B.N.K. Sharma (b. 1909, Tamilnadu) obtained his Master’s Degree in Sanskrit and Ph.D. from the University of Madras. Dr. Sharma is one of the foremost exponents of Madhvacarya’s school of dualistic Vedanta. He has translated Madhvacarya’s Gita-Bhasya from Sanskrit into English.
Dr. Sharma is the recipient of the President of India’s Award for Eminent Sanskrit Scholars in 1992 and the Government of Maharashtra’s Award for Sanskrit (1993) and the prestigious Sri Vidyamanya Prasasti of the Purnaprajna Pratisthana in 1996. He has also been honoured by the Late Periaval of the Kanchi Mutt and several Madhva Pithadhipatis.
Today with over a dozen publications of outstanding merit in lucid English, Dr. Sharma has verily established the highest record of the present century in his chosen field with his latest English rendering of Samanuayadyhaya of Jayatirtha’s Nyayasudha.
This book “Philosophy of Sri Madhvacarya’ was first published in 1962, by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay. It was awarded the D. Litt. Degree in Philosophy by the Bombay University in 1968.
The work has been out of print for many years now. There has been a persistent demand for its republication, from various parts of the country and from abroad, as it happens to be the only exhaustive standard work of reference and consultation on the subject, fully documented and with first-hand inside knowledge of the texts and traditions of the Dvaita school in its authentic milieu, written in lucid lively English.
Dr. K. Narain’s ‘Outlines of Madhva Philosophy’ (Udayana Publications, Allahabad) appeared almost at the same time as the first edition of this book. Though it covers similar ground, my work differs from his in its insightful approach to the seminal contributions of this school of Vedanta to the distinctive problems of Indian Philosophy and in its selection of topics and their comprehensive coverage, with copious discussion and assessment.
Dr. Narain’s other work: ‘A Critique of the Madhva Refutation of Sankara Vedanta (Allahabad, 1964) requires separate attention. I have, however, thought it fit to take note of his criticisms of such of Madhva’s positions as fall within the scope of my present work. I have also taken passing note of some of the adverse comments on the treatment of the Advaita Srutis in Madhva’s philosophy, contained in Dr. Krishnakant Chaturvedi’s book in Hindi, entitled Dvait Vedant Ka Tattvik Anusilan (Delhi, 1971).
The structural pattern of the work remains the same. But a great deal of fresh matter in the light of further reading and cogitation has gone in, while revising and enlarging the work for the second edition. These additional are mostly expository and partly discursive. The ramifications of topics like the classification of Adhikarins for Brahmavidya, Dhyana, Gunopasamhara, phases of Aparoksa-Jnana, Utkranti, Laya and Bhoga, falling under the scope of the Sadhana and Phala Adhyayas of the Brahmasutra have been only briefly dealt with here. They will be found exhaustively dealt with in the third volume of my Brahmasutras and Their Principal Commentaries (Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1978).
I am deeply thankful to M/s Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, for following up their publication of the revised edition of my History of Dvaita School of Vedanta and Its Literature, with the revised edition of this book which is its indispensable companion volume.
This is the first complete, critical and comparative exposition of Sri Madhvacarya’s Philosophy in English. I am indeed very happy that it has been possible for me to bring out this work, which I had promised my readers in the Preface to the first volume of my History of Dvaita School of Vedanta and Its Literature (1960), so expeditiously. I earnestly hope that the present work, together with its companion volume on the History of the Dvaita school will place in the hands of the reading public ample materials for a close and intensive study of Madhva’s philosophical system, as a whole, in its historical and doctrinal aspects.
Works written on the subject of Madhva’s philosophy, years ago, by pioneers in the field have now become outmoded, naturally. Of more recent ones, in the field, Dr. R. Nagaraja Sarma’s Reign of Realism in Indian Philosophy (Madras, 1937) is restricted to an exposition of the ten small philosophical monographs of Madhvacarya. It does not draw upon Madhva’s major works like the Brahmasutrabhasya or the Anu-Vyakhyana. It is not, therefore, a complete and organic presentation of Madhva’s philosophy H. N. Raghavendrachar’s Dvaita Philosophy, Its place in the Vedanta (Mysore Uni. 1941) has erred in representing Madhva’s thought as a pure Monism in principle. This is a novel and a revolutionary interpretation, which is opposed to the established traditions of the system. It has not only found any wide acceptance among scholar; but has evoked refutations from orthodox spokesmen. His advocacy of what he calls “Svarupa-Srsti”0 or creation of the essence of Souls in Madhva’s philosophy is, indeed, a very unfortunate misinterpretation of Madhva’s position, as it has been explained in the works of accredited exponents of the Siddhanta. Moreover, the doctrine of Creation as “Paradhinavisesapti”, specially formulated by Madhva, would lose its point, if Raghavendrachar’s interpretation is accepted. This point has been dealt with in the present work.
The treatment of Madhva’s philosophy in Dr. Radhakrishnan’s Indian Philosophy (1927) has been “brief and summary”. We have a more detailed and sympathetic treatment of Madhva’s thought in Dasgupta’s History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. IV (1949). But it has not taken any notice of the new issues raised by Raghavendrachar’s book. Apart from this, Dasgupta’s treatment of the subject is by no means exhaustive. Obviously, it could not be expected to be exhaustive as his object was not to write an independent treatise on Madhva’s philosophy; but simply to deal with it as part of the general and larger movement of thought known as ‘Indian Philosophy’. It is but natural then, that he should have passed over many important aspects of Madhva’s thought. His method of approach has been more or less descriptive in that he does not attempt any expression of opinion on the issues involved or any evaluation of doctrines.
My aim in writing this book is to give a complete, copious, critical and comparative exposition of Madhvacarya’s system of philosophy, bringing out its logical strength and metaphysical consistency and satisfyingness. It is intended to be an organic presentation of the system inn all its essential aspects. It differs from all the other works in the field, including Dasgupta’s, in showing how the concepts and categories of Madhva’s philosophical thought have been conceived and formulated and have been put into a coherent system and in what relation they stand to those of other allied and rival systems. It brings out the special significance and interconnections of Madhva’s doctrines and the architectonic unity of his system in relation to its parts. The reader is enabled to see for himself and appreciate the precise value and significance of some of Madhva’s distinctive contributions to the perennial problems of religion and philosophy-particularly ‘Indian Philosophy’, for which he can justly claim credit-such as for example the doctrine of Saksi, Svatantra, Visesa, Savisesabheda and Creation as Paradhinavisesapti. Dr. Jvala Prasad, who deplores in his History of Indian Philosophy (1956) that “there has been no original contribution to Indian Philosophy for centuries” has probably had no access to or inward knowledge of the works of Madhva, Jayatirtha or Vyasatirtha.
Not only is such a systematic and critical exposition of Madhva’s philosophical system called for, but it has long been over due. Metaphysically, it embodies the most powerful and sustained refutation of Vedantic monism. It has produced front-rank thinkers like Madhva, Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha. It has an extensive philosophical literature of rare philosophical penetration, in Sanskrit. It has influenced the philosophical thought of Caitanya and his followers in distant Bengal. It has given birth to a Devotional Movement of the Haridasa Kuta from within; which in its turn has enriched the literature of one of the major languages of South India. It has become the living faith of a large section of the Indian people speaking seven different languages of present-day-India.
In its own right, then, this system deserves much more attention than has been given to its by our modern scholars and writers on Indian philosophy. They have done it an injustice by classifying it under ‘minor religious systems’ belonging “more to the religious history than to the philosophical development of India” Every system of philosophy, in India, not excluding the Advaita, has its own religious basis and development. It is an error of judgment to suppose that the religious and theological aspects have over-shadowed the philosophical in Madhva’s system, while it (the latter) stands in undiminished brightness in the systems of Sankara and Ramanuja. The cult of the Saguna-Brahman has invaded a large part of the philosophical in Madhva’s system, while it (the latter) stands in undiminished brightness in the systems of Sankara and Ramanuja. The cult of the Saguna-Brahman has invaded a large part of the philosophical territory of Advaita. The Recognition given to such aspects as Pancayat-anapuja and Tantric forms of worship of Sri-Cakra and Goddesses like Rajarajesvari among Advaitins shows that the religious element is by no means negligible in Advaita. As for Ramanuja’s system, he “attempts a harmonious combination of absolutism with Personal Theism”,-to quote a modern authority. To quote another, “Ramanuja’s beautiful stories of the other world, which he narrates with the confidence of one who has personally assisted at the origination of the world, carry no conviction. The followers of Ramanuja move with as much Olympian assurance through the chambers of the Divine mind.
There is much of substantial philosophical thought in Madhva’s system, as there is in those of Sankara and Ramanuja. Failure to recognize this simple fact for want of first-hand acquaintance with the works of the three great master-minds of the system, Madhva, Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha, does not entitle responsible authors and writers on Indian philosophy to pronounce ex cathedra judgments on the philosophical status of Madhva’s system or dispose of it in a few pages summarily. The progress of philosophy is generally due to a powerful attack on current traditions, when men feel compelled to go back upon received opinions and raise once more the fundamental questions which their predecessors had disposed of on the basis of some older schemes of thought. The movement of thought initiated by Madhva constitutes a new era in Vedantic thought in India. It relaid the foundations of philosophy at a much deeper level of philosophical certitude open to man viz., the Saksi and thereby opened up a new line of Samanvaya between authority and experience; Sruti and Anubhava (See pp. 154, 168-69) For this reason alone, if not for any other, his philosophy deserves to be be carefully read by all lovers of thought as a fresh adventure of the philosophical spirit.
Freedom of opinion and independence of thought are the birth-right of every philosopher. In opposing Sankara’s philosophy, Madhva has but exercised this right of a philosopher. There is no point, the, in pompously accusing him for this, as a “born foe of Sankara” and make it an excuse for dismissing his philosophy in three and a half pages, as has been done in a reputed work on Indian Philosophy claiming to be a “Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy” written by an Indian scholar. One is amazed at the wrong sense of ‘values’ shown by some of our living philosophers, which makes them forget the claims and importance of living systems of Indian thought and lavish their attention on those that are dead and have often no more than a purely antiquarian, technical or academic interest today. Without disputing their right to recognition, I will only say that our living systems deserve more attention from our philosophers. In this sense, the University of Bombay has given the right lead to the reorientation of philosophical studies in independent India by making suitable provision for the study of Madhva’s philosophy in its curricula. I would fain hope that this example will be followed by other Universities in our country and abroad. The honor our temples of learning can show to the thinkers of this country lies in providing facilities for our young men and women to study their contributions to human thought.
Materials from the original Sanskrit texts and source of the system have been presented here, in a modern garb, keeping in view the modern philosophical temper and its likes and dislikes, in the selection of materials and emphasis on problems. Doctrinal fidelity has been scrupulously observed, side by side with fairness and impartiality of judgment.
The special merit of the work lies in its being designed to be the most fully documented work so far published on Madhva’s philosophy, quoting profusely from the accredited works and original sources of the system, for purposes of elucidation and authentication. For this reason, the Sanskrit quotations have been freely introduced within the body of the reading matter in English in many places. So much textual matter could hardly have been p0ressed within the limits of a few footnotes here and there. On the other hand, the full weight, significance and bearing of the quotations on the doctrines at issue and the effectiveness of their contextual appeal, as intended by their particular interpretations could hardly have been conveyed to the reader, in full force, if the quotations had all been relegated to a separate section, at the end of the book. In these circumstances, a via media had to be found. I hope the general reader will see the point and pardon me for the invconvenience that may be caused by this arrangement. I have, however, tried to introduce the texts in a way that would allow the general reader to skip over them, if necessary, without much interruption to thought or intellectual appeal. These quotations have not, however, been translated, as a rule, as that would have increased the bulk of the work, but their general purport has been sought to be brought out by the trend of the discussion or exposition. These quotations are also intended to serve as a corpus of reference-material (which will be welcomed by many, as the old editions of the original works of Madhva philosophy are themselves now out of print and very difficult to obtain) for those interested in pursuing specialized study of the system and to stimulate their interest in going to the originals for further light,
I have gone to the standard works of the different systems of Indian philosophy, in Sanskrit, for purposes of comparing and contrasting the views of Madhva and his commentators with those of the other schools, wherever necessary. I have consulted and have often quoted from the works of several modern Indian and Western writers, in English, on Eastern and Western thought. My obligations to these distinguished writers and their works have been acknowledge in the body of the work and in the footnotes.
This is also the first modern work, in English, on Madhva’s system, to present adequate collateral evidence from the standard works of the Advaita, Visistadvaita and other schools, for purposes of intelligent criticism, comparison and evaluation. In drawing attention to the value and significance of Madhva’s contributions to the various problems of religion and philosophy, I have invited attention to striking parallelisms of thought between Madhva and some Western philosophers including Christian thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas, Ralph Cudworth, Dawes Hicks, Albert Schweitzer, Alexander Cambell Fraser and others. I have also drawn attention to those aspects of Madhva’s thought which strike a modern note or are strikingly in advance of his times and the views of his predecessors and contemporaries. (See his views on Avyakrta-Akasa, the validity of Memory, etc.) So far as I am aware, these aspects of his thought have not been touched upon or adequately emphasized or evaluated by any of the modern scholars who have written on the subject of Madhva’s philosophy till now.
For reasons explained in the Biographical Note I have incorporated substantial material both interpretive and dialectical, from the works of Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha. Further materials from the works of Vyasatirtha have been reserved for another work I have in view.
In discussing doctrinal and philosophical issues, I have generally confined myself to the problems germane to Madhva’s philosophy alone,-except where a further examination or criticism of their counterpart doctrines pertaining to order schools was felt to be desirable or necessary in the interest of elucidation or reinforcement of Madhva’s own doctrines. That is why I have not entered into any elaborate polemical discussion of such doctrines of the Advaita school as Mithyatva, the nature of Avidya, its definition and proofs, Adhyasa, Ekajivajnanavada, Sabdaparoksa, Pratikarmanyavastha and others, as falling outside the scope of the present work.
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