Mayavada Darpanam

Thursday, May 11, 2006


We have learned the shoonyavada and mayavaada similarities and have defended the reality that both are not the same but different from one another – unlike the arguments of rival schools that Brahman of Advaita is same as shoonya of madhyamaka school. As the analysis were too logical (as the arguments themselves were logical most of time), hence many would have found it tough to apprehend or understand clearly. It was mentioned in the last mail of the series that we will be analyzing on the Mayavaada Khandanam of Madhvacharya.

The analysis will help to improve and make clear our knowledge about Advaita. Moreover since in Mayavaada Khandanam, the basic philosophy of Advaita is attacked – therefore we will have many things to learn from that. This is unlike in Shoonyavaada series where only the argument that shoonyavaada and mayavaada are same was present.

Adi Sankaracharya is dated around the 9th century A.D. It is agreed by many scholars that at the time of Sankara, there was only Advaita system of Vedanta. But many acharyas claim that their system was there prior to Sankara also. For eg:- Ramanuja claims to have based his Sri Bhashya on the Brahma Sutras on the mutilated copy of the commentary of one Bodhayana on the Brahma Sutras. Ramanuja claims that Bodhayana’s vritti is based on the vishista advaita philosophy only. Sankara does refer to more than one vrittikaaras in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya. He refers to a vrittikaara named Upavarsha in the Anandamayaadhikarana. It doesn’t really matter who all Sankara refers but it matters what were their philosophies. Sankara does criticize many of such vrittikaaras whose work is unfortunately not available now. The oldest extant commentary on Brahma Sutra is Sankara’s commentary. Even though Ramanuja refers to Bodhayana’s vritti, Ramanuja himself gives very few references and quotes from the vritti in his Sri Bhashya. Swami Sacchidanandendra Saraswathi in his Vedanta Prakriya Pratyabhijnaa (swamiji was the founder of Adhyatma Prakaashana Karyalaya in Holenarsipur) shows without any doubt that all the vrittikaaras whom Sankara refers and criticizes are all Advaitins only. Then why does Sankara criticize them? Sankara criticizes the approach or sadhana which they follow to Brahma Sakshaatkaara. Thus even though there were many prakriyaa bhedhas, all these acharyas agreed on the ultimate reality of adviteeya Brahman. If possible at the end of the analysis of Mayavaada Khandanam or as a separate thread, we will try to see how Sacchidanandendra Saraswathi shows that all these acharyas are advaitins even though Ramanuja and others claim that they are vishista advaitins only.

Thus as per the analysis of Sacchidanandendra Saraswathi (SS in short), there were only Advaita Vedantins at the time of Sankara. SS also shows clearly from a particular bhashya of Sankara that “the system of considering Brahman as just the efficient or nimitta kaarana is “VEDA BAAHYA” or outside Vedas” which very clearly is applicable for the dvaita Vedanta system.

Adi Sankara was followed by some of the great Advaita acharyas like Vachaspathi Mishra, Ishta Siddhi Vimuktaatman, Sri Harsha, Chitsukha, Anubhootisvaroopa, Amalananda, Anandagiri etc. not to mention Padmapada (who wrote the panchapaadika commentary on Sankara’s Brahma Sutra Bhashya) and Sureshwaracharya (who has written many vartikas on Sankara’s works – most prominent being the Brihadaranyaka Vartika on Sankara’s Brihadaranyaka Bhashya).

At the start of 12th century and 13th century, Ramanuja and Madhva were present. Ramanuja followed the footsteps of his guru’s guru Yamunacharya bringing forth the system of vishista advaita (taking many concepts out of the Vaishnava systems). Madhvacharya propounded the system of Dvaita Vedanta claiming that Hanuman taught this system as per the Ramayana. When Ramanuja and Madhva arrived, Advaita Vedanta was in a very strong state with many people following them. The Nyaaya system had started attacking Advaita Vedanta through Udayanacharya and others. But these naiyyayikas were strongly attacked by Sri Harsha, Ananda Bodha and Chitsukha. Thus around the 13th century, Advaita Vedanta was one of the most prominent darshanas available at that time. Thus Ramanuja and Madhva, if they had to establish their system, had to pierce through the strong foundation of Sankara. This was necessary in order to make people come to their system from the strongly established Advaita Vedanta.

The Nyaya system which was strongly attacked and its vulnerabilities exposed took refuge at the hands of Gangesha Upadhyaaya (Naiyyayikas like Dvaitins are thorough dualist). Gangesha wrote the great Tattva Chintamani basing on the prachina nyaaya but concentrating more on pramaanaas than prameyaas. This was further strengthened by great Naiyyayikas like Raghunaatha Shiromani (in the Didhithi commentary on Tattva Chintamani) and Gadhaadhara Bhatta. The new nyaaya system was being called Navya Nyaaya (new system of logic).

Since Navya Nyaaya was in place by the time Ramanuja and Madhva arrived (I don’t know exactly whether Gangesha came before Madhva and Ramanuja or after), they took resort to strong logic to attack Advaita. Thus the later dvaitins like Vyaasa teertha and Raghavendra started using Navya Nyaaya. In order to defend the system of Advaita, Advaitins like Madhusudana Saraswathi and Nrsimha ashrama also started using Navya Nyaaya.

Many of madhva’s arguments against Advaita are purely based on logic – substantiating the logic with sruthi statements. Thus those sruthi statements which speak about Advaita are given more importance and those which speak about advaita are interpreted in a different way based on logic (which refutes Advaita). Thus most of the works of Madhva or Dvaita Vedanta concentrate mainly on refutation of Advaita. It is but the same way in Sri Bhashya of Ramanuja too where he spends lot of effort criticizing Advaita.

Thus we have to remember clearly that the attack on Advaita is primarily based on logic and not purely based on sruthi or anubhava. Dvaita does take resort to anubhava in the form of Pratyaksha to show that duality is real while substantiating this with strong and hair-splitting logic. Thus when we are analyzing such a logical work of Madhva, we have to remember that too much logic can never lead to the reality as reality is beyond logic. This doesn’t mean that Advaita doesn’t have proper answer in logic to the criticisms of Dvaita, but just that logic alone can never lead to the reality.

The most important argument against Advaita is Pratyaksha Virodha – contrary to perception. We perceive duality and hence non-duality is completely against perception. We see and experience different entities and hence how can non-dual reality be real?? This perception is also agreed by sruthi and yukthi. Thus Advaita is faulty that it contradicts perception or experience.

The above argument is not really valid because various acharyas from Gaudapada and others have clearly shown that “what we perceive need not be real”. A person does see water in desert but there is no water at all. Similarly a person sees dream but it is not real. Thus “what is perceived is real” is a wrong statement as such a statement is deviated or proved wrong in the case of illusions or bhramaas.
Also another wrong concept which is attacked by Dvaita is that “Advaita doesn’t give any reality status to the world”. This is wrong because Advaita accepts the dual world but only that it says such a perception is not “ultimately real”. Thus the world is given a vyaavahaarika satta or empirical reality as opposed to the paaramarthika satta of adviteeya Brahman. As long as the world is seen or perceived, it is real (apparently or seemingly). The world is not unreal like the son of a barren woman or horns of a hare. But the world is not real also as real is that which exists beyond time & never ceases to exist. Thus the world is neither real nor unreal – such an entity is called Mithya or anirvachaneeya. Mithya is that which seems to exist when it is perceived & when the substratum or reality is known, it becomes unreal. The water seen in desert is real as long as the reality that there is only desert is realized. Thus water in desert is real as long as the seeker sees the water. But once the seeker realizes that there is no water, then he also realizes that “there never was any water at all”. It is only at the ultimate level that world is completely negated. Thus the world does exist empirically but ultimate doesn’t exist at all. Without understanding this, if it is argued that Advaita doesn’t accept the world which is currently perceived is completely wrong. Also this reality of Brahman underlying the empirical existence of world (which is names and forms) is never against perception. Perception just shows Brahman along with names and forms. This perception is completely valid at the empirical level. But when a stronger pramana like Sruthi negates Pratyaksha, then pratyaksha becomes invalid (only when sruthi overrules it and experience also proves it). Thus there is no real contradiction between what is perceived empirically and what is not present ultimately.

Even the trai satta vibhaaga is also criticized as illogical and bereft of sruthi support – whereas this “three reality” is very well supported by sruthi and logic too. We will see later how this is logically correct and sruthi too supports it. Thus, without understanding this difference, attacking Advaita by saying that world is seen and hence real – Brahman can never be the sakshi as Brahman is nirvikalpa and cannot become the object of enquiry etc. is wrong because Nirvikalpa Brahman is only at the ultimate level & it is the sakshi which is present at the empirical level (the same Brahman is present as Sakshi at the empirical level). Moreover Brahman when unknown due to illusory ignorance is very well logical to accept it as the object of enquiry or Vishaya – even though ultimately even such enquiry is invalid as there is nothing but Brahman alone. That Brahman alone exists is very well proved in Satya Darshanam (interested people can refer to it for detailed analysis on the same).

To sum up in general, it is but wrong knowledge or “knowingly” attacking attitude which causes rival systems to attack Advaita using hair-spitting logic. Even though Adviteeya Brahman is never affected by such arguments & Advaita requires no need to answer those criticisms as it is proved through sruthi, yukthi and anubhava, but still it can very well be shown that there is an answer to whatever argument the rival schools raise. We have to remember as Sri Harsha says in Khandana Khanda Khadhyam --- he says “The arguments which has been presented against Nyaaya system can be used against any system – so these arguments can also be used to prove the illogical state of Advaita too but even in such a case, the Nirvishesha Brahman would still remain without any fault as the SAKSHI of the act of arguing (it will still remain as pure and eternal Consciousness).”

Mayavada Khandanam has mainly three commentaries on it (the pdf available at the dvaita site gives three commentaries to it). The three commentaries are by Padmanaabha Teertha, Jaya Teertha and Pandurangi keshavaacharya. The commentary by Jaya Teertha is very deep and covers different aspects of the work very clearly. It is unfortunate that neither Vyaasa Teertha nor Raghavendra have commented on this. This must be because they didn’t have anything much to add to what Jaya Teertha has explained (as the tikakaara has explained the work very clearly and in depth).

We will mostly be analyzing the work based on Jaya Teertha’s commentary but will take points from the other two commentaries too.

Let us start by prostrating to the Dakshinamurthy that this analysis should lead to proper fruits of clearing all doubts/wrong notions about the ultimate reality of Brahman.

I offer this analysis at the lotus feet of AMMA and pray to her that this work might lead us to liberation in this very birth itself.

The pdf file can be found on The PDF has the original work with the above mentioned commentaries.

The wordings in italics and brown are the dvaitins statement with Madhwas work in Bold and the advaitin’s reply to it will be in normal font and the Mayavada Darpanam text will be in bold and green.


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