Preceptors of Advaita
RAJESVARA SASTRI DRAVID
Sri Appayya Dikshita, the most noteworthy and versatile Advaita scholar, in the beginning of his work Siddhantalesasangraha observes:
“Victorious is the auspicious birth-destroying discourse (the Sutrabhashya), which issues forth from the blessed lotus face of the Bhagavadpada, has for its sole purport the non-dual Brahman, and is diversified a thousand-fold on reaching the (numerous) ancient preceptors (who expounded it), in the same way as the river (Ganga), which issuing from the feet of Vishnu, is diversified on reaching different lands.”
Ancient preceptors of Advaita who wrote commentaries and treatises on the Sutrabhashya of Sankara with a view to determine its import were keen on establishing the unity of the self. And, in order to establish this, they advocated several theories which differ among themselves. All these differing theories, however, pertain only to the empirical stages, and hence they do not in any way stultify the non-dual nature of the self. Suresvara, well-known as the author of the Vartikas, states that by whichever theory one attains to the knowledge of Brahman that theory must be taken to be the best; and there are many theories within the fold of Advaita.
Among the manifold theories explored and expounded by the ancient preceptors, the theories advocated by Vachaspatimisra in his commentary, Bhamati, on the Sutrabhashya of Sankara are prominent. His work is traditionally known as the Bhamatiprasthana. He wrote treatises on the six orthodox darsanas, and was well-versed in Nyaya, Mimamsa and Vyakarana. The word prasthana etymologically derived means a work by which is determined (sthiyate-nirniyate) beyond all uncertainty (prakarshena) the import of the Sutrabhashya of Sankara. The work Bhamati determines beyond all uncertainty the import of the Sutrabhashya of Sankara and hence it is called a prasthana.
The views set forth in the Bhamati are difficult to understand and, in order to favour the earnest students of Advaita, Sri Amalananda wrote a commentary on it by name Vedantakalpataru. Sri Appayya Dikshita in his Parimala on the Vedantakalpataru says that the latter gives room, like the aerial car of Pushpaka, to the manifold theories set forth by wise men. We shall now set forth briefly some unique features of the Kalpataru in the interpretation of the Bhamati on the Chatussutri portion of the Sutrabhashya.
Sri Sankara in his adhyasabhashya states, ‘After imposing on each the nature and the attributes of the other through non-discrimination of each from the other in the case of attributes absolutely distinct among themselves as also of the substrates absolutely distinct among themselves, there is this natural empirical usage like, “I am this”, and “this is mine”, coupling the true with the untrue, with its cause in the illusory cognition1’.
The Bhamati on this passage is as follows: The true is the intelligent self; the untrue are the intellect, the sense-organs, the body, etc.; coupling (mithunikritya) these two substrates; coupling means yoking (yugalikritya)2.
Although the word mithunikritya is interpreted in the sense of yugalikritya, yet the intended sense is not clear. A doubt naturally arises whether this yugalikarana means the relations of contact, etc., or a unique kind of relation.
Amalananda in the Kalpataru explains the word ‘yugalikarana’ thus: The manifestation of the substrate and the object superimposed is yugalikarana.
“yugalikaranam nama adhishthanaropyayoh
svarupena buddhau bhanam.”
This definition has one difficulty. Yugalikarana is the cause of superimposition. And, it is interpreted to mean the manifestation of substrate and the object superimposed. The latter, therefore, necessarily precedes superimposition. But, before the first superimposition of mind on the self, when one gets back to waking state from deep sleep or at the time of first creation when the cosmic dissolution is over, the manifestation of the substrate and the object superimposed, that is, mind, is not possible. For, it is admitted that at the time of dissolution or deep sleep mind merges in its cause that is, avidya. Hence it must be held that the latent impressions arising out of the manifestation of the substrate and the object superimposed (mind) before the dissolution or deep sleep is the cause of the superimposition of mind on the self when one gets back to waking state from deep sleep or at the time of the first creation when the cosmic dissolution is over. Yugalikarana thus comes to mean the latent impressions arising out of manifestation of the substrate and the object superimposed. The manifestation of the substrate and the object superimposed is superimposition. Hence yugalikarana means the latent impressions of the earlier superimposition.
Yugalikarana, therefore, means the latent impressions of the earlier superimposition which has for its content the substrate and the object superimposed and whose form is identical with the form of the succeeding superimposition.
It has been said that yugalikarana means manifestation of the substratum and the object superimposed. From this it should not be understood that there is the manifestation of the substrate and the superimposed object as distinct entities. According to Advaita, error is not admitted without a substratum. What is superimposed is unreal. And it has no existence independent of the substratum. Substratum is the limit of sublation. And by its knowledge, the knowledge of the superimposed object is sublated or at least taken to be not valid. So, when it is said that there is manifestation of the substratum and the object superimposed, it must be understood that the two are manifest as a blend or a unified whole.
Now it might be objected thus. The manifestation of substratum and the object superimposed as a unified whole is error or superimposed. It is the cause of later superimposition. The knowledge of the substratum is independently the cause of the knowledge of the substratum of the later superimposition. Similarly the knowledge of the superimposed object is independently the cause of the knowledge of the superimposed object of the later superimposition. One need not hold that the form of the earlier superimposition or its latent impression as such is the cause of the later superimposition and must correspond to the form of the later superimposition.
This objection is not valid. One does not have the erroneous cognition in the form of ‘I am the body’ (aham dehah) although there exists the knowledge ‘aham’ and ‘dehah’ separately. The reason is that there is no such previous knowledge and so no such latent impression which could lead to the superimposition in the form of ‘I am the body’. On the other hand, there is the superimposition in the form of ‘I am a man’, and this is caused by the previous superimposition or its latent impression in the form of ‘I am a man’. Hence the form of the later superimposition corresponds to the form of the earlier superimposition or its latent impression. And, the earlier superimposition or its latent impression by having a form similar to that of the later superimposition is the cause of the later superimposition. Hence yugalikarana means earlier superimposition or its latent impression.
In the adhyasa-bhashya Sankara says: There is this natural empirical usage like ‘I am this’, and ‘This is mine’. The Bhamati on this passage is as follows: ‘When there is cognition of what is superimposed, there is the superimposition of what was formerly seen, while that cognition itself is conditioned by superimposition; thus, (the defect of) reciprocal dependence seems difficult to avoid. To this he says: “natural”. This empirical usage is natural, beginningless. Through the beginninglessness of the usage, there is declared the beginninglessness of its cause–superimposition. Hence, of the intellect, organs, body, etc., appearing in every prior illusory cognition, there is use in every subsequent instance of superimposition. This (process) being beginningless, like (the succession of) the seed and the sprout, ‘there is no reciprocal dependence; this is the meaning.’
From this it is clear that the empirical usage, its cause, that is, superimposition, and its cause, earlier superimpositions or the latent impressions –all these are beginningless like a stream. Amalananda explains the concept of beginninglessness in the following verse:
sa karyanadita mata
Earlier superimpositions or their latent impressions are beginningless in this sense that there always exists the relation of time to either of these. In the same way, adhyasa or superimposition is beginningless in the sense that superimposition or its subtle form is always related to time. Similarly, empirical usage is beginningless in this that empirical usage or its subtle form is always related to time.
Some hold that this series of superimpositions or their latent impression is avidya. And they cite the following texts from the Sutrabhashya to substantiate their contention. One text is: “Wise men consider the superimposition of this nature to be avidya”3; and the other text is: “It is for the removal of this cause of evil, for the attainment of the knowledge of the oneness of the self, that all the Vedantas are commenced”.4 On the basis of these texts, some conclude that the Bhamati which speaks of two kinds of nescience in the invocatory verse is not true to the view of the Sutrabhashya.
In order to remove this misapprehension the Kalpataru states that one kind of nescience which is beginningless and positive in character is explained in the devatadhikarana; and the other kind is the series of latent impressions arising from previous erroneous cognitions. Between these two kinds of nescience, the one that is explained in the devatadhikarana is well-known in the Advaita literature to be the mulavidya, primal nescience.
Now two questions arise, one as to the nature of nescience and another as to its primal nature. Nescience is that which has undifferentiated consciousness alone as its content (vishaya). And it is avidya in the sense that it is removable by the intuitive knowledge of Brahman. Or, we may say that it is avidya in the sense that it has the characteristic of veiling the true nature of Brahman. And this characteristic of veiling the true nature of Brahman is present both in the mulavidyas and the tulavidyas. It is a jativisesha; and it gives rise to the empirical usage ‘I do not know’. Its primal nature consists in this that it is the material cause of the superimposition of the body, the senses, etc., by veiling the true nature of the substratum. The phrase “material cause of erroneous cognition (bramo’padana)” occurring in a Kalpataru passage conveys the sense that mulavidya is the material cause of superimposition by veiling the true nature of the substratum.
Now an objection may be raised. The superimposition of the body, senses, etc., is like a continuous stream and so the earlier superimposition is the cause of the succeeding one. When such is the case there is no necessity to resort to primal nescience as the cause of superimposition.
This objection does not hold good. Primal nescience serves a two-fold purpose. One is that it conceals the specific nature of the substratum of superimposition. There arises the superimposition of silver in the nacre only when the specific nature of the substratum, that is, the consciousness delimited by nacre is not manifest. It is an invariable rule that non-manifestation of the specific nature of the substratum is the most important cause of superimposition. The phrases like vivekagraha, and asamsargagraha refer only to the non-manifestation of the specific nature of the substratum. When there is the manifestation of the specific nature of the substratum, there does not arise superimposition. The chief reason for this is that there is the absence of the cause of the superimposition, that is, non-manifestation of the specific nature of the substratum. Thus, only when there is the non-manifestation of the specific nature of the undifferentiated consciousness, could the superimposition of mind, etc., on the self arise. And, the non-manifestation of the specific nature of Atman is caused only by mulavidya. In this sense it is the cause of the superimposition of mind, etc., on the self and the relation of the self on the mind, etc.
Another purpose is served by mulavidya. It is the transformative material cause of the superimposition of the body, senses, etc. It is thus: The superimposition of the body, senses, etc., has a transformative material cause, because it is an existent effect, like pot, etc. Thus is assumed only one transformative material cause with reference to all superimpositions. It is similar to the Naiyayika position that only one omniscient being, that is , God, is inferred to be the efficient cause of the entire universe. The Upanishadic text ‘mayam tu prakritim vidyat mayinam tu mahesvaram’ affirms avidya to be the primal cause of the universe.
Although Madhusudanasarasvati and Brahmanandasarasvati established the validity of the Advaitic truth by adopting the Navya-nyaya method, yet it must be noted that they adopt the line of arguments of the Kalpataru and other commentaries. And this is evident from this that both the writers often refer to the views of the Kalpataru in their works.
There is a bhashya text which is as follows: “There is begun respectful enquiry into the Vedanta texts whose auxiliary is reasoning not inconsistent therewith and whose purpose is liberation”.5 The Bhamati on this passage is as follows:
“The enquiry into the Vedanta is itself reasoning; other reasoning which does not conflict therewith such as is mentioned in the Purvamimamsa and the Nyaya-sutras in discussing the authoritativeness of the Veda, of perception, etc., serves as auxillary”.
The Kalpataru on the above passage comments that the Nyaya-sastra, Smritis, etc., are said to be ‘reasonings’ (tarkah) in this that they are auxiliaries to the understanding of the import of scripture.
Thus the Navya-nyaya terminology also must be taken to be ‘tarka’ and it is part and parcel of the Vedantamimamsa. And the later Advaitic writers adopted the Navya-nyaya method in their works in order to achieve logical precision.
Amalananda at the end of the Kalpataru says that he wrote the work under the Yadava king of Devagiri (the present Doulatabad)–Krishna and his brother Mahadeva(1247-1260 A.D.). Hence Amalananda flourished in the middle of the 13th century.
In the beginning of the Kalpataru on the third chapter of the Brahma-sutra, Amalananda gives his name as Vyasasrama.
“srimad vyasasramasya prativadanamadat karnayugmam virinchih.”
In the beginning of the Kalpataru, Amalananda says that he is the disciple of Sri Anubhavananda.
padagitam gurum namah.”
He further states that Sri Atmananda-yati is his grand-preceptor.
anisam vande gurunam gurum.
And his vidyaguru is Sukhaprakasa, the disciple of Chitsukha.
tam naumi vidyagurum.”
Amalananda lived in Nasik-trayambaka-kshetra. In the Samanvayadhikarana there occurs the following verse in the Kalpataru.
; “asti kila brahmagiri nama girivarah
pandureva pati bhati yatra godavari nadi".
While commenting on this, Sri Appayya Dikshita states that our author who lived in Nasik-trayambaka-kshetra composed his works. Apart from the Kalpataru on the Bhamati, Amalananda wrote Sastradarpana an exposition on the Brahma-sutra.
1. tathapi anyonyasmin anyonyatmakatam anyonyadharmamscha adhyasya itaretaravivekena atyantaviviktayoh dharmadharminoh mithyajnananimittah satyanrite mithunikritya ahamidam mamedamiti naisargiko’yam lokavyavaharah.
2. satyam chidatma, anritam buddhindriyadehadi, te dve dharmini mithunikritya yugalikritya ityarthah.
3. tametam evamlakshanam adhyasam panditah avidyeti manyante.
4. asya anarthahetoh prahanaya atmaikatva-vidyapratipattaye sarve vedantah arabhyante.
5. vedantavakyamimamsa tadavirodhitarkopakarana nisreyasaprayojana prastuyate (Sutrabhashya on i, i, 1).
6. vedantamimamsa tavattarka eva, tadavirodhinascha ye anyepi tarkah adhvaramimamsayam nyaye cha vedapratyakshadipramanyapari-sodhanadishuktah te upakaranam yasyah sa tathokta;
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