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....

52. Brahmānanda



T. V. Ramachandra Dikṣitar
Vedānta-viśārada, Vedānta-śiromaṇi

In the history of Indian philosophy, the influence of Buddhism waned by the end of the tenth century and Advaita definitely triumphed over all the other schools—both heterodox and orthodox. Later, the theistic and pluralistic schools of Śrī Rāmānuja and Śrī Madhva developed and they turned against Advaita in a pronounced manner. Among the followers of the Mādhva school, Śrī Vyāsatīrtha is the most prominent. Adopting the Navya-nyāya method, he opposed the philosophy of Śrī Śaṅkara in his work Nyāyāmṛta. Śrī Madhusūdana Sarasvatī in his Advaita-siddhi answered all the objections raised by Śrī Vyāsatīrtha. Later, the views set forth in the Advaita-siddhi have been criticized by Śrī Rāma Tīrtha in his work Taraṅgiṇī. And, Brahmānanda answered the criticisms raised in the Taraṅgiṇī in his commentary on the Advaita-siddhi known as Laghuchandrikā. This work is also known as Gauḍa-brahmānandīya. Criticizing this work from the stand-point of the Viśiṣṭādvaita, Anantāḻvār wrote a work called Nyāya-bhāskara. The late Paḻamaneri Śrī Pañchāpa-geśa Śāstrī, the preceptor of the present writer wrote a work called— Brahmānandīyabhāvaprakāśa{GL_NOTE::} criticizing the Nyāya-bhāskara. The work Laghuchandrikā is widely read by all the students of Advaita. He wrote another commentary on the Advaita-siddhi; and, it is known as Guruchandrikā. This commentary is available upto the first parichchheda of the Advaita-siddhi. Apart from these two works, he wrote other works also which are as follows:

Nyāyaratnāvalī: Śrī Śaṅkara desirous of helping all human beings in attaining liberation composed the Daśaślokī in order to impart briefly the knowledge of Ātman. Śrī Madhusūdana Sarasvatī wrote a well-known commentary on it entitled Siddhānta-bindu. Śrī Brahmānanda wrote Nyāyaratnāvalī on the Siddhānta-bindu. In the beginning of the commentary, Śrī Brahmānanda says that a unique commentary is composed by him.

vichitrarachanā kāchit brahmānandena rachyate.

All the theories of the Advaita-vedānta are set forth in this commentary with great clarity.

Vedānta-sūkta-muktāvalī: This is a commentary on the Brahma-sūtra. This work throws light upon the Brahma-sūtra by clear and luminous exposition. The Navya-nyāya method is adopted in the interpretation of the Brahma-sūtra.

Mīmāmsāchandrikā: This work is an authentic exposition of the adhikaraṇas of the Pūrva-mīmāṃsā-sūtra; and this work amply testifies to the fact that Brahmānanda is an authority on the Pūrva-mīmāṃsā school also.

Advaita-siddhānta-vidyotanī: This is at once a manual and a polemical work on Advaita. The important concepts of Advaita like anirvachanīya-khyāti, bhāvarūpājñāna, avidyā-nivṛtti and similar other concepts are dealt with. This work follows the pattern of Tamovāda, Śaktivāda, etc., of the great logician Gadādhara. Only the first parichchheda of this important work is available.

Apart from these six works, it is known that he wrote another work called Mithyātvānumānapakṣavichāra.

In the Advaitic tradition, it is often said that the systematic explanation of the Advaita starts from Gauḍa and ends with Gauḍa:

gauḍādi gauḍāntam vedāntadarśanam.

It was Gauḍapāda who at first set forth in his Karikās on the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad the quintessence of the Upaniṣads, that is, Advaita. Advaita-darśana is the most noteworthy among the darśanas. Śrī Śaṅkara enriched it by his commentaries on the Gauḍapāda-kārikā, the Upaniṣads, the Bhagavad-gītā, and the Brahma-sūtra, and also by various manuals on Advaita and hymns on the personal God (Īśvara). Preceptors of Advaita wrote not only commentaries on Śrī Śaṅkara’s works, but independent treatises on Advaita. And, Brahmānanda who hailed from Gauḍa-deśa proved in his works the validity of the import of the Upaniṣads by refuting, on the basis of reasoning, the objections raised against Advaita by other opposing schools. It is with this in view that tradition holds that Advaita begins with Gauḍa, that is, Gauḍapāda, and ends with Gauḍa, that is, Brahmānanda who hailed from Gauḍadeśa,

Brahmānanda has distinct views on the Advaita; Pūrvamīmāṃsā and Yoga schools; and we shall now briefly set forth some of them.

In an erroneous cognition of silver in a shell, six factors are involved; and they are:

  1. indeterminable silver,
  2. general characteristic of silver, that is, silverness,
  3. identity of silver with the object in front of the perceiver, that is, the this element,
  4. identity of silverness with the this element,
  5. the knowledge of relation of the this element to the silver,
  6. and the knowledge of the relation of the general characteristic of the this element, that is, this-ness to silver.

The Laghuchandrikā and the Nyāyaratnāvalī deal with this point in great detail.

When we comprehend the insentient objects, there arises manifestation in respect of them. This manifestation is not possible without the identification of the self which is pure consciousness. The superimposition of the self on the insentient objects is essential if the latter were to become manifest. The insentient objects become contents (viṣaya) of knowledge only when they are identified with the self which is pure consciousness. Or to state the same in other words, insentient objects are objects in the sense that they are identified with consciousness. This is technically stated as chittādātmyam viṣayatā. In a cognition of a particular object three factors are referred to; and, they are: prakāratā, viśeṣyatā, and saṃsargatā. These three factors come within the purview of the definition of viṣayatā referred to above. Brahmānanda establishes this theory on the basis of reasoning; and, he cites the text of Udayana as authority.

Udayana’s passage runs as follows:

prahāśasya sataḥ tadīyatāmātranibandhanaḥ svabhāvaviśeṣo viṣayatā.

We have already referred to a work on the Pūrva-mīmāṃsā by Brahmānanda. As regards the process through which the sense of a sentence is conveyed the Prābhākara school of holds the theory of anvitābhidhāna-vāda and the Bhāṭṭa school of Mīmāṃsā advocates the theory of abhihitānvaya-vāda. According to the former school, a, word conveys its sense as well as its relation to the sense of some act. And, the words themselves convey the sense of the sentence. According to the Bhāṭṭa school, words convey their senses and then cease to function. The senses ot the words in combination convey the sense of the sentence. This view known as abhihitānvaya-vāda is three-fold.

For example,

  1. the suffix (pratyaya) conveys the sense of arthabhāvā and;
  2. the root (dhātu) conveys the sense of arthabhāvanā and the suffix merely indicates it (dyotaka);
  3. both the root and the suffix convey the sense of artha-bhāvanā as associated with the sense of the root (dhātvartha).

Pārthasārathimiśra and other followers of the Bhāṭṭa school hold that the first view alone is correct. But Śrī Brahmānanda in the Nyāyaratnāvalī proves that the third alternative alone holds good.

As regards the injunctive statements of the Veda, the Pūrva-mīmāṃsā school holds that arthabhāvanā alone is the mukhya-viśeṣya or the primary substantive. But Śrī Brahmānanda holds that artha-bhāvanā is only adjectival (viśeṣaṇa) and śabda-bhāvanā alone is the primary substantive.

From a careful study of the Nyāyaratnāvalī, it is known that Śrī Brahmānanda has distinct views on the Yoga system also. According to the Yoga school, asaṃprajñāta-samādhi is the highest Yoga. Yoga means subjugation of all the mental states. In the asaṃprajñāta-samādhi all the mental states are subjugated; this is the view of the followers of the Yoga school, Śrī Brahmānanda, on the other hand, says that even in the asaṃprajñāta-samādhi there is the mental state in the form of Ātman. But this mental state is not manifest then. This is the difference between asaṃprajñāta-samādhi and suṣupti wherein there is the manifestation of the avidyā-vṛtti in the form of Ātman.

Ancient preceptors wrote treatises on Advaita with a view to establish the unity of the self. In order to establish this they advocated several theories which differ among themselves. They do not, however, stultify the non-dual nature of the self, Śrī Brahmānanda does not have any leaning towards a particular theory. In fact he is more concerned with proving that all theories are correct in so far as they do not contradict the primary import of the Upaniṣads, namely, the oneness of the self.

Śrī Brahmānanda has the greatest respect for the ancient preceptors of Advaita. While interpreting the word vedāntaśāstra occurring in the Siddhāntabindu he says that five treatises constitute the vedānta-śāstra; and, they are: the Brahma-sūtra , Śrī Śaṅkara’s bhāṣya on it, the Bhāmatī, the Kalpataru and the Parimala.

vedāntaśāstreti - śārīrakamīmāṃsā - rūpachaturadhyāyā -tadbhāṣya - tadīyaṭīkāvāchaspatya - tadīyaṭīkā - kalpataru - tadīyatīkāparimalarūpa granthapañchaka ityarthaḥ.

Śrī Brahmānanda is the disciple of Śrī Nārāyanatīrtha. In the preface to our author’s work Advaita-siddhānta-vidyotonī, the editor says that Nārāyaṇatīrtha flourished in 1790. We may, therefore, believe that Śrī Brahmānanda flourished during the last decade of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. Śrī Viṭṭaleśa wrote a commentary on the Laghu-chandrikā. He is the preceptor of the great logician Kṛṣṇam-bhaṭṭa who wrote commentaries on Jāgadīśi and Gādādharī. He says:

śrī pāṇḍuraṅgo hṛdaye saṃvidrūpaḥ prahāśatām
yena me samprasideta brahmānandasarasvatī

Let Śrī Pāṇḍuraṅga who is pure consciousness shine in my heart; so that I could understand the import of the statements of Śrī Brahmānanda Sarasvatī.

There could be no more fitting tribute to Śrī Brahmānanda than this one which emanates from the preceptor of Kṛṣṇam-bhaṭṭa one of the greatest logicians that India has ever produced.

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