Tuesday, August 28, 2012


    One noticeable feature in some recent discussions about South Indian chronology is the attempt made either to bring down Sankara to a very recent date, to put some of the South Indian Saints before him, both it seems to me on very insufficient grounds. The former attempt had always seemed to me the more untenable of the two; and as it was mainly based on the fact that numerous quotations were to be found from some of the Purana (presumably modern according to Western scholars) in Sankara's Bhashya on the Svetasvatara Upanishad, I was led to examine the Bhashya itself. My first glance was enough to disclose to me a remarkable feature, the extraordinary length and number of the quotations, the prasthavana alone, sixteen pages in length, containing about thirteen pages in all of quotations, from such books as the Vishnudharma, the Linga, Brahma and Vishnu Puranas, and the Parasara Smriti. This by itself is such an unusual thing with Sankara, that I was led to doubt whether the Bhashya was really his. I was forced to leave this in abeyance, since Prof. Max Muller seems to have no doubt that it was really Sankara's work, from the way in which he refers to it in the preface to his translation of the Upanishad.1 [1
Sacred Books of the East – Upanishads, Vol. II pp. xxxii, xi and 266] But recently, while turning over the pages of the Anandasrama edition of the Upanishad, I lighted upon the Sanskrit preface which usually contains nothing but a bare list of manuscripts consulted, and to my surprise I saw that the Anandasrama pandits also had come to the conclusion that the Bhashya was a forgery. As the facts upon which they base this opinion are scarcely known and as they are expressed in Sanskrit, I shall here give them together with a few more facts I was able to gather myself.

    The first reason as I said before is the length and numbers of the quotations from the Puranas. Sankara, as may be seen from his commentaries on the other Upanishads and on the Brahma Sutras, never quotes at any length from the Vedas even, and with the exception of the Gita and the Sanatsujatiya, very rarely indeed from the Puranas. But the more important fact is that he never quotes more than two lines or three at the most, whereas in the Bhashya in question, we have nearly three quarters of the prasthavana consisting only of quotations, and these mainly from the Puranas, which Sankara is always very chary of quoting.

    The Second point is (though it may not have very much weight by itself) that Anandagiri who from his habit of always following up Sankara with a commentary has been called as incarnation of Nandikeswara, while Sankara was made an incarnation of Siva, has not written a gloss upon this.

    Third. Dhanapatisuri, the author of the commentary called Dindima on Vidyaranya's Sankaradivijaya, when commenting upon the words enumerates only the commentaries on the ten Upanishads, beginning from the Isa and ending with the Brihadaranyaka, as Sankara's work, (Chap. VI, Sl. 61). And in the next Sloka Vidyaranya mentions only the commentaries on the Gita, Sanatsujatiya and the Nrisimha Tapini Upanishad. If Sankara did write a commentary on the Svetasvatara, it would be strange indeed if such a warm admirer and follower of his as Vidyaranya were to omit all mention of it.

    Fourth. Narayana who seems to have written Dipikas on a large number of the Upanishads, always quotes from Sankara, wherever a commentary written by him is available on the text he is commenting upon. This may be readily seen from his dipikas on the ten principal Upanishads. But in his Dipika on this Upanishad alone are there no quotations from the Bhashya as we have it.

    Fifth. Moreover Naryana is in the habit of styling himself "Sankaroktyupajivina," 'one who lives by Sankara's words,' in the concluding sloka of his dipikas, whenever there is already a commentary by Sankara on his text. But in his dipikas on the Hamsa and other Upanishads, wherever there is no commentary by Sankara, he simply styles himself "srutimatropajivina," 'one who lives by the sruti alone.' And in the dipika to this Upanishad he only styles himself the latter way. There would be no reason for his departing from his usual course, if there were a commentary by Sankara.

    Sixth. Still more cogent is the proof we get in another part of Narayana's Dipika. When commenting upon Rik. 20 of the sixth Adhyaya, to support his interpretation that the verse inculcates the worship of God as superior to everything, he quotes Sankara's comment on Gita 18-66, where the present verse itself is cited by the latter.2 [2
Narayana's Dipika, p. 27. Anandasrama edition of the Svetasvatara. Bhagavad Gita, Anandasrama edition, p.524] Narayana need not have gone so far to find an authority for his opinion, it he had another at hand in the shape of a Bhashya by Sankara on the Svetasvatara.3 [3
Here is a point which I may bring to the notice of our Saivite friends. There is an alternative reading "Sivam" for "Devan" which appears in the text. This reading is given by Vignanabhikshu also as an alternative. Prof. Max Muller is mistaken in saying that Sankarananda accepts only the latter reading. As a matter of fact he reads only "Devan."]

    Seventh. The compact and vigorous style of Sankara is nowhere to be seen in the Bhashya. There is not in this the unity and closeness of thought which makes his style at once recognizable; it is a loose, incoherent mass, eked out into seeming fullness by its numerous quotations. There is no greater evidence of poverty of thought than this weaving in of quotations, and in this species of literary parasitism our Bhashya seems to be a masterpiece.

    If we also take into consideration that in many places, views are advanced which are radically opposed to Sankara's,4 [4
I have not the time nor the space to work out this point fully. I shall try and take it up a some future time. It would be better if any of our readers were to attempt it. The Upanishad itself is a pretty stiff thing to make out the relations of.] we have, I think, a fine piece of cumulative evidence, if not indeed to disprove that Sankara was the author of the Bhashya, yet enough to throw a considerable amount of doubt on the accepted view. If what we have said is true, then a good deal of speculation lately indulged in, that many of the Puranas hitherto considered very modern are in reality much anterior to Sankara, must fall to the ground, since only in this Bhashya are any such quotations found.5 [5
I do not mean to say that many of the Puranas are later than Sankara, and that the matter here set forth can in any way settle the vexed question of the age of the Puranas. The only service which the point mooted in this paper can do, will be to save inferences being drawn from the quotations in the supposed Sankara Bhashya on the Svetasvatara, which would only envelop the main question as to the dates of the Puranas in more confusion and darkness. For instance there is a distinct account of Sankara in the Padma Purana, where he is said to be an incarnation of Siva, who appeared in this form to mislead people. But it could not on that account alone be contended that the whole Padma Purana is later than him. As is quite common in Sanskrit literature, the perhaps very small kernel, out of which has developed the huge super structure of the Padma Purana in its present form, might reach back even to Vedic times. A rich harvest awaits anyone who can verify the Puranic quotations in writes of ascertained date, by reference to the books now existing.]


Sunday, August 26, 2012







    As the nature of every living being from Brahman to a shaft of grass demands that it should be free from every kind of misery, there arises a spontaneous desire in them to avert it. But Pain cannot be avoided as long as there is embodies existence, and body is the outcome of the stored up fruits of our deeds good and bad. These fruits arising from actions enjoined and prohibited cannot lose their effects. Actions have their source in Desire and Hate, and the latter in pleasant and unpleasant associations of ideas. These mental associations arise from a false notion of duality of objects, which again is due to the ignorance of the self-existent and second less Atman an ignorance similar to that which confounds mother-of-pearl for silver. It is clear therefore that Ignorance is the root of all misery. This ignorance is the obstacle to Eternal Bliss, which is the very essence of the Self, which is not subject to increase or diminution and which depends on nothing external for its achievement. Hence the summum bonum [Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning "the highest good"] of all human ends can be attained only when Ignorance is set aside. This can only be effected by knowledge which is the sole remedy. But the Atman without understanding whom all happiness is impelled, cannot be revealed by such ordinary and non-Vedic methods of proof as Perception and Inference, and can only be attained from Vedanta. It is the object of this treatise which is a compendium of the Vedantic Philosophy to reveal such knowledge.

    The first verse serves the double purpose of invoking Hari for success in the completion of this work, as well as of introducing the subject on hand:-

"Salutation to Hari, the witness of Intelligence, who dispels the darkness of Ignorance, and from whom emanate all the elements, ether to earth as the idea of a snake from a garland."                            (1)

    The next verse pays homage to the Guru by bestowing high praise on his merits, with a view to show that the doctrines herein explained have their foundation on such a great authority:-

        "Salutation to the Guru who loosens the knot of Ignorance and before whom all superlative qualities pale into insignificance."                    (2)

    The next verse explains the purpose of the salutation to the Guru:-

        "I now proceed to explain the knowledge of the Eternal substance, which puts an end to samsara and which is embodies in Vedantic texts."             (3)

    The subject-matter of this treatise is then described:-

        "The precise nature of that entity which is a matter of intuition alone, and which realized, everything else is realized and without which nothing can be realized is now explained."                                        (4)

    The next verse says that the arguments herein set forth are based on the authority of the Guru, in order to remove the doubt that there may be mistakes of omission or commission which may invalidate the authority of this work:-

        "The doctrines of the Vedanta have already been explained by the Guru and I feel myself unable to supplement him; for, how can a fire-fly shine in the all-pervading rays of the Sun."                                         (5)

    Now a doubt is raised as to whether the present treatise is at all necessary if the doctrines of the Vedas have already been explained by the Guru. The next verse removes this doubt:-

        "This treatise is commenced not with a view to supplement, enrich or elucidate what has already been said but only to test my knowledge on the whetstone of the knowers of Brahman."                                (6)

    The next verse divides the subject-matter into four heads

    (1)    Pain

    (2)    The cause of Pain

    (3)    The summum bonum

    (4)    The means of obtaining the summum bonum.

        "The non-understanding of the Unity of the Self due to the experience of the Self (in previous births) is termed Nescience, the root of samsara. The destruction of samsara is called Liberation of the Self."                             (7)

    Having explained the first three divisions in the preceding verse, the author proceeds to describe the last division in the following verse:-

        "The fire of right knowledge arising from the Vedantic texts destroys Illusion and not karma, for the latter does not prevent Ignorance."                (8)

    Now the various objections to the above proposition are set forth and answered as follows:-

    Granting knowledge to be capable of destroying Illusion, how can it be of any use for Liberation which is attained by works alone? If you ask how this is, listen carefully to what I say:-

    Suppose a person abstains from doing deeds which are coupled with a motive and avoids all those which are forbidden, and performs only those which are enjoined as absolute duties.

    What then?

        "Well, the fruits of these motivated deeds do not affect him nor does he descends to hell or attain lower-births, the forbidden deeds having been carefully avoided."




[* The Siddhantales'a of Appaya Dikshita – translated by Arthur Venis, Principal of the Government College, Benares]

    We have been favored by Dr. Venis with an advance copy of the first 120 pages of the reprint of his translation of this work which is now appearing in parts in the Benares Sanskrit journal, the Pandit. Dr. Venis is perhaps the only Sanskrit scholar who has attempted to present in an English form a few at least of the manifold ramifications into which the philosophy of non-duality preached by Sankara has diverged at the hands of a long succession of eminent teachers reaching up nearly to our own times. The comparative obscurity in which this vast body of literature is enshrouded to the eyes of the Sanskrit scholars of the modern type may be felt in the fact that the late Prof. Max Muller in his comprehensive work on the Six Systems of Indian Philosophy, does not, when dealing with the Vedanta, mention even the names of such men as Suresvara, Amalananda, Brahmananda Sarasvati and Madhusudhana Sarasvati, whose great works are recognized familiarly in India as the pillars of the Advaita system. Appaya Dikshita was the last in this roll of teachers, who took their stand firmly on the entity of the Self, however much they might differ in the details of the doctrine, and who looked up to Sankara as their authority and guide in all matters of dispute.

    But Appaya is more remarkable than the others in that two distinct streams of traditional faith commingle in him as their exponent; the one tracing its origin to the Veda and appealing to it as its scripture, the other, mainly restricted to South India, basing itself primarily upon those hitherto little-known works, the Saivagamas,1 [1
The twenty-eight primary Saivagamas must be distinguished from the Tantras or Sakatagamas which though 120 Upagamas recognized. But even of the primary Agamas about only 20 have been preserved in fragments, these being such portions only as treat of temple worship and ritual. Of the Upagamas only two or three are found in entirety. Strictly each Agama must contain four padas, Charya, Kriya, Yoga and Vidya padas; but now only the Kriya portion is ever found. Our knowledge of the philosophy taught by them is mainly restricted to the Vidya or Jnana padas of the two Upagamas, Mrigendra and Poushkara, and of a dozen Slokas, reputed to be from the Raouravagama, the Tamil commentary upon which forms the Sivagnana Botham of Meikandadeva, which again is the source of a series of Tamil commentaries, constituting as it styles itself, the Suddhadvaita-Saiva-Siddhanta school.] while it practically ignore the Veda, as teaching a lower kind of knowledge only. The earliest representative of the latter system seems to have been Nilakantha Sivacharya, whose commentary on the Vedanta Sutras is now being translated in our journal. This Nilakantha is asserted by tradition to have been a contemporary of Sankaracharya, who is said to have written his famous Bhashya, mainly to refute the erroneous opinions broached by Nilakantha in his works.2 [2
Nilakantha tries to reconcile the Veda and the Agama as both teaching the same knowledge, but the later Tamil Saivites profess to have advanced beyond him, and class the teachings of the Veda and that of Nilakantha as only being Yoga, while they hold that theirs, as found in the fourteen Tamil works, of which they hold that theirs, as found in the fourteen Tamil works, of which the chief is Sivajnanabotham, is pure Jnana. They arrange the goals of the systems of Ramanuja, Sankara and Nilakantha in order, the following one teaching a higher goal than the preceding.] The peculiarities of this school are the following; the postulating of the three padarthas, Pati, Pasu and Pasa, the Lord, the bound soul, and the bond (consisting of Maya, Karma and Mala); the denial of a distinction between the Nirguna and Sagunam Brahman, the accepting of Uma or Parasakti the active energy of Brahman, who is said to be all love and grace, in intimate connection with Him; and the worship of the Brahman under the name of Siva (not the third person of Hindu Trinity, who is classed among the Sakala souls along with ordinary men.) And it is a curious fact that Appaya who has written the Parimala and the Siddhanta-lesa, works entirely in accordance with Sankara's doctrine, has with equal zeal written a large number of works following the Saiva system, the chief among them being the Sivarkamani-dipika, a gloss upon Nilakantha's Brahma-Sutra Bhashya, while the others are quite sectarian, praising Siva and establishing his superiority to Vishnu and the other gods. The significance of this exposition by the same man of two apparently opposed systems has given rise to a great amount of debate and it is one of the vexed questions ever-cropping up in the vernacular religious papers. The Tamilian Saivites, who are all non-brahmans and the very small number of the priests attached to the temples of Siva among the Brahmans,3 [3
These priests, commonly called gurukkals, (the Sanskrit word guru with a Tamil termination) conduct the ceremonials connected with the Saiva temples following the directions of one or more of the Saivagamas, and also officiate at the important household ceremonies of the non-brahman Saivites. The ordinary Brahmans will not dine or intermarry with them.] contend that at heart Appaya was a devoted follower of Nilakantha and that his works expounding Sankara's doctrine were all more or less in the nature of scholastic exercises, which only served as a foil to set off his great works on the Saiva Darsana. The other view, and it seems to be the true one, since the members of Appaya's own family and his followers (all of them Brahmans) hold it,4 [4
That this is so may be seen from the title page and the notice appended to the grantha edition of Nilakantha's Bhashya recently published in the Tanjore District by one of Appaya's persuasion, where the work is described as teaching the Sagunam-Brahman under the name of Siva. It is a fact that all of Appaya's followers hold Sankara as their acharya, while they also believe that Advaita in fully reconcilable, in the way suggested for Nilakantha's position, with the teachings of the Agamas.] is that his adherence was fully to Sankara's philosophy, but that he also lent his support to the Saiva Darsana promulgated by Nilakantha because his predilections were towards the Sagunam-Brahman as represented in the form of Siva, and he thought that the work of establishing the Saivite form of worship as the best was accomplished only by Nilakantha in his Bhashya.

    There is reason to think that there has always been a spirit of antagonism between the followers of the Veda and of the Agamas;5 [5
See my note on the Sutasamhita and the Saivagamas, the evidence in which distinctly exhibits the prevalent spirit of opposition between the creeds. The way in which the Sutasamhita reconciled it, is by prescribing the Agama for those only who were not allowed to follow the Vedic ritual.] and any one fully acquainted with the religious controversies of the day in South India can easily see that the old rivalry has not died away yet, but that in many instances it has given rise to a rancorous hatred and depreciation of the Veda. Many noble spirits, such as Tirumular, Manickavachakar, Jnanasambhandar and many others of less fame, have from time to time tried to reconcile these two bodies, each according to his own lights. Appaya Dikshita also seems to have taken as his life's work the reconciliation of the Agama-cult with the Vedic ritual and system of thought, which he has in a way brought about by taking the system of Sankara as the truest expression of Vedic wisdom, and by incorporating the Agama as representing a lower grade of thought, into that all-embracing and non-sectarian philosophy, which has in a wonderful manner found room within its folds for every variety of opinion and creed. This phase of thought has found its most beautiful expression in the poems of the saint who is universally loved throughout the Tamil land, Tayumanavar.6 [6
This is the Tamil form of the Sanskrit Matrubhutesvara, the name under which Siva is worshipped in the hill temple at Trichinopoly. We may as well mention here that the article in the November issue of the Theosophical Review by Mrs. Duncan on Tayumanavai (even the name is mis-spelt) is altogether unreliable as regards the facts it gives. None with even the remotest acquaintance with Tamil could have written it.] The peculiar position in which Appaya Dikshita was thus placed as the expounder of two, till then opposed, forms of thought, does not seem to have attracted the attention which it deserves from European scholars. It will be a most interesting problem, as it will surely lead to the further and far more important question of the origin and birth-place of the Saivagamas and of the position they now occupy in directing the whole ritual of Saivite temple-worship, perhaps the only exception to which is the famous shrine at Chidambaram. But we may take the liberty of commending this problem to Dr. Venis as well worth his investigation.

    In the present work, the Siddhantalesa, the author dons the garb of an exponent of Sankara. The object of the book is to exhibit concisely all the variations in the opinion of the followers of Sankara, who though they firmly held by his Advaita, were as poles asunder as regards even some of the main doctrines of the system. The Dikshita himself sets out the purpose of his book in two of its opening stanzas.

    "As Ganga springing from Vishnu's feet gains many a land and flourishes; so flourishes that good speech which, issuing from the fair lotus mouth of the venerable Teacher (Sankaracharya), divides a thousand fold as it reaches teachers of early times, and destroys the worlds of transmigration, by being devoted to teaching Brahman – the One without a second."     (1)

    "Addressing themselves exclusively to proofs of the unity of Self (with Brahman – the One without a second), these early teachers set out many opposed views regarding the common world of sense and activity; for all points relating to the proofs of such a world they held of small account.7 [7
Dr. Venis here inserts a note to the effect that these "various conclusions as to the popular God, the personal consciousness, the world of bondage etc., are due, not to irreconcilable differences among Vedanta teachers, but to the unequal mental capacities of learners, for whom these views are intended as so many stepping stones to the one truth that Brahman alone is real."] To clear my mind of misconceptions, I here concisely set altogether some of the various conclusions based on those views, as they are explained by my revered father." (2)

    These stanzas are also instructive as showing the spirit in which Appaya Dikshita approached these glaring divergences of opinion, and he no doubt reconciled them in the manner indicated by Dr. Venis in his note. As furnishing a handy summary of the progress of the later Vedanta, the book is an invaluable one and Dr. Venis has acted wisely in rendering it into English.

    Dr. Venis has already undergone his training in translating the later Vedanta works by his versions of the Panchadasi, the Vedanta-paribhasha and the Vedanta-siddhanta-muktavali, such that he may be said to have attempted this work as an expert. It is not easy to render the concise and difficult original into readable or even intelligible English; and it is no scant praise to say that Dr. Venis has succeeded so far as to make the book not untiresome reading to one already somewhat acquainted with the peculiarities of the Vedanta. To this end, his notes, a large number of them taken from the commentary on the Siddhantales'a and from many of the standard Advaita works, contribute much. We can cordially recommend this translation of the work to the young men of the present day, who begin to be keenly interested in the philosophic system which now occupies the foremost position in India, and are dissatisfied with the perfunctory manner in which it has till now been expounded in the English Language.


Saturday, August 25, 2012


    One of the greatest intellects of which Southern India can rightly boast, is the famous Appaya Dikshita. It is a pity that neither Dr. Weber nor Dr. MacDonnell, in their works on Sanskrit Literature, make any allusion whatever to the name of Appaya, nor do they give the slightest clue to his date, life, works or other whereabouts. Not even a passing reference to him is to be found in the most recent work of the late Professor Max Muller on the "Six Systems of Indian Philosophy." To the Siddhantalesa-Sangraha published at Kumbakonam in 1894, is appended a valuable introduction in Sanskrit from the able pen of Bhattasri Balasarasvati Pandit Narayana Sudarsana. Pandit Manavalli Gangadhara Sastri of Benares has also contributed a Sanskrit introduction to the same work published under the Vizianagaram Sanskrit series in 1890. The "Brahmavidya," a Sanskrit journal edited at Chidambaram contains an article on the life and works of Appaya, and also some correspondence on the subject. It also appears that there is a life of his written by Sivananda Yogi, one of his own blood-relations. This, I believe, has not been printed. A concise introduction without anything of argument is contained in Pandit Halasyanatha Sastri's edition of the Kuvalayananda (Kumbakonam). Dr. Burnell's Tanjore Catalogue and Aufrecht's Catalogue give us a deal of information as to Appaya's works, but do not help us in the least with any detail regarding his life and dates. The introduction to the Parimala (Benares Edition) merely refers us to the authority of Pandit Gangadhara Sastri. In writing the present article I have made liberal use of the mass of information to be gathered from all the sources above enumerated. Especially am I indebted to Pandit Bhattasri Narayana Sastri, whose introduction is the most detailed and complete biography that one could have access to.

    Appaya was born in an age when sectarian quarrels were rife in this part of India among the followers of the various cults that were then, and, unfortunately, are still prevalent, and which rend asunder the bonds of love and union that should join the sons of the same soil, professing practically the same religion, based on the universally accepted authority of a single scripture, the Vedas. The influence of the great Ramanuja was perhaps then at its highest, and, as is generally the case with the product of every historic Reformation, his followers, in their unlimited zeal to spread the gospel of their teacher at any cost, had begun to carry matters so far that philosophy had dwindled into sectarianism, and religion into phariseeism. More of this will have to be considered when we come to take account of the life-work of Appaya Dikshita. Suffice it to say that there existed a real necessity for his presence in this world and for the work which he was destined to perform. Born in an orthodox family, bred up and educated by an able and very learned father, he was equal to the task that was set before him, and it is no matter for wonder that he is the reputed author of so many as 104 works 1 as we learn from the usual colophons to his works. No wonder, too, that tradition paints him as an incarnation of God Siva himself, or, at least, of one of Siva's attendants, with a fraction of the God's divinity in him. Nilakantha, his brother's grandson, describes him, in his work called Nilakanthavijaya, as God Siva who has taken human shape, corresponding to the Kalki avatara of God Vishnu. 2 The belief also exists that it is he that is referred to in the more or less prophetic utterances to be found in the Sivarahasya.3 These consist of two stanzas which predict, that in the Kali age, a Dikshita, born as a devotee of Siva, would restore the almost forgotten Saiva faith to its former condition of vitality and prominence. It is of course impossible to build any conclusion on such scanty foundation, or to draw any inference from one of the many instances in which the popular mind takes pleasure in depicting every more-than-average intellect of a former generation as a direct representative or messenger of the God-head.

Place of Birth.

    In a village known by the name of Adayappalam, in the vicinity of Conjeevaram, which was for a long time the seat of the Chola kingdom; there are people living in the present day, who trace their lineage to the personage that forms the subject of this article. This is strong proof that that village was the place of his birth. We have also corroboration, if needed, in the fact that both Appaya4 and his grandfather5 have written works in praise of the well-known God Varadaraja, whose name adorns the famous Vaishnavite temple of Conjeevaram. The enquiries made by the editor of the "Brahmavidya" and embodied in his article, also corroborate this statement. We do not know on what authority Dr. Burnell writes that "Appaya Dixita's family was settled at Tiruvalankadu or (Svetaranya), a village in the Tanjore District, where his descendants in the sixth degree still exists." Probably this tallies with the colophons to the chapters of Appaya's Sivarkamanidipika, which stat that the author's family was dependent on Chinna Bommanna or Bommaraja, a Nayak of the Tanjore Telugu dynasty6.

Family and Parentage.

    These are matters as to which there is very little doubt. He was a Samavedin, of the Bharadvajagotra, as is evident from the many colophons in which he describes himself as such. His grandfather was known as Acharya Dikshita or, more popularly, Achan Dikshita. This we learn from a passage in the '"Nyayarakshamani"7, and from another which occurs in the prelude to the drama of "Nalacharita" written by Appaya's brother's grandson, Nilakantha.8 He is described as very renowned for his religion and scholarship, and was held in reverence by Krishna Raja (1508-1530 A. D)9, one of the kings of Vijianagar. The number 'eight' appears to be indelibly associated with his name, for, he is said to have performed eight sacrifices, built eight Saiva temples, owned the lands of eight villages, dug eight tanks, and given birth to eight sons.

It seems that he also went by the name of Vakshassthala-acharya Dikshita. This prefix (meaning "the breast") is accounted for by a very curious incident. The rumor goes that, in the presence of God Varadaraja, the Dikshita sung a composition in His praise, with which king Krishnaraja, who was also there as a worshipper, was so much pleased, that he gave that appellation to the learned author. The word "vakshas-sthala" is to be found in that stanza, which is believed to be identical with the one that is quoted in Appaya's Chitramimasa, under the figure of speech named sandeha.10 Achan Dikshita had two wives, of whom the second, Totarambi, was born of a Vaishnava family, being the daughter of one Sri Rangaraja Acharya. This circumstance, together with the fact that Conjeevaram was the center of Visishtadvaita learning, must be carefully borne in mind, as explaining to a great extent the connection, whether friendly or adversary, which Appaya bore to the Vaishnavite teachers of his day. More of this however, later on. Totarambi gave birth to four sons of whom the eldest was named Rangaraja after his maternal grandfather. Of the two sons that were born to Rangaraja, the first was our Appaya, and the other, his younger brother, Achan (or Acharya). There is copious allusion in the works of Appaya to his father, indicative as well of the ability and learning of the parent as of the gratitude and filial love which the son cherished towards him. From these references, which are found in the 'Parimala' at the end of the first chapter,11 and also of the third,12 in the 'Nyayarakshamani'13, in the 'Sivatatvaviveka,'14 and in the second stanza of the 'Siddhantalesa-sangraha'15, it is apparent that he owed almost all his varied erudition to his father, who seems to have bestowed great pains on the training and instruction of his worthy son. Nilakanta, too, in hi 'Nalacharita' referred to above, mentions the name of Rangaraja as the father of Appaya.16 He also learnt the Advaita philosophy of Sankara from Nrisimhasramaswami. Aufreecht learns, from the Nilakathachampu, that Appaya was the son of Rangaraja Dikshita or Adharyu, the guru of Dharmayya Dikshita, brother of Apyo Dikshita (which he corrects into Acha Dikshita in the Appendix), uncle of Narayana Dikshita, and nephew on mother's side of Tatayajvan Karnarabhubhrid guru.17 This 'Appaya' or 'Appayya' is the pure and simple 'Appa' with the familiar Tamil termination. All these three forms are equally familiar to students of Sanskrit literature. That Appya was a Tamilian is evident from the words by which Jagannatha alludes to him in various places.18

Date of Birth.

    This is a point about which there is much conflict of opinion, though it is not involved in any hopeless mystery. This is the one great weakness of the conservative Hindu intellect, which takes every literary work for what it is worth, judging it by its own intrinsic merit, but never in the light of the circumstances under which it was written or by which its author was circumscribed.

    The most important year to be determined, being also easier known, is the date of Appaya's death. We can thence easily fix the date of his birth by an easy process of subtraction, since it is well-nigh undisputed that he lived to the full age of 72. The exact length of his life may be gathered from a stanza in Nilakantha's Sivalilarnava,19 and from the most exquisite stanza which, at the critical moment of his death, escaped the lips of Appaya himself, within the holy precincts of Chidambaram, where he breathed his last.20

    We find Appaya in his 72nd year at Benares in the company of the illustrious Jagannatha (Panditaraya), the author of Bhaminivilasa, and of Bhattoji Dikshita of Siddhanatakaumudi fame. It behooves us in this connection to examine more closely the evidence on which this conclusion is founded, and also the nature of the relation and feelings that existed among three such intellectual giants brought together by destiny in a city, which was then, as it is now, the chief seat of advanced Sanskrit learning. We learn from the Nalacharita of Nilakantha21, which we must take to be reliable authority, that one of Appaya's many contemporaries was Balakavi, whose drama of 'Ratnaketudaya' is perhaps not widely known. This Balakavi would have us believe that, in the first half of the last year of his life, Appaya was in close intimacy with Bhattoji and Jagannatha, and that, in the latter half, he performed a great sacrificial rite at Virinchipuram near Vellore, and thence moved, with his eleven sons and Nilakantha, to Chidambaram, where the closing scene of his life was laid.22 During the short period of his acquaintance with Bhattoji, he taught the latter the Vedantasutras of Vyasa and also made him familiar with his own works against the Madhva sect. This is patent from the many stanzas from Appaya quoted by Bhattoji in his Tatvakaustubha.

The meeting with Bhattoji must have been at Benares. The contention of our Southern Pandit that he came into contact with Appaya on his way to Ramesvaram, seems to be highly improbable. It cannot be proved that Jagannatha ever visited the lower parts of the Deccan, and, since it is shown by his own words that he was both a contemporary and a formidable opponent of Bhattoji and Appaya, it is not too remote an inference to be drawn therefore, that the two latter formed their friendship at Benares, where, beyond all doubt, Jagannatha spent the last days of his chequered life.

    The amusing incident that brought the critical faculty of Jagannatha into active play, must now be mentioned. Bhattoji was a pupil of Sesha Krishna Dikshita, and a co-student of the latter's son Viresvara, who was, in addition, Jagannatha's master. Krishna Dikshita had written a commentary called Prakriyaprakasa on the grammatical work of Prakriyakaumudi. Bhattoji, in his well-known work named Manorama seriously attacked the commentary of his teacher. Jagannatha was very much enraged at this ingratitude of a pupil to a preceptor and to the father of his own guru. He also disliked Appaya for the support he rendered to his adversary. He was once insulted in open assembly by Bhattoji.23 Henceforth he commenced his crusade against the two professors who made common cause with each other. Some of his uncompromising and abusive criticisms of Appaya will be met with in his Sabdakaustubha-Sanottejana,24 in his Sasisena25 and in his Chitramimamsa-khandana,26 and several other writings. But later on we find him reconciled to Appaya, for the latter is rumored to have given him some spiritual advice, when he found him stretched in careless repose on the banks of the Ganges.27 This and the fact that the popularly known 'Gangalakari' of Jagannatha was composed on the very brink of the holy river, lend additional support to the statement that Appaya spent a portion of his life at Benares.

    The probable date of Jagannatha's arrival at Benares is easy to determine. Having for some time been a teacher at the Jayapura college, he went to Delhi, and was for a long time in the good graces of Emperor Shah Jahan. This he tells us in his Bhaminivilasa28, and in the opening portion of his biography of Asaf Khan29. This is likely, nay even indisputable, seeing that Shah Jahan, like his grandfather, Akbar, was a patron of Hindu learning, and his eldest son Dara was so good as to translate some of the Upanishads into Persian. When Aurangazeb dethroned his father and imprisoned him about the end of 1658, Jagannatha lost all his influence at the Moghul court, and was constrained to flee to Benares30. It must have been almost immediately after his return from his Moslem associations that Appaya and Bhattoji encountered him at the sacred city, for the grammarian would not have been justified in addressing him as 'mlecchha' if he had already repented and undergone the expiatory rituals necessary for his re-admission into orthodox Hindu society. If, then, 1658 or 1659 A.D., was the 72nd year of Appaya, as it, in all likelihood, appears to be, the date of his birth must approximately have been 1587 A.D. and that of his death, 1659 A.D. It cannot, at any rate, be earlier.

    The above is the argument of Pandit Bhattasri Narayana Sastri, and I have adopted it in toto as it appears to me to be based on the most solid foundation. He mentions, however, the names of Krishna Raya, Chinna Bomma, Narasimha and Venkatapathi, of whom the three latter figure as Appaya' s contemporaries. He tells us that these four personages lived in the latter half of the sixteenth. He further states that Krishnaraya was a king of Vijayanagar, that Chinna Bomma and Narasimha were his sons, and that Chinna Bomma's son was Venkatapathi. I must admit that I have been able to find out the dates of only two of these, namely, Krishna Raya and Venkatapathi. Krishna Raya ruled over the empire of Vijayanagar from 1508 to 1530 A. D.31. He had only two daughters, but no son.32 This fact sunders the connection said to exist between him and the other three. Professor Haraprasad Sastri says, however, that Krishna Raya left a son Achyuta Raya who reigned from 1530 to 1542 and that the latter's son, Sadasiva, lived from 1542 to 1567.33 It seems more probable that Achyuta was Krishna Raya's brother or cousin. In 1565 the empire was shattered to pieces by the well-known battle of Talikot. On Sadasiva's death, one of his chiefs, Ram Raja, a son-in-law of Krishna Raya, assumed power. After him, his brother Tirumalla, who was recognized king, had to remove his capital to Pennakonda. This was so till 1592 A.D., when Tirumalla's son, Venkatapathi, the then king, made a move to Chandragiri. Venkatapathi reigned from 1585 to 1614.32 It was from one of his descendants that the English obtained a grant of the site of Madras in 1639. The name of Narasimha occurs only in one place, as that of Krishna Raya's father, the founder of a dynasty. Chinna Bomma seems to be entirely unconnected with Vijayanagar, at least, as far as modern archeological researches have been able to prove. The only mention of such a name in Sewell's List is as a digger of a charity-well.34 The full name is Chinna Bomma Mallayya (1531), who lived in the reign of Achyuta Raya (1530 to 1542 A.D.) 35 Perhaps he cannot be the same as the one referred to by Dr. Burnell as the patron of Appaya's family.36 It cannot, however, be doubted, that these are the names of some of Appaya's contemporaries, though their history is not easy to ascertain. Reference is made to Chinna Bomma and Appaya in the Yatraprabandha of Samarapungava.37 Narasimha is alluded to in several stanzas of the Chitramimamsa38 Pandit M. Gangadhara Sastri states that Appaya was the foremost of the eight pandits at the court of Narasimha alias Narasa alias Krishnaraja. In the last stanza of the Kuvalayananda,39 Appaya informs us that he wrote the work at the request of Venkatapathi. But unless something more definite is known about these contemporaries, they are hardly of any help to us in fixing the date of Appaya.


    Pandit Atmaram Jayant assigns the following independent reasons for believing that he was born in 1564 A.D. He infers from a certain stanza40 in the Nilakanthavijaya of Nilakantha, who as stated before, was a contemporary and the brother's grandson of Appaya, that that work was his first attempt in the field of literary authorship. From the use of the present tense in another part of the same work41, he comes to the conclusion that Appaya must have been living at the time of its composition. Now, Appaya is said to have conferred his benediction on Nilakantha42 at Chidambaram, and, therefore, in his 72nd year. Nilakantha began his literary career when he was twelve years old. From the colophon43 to his 'Nilakanthavijaya' we learn that it was written in the 4738th year of the Kali era, that is, about 1636 A.D. If then the work was the first production of its author and written in his twelfth year, the year of Appaya's death must be taken as 1636 A.D., and that of his birth 1564 A.D. This view is rendered probable by the date of Venkatapathi's reign (1585-1614 A.D.);44 for, Appaya must have nearly attained manhood before he was fit to receive the patronage of that king and to write such a masterly work as the Kuvalayananda at his request.

    On the other hand, the learned editor of the "Brahmavidya" of Chidambaram states that Nilakantha wrote the work in question in his thirtieth year, but that he was, in his twelfth year favored with the blessing of Appaya, who was then seventy years old. From these data, he fixes the year of his birth as 1550 A.D. This argument is accepted by Pandit Gangadhara Sastri.

    Again, in his introduction to his edition of the Kuvalayanana, Pandit Halasyanatha Sastri puts forward 1552 A.D., as the date when Appaya was born, and bases his statement on the authority of Sivananda Yogi, one of his biographers referred to before.

    I do not know on what ground Aufreecht fixes the end of the 15th century as the date of Appaya.45


    Enough has already been said of some of Appaya's contemporaries,

    (a)     Bhattoji,

    (b)    Jagannatha,

    (c)    Chinna Bommah,

    (d)    Narasimha,

    (e)    Venkatapathi,

    (f)    Balakavi, and

    (g)     Nilakantha.

    Some more will be considered.

    (h)    Khandadeva, author of Bhattakaustubha. He refers to Appaya in that work.46

    (i)    Sarvabhauma, otherwise known as Uddanda, author of Mallikamaruta, a drama,

    (j)    Ratnakheta Dikshita, a poet, none of whose works are extant.

    (k)    Samarapungava Dikshita, the well-known author of Yatraprabandha.

    (l)    Rajachudamani, son of Ratnakheta Dikshita,

    (m)    Venkatadhvari, the famous author of Visvagunadarsa and Lakshmisahasra,

    (n)    Sadasivabrahmendra, an ascetic and a Paramahamsa,

    (o)    Tatacharya, a great leader of Visishtadvaita philosophy and author of several works on the subject. He was always a rival of Appaya. Several amusing anecdotes are current, relating several passages-at-arms that transpired between them. I reproduce one of them. When Appaya was alighting from his palanquin, Tatacharya flung a joke at the other, alluding to the latter's extremely short stature.47 Appaya, with ready wit, returned the joke, founding it on a pun on words, and crediting his opponent with an utter ignorance of the alphabet.43


    Of the 104 works which Appaya is said to have written, I have been able to find out so many as ninety-three. Several of these are not, at present, extant, but are known only by their names. Some of them, again, are commentaries written by Appaya himself, as was his wont, on his own works. I have arranged them in alphabetical order, and have given a brief description of the more important of them, to relieve the reader of the tedium of a dry catalogue.

(1)    Adhikarnamala

(2)    Apitakuchambastava

(3)    Amarakosavyakhya. This is on the sole authority of Dr. Oppert, and is doubted by Aufreecht.

(4)    Arunachalesvarastuti

(5)    Atmarapanastuti (or Siva-panchasika) A well-known devotional poem. Sivananda Yogi, one of Appaya's biographers, has written a commentary on this work.

(6)    Adityastavaratnam (or Dvadasadityastava). Twelve sragdhara verses in praise of the presiding deity of the Sun.

(7)    A commentary on the above.

(8)    Upakramaparakrama which appears to Dr. Burnell to be a part of some work on Mimamsa.

(9)    Kuvalayananda. The widely known commentary on Jayadeva's Chandraloka, a work on Alankara.

(10)    Krishnadhyanapaddhati.

(11)    A commentary on the same.

(12)    (Durga) Chandrakalastuti, which Dr. Burnell wrongly calls Chandrakalastuti.

(13)    A commentary on the above.

(14)    Chitraputa. A work on Mimamsa.

(15)    Chitramimamsa, the popular Alankara work, which was criticized by Jagannatha in his Chitramimamsakhandam.

(16)    Jayollasanidhi.

(17)    Tatvamuktavali (Vedantic)

(18)    Taptamudrakhandana, directed against the practice, current among Vaishnavas, of scorching the shoulder-flesh with sacred marks.

(19)    Tingantaseshasangraha, a grammatical treatise.

(20)    Dasakumaracharitasngraha.

(21)    Dharmamimamsaparibhasha.

(22)    Nakshatravadavali or Vadanakshatravali. This is perhaps the same as the Nakshatravadamalika (or more correctly Vadanakshatramalika), which Dr. Burnell describes as "a controversial work on certain Vedanta topics, apparently against the Mimamsa."

(23)    Nakshatravadavali, work on grammar, different from the above.

(24)    Nayamanjari, or Nayamanimanjari or Chaturmatasarasangraha, which, according to Dr. Nayamanimala,

(26)    A commentary thereon.

(27)    Nayamayukhamalika. A work on Ramanuja's Vaishnava school.

(28)    A commentary on the above.

(29)    Namasangrahamala. A glossary of familiar terms occurring in standard literary works.

(30)    A commentary on the same.

(31)    Nyayamuktavali, a work explaining the Madhva teachings of Anandatirtha.

(32)    A commentary of the above.

(33)    Nyayarakshamani, also known as Sarirakanyayarakshamani, though Dr. Burnell makes them appear to be two distinct works. According to him it consists of arguments used by the Saivas in explaining the Brahma sutras of Vyasa. Only first chapter is extant.

(34)    Nyayaratnamala, treating of the Madhava school of Anandatirtha.

(35)    A commentary thereon.

(36)    Panchagranthi, a Vedantic work.

(37)    Pancharatnastava.

(38)    A commentary on the same.

(39)    Panchasvaravivriti.

(40)    Parimala. A well-known work. This shows how far the writing of commentaries forms a unique feature of Sanskrit religious literature. The Parimala is a commentary on Kalpataru, which is itself a commentary on Vachaspati's Bhamati, which again is a commentary on Sankaracharya's commentary on the Brahma-sutras. One cannot but be justified in seriously doubting whether the true intention of the primary author who spoke in enigmatic aphorisms can still be discerned after a series of no less than four filters. Commentaries here have invariably been made the occasion for an unfettered expression of the commentator's own views of philosophy and religion, and for this purpose, they sometimes stray from the clear signification of the words in the text, and sometimes get the better of the original by the timely use of pun of words or an alteration of the caesura. The Parimala has been edited at Benares.

(41)    A commentary on the Padukasahasara of Vedantadesika.

(42)    A commentary on the Prabodhachandrodaya of Krishnamisra.

(43)    Prakritachandrika.

(44)    Balachandrika, a commentary on his own Sivarchanachandrika.

(45)    Brahmatarkastava, explaining away statements in derogation of the superiority of God Siva, to be found in Puranas, Itihasas, etc. It consists of 49 verses.

(46)    A commentary on the above.

(47)    Bhaktisataka.

(48)    Bharatatatparyasangraha.

(49)    Manimalika. This is mentioned by Pandit Narayana Sastri. I doubt if this is a different work from the Nayamanimala, referred to above.

(50)    Matasarathasangraha, consisting of 70 verses, concisely explaining the teachings of Sankara, Srikantha, Ramanuja and Anandatirtha. This must be another than the Nayamanjari or Chaturmatasarasangraha above enumerated.

(51)    Madhvatantramukhamardana, a name very expressive of intolerant sectarian zeal.

(52)    Madhvamat khandana.

(53)    Madhvamatavidhvamsana. The above three are works of criticism on the Madhva school.

(54)    Manasollasa, a Vedanta work.

(55)    A commentary on the Yadavabhyndaya of Vedantadesika.

(56)    Ratnatrayapariksha, a comparison and a contrast of Siva, Vishnu and Sakti, as regards the efficacy of worshipping each.

(57)    A commentary on the same.

(58)    Ramanujamatakhandana.

(59)    Ramayanatatparyanirnaya.

(60)    Ramayanatatparyasangraha.

(61)    Ramayanabharatasarasangraha.

(62)    Ramayanasara.

(63)    Ramayanasarasangraha.

(64)    Ramayanasarastava.

(65)    Laghuvivarana (Vedanta).

(66)    Varadajastava or Varadarajasataka, consisting of 100 verses.

(67)    A commentary thereon.

(68)    Vasumatichitrasenavilasanataka.

(69)    Vidhirasayana. A work on Mimamsa, much in vogue.

(70)    Vidhirasayanasukhopajivini. Dr. Burnell states that this is the author's commentary on his own Vidhirasayana, and not, as Dr. Hall says, an independent work in verse confuting the Mimamsa system of Kumarila. This is also called Vidhirasayanasukhopayojani.

(71)    Vishnutatvarahasya.

(72)    Virasaiva. This I base on the sole authority of Aufrecht.

(73)    Vrittivartikam, a work on Alankara.

(74)    Vairagyasataka.

(75)    Santistava.

(76)    Sikharinimala. One of Appaya's standard works. It is in the form of 64 verses which embody the meaning of several select Vedic and Puranic texts as far as they appertain to God Siva in his capacity as the Supreme Being.

(77)    Sivakarnamritam.

(78)    A commentary on the above.

(79)    Sivatatvaviveka, also a well-known work, a somewhat elaborate commentary on his own Sikharinimala.

(80)    Sivadhyanapaddhati, a familiar work of 150 verses.

(81)    A commentary on the same.

(82)    Sivapuranatamasatvakhandana.

(83)    Sivapujavidhi.

(84)    Sivamahimakahkastuti, 25 verses in praise of Siva. This is more or less Mimamsic.

(85)    Sivadvaitavinirnaya or Sivadvaitanirnaya or Advaitanirnaya.

(86)    Sivanandalahari.

(87)    Sivanandalaharichandrika a commentary on the popular Sivanandalahari of Sankaracharya.

(88)    Sivarkamanidipika or Sivadityamanidipika, a commentary on the Sutrabhashya of Nilakanthasivacharya or Srikantha.

(89)    Sivarchanachandrika.

(90)    Sivotkarshamanjari.

(91)    Siddhantaratnakara.

(92)    Siddhantalesasangraha, a widely known Advaitic work. There is a Benares and a Kumbakonam edition of this work, and it is being translated into English by Dr. Arthur Venis of Benares. Dr. Burnell says: "It must be remembered Appaya Dixita was a strenuous supporter of Saiva Vedanta, and that, therefore, works by him which, like the present (Siddhantalesasangraha), prefer indifference, can hardly be taken with safety as representative of the orthodox Vedanta." Pandit M. Gangadhara Sastri, however, strongly repudiates this doubtful theory.

(93)    A commentary on the Hamsasandesa.

(94)    Harivamsasaracharita.49 [49 Add to these Aryasataka and Paniniyanakshtramala, which bring the number of his works to ninety-six]

    Of these works but little need be said. One must necessarily admire the vast learning and the literary courage of the author who chose to write on such varied and unconnected subjects as lexicography, rhetoric, Mimamsa, Sankara's Advaita, and the Saiva, Ramanuja and Madhva schools. One peculiarity that distinguishes Appayya from many other Sanskrit writers is that he has himself furnished a commentary to such of his works as were likely, in his opinion, to be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Another of the same stamp is Annam Bhatta, who has explained his Tarkasangraha in his own Dipika. What a great tranquility would have reigned over our country, if the many authors of religious and philosophical Sutras had, in anticipation of Appaya's method, written their views in full in the form of commentaries on their aphorisms which served no better purpose than that of a convenient mnemonic system! Even of the numerous prayers that he has written, the majority are controversial. It must be said of his poetry that it looks somewhat artificial and far from being literary and artistic. We miss, in his verses, the graceful combination of elegance and philosophy so very characteristic of Sankaracharya's minor poetical works. It must however be state to his credit, that his works in general and his prose writings especially, display extensive knowledge, love of religion, and ingenuity of logical reasoning. The most familiar of his longer works are the Kuvalayananda, the Chitramimamsa, Siddhantalesasangraha, Parimala, Sivatatvaviveka and the Sivarkamanidipika.

J. M. Nallasami Pillai, B.A., B.L.




Tuesday, August 21, 2012


    The passages of the Rig-Veda, "The one Being the sages describe in several ways" (1. 164. 46, and X. 114. 5) have a far more comprehensive application than the contexts in which they respectively occur. What is said there of the Deity is equally true of the mode of attaining it. Just us, by whatever diversity of names the One Entity is spoken of or known, the same Supreme Intelligence is everywhere meant, in the same way, however various the methods may be by which an advance in evolution and the achievement of spiritual ends are said to be possible, all of them tend to the same goal, and a primary unity is discovered to run through them all. No simile can be apter than that of the same rain-water that at first took its rise from the ocean, returning to the same source by different innumerable rivers and streams (Mahimna). The first endeavor of every religious student must be not to create differences where the texts are in accord, but to unify the meaning though the texts are seemingly contradictory. That was the noble purpose which Sri Sankaracharya had in view and which he successfully carried out, and that is the direction in which every advance science is developing in this enlightened age.

    Amidst apparent conflicts and overlapping's the spirit of the Scripture is in most cases clearly discernible. Fresh water springs are known to rise to the surface of the sea from the very bottom through all the bitter brine. The short and concise Upanishad, the Isavasya, speaks of a vidya and an avidya, by which I understand Jnana and karma. The passages are not at first sight concordant or supplementary. The first sloka enjoins the protection of one's self by the complete abandonment of the world we live in. The next sloka proclaims in all seriousness that a man should live the hundred years of his life by performing all the duites prescribed by the Vedas, without fear of being affected by their results. The 9th, 10th, and 11th slokas speak directly of vidya and Avidya. The 9th says that Avidya lands one in darkness, and vidya, on the other hand, in a still gloomier darkness. The next one says that by vidya and Avidya different things are understood and that the results are different. The 11th sloka recites that he who follows both vidya and Avidya together, crosses beyond death by his Avidya and reaches eternal immortality by his vidya. What does the Upanishad mean? The first two slokas indicate the broad aim of what follows. Vidya must mean knowledge and Avidya action. The two kandas into which the Vedas divide themselves are held to supplement and not contradict each other. May not the same be said of two sets of ideas in the same Upanishad, an Upanishad of such limited extent as the Isavasya?

    The opinion is prevalent that this Upanishad owed its origin to the ascendancy of Buddhism and its principles. This may or may not be the fact, and it does not concern us in any way. Its object, however, is the same as that of the Buddha, namely, to arraign in strong language the pernicious hypocrisy of some, who, appearing to be possessed of the sacred lore, pretend to have found out (only in words) the narrow pathway that directly leads us to salvation, and give up all moral, social and religious bonds to lend additional color to their pretensions and their frauds. Such persons may not be consciously guilty of the crime attributed to them, but once they are in their fools' paradise, the evil consequences of an unconscious step follow each other in quick succession. The Kathopanishad authoritatively states that "fools, presuming themselves to be all knowing, though steeped in ignorance, rush head long to destruction, as blind men led by the blind." (I. 2.5)

    The brahmavidya or the "path of the heart" is said to be "as sharp, as the edge of the razor" (Katha, I. 3. 14). The same comparison is to be found also in the Bible of the Christians. What does this simile mean? It means that he who travels along that difficult path must do so without swerving a hair's-breadth either to the right or to the left. It is only a line without breadth, and the gentlest motion, be it never so imperceptible, takes away the marching soul altogether off the line. As the "Voice of the Silence" puts it, "Long and weary is the way before thee, O Disciple. One single thought about the past that thou hast left behind, will drag thee down and thou wilt have to start the climb anew." Have we not come across instances of men who have abruptly renounced one or more fleeting pleasures of this world, only to return to it with a relish intensified all the more by an unprepared-for separation? The human mind, thrown suddenly and with vehemence on a hard and unaccustomed ground rebounds from it with astonishing elasticity like a tennis ball. Without systematic preparation, gradual submission to hardship and a tenacious assiduity, it is impossible, nay, it is rash and risky, to plunge into the extremely difficult pathway of Jnana. It pains me to remember the sad death of an esteemed friend of mine, who took to the life of a recluse on the shores of the Narmada in the prime of his youth, and left this world within the short space of a year which was mainly due to the abrupt change in his diet and other conveniences of daily existence which his untrained constitution could not bear and to which it had to succumb in the long run.

    What is the advice to be given in such cases? A comparison of the two paths and a clear definition of the evils of a hasty procedure, would be of little avail. The wandering eye sees the dazzling splendor of the distant horizon, and will take the hazard of being blinded by that effulgence rather than turn aside to a light which is pronounced to be decidedly inferior to the former in the intensity of its brilliance. A flat abuse of the method of knowledge would be against the aim and the spirit of the whole of religious literature. The only way out of the dilemma is to place two different texts in juxtaposition without pointing out in detail their connection or their significance. From this we have to draw an inference, which, while it is not in direct opposition to either of the expressed views, is yet reconcilable with both and brings to prominence that unity that is always intended to be discerned by a coherent interpretation of the different texts.

    It is pointed out that by leaving off karma, and taking to Jnana, an incapable novice loses the fruits of both and subjects himself to a double suffering. The results that are enjoined for actions will never come to him, for he does no action. Nor will he reach final beatitude, for his Jnana never pierced his skin and touched his heart. By all means follow the higher pathway, says the Upanishad, provided you have gone through the necessary training and have sufficient confidence in your powers and capabilities, or provided a proper guru is to be found who can be relied upon as a safe and competent guide. But, in the absence of such circumstances, karma is the only desirable and harmless way. If you do good karmas by methods warranted by the Sastras, only good will come out of it. In no way should you do bad actions. It may be said that such a high degree of perfection cannot be approached by the performance of karmas alone, as by the direct knowledge of the attribute less Brahman. True; but every ascent commences from the first rung of the ladder, though the last one alone is the direct and proximate cause of our reaching the top. Moreover, much good can be got from the performance of actions without any desire for their fruits. This is the karma-yoga which is so flatteringly spoken of in the Bhagavad-gita. (V. 2). "Action for its own sake" is the watchword. What a commendable self-sacrifice! Who will doubt the cheerful promise of Sri Krishna that this too leads one to the same Unity to which all other processes tend (Gita, V. 12)? Did not Janaka and others reach the height of perfection by this method and by this method alone (Gita, III. 20)? When there are so many brilliant possibilities before us, there is no reason to discard such a golden mean and adopt a different method, as difficult as it is dangerous, without the necessary precautions and safeguards.

    We can go even a step further. Even those who are on the way to perfection and those who have even reached perfection need not look down with disdain on the ignorant world that makes so much of rituals and ceremonials. Sri Krishna Himself did not think it a disgrace to proclaim to Arjuna that, though He was perfect and had nothing to gain by performance of actions, yet He remained doing actions without any definite aim, merely to set an example to the whole world and to keep a going the evolution of the universe. "As the Lord, so the people," and if the Lord indulges in inertia, the people too will grow inert, and the destruction of the worlds would be near at hand (Gita. III. 21-26).

    Thus, while not condemning the karma-path and praising the gnana-path, nor, on the other hand, adding to the merits of the former at the expense of the latter, the Isavasya takes the only reasonable and possible course, namely, by prescribing Karmayoga for all those whose competency is not so far developed as to guarantee an unobstructed passage through the doorway of renunciation. It points out the perils of a rash and abrupt metamorphosis of the mind which inflicts a multiple loss on the foolhardly victom.

    This is the spirit of the Isavasya, which every student might discern, by a careful contemplation of its passages.


    [N. B – I am asked to append a translation of the stanzas referred to in the above article. I give my own free rendering of Stanzas 1 and 2, and borrow the authoritative version found in the Sacred Books of the East" for stanzas 9, 10 and 11.

    1.    All this that moves on earth is full of the Lord. Protect thyself by renouncing them all. Do not covet anybody's wealth.

    2.    One must live a hundred years, always doing (good) works. It is so, not otherwise. You will not be affected by the results of such works.

    9.    "All who worship what is not real knowledge (good works) enter into blind darkness; those who delight in real knowledge, enter as it were, into greater darkness."

    10.    "One thing, they say, is obtained from real knowledge; another, they say, from what is not knowledge. Thus we have heard from the wise who taught us this."

    11.    "He who knows at the same time both knowledge and not knowledge, overcomes death through not-knowledge, and obtains immortality through knowledge." ]


Monday, August 20, 2012


        Amidst the multiplicity of affairs that engage man's attention in the world, the inquiry into the nature of happiness and the means of its attainment has ever occupied a prominent place. Happiness of whatever kind in whatever degree he welcomes, while misery he most unmercifully shuns. But, in the nature of things it so happens that happiness and misery exist side by side, subjecting Jiva to their various influences during the whole cycle of births and deaths. Strangely enough, man's realisation of happiness comparatively fails when we take into account the suffering that misery brings in its train. Because, in man's heart, the waves of desire rise one after another so constantly that he finds it very hard to meet with tranquillity by the fall of any single wave. The same individual who pants and pines for the attainment of a kingdom feels yet dissatisfied even after his desire is fulfilled. Because, another desire equally strong has taken possession of his mind compelling his attention and energy to meet these fresh necessities. And in whatever walks of life man is thrown, there is he subject to these inconstant moods of happiness and misery. Now he is happy, now miserable of things goes on almost eternally. No permanent happiness ever dawns in the horizon, and reason often times helps people from not indulging in vain hopes of witnessing it in the near future. But, is permanent happiness possible at all to attain in this birth or must it be sought for only in a future life?

    Before discussing the possibility or otherwise of the attainment of permanent happiness in this birth, it is necessary to get clear ideas of what happiness is and what is meant by its permanence. It seems to me that happiness and misery can be expressed in other words as satisfaction and want. This explanation would lead one to think that happiness and misery are subjective in their character. And so they are. If it were not the case, one man's food could not be another man's poison. The object over which a man goes in raptures fails to please another, nay sometimes causes excruciating pain. Well, how could there be reconciled, I ask, but by the fore mentioned explanation of happiness and misery. Thus happiness is satisfaction and misery want. Mind it is that suffers or enjoys. Happiness and misery but point to different phases of mental attitude. When we call a man happy, we mean nothing more than that he is satisfied, and when, we call him miserable we mean similarly that he feels a want. Want is desire, and desire is a quality of the mind. As long as there is mind, there must be desire, and as long as there is desire there should be misery. But since the presence of desire also implies its satisfaction, we get happiness mingled with misery, both of these of a transitory kind. It should again be noted here, that although satisfaction and want are subjective in their character, in the sense that they are to be found only in the varying phases of mental attitude, they are objective as well in the sense that they are dependent for their existence more or less on the external objects. It is the mind really that enjoys or suffers, but the external world is the stage of its experience. The external world itself cannot be said on that account to cause happiness and misery; because, as the mind wills so does an object afford happiness or misery. The rising sannyasi may aspire for a monk's bowl or a fakir's coat, but the same things do no delight a man of the world. Power again which is the goal of every enterprising world ling is treated with contempt by the earnest student who has learned to walk in the path of righteousness and wisdom. If the objects had happiness in themselves, they should afford happiness to all irrespective of their station and mental development. Again, the Sannyasi that was an aspirant till now, regards the bowl and the coat of little weight since he has attained wisdom, and the worldly aspirant having realised his wishes has created new desire, and is struggling against himself and the world to attain them full of hope. Here we get another proof for our statement from the fact that the same objects do not continue to afford satisfaction even to the same person at all times. Thus it is evident that happiness and misery are purely subjective and they can be harmonised by harmonising the mind.

    Permanent happiness, then, should be permanent satisfaction, i.e., a state of mind in which no want can be felt. Some are inclined to think that this state could never be attained, that there never will come a time when want us absent. When we, by affording it satisfaction, bid good bye to a certain want, we make room for another which claims satisfaction in its turn. Want are so to some extent, we admit. But they are material wants that behave in this manner; and with spiritual wants, another principle far different from this applies. When the mind is turned away from the outer world and directed to the inner sanctuaries of the soul, want there is none. Neither mind nor any object of desire can be said to exist in that state of beatitude where the soul only shines immaculate in the glory of the rising sun. Where mind is not, there want cannot be. Mind itself is nothing but an outcome of ignorance, tossed to and fro by the objects of the world. When ignorance is removed and the soul awakened to its true nature, the mind is dead, and neither satisfaction nor want there is. Happiness and Misery do no longer take hold of the soul alternately and subject it to their blighting influence. The state from which satisfaction and want are absent is the state of eternal blessedness, otherwise known as Mukti which is promised to every individual in every religion, although religions may differ in their grasp of this truth and individuals only partially attain to it until they have undergone the requisite practice under the guidance of a proper master. A man who was attained this condition remains no longer a man that he was, but is transformed into Siva and is called in his manly appearance sage. And this sage hood it is, that forms the practical side of all philosophy and religion, and especially so of the Saiva Siddhanta.

    The statement may seem paradoxical at first sight that a stage is the most useful being in this world, the person who, having retired from the worldly bustle and given himself up to the contemplative of the Supreme, has dissolved his self in the Universal Self, Nevertheless, it is the truest of the truisms that have ever been uttered. The sage who has attained oneness with God the Supreme does not exist separately from Him who has effaced his little self. The thoughts that he thinks are His. His very actions are God's. Whatever that is good, virtuous and pure are in the sage, for he is God. The opposite of these do not exist in reality, and therefore he that is real sees them not. Unselfishness is the most noticeable feature in his character. He is ever ready to help the afflicted, be they afflicted in mind or in body. His whole life is devoted to universal good. Very ordinary men love their bodies, fondly imagining flesh and bone constitute their precious selves. Men a little elevated love their relations, and still greater men extend their affection to the country which gave them birth. But a sage knows that he is a citizen of the world, and he realises this – to others an ideal – in every minute of his life.

    Mistaken notions of many kinds are afloat in the world regarding the attributes that distinguish a sage from other men. People generally believe that a sage does not mix with the world unreservedly but estranges himself form the company of all human beings and is always silent and inactive. Sometimes with closed eyes and erect boy a man sits for hours together, and the people take him for a sage of superior merits. The more a man evinces dislike towards others and the more he has trained himself to put on to these pretensions, the more is the likelihood for him to be styled a real sage. Woe unto the man who first implanted this seed of evil in the minds of the innocent mortals! How many real sages, in this way, are left unrecognized and what amount of good do the people lose thereby? The erroneous conception of sage hood that is the cause of all this, is to be accounted for by the tendency in men to attach themselves more to ceremonials and outward appearances than to the spirit underneath, to mistake the means for the end. They have learned to respect bold proclaimers in preference to silent workers, to confuse the process of Yoga and Samadhi which are but one of the several ways of attaining sage hood with sage hood itself. A sage, in their opinion, should be a nonentity, entirely unconnected with the world not inwardly but outwardly. With all deference to those sages who have chosen to lead a secluded life free from the haunts of noisy triflers or who have even among men taken to the higher silence, I venture to think that the test is doubtful, often misleading. Outward appearances are not always a fair criterion of judgment. Men do not perceive that mind is what makes a sage, and one can be in the world but at the same time may not be of it. Household life and hermitage affect the body. They affect not the mind. When mind has realised the truth, nothing more is to be attained. Masters of all ages and all lands are unanimous in giving their verdict in favour of this view which is the only sane one that can be taken with the materials at our command.

    But men will not so easily disabuse themselves of their false fancies, and on them grounded they always find disappointment and sham at the end. Their sages do not retain their character permanently. When they have got the name they no longer attempt to keep up their assumed conditions, and the world becomes divided in its opinion.

    If the world, to begin with, takes shelter in right ideas of sage hood and the means of its attainment, much trouble would be saved, and much evil averted. To think that a sage becomes so, only when he abandons the world outwardly is a grand error. On the other hand, the abandonment of it outwardly is not at all a necessity when true renunciation is secured. And what is true renunciation? The world before us presents a panorama of objects attractive and repulsive, full of good and evil. The objects themselves are not so, but in relation to the mind that comes in contact with them. Renunciation is attained when one regards them as objects merely and not having in them any characteristic that please or displeases him. When objects no longer create in man any feeling either pleasurable or painful, when nothing delights nor frightens him that individual has attained renunciation true. Well, how could such renunciation be attained? Men in their ignorance, see several objects in the world which, whenever they strike the mind, produces agitation in it and puts it out of all order. Everywhere they see differentiation and distinction. The more they are ignorant, the greater is their proneness to subtle differentiation. But with the growth of wisdom, their passion for differentiation dissolves, and it continues to dissolve until it is thoroughly obliterated when mature wisdom has been attained.

    And what is this wisdom which effaces the differentiating tendency in the human soul? Wisdom again has been variously construed, and the popular ideas are far away from the truth. Wisdom has almost been made a synonym to knowledge, knowledge of all kinds so much so that it has been divided into many kinds as worldly wisdom, divine wisdom and so on as there are different kinds of knowledge, scientific, historic, literary, philosophical and so on. But wisdom is the just vision of the Truth. What is the Truth to be understood here? Though jivas owing to the influence of malas (bondage) dream that the Universe with all its manifold appearances as well as their own selves exist separately from the Lord Siva, they are as a matter of fact pervaded throughout by the Lord, and as such, they are the Lord Himself. When one realises this truth, could there be any object that might displease him either in this gross world or in the worlds that exist in the imagination. He understands the only Truth even though It presents itself before him variously disguised. Could he then be enslaved by Moha or Ragha, Dvesha or Bhaya? No, Seeing the Lord Siva everywhere and at all times, he has a direct perception of the Essence, and is, therefore, not carried away by the false shows and appearances. For the same reason, the other effects of ignorance, i.e., Ragha, Dvesha and Bhaya also leave him untouched and unstained. Eternal peace and eternal joy are his who has attained this wisdom. This state may be better explained with the help of an illustration. Let us suppose a friend of ours disguising himself as a fair-haired young lady attempts to sweep our wisdom by seducing us. Will any one of us possibly yield to his false seduction? His real nature we unmistakably know, and wisdom is constantly warning us, from forgetting it. In the same manner, will we hate him if he comes as an ugly nomad or fear him if he comes as a tiger? No. When the Lord Siva, in His all-pervading nature is thus understood and realised by any individual, then is he not moved by Ragha or Dvesha, Moha or Bhaya. Such is the truth to be realised by the man who aims at the attainment of wisdom.

    But it should not be misunderstood here that a sage who has this just vision is not conscious of the differences among things that have gained acceptation with the world, cannot in short distinguish a wall from space, an elephant from an ant. Anger, jealousy, enmity and lust are dead in him, but he himself is alive as all goodness, as an embodiment of all virtuous qualities. When he is appealed to for help by the ignorant people who are sunk in misery, he extends his ready helping hand, and to the poor in spirit who aspire for true wisdom he offers encouraging words and effective means of attaining it.

    Then again, Ragha and Dvesha are wrongly attributed to sages when they are actually freed from them. This misconception is productive of much evil. When a sage demands food for his hungry stomach, water for his thirsty lips, or cloth for his nakedness, people begin to look down upon him with an eye of contempt and scorn. They imagine that he has a great desire for them. Here, it is not only sage hood that is misunderstood, but the very significance of Ragha, i.e., desire. But, wherein does lie the distinctive feature of desire? Whenever the mind or the senses come in contact with an object, a thought arises in the heart and vibrates so rapidly that one cannot resist the temptation of striving at whatever hazard to get grasp of the object. If it so chances that disappointment and failure attend him on every side, he slips down into the ocean of sorrow to be redeemed from it, only when Time – the Great Destroyer – sweeps away the object from his memory. The seed of this thought is what we call desire. A sage, then, can be said to be under the influence of desire, only if the denial of a morsel of bread, a cup of water, or a piece of cloth gives him distress. In like manner, if a sage does not swallow fire when he is thirsty, does not eat coal when he is hungry, people unscrupulously and with readiness attribute to him Dvesha, i.e., hatred. But what is Devesha? Devesha consists in taking delight in or even earnestly loving for the destruction of the object that he hates, whenever and wherever it is apprehended by the mind or the senses. In that sense, if the sage had Dvesha for fire, he should wish for its extinction whenever it is perceived by his senses. The truth, however, is that a sage perfectly knows the means appropriate to the ends and consequently applies the same to get the desired end with more propriety than the worldly men.

    It will not be out of place here to say a word or two with regard to the pre-eminent characteristic that Siddhanta attributes to a sage, to wit, self-effacement also known as the loss of individuality. To the exposition of this subject, Kannudaiya Vallal has devoted an entire treatise of his, Olivilodukkam by name. When the soul is qualified to attain final absorption into the Supreme by being freed from the malas and ascending beyond the Tatvas, it finds itself immersed in the Siva A'nanda. There, self-effacement is complete, and nothing but peace and happiness exists. This condition can be attained by wisdom as heretofore described. It may also be induced by having recourse to the path of love or Bhakti-marga. True love doubtless needs true knowledge; still, for emotional minds, this path is the easier to adopt than the pure Jnana-marga. Two sages Narada and Sandilya have written Bhakti-Sutras to be of help to the struggling souls, and there they warmly advocate this marga even at the expense of the Karma and Jnana margas. It has also been the path that is prescribed in the Siddhanta Sastras and followed by the Tamilian nation. Whosoever understands that the eternal changeableness of this world, the combating passions that constantly demand satisfaction, the disappointment that beset the pursuit after the will of the wisp like desires, all tend to prove the inquiring mind the utter shallowness of the method of directing its energies towards the impermanent and trifling things, surrenders himself unconditionally at the feet of the Lord where he enjoys bliss that passeth all knowledge. No longer is he able to discern himself, from love or the object loved. In short, he realises the teaching of the sage Tirumular. "The unwise say that Love and Siva are two. Nobody knows that Love itself is Siva. When they perceive that Love itself is Siva, they abide in Love as Siva Himself."

    Of the three paths to union with God, Jnana and Bhakti, we have known. And Karma (actions without attachment) is the remaining path that is accessible to all classes of people, in spite of their varying degrees of development. Aspirants, however, should anticipate help only from Karma and Bhakti margas. It should also be indicated here that unless sage-masters are approached, no satisfactory progress can be made in any path. They are, however, to be seen even amidst the busy world. The laity, taking no heed of their own welfare here or hereafter, mind them not. Still, it is impossible for them to escape the moral and spiritual influence of these sages who work for their weal just as the fragrance of a secret flower, penetrating the nostrils cannot long remain unfelt. It is therefore a blessing for men to have such sages in their midst be they conscious of their true greatness or not. May all the living souls know the true Jnanis, and being blessed by them enjoy eternal peace and happiness. Om Santi Santi Santi.

S. A. P.