocean do not produce any the least effect on the deep and calm ocean, their substratum.

As Bharatītīrtha puts it

‘Let the cloud of nescience break and pour the rain of universe. There is neither loss nor gain to the ether of consciousness’—

‘māyāmegho jagannīram varṣatveṣa yathā tathā
chidākāśasya no hāniḥ na vā lābhaḥ iti sthitiḥ.

Sattā (existence) is not an attribute of soul, says the author because there is no reality besides the soul which being one, cannot be supposed to have sattā as its attribute in the same way as there can be no ‘nabhastva’ in ‘nabhas’, space being one. ‘Chit’ (knowledge) is not an attribute of soul but is the very nature of it. The knower and knowable are the same because the soul is self-luminous. ‘Ānanda’ is not an attribute of soul but is the very nature of it. Rasa is equated with that. In fact Sat, Chit and Ānanda are not mutually exclusive aspects of Brahman, though the terms denote different meanings primarily; the one is non-different from the other and the whole is understood in their secondary sense, one ‘Sacchidānandaghana.

The author concludes by reiterating the non-difference of the soul and Brahman by alluding to the mahāvākya ‘tattvam asi’ which conveys the grand truth of the Advaita, viz., the soul that is divested of the obsession about the remoteness of perception of Īśvara, the delimited nature of the soul and māyō-ridden diversity of worldly phenomena is that Brahman.

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