Preceptors of Advaita






These two personages who are among the early expounders of the pure Advaitic tradition were born in the beginning of this yuga.  Of these two, Brahmanandi wrote a work called Vakya in sutra form and it was an exposition of the purport of the ChandogyopanishadDravidacharya embellished that work by his bhashya on it.  On account of this, these authors came to be known as Vakyakara and a Bhashyakara, respectively.

                        In the Chandogyopanishad, from the first to the fifth adhyaya the following topics are expounded for the benefit of persons of inferior and not-so-inferior qualifications: three kinds of upasanas namely, angavabaddhopasana which leads to the fruits of karma, svatantrapratikopasana which bestows material welfare and ahangrahopasana which leads to krama-mukti.  In the sixth, seventh and eighth adhyayas are expounded in order sadvidya, bhumavidya and prajapatyavidya.  These have their fruition in sadyomukti or immediate release.  These relate to the realization of nirguna Brahman which is sacchidananda and are expounded for persons of superior qualification.  In the eighth adhyaya, for the benefit of persons of intermediate qualification, daharavidya which relates to saguna Brahman is explained again.  Thus two kinds of Brahman are treated off in the Chandogyopanishad, the qualified Brahman to be worshipped and the Brahman free from any qualities which is only to be known and realized.

                        In his Vakya-grantha which is an exposition of the Chandogyopanishad, Brahmanandi too clearly brings out, in accord with the Upanishad, the two-fold character of BrahmanDravidacharya also in his bhashya on the vakya, very clearly expounds the two-fold Brahman and his exposition is in line with the Upanishad and the vakya.  Unfortunately, these two works are not available.

                        However, thirty statements of the vakya and twenty of the bhashya are available having been quoted in the works of early writers.  Of these, eight statements of vakya-grantha and nine of the bhashya are found quoted in Advaitic works.  Twenty-two of vakya-grantha and eleven of the bhashya are quoted in the writings of Sri Ramanuja and others.  Thus from both the vakya and bhashya we are now in possession of only fifty statements.  They have been set forth in the work entitled Dravidatreyadarsanam.

                        Sri Sankara and others have quoted in their Advaitic works from the bhashya of Dravidacharya in the context of the explanation of the madhuvidya and samvargavidya found in the third and the fourth chapters of the ChandogyopanishadSri Ramanuja and others quote from the vakya and bhashya passages in the context of the antaradityavidya set forth in the first chapter of the Chandogyopanishad.

                        Though Sri Sankara has not quoted verbatim from the vakya, yet in his exposition of the antaradityavidya in his Chandogyabhashya and in the antastaddharmadhikarana devoted to an examination of it in the sutrabhashya, he has expressed the same ideas in similar language.  Thus, we find that Sri Sankara has given expression in his works to ideas similar in language to passages in the vakya and the bhashya and having the same meaning.  Such parallel passages have been indicated in the work Dravidatreyadarsanam.  They have also been separately tabulated in that work for purpose of comparison under the heads of Brahmanandi-Bhagavatpada-Vakya-Samarasyam and Dravidacharya-Bhagavatpada-Vakya Samarasyam.

                        The Vakya-grantha gives six meanings to the antaradityavidya passage in the Chandogyopanishad: tasya yatha kapyasam pundarikam evamakshini.  In his Chandogyopanishadbhashya Sri Sankara gives the conventional (rudhi) meaning of the word kapi.  In the work Dravidatreya-darsanam it has been shown that this interpretation is not affected by the criticism made against it by others.  Sri Ramanuja and others adopt three other meanings of the word from the etymological (yaugika) point of view taking them from the vakya-grantha.  It has to be emphasized that all meanings, the conventional and the etymological are those stated in the vakya itself.

                        In his vakya-grantha, the Vakyakara observes that for the anugraha of the aspirants, the Lord’s form which is resplendent (jyotirmaya) is unperceivable by the sense of sight, but can be perceived only by those of pure mind who worship concentrating on the form of the sun (aditya-mandala).  This same meaning accepted by the Vakyakara is conveyed by Sri Sankara in the exposition of the antaradityavidyavivarana of the antastaddharmadhikarana and of the Chandogyopanishad.  The Vakyakara says:

                        syadrupam kritakam anugrahartham tachchetasam aisvaryat; rupam cha atindriyam antahkarana-pratyaksham tannirdesat.  Dravidacharyas bhashya on this passage is: anjasaiva visvasrijorupam tattu na chakshusha grahyam manasa tvakalushena sadhanantaravata grihyate.

                        Sri Sankara writes in the antastaddharmadhikarana:

                        syat paramesvarasyapi icchavasat mayamayam rupam sadhakanugrahartham.  In the Chandogyabhashya he says: drisyate nivritta-chakshurbhih samahita-chetobhih brahmacharyadi-sadhana-peksham.

                        ‘It is seen by those whose eyes have been turned inward and whose minds are steadfast by reason of the practice of brahmacharya, etc.

                        It is to be noted that corresponding to the expressions of the Vakyakara, taccetasamanugrahartham, aisvaryat and kritakam, Sri Sankara uses the words sadhakanugrahartham, mayamayam and icchavasat.  Similarly, where the Vakyakara says atindriyamantah-karanapratyaksham, the Bhashyakara explains it as na chakshusha grahyam manasa tvakalushena sadhanantaravata grihyate and Sri Sankara’s expressions for them are respectively drisyate nivritta-chakshurbhih, samahitachetobhih and brahmacharyadi-sadhanapeksham.

                        Thus, while the expressions in the vakya, the bhashya and Sri Sankara’s explanations are in accord, not disposed to agree to this, Sri Ramanuja and others have altered the words rupam chatindriyam into rupam va atindriyam.  They also maintain that the statement syad rupam is the purvapaksha and that rupam va atindriyam contains the siddanta.  They also say that the form of the Lord is not un-really assumed by Him, but that it is His real nature.  The Vakyakara says in the previous sentence that it is assumed for purpose of anugraha and he follows it in the succeeding sentence that that form is super-sensuous, but perceivable in the antahkarana.  There is nothing irreconcilable in the Lord’s form being the result of an assumption and also super-sensuous and cognizable by the pure mind.  Where is the distinction of purvapaksha and siddhanta between two positions which are not contradictory to each other?  Dispassionate consideration will show that this has not been taken into account in a partisan view of this matter.  That the Lord’s form is eternal has nowhere been stated in the vakya.  All this has been clearly brought out in the work Dravidatreyadarsanam.

                        In his bhashya, Dravidacharya says that bhagavadrupa, the Lord’s form is yathabhuta, that is, it is existent and goes on to observe that form is not spoken of a devata which is formless; for sastra speaks only of what is.  It is yathabhuta-vadi.  It informs us of what has satta.  True, there is no instruction of rupa in respect of what is arupa, formless.  The meditation on the form of the Lord is not based on adhyasa or supposition as in the meditation of mind as Brahman, etc., but it is the meditation of the existing rupaSri Sankara too following the same text speaks in the same manner.  This is what he says:  There is no non-validity in respect of the texts which refer to the subject of upasana.  Hence Sastra which speaks of upasana refers only to the actually existing atma, Isvara and devata, etc.  While explaining the third Brahmana of the first adhyaya of the Brihadaranyakopanishad, he observes, ‘As that which is indicated as Paramatma, Isvara and devata is non-empirical, it deserves to be spoken of as actually existing’.  Similarly in the bhashya on the sutra––svapyayasampatyoh anyatarapekshamavishkritam hi Sri Sankara says:  That where this Isvara’s nature is described, it refers to a different state like svarga, etc., and it is the locus of the sagunavidya.

                        The empirical reality of the Lord’s form subsists till the direct realization of Brahman.  It is not transcendental (paramarthika), non-sublatable in all the three periods of time like the quality-less Brahman.  This view is based on the passage laukikam tadvadevedam pramanamtvatmanischayat, given at the end of the bhashya in samanvayadhikaranaSri Ramanuja and others maintain, however, that the Lord’s form is paramarthikam.  They rely on the following passage in Bhaskara’s bhashya on the Brahma-sutra:

                        paramesvarasya sarvasaktitvat upasakanugrahaya rupopadana-sambhavat, kim mayamayam rupam?  neti brumah, paramarthika-mevaitat, yathabhutajnapakam hi sastram.

                        Attracted by this view, they delude themselves into believing that the same may be the view of the Vakyakara and the Bhashyakara.

                        But that is not correct.  Even as the Vakyakara upholds the theory of vyavaharika, so does the Bhashyakara too.  In the context of the explanation of the sadvidya, taking up the Sruti vacharambhanam vikaro namadheyam mrittiketyeva satyam, Vakyakara discards the theory that a thing should be either sat or asat only and establishes on the basis of sruti the theory of the vyavaharikasatya of the world which is neither exclusively sat nor asatna samvyavaharamatratvat.  This conclusion of the Vakyakara is clearly explained in the Samkshepa-sariraka, in the commentaries on it and in the Kalpataru.  It is pertinent to ask those who proclaim that they are followers of the position of the Vakyakara, why they have rejected the statements establishing the vyavaharikatva of the world and quoted in the Kalpataru and the Samkshepasariraka.

                        While explaining the sadvidya the Vakyakara says yuktam tadgunakopasanat.  He considers that antargunaka brahmaprapti is a proper consequence of antargunakabrahmopasana.

                        The Bhashyakara too explains this passage as follows:

                        antargunam pratyakgunameva bhagavatim paradevatam bhajata iti tatra tadgunaiva devata prapyate.

                        Here the word tadgunakam in the vakya is explained as antarguna.  And, the expression antarguna in the bhashya is explained as the pratyagatmanAntah (inner) is a correlate of bahih (outer), i.e., inner as opposed to outer.  So we get the equation: tadgunakopasanat antargunakopasanat pratyagrupabrahmopasanat.  By the ‘tatkratu nyaya’ it is proper to say tadgunaiva antargunaiva pratyagsvarupaiva.  By this pratyagsvarupa the paradevata, the supreme deity which is parabrahma-rupa is attained.  This reasoned conclusion of the Vakyakara and the Bhashyakara is established beyond doubt.  That the consciousness of the non-difference of the pratyagatman and Brahman arises from the knowledge of the identity of the two which is the purport of the mahavakya tat-tvam-asi is expounded by both of them.

                        The same is explained by Sri Sankara in his commentary on the Chandogyopanishad.  That this is the view of the bhashya of Dravidacharya is clearly stated in the Samkshepasariraka also.

                        Explaining the mahavakya tat-tvam-asi, the Vakyakara puts it in the form of a sutra siddhantu nivartakatvat.  The Bhashyakara explains it thus:  A prince brought up among hunters thinks that he is a hunter.  But when he is told on the basis of proper reasons that he is a prince, he realizes his true nature.  Even so the jiva thinks that he is a samsari.  But when a guru tells him of his brahmabhava of which he was ignorant so long, he realizes his true nature upon the removal of that nescience.  Thus is established the validity of the declaration tat-tvam-asi.  The vakya is not to be understood as illumining what was not luminous itself.  No other light can illuminate what is already luminous.  Thus this elucidation of Dravidacharya in the form of the story is found in several Advaitic works.

                        The fact that Advaita sannyasins specially worship Dravidacharya at the time of Vyasapuja, proves his association with the propagation of the Advaita sampradaya.

                        And so, it is concluded with the prayer that every one may derive benefit according to his capacity by the study of the Advaita darsana which is the central teaching of the Upanishad, proclaimed in the Jnanavasishtha by the great sage Vasishtha, enunciated by Badarayanacharya in his Brahmasutra, clearly explained by Vrittikaras like Upavarsha, made definite by Gaudapadacharya in his Karikas on the Mandukyopanishad, established by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada who stands for the pure Advaita sampradaya in his bhashya, etc., annotated on in their tika, vartika, etc., by acharyas like Padmapada and Suresvara, by the authors of Samkshepasariraka and Vivarana and by Vachaspati Misra, expounded in Simple language by Sri Vidyaranya and which has been transmitted through a holy and beginning-less tradition and which dowers its votaries with supreme joy and eternal peace.




Sri Anantanandendra Sarasvati Swami

                        In the last part of the first Ullasa of the work Tattvachandrika1 by Vellalakula Umamahesvarasastri, we come across the following passage:

                        ekonasatam bhashyanyanarshani prithvidhara-abhinavagupta-pranitani tatkalam vidyamana-kartrikani chhinnaniti prasiddham.

                        It appears from the above that Prithvidhara, Abhinavagupta and ninety seven others, had written bhashyas on the Brahmasutra, that the authors were living in the time of Sri Sankaracharya and that those bhashyas were so completely refuted by Sri Sankaracharya that they ceased to gain further currency.  In the opinion of the author of Tattvachandrika, Prithvidhara who was the author of one of anarsha bhashyas is more respected than Abhinavgupta; for he mentions his name first in accordance with the Paninisutraabhyarhitam purvam’ which states that a revered person must be referred to first.

                        While we know of Abhinavagupta as the author of several works on Tantras, nothing is known of Prithvidhara or of his works.  The only two references to him that have been traced are in the Catalogues of Aufrecht.  In his catalogue2 of Sanskrit manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Aufrecht describes a work Dvadasa-mahavakya-vivarana by one Vaikuntha-puri in which the name of Prithvidhara is found among the best of disciples of Sri SankaracharyaVaikunthapuri also ascribes to Prithvidhara the foundation of the order of sannyasins in Kaliyuga.  The well-known ten orders of the Advaita sannyasins are : (1) tirtha, (2) asrama, (3) vana, (4) aranya, (5) parvata, (6) sagara, (7) sarasvati, (8) giri, (9) bharati and (10) puri.  The sannyasins of these orders are the sishyas of Prithvidhara.

                                    Prithvidharacharyah tasyapi sishyah dasa: -


                        sarasvati-bharati cha puri namani vai dasa.

He is also reported to have written a commentary on Sri Sukta published in Banaras.

            From the above it may be inferred that after his bhashya was refuted by Sri Sankaracharya, Sri Prithvidhara like Mandana and others became a disciple of Sri Sankaracharya.

            While the other disciple like Suresvara, Padmapada and Hastamalaka wrote Vartikas, Vivaranas and so on to expound the principles of Advaita as established by Sri Sankaracharya, the constitution along with the administration of the Advaita Sannyasins was undertaken by Prithvidhara in whom the great teacher apparently discovered the capacity for organization and all the qualities required to inspire reverence, obedience and faith necessary for the maintenance of disciple.

            The other reference to Prithvidhara is found in Aufrecht’s Catalogue3 of Sanskrit Manuscripts in the Leipzig University Library.  In the course of describing the manuscript gurupadadinamaskara Aufrecht says4 that Anubhutisvarupacharya, Trotaka and Prithvidhara are mentioned in the manuscripts.  By the kindness of Prof. Dr. Johs Schubert of the Leipzig University, a micro film copy of the manuscript was obtained.  The reference to Prithvidhara in the manuscripts runs thus:


anubhutisvarupacharya – niratrotakacharya


                        Here too Prithvidhara is stated to have been one of the disciples of Sri Sankaracharya and from the context it appears that Prithvidhara after constituting the ten orders of Advaita sannyasins was himself ordained as the head of the Sringeri Math.

                        We have to pay homage to Prithvidharacharya who was held in such esteem by Sri Sankaracharya that he was entrusted with the organization and administration of the sannyasins who from his time to this day have so worthily discharged their function by writing works on Advaita and propounding the teaching of Advaita philosophy.

                        It is also, I think, necessary that further and careful search should be made to find out more about the respected acharyaSri Prithvidhara and his work especially his bhashya on the Brahmasutra.

                        Whatever be the fact about Prithvidhara – having been the first head of the Sringeri Mutt, we have a definite and undisputed fact that Prithvidhara was the author of an anarsha bhashya on the Brahma-sutra, that he established the order of Advaita sannyasins and that he was very highly respected.  Further research is however necessary especially to trace his bhashya which should have been considered so valuable that he was placed above Abhinavagupta by Umamahesvara when referring to the authors of the anarsha-bhashyas.

  1. Tattvachandrika has been printed at M/s. G. Ramaswami Chetty Printing Works, Madras in the year 1907.  Another name of this work is Ramanujabhashya-bhanjani.  Manuscripts of this work are available in the Government Oriental Manuscripts Library, Madras and Theosophical Society Library, Adyar.
  2. Catalogi Codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae Codies Sanscriticos, Th. Aufrecht (1864).
  3. Katalog Der SanskritHandschrifton Der Catalogue of Sanskrit Manuscripts of Universitat Bibliothek zu Leipzig. Von Theodor Aufrecht (1901).
  4. Manuscript No. 231 Script of 1807.

Preceptors of Advaita - Other Parts:

Preceptors of Advaita

Vasishta Shakti Parasara Vyasa Suka Gaudapada
Govinda Bhagavatpada Sankara Bhagavatpada Padmapada Hastamalaka Totakacharya Survesvara
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