The Advaita Vedanta of Brahma- Siddhi (An Old and Rare Book)

The Advaita Vedanta of Brahma- Siddhi (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: IDD427
Author: Allen Wright Thrasher
Language: English
Edition: 1993
ISBN: 9788120809826
Pages: 201
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.8"
Weight 350 gm

About the Book:

The Brahma-siddhi, 'The Demonstration of Brahman' is Mandana Misra's largest work, his most important and the sole one dedicated as a whole to Vedanta. The topics occurring in the doctrine of this work which the present author intends to study here in this book are inter-related; they all have to deal with the nature and functioning of error, whether every-day error or the transcendental error, avidhya, which makes us see the multiplicity of phenomena where there is nothing but the utter oneness of Brahman. They also demonstrate the number of different sources upon which Mandana depended in erecting his own system. In spite of the number and variety of these sources Mandana created a system, the closed coherence of whose parts is a cause of admiration, even if one does not always accept his conclusions. Two appendices are also added to give a glimpse of Mandana Misra's date and his order of works. An exhaustive bibliography has been provided to facilitate the curiosity of readers. An index of important words has also been given.

About the Author:

Allen Wright Thrasher (b. 1946) studied Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy at Harvard University and was awarded a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1972 for his researches on 'The Advaita of Mandana Misra's Brahma-siddhi.' He has contributed learned articles to various journals and a few summaries of books for Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies published by Motilal Banarsidass. He has done teaching work in several American universities and is a senior Reference Librarian in Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.


The Vedantin Mandana Misra is a seminal figure in the history of Advaita, An approximate contemporary of the great Samkara, he differs from his views on many points, and at times directly opposes them. He is not uninfluenced by Samkara, but his over- all independence of him, the fact that his Brahma-siddhi is, along with the Gaugiapeida-k¢'i1•ir%ris, the sole work of the Vedanta system contemporary or prior to Samkara to have survived, and his citations of the opinions of others on many disputed points, either in agreement or in disagreement, make him one of the most important witnesses we have for pre-Samkara Vedanta, His works provide the earliest information we have from a Vedanta work on the concepts of vivarta ‘unreal appearance’, and anir-vacaniyatva, the ‘inexpressibility’ of mama-avidya as real or un-real. He is, apparently, the first Advaita to attempt to establish Advaita by means of a critique or ordinary sensory perception (pratyaksa) which claims to show that perception does not prove the reality of difference, because it does not apprehend difference at all. He is one of our early witnesses for the theory of sattad- vaita, the theory that all things are one because they are all sat, existent, and satta, Being, is present in them all. Certain features of his doctrine, such as the inexpressibility of avidya, the importance placed upon Being and bliss as characteristics of Brahman the critique of perception, the ascription to avidya of two aspects, that of covering over the one true Brahman, and of projecting the manifold false world, and the concept of vivarta (not to exhaust the list) were taken over by Advaitins of the tradition established by Samkara, although they are not to be found in Samkara’s own works. The great commentator on Samkara’s Brahma-sutra-bhasya, Vacaspati Misra, whose commentary, the Bhamati established a distinct and important school of interpretation within the body of Samkara’s followers, attempted, as far as possible, to harmonize Samkara with Mandana, on whose Brahma-siddhi he wrote a commentary, the Tattva—samiksa, which has unfortunately been lost.

It is not, however, my intent to discuss Mandana’s later influence, though a study of it would be very fruitful, perhaps indispensable, for an understanding of the later history of Vedanta. Rather my intent is to study certain topics in the doctrine of the Brahma-siddhi, "The Demonstration of Brahman", Mandana’s largest work, his most important, and the sole one dedicated as a whole to Vedanta. These topics are interrelated; they all have to deal with the nature and functioning of error, whether everyday error or the transcendental error avidya, which makes us see the multiplicity of phenomena where there is nothing but the utter oneness of Brahman. They also demonstrate the number of different sources upon which Mandana depended in erecting his own system. Chiefly, these sources are the metaphysical-grammatical tradition of Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya and the Vrtti there- on, the Mimamsaka Kumarila Bhatta, the Buddhist logicians Dignaga and Dharmakirti, pre-Samkara Vedanta, and perhaps Samkara. In spite of the number and variety of these sources, Mandana created a system the close coherence of whose parts is a cause of admiration, even if one does not always accept his conclusions.

The consistency of Mandana’s doctrine is visible even in those of his works which are not on Vedanta, that is to say, all but the Brahma-siddhi. Of these, three, the Bhavana—viveka, the Vidhi— viveka, and the Mimamsanukramanika, are on Mimamsa, one, the Vibhrama-viveka, is a discussion of different theories of error from the standpoint of Kumarila’s anyatha-khyati, and one, the Sphota-siddhi, a work of philosophy of language in the tradition of Bhartrhari. Although these works in general agree with the positions of the Brahma-siddhi, and are interesting, original, and important in themselves, I have used them mainly to supplement what can be learned from the Brahma-siddhi.

To the body of this study I have added two appendices, whose conclusions are to some degree relied upon in the rest of the work. The first of these is on Mandana’s date, and the second on the order of his works.

Mandana Misra has, unfortunately, been little studied in pro- portion to his intellectual and historical importance. However, in addition to a number of articles written during this century by various scholars, several books on him have been published in the late l960’s. Madeleine Biardeau has published a complete French translation of the Brahma-siddhi along with a thorough study of its doctrine. Tilmann Vetter has published a German translation of the first kanda of the Brahma-siddhi along with extensive and illuminating notes. Finally, Lambert Schmithausen has published an edition and translation of his Vibhrama—viveka, containing also a long study on Ma1jrdana’s doctrine of error and the history of Indian theories of error prior to him. These works have made the task of a later student of Mandana much easier. It would be impossible for me to call attention in the notes to every point for which I have been dependent upon them.

A few words are in order about the method employed here of making references to Sanskrit texts. For references to the Brahma:-siddhi I give first the page number, followed by a period and by the line number. Thus ‘BS 11.13’ means ‘Brahma—siddhi, page 11, line 13.’ This same method has been followed for many of the other texts, in particular for the Vidhi—viveka, the Vakya- padiya-vrtti, and Samkara’s works. I have not used the form ‘p. 11, 1.13’ except where it was necessary to avoid confusion with the citation of a passage in a work which I also have referred to by book, chapter, etc., which divisions I have likewise separated by periods. Thus ‘BSuB 1.1.17, 184.1-2’ means ‘Brahma—sutra-bhasya (of Samkara), Adhyaya 1, Pada 1, Sutra 17; page 184, lines 1 to 2.’

The occasional references to karikas in the Brahma—siddhi employ a Roman numeral for the kanda, a period, and the number of the karika. Thus BS III.2 is the second verse of the third kanda. When references are made to parts of a verse, the verse is divided into quarters rather than halves: thus ‘VV 68a-c’ means the first three padas of verse 68 of Vibhrama—viveka. No page reference is given to works entirely in verse.

All page references to the Sanskrit text of the Sphota—siddhi are to Biardeau’s edition, and of the Vibhrama-viveka to Schmithausen’s. Page references to the Vakyapadiya-vrtti are to KA. Subrahmania Iyer’s critical edition of Kanda 1 of the VP with the Vrtti and Vrsabhadeva’s Paddhati. It should be observed, how- ever, that I use the customary numbering of the Karikas of Kanda l, which is that followed in the earlier editions, in Biardeau’s translation accompanied by the text, and in Iyer’s own English translation. This numbering is given by Iyer in square brackets after his own numbering, beginning with verse 108. Iyer considers eight verses after V. 107 to belong to the commentary; therefore his numbering after V. 107 is 8 verses behind the older system. I use the older numbering purely for convenience sake, since Iyer’s edition may not be available to all; Iyer gives his reasons for ascribing the verses to the commentary in pp. x—xii of his introduction, References to Kandas 2 and 3 of the VP, which are all to the Karikas, are to Abhyankar and Limaye’s critical edition of the VP karikas. All page references to Samkara’s works are to the Anandasrama Press editions, except those to the Brahma-sutra-bhasya, which are to the Nirnaya Sagar press edition with Bhamati, Kalpataru, and Parimala. For further bibliographical details about all these books, see the bibliography. I have occasionally regularized the punctuation of Sanskrit texts quoted, without thinking it necessary to note it on each occasion. In particular, I have used no apostrophe in the transliteration where an editor has used a single or double avagraha to represent the coalescence of two a-vowels in internal or external sandhi. In addition, to avoid confusion of single quotation marks with the apostrophe representing the avagraha, I have made all quotation marks within Sanskrit texts double.

I am indebted to many people for help in the preparation of this thesis and ir1 the studies leading up to it. Above all, I owe thanks to Professor Daniel H.H. Ingalls, my first teacher in Sanskrit and my advisor for nearly a decade, who patiently discussed with me many problems in interpreting Mandana’s thought and in composing this study. Then to Pandit Vighnahari Bhalacandra Deo of the Deccan College, Poona, who in reading the Brahma-siddhi with me was a remover of obstacles in truth as well as in name, Also to other pandits of the Deccan College: to Pandit Shrinivasa Shastri, for giving assistance on particularly knotty points, to Pandit R. Srinivasan Raghavacha- riar of Tiruvarangam, with whom I read Vedanta and Mimamsa, and to Pandit K.A. Sivaramakrishna Sastri, with whom I read part of the Vakyapadiya’ and its Vrtti'. Finally to Professor Masatoshi Nagatomi, who answered for me many questions on Buddhism and allowed me to use parts of his not yet printed translation of Dharmakirti’s Pramana- Varttika, and to Professor S.D. Joshi, who helped me with questions concerning the Sanskrit grammarians.




  Introduction vii
  Abbreviations xi
I Anirvacaniya 1-38
  The Evidence of the Brahma-siddhi 1
  The Evidence of the Sphota-siddhi 15
  Nirupakhya 18
  The Evidence of the Vibhrama-viveka 20
  The Possible Influence of Samkara's Use of Anirvacaniya on Mandana's 28
  Mandana's Development of the Theory 31
  The State of Mandana's Thinking in Writing the Vibhrama-viveka 35
II Vivarta 39-50
III Avidya 51-75
  The Causality of Avidhya 51
  Avidhya as 'Beginningless' and 'Connatural' 57
  Avidhya and Its Synonyms 58
  Avidhya as 'Superimposition' 63
  Sakti 65
  Avarana and Viksepa 70
IV Nirvikalpa Jnana 77-100
  Object of Nirvikalpa Jnana 77
  Verbality of Nirvikalpa 87
V Error Leads to truth 101-109
  APPENDIX A: Mandana's Date 111
  APPENDIX B: The Order of Mandana's Works 129
  References 135
  Bibliogrphy 161
  Index 173


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