Preceptors of Advaita
S. S. SURYANARAYANA SASTRI
M.A. (Madras), B.Sc (Oxon), Bar-at-Law
*An adaptation of the paper The Advaitavidyamukura, published in collected Papers of Professor S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri, University of Madras, 1961.
Nilakantha Dikshita, the famous litterateur and minister of Tirumala Nayak, refers in his Nala-charitra-nataka1 to one of his ancestors, Ranga raja, as the author of several works, such as the Advaitavidyamukura and the Vivaranadarpana. This Ranga raja is none other than the son of Achan Dikshita and the father of the celebrated Appayya Dikshita. From the latter’s acknowledgement of indebtedness to his father’s instruction, it is evident that Ranga raja was a scholar of no mean order; but the only reference to his works seems to be in the nataka above-mentioned and there is little direct knowledge of the works themselves. The Oriental Manuscripts Library at Mysore has the proud distinction of owing a fragmentary copy of the Mukura, under the title Advaitamukura2. The Vivaranadarpana of which there is a single manuscript in Nandinagari script––again fragmentary––in the Tanjore Palace Library3, is probably the work of Ranga raja. It is here sought to give an account of the contents of the manuscript of the Advaitamukura as now available to us in the Mysore Library.
Like the Advaitasiddhi of Madhusudana, it is an attempt to reestablish Advaita by answering dualist attacks. The topics covered are almost the same as those treated in the Siddhi, in the first hundred pages (of the Kumbakonam edition). The arguments met are the same; and the similarity very often extends to the replies too. Such differences as there are belong to the order of treatment. The refutation of the superiority of perception, the application of the apaccheda-nyaya, etc., thus occurs at the very end of Ranga raja’s exposition, while Madhusudana finds a place for them early in his discussion. The purvapakshin’s position is stated in one lot by Ranga raja, while Madhusudana lets it develop gradually in answer to various replies of the Siddhantin. But the nerve of the argument is the same in both writers. It is impossible to judge conclusively on the material before us, which of these is indebted to the other; while the agreement not merely in the purvapaksha but also in the siddhanta precludes the position that each was absolutely independent of the other. It would appear necessary to postulate at least a common source of inspiration for both writers, a source we have so far not discovered.
Another tantalizing problem set by the manuscript is that of Ranga raja’s identity with the Advaitavidyacharya mentioned so frequently by Appayya in the Siddhantalesasangraha. The name might have been applied to Ranga raja, either because of his authorship of the Advaitavidyamukura or because Appayya got his Advaitavidya from his father4. The matter could be settled if one could trace to the Mukura any of the doctrines attributed distinctively to the Advaitavidyacharya. But the fragment we have of the Mukura does not treat any such topic and we are still left in the region of conjecture.
What we have of the first pariccheda is roughly divided into eleven sections. The first of these deals with the interpretation of scripture as favouring non-dualism. The well-known six marks of purport are mentioned and their consilience shown in respect of non-dualism. Duality though perceived is not ultimate. Scriptural affirmation of what is in the scope of perception would be repetitive and purposeless. It is not as though a new duality is affirmed; for there is no novelty about this duality; and the cognition of duality is fraught with evil besides, as made clear in more than one unambiguous scriptural text. Opponents of non-dualism who indulge in the distortion of patently non-dualist texts like tat tvam asi come in for severe criticism by our author.
The pluralist seeks to establish the reality of the world on the ground of its being known, on the analogy of Brahman. The difficulty in all such arguments is that the probans “being known by a pramana that apprehends absolute reality” is not established. Perception which apprehends the here and now cannot apprehend such reality as is unsublatable in all three times. That inference can apprehend it is yet to be proved. Scripture does apprehend it, but not as belonging to the world; further, it sublates any inferred absoluteness of the world. It is not as though Isvara’s immediate cognition of the world guarantees its reality; for His immediacy need to be no more than that experienced by the juggler in respect of his tricks; knowing the illusory as illusory, He is not deluded5.
The next task attempted is the establishment of illusoriness by inference grounded on cognisability, inertness and finitude. The five definitions of illusoriness are mentioned and explained in much the same way as in the Advaitasiddhi6. The discussion owes much to the Tattvapradipika and is much in the same style as the Siddhi.
The illusoriness of illusoriness is treated at some length. The sublator need not always be real, as, in the case of a rope, the snake-delusion is sublatable by a stick-delusion. The self too is the substrate of illusory illusoriness inasmuch as the Bauddhas and others have the delusion that it is illusory. But with this the self is not reduced to the same level as the world, since the reality of the former is due to self-hood and self-manifestation, not to sublated illusoriness. Illusoriness is on a par with knowability, etc., in its capacity to cover both itself and that of which it is predicated. Illusoriness is part of the world; when the world is shown to be illusory because of cognisability, etc., illusoriness which is a part of the world is also shown to be illusory.
The three probans–– cognisability, inertness and finitude ––are examined in some detail. The discussion is not very different from that of the Siddhi. A point of some interest relates to yogic perception. The dualist is fond of exploiting this type of perception to cover cases of impossibility like the perception of the tuccha; our author is willing to concede this; yogins may perceive the tuccha, but they would perceive it as tuccha; i.e., as not practically efficient, unlike nacre-silver, etc; in this there is no detriment of Advaita. It is true Chitsukhacharya seems to deny yogic perception, but that is only an abhyupetya-vada; for we must admit an omniscient Isvara to whom everything is immediate.
The next section relates to the refutation of the allegation that the Advaitin’s probans is affected by an adjunct. The matter covered is the same as that treated by the Siddhi, in the two sections on sopadhikatva-bhangah and abhasa-samyabhangah7. The arguments are almost identical. Are these probans themselves illusory or not? If not, there is failure of non-dualism. If they too are illusory, how can they establish anything? This discussion covers the same ground as two sections of the Siddhi8 and employs nearly the same arguments.
The Advatin seeks to strengthen his position by setting forth indirect arguments (tarka) in favour of the illusoriness of the world. One such argument is that if the world were independently real there would be no possibility of the cognition thereof, since no real relation is intelligible between knowledge on the one side and an inert reality standing over against it on the other. Our author is never tired of pointing out that Brahman’s reality is self-manifest; it does not depend on the illusoriness or non-illusoriness of relation to anything else; and the illusoriness of the world follow not because its relation to knowledge is illusory, but because it is cognisable, inert, and so on. This is the basic ground. Hence it is that no parity can be made out between Brahman and the world even on the ground of indeterminability.
The manifestation of particular objects at stated times and through specific means is held by the opponent to be a difficulty the Advaitin cannot lightly get over. The Advaitin replies that since self-manifest intelligence is beginninglessly obscured by nescience, whose existence is not inconsistent with svarupajnana, it is necessary for defined intelligence to go forth through sense channels in the form of a long ray of light as it were, in order to pervade and take on the form of each object so that the ignorance enveloping it may be destroyed. Since the generation, going forth and pervasion of the psychosis is spatially and temporally determined, there may be pratikarma-vyavastha. The position is not free from difficulties, but the Mukura successfully answers all the objections like the Siddhi. For a fuller discussion the author refers us to his Vivaranaprakasa.
The pluralist too has recourse to tarka to disprove non-dualism. The consideration of the pratikula-tarkas constitutes the next section. The purvapakshin also mentions conflict with scriptural texts about creation of the world, etc., by Isvara. This is met, in the same way as in the Siddhi, by the analogy of the juggler, who resolves on and creates his magic world in a certain order and so on. The author of the Mukura brings in here a discussion of the relation of Isvara and jiva, adopting the view of the first section of the Panchadasi, which treats both as reflections.
The final section of the first pariccheda is concerned with the refutation of the validity of perception, etc., in regard to absolute reality. Where there is perception of finites as real, it is the reality of Brahman that is manifest therein. Unsublatability in all three times cannot be known by perception which can tell us at best that sublation has not arisen so far, nor that it does not exist. Practical efficiency, as has been often said, is no warrant for absolute reality, as even the rope-snake causes fear and trembling. The difference between the empirically real and the merely apparent consists in sublatability by Brahman-knowledge alone or anything short of that. We do not subscribe to the view that all scripture is superior to perception, but only that purportful scripture is so superior; purportfulness is determined by non-subsidiariness to any other purpose.
Though the manuscript is fragmentary and the present account is but a meager outline, enough has been said; it is hoped, to show the great interest of the work both from the historical and the doctrinal sides. It is not improbable that other fragments at least exist elsewhere. Though much of the dialectic survives in the monumental work of Madhusudana, Ranga raja’s treatment has a directness and charm which make it worthy of being resuscitated and made better known. On the assumption that both derived from a common source of inspiration, the Mukura is likely to throw light on points that are obscure in the Siddhi despite Brahmananda’s voluminous comment. For this and other reasons, it is hoped that experts in the collection of manuscripts will bestir themselves to find a complete version of the Advaitavidyamukura.
1. See edition in the Balamanorama Series, p. 3.
2. No. 3353.
3. No. 7064, in the Descriptive Catalogue by P.P.S. Sastri. The present paper owes much to the information supplied by the scholar and by Mr. M.Hiriyanna.
4. The former alternative is more likely because of the use of the appellation “advaitavidya-kritah” in some places; see Siddhantalesa (Kumbakonam edition); p. 272.
5. Cf. AS., p. 101.
6. AS., pp 2-9.
7. As., pp. 19-20.
8. On asatas sadhakatvo-papattih and asatas sadhakatva-‘bhavabadhakem
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