Sunday, April 21, 2013



Before discussing the contribution of Andhras to Advaita Vedanta, the status of Advaita among the Darsanas merit brief discussion.

The philosophical discussions and theories established by famous acharyas are named Darsanas. Etymologically, Darsana connotes that through which Atman can be seen [realized]. It suits every Darsana since the exponents of every Darsana were convinced that that was the actual Atman.
These Darsanas are of two kinds: orthodox and heterodox. Those systems which
do not accept the testimony of the Veda are known as heterodox Darsanas while
those which do are orthodox Darsanas. Charvaka, Jaina and the four schools
of Buddhistic thought, namely, Madhyamika, Yogachara, Sautrantika, Vaibhashika
are heterodox systems, while the orthodox systems are Sankhya, Yoga,
Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Purva-Mimamsa and Uttara-Mimamsa.

Now let us discuss some of the salient features of these systems.


Brihaspathi is regarded as the founder of Charvaka Darsana. His chief disciple, Charvaka, propagated this thought. Although the original works of Charvaka Darsana are extinct, his views have percolated to us, rather ironically, through his opponents who bitterly criticized him.
The main features of this Darsana are:
a) Earth, water, fire and air are the basic elements. Ether is not accepted as an element.
b) Senses and objects are the result of the different combinations of these elements.
c) Perception is the only source of knowledge.
d) The soul is nothing but the consciousness of the body.
e) There is no God.
f) Artha and Kama are the two Purusharthas.
g) Death alone is liberation.


The Jaina Darsana has a pre-historic origin. The twenty-four Tirthankaras, right from Vrishabhadeva to Vardhamanamahaveera, who were the originators of this faith, are said to be the exponents of this philosophy.

The salient features of this philosophy are:
a) Consciousness is the essence of the soul.
b) The four vows, Ahimsa, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Non-attachment and Continence are the practical tenets of Jainism.
c) The three-fold path; right belief, right knowledge and right understanding are the means to salvation.


Gautamabuddha, the Light of Asia, is the founder of Bauddhadarsana. The four noble truths -- suffering, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering and the means leading to this cessation of suffering -- constitute the philosophy of Bauddhadarsana. The noble eight-fold path goes like this : right faith, right resolve, right speech, right action right living, right effort, right thought and right concentration are the means to liberation. Unfortunately, Buddha's followers interpreted his teachings each in his own different way. Some of his followers were nihilists (Sunyavadins), some subjective idealists (Yogacharas), some, representatives of critical reality (Sautrantikas), and still others were direct realists (Vaibhashikas). Their philosophies may be summarized as follows.

1) Sunyavadins stressed the unreality of all things, objects, knowledge and knower.
2) Yogacharas admit that objects perceived are all ideas in the mind. The mind alone is real. There is no external reality.
3) Sautrantikas maintained that both external and conceived objects are real. It would be meaningless to say that consciousness appears as the external object. Objects are felt directly as existing outside of the self.
4) Vaibhashikas maintained that both mind and external objects are real but, unlike Sautrantikas, they hold that external objects are directly known through perception and not inferred. The first two of the above four schools come under Mahayana category while the last two under Hinayana.


Among the oldest systems of Indian philosophy, Sankhya is predominant. Kapila was its exponent. Since Sankhya means perfect knowledge and since the philosophy inheres perfect knowledge, the title Sankhya is highly appropriate.


Patanjali was the founder of Yogadarsana. The yoga sutras composed by him constitute the earliest and grandiose work on this system. Yoga advocates an eight- fold path of discipline : Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dhyana, Dharana and Samadhi. One has to practise these eight disciplines for obtaining liberation.


This school of philosophy was founded by Gautama and is primarily concerned with correct thinking and acquiring true knowledge. Pramana is the means of knowing things correctly. Nyayadarsana proposes four Pramanas : Pratyaksha, Anumana, Upama, and Sabda. This system is an elaboration of sixteen principles also known as Padarthas.
They are :
1) Means of right knowledge (Pramana) 2) Object of right knowledge. (Prameya)
3) Doubt (Samsaya)  4) Purpose (Prayojana) 5) Illustrative instances (Dristanta)
6) Accepted conclusion(Siddhantha) 7) Premises (Avayava) 8) Argumentation (Tarka)
9) Ascertainment (Nirnaya) 10) Debate(Vada) 11) Dispensation (Jalpa) 12) Fallacy (Hetvabhasa)
13) Quibble (Chala) 14) Refutation (Jati) 15) Destructive criticism (Vitanda) 16) Points of opponent's defeat ( Nigrahasthana)

This system is concerned with an explanation of the above sixteen issues. It is said that the highest good, Nissreyasa, is attained through a thorough knowledge of them and their practice.


Vaiseshika philosophy was founded by Kanada and it is derived from
the word 'Visesha' which means particularity. The system involves the seven Padarthas : Dravya (substance), Guna (quality), Karma (action), Samanya (generality), Visesha (particularity), Samavaya (inherence) and Abhava (non - being).


The word Mimamsa means detailed discussion or critical investigation. This system interprets the Vedic sentences and hence the title. The earlier part of the Veda advocates Karma while the latter part deals with Jnana. Thus Mimamsa is divided into Purva-Mimamsa and Uttara-Mimamsa. Jaimini was the exponent of Purva-Mimamsa. This system has the function of upholding Vedic rituals.


This system, also known as Vedantadarsana, is said to be the best of all Darsanas because it explains admirably the nature of soul and serves as the beacon light of human life. Moreover, it satisfies the human aspiration of getting rid of worldly entanglements and attaining salvation. Sankaracharya, in his Bhashya on Brahma-Sutras, expounds the superiority of Vedantadarsana over the other philosophies in the following way.
Exponents of other systems tried to advance their own theories basing upon arguments which, for the most part, are illogical and inconsistent. For example,materialists assert that the body is the soul and its existence is merely transitory;another school holds the view that mind itself is the self. Disagreeing with this view,some argue that soul's existence is transitory, while the nihilists pooh pooh the ideaand declare the illusoriness of soul because it is a void. Still others believe that there is a soul [separate from the body] which transmigrates and is the agent of work (Karta) and the experiencer of the results (Bhoktha). Yet some others say that the soul is a mere experiencer (Bhokta) and not an agent (Karta). In this veritable Babel, some believed in God who is different from the soul and is all-knowing (Sarvajna), and all-powerful (Sarvasakthiman) while in another view, the Atman itself is the experiencing individual.

Thus we see that there are diverse philosophic concepts which are mutually contradictory although they all draw on logic and texts. If one accepts any of these views without critical examination, one is liable not only to be denied emancipation but also face grief. Hence to realize the self, one should study the Vedantadarsana which reveals the uniqueness of Atman. Badarayana was the exponent of Vedantadarsana. His aphorisms numbering 555, known as Badarayana Sutras, were the first treatise emanating form this system.

Badarayana was not the actual founder of this system because the ideas already existed in the Upanishads. His role consisted only in expatiating the philosophy of the Upanishads in his Sutras. Though all the Upanishads aver the soul to be the noblest thought, to the superficial observer, the aphorisms seemed divergent. This seeming paradox had to be addressed by someone at some time. This Himalayan task was taken up by Badarayana. He succeeded in establishing the sameness or the similarity of the teaching of the Upanishads and setting at rest the opponents' onslaughts once for all. In the process of composing the Vedanta Sutras Badarayana was fair enough to acknowledge the views borrowed from both his predecessors and his contemporaries while at the same time he had to condemn others' views. They were "Asmaradhya", "Audulomi", "Kasakritsna", "Karshajani","Jaimini", "Badari", "Atreya", and so on. The Vedantic concepts advocated by them are known as Arshavedanta.

There were many other advocates of Vedantadarsana who came after Badarayana and before Sankaracharya.(9) Gaudapada, the paramaguru (teacher's teacher) of Sankaracharya developed the school of Vedanta in a systematic way and he deserves to be honoured as the first systematic expounder of Advaita Vedanta. His treatise was in the form of Karikas, named after him, his name being 'Gaudapada' and is the first available systematic treatise on the Advita Vedanta. The purpose of the Karikas is to explain the philosophy of the Upanishads in general and the Mandukyopanishad in particular.

The fundamental doctrine of Gaudapada entails No-origination (Ajatavada). Negatively treated, it means that the world only appears to be, but, in fact, it is non- existent. The concept of Creation is just a myth.

न कश्चिज्जायते जीव: सम्भवोS स्य न विद्यते
एतत्तदुत्तमं सत्यं यत्र किंचिन्न जायते ( गौडपादकारिका ३/४८

Gaudapada was succeeded by his disciple, Govindabhagavatpada. A very interesting fact in this lineage is that this Govindabhagavatpada had the rare privilege of teaching the great Sankaracharya. This privilege can further be extended to Gaudapada because Sankara happened to be his sishya's sishya - a sort of grand disciple.

Sankaracharya, also known as Sankarabhagavatpada [A.D.788-820], was the first to consolidate the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, a sub-school or a subsidiary of Vedantadarsana. He was born in Kaledy, a village in Kerala, to a Nambudri Brahmana couple, Sivaguru and Aryamba and lived for just thirty-two years. His father died while he was quite young Sankara received his initiation at the age of five and was attracted to the ascetic life. He somehow managed to get permission to renounce the world and left Kerala and traveled towards the North in search of a guru. He met Govindabhagavatpada on the bank of the river Narmada and prostrated before him to be accepted as his disciple. This meeting may well be described as love at first sight. When enquired about his identity, Sankara gave such a mystic reply that it presented the quintessence of Advita Vedanta.

न भूमिर्न तॊयं न तेजो न वायु:
न खं नेन्द्रियं वा न तेषां समूह:
तदॆकॊSवशिष्ट: शिव: केवलोSहम्

"I am neither Earth nor Water nor Fire nor Air nor Sky nor the senses which by their very nature are prone to change, whereas I am not prone to change".

This reply moved Govindabhagavatpada so much that he at once accepted him as his disciple. In time he ordained Sankaracharya to write commentaries on the Prasthanatraya, viz.,. the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita in accomplishing his guru's desire and propagate Advita Vedanta. Sankara faithfully undertook this task and succeeded remarkbly. The commentary written by Sankaracharya is known as Sarirakamimamsabhashya. Sarira, being impure, has therefore come to be known as sariraka, while the jiva which dwells in the sarira is saariraka. A discussion whether this saariraka is the same as Brahman or not is known as Saarirakamimamsabhashya. Apart from the Bhashyas written on the Prasthanatraya, Sankara was said to have written the following works:

1. Advaita pancharatnam.                                                       19. Praudhanubhutiprakaranam.
2. Advaitanubhuti.                                                                    20. Brahmanuchintanam.
3. Adhyatmavidyopadesa.                                                         21. Manishapanchakam.
4. Anatmasrivigarhana.                                                             22. Mayapanchikam.
5. Aparokshanubhuti.                                                                 23. Mohamudgara.
6. Atmabodha.                                                                              24. Laghuvakyavrittiprakarana.
7. Atmanatmaviveka.                                                                     25. Vakyavritti.
8. Upadesasahasri.                                                                         26. Vivekachudamani.
9. Ekasloka.                                                                                     27. Vedantasara.
10. Kasipanchakam.                                                                         28. Satasloki.
11. Kaupinapanchakam.                                                                29. Shatpadi.
12. Jnanankusamsavivaranam.                                                     30. Sadacharaprakaranam.
13. Dasasloki.                                                                                31. Sanatsujateeyam.
14. Nirvanashatkam.                                                                    32. Sarvavedantasiddhantasangraha 
15. Pancharatnamalika.                                                                 33. Swarupanusandhanastakam.
16. Panchikaranam.                                                                      34. Swatmanirupanam.
17. Prabodhasudhakara.                                                               35. Hastamalakiyabhashyam.
18. Prasnottararatnamala.
Besides the above, around fifty works of Stotra type are ascribed to Sankara wherein Bhakthi is described as the pivotal subject interspersed with Advaita.


According to Advita, Brahman alone is the Reality; the world is unreal and is superimposed in Brahman just as the snake is superimposed in a rope. Brahman is one without a second and there is nothing apart from Brahman, similar to Brahman or different from Brahman and Brahman is essentially undivided.
This attribute-less Brahman is inaccessible to sensory perception. The attributes Sat, Chit, Ananda, as well as the concepts Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient, are agencies which enable one to understand the nature of Brahman.
Jiva, despite being Brahman himself, has the illusion of being different from It(Brahman), due to nescience. This illusion arises because Jiva has a body, senses and mind. Though Jiva is one, it appears to be many in respect of Upadhi.
The happiness in one and the unhappiness in another, as experienced universally, may be ascribed to the concept of Antahkarana. Consciousness and Atman are identical and it is all-prevasive. When it is reflected in Maya (Universal nescience), it is known as Iswara, while the same, when reflected in Avidya ( Individual nescience), is known as Jiva.
Advaita, to which everything except Brahman is mere illusion, however, accepts three realities, Pratibhasika ( transient reality) - a rope being mistaken as a snake; Vyavaharika (world experience) - a snake appearing as a snake; and Paramarthika ( the actual and absolute reality) - Brahman.

Just as dream apparations disappear as soon as consciousness is restored, situations experienced in the usual state of consciousness vanish when the state of Brahmajnana is obtained. As a follow-up, we may perhaps touch briefly on nescience (Maya). Maya comprises three gunas - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. This Maya is believed to be in existence perhaps prior even to time and space. The world and its inhabitants consist of the basic elements; earth, water, sky , fire and air. The Jiva results when consciousness enters them. When this consciousness, which we may call mundane consciousness, evolves and graduates into the real and ultimate Jnana, the Jiva becomes one with Brahman. This supreme state and stage can be attained through an appropriate guru who teaches eternal truths such as Tattvamasi and Dasamastvamasi. When the ultimate realisation dawns on the Jiva, the three karmas, which hang on to Jiva, vanish automatically. Unfortuantely, even after the realisation, Jiva has still to undergo Prarabdha as long as it runs its coursce. This stage in the evolutionary process is known as jivanmukthi - liberation while still living the normal life. Jivanmukthi transforms into Videhamukthi when the body of the jivanmuktha perishes. The central point in the whole discussion is that Jnana is the sine qua non of complete liberation.
We now turn to have a look at Sankara's disciples, the famous among them being Padmapada, Hastamalaka, Totakacharya and Sureswara. These disciples eventually headed the four Mutts established by Sanakara in the four corners of the country. Sankaracharya travelled the entire length and breadth of India on foot propagating Advita Vedanta and drawing large number of admirers. It is a pity that he passed away at the prime age of thirty-two. Had he lived a little longer, no one knows what earth-shaking achievements he would have made. Even during his short span of
life the propagation of his philosophy had a tremendous impact on India and abroad.

After Sankara's departure, his philosophy got divided into three branches; Bhamati, Vivarana and Vartika. The first two have survived and even enjoy critical examination, while the latter one, Vartika, has suffered extinction.

The conceptual differences between Bhamati and Vivarana schools of thought will be discussed later. Most of the Acharyas who existed in the Post-Sankara period composed commentaries and treatises independently, following either of the two schools, not contradicting each other. However, there are a few who followed one school contradicting the other. Apart from the works based on these two Prasthanas, many independent works, both major and minor, as well as commentaries were written on Advita Vedanta. Besides the above, some other notable works refuting the philosophy of Visistadvaita and Dwaita saw the light of the day.

Among the authors of Advaita Vedanta, the part played by the scholars of Andhradesa deserves special study.


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