Preceptors of Advaita
P.V. SIVARAMA DIKSHITAR
Several are the great geniuses and original thinkers who have put forth earnest effort to spread the philosophy of Advaita, which is the quintessence of the Upanishads, the eternal fountains of true knowledge, by their classical and immortal works. Sri Ramatirtha may be ranked with the foremost among the teachers who contributed lucid expositions of and illuminating commentaries on Advaita classics.
In the domain of the Sastras, it was the custom in the olden day to assess the importance of an author, not so much by the number of works he himself composed, as by the chain of commentaries that subsequent writers thought it necessary to write to bring out the wealth of ideas implicit in the author’s works.
The special virtue of great classics is that they not only have their commentaries but also commentaries on the commentaries, which undoubtedly go to show the invaluable gift of the author of the original.
The special features of a commentary (vyakhyana) are mentioned in the following well-known verse.
As could be seen from this it is no easy task to become a commentator, because, considering the various intricacies of a work, the requirements to be fulfilled by a commentary demand true talent. As a commentator, Sri Ramatirtha fills the bill very well.
We find from the last sentences of all the works of Ramatirtha that he was the disciple of Krishnatirtha.
Sri Krishnatirtha has been mentioned as his guru.
Another work Vedantasaratika also bears evidence to this fact.
vedantasaravivritim ramatirthabhidho yatih
chakre srikrishnatirtha sripadapankaja shatpadah.2
But in the Panchikarana-vivarana-vyakhya (Tattvachandrika) it has been stated that Jagannathasrami was his guru.
jagannathasrama ye guravo ye kripalavah.
And in the beginning of the Vedantasaratika he says,
vanikayamanobhih sriguruvidyagurun namaskritya
vedantasaratikam kurve sraddhavasat yathabuddhi.
Thus on the strength of the above references we come to the conclusion that Ramatirtha had two gurus, a Sikshaguru and another Dikshaguru.
We may also consider a reference made by him to Visvaveda’s Siddhantadipa in the Anvayartha–prakasika, a commentary on the Samkshepasariraka namely,
‘siddhantadipam purato nidhaya’.
From this, one may draw the conclusion that Sri Visvaveda the author of the Siddhantadipa was Ramatirtha’s sampradayaguru. Therefore, considering all the above facts we may finally take it that Sri Krishnatirtha was his Dikshaguru, Jagannathasrama and Visvaveda being the sikshagurus; but there is nothing on record to dispute the conclusion that Krishnatirtha was the sikshaguru while the others were his sampradayagurus.
(i) Sri Anantadeva I, father of Apadeva I, the author of Mimamsa-nyayaprakasa, was the disciple of Ramatirtha. This can be ascertained from the sentence
srutam yat sriramatirthebhyah
(ii) Sri Purushottama Misra was also the disciple of Ramatirtha. This can be known from the following sloka––
ramatirthamiha naumi tam gurum
sradhaya diva ivagatam gurum.
This sloka is found in the Subodhini which is a commentary on the Samkshepasariraka. Subodhini has been written by Purushottama Misra.
(iii) One Narayana-priya who was the author of Sneha, a commentary on the Kaivalyadipika, has stated that he was the disciple of Ramatirtha.
The works of Ramatirtha so far published do not give us any clue of the exact period of the commentator. But the unpublished manuscript of his commentary on Manasollasa gives the date of the commentary as 1630 Vikrama Era (1574 A.D.)3 Nrisimhasrama belonged to the 16th century A.D. Ramatirtha was his contemporary. Thus we may come to the conclusion that Ramatirtha belonged to the later part of the 15th century and the earlier part of the 16th century. It is quite likely that Madhusudanasarasvati was a contemporary of Ramatirtha. This period, it may be stated, was a bright period in the history of our land as there was a large number of brilliant scholars throughout the country. Ramatirtha’s style is lucid and simple. His expressions are forceful and at the same time vividly descriptive. By logical remonstrances he inculcates upon the readers morals of a higher order. His persuasive arguments infuse courage and confidence into them. Not only is his contribution to Advaita philosophy invaluable, but also the manner in which he presents that philosophy is such as to cultivate detachment and discrimination in the reader.
The following are the works ascribed to Ramatirtha.
(i) Commentary on the Upadesasahasri of Sri Sankara.
(iv) Panchikarana-vivarana-vyakhya or Tattvachandrika being a commentary on Anandagiri’s Panchikarana-vivarana.
(v) Manosollasa-vrittanta-vilasa being a commentary on the Manasollasa of Suresvaracharya.
This work explains the meanings of the mahavakyas of the various Upanishads.
(vii) Vedantasara-vyakhya also called Vidvanmanoranjini, a commentary on Sadananda’s Vedantasara.
(viii) Sarirakarahasyartha-prakasika being a Vritti on the Brahmasutra.
(ix) Samkshepasariraka-vyakhya also called Anvayartha-prakasika.
In this work at the beginning as well as at the end we find the following slokas––
siddhantadipam purato nidhaya
prakasamadaya maya viviktam.
unniyarthavibhagatah pratipadam sambandhavidyotini
vyakhya tasya satam manah priyakari vyakhyatrichittaukasah
From these verses it is clear that there was a commentary on Samkshepasariraka called Siddhantadipa. Taking advantage of that commentary Ramatirtha declares that he has written this Anvayartha-prakasika.
(x) Chidanandalahari––This is mentioned in the commentary of Vedantasara.
Ramatirtha’s devotion towards Sri Rama is immeasurable. From the following sloka, the style of which is undoubtedly his own, one may observe that Ramatirtha viewed the Ramayana from a unique philosophical angle.
vidya sita viyogakshubhitanijasukhah sokamohabhipannah
hatvaste dainyavalim madanajalanidhau
1. See Panchikarana-vyakhya.
2. See Vedantasaratika-vidvanmanoranjini, p.135 (Nirnayasagar Edn.)
3. See Ms. No. 1120, Royal Asiatic Society, Bombay.
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