Preceptors of Advaita
T. S. NARAYANA RAO.
Gangadharendra Sarasvati is the author of the Svarajya-siddhi1, a manual of Advaita. In the concluding verse of this work he gives his date as 1748 Vikrama Saka (vasvabdhimunyavanimanasake). This corresponds to 1792 A.D. No further details of the author are available except that his guru was one Ramachandra Sarasvati and his parama-guru Sarvajna Sarasvati.
The work Svarajya-siddhi deals with all important concepts of Advaita especially with the means to realize the self-luminous Atman free from the veil of avidya. It consists of one hundred and sixty-five verses divided into three chapters which are termed adhyaropa-prakarana, apavada-prakarana and kaivalya-prakarana. The author himself has written a commentary on this work and it is known as Kaivalyakalpataru.
Brahman, the ultimate Reality, is one without a second and it is free from any attributes. The attributeless nature of Atman is arrived at by adopting the method of superimposition and negation (adhyaropa and apavada). This, in main, is the theme of the first chapter known as adhyaropa-prakarana. This chapter contains fifty-four verses. The author deals with the illusory nature of bondage and discusses in detail the sense of the words tat and tvam in the sentence tat tvam asi. Thirteen views as regards the nature of the sense of the word tvam are referred to and critically examined. And, the view of the Upanishads that the sense of the tvam is Atman which is identical with truth, consciousness and bliss is established.
As regards the nature of the sense of the term tat the author first states that it is Brahman which is the material and the efficient cause of the world. Of course, this is the primary sense of the term tat. He refers to the view-points of ten different schools of thought as regards the cause of the universe and then critically examines them. He concludes by pointing out that the secondary sense of the term tat is the attributeless Brahman which is truth, consciousness and bliss.
The second chapter entitled apavada-prakarana consists of sixty three verses. In this chapter, the author establishes the indeterminable character of the universe and the non-dual nature of Brahman; and he does so on the basis of the Chandogyopanishad text–– ‘vacharambhanam vikaro namadheyam, mrittiketyeva satyam.’ The universe appears owing to avidya which is present in Brahman or Atman. Brahman is the cause of the universe in that it is the substratum of avidya and its modification, the universe. Brahman is the transfigurative material cause (vivarto’padana) of the universe, while avidya is the transformative material cause (parinamyupadana). Avidya and the universe belong to the same order of reality; both have empirical reality. Brahman and the universe, on the other hand, belong to different orders of reality. While Brahman is absolutely real, the universe is only empirically real. Just as the snake superimposed on a rope disappears by the knowledge of the rope, so also the universe superimposed on Brahman disappears by the intuitive knowledge of Brahman.
The Advaitin postulates a two-fold definition of Brahman, one called svarupa-lakshana and the other tathastha-lakshana. The object of defining a thing is to differentiate it from everything else and this result is attained generally by reference to a property that is distinctive of it. To give an example, water is defined by reference to its liquidity–– a feature which is found in it and in none other. This is an instance of svarupa-lakshana; for this characteristic is an essential feature of the object defined. Tathastha-lakshana, on the other hand, differentiates an object from the rest by reference to a property which is not its essential nature. For example, a house of a person Devadatta is defined by reference to the crow perching on its roof—a feature which is only external to the house and not a part of the nature of the house. Though the two types of definition differentiate the object defined from the rest, yet the svarupa-lakshana alone gives us a notion of the nature of the object defined.
The Advaitin defines Brahman by utilizing the tathastha-lakshana as the source of the universe. The author has selected passages from the five principal Upanishads, namely the Aitareya, the Brihadaranyaka, the Taittiriyaka, the Chandogya and the Mandukya, to show that Brahman is the source of the universe. This is tathastha-lakshana in that the characteristic of being the source of the universe is not really present in Brahman, but is only brought about by avidya abiding in Brahman. This definition only distinguishes Brahman from certain entities, but does not give us a notion of its nature. And that is done svarupa-lakshana. The Upanishadic texts such as ‘satyam jnanam anantam brahma’ define Brahman as of the nature of existence, consciousness, etc.,
The author next proceeds to discuss the import of the five major texts of the Upanishads, namely, prajnanam brahma (Aitareya), aham brahmasmi (Brihadaranyaka), sa yaschayam purushe and yaschasavaditye, sa ekah (Taittiriyaka), tat tvam asi (Chandogya), and ayamatma brahma (Mandukya). The words such as tat and tvam etc., constituting the sentences primarily convey Isvara and jiva. Isvara is mediate and omniscient. Jiva is immediate and ignorant. In view of the conflicting attributes which they have, there cannot be any identification between the two. Hence secondary signification is resorted to. The two words secondarily signify the absolute consciousness which is the essential nature of both Isvara and jiva. The identity of the essential nature of Isvara and jiva is the import of the major texts of the Upanishads. This identity is not identity involving duality, but it is identity-in-itself (svarupabheda). In the Upanishadic text – ‘niranjanah paramam samyamupaiti’, the word samya conveys the sense of identity and the word paramam conveys that that identity is identity-in-itself. The intuitive knowledge of the identity of the essential nature of Isvara and jiva arising from the major texts of the Upanishads annihilates avidya along with its product.
The third chapter kaivalya-prakarana consists of forty five verses. This chapter deals with the nature of release. The intuitive knowledge of Brahman is the sole means to release. Vachaspatimisra, the author of the Bhamati holds that nididhyasana is principal among the means that gives rise to knowledge. Prakasatman, the author of the Vivarana, holds that sravana is principal and the other two are its auxiliaries. From this it is clear that Prakasatman holds that the Upanishadic sentences themselves give rise to the intuitive knowledge of Brahman. This is the prevalent view; and this author maintains the same.
One who has attained to the knowledge of Brahman continues to live till his prarabdha-karma is exhausted by experiencing its results. This state is known as jivan-mukti. Our author explains the state of jivan-mukti in this chapter known as kaivalya-prakarana. The outpourings of jivan-mukta are set forth in fifteen verses in this Chapter2 and these verses, according to the commentary Kaivalya-kalpataru constitute a section termed jivan-mukti-gita. These verses explain in an admirable way the highly evolved state of the infinite bliss enjoyed by the liberated souls. When the prarabdha-karma is exhausted by experiencing its results, the jivan-mukta is dissociated from his physical accompaniments and he becomes Brahman itself. This is known as videha-mukti.
1. Published by Sri Natesa Sastri, Aryamata Samvardhani Press, 1927.
2. Ibid., pp. 301–315
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