Preceptors of Advaita
S. SUBRAHMANIA SASTRI
Ramadvayacharya belongs to that galaxy of medieval authors who wrote independent dialectical works called prakaranas connected with the Vedanta Sastra. Vedanta-kaumudi, published by the Madras University (1955) and an unpublished commentary on it by himself are the only works available in his name. A prakarana may be smaller or bigger than the Sastra to which it is connected, but it elaborates a few topics dealt with there. Vedanta-kaumudi fully answers to this definition.
Appayya Dikshita of the 16th Century quotes from Vedanta-kaumudi thrice, once by the name of the author and twice by mentioning his work. Brahmananda (17th century) the author of Laghuchandrika discussed his anumana in the establishment of mithyatva (illusoriness) of the universe. Moreover Dr. Dasgupta who was the first to notice the importance of Vedanta-kaumudi refers to two manuscripts of the commentary of the work, one in Asiatic Society of Bengal and the other in the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute. In both these manuscripts the copying date given is 1515 A.D. We can therefore take it that the upper limit of the date of Vedanta-kaumudi and its commentary (which are by the same author) is 1500 A.D. His reference to Janardana who later became Anandagiri and his reference to later authors show that he probably lived about 1515 A.D.
Ramadvaya in his discussions mostly follows the Siddhantas of the Vivarana school, but whenever he finds any difficulty he adopts the views of Vachaspati. Following the Siddhanta of the Vivarana school he adopts:
(i) niyamavidhi in respect of injunctions regarding sravana;
(ii) rise of Brahman-realization directly from the Vedantas;
(iii) jivas as reflections of Brahman.
Following Vachaspati he accepts nescience as many and its location in jivas.
Contents of Vedanta-Kaumudi
The work is divided into four chapters. Brahman-inquiry, the subject-matter of the first Brahman-sutra, is elaborated in the first chapter. Following the Khandana-khanda-khadya of Sri-Harsha, the author establishes the eligibility of the Advaitin who views the world as unreal, for taking part in philosophical discussions. He says that what is required in the discussions is only the acceptance of categories as they are and not their absolute reality. Explaining the self-validity of the pramanas he thinks that though the absence of defects is useful it does not conduce to validity being extrinsic. After an elaborate discussion he supports Vachaspatis view that mind is the means of Brahman-knowledge; but finally he approves the position taken by the author of the Vivarana that Vedantas directly give rise to the intuitive knowledge. Taking up the Advaitin’s stand in respect of illusion, the author condemns all other khyatis and supports anirvachaniyakhyati. Maya as a positive entity is established by perception, inference and scripture. Among the qualities necessary for eligibility for Brahman-inquiry the author lays stress on vairagya (freedom from desires). This he says is to be attained not only by performing the obligatory rites prescribed in the Vedas but also by voluntary charity of food and clothing beyond one’s means. Interpreting the agelong saying that by death in Varanasi, one gets final release as he says that death there leads to final release through different phases and not directly. After an extensive discussion, the author establishes that sannyasa asrama is essential for Brahman-knowledge and is so taught in the scriptures. But once taken, there is no going back. Taking up the subject-matter of the Brahma-sutra the author states that the identity of jiva with Brahman is the subject and the whole inanimate world with the multiplicity of the jivas is unreal. The unreality of the universe is established on the ground that it is inexplicable either as different or as non-different from Brahman, its cause. In chapter-II the author takes up the second Brahman-sutra for discussion. He declares that the fact that Brahman is the cause of creation, sustentation, and dissolution of the world is to be established only by scripture and not by inference as held by the Naiyayikas. The author condemns the inferences of the Naiyayikas establishing Isvara as the cause as fallacious. Elaborating causality, the author rejects the views (i) that karma is the cause, (ii) that time is the cause, (iii) that nature is the cause, (iv) that prana (vital air) is the cause and (v) that pradhana is the cause. Incidentally he criticises the views of the Buddhists, the Jainas and the Pasupatas in respect of causation.
After thus explaining the tatasthalakshana he takes up the svarupalakshana and establishes on the basis of scripture and reasoning that Brahman is of the nature of reality, intelligence and bliss. He also establishes the Vedantic theory that the mahavakyas give rise to an impartite sense (akhandartha).
In the third chapter, the author discusses the proofs for the existence of Brahman. He holds that Vedantas alone are the proofs. Incidentally he takes up other pramanas and discusses their definitions and scope. He rejects the anumanas given by Udayana in his Kusumanjali as fallacious. As regards verbal knowledge resulting from Vedic and non-Vedic texts the author favours abhihitanvayavada of Kumarila in preference to anvitabhidhanavada of Prabhakara. Taking up the subject of authorship of the Vedas the author declares that the Vedas are not of human origin; even God cannot interfere in their subject-matter or sequence. They are beginningless. Though they perish in the deluge, there is God who remembers the Vedas of the previous creation and teaches them to Brahma at the time of the first creation after the deluge.
In chapter IV the author takes up the fourth Sutra for discussion. In reply to the contention of the Mimamsakas that Vedic injunctions which tend to human activity (towards good) or abstention (from bad) alone are valid, and the Upanishads which reveal the ever-existent Brahman are not valid, the Sutrakara says that the Upanishads which are not connected with any karma and which do not set forth any activity are also valid since they also reveal Brahman whose knowledge gives the final purushartha. The author incidentally defines the sixteen categories enumerated by Gautama. As regards the nature of Isvara he accepts the Vivarana theory that he is the pratibimba (reflection) of Brahman in maya; he is all-pervasive.
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Preceptors of Advaita