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....

61. Jagadguru Śrī Chandraśekharendra Sarasvatī



1. On Advaita[1]

At first, Śrīmad Āchārya (i.e. Śrī Śaṅkara) established Advaita-siddhānta. Among the texts that teach Advaita-siddhānta, the principal ones are the commentaries on the three prasthānas, viz. the Upaniṣads , the Bhagavadgītā, and the Brahma-sūtra. These three are the basic authoritative texts for Advaita-siddhānta. Besides these, the Āchārya has written several manuals (prakaraṇas). The Vivekachūḍāmaṇī , etc,, are the most important among them. And, in addition, he has composed many a hymn—Śiva-stotras, Viṣṇu-stotras, Aṃbikā-stotras, etc. He has also written a text on mantra-śāstra bearing the title ‘Prapañchasāra’.

Many great learned preceptors have written commentaries on the works of the Āchārya. Of the works of the Āchārya, the most important is the Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya. This is a commentary on the Brahma-sūtra of the Sage Vyāsa. In the Brahma-sūtra are to be found topics that are taught in the ten principal Upaniṣads. The essence of these teachings is given in the Brahma-sūtra in aphoristic form. The bhāṣya explains in an extensive way how the Brahma-sūtra refers to the topics dealt with in the ten Upaniṣads. Many preceptors, down to the present day, have written commentaries on the bhāṣya.

Padmapāda, one of the chief disciples of the Āchārya, wrote a commentary by name ‘Pañchapādikā’. For this, there is a commentary by Vivaraṇāchārya: it is called Tattvadīpana. Thus, there is one branch of commentaries (known as the Vivaraṇa school).

There is a commentary called ‘Bhāmatī’ for the Āchārya’s bhāṣya, written by Vāchaspatimiśra who lived in North India. Amalānanda wrote a commentary ‘Kalpatarut on it. Appayya Dīkṣita wrote a gloss ‘Parimala’ on the Kalpataru. There is another gloss on the Kalpataru by Koṭṭaiyūr Lakṣmīnṛsiṃha Vājapeya: this is called Ābhoga. This is another (Advaita) tradition (known as the Bhāmatī school).

For the Sūtra-bhāṣya, there is a commentary, Ratnaprabhā, by one Rāmānanda; there is also a commentary on the Ratnaprabhā.

For the same Sūtra-bhāṣya, Ānandagiri, a disciple of the Āchārya (Śaṅkara), wrote a commentary: this is called ‘Ānandagirīya’. About one hundred-and-fifty years ago one Tryaṃbaka Bhaṭṭāchārya wrote a commentary on the bhāṣya : Bhaṣyabhānuprabhā.

One Raghunātha-sūri of Mahārāṣṭra wrote a commentary for one section (pāda) of the sūtra-bhāṣya: this bears the name ‘ Śaṅkara-pāda-bhūṣaṇa’. These are the commentaries (on the bhāṣya) known to us.

Thus, for a single bhāṣya there are so many commentaries.

Of the ten principal Upaniṣads, the Bṛhadāraṇyaka and the Taittirīya have Vārtikas by Sureśvarāchārya. Hence, this preceptor is also known as the Vārtika-kāra.

There is a commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā by the Āchārya. Following this commentary, there are ten commentaries. All these are texts which expound Advaita-siddhānta.

Similarly, there is Dvaita-siddhānta. For the aforesaid Brahma-sūtra, Śrī Madhvāchārya who appeared on the West-Coast wrote a bhāṣya after the Dvaita-siddhānta. Many scholars have written commentaries on this bhāṣya. In those commentaries, they have opposed the doctrine of Advaita-siddhānta. About four-hundred years ago, a work called ‘Nyāyāmṛta’ was written criticising Advaita-siddhānta. Criticising this, Madhusūdana Sarasvatī wrote a work by name Advaita-siddhi. On behalf of Dvaita, a work bearing the title Taraṅgiṇī, was written criticising the Advaita-siddhi. Criticising the Taraṅgiṇī, a great preceptor by name Brahmānanda who lived in Gauḍa-deśa wrote his Chandrikā. This work is also known as ‘Gauḍa-brahmā-nandīya’. Criticising this from the standpoint of Dvaita, one Vanamālāmiśra wrote ‘Vanamālāmiśrīya’. Tryaṃbaka Bhaṭṭa, the author of the Bhāṣyabhānuprabhā, wrote also the Siddhānta-vaijayantī in which he criticised Vanamālāmiśrā’s work.

More than sixty years ago, Anantāḻvār wrote a work called ‘ Nyāya-bhāskara’ criticising the Gauda-brahmānanīya from the standpoint of Viśiṣtiādvaita. Criticising the Nyāyabhāskara, Rāju Śāstrin who came in the lineage of Appayya Dīkṣita wrote the Nyāyendu-śekhara. Thus, we have the Siddhānta-vaijayantī as the last critique of the Dvaita standpoint and the Nyāyendu-śekhara as the last critique of the Viśiṣtādvaita standpoint. The series of critical works so far stops with these two works. But it may be extended hereafter. Any critique, by whomsoever written, must be studied by all.

A study of such works will lead to clarify. It is only when differences of view arise that doctrines gain clarity. In our country, any scholar who is well-versed in the literature of his own philosophical school usually has close acquaintance with the literature of other schools. This is our tradition.

There are so many works relating to our tradition. We do not read them. We know more about the books written in other countries. Which book is our authority, we do not know. Bundles upon bundles of books which have no relevance to our tradition, we know. We do not know our texts. If we become aware at least of their titles, we may begin to take some interest. If scholars who are versed in these texts volunteer to expound them, we do not lend an ear to them; we disregard them. Our country is in a very low state now. The people of other countries praise our Ātma-vidyā. If we should gain esteem in the world, we should augment that culture of our country which has been the object of true esteem. What is the greatness of our country? It consists in the fact that here countless sages have realised the Bliss that is the Self. If we do not come to be aware of the grounds of that greatness, we shall be demeaning ourselves.

So far I have mentioned the series of the important works on Advaita-siddhānta. What is that Advaita? What shall we gain from it? Do we know it, or do not know? Could we gain its fruit, or not? Or, do all these belong to the region of mere imagination? Will Advaita become fruitful in experience? We shall consider these questions.

What does ‘Advaita’ mean? Its meaning is ‘without a second’. That there is no second does not appear to us to be true. There are thousands of things. If there is no second, what do we gain? Is this not clear? It is only because there is no second, that for which we strive will get fulfilled. What for do we strive? We strive for the removal of all the miseries that afflict us. The removal of miseries will be accomplished through (the realisation of) that which is without a second (i.e. non-duality). We strive for removing poverty, hunger, dishonour, disease, empirical usage (vyavahāra), mental pain, etc. Is there any place where these miseries are absent? No. Yet, we continue to strive for the removal of miseries. Through our empirical endeavours, there is only temporary appeasement. If through medical treatment one disease is cured, another disease comes. The means for the absolute removal of all miseries is Advaita. Through it, hunger, disease, death, dishonour, empirical usage, anger, poverty, etc., will not recur.

Why do we have misery? It will be good if hunger, etc., do not afflict us. But, why do they afflict us? Let us see through which course they come. They will come as long as the body lasts. But, if this body goes, another takes its place. For that body also, hunger, thirst, disease, etc., will come. So, if we could do without body, then these miseries will disappear. We take many births. What is the cause of those births? On account of what do we take a body? We have to reap the consequences of the good and bad deeds done in the previous births. The self cannot reap them. Fire cannot bum the self; nor the application of sandal paste make it cool. Therefore, a body is needed. As the result of the good and bad deeds done by us, God endows us with a body, and punishes us by making us imagine that the body is “I”. If a boy commits a mistake, he is beaten for that. By his side there is a doctor. If the boy swoons not being able to bear the pain, he is revived and again beaten. He is given food, and again beaten. For the sins we have committed, God gives us a body and thus punishes. If this is not enough, He endows us with another body and punishes. Thus, the sins that we commit are the cause for the body. If we do not commit anymore sins, we shall not be endowed with a body hereafter. Constantly we should remember that we should not commit sin.

What is the cause of merit and demerit? There is the desire to eliminate them by refraining from the deeds that give rise to them; but we are not able to avoid those deeds. If a tree is to be prevented from growing, it is not enough to cut off the branches; the root-trunk must be removed. Similarly, we must discern the cause of sin, and destroy that cause. Why do we perform evil deeds? We desire to possess an object. We device short-cuts to obtain it. That is sinful. The cause for our performing sinful deeds is desire. If an object is beautiful, there arises desire to possess it. The knowledge that a thing is good produces desire. In order to fulfil that desire, we perform actions. Knowing through the senses that a thing is beautiful is the cause of desire. Through effort, we can produce desire, or change it. Knowledge cannot be produced, nor changed.

The punishment for the sins we do is the body. Therefore, if we remove desire which is the cause of sin, there will be destruction of misery. How to remove desire? The way to remove misery is not taught in the other sacred texts.

Vedānta does not omit this teaching. Vedānta which is the peak of the Vedas teaches the way for the removel of sorrow.

Hatred and desire arise only in respect of objects other than us. There arises neither desire nor hatred in regard to ourselves. Since desire arises in regard to objects Other than us, that desire will not arise if those objects are rendered identical with us. If all become identical with us, and if there is nothing other than us, then desire will not arise. If there is no desire, there will be no effort. If this be so, there will be no sin. When there is no sin, there will be no body. When that is not there, there will be no misery. It is for the destruction of misery that we put forth several efforts.

If there is something as a second to us, and if that thing is more powerful than us, there arises fear. If there is something beautiful, there arises desire; and the mind is disturbed. If there is no second, there is no desire, no hatred, no fear. Scorpions and snakes cause fear in us. If we ourselves remain as scorpions and snakes, how then could there be fear? Would we be afraid of ourselves ? As long as there is something other as a second, there will be fear. Therefore, what Advaita accomplishes is the bringing about of secondlessness. The Upaniṣad declares that there is no fear when there is no second thing.

Are there not in the world many people ? How can all of them become one? How to accomplish secondlessness ? Vedānta teaches that what we see in this world as many are illusory. It declares that all are of the nature of Īśvara. We do not see thus. If it is true that Īśvara is all, then what we see must be illusory. If what we see is true, then the declaration that Īśvara is all must be false. If what appears to us is true, then there should be no misery for us. But misery does come to us. Therefore, what Vedānta teaches must be true. If that be so, that all are of the nature of Īśvara should be regarded firmly as the truth. What appears to us is illusory. The real is not this. Our eyes see what are illusory. Advaita teaches that there is a Reality as the basis of the entire world. What appear to us to exist are all illusory; the true Existence that is one is alone real.

If all is Īśvara, are we alone different? We should dissolve ourselves too as that Īśvara. Then, there will be no second entity. Now, we see things as different. But' the true seeing is seeing all as Īśvara. If we too get dissolved without leaving a second, then good will result. Even in lie empirical world if two minds become one, there is no strife. Similarly, if all become one as Īśvara, we shall become all; then, there will be no desire in regard to ourseves. In the absence of desire, there will be no sin; and if there is no sin, there will be no body; and if there is no body, there will be no misery at all. For the destruction of misery, Advaita is the medicine. Advaita is that which accomplishes secondlessness. Seeing all as Īśvara is Advaita. Seeing what is real is Advaita. It is this that is taught in the books mentioned above.

Many objections are raised against this position. Some of them are logical; the others are unreasonable. The sacred texts reply to those objections. They outline the disciplines that lead to Advaita. The manuals written by the Āchārya impart the same teaching.

We go to sleep. From sleep we wake up. Sometimes we sleep well. Sometimes we experience dreams. The waking state is jāgrad-avasthā. Experiencing dreams is svapna-avasthā. Deep sleep is suṣupti-avasthā. Thus there are three states of experiences. Our waking is for doing work. Deep sleep is for getting rid of tiredness that results from work. These two seem to be enough! Why should there be dream-experience? I reflected on this. Īśvara is everywhere. He is the non-dual Brahmam. All is of the nature of Ātman. In order to prove this truth, it appears, He has projected the dream-world as an example. There is no other purpose. The apparent plurality of the empirical world is similar to that of dreams. In dream there occur multifarious difficulties and pleasures. But at the termination of the dream there is nothing left. Even the body which appeared when the dream was experienced is not there. Only he who realizes that such dream was seen is left' as the residue. All else that appeared to exist in dream disappears. When we wake up from this empirical world which is a dream, only consciousness will remain. That is the true reality. It is that which is called Advaita. We are all Advaitins; we are in Dvaita-experience. But, those of us who have faith in Advaita see the Dvaita-dream in the empirical state. In this dream, we go through disease and misery. But we are those who believe that there will be a state in which there will be no disease. By what is Dvaita made known? It is given, in immediate experience, now, through the sense of sight, etc. Advaita is made known only by Vedānta. Advaita is that which is made known by the sacred t exts; Dvaita is that which is evidenced by the sense of sight, etc. Science tells us that the sun is very big; but our eyes tell us that the sun’s diameter is just a span in length. With the palm the sun could be covered. Therefore, the sun appears small. But, what is the truth? If what we see is alone true, there is no need for the texts. It is only what we do not know that should be revealed by the sacred texts.

In the Upaniṣads, at certain places, Dvaita is .mentioned; at some other places, Advaita. In what context is Advaita mentioned? It is mentioned in the context where the nature of supreme Brahman is taught, hi the Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad, for instance, when the significance of Praṇava is taught, it is declared that all is of the nature of Advaita, that Om is all; here the expression ‘Advaita’ occurs. The term ‘Dvaita’ occurs in an Upaniṣad.

The context there is this:

“Remaining as different, how can one perceive an object that is different? If all is of the nature of Ātman, who can experience what as different?”

In this context occur the words “Where, indeed, there is Dvaita (duality) as it were”. The meaning is: In the state where duality appears to be, there would be that (differentiated) experience:

yatra hi dvaitam iva bhavati, taditaraḥ itaraṃ paśyati; yatra tvasya sarvam ātmaivābhūt, tatkena kam paśyet.Bṛhadāraṇyaka.

Where, however, all has become the Ātman, there, it is declared, there is duality as it were. In the context of the expression as it were (iva), duality is mentioned; and in the context of the statement ‘where, however, all has become the Ātman’, non-duality is taught. There is also the word ‘tu’ (however) mentioned in the context where Advaita is declared. If after a statement, the word tu (however) or the word ‘atha’ (then) occurs, it means that the final position is set forth thereafter. After the words ‘yatra tu’ (where, however), it is declared ‘all has become the Ātman’. Thus, from the expression ‘tu’ (however) we have to understand the conclusive truth that all is of the nature of Ātman. The expression ‘iva5 (as it were) indicates appearence and not reality. The expression ‘like him’ means ‘not he himself’. Hence, when it is said ‘duality, as it were’, it means that there is no duality—this is the siddhānta. To our senses, duality is presented. That is mere appearance. What is understood with the help of sacred texts is Advaita. That alone is the siddhānta. That all is the Self (Ātman) alone is the truth.

Here, the expression ‘Ātman’ occurs; should not the expression be ‘Paramātman’ (supreme Self) ? Thus it may be asked. If there is ‘Paramātman’, there would be ‘alpātman’ (little self) as different from it. There is no Paramātman too. It is only in the state of duality that there is the distinction of ‘Paramātman’ and ‘jīvātman’. When the state of Advaita is realised, there is only the Self (Ātman).

Tbe Bṛhadāraṇyaka declares: dvitīyād-vai bhayaṃ, bhavati. It is from duality that fear, misery, strifes, etc., arise. Only if there are two different entities, there would arise desire, fear, misery, etc.

If some one that is dear to us dies, there arises misery. If he passes away before our eyes, we feel distressed. We think that there would be no distress if we pass away. If we pass away, there would be no misery for us. Therefore, if all are ourselves, then there will be no misery whatsoever. When there occurs misery, there is the thought of difference. What is it that occasions desire? It is only when there is consciousness of duality that there arise desire and misery. If the other becomes us, then there is no misery at all. How to effect this identity? If all become the Paramātman, there would be the one Self alone.

Hence, Vedanta declares: There need not be duality; nonduality alone is the truth. This truth our Āchārya has expounded, as a glowing lamp, and has asked us not to forget. His commentary is called ‘bhāṣya-dīpa’. Simply because the expression ‘Dvaita’ occurs in Vedanta, people begin to say ‘Dvaita’, ‘Dvaita’. They do not inquire as to where, what for, and before which concluding statement, the expression occurs. This is like the conclusion that there was the prevalence of drinking toddy among the Vedic circles, which some scholars arrive at, on the ground of the Vedic statement, ‘Do not drink toddy’.

We are now in the state of dream. If we wake up from this state, that is the state of Advaita. If this siddhānta is retained in memory, at least one in a hundred-thousand will endeavour to attain that state. It is with this end in view that the great preceptors have written their works. It is not enough if we know that there is the Gaṅgā at Kāśī; we must buy the necessary ticket, travel by the appropriate train, cross the railway junctions en route, and without oversleeping arrive at Kāśī and actually bathe in the Gaṅgā.

The Veda declares that Advaita-experience is that whence words, speech and mind return, not being able to reach it:

yato vācho nivartante aprāpya
manasā saha. (Taittirīyopaniṣad).

If it cannot be thought by the mind, how to know it? What is the meaning of this Vedic declaration? What is the meaning of the statement that the status of the Self cannot be thought by the mind? If ft be that,the supreme Self could be known, it would become an object of knowledge. The knower would then be different. the Kenopkniṣad, it is said:

“He by whom it is not contemplated by him it is contemplated. He by whom it is contemplated knows it not”.

yasyāmataṃ, tasya matam(?)
yasya na veda saḥ.

What is the meaning of the statement that the Self is not known? The meaning is that it is not an object of knowledge. There is no meaning in bringing in another lamp to show a lamp. It is only for illuminating what is non-luminous that a lamp is required. To see a lamp nothing else is needed. Consciousness is self-luminous. īsvara is the nature of that very consciousness. In many places in the Tamil hymns, such as Tevāram, Tiruvāchakam, and the songs of Tāyumānavar, it is declared that Īśvara is ‘consciousness alone’, that He is ‘of the form of consciousness’.

By the mind, the Self is not thought; the mind thinks by it. All that the mind thinks is false; that by which it thinks is true.

yan-manasā na manute, yenāhur-mano matam

All that is seen in dream is false. The seeing consciousness alone is real. It is this self that appeared in dream as all the objects seen. When the dream terminates, it will be realised that the one (consciousness) alone remains. If there be one that speaks and one that knows, they would be different. If there is no difference, there will be neither speech nor knowing. It is t his non-duality that is declared in the Upaniṣads; and in the aforesaid sacred texts.

On the tree that is the Veda, there are the flowers, the Upaniṣads. The Brahma-sūtra serves as the thread which helps in making a garland out of them, fit to be worn round the neck:

vedāntavākya-kusuma-grathanārthatvāt sūtrāṇām.

If the maker of the thread (sūtra) was Vyāsa, the one who made the garland was the Āchārya. Those who wear the garland are we. That garland should adorn our neck.

What we have conclusively understood, is this: “The truth is only one ; all is of the nature of Īśvara”. On account of past impressions, things appear as different. But all must be made into one. Even what is referred to as ‘we’ must be dissolved. For that, the appropriate sacred texts should be studied. The means to this are the Veda, the Smṛtis, the Purāṇas, the sight of temples, pūjā, etc. We sacrifice so much for the sake of the objects of the world. We can do anything for gaining the bliss that is stable. The royal sage Janaka said: “I have given away the entire Videha kingdom; I have given away myself too”.

videhān dadāmi māṃ chāpi saha dāsyāya.

To reach this state, the easy path is meditation on Śrī Chandramaulīśvara. Thus Appayya Dīkṣita has said. Following this way, all should gain Advaita-siddhi.

īsvarānugrahād-eva. puṃsām advaitavāsanā,
mahadbhayaparitrāṇā dvitrāṇām


2. On the Significance of Śaṅkara Jayanti[2]

Today is Śrī Śaṅkara-Jayantī. It was by the avatāra of Śrī Śaṅkara that the Vedas, the Smṛtis, etc., were resuscitated. It is by their resuscitation alone that the observances connected with auspicious days such as Rāma-navamī, Nṛsiṃha-jayantī, Kṛṣṇa-javantī, Uttarāyaṇa-saṅkrānti, Śiva-rātri, etc., have been revived. The Jayantī of Śrī Śaṅkara is the Jayantī that has imparted to all Javantīs their character as Javantīs. On the fifth dav of the bright-half of the month of Vaiśākha falls Śrī Śaṅkara Jayantī. Like the pure white jasmine (vāsantī, mādhavī) creeper, that causes delight, let this fifth day of the bright-half month in the spring season (vāsantī, mādhavī) embellish and delight our intelligence.

Who is Śaṅkara? Śaṅkara is the one who brings delight to the world. He alone is Śiva. Śiva is the giver of Toṭakāchārya says in his octad of verses in the toṭaku metre thus:

bhava eva bhavāniti me nitarām samajāyata chetasi kautukitā,
gurupuṅgava ‘puṅgava-ketana te samatāmayatām na hi ko’pi sudh

“Knowing that Thou art the Lord Śiva, there arises supreme bliss in my heart; O the Best of teachers! The One whose banner is the bull-sign (Śiva)! None of the wise ones is equal to Thee!”

And, Padmapādāchārya says in the Pañchapādikā:

namāmy-abhogi-parivāra-saṃpadam vinā-vināyakam apūrva-śāṅkaram

“I bow to the unique Śaṅkara whose wealth is the entourage of ascetics, (who has no serpents adorning him), and who has vanquished opposition by the Bauddhas and Jainas* (who is not accompanied by Gaṇeśa)”

And, it has been said by a well-instructed one of old:

“I bow to Bhagavatpāda Śaṅkara who is the repository of Śruti, Smṛtis and Purāṇas, the abode of grace, and the bestower of auspiciousness on the world.”

What is śaṃ (auspiciousness) ? Happiness is bliss. The Bṛhadāranyakopaniṣad says, it is love. Where that auspiciousness, love, or bliss exists, the world mostly does not know. Therefore it suffers. He who is always of the nature of auspiciousness, the Bhagavatpāda, seeing the world which suffers, became filled with grace. He became the abode of grace so that the world may experience the happiness of the impartite Self-experience. What is that happiness? It was on account of that experience that Śaṅkara was far removed from misery. Śaṅkara speaks:

“For all. the Self alone is happiness: the Self alone is all: the Self itself is Brahman: and Brahman itself is all this. All is the effect of Brahman; and cause itself is the effect. From the cause, the effect is non-different All is, verily, auspiciousness. Let auspiciousness be

0 ‘Vināyaka’ is an appellation of the Buddha and the Jina.

experienced in all beings. Let the Self which is auspiciousness experienced.”

A son becomes dear to the worldly people. Why? Because he (is) one’s son. Wealth becomes dear to the worldly people, because (it) is one’s wealth. A wife becomes dear to the worldly people, because she is one’s wife. Corn and land become dear to the worldly people, because they are one’s corn and land.

If the same com and land have been sold to one other than one’s self, say Yajñadatta, then they are not considered to be dear, and, thus in the world, since all that is external becomes dear because it is related to one’s self, the self is the dearest; and (sin)ce that itself is Brahman, that alone is the supreme bliss. Thus Śaṅkara said in his commentary on the topic dealing with the self as love.

That the supreme Self is one is Śaṅkara’s view. That, (?) is the supreme Self is Śaṅkara’s view. That all is one (? ..)ne is Śaṅkara’s view. That all is Brahman is the view of Scripture. The view of Scripture is, verily, the view of Śaṅkara. Because all is Brahman, there is nothing whatever that is different (fro)m Brahman; this is Śaṅkara’s view. The universe alone is real, there is no Brahman; this is the Chārvāka view. The universe and Brahman are both of them real: this is the dualistic view of the Naiyāyikas and others. The universe and Brahman are both them non-existent: this is the Bauddha view. Brahman alone (is) real, the universe as different from Brahman is non-existent: this is Śaṅkara’s view.

On the rise of Buddhism, the views that were in vogue previously did not get exterminated. On the rise of the Chārvāka (...)ool, the views that differed from it did not get obliterated. But, (?) the rise of Śaṅkara’s view, all the previous schools lost their (...)lliance, even as the planets that shine by night are shorn of their luminosity at sun-rise.

When the impartite light shines, need it be said that the (un)ited luminaries get overpowered? In the supreme non-dual self, the one impartite essence, which is like the ocean, all paths, (?) devotion, meditation, ethical culture, and mutually incompa(..)le tāntrika-sādhanas, stressing Vaidika-āchāra or Y oga-samādhi , (be)come one, even like the great rivers which flow towards the East, South, West or North become one when they join the sea. Therein alone all of them find auspiciousness. The following statement of an ancient sage bears this out:

nānābhāṣyādṛtā sā saguṇaphalagatiḥ vaidhavidyāviśeṣaiḥ
tattad-deśāpti-ramyā sarid-iva sakalā yatra yāty-aṃśa-bhūyam,
tasminn-ānandasindhau atimahati phale bhāva-viśrānti-rnudrā
śāstrasyodghāṭitā yaiḥ praṇamata hṛdi tān nityam āchārya-pādān.

“The relative path of gaining the fruit of contacting Godhead endowed with attributes (saguṇo) by guiding the souls to the respective celestial regions is revealed by the different Upaniṣadic upāsanās (meditations) and expounded by the various Bhāṣyas. But, like a river which flows into the ocean and becomes a part of it, that path finds its end in the ocean of Ānanda, the final human goal, the quiescence of transmigration, which is the revelation of Scripture as explained clearly by the Āchārya-pāda. Adore him in the heart!”

The “Āchārya-pāda” is Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda.

The conclusive view of Bhagavatpāda, as of all the preceptors of the Vedic tradition, is that the dharma as taught in the Veda should be practised by the humans according to their respective varna and āśrama. And, this varṇāśrama-dharma is prescribed by Scripture, not merely for the sake of the preservation of the human society from the economic standpoint through the people helping one another as helpers and the helped, but as the means to mokṣa for each individual soul: this dharma is prescribed prominently in Śruti and Smṛtis for the sake of purifying the mind by generating virtues like peace, self-control, discrimination, and dispassion, which cannot be acquired by any other means by those who seek them. This has been taught directly by Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda in his work, Aparokṣānubhūti:

sva-varṇāśrama-dharmeṇa tapasā hari-toṣaṇāt,
sādhanaṃ prabhavet puṃsāṃ vairāgyādi-chatuṣṭayam.

“By (following) one’s own varṇāśrama-dharma, by austerity, and by pleasing Hari, the four-fold means consisting of dispassion, etc., is generated for human beings.”

This teaching of Śrī Śaṅkara follows clearly the Bhagavad-gītā:

tasmāc-chhāstram pramāṇam te kāryākārya-vyavasthitau.

“Therefore, scripture is the authority tor you in the matter of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done.”

In this passage of the Gītā, the word ‘therefore’ refers to some cause for Scripture being the authority for what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. What is that cause?

The cause has been explained in the previous verses:

trividhaṃ narakasyedam dvāraṃ nāśanam ātmanaḥ
kāmaḥ krodhas-tathā lobhaḥ tasmād-etat-trayaṃ tyajet.
etair-vimuktaḥ kaunteya tamo-dvārais-tṛbhir-naraḥ
ācharaty-ātmanaḥ śreyas-tato yāti parāṃ gatim.
yaḥ śāstra-vidhim utsṛjya vartate kāmakārataḥ,
na sa siddhim avāpnoti na sukhaṃ na parāṃ gatim.

“Triple is the door to this hell leading to self-destruction — desire, anger, and greed. Therefore, these three should be rejected. Freed from these three doors to darkness, O Arjuna, man follows what is his good, and thereby attains the supreme goal. He who, transgressing the injunctions of Scripture, acts being impelled by desire, attains neither perfection, nor happiness, nor the supreme goal. Therefore, Scripture is the authority for you in the matter of what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. Knowing thus, you ought to perform here only such action as is ordained by Scripture.”

Thus the Āchārya transforms even the layman into the supreme Self through the teaching of the Bhāṣyas gradually.

Beginning with the statement

“Let the Veda be studied everyday”
(vedo nityam adhīyatām),

he concludes his teaching with the statement

“Let one remain as the supreme Brahman-Self”
(brahmātmanā sthīyatām).

The fruit of Veda is the performance of actions taught therein. The performance of actions ought to be done in a spirit of dedication to God, and not for the sake of any other fruit. The performance of (one’s) action is itself the worship of God. It has been stated by one who knows the tradition: “It is by God’s grace alone that there is for men an inclination towards Advaita”. It is by God’s grace that the mind becomes pure. Let the one who is endowed with purity of mind approach a teacher who is a knower of Brahman. Let him offer worship to the teacher’s pādukā. Let him listen to the meaning of the Upaniṣads. Let him pray for instruction. Let him renounce every desire. Let him seek the company of the good. Let him partake of food got by alms, merely as medicine for the disease called hunger. Let him not ask for delicious food. Let him be satisfied with whatever destiny brings. Let him practise samādhi. Let him remain as the supreme Brahman-self. This is the gist of Śrī Śaṅkara’s teachings.

Thus the Parivrāṭ (wandering monk), who expounds the hidden meaning of the Upaniṣads in the words of his commentaries which are clear and deep, wanders about. He wanders everywhere from the Setu to the Himalayas. He visits the holy rivers. He goes to the pilgrim-places. He tours the villages. He goes to the towns. He visits the temples. In those places, he augments the Presence Divine through such means as mantras and yantras. There is almost no holy place in India whose greatness has not been strengthened by Śaṅkara’s visit. Even to this day people in the different parts of the country say:

“This temple in our territory has been purified by the splendour of the mantra uttered by Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya; and has been rendered great by the installation of yantras .”

In the entire area where the Veda has spread — Aṅga, Vaṅga, Kaliṅga, Āndhra, Draviḍa, Kerala, Karṇāṭaka, Mahārāṣṭra, Saurāṣṭra, Mālava, Gūrjara, Sindhu, Gāndhāra, Kuru, Pāñchāla, Kāśmīra, Nepāla, Maithila, Kānyakubja, Magadha, Kāmarūpa, Kāṃboja, etc. — there is no place where the Bhāṣya of Śrī Śaṅkarāchārya was not known to the seekers of release. Even now it is so in every place where the Veda is in vogue.

It is true that the growth of modern science is considered to be a great danger to the world because it has promoted the production of nuclear weapons which can cause the total destruction of living beings. Yet, from another standpoint, when one reflects carefully and thoroughly, one will be able to approve of the growth of science as what can possibly lead to the supreme peace of all beings. Till about fifty years ago, the eminent scientists were intent on establishing through enumerating the elements that those dements were absolutely distinct from one another. But now the scientists deny any distinction among the visible and invisible modes of matter, and proclaim that all matter is a transformation of one energy. Thus, gradually, the modem scientists reject difference and exhibit non-difference. This will be evident to all thinkers.

The foremost among the scientists, Einstein, Sir James Jeans, and others, come very close to the Advaita-siddhānta of the Upaniṣads as taught by Bhagavatpāda, by offering proofs for the relativity of the objective world and its dependent reality. The scientific research of the present age is thus getting into the proximity of Śaṅkara's siddhānta, as it rejects the host of differences. Hence, it is clear that modem science has opened a way to universal peace. When the non-perception of difference has been established through higher research, then those popular leaders and administrators who are the wise ones, the heroes, the thinkers, who are rid of such differences as one’s own and others’, and who experience the non-difference from even the people of the enemy-country, and regard the suffering of those people as their own, will become the central pillars of lasting world-peace. On this sacred day of Śaṅkara Jayantī, let the thinkers and the wise ones, according to their abilities, begin to spread, with enthusiasm, everywhere in the world, the conclusive view of non-difference, endorsed by the modern scientific researchers, proclaimed by the beginningless Upaniṣads and rendered radiant by Śrī Śaṅkara-bhagavatpāda. May the malady of lack of peace which is a universal affliction be removed through the life-giving ambrosia of the experience of non-difference, i.e. Advaita.


Footnotes and references:


This is a rendering into English of a discourse in Tamil given in Madras on the 13th of October, 1932.—Editor.


Śaṅkara Jayantī Message in Samskrit, Translated into English—Editor.

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