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Preceptors of Advaita
Lakshmidhara, the author of the Advaitamakaranda, a prakarana work on Advaita Vedanta, has to his credit two other works, namely, a commentary on Srimad Bhagavata and Bhagavannamakaumudi dealing with namasamkirtana as a means of attainment of purusharthas and with the meaningfulness of the Puranas. This is evident from the author’s own statement in the latter work which is as follows:
yena bhagavatavyakhya kritamritatarangini
Since Bhagavannamakaumudi is commented upon by Anantadeva Bharati who lived in the 17th century, Lakshmidhara could not have flourished later than this period. Brahmananda Bharati, the author of the Purusharthaprabodha has commented upon the work of Bharatitirtha, guru of Sri Vidyaranya who lived towards the close of the 14th century A.D. Lakshmidhara is quoted by Brahmananda Bharati in his commentary on the Vakyasudha and hence the author may be placed in the early half of the 15th century.
It is suggested by the editor of the Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts of the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library (Vol. XIII, No. 7635) that Lakshmidhara was the disciple of Anantananda Raghunatha Yati and that after taking the order of sannyasa he was known as Krishnendra as is made out by a manuscript of Advaitamakarandavyakhya (No. 7641).
Sri S. Srikantha Sastri states that Lakshmidhara was the son of Simhala, sister of Sri Vidyaranya and that he was probably identical with the patron of the Kannada Poet Madhura in the time of Devaraya I (1406 A.D.).
Ishtarthakalpavalli, a commentary on Anargharaghavanataka refers to the fact that Lakshmidhara, the commentator came to be known as Ramanandasrama when he became a sannyasin. He is described there as Mimamsadvayaparagah and son of Yajnesvara and Sarvambika of Charakuri family in Guntur district. He is also credited with the authorship of Srutiranjani, a commentary on Prasannaraghava and Shadbhashachandrika, a Prakrit grammar and a few other works. But whether this Lakshmidhara who flourished in the court of Tirumalaraya of Vijayanagar (1567–1575 A.D.) is identical with Lakshmidhara, the author of Advaitamakaranda as claimed by the editor of the Descriptive Catalogue of Sanskrit manuscripts of the Tanjore Sarasvati Mahal Library (Vol. XII, p. 5102), needs examination, as the above information regarding his parentage, name of preceptor, name in sannyasasrama, names of works and the period in which he lived does not agree with the information contained in other manuscripts and printed work of Advaitamakaranda.
The author himself in the colophon to Bhagavannamakaumudi gives the name of his father as Narasimha and of his guru as Anantananda Raghunatha. In the same work he mentions his other two works that have already been referred to.
From the above facts it appears that Lakshmidhara, the author of Advaitamakaranda, son of Narasimha and disciple of Anantananda Raghunatha assigned to the 15th century by the editor of Vani Vilas publication is different from the Lakshmidhara of Cherukuru family who flourished in the court of Tirumalaraya of Vijayanagara in the latter half of the 16th century.
The work bears a felicitous name, Advaitamakaranda, which as the author himself describes towards the end of the work, is sweet like the honey collected from the autumnal lotus (Saradambhojasambhrita), capable of delighting the bees, viz., those learned in the sastras (vidvadbhringah). ‘Advaitam’ is Brahman and ‘makaranda’ is rasa and the title gives the subject-matter of the work, the nature of Brahman that is identical with rasa, ‘raso vai sah’. The nature of Brahman can be known only by ‘anubhava’ as the sweetness of honey is experienced only by one who tastes it and not by one who listens to an exposition about its nature.
The work contains twenty-seven verses dealing with the nature of Brahman that is not different from the soul. These verses are commented upon by Svayamprakasayati, disciple of Kaivalyananda Yogindra, in a lucid and authoritative manner. The author invokes the blessing of his ishtadevata Sri Krishna, the Blissful and Eternal (anantananda Krishna), a term which can be taken to make an oblique reference to his teacher Anantananda Raghunatha, though the commentator takes it only as a devatanamaskara presumably because he was not aware of this fact, being separated by several centuries from the period of the author.
The central thesis of this work is ‘brahmaivaham’. The scriptural statements ‘aham brahmasmi’, ‘anandam brahma’; etc., find effective support in the reasoning contained in the second verse of this work. The non-difference of the soul and Brahman is often challenged by the realists on the ground of perceptual testimony like ‘naham isvarah’. The commentator clearly beings out that there is no possibility of either the bahya or manasa type of perception relating to the soul as it is formless and beyond even the reach of mind.
That the soul is indestructible is established by the author after examining the several ways in which destruction of a thing can be brought about. According to Bauddhas, a thing is destroyed by itself (svato nasah). Secondly, a thing is destroyed by contact with something else as a pot is destroyed by a stick. Thirdly, a thing is destroyed when its substratum ceases to exist as the colour of a cloth when the cloth is destroyed. The first is countered by the ‘pratyabhijna’ that everyone experiences in forms like ‘yo’ham suptah svapnam adraksham sa eva idanim jagarmi’. The second type of destruction also is not possible because the soul is all-pervasive and impartible. The third type of destruction also is inconceivable because there is no substratum for the soul. It is only guna, kriya, jati, etc., that have an asraya or substratum and the soul is not any of these.
That the knowledge of the universe is rendered possible only by association with an intelligent being is elucidated by the analogy of a pot, the existence of which is cognised only in the presence of light.
The author sets forth how the state of wakefulness, dream and sleep pertains to the ego (ahamkara) and not to the soul, the witness (sakshi) of those states. The commentator cites the vyapti, the invariable concomitance ‘yo yajjanati na sa taddharmavan’ in dissociating the soul from the sixfold transformation, viz., origin, existence, growth, change, decay and cessation. Kartritvam, sakshitvam, etc., are only apparent attributes, the soul in reality being attributeless.
On the validity of karmakanda of the Veda that speaks about sacrifices and heaven, the author as an Advaitin can only concede a lesser degree of reality to such things, Brahman being the ultimate Reality.
As Dr. S. Radhakrishnan observes, “In later Advaita the comparison of the world to a dream has been stretched to the breaking point.” Advaitamakaranda says, ‘In this protracted dream which the world is, projected in that great sleep of ignorance reading the self, flash forth the glimpse of paradise, emancipation and so forth.’
The distinction of ‘bhogya’ and ‘bhokta’ is held to be a sort of fictitious superimposition on the intelligent soul which is none other than Brahman. Any change noticed in the universe is of no consequence so far as their adhishthana, the Brahman, is concerned in the same way as the waves on the surface of the ocean do not produce any the least effect on the deep and calm ocean, their substratum. As Bharatitirtha puts it ‘Let the cloud of nescience break and pour the rain of universe. There is neither loss nor gain to the ether of consciousness––
‘mayamegho jaganniram varshatvesha yatha tatha
chidakasasya no hanih na va labhah iti sthitih.’
‘Satta (existence) is not an attribute of soul, says the author because there is no reality besides the soul which being one, cannot be supposed to have satta as its attribute in the same way as there can be no ‘nabhastva’ in ‘nabhas’, space being one. ‘Chit’ (knowledge) is not an attribute of soul but is the very nature of it. The knower and knowable are the same because the soul is self-luminous. ‘Ananda’ is not an attribute of soul but is the very nature of it. Rasa is equated with that. In fact Sat, Chit and Ananda are not mutually exclusive aspects of Brahman, though the terms denote different meanings primarily; the one is non-different from the other and the whole is understood in their secondary sense, one ‘Sacchidanandaghana.’
The author concludes by reiterating the non-difference of the soul and Brahman by alluding to the mahavakya ‘tattvam asi’ which conveys the grand truth of the Advaita, viz., the soul that is divested of the obsession about the remoteness of perception of Isvara, the delimited nature of the soul and maya-ridden diversity of worldly phenomena is that Brahman.
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