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....



T. P. Meenakṣisundaram

M.A., B.L., M.O.L.

Tāṇḍavarāya Svāmikal is very popular among the Advaitins of Tamil land whether literate or illiterate. His famous work in Tamil Kaivalya-navanītam (Butter of Kaivalya-Mokṣa) is so named as the author himself explains, because he has taken the cream of wisdom from the various pots of milk of jñāna entrusted to succeeding generations by the great sages and seers of this sacred land. Its language is so simple and its exposition is so concrete and full of homely illustrations, that it is so popular amongst even the illiterate men and women of Tamil land. Many a widow and many an old man forget the miseries of this world and immerse themselves in the joy of this knowledge. It is popular in the Kerala country and also on the borders of the Andhra deśa. In addition, there is a popular translation in Malayalam almost echoing the words and phrases of the original. When in the last century somewhere in 1865, Murdock published for the first' time a classified catalogue of Tamil printed books he assured us that this book was one of the highest authorities on Śaṅkara’s Vedānta in the Tamil land. There is also a translation in Sanskrit with the same name by one Śaṅku Kavi. This Śaṅku Kavi states that he is a disciple of Kriṣṇānanda whom some identify with Kriṣṇānanda the author of Siddhānta-siddhāñjana. The German Missionary Dr. Graul considered this so very important as to be translated into German language. The Ramaṇāśrama has sponsored a translation into English thus placing this book before the International audience.

Tāṇḍavarāya Svāmikal was called Tāṇḍava or Tāṇḍavamūrti by his parents as is made clear by himself. He speaks of Venkaṭeśa Mukundan as his Guru. But this refers to Viṣṇu, the lord of Venkata hills. At the end of the book he speaks of Niraṇaguru of Nannilam, a place in the Tanjore district. In the first verse of his work he uses Nannilam as referring to the highest of Sapta bhūmis in the spiritual ascent. In another verse the poet tells us that this Nārāyaṇa or Nāraṇa had come to reveal to the author the truth in the latter’s yogic state. The Malayalam translation will explain it as the Guru revealing in the dream of the student. The author has described how he has himself through the teachings of his Guru attained to the state of jīvan-mukta.

The book consists of two parts, one tattvaviḷakkappaṭalaṃ where the Vedānta truth is expounded and the second sandeham telidal paṭalam where various doubts which arise are cleared. He states that this book is intended for those who were not so intelligent as to be able to read the Śāstras. This book starts with a person who has achieved the sādhana chatuṣṭaya and who thereafter rushes away from the world to his Guru who welcomes him with joy. The Guru tells him that as soon as he knows himself he will be a free man. Naturally the disciple raises tbe question “Do not I know myself?” The Guru begins to explain the difference between the body and the one who has the body. Through various examples the Guru convinces the student that the latter is not the body and proceeds to explain in a gross way by speaking of ārōpa which is the real bandha where one sees something else. Apavāda is the removal of this āropa and is therefore really mokṣa. The real Brahman is mistaken for this world of the body in the āropa state. The Guru thereafter described the evolution of the world emphasising at every step the jīva in tha body and Īśvara in the Universe. The samaṣṭi outlook leads us to Īśvara: vyaṣti outlook leads us to jīva. If this āropa of evolution is analysed according to the śāstras, mokṣa will result. But one who cannot realise this is advised, to reduce the series of effects into the series of causes. This āropa consists of two śaktis, one which creates illusion —vikṣepa śakti and the other āvaraṇa śakti which hides the real truth. The ādhāra or the basis, consists of two parts, what is common to all and what is special. What is common is the meaning of what we denote by the usage of the word “this”. This never disappears. What is predicated of this is what is special and this will certainly disappear at the dawn of knowledge. What really is, is the Brahman. When this is hidden jīvātmā appears. When this disappears then Brahman will be realised. The various illusions may even lead to salvation and then disappear along with others. You burn a corpse with a burning stick, but finally the burning stick is also reduced to ashes. Therefore the vikṣepa is not so bad as āvaraṇa which hides the truth. Māyā has to be removed by māyā itself. The Guru continues to describe the five avasthas and gives us the story of the daśaman or the tenth man found out after crossing a river. Then begins the discussion about the meaning of mahāvākya. The identity of jīva with Brahman is asserted through bhāgatyāga-lakṣaṇā. Thus the student realises the ānanda of this unity. Tāṇḍavarāya follows Vidyāraṇya’s exposition.

We are told that this book has really helped many a thirsting soul to drink deep of the Advaita truth.

If Kṛṣṇānanda belongs to the eighteenth century Tāṇḍavarāyar must be earlier and people see a reference to this book in Tāyumānavar’s verses. Tāyumānavar belongs to the seventeenth century and if the above assumption is correct this book could not be later than the early half of the sixteenth century.

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