The Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha

by E. B. Cowell | 1882 | 102,190 words | ISBN-13: 9788174791962

The Sarva-darsana-samgraha (English translation) of Madhava Acharya is a compendium of different philosophical schools of Hindu thought and Pancadasi, an important text in the Advaita Vedanta tradition. Full title: Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha or Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha: Review of the Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy (author Mādhava Ācārya)...

I well remember the interest excited among the learned Hindus of Calcutta by the publication of the Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha of Mādhava Ācārya in the Bibliotheca Indica in 1858. It was originally edited by Paṇḍit Īśvaracandra Vidyāsāgara, but a subsequent edition, with no important alterations, was published in 1872 by Paṇḍit Tārānātha Tarkavācaspati. The work had been used by Wilson in his "Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus" (first published in the Asiatic Researches, vol. xvi., Calcutta, 1828); but it does not appear to have been ever much known in India. MS. copies of it are very scarce; and those found in the North of India, as far as I have had an opportunity of examining them, seem to be all derived from one copy, brought originally from the South, and therefore written in the Telugu character. Certain mistakes are found in all alike, and probably arose from some illegible readings in the old Telugu original. I have noticed the same thing in the Nāgarī copies of Mādhava's Commentary on the Black Yajur Veda, which are current in the North of India.

As I was at that time the Oriental Secretary of the Bengal Asiatic Society, I was naturally attracted to the book; and I subsequently read it with my friend Paṇḍit Maheśacandra Nyāyaratna, the present Principal of the Sanskrit College at Calcutta. I always hoped to translate it into English; but I was continually prevented by other engagements while I remained in India. Soon after my return to England, I tried to carry out my intention; but I found that several chapters, to which I had not paid the same attention as to the rest, were too difficult to be translated in England, where I could no longer enjoy the advantage of reference to my old friends the Paṇḍits of the Sanskrit College. In despair I laid my translation aside for years, until I happened to learn that my friend, Mr. A. E. Gough, at that time a Professor in the Sanskrit College at Benares, was thinking of translating the book. I at once proposed to him that we should do it together, and he kindly consented to my proposal; and we accordingly each undertook certain chapters of the work. He had the advantage of the help of some of the Paṇḍits of Benares, especially of Paṇḍit Rāma Miśra, the assistant Professor of Sāṅkhya, who was himself a Rāmānuja; and I trust that, though we have doubtless left some things unexplained or explained wrongly, we may have been able to throw light on many of the dark sayings with which the original abounds. Our translations were originally published at intervals in the Benares Paṇḍit between 1874 and 1878; but they have been carefully revised for their present republication.

The work itself is an interesting specimen of Hindu critical ability. The author successively passes in review the sixteen philosophical systems current in the fourteenth century in the South of India, and gives what appeared to him to be their most important tenets, and the principal arguments by which their followers endeavoured to maintain them; and he often displays some quaint humour as he throws himself for the time into the position of their advocate, and holds, as it were, a temporary brief in behalf of opinions entirely at variance with his own.[1] We may sometimes differ from him in his judgment of the relative importance of their doctrines, but it is always interesting to see the point of view of an acute native critic. In the course of his sketches he frequently explains at some length obscure details in the different systems; and I can hardly imagine a better guide for the European reader who wishes to study any one of these Darśanas in its native authorities. In one or two cases (as notably in the Bauddha, and perhaps in the Jaina system) he could only draw his materials second-hand from the discussions in the works of Brahmanical controversialists; but in the great majority he quotes directly from the works of their founders or leading exponents, and he is continually following in their track even where he does not quote their exact words.[2]

The systems are arranged from the Vedānta point of view,—our author having been elected, in A.D. 1331, the head of the Smārta order in the Maṭh of Śṛngeri in the Mysore territory, founded by Śaṃkara Ācārya, the great Vedāntist teacher of the eighth century, through whose efforts the Vedānta became what it is at present—the acknowledged view of Hindu orthodoxy. The systems form a gradually ascending scale,—the first, the Cārvāka and Bauddha, being the lowest as the furthest removed from the Vedānta, and the last, the Sāṅkhya and Yoga, being the highest as approaching most nearly to it.

The sixteen systems here discussed attracted to their study the noblest minds in India throughout the mediæval period of its history. Hiouen Thsang says of the schools in his day: "Les écoles philosophiques sont constamment en lutte, et le bruit de leurs discussions passionnées s'élève comme les flots de la mer. Les hérétiques des diverses sectes s'attachent à des maîtres particuliers, et, par des voies différentes, marchent tous au même but." We can still catch some faint echo of the din as we read the mediæval literature. Thus, for instance, when King Harsha wanders among the Vindhya forests, he finds "seated on the rocks and reclining under the trees Ārhata begging monks, Śvetapadas, Mahāpāśupatas, Pāṇḍarabhikṣus, Bhāgavatas, Varṇins, Keśaluñcanas, Lokāyatikas, Kāpilas, Kāṇādas, Aupaniṣadas, Īsvarakārins, Dharmaśāstrins, Paurāṇikas, Sāptatantavas, Śābdas, Pāñcarātrikas, &c., all listening to their own accepted tenets and zealously defending them."[3] Many of these sects will occupy us in the ensuing pages; many of them also are found in Mādhava's poem on the controversial triumphs of Śaṃkara Ācārya, and in the spurious prose work on the same subject, ascribed to Anantānandagiri. Well may some old poet have put into the mouth of Yudhiṣṭhira the lines which one so often hears from the lips of modern paṇḍits—

Vedā vibhinnāḥ smṛtayo vibhinnā,
Nāsau munir yasya mataṃ na bhinnam,
Dharmasya tattvaṃ nihitaṃ guhāyāṃ,
Mahājano yena gataḥ sa panthāḥ.[4]

And may we not also say with Clement of Alexandria,

μιᾶς τοίνυν οὔσης τῆς ἀληθείας, τὸ γὰρ ψεῦδος μυρίας
ἐκτροπὰς ἔχει, καθάπερ αἱ βάκχαι τὰ τοῦ Πενθέως διαφορήσασαι
μέλη αἱ τῆς φιλοσοφίας τῆς τε βαρβάρου τῆς τε
Ἑλληνικῆς αἱρέσεις, ἑκάστη ὅπερ ἔλαχεν, ὡς πᾶσαν αὐχεῖ
τὴν ἀλήθειαν, φωτὸς δ', οἶμαι, ἀνατολῇ πάντα φωτίζεται.

E. B. C.

Footnotes and references:


The most remarkable instance of this philosophical equanimity is that of Vācaspati Miśra, who wrote standard treatises on each of the six systems except the Vaiśeṣika, adopting, of course, the peculiar point of view of each, and excluding for the time every alien tenet.


An index of the names of authors and works quoted is given in Dr. Hall's Bibliographical Catalogue, pp. 162-164, and also in Professor Aufrecht's Bodleian Catalogue, p. 247.


Śrīharsha-charita, p. 204 (Calcutta ed.)


Found in the Mahābh. iii. 17402, with some variations. I give them as I have heard them from Paṇḍit Rāmanārāyaṇa Vidyāratna.

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