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....
The mellifluous poetry of early Sanskrit poets has almost completely appropriated to itself all attention and appreciation. Among the works of later poets probably Jayadeva’s lyrical compositions from the Gītagovinda alone have won an unprecedented popularity. But later compositions have generally never evoked the enthusiasm that early poets have always commanded.
Sanskrit, being the language of culture in India embodying the texts in every field of science and thought, has always been cultivated, and enjoyed the patronage of rulers and scholars alike.
Among the later day Sanskrit writers the polymath Appayya Dīkṣita wrote over a hundred books on a variety of subjects. His nephew Samarapuṅgava Dīkṣita is the author of Yātrāprabandha, a beautiful composition. But it is Appayya’s grand-nephew Nīlakaṇṭha Dīkṣita who is the most outstanding for originality of thought and beauty of composition. This was in the seventeenth century when Tirumala Nāyaka of Madurai patronised art and literature. During this period of the Nāyakas of Madurai and Thañjāvur several poets enriched Sanskrit literature. Rāmabhadra Dīkṣita and Ratnakheṭa Dīkṣita are great names. Sadāśiva Brahmendra who composed beautiful songs of devotion and sublime thought wrote a commentary on the Brahma-srūtra for the benefit of the beginners in the field of Vedānta.
Bhagavatpāda Śaṅkarāchārya himself had composed such simple songs as Bhaja-govindam for the easy comprehension of difficult thoughts by even the simplest of folk. His poetic presentation of Advaitic ideas in verses like those in Dakṣiṇāmūrtistotra is to cater to the taste of intellectually better equipped disciples who are yet not ripe enough to fully comprehend his masterly commentaries on the Brahma-sūtra , t he Upaniṣads and the Bhagavadgītā.
It is in this strain that several later day compositions have tried to make difficult philosophic tenets appeal to the layman. There are instances of even allegorical dramas like the Prabodha-chandrodaya of Kṛṣṇamiśra.
It is in this line of compositions that we have the Advaitarasa-mañjarī of Nallākavi who lived in the 18th century. This poet was the author of Subhadrāpaṛṇayanāṭaka and hailed from the village Kaṇḍaramāṇikya which had also produced earlier the famous poet Uddaṇḍa. Nallākavi also wrote a farce Śṛṅgārasarvasvabhāṇa. Born of Bālachandra Dīkṣita he had the good fortune to study at the feet of Paramaśivendra Sarasvatī. He thus came in contact with and obtained the blessings of the most renowned of the disciple of Paramaśivendra, i.e., the author of the Brahmatattvaprakāśikā, an inimitable vṛtti on the Vedānta-sūtra. To this satīrthya he specially offers his salutation:
vande avadhūtamārgapravartakam Śrī sadāśivabrahma.
Nallākavi’s authorship of the Advaitarasamañjarī is doubted, and it is attributed to Sadāśivabrahmendra, but there appears to be no reason to doubt the explicit statement of Nallākavi as the author of this work and his special respect for Sadāśivendra whom he salutes as he commences his work.
It is as a humble follower in the footsteps of Sadāśivabrahmendra and even Śaṅkara Bhagavatpāda himself that Nallākavi composed his Advaitarasamañjarī which he himself rightly describes as a sweet pill of immortality to help take in the difficult import of the Upaniṣads which are the bitter though sure remedy for the malady of the cycle of births and deaths:
bhavarogasyauṣadhamiti pātum kaṭumaupaniṣadabhavamasau
virachayya amṛtaghaṭikām vitarati nallākaviḥ sudhiyām.
As in the Dakṣiṇāmūrtistotra, Advaitapañchaka or Śataślokī or Vivekachūḍāmaṇi or Praśnottararatnamālā of Bhagavatpāda, the verses in the Advaitarasamañjarī individually unravel in a simple but effective way the well-known thoughts and parables expounded in the texts of the Vedānta. His own simple commentary, replete with appropriate quotations from the Upaniṣads , Śaṅkara’s Bhāṣya, Saṃkṣepa-śārīraka, Jñānavāsiṣṭha, Pañcha-daśaprakaraṇa, Śūtasaṃhitā, Anubhūtiprakāśikā, Vārtikasāra and other books, further clarifies the import of the verses.
Following the lead of Śaṅkara, Nallākavi has this verse:
adhyāsavisphuradanekavidhātmabhedam ajñānam āśṛtavataḥ sulabhā na muktiḥ
ādarsagehamabhitaḥ pratibimbitāntaḥ dvāram gatasya na bahirgatirarbhakasya,
which closely resembles the thought expressed in
viśvam darpaṇaḍṛśyamānanagarītulyam nijāntargatam
paśyannātmani māyayā bahirivodbhūtam yathā nidrayā
yaḥ sākṣātkurute prabodhasamaye svātmānamevādvayarn
tasmai śrīgurumūrtaye nama idam śrīdakṣiṇāmūrtaye.
Nallākavi is such a staunch Advaitin that he is out for claiming Advaita in what is obviously a combination of two. He feels that even the distinctly different parts of the body of Ganeśa like the elephant’s head and human body have come together as one to show the path of Advaita, and in his initial invocatory verse he prays to Ganeśa to unravel to him all the truth of Advaita as he manifests Advaita even in his body make-up:
advaitameva paramārthatayā vivektum aṅgīkṛtadvipariarākṛtisanniveśaḥ,
advaitagocharam aśeṣaviśeṣamantar-āviṣkarotu varado mama vignarājaḥ.
His simple treatment of his subject to bring home the teachings of the Upaniṣads as in his verse
śantyādisādhanavataḥ puruṣottamena samprāpyate nijapadam varadeśikoktyā
chorairaraṇyasaraṇim gamitena puṃsā deśo nijo hi tadabhijña giraiva gamyaḥ
‘paṇḍito medhāvī gāndhārānevopasampadyeta
evameveha āchāryavān puruṣo veda’.
While offering the truth of great parables in simple verse as in his
bandho vimochanamiti bhramadurvilāsaḥ
tatpañchata cha sutarām parikalpanaiva
he scrupulously gives his source by quoting the verse from the Jñānavāsiṣṭha —
chidvyoma kevalam-anantam-anādimadhyam brahmaiva bhāti nijachittavaśāt svayambhu
ākaravāniva pumāniva vastutastu vandhyātanūja iva tasyu tu nāsti dehaḥ.
That Nallākavi can give a humorous twist to even a philosophical tenet is clear in his verse—
viśvam samastamapi vibhramamātrametat ātmaiva sannayamananyasukhaprakāśaḥ
sphūrtyaiva viśvamapi satyamitīṣyate chet ko nāma śuktirajatena dhanī bhavenna,
where the last line cannot fail to bring a smile on the lips of even a rugged philosopher.
The poet discusses the various problems of Advaitic thought in his simple effective verses taking up a theme for each. These are the ones like the rajjusarpa, ghaṭākāśa, śuktirajata, vandhyā - suta, to mention a few. He gives telling and clear examples to drive home a truth. The illusion of a circle of fire is only as long as a lit faggot is whirled vigorously to produce that illusion. When it is stopped the circle disappears. It is even so with this illusory circle of births and deaths that make the whole series appear a reality in right earnest till it is stopped by true realisation that puts an end to nodding.
Basing on the bhāṣya of Bhagavatpāda
ālokyatām bhuvanachakramalātachakram atyantavibhramavijṛmbhitamasthiraṃ cha
daivādbhramasya viratau samupasthitāyām nālokyate kila pureva punastadeva.
It is the defect of the eye that perceives the moon twined, tripled or multiplied. Even so it is a lack of true perception that helps one to see diversity where only the one Ultimate exists. Nallākavi in commenting on his verse
ekopi sannayam anekatayā vibhāti bhūmā svakalpitatamaḥpaṭalānuṣaṅgāt
indurdvitīyarahitopi cha sadvitīya-bhāvena bhāti puruṣasya nijākṣidoṣat
aptly quotes a well-known passage to illustrate effectively his point
‘nahyayam sthāṇoraparādhaḥ yadenamandho na paśyati.’
He gives the telling example of chitrapaṭa or a painting with different lines and colours composing different dements of the picture composition in spite of the divinity of all of which it is after all a canvas all through. Quoting
‘nāsyātmano’ntar bahirvā chaitanyādanyad
rūpamasti; chaitanyameva tu nirantaramasya
svarūpam, yathā saindhavaghanasya antarbahiścha
lavaṇarasa eva nirantaro bhavati na rasāntaram’
he explains it in his verse
‘ādhyāsikasphuraṇabedhatirohito’pi chiddhāturekarasatām na jahāti jātu
nānācharācharavichitracharitrato’pi chitraḥ paṭo na paṭabhāvampāsyati svam.’
Ingeniously he explains rasavad brahma of Śaṅkara’s exposition:
by fully utilising the double entendre or multiplicity of connotation of the word rasa and illustrating the attainment of the divine stream of Gaṅgā instead of the willo’ the wisp of a mirage as exactly what is attained by seers who discard the illusion of the outer world for realising Brahmarasa or Supreme bliss.
viśvam mṛṣā virasamityavadhīrya dhairyāt āsvādyate munibhirantarasau rasātmā
uchchāvacham marumarīchirasam nirasya samsevyate sumatibhiḥ surasindhupūraḥ.
As a contrast he gives the example of the fool who without understanding the true import of the universe as Bliss suffers through his very ignorance. He compares him to a little child who unable to understand the true import of his own shadow on the wall imagines it to be a spirit and shudders:
ānandavisphuraṇa rāpamapi prapañcham anyam vibhāvya paritāpamupaiti mugdhaḥ
dīpādishu svavapuṣaḥ paridṛśyamānām chāyām vigāhya parimuhyati kiṃ na bālaḥ.
Nallākavi describes the attitude of one who has realised the truth in a telling verse where he compares the enlightened one unperturbed by the complexities of the illusory world to the one wide awake recalling his wild dreams but never frightened by the image of wild animals pursuing him :
mithyā samullasatu nāma jagadvichitram
etāvatāpi mama tattvavido na hāniḥ
na svāpnikatvamanusandhato’sti bhītiḥ .
The wise one who has realised this truth and is untouched by these illusions can still carry on in this world as usual to fulfil his normal obligations to society like one who is fully aware that his face is where it is and not in the mirror and yet uses the mirror like any other:
If such a one prefers often to go into a trance or contemplation it is because of a force of habit as there is nothing more for him to do to attain anything as he has already realised the Truth. In this he is like the emperor who has all that’ he could wish for but still uses the elephants and horses in his play of chess to win his game just to while away his time and because of a force of habit:
sarvātmatāmupagato hi munissamādhim pūrvānuvṛttamayate samayāpanuttyai
paryāptasarvavibhavaḥ kṣitipo hi kālaniryāpaṇāya juṣate chaturāṅgameva.
Such an enlightened one, free from all volition motivated by desire, is amused by scriptural injunctions and prohibitions; even as one lazy beyond measure and completely averse to action enjoys to hear utterances of ‘do and don’t’. Such a saint is truly an emperor among sages and his movement at will cannot be questioned as in the case of an emperor at the peak of his power acting according to the dictates of his mind:
tattvānuchintanaparo munisārvabhaumaḥ svacchandato vyavaharannapi nānuyojyaḥ
sāmrājyametya yathāruchi vartamānaḥ rājā prajābhiranuyoktum aśakya eva.
One who has experienced the illusory nature of wordly splendour is not lured by its grandeur just as even a passionate youth is not drawn by the blandishments of a boy acting the heroine:
prāpañchikastu vibhavdḥ paramādbhuto’pi dhīram na rañjayati dṛṣṭatadīya, tattvam
strīveṣabhūṣitatanuḥ puruṣo vilāsaiḥ tajñam yuvānamapi rañjayitum hi nālam.
On the other hand, having firmly established his mind in the Truth of the Absolute, the seer has no more any concern for worldly enjoyments like one lofty in spirit blessed with a fortune by great good luck can never lower himself again to miserly beggary.
antarnirantara nirūḍhanijātmatattvaḥ na prāgiva vyasanitām viṣayeshu dhatte
bhāgyāt kutaśchidapi labdhanidhirmanasvī kiṃ pūrvavat kṛpaṇatām urarīkaroti.
Finally Nallākavi justifies the quotation in his commentary
āryatā hṛdyatā maitrī saumyatā samatā jñatā
samāśrayanti tam nityam antaḥpuramivāṅganāḥ
by describing how all the great ātmaguṇas or saintly qualities come of their own accord to adorn the seer who has realised the Bliss of the Absolute, just as one who has won over the king as a friend is surrounded and served by the retinue of the royal household—
svadhonite suhṛdi rajani tasya bhṛtyā
ye te’pi cha svayamupetya tamāśrayante.
In concluding with this verse this brief discussion of Nallākavi’s charming poem on Advaita, one cannot help feeling that the one ocular presentation of this thought expressed by the poet is in the personality of our beloved and revered Bhagavatapāda Śrī Chandraśekharendra Sarasvatī himself, who, having realised the Absolute and beaming with all the ādhyātmika guṇas, is moving amidst us all with no other purpose except that of leading us on to the ‘blessed other shore’, as he is the embodiment of mercy, and we are the kittens to be carried to safety according to the mārjārakiśora-nyāya.