Preceptors of Advaita
V. R. KALYANASUNDARA SASTRI
Anandanubhava has written three valuable treatises on Advaita Vedanta. The Ishta-siddhi-vivarana, as the name indicates, is a commentary on the Ishta-siddhi of Vimuktatman. The Nyayaratnadipavali and the Padartha-tattva-nirnaya are his independent works. In addition to these Advaita works, he has also written a commentary on the Nyayasara of Bhasarvajna. Anandagiri has written a commentary, Vedantaviveka, on the Nyayaratnadipavali. The Padartha-tattva-nirnaya has been commented upon by Anandagiri and Atmasvarupabhagavan.
In the colophon of the Nyayaratnadipavali, Anandanubhava is described as pupil of Narayanajyotis. We come across in this work references to Kumarila, Prabhakara, Visvarupa, Mandana, Vachaspati, Sucharitamisra, Anandabodha and others. Anandabodha, a celebrated teacher of Advaita, has written the Nyayamakaranda, the Nyayadipavali and the Pramanamala. It is believed that Anandabodha must have lived about 1100 A.D. Anandanubhava has written a commentary on the Ishta-siddhi of Vimuktatman. The latter is assigned to the period between 850 A.D. and 1050 A.D. From these it is clear that Anandanubhava must have lived after Vimuktatman and Anandabodha. Chitsukha in his Tattvapradipika refers to Anandanubhava. The date of Chitsukha is said to be 1220 A.D. And so, Anandanubhava could not have been later than Chitsukha. Most probably, he must have lived in the second half of the twelfth century A.D.
The padartha-tattva-nirnaya seeks to refute the categories of the Vaiseshika system and also the views of the Bauddhas, the Sankhyas, the Mimamsakas and others. The work is divided into two chapters. The prima-facie view (purva-paksha) is cogently explained in the first chapter, while the final view (siddhanta) is established in the second chapter. Anandanubhava vindicates the Advaita view that Brahman alone is real and that the phenomenal world of diversity is just an appearance.
The Nyayaratnadipavali is one of the authoritative, polemical treatises on Advaita Vedanta. Anandanubhava establishes the fundamental standpoint of Advaita not only on the authority of the Upanishads but also by reasoning. According to Advaita, Brahman or the Self which is the ultimate reality is one only without a second (ekameva advitiyam). The real nature of the non-dual Brahman is missed due to the beginningless avidya. Coming under the spell of avidya, we look upon the pluralistic world as real; and we are deeply attached to it. Bondage is our attachment to the non-real. If the ignorance of the real is responsible for our bondage, it can be removed only by the knowledge of the real. In other words, liberation can be attained only by the knowledge of Brahman. It is wrong to think that Advaita Vedanta which maintains that moksha can be attained by the right knowledge of the Self belittles the importance of karma and upasana. Karma purifies the mind and the knowledge of the Self is manifested in such a pure mind. It cannot directly lead to moksha. The function of karma is restricted to the preparatory stage. Control of intellect, external senses, etc. (samadamadi), have to be practised, as they are also useful to the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman. While the help of karma is indirect, those of practices like control of intellect, external sense, etc., are direct to the attainment of the knowledge of Brahman.
Following the arrangement of chapters in the Brahmasutra of Badarayana, Anandanubhava has divided the Nyayaratnadipavali1 into four chapters. The first chapter begins with the discussion about the validity of the Vedic testimony. By means of elaborate discussions, Anandanubhava establishes the view that the Vedas, which are apaurusheya are a source of valid knowledge. This is followed by a discussion about the validity of knowledge. After refuting the views held in other system, Anandanubhava establishes the Advaita view that (i) truth is intrinsic, and that error is extrinsic and that (ii) the validity of knowledge is due to conditions which are intrinsic to knowledge itself. In the course of the discussion of the causality of the universe, Anandanubhava maintains the view that the blend of pure Brahman and maya (maya-sabalita-Brahman) is the material cause. By elaborate arguments, he proves that the Self is of the nature of existence (sat), knowledge (chit) and bliss (ananda).
On the model of the second chapter known as avirodhadhyaya of the Brahmasutra, Anandanubhava shows in the second chapter of the Nyayaratnadipavali that the so-called scriptural contradictions do not exist with regard to the Vedantic view and that all other views are incorrect. There is an elaborate discussion of the different theories of error. After refuting the views of others, he establishes the soundness of the anirvachaniyakhyati of Advaita. His discussion of the paramanuvada of the Vaiseshikas is important as well as interesting, for he proves in the course of the discussion that atoms must have parts.
The third chapter of the Nyayaratnadipavali is mainly concerned with the means to the realisation of Brahman. He argues that karma is not directly conducive to the attainment of liberation, and that the combination of knowledge and action (jnana-karma-samuchchaya) is untenable. In this chapter, the scriptural sanction with regard to sannyasa of the ekadandin type and of the tridandin type is also discussed. Anandanubhava points out that sruti and smrti texts lend support to the sannyasa of the ekadandin type followed by Sankara.
Anandanubhava discusses in the fourth chapter the nature of liberation, the removal of avidya and jivanmukti. Though like other Advaitins he admits jivanmukti, he points out that from the ultimate point of view even jivanmukti must be considered to be maya. Brahman which is non-dual can never be said to be born or destroyed. In the absence of creation and destruction, there is no bondage; and in the absence of bondage, there is no seeker after liberation, and there is none free from bondage. In support of his stand he quotes from Gaudapada’s Mandukyakarika2.
na nirodho na chotpattir
na baddho na cha sadhakah,
na mumukshur na vai muktah
In the remaining part of this paper let us consider in detail Anandanubhava’s explanation of the locus of avidya (avidyasraya) and of the removal of avidya (avidya-nivritti).
The post-Sankara Advaitins take sides in answering the question regarding the locus of avidya. While Prakasatman holds the view that Brahman, the pure impartite consciousness, is the locus of avidya, Vachaspati argues that the jiva is the locus. Anandanubhava follows the standpoint of Prakasatman, which has come to be known as the Vivarana view.
The four possible alternatives that one might think of with regard to this question are: (i) that Brahman is the locus of avidya, (ii) that Isvara who is omniscient, etc., is the locus of avidya, (iii) that an insentient object is the locus of avidya, and (iv) that the jiva is the locus of avidya. By showing the untenability of the last three alternatives, Anandanubhava maintains the view that Brahman, the pure consciousness alone, is the locus of avidya3.
Isvara who is omniscient cannot serve as the locus of avidya, for Isvara Himself comes into being as a result of the association of avidya with the self-luminous consciousness. Since avidya is posited even prior to Isvara, the latter cannot be the locus of the former.
It may be argued that Brahman or the Self cannot be the locus of avidya, as the two are diametrically opposed to each other. Brahman is of the nature of knowledge; and avidya is just the opposite of it. If so, how can Brahman be the locus of avidya? Anandanubhava answers this objection by pointing out that there is no opposition between the self-luminous Brahman and avidya. It is only the knowledge which arises from pramana (pramana-jnanam) which being opposed to ignorance (avidya) removes it. The Self which is self-luminous consciousness is not only not opposed to it, but reveals it, as a lamp reveals the existence of an insentient object, say, pot. Anandanubhava cites the case of deep-sleep to show how avidya can co-exist with the self-luminous consciousness (svarupa-jnana).
The view that an insentient object can serve as the locus of avidya is untenable. For one thing, there is no pramana which reveals the existence of avidya in an insentient object; nor is it made known through sakshin, as there is no relation between consciousness and the insentient. Secondly, the positing of avidya in an insentient object does not serve any purpose. The two–fold work of avidya is concealment and projection: that is to say, avidya conceals the true and projects the false. What is by its very nature insentient and therefore does not reveal itself need not be concealed. So it is impossible to think of an insentient object as being the seat of avidya.
Let us now consider the view that the jiva is the locus of avidya. There are two reasons which contribute to the plausibility of this view. First, the jiva is sentient, and so while an insentient object cannot be the seat of avidya, the jiva can. Second the experience of ‘I am ignorant’ shows that the jiva is the seat of avidya. Anandanubhava argues that this view, too, is not acceptable. The jiva is what it is because of the association of the internal organ (antahkarana) which is itself a product of avidya. How can the jiva, being dependent on a product of avidya which is therefore earlier, be the locus of avidya? Further, those who uphold the view that the jiva is the locus of avidya must clearly specify whether the jiva as qualified by the internal organ (ahamkaradi-visishta-jiva) is the locus or the jiva as indicated by the internal organ (ahamkaradi-upalakshita-jiva) is the locus. The jiva is a complex of consciousness and internal organ. The former view considers the relation between the two as that of the qualified and the qualifier, similar to the relation between rose and the red colour. The latter view takes the internal organ as a mark (upalakshana) indicating consciousness in the same way as a crow serves to indicate the house on the top of which it is perched. Anandanubhava argues that the former view is untenable, for it seeks to rest avidya on the internal organ too, which qualifies consciousness, and this amounts to maintaining that the cause, viz., avidya is seated on its own effect, viz., the internal organ.
It may be argued that avidya and its product, viz., the internal organ, form a series in such a way that the one is preceded by the other alternatively constituting a continuous chain backwards like the seed-sprout series; and so the difficulty of the cause (avidya) resting on its own effect (internal organ) does not arise. And also the objection of infinite regress is not possible, since the series is anadi. This argument, according to Anandanubhava, overlooks an important point of difference between the two. In the case of seed-sprout series, there are individual differences (vyakti-bheda) with regard to seeds and sprouts. But this is not possible in the case of avidya. It is true that erroneous cognitions and their impressions are many; but all of them are the product of avidya which is one and the same.
Anandanubhava brings out the difficulty involved in this view in another way also. If it be said that the jiva qualified by the gross body (sthula-sarira-visishtah) is the locus of avidya, then the gross body differs from birth to birth, and so it will result in different centres of consciousness. Such a consequence is undesirable, for there will not be any continuity between one life and another life; and in the absence of continuity, one will not reap the consequences of the deeds done in the previous birth and one may get certain good or bad results, without being the merit of the earlier deeds. If, on the other hand, it be said that the jiva qualified by the subtle body (sukshma-sarira-visishtah) is the locus of avidya, the destruction of the subtle body in the state of liberation will also involve the destruction of consciousness of the individual. If it is argued that the subtle body is not destroyed in the state of liberation, then there is no difference between liberation and bondage. For all these reasons, the view that the jiva qualified by the internal organ is the locus of avidya is untenable. The view which considers the internal organ as a mark (upalakshana) will lead to Anandanubhava’s standpoint; for the internal organ as a mark is separated from consciousness which it serves to indicate, and so avidya is seated only in consciousness.
After refuting the explanation of the nature of liberation given by the Naiyayikas, the Sankhyas and others, Anandanubhava sets forth the Advaita view that the removal of avidya (avidya-nivritti) is liberation. He states the possible objections against the view, criticises them and finally establishes the soundness of the Advaita view of liberation4.
The critics are interested in proving the untenability of the very conception. They argue that avidya-nivritti cannot be said to be real (sat) or unreal (asat) or both (sadasat) or indeterminable (anirvachaniya). If it be said to be real, is it other than Brahman or identical with Brahman? If it is other than Brahman, it will give rise to dualism which is not acceptable to the Advaitin. The other alternative, so the critics argue, fares no better. In what sense can it be said to be identical with Brahman? There are two possible alternatives here: either avidya-nivritti gets itself merged in Brahman or Brahman gets itself merged in avidya-nivritti. If the former, then it is eternal in as much as Brahman is eternal, and so knowledge (jnana) is not required; if the latter, Brahman has to be treated as a negative entity in as much as avidya-nivritti is negative. Can it be said to be unreal (asat)? Even this possibility is ruled out by the critics. If it is unreal like the sky-flower, there arises again the futility of knowledge. If it is unreal, it cannot be brought into being. If it be argued that it can be brought into being, then sky-flower, etc., which is unreal, can also be brought into being; and this is absurd. It cannot be both real and unreal at the same time, as it goes against the law of contradiction. Since avidya is said to be anirvachaniya, avidya-nivritti too cannot be anirvachaniya.
The critics further point out that it is not possible to explain avidya-nivritti as a fifth mode (panchama-prakara) as other than the four possibilities mentioned above. First, there is no pramana which would justify it. For the sake of argument, let us suppose, so the critics argue, that there is avidya-nivritti which is a fifth mode. It is incumbent upon the Advaitin to say whether it is removable or not. It cannot be removed by jnana; the latter can remove only ajnana; and there is no other means available to the Advaitin to bring about its disappearance. There is also another difficulty here. The disappearance of avidya-nivritti will mean the re-emergence of avidya, which is not desirable. The other alternative, viz., that it is not removable, may now be considered. The question that arises here is whether it is knowable or not. If it be said that avidya-nivritti which is not removable (i.e. which is eternal) is knowable, the Advaita view that “whatever is perceived is illusory” has to be given up. If avidya-nivritti is said to be eternal and also is knowable, the world also which is knowable may be said to be eternal. It is not open to the Advaitin to formulate the vyapti as “whatever is perceived other than avidya-nivritti is illusory.” To the Advaitin there is no real other than avidya-nivritti. If it be said that it is not knowable, then no efforts need be taken for attaining it. The critics, therefore, argue that it is impossible for the Advaitin to show that the conception of avidya-nivritti is intelligible and tenable. The untenability of the conception of avidya-nivritti will, according to the critics, undermine the central thesis of Advaita, viz., that the Self is non-dual and that the world which is a product of avidya is illusory.
Anandanubhava argues that the explanation of avidya-nivritti as a fifth mode (panchama-prakara) is quite sound and that the critics have not really shown the conception to be unintelligible and untenable. Since avidya is indeterminable, its removal has to be explained only as a fifth mode. It cannot be real, for in that case avidya too will become real. Since it has avidya as its pratiyogi and also since it is brought into being, it cannot be unreal like the sky-flower. Nor can it be both real and unreal as it amounts to breaking the law of contradiction. It cannot be indeterminable (anirvachaniya), since avidya is indeterminable. So, it has to be explained as a fifth mode, as something other than all the four mentioned above.
It is true, says Anandanubhava, that avidya-nivritti is different from real and unreal in the same way as avidya is different from real and unreal. But that is no reason for characterising it as anirvachaniya. If avidya is said to be anirvachaniya, it is not because of its being different from real and unreal (sadasatvilakshana), but because it is removable by knowledge. In other words, anirvachaniya, according to Anandanubhava, is to be explained in terms of removability by knowledge (jnananivartyatva)5. Avidya is anirvachaniya, because it is removable. But avidya-nivritti is not removable by knowledge. On the contrary, it is brought into being by knowledge. It is knowable in as much as it falls within the scope of experience. It is wrong to think that it is not removable. Only if it is maintained that it is not removable, it will be prejudicial to the inference by which the Advaitin proves the illusoriness of the world. Anandanubhava cites the authority of Scripture to show that avidya-nivritti too is removable. The Brihadaranyaka text says: “In it there is no diversity”6. The purport of this text is to show that there is nothing else, either positive or negative, other than Brahman; and in this total denial avidya-nivritti is also included. Anandanubhava takes pains to show that his stand-point is quite consistent with the view of Vimuktatman, the author of the Ishta-siddhi. The explanation of avidya-nivritti as a fifth mode (panchama-prakara) is acceptable to Vimuktatman7, as he himself adopts this mode of interpretation in the Ishta-siddhi. It is true that he equates avidya-nivritti with the non-dual Self subsequently in the same work8. Anandanubhava’s elucidation of Vimuktatman’s position makes it clear that any suggestion that Vimuktatman is vacillating between these two explanations and that he is not consistent is unwarranted. Since there is nothing else, either positive or negative, other than the Self, avidya-nivritti cannot be given a permanent standing as a negative something coeval with the Self. If Vimuktatman seeks to equate avidya-nivritti with the Self, it is to show that the Self, indicated by avidya-nivritti, is bereft of everything, positive as well as negative.
1. Critically edited with Introduction by V.Jagadisvara Sastrigal and V.R. Kalyanasundara Sastrigal (Madras Govt. Oriental Series No. CLXVI, 1961). This work will be referred to hereafter as NRD.
2. ii, 32.
3. NRD, pp. 344–346.
4. NRD, pp. 382–386.
5. This is also the standpoint of Vimuktatman.
6. IV, iv, 19.
7. Ishta-siddhi (Gaekwad Oriental Series, Baroda), p. 85
8. Ibid., p. 371
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