Preceptors of Advaita



Vedanta-visarada, Vedanta-siromani


In the history of Indian philosophy, the influence of Buddhism waned by the end of the tenth century and Advaita definitely triumphed over all the other schools–both heterodox and orthodox.  Later, the theistic and pluralistic schools of Sri Ramanuja and Sri Madhva developed and they turned against Advaita in a pronounced manner.  Among the followers of the Madhva School, Sri Vyasatirtha is the most prominent.  Adopting the Navya-nyaya method, he opposed the philosophy of Sri Sankara in his work NyayamritaSri Madhusudana Sarasvati in his Advaita-siddhi answered all the objections raised by Sri Vyasatirtha.  Later, the views set forth in the Advaita-siddhi have been criticized by Sri Rama Tirtha in his work Tarangini.  And, Brahmananda answered the criticisms raised in the Tarangini in his commentary on the Advaita-siddhi known as Laghuchandrika.  This work is also known as Gauda-brahmanandiya.  Criticizing this work from the stand-point of the Visishtadvaita, Anantalvar wrote a work called Nyaya-bhaskara.  The late Palamaneri Sri Panchapagesa Sastri, the preceptor of the present writer wrote a work called – Brahmanandiyabhavaprakasa1 criticizing the Nyaya-bhaskara.  The work Laghuchandrika is widely read by all the students of Advaita.  He wrote another commentary on the Advaita-siddhi; and, it is known as Guruchandrika.  This commentary is available upto the first parichchheda of the Advaita-siddhi.  Apart from these two works, he wrote other works also which are as follows:

NyayaratnavaliSri Sankara desirous of helping all human beings in attaining liberation composed the Dasasloki in order to impart briefly the knowledge of AtmanSri Madhusudana Sarasvati wrote a well-known commentary on it entitled SiddhantabinduSri Brahmananda wrote Nyayaratnavali on the Siddhantabindu.  In the beginning of the commentary, Sri Brahmananda says that a unique commentary is composed by him.

                        vichitrarachana kachit

                                                brahmanandena rachyate.

            All the theories of the Advaita-vedanta are set forth in this commentary with great clarity.

                        Vedanta-sukta-muktavali:  This is a commentary on the Brahma-sutra.  This work throws light upon the Brahma-sutra by clear and luminous exposition.  The Navya-nyaya method is adopted in the interpretation of the Brahma-sutra.

                        Mimamsachandrika:  This work is an authentic exposition of the adhikaranas of the Purva-mimamsa-sutra; and this work amply testifies to the fact that Brahmananda is an authority on the Purvamimamsa School also.

                        Advaita-siddhanta-vidyotani:  This is at once a manual and a polemical work on Advaita.  The important concepts of Advaita like anirvachaniya-khyati, bhavarupajnana, avidya-nivritti and similar other concepts are dealt with.  This work follows the pattern of Tamovada, Saktivada, etc., of the great logician Gadadhara.  Only the first parichchheda of this important work is available.

                        Apart from these six works, it is known that he wrote another work called Mithyatvanumanapakshavichara.

                        In the Advaitic tradition, it is often said that the systematic explanation of the Advaita starts from Gauda and ends with Gauda:

                                    gaudadi gaudantam vedantadarsanam.

                        It was Gaudapada who at first set forth in his Karikas on the Mandukya Upanishad the quintessence of the Upanishads, that is, AdvaitaAdvaita-darsana is the most noteworthy among the darsanasSri Sankara enriched it by his commentaries on the Gaudapada-karika, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-gita, and the Brahma-sutra and also by various manuals on Advaita and hymns on the personal God (Isvara).  Preceptors of Advaita wrote not only commentaries on Sri Sankara’s works, but independent treatises on Advaita.  And, Brahmananda who hailed from Gauda-desa proved in his works the validity of the import of the Upanishads by refuting, on the basis of reasoning, the objections raised against Advaita by other opposing schools.  It is with this in view that tradition holds that Advaita begins with Gauda, that is, Gaudapada, and ends with Gauda, that is Brahmananda who hailed from Gaudadesa.

                        Brahmananda has distinct views on the Advaita; Purvamimamsa and Yoga schools; and we shall now briefly set forth some of them.

                        In an erroneous cognition of silver in a shell, six factors are involved; and they are:  (i) indeterminable silver, (ii) general characteristic of silver, that is, silverness, (iii) identity of silver with the object in front of the perceiver, that is, the this element, (iv) identity of silverness with the this element, (v) the knowledge of relation of the this element to the silver, and (vi) the knowledge of the relation of the general characteristic of the this element, that is, this-ness to silver.  The Laghuchandrika and the Nyayaratnavali deal with this point in great detail.

                        When we comprehend the insentient objects, there arises manifestation in respect of them.  This manifestation is not possible without the identification of the self which is pure consciousness.  The superimposition of the self on the insentient objects is essential if the latter were to become manifest.  The insentient objects become contents (vishaya) of knowledge only when they are identified with the self which is pure consciousness.  Or to state the same in other words, insentient objects are objects in the sense that they are identified with consciousness.  This is technically stated as chittadatmyam vishayata.  In cognition of a particular object three factors are referred to; and, they are: prakarata, viseshyata and samsargata.  These three factors come within the purview of the definition of vishayata referred to above.  Brahmananda establishes this theory on the basis of reasoning; and, he cites the text of Udayana as authority.  Udayana’s passage runs as follows:

                        prakasasya satah tadiyatamatranibandhanah svabhavavisesho vishayata.

                        We have already referred to a work on the Purva-mimansa by Brahmananda.  As regards the process through which the sense of a sentence is conveyed the Prabhakara school of Mimamsa holds the theory of anvitabhidhana-vada and the Bhatta school of Mimamsa advocates the theory of abhihitanvaya-vada.  According to the former school, a word conveys its sense as well as its relation to the sense of some act.  And, the words themselves convey the sense of the sentence.  According to the Bhatta School, words convey their senses and then cease to function.  The senses of the words in combination convey the sense of the sentence.  This view known as abhihitanvaya-vada is three-fold.


For example,

  1. the suffix (pratyaya) conveys the sense of arthabhavana;
  2. the root (dhatu) conveys the sense of arthabhavana and the suffix merely indicates it (dyotaka);
  3. both the root and the suffix convey the sense of arthabhavana as associated with the sense of the root (dhatvartha).

Parthasarathimisra and other followers of the Bhatta School hold that the first view alone is correct.  But Sri Brahmananda in the Nyayaratnavali proves that the third alternative alone holds good.

                        As regards the injunctive statements of the Veda, the Purvamimamsa School holds that arthabhavana alone is the mukhyaviseshya or the primary substantive.  But Sri Brahmananda holds that artha-bhavana is only adjectival (viseshana) and sabda-bhavana alone is the primary substantive.

                        From a careful study of the Nyayaratnavali, it is known that Sri Brahmananda has distinct views on the Yoga system also.  According to the Yoga school, asamprajnata-samadhi is the highest YogaYoga means subjugation of all the mental states.  In the asamprajnata-samadhi all the mental states are subjugated; this is the view of the followers of the Yoga school.  Sri Brahmananda, on the other hand, says that even in the asamprajnata-samadhi there is the mental state in the form of Atman.  But this mental state is not manifest then.  This is the difference between asamprajnata-samadhi and sushupti wherein there is the manifestation of the avidya-vritti in the form of Atman.

                        Ancient preceptors wrote treatises on Advaita with a view to establish the unity of the self.  In order to establish this they advocated several theories which differ among themselves.  They do not, however, stultify the non-dual nature of the self.  Sri Brahmananda does not have any leaning towards a particular theory.  In fact he is more concerned with proving that all theories are correct in so far as they do not contradict the primary import of the Upanishads, namely, the oneness of the self.

                        Sri Brahmananda has the greatest respect for the ancient preceptors of Advaita.  While interpreting the word vedantasastra occurring in the Siddhantabindu he says that five treatises constitute the vedanta-sastra; and, they are: the Brahma-sutra, Sri Sankara’s bhashya on it, the Bhamati, the Kalpataru and the Parimala.

                        vedantasastreti – sarirakamimamsa – rupachaturadhyayi – tadbhashya – tadiyatikavachaspatya – tadiyatika – kalpataru – tadiyatikaparimalarupa granthapanchaka ityarthah.

                        Sri Brahmananda is the disciple of Sri Narayanatirtha.  In the preface to our author’s work Advaita-siddhanta-vidyotani, the editor says that Narayanatirtha flourished in 1790.  We may, therefore, believe that Sri Brahmananda flourished during the last decade of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century.  Sri Vittalesa wrote a commentary on the Laghuchandrika.  He is the preceptor of the great logician Krishnambhatta who wrote commentaries on Jagadisi and Gadadhari.  He says:

                                                sri pandurango hridaye

                                                                        samvidrupah prakasatam

                                                yena me samprasideta


                        Let Sri Panduranga who is pure consciousness shine in my heart; so that I could understand the import of the statements of Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati.

                        There could be no more fitting tribute to Sri Brahmananda than this one which emanates from the preceptor of Krishnambhatta one of the greatest logician than India has even produced.

  1.  This work has been published by The Private Secretary to His Highness The Maharaja of Cochin, (1961).



Preceptors of Advaita - Other Parts:

Preceptors of Advaita

Vasishta Shakti Parasara Vyasa Suka Gaudapada
Govinda Bhagavatpada Sankara Bhagavatpada Padmapada Hastamalaka Totakacharya Survesvara
Vimuktatman Sarvajnatman Mandanamisra Vachaspatimisra Jnanaghanapada Prakasatman
Sri-Harsha Anandanubhava Anandabodha Chitsukha Anubhutisvarupa Amalananda
Ramadvayacharya Pratyagsvarupa Sankarananda Vidyaranya Govindananda
Sankhapani Lakshmidhara Sadananda Sadananda Kashmiraka Prakasananda Ramatirtha
Nrisimhashrama Ranga Raja Nrisimha Bhattopadhyaya Appayya Dikshita Madhusudana Sarasvati Dharmarajadhvarin
Mahadevananda Sarasvati Gangadharendra Sarasvati Paramasivendra Sarasvati Nallakavi Sadasiva Brahmendra Sarasvati Some Pre-Sankara Advaitins
Anandagiri Brahmananda UpanishadBrahmendra Kalidasa Krishnamisra Jnanadeva