The contribution of Andhra to Advaita Vedanta is two--fold: Establishment of AdvaitaVedanta and demolition of systems antagonistic to Advaita Vedanta in general, and Visistadvaita Vedanta and Dwaita in particular.
Sankara's Advaita lasted unchallenged for as long a period as two centuries. Though there arose minor differences in the outlooks of Vivarana and Bhamati parts of the philosophy, they were in absolute agreement with the quintessence of the Advaita, i.e., the oneness of Jiva and Brahman. However, we find some decline in the Vedanta's sway from the 11th century onwards, as some Vedantins like Ramanuja, Srikantha and Madhva, went about interpreting the Sastras in their own idiosyncratic ways, much at variance with the pristine state of the Advaita. In this on-going battle of wits, some ardent followers of the Advaita condemned the critics severely and gave their perspicacious interpretation of the Vedanta. As part of this literary battle, some Advaitins, threw the Visistadvaita of Ramanuja and the Dwaita of Madhva into the defensive. The "modus operandi" is somewhat like this:
Ramanuja, the propounder of Visistadvaita, studied Vedanta under Yadavaprakasa who happened to be an Advaitin. Ramanuja was not satisfied with the interpretations made by his guru. He used to differ with him frequently. In course of time, the quarrel between them on some Philosophical issues resulted in Ramanuja being driven out by Yadavaprakasa. Later, it so happened that he was encountered by Yamunacharya, his maternal uncle's teacher. Astounded by this Acharya's scholarship, Ramanuja left for Srirangam to meet him. Unfortunately for him, by the time Ramanuja reached there, Yamunacharya had departed from this world. The story goes that Ramanuja found, to his dismay, three fingers of the dead body in an unnaturally deformed condition. Ramanuja interpreted the three deformed fingers as his three unfulfilled desires. These three desires, he surmised, were :
1) Propagation of Vaishnavism.
2) Preparing a commentary of the Brahmasutras in the light of Visistadvaita.
3) The measures to bring people into the fold of Vaishnavism.
Eventually, after returning home, Ramanuja wrote a number of treatises among which Vedanta Deepa, Vedantasara and Vedarthasangraha are outstanding. His commentary on the Brahmasutrabhashya is known as Sribhashya, and it gained immense popularity.
Ramanuja's philosophy is referred to as Visistadvaita because it combines Advaita [oneness of God] with visesha [attributes]. The philosophy is monotheistic. In Ramanuja's system of philosophy, the Lord [Narayana] has two inseparable Prakaras or modes,viz.,the world and the soul. These are related to Him as the body is related to the soul. They have no existence apart from Him. They inhere in Him as attributes in a substance. Matter and soul constitute the body of the Lord. The Lord is their indweller. He is the controlling reality. Matter and soul are the subordinate elements. They are termed Viseshanas, i.e., attributes. God is the Viseshya or that which is qualified.
The philosophy of Ramanuja picked out seven fundamental flaws in the Advaitic thought. The system argues:
1) The nature of Avidya. Avidya must be either real or unreal; there is no other possibility. But neither of these is possible. If Avidya is real, non-dualism collapses into dualism. If it is unreal, we are driven to self-contradiction or infinite regress.
2) The incomprehensibility of Avidya. Advaitins claim that Avidya is neither real nor unreal but incomprehensible [anirvacaniya]. All cognition is either of the real or the unreal : the Advaitin's claim flies in the face of experience, and accepting it would call into question all cogition and render it unsafe.
3) The grounds of knowledge of Avidya. No pramana can establish Avidya in the sense that the Advaitin requires. Advaita philosophy presents Avidya not as a mere lack of knowledge, as something purely negative, but as an obscuring layer which covers Brahman and is removed by true Brahma vidya. Avidya is positive nescience, not mere ignorance. Ramanuja agrues that positive nescience is established neither by perception, nor by inference, nor by scriptural testimony. On the contrary, Ramanuja argues, all cognition is very real.
4) The locus of Avidya. Where is the Avidya that gives rise to the [false] impression of the reality of the perceived world? There are two possibilities; it could be Brahman's Avidya or the individual soul's [Jiva.] Neither is possible. Brahman is knowledge; Avidya cannot co-exist as an attribute with a nature utterly incompatible with it. Nor can the individual soul be the locus of Avidya : the existence of the individual soul is due to Avidya; this would lead to a vicious circle.
5) Avidya's obscuration of the nature of Brahman. Sankara would have us believe that the true nature of Brahman is somehow covered-over or obscured by Avidya. Ramanuja regards this as an absurdity; given that Advaita claims that Brahman is pure self-luminous consciousness, obscuration must mean either preventing the origination of this [impossible since Brahman is eternal] or the destruction of it-equally absurd.
6) The removal of Avidya by Brahma vidya. Advaita claims that Avidya has no beginning, but it is terminated and removed by Brahma vidya, the intuition of the reality of Brahman as pure, undifferentiated consciousness. But Ramanuja denies the existence of undifferentiated [nirguna] Brahman, arguing that whatever exists has attributes : Brahman has infinite auspicious attributes. Liberation is a matter of Divine Grace : no amount of learning or wisdom will deliver us.
7) The removal of Avidya. For the Advaitin, the bondage in which we dwell before the attainment of Moksha is caused by Maya and Avidya; knowledge of reality [Brahma vidya] releases us. Ramanuja, however, asserts that bondage is real. No kind
of knowledge can remove what is real. On the contrary, knowledge discloses the real; it does not destroy it. And what exactly is the saving knowledge that delivers us from bondage to Maya? If it is real, then non-duality collapses into duality; if it is unreal, then we face an utter absurdity. [Ramanuja-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia].
Although, Ramanuja had also a large number of followers, the chief opponents of Ramanuja were followers of Sankara. They attempted to retaliate and refute Visistadvaita of Ramanuja both from the point of view of logical arguments and through that of interpretation of the Upanishads.
WORKS AGAINST VISISTADVITA :
Umamaheswara [A.D. 1550 -1650] of Vellala family was a disciple of Akkayyasuri and father of Bhaskaradikshita. These two, father and son, each in his own way, became bitter critics of Visistadvaita. Umamaheswara wrote a treatise Tattva Chandrika or Nirgunabrahmamimamsa wherein he demolished the theories of Srikantha and Ramanuja wholesale. [ Incidentally, this work is available in Madras Government oriental Manuscripts Library. [R. 5156]]. Not content with his criticism in this work, he prepared to write another treatise Virodhavarudhini in which he continued his tirade against Visistadvaita with still more virulence, Umamaheswara pointed out as many as one hundred self-contradictions in the Visistadvaita and allied productions, but, unfortunately he became ill and could not fulfil his desire : he had to be content with attacking just 27 contradictions[ H.I.P.-part-2 .p396]. Umamahesrara was credited with the authorship of other works, including Advaitakamadhenu and Taptamudravidravana wherein he condemned the theories of Visistadvaita vehemently.
Bhaskaradikshita [A.D.1650-1750], his father's son that he was,was a protege of Raghunathanayaka. His monumental work Atmatattvapariksha consists of eight chapters. This work is unpublished but the manuscript is available in Madras Oriental Manuscripts Library [No. R 756.M.G.O.M.L]
Another critic of Visistadvaita was Brahmadeva Pandita [A.D.1700-1800] of Pinninti family. His cogent criticism against Visistadvaita is found in his masterpiece Visistadvaitadushanasarasangraha.
As for 'Tattvamasi' of Advaita, Brahmadevapandita opposed Ramanuja's Visistadvaita interpretation arguing that it contained a number of loopholes and thus his interpretation was utterly untenable and finally praised Sankaras's original Vedanta as indisputably unsurpasable. According to Advaita, the interpretation of the Mahavakya i.e..Tattvamasi is as follows : the word Tat conveys the concept of Brahman as Infinite, Omniscient and Inaccessbile. Tvam conveys Jiva which is but limited. However since knowledge is the common factor, albeit quantitatively different, the two are identified with each other - Tatvamasi.
In sharp contrast, Ramanuja interpreted the concept of Tatvamasi as a three-fold entity : the Body, the Jiva and the Antaryami (the inmost factor). Antaryami (Almighty dwelling inside) is none other than the Almighty and this signifies Tatvamasi but this view was not accepted by Sankara's followers because it ignores Jiva and introduces the questionable concept of Antaryami. Their emphasis is on the oneness of Jiva and Brahman, not Antaryami and Brahman.
The knowledge that we get from Sriti like Tattvamasi is direct and immediate as well as not rational. To understand the meaning of this text we have to consider the grammatical co-ordination, the substantive attribute relation and the implied meaning conveyed by the terms.
The two words 'tat' [that] and 'tvam' (thou) are in grammatical co-ordination, and the meanings conveyed by them are not synonymous. The word 'tat' refers to Brahman as determined infinitude, omniscience, remoteness, etc. It is absurd to identify 'tvam' ["thou"] with 'tat' [that] in view of the fact that the determinant of the two terms is mutually incompatible. So by removing the determinants of each term and by retaining the common element, viz., consciousness through the process of Jahadajahallakshana also known as Bhagalakshana, we can
interpret the sriti thus : 'tat twam asi' conveys the sense of identity, a unitary unrelated content, namely the undifferentiated consciousness. This is the Advaitic interpretation. Contrary to this Ramanuja interpreted 'Tattvamasi' in a different way. According to him there are three steps :-
1. The Body
2. Jiva( Who is identified with the body)
3. Antaryami (dwelling in the jiva)
Here 'tvam' refers to Antaryami who dwells in the midst of all living and nonliving beings and 'tat' refers to Brahman which is Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient. Since Parameswara is Antaryami, there is no need to go for Bhagalakshana to bring identity between Jiva and Brahman. But this is not acceptable as the actual and direct identity of Jiva and Brahman is not stated here.
विशिष्टाद्वैतवादस्य मानाभावादयुक्तित: |
स्वरूपाद्वैतवादो न: सम्यग्विजयतेतराम्||
We now come to another staunch defender of Advaita-Vedanta Ayyannadikshita [A.D. 1700-1800]. His work Vyasatatparyanirnaya was a small book yet highly penetrating in expressions [reminding us of the modern mantra 'Small is beautiful']. His purpose in writing this beautiful work was to settle the disputes between the then burning issues of monism versus dualism.
It is amusing that Ayyannadikshita humorously argued that critics of Vedanta, whose top-of-the-roof outbursts against the Advaita, happened to attack the Advaita itself of which they were blissfully ignorant. The natural inference is that they equated Advaita with Vedanta unwittingly, and paid unwilling tribute to Advaita.
Another critic of Visistadvaita, Narakanthiravasastry [A.D 1850-1950], was well versed in many Sastras, and wrote a commentary on Vyasatatparyanirnaya. Besides publishing the works of Umamaheswara viz., Tattvachandrika and Virodhavarudhini, he also broughtforth Mahavakyaratnavali and Taptachakrankavidhvamsa which bitterly criticized the Visistadvaita. Still another critic from Andhradesa was Bellamkonda Ramarayakavi. He excelled all his predecessors in his criticism against Visistadvaita. There is an interesting anecdote Vis-a-Vis Ramaraya's philosophical turnaround.
Originally he was a faithful devotee of Visistadvaita. He once invited a Vaishnava celebate to be his guest. This Vaishnavite, in his faith's arrogance, declined the invitation. This made Ramaraya furious and he began cogitating seriously about these contradictory faiths. Ultimately, he saw sensibility in Advaita and not in Visistadvaita. Thus his loyalty and belief shifted from Visistadvaita to Advaita in a curious somersault.
While Appayyadikshita tried to demolish the theories of Dwaita in order to defend Advaita, Ramaraya did the same against Visistadvaita. His Sankarasakarabhashyavimarsa meets the criticism of Ramanuja and Vedantadesika against Sankara and provides a word - to - word reply to their arguments. He also points out the contradictions and fallacies in the Visistadvaita. It is in this field that Ramaraya has excelled all the earlier Advaita writers such as Umamaheswara, Bhaskaradikshita and Brahmadevapandita. Ramaraya's outpourings were far superior to those of many scholars. Professor Dutta, a knowledgeble critic, declares that as against Umamaheswara, Bhaskaradikshita and Brahmadevapandita - whose works were either incomplete or incompetent, Ramaraya's works came as a shining example of striking criticism. While some Advaitins aimed their arrows against the Visistadvaita of Ramanuja, others challenged Dwaita which was propounded by Madhvacharya.
Madhvacharya alias Anandatirtha [A.D.1198-1276] was believed to be an incarnation of Vayu. He was considered to be a born enemy of Sankara. Though, paradoxically, Madhvacharya studied under Achyutapreksha, an Advaita teacher, he strongly differed from his teacher. His hatred towards Advaita drove him to such an extent that he called Sankara's followers deceitful demons. He was so intelligent that he not only convinced his teacher of his dualistic views but even converted him into his path. Madhva wrote about 37 works. He advocated dualism of which the main tenet is the five - fold differences.
1) Self and God
2) The selves themselves
3) Matter and soul
4) Matter and self
5) Matter and matter
In short, no two items are truly identical, though some pairs appear to be the same. It is surprising that, even on attaining Moksha, the fundamental physical difference between the various categories of living and nonliving beings remains unaffected.
`जीवेशयोर्भिदा चैव जीवभेद: परस्परम् |
जडेशयोर्जडानां च जडजीवभिदा तथा ||
पंच भॆदा: इमा: नित्या: सर्वावस्थासु नित्यश: |
मुक्तानां च न हीयन्ते तारतम्यं च सर्वश: || (Mahabharatatatparyanirnaya)
According to Madhva, Narayana is the Supreme Lord and Bhakthi is the means of liberation. Madhva differed not only from Sankara but also from
Ramanuja. Like Sankara and Ramanuja he had a huge following among whom Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha stand out. These disciples became "more loyal than the king" and attacked the Mayavada of Sankara almost venemously.
Madhva lived in the 13th century and, at that time, many followers of Sankara such as Sureswara, Vachaspatimisra, and Prakasatman had written their treatises against dualistic views. Madhva and his followers, Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha, tried their level best to refute the theories of Sankara. This raging literary battle took a more or less dramatic turn, with Yajnanarayanadikshita, et al attacking Vadiraja et al of their dwaita faith who in their turn, crossed swords with the former(Advaitins) challenging, for example, the validity of Yajnanarayanadikshita's commentary on Panchapadikavivarana. These attacks and counter attacks made an interesting, if unfortunate,saga. However, it was Madhva's dualism which suffered comparitively innumerable and inclement salvos at the hands of the Advaitins.
Appayyadikshita's scholarly work, Madhvatantramukamardanam, made an unfavourable criticism on Madhva's dualism. Many scholars have attacked Madhva's dualism vehemently as shown below.
Mallanaradhya of Kotisa family [A.D. 1400-1500] wrote Advaitaratna which is also known Abhedaratna in which he demolished the theories of Madhva.
Another great scholar Ramakrishna of Datta family composed a work, Madhvamatachapetika, in which he criticized the views of Madhvacharya pungently. Still another great scholar Sitaramasastry of Bommakanti family authored Madhvamatakhandanam in which the dualism of Madhva was totally torn to pieces.