This booklet – though small in size, has profound, lofty, unalloyed teachings of Adi Sankara – was the product of relentless and long-drawn research carried out over a period over 70 years by Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji, of hallowed memory.
As a result of a process of decadence and degeneration in the caliber of the preceptors and their teachings in the post Sankara era, many an alien and doctrinaire tenet, totally opposed to the traditional methodology propounded and propagated by the most ancient line of teachers like Veda Vyasa, Gaudapada, Sankara and Surewara, have come into vogue even in the highest Vedantic circles. Here is a sincere and sagacious attempt to cleanse all the accretions or dross that Sankara’s Vedanta has gathered over a millenium now and present Sankar Vedanta in its pristine pure glory. It is hoped that this booklet will shake up many scholars and seekers alike from their slumber and stimulate them to go in for great works in Sanskrit like ‘Vedanta Prakriya-Pratyabhijna’, ‘Mandukya Rahasya Vivriti’ etc. as also English works alike ‘How to Recognize the Method of Vedanta’, Intuition of Reality’ etc. by the Rev Swamiji.
His Holiness Paramahamsa Sri Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji, the founder of Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya and author of over 200 reputed works on Advaita in Kannada, Sanskrit and English blessed the earth with his presence for ninety six useful and rich years useful and rich years (1880-1975).
His works are characterized by vast and deep scholarship, clear and precise perception and an attractive and lively style. His authentic interpretation of Sankara has been greatly recognized by both the East and the West. He was not just a rare and accomplished individual but a mighty and magnificent institution.
Although the Vedantic philosophy which Shri Sankaracharya has• expounded in his Prasthanatraya Bhashyas depicting the Absolute Reality of the Upanishads and the Vedas, which can never be refuted, in such a clear manner akin to perceiving and comprehending a fruit held in our palm, it is the irony of our times and our misfortune that the post-Sankara commentators as well as the other commentators belonging to alien schools of philosophy have not been able to fathom the depths and subtleties of his profound teachings. To add insult to this injury, so to speak., these worthies have been unwittingly pointing out all sorts of imaginary, fanciful defects in Shri Sankara's philosophy. Because of the reason that for the illogical arguments of the commentators belonging to the rival schools, the Vyi1chyiinakiiras (post-Sankara commentators) who profess to be the ardent followers of Adi Sankara are solely responsible, it becomes expedient and essential at the outset to refute and discard their errant and erroneous commentaries (which are very much in vogue today in Vedantic literature and parlance).
By this, the readers need not think that it is my opinion that in the post-Sankara commentaries there is nothing whatsoever worthy of knowing or comprehending. There is not an iota of doubt that they have elucidated many a topic taken up for discussion in the original commentaries in an excellent manner, and have strengthened them by means of their own logical devices. In fact, with the help of the Vyakhyanakaras alone I have been able to divine the profound meanings of several terse portions of the original Bhashyas. Hence my sense of gratitude and reverence towards them is not less than that of anyone else. Even so, with great regret it is to be said that just as the Indian proverb says: 'The ink devoured the thousand-figured painting', the modem theory of 'Mulavidya', which is very much in vogue everywhere, has literally tainted black, as it were, the excellent and efficient Vedantic methodology, found in and through the Bhashyas of Shri Sankara and which is like a highly beautiful picture.
In order to cleanse Vedanta of this dross and dirt, I wrote in Sanskrit a treatise entitled - 'Mulavidyanirasah' or 'Sankara Hridayam' about ten years ago itself. Those ardent students of Sanskrit language who wish to discern the shallowness of this (doctrinaire) theory of Malavidya as well as the profundity of the Intuitive deliberation on the method of A vasthatraya, which is like a pillar of .strength for the basic methodology of Vedanta itself, will have to meticulously study that Sanskrit treatise alone. Here I have presented only the most important points with authoritative sources from the original Bhashyas in a lucid manner in Kannada. I have every hope that the readers will unfailingly be convinced of the fact that Adi Sankara had not even an iota of acceptance or approval of this theory of 'Mulavidya' by virtue of the numerous Bhashya statements mentioned here. Here there are many a hint and suggestion as to how one can cognize Advaita (non-dualism) directly (Intuitively), without entertaining even a taint of this Mulavidya theory. By reading this small treatise even if a few students are induced by a desire to read the original work and to pursue further this deliberation my purpose is served.
This valuable booklet is a free and fair translation of a Kannada booklet printed recently by the newly-founded 'Sruti Sankara Samskrita Samshodhana Pratishthana' which has the prime purport of dissemination of the Knowledge contained in the Vedas and Vedanta as also teaching Sanskrit through their study, research, propagation etc. For this purpose this Institution has undertaken the colossal task of conducting daily classes, Vedanta Saptahas (seven days, programmes of discourses on Vedantic topics by scholars), tuition in the advanced or higher literature of Sanskrit, practical training in the scriptural rituals and, last but not the least, research in ancient Vedic texts etc. The predominant objectives of the Institution - it need not be gainsaid - are: Shastrarakshana (protection or preservation of our ancient scriptures) and Shastroktajnanarjana (gathering together or collection of the knowledge taught, expounded in our scriptures).
With regard to this treatise, Paramahamsa Shri Shri Satchidanandendra Saraswati Swamiji had in his Parvashrama (i.e. as a householder before initiation into Sannyasa) had published in 1940 a booklet - 'Sankara Siddhanta', which was a product of research, under the auspices of Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya, which was founded by him alone. In the early 60's all the copies of this booklet were sold out and for reasons beyond the control of the Karyalaya the treatise had not been reprinted till now.
, Although this treatise is small in size - as the author himself has concluded - it was not written with any intentions of acquiring money or fame, nor of providing a vocation for those who undertake the study and practice of Vedanta and of getting any kudos from scholars.
Those ardent students and practitioners pursuing a Vedantic way of life - and who are especially interested in knowing the futility and falsity of this present-day erroneous theory of Malavidya as also who are, at the same time, devoted to learn the genuine traditional methodology - as expounded' by Shri Sankara in and through his extant Prasthanatraya Bhashyas, which is like an unshakeable pillar of strength - should necessarily study this text with all meticulous care to their own immense benefit. Here in this small treatise, only the most important points with authoritative sources from the original Bhashyas are presented in a lucid manner.
It is hoped that the readers will unfailingly be convinced that - "Adi Sankara had not even an iota of intention - let alone purport - of propagating this bizarre theory of 'Malavidya' " by the elucidation found in numerous Bhashya statements. It is to be stressed here that there are many a hint and suggestion as to how to discern the non-dual Reality of Brahman or Atman of Vedanta - not intellectually but Intuitionally so as to culminate in one's own plenary experience here and now in this very life - without taking any recourse whatsoever to this ubiquitous but untrustworthy theory of Mtilavidya, By reading this small treatise even if a few students are induced to read Shri Sankara's original Bhashyas for proper guidance, the purpose of publishing this booklet would be served.
The Impediments, Snags that are Encountered While Determining the Philosophy of Shri Saitkara.
That the revered. Shri Sankara Bhagavatpada wrote his commentaries on Prasthanatraya (the triad. of canonical texts) and had bestowed his benign grace upon humanity itself is a fact known to all readers of this small booklet. The fact as to which are the fundamental teachings of Shri Sankara's philosophy is also, to a great extent, universally popular by now. "By virtue of beginningless Avidya (ignorance), Jiva (soul) is experiencing the trials and tribulations of Samsara (transmigratory existence, life). If this A vidya is got rid of by means of Advitiya (non-dual) Brahmavidya (Self-Knowledge), he attains directly the Brahmaswarapa (essential nature of Brahman or the Absolute Reality) and becomes blissful.' Thus that great teacher's spiritual instruction is that - "By means of Brahmavidya, to attain Brahmaswarupa is the prime purport of human beings (parama Purushartha)."
What is the Swarapa (essential nature) of the Vidya taught by that Acharya (preceptor)? Which is that Avidya that is destroyed by it? What is the method of destroying A vidya by means of Vidya? How come by that method we attain Moksha (Liberation, Beatitude) which is the Parama Purushartha? it is but natural that all these questions arise in the finds of Astikas (believers in the authority of the Sastra as a sacred source for knowing all religious and metaphysical truths) who are rational or discriminative in their outlook. 'It is not possible for the common run of people to find out easily the answers to these questions. For, many of us are not familiar with Sanskrit language; even if we know a little of Sanskrit, when we examine the small texts believed to be published as 'Works written by Shri Sankara', it is found that in each one of them' the methodology described therein varies; if, we ask the scholars, each one of them de- scribes or explains Advaita in a different way altogether. It being so, it has become almost an impossible task for Mumukshus (seekers of Liberation) to discern the genuine Siddhanta (non-dual philosophy).
Differences of Opinion Among Scholars Too
Doubts with regard to Sankara's Siddhanta do not arise only among those who are not knowing Sanskrit, but also among the scholars as they entertain variant opinions in this matter'; for the Brahma Surra Bhashya of Shri SaIikara there are two sub-commentaries, viz, Panchapadikd and Bhamati Further there are commentaries on these' sub-commentaries. Although these two principal sub-commentaries (i.e. Pafichapadika and Bhamati) are written with a view to explaining the opinion (teachings) of Shri Sankara alone, not only that these sub-commentators have interpreted one and the same sentence differently in thier own method but also have described the entire methodology of the Siddhanta (final spiritual tenets) in totally different ways. Further the followers of one sub-commentary of one Vyikhyana (sub-commentary) have objected to the interpretation of the followers of the rival sub-commentary. This melee of criss-cross argumentations between them has' given rise to hundreds of inner factions among the Advaitins.' Among them only a few have been exemplified by Appayya Dikshitar, a renowned scholar, in his popular work called 'Siddhinta' Lesha Sangraha'. No one has attempted till now to explain to the general public so as to reconcile all the various theories of these groups in a satisfactory manner. Those who endeavour to examine in depth the whole gamut of these texts get perplexed and feel as' if they have entered a vast forest unable to find a way-out. Erudite scholars study some of them and somehow get satisfied, saying: "All texts undertake the task of teaching Advaita alone ; only the approaches or paths of depicting the Siddhanta are different, that is all" - and have written some texts with that belief. But because of the reason that the profound (terse) texts that they have' written are bristling with subtle logical arguments, it is not possible for all the present-day scholars to digest them. Therefore, many people opine that - "All are great personalities; all of them have propounded one and the same topic in various ways" and while reading or explaining a particular text they are trying to do so by elucidating the methodology contained in the text to others according to their own understanding. In fact, 'a sincere effort to discern or cognize Advaita (non-dual Reality) in any particular manner (methodology), is not undertaken whole-heartedly by them. "In the ultimate analysis, Advaita alone stands out unassailed" - thus they entertain a strong, steadfast faith and read various texts. Under the circumstances, with regard to their behaviour or style of living, between them and the rest of the Dvaitins (dualists) there exists no difference whatsoever; there is no possibility of any change occurring in this regard. For, they believe that in this Kali era it is not possible to practise Advaita philosophy, and just like the rest of the people they too are engrossed in mundane, workaday transactions.
The Two Methodologies in Vogue Today
The teaching method of Advaita Vedanta in vogue today is, in the main, following or adopting two Prasthanas (approaches) called 'Vivarana Prasthana', 'Bhamati Prasthana' ; to wit, two schools of pedagogics which propound and explain Shri Sankara's teachings (philosophy) in two different ways:
(a) That school or methodology which follows the text called 'Vivarana' which is a sub-commentary on 'Pafichapadika' as the authoritative text is called 'Vivarana Prasthana';
(b) That school or methodology which follows 'Bhamati', which is a sub-commentary on Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Shri Sankara as its main source is called 'Bhamati Prasthana'. Although both these disputants profess to be followers of Shri Sankara and his .original Bhashyas, their methodologies or theories are parting away from each other in different directions like the Ganges and the Sindhu rivers. But these worthies are under the delusion that ultimately these are reaching the ocean and merging in it.
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