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....

46. Gaṅgādharendra Sarasvatī



T. S. Narayana Rao

Gaṅgādharendra Sarasvatī is the author of the Svārājya-siddhi,[1] a manual of Advaita. In the concluding verse of this work he gives his date as 1748 Vikrama Śāka (vasvabdhimunyavanimānaśake). This corresponds to 1792 A.D. No further details of the author are available except that his guru was one Rāmachandra Sarasvatī and his parama-guru Sarvajña Sarasvatī.

The work Svārājya-siddhi deals with all the important concepts of Advaita especially with the means to realize the self-luminous Ātman free from the veil of avidyā. It consists of one hundred and sixty-five verses divided into three chapters which are termed adhyāropa-prakaraṇa, apavāda-prakaraṇa and kaivalya-prakaraṇa. The author himself has written a commentary on this work and it is known as Kaivalyakalpataru.

Brahman, the ultimate Reality, is one without a second, and it is free from any attributes. The attributeless nature of Ātman is arrived at by adopting the method of superimposition and negation (adhyāropa and apavāda). This, in main, is the theme of the first chapter known as adhyāropa-prakaraṇa. This chapter contains fifty-four verses. The author deals with the illusory nature of bondage and discusses in detail the sense of the words tat and tvam in the sentence tat tvam asi. Thirteen views as regards the nature of the sense of the word tvam are referred to and critically examined. And, the view of the Upaniṣads that the sense of the tvam is Ātman which is identical with truth, consciousness, and bliss is established.

As regards the nature of the sense of the term tat the author first states that it is Brahman which is the material and the efficient cause of the world. Of course, this is the primary sense of the term tat. He refers to the view-points of ten different school? of thought as regards the cause of the universe and then critically examines them. He concludes by pointing out that the secondary sense of the term tat is the attributeless Brahman which is truth, consciousness and bliss.

The second chapter entitled apavāda-prakaraṇa consists of sixty three verses. In this chapter, the author establishes the indeterminable character of the universe and the non-dual nature of Brahman; and he does so on the basis of the Chāndogyopaniṣad text —‘vāchāraṃbhaṇam vikāro nāmadheyam, mṛttiketyeva satyam’. The universe appears owing to avidyā which is present in Brahman or Ātman. Brahman is the cause of the universe in that it is the substratum of avidyā and its modification, the universe. Brahman is the transfigurative material cause (vivarto’pādána) of the universe. while avidyā is the transformative material cause (paṛṇāmyupādāna). Avidyā and the universe belong to the same order of reality: both have empirical reality. Brahman and the universe, on the other hand, belong to different orders of reality. While Brahman is absolutely real, the universe is only empirically real. Just as the snake superimposed on a rope disappears by the knowledge of the rope, so also the universe superimposed on Brahman disappears by the intuitive knowledge of Brahman.

The Advaitin postulates a two-fold definition of Brahman, one called svarūpa-lakṣaṇa and the other taṭhasthalakṣaṇa. The object of defining a thing is to differentiate it from everything else and this result is attained generally by reference to a property that is distinctive of it. To give an example, water is defined by reference to its liquidity—a feature which is found in it and in none other. This is an instance of svarūpa-lakṣaṇa; for this characteristic is an essential feature of the object defined. Taṭhasthalakṣaṇa, on the other hand, differentiates an object from the rest by reference to a property which is not its essential nature. For example, a house of a person Devadatta is defined by reference to the crow perching on its roof—a feature which is only external to the house and not a part of the nature of the house. Though the two types of definition differentiate the object defined from the rest, yet the svarūpalakṣaṇa alone gives us a notion of the nature of the object defined.

The Advaitin defines Brahman by utilising the taṭhasthalakṣaṇa as the source of the universe. The author has selected passages from the five principal Upaniṣads, namely, the Aitareya the Bṛhadāraṇyaka, the Taittirīyaka, the Chāndogya and the Māṇḍūkya, to show that Brahman is the source of the universe. This is taṭhastha-lakṣaṇa in that the characteristic of being the source of the universe is not really present in Brahman, but is only brought about by avidyā abiding in Brahman. This definition only distinguishes Brahman from certain entities, but does not give us a notion of its nature. And that is done by svarūpa-lakṣaṇa. The Upaniṣadic texts such as ‘ satyam jñānam anantam brahma’ define Brahman as of the nature of existence, consciousness, etc.

The author next proceeds to discuss the import o£ the five major texts of the Upaniṣads, namely, prajñānam brahma (Aitareya) , aham brahmāsmi (Bṛhadāraṇyaka), sa yaśchāyam purushe, yaśchasāvāditye, sa ekaḥ (Taittirīyaka), tat tvam asi (Chāndogya), and ayamātma brahma (Māṇḍūkya). The words such as tat and tvam, etc., constituting the sentences primarily convey Īśvara and jīva. Īśvara is mediate and omniscient. Jīva is immediate and ignorant. In view of the conflicting attributes which they have, there cannot be any identification between the two. Hence secondary signification is resorted to. The two words secondarily signify the absolute consciousness which is the essential nature of both Īśvara and jīva. The identity of the essential nature of Īśvara and jīva is the import of the major texts of the Upaniṣads. This identity is not identity involving duality, but it is identity-in-itself (svarūpābheda). In the Upaniṣadic text —‘nirañjanaḥ paramam sāmyamupaiti’, the word sāmya conveys the sense of identity and the word paramam conveys that that identity is identity-in-itself. The intuitive knowledge of the identity of the essential nature of Īśvara and jīva arising from the major texts of the Upaniṣads annihilates avidyā along with its products.

The third chapter kaivalya-prakaraṇa consists of forty five verses. This chapter deals with the nature of release. The intuitive knowledge of Brahman is the sole means to release. Vāchaspatimiśra, the author of the Bhāmatī holds that nididhyāsana is principal among the means that gives rise to knowledge. Prakāśātman, the author of the Vivaraṇa, holds that śravaṇa is principal and the other two are its auxiliaries. From this it is clear that Prakāśātman holds that the Upaniṣadic sentences themselves give rise to the intuitive knowledge of Brahman. This is the prevalent view; and this author maintains the same.

One who has attained to the knowledge of Brahman continues to live till his prārabdha-karma is exhausted by experiencing its results. This state is known as jīvan-mukti. Our author explains the state of jīvan-mukti in this chapter known as kaivalya-prakaraṇa. The outpourings of jīvan-mukta are set forth in fifteen verses in this chapter and these verses, according to the commentary Kaivalya-kalpataru constitute a section termed jīvan-mukti-gītā. These verses explain in an admirable way the highly evolved state of the infinite bliss enjoyed by the liberated souls. When the prārabdha-karma is exhausted by experiencing its results, the jīvan-mukta is dissociated from his physical accompaniments and he becomes Brahman itself. This is known as videha-mukti.

Footnotes and references:


Published by Śrī Nateśa Śāstri, Āryamata Samvardhanī Press, 1927.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: