Vedanta Without Maya (A Debate on Saptavidha-Anupapatti)

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Item Code: NAK677
Author: Godabarisha Mishra
Language: English
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9788120839793
Pages: 378
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 520 gm
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Book Description

About the Author


Godabarisha Mishra is the Chairman of the School of Philosophy and Religious Thought at the University of Madras. Formerly worked as an Editor at the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, Chennai, he also served as the Member Secretary of Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi.




Saptavidha-anupapatti: The seven objections against the notion of Maya-avidya of Advaita school have been the subject of intense debate between Advaitins and non-Advaitins for several centuries starting with Ramanuja in the 11th century. The debate is so central - both philosophically and from the point of view of history of thought - that it deserves a thorough examination. This volume consists of essays which undertake, in their different ways, such an examination.


In Sankara Vedanta, Maya-avidya is understood as the force or agency which creates the illusion of non-perception that manifests itself in the diversified forms of the objective world, which measures the immeasurable, creates forms in the formless, conceals the real and projects the unreal. Hence the only difference between man, the world and God is one of appearance and degree for ultimately they are non-different like the space inside a pot and space outside. Ramanuja, however, differs from this nodal as well as basic proposition of Advaita and disagrees strongly with the Sankarite concept of Maya-avidya, The Visistadvaita school, in the post-Ramanuja period, advances the debate which began with Sapatavidha-anupapatti of Ramanuja. Counter- arguments of the Sankara Advaitins in this debate and their rebuttals by the Visistadvaitins form a continuity running into our own times.


This debate was the theme of a Seminar organized by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, and the present volume is the edited version of the presentations made in this Seminar. Professor Godabarisha Mishra has shown his masterly touch in the editorial work. The volume serves the twin purpose of bringing alive a central debate in the Indian philosophical tradition and showing how it can impact our own thinking about issues which we take to be significant today. This book, I am sure, will prove to be a worthy successor to the Professor Daya Krishna edited Samvada, published many years ago.


The philosophical community in the country will be grateful to Professor Godabarisha Mishra for his painstaking and extremely thoughtful editorial work in preparing this volume for publication. Researchers and scholars of philosophy will not only find the book useful, it is also quite likely to inspire works of similar nature in different areas of the Indian philsophical tradition.




The Indian philosophical scene has witnessed some of the most interesting, enduring and fierce debates among the three schools of Vedanta. The most prominent among the topics hotly debated for centuries is of maya-avidya. This concept is so central that the Advaita School which introduced this concept is frequently characterized as Mayavada. Ramanuja who reacted to the school of Advaita by formulating his. own system of Vedanta, i.e. Visistadvaita, makes the concept of maya-avidya the prime target of his attack. He states his justly famous "Seven Objections" (Saptavidha-anupapatti) against the concept of maya-avidya in his Sribhasya, almost exactly like Sankara who sows the seed of this concept in his equally famous "Adhyasa-bhasya" at the beginning of his commentary on the Brahmasutras. This attack on the concept of maya-avidya initiated by Ramanuja is vigorously continued by his followers and we have a detailed debate between the Advaitins and Visistadvaitins on the question of maya-avidya that has spread over the centuries.


The question of maya-avidya is centrally connected to the very way of conceiving reality i.e., Brahman in both Advaita and Visistadvaita. For Advaita, it is axiomatic that Brahman is non-dual and absolutely featureless (nirguna and therefore, the problem that naturally arises there is of explaining the multiplicity of entities and features encountered by us in the world of our experience. The concept of maya-avidya is invoked by Advaita as explanatory of this phenomenon. It is argued in Advaita that in view of the sole reality of nirguna Brahman, the universe of names and forms experienced by us is not ultimately real, and this unreality is variously referred to by the terms mithya, anirvacaniya and sadasad-vilaksana. Thus, the concept of maya- avidya is used by Advaita to account for the experience of multiplicity and variety when, in fact, there is no entity except the sole nirguna Brahman.


Therefore, it can be easily seen that the concept of maya- avidya cannot be attacked if the notion of nirguna Brahman is allowed to remain as a constituent of Vedanta. Hence Ramanuja starts by rejecting the notion of nirguna Brahman and substituting it by the notion of saguna Brahman. Since some of the Advaitins had held that the very notion of saguna Brahman was also due to maya-avidya, he is further compelled to defend the notion of saguna Brahman by attacking the concept of maya-avidya itself. This he does by formulating his seven famous objections, known as Saptavidha-anupapatti.


If Brahman is the only reality, Ramanuja finds it hard to admit any entity like maya-avidya which has to be other than Brahman and therefore, begins his objections by asking where exactly this maya-avidya is located. Being insentient in nature, it cannot be located in Brahman who is sentient. It cannot also be located outside Brahman since there can be nothing "outside" Brahman. He also finds unacceptable the explanation offered by some Advaitins that maya-avidya is located in the beginningless jiva since the jiva itself has to be the product of maya-avidya according to the Advaitins themselves. Thus Ramanuja finds maya-avidya without a legitimate locus (asraya) and this is the first objection well known as (1) "Asraya-anupapatti."


In the same way Ramanuja raises six further objections about (2) the concealment of Brahman by maya-avidya and the projection of a false universe (Tirodhana-anupapatti), (3) the nature of maya-avidya (Svarapa- anupapatti), (4) the indescribable character of maya-avidya (Anirvacaniya-anupapatti), (5) the Pramana by which this maya-avidya is known (Pramana- anupapatti), (6) the means by which this maya-avidya is overcome (Nivartaka-anupapatti) and (7) whether this maya-avidya can be got rid of at all (Nivrttyanupapatti). These objections are elaborated upon and are embellished by Visistadvaita scholars like D.T. Tata- charya, Uttamur Viraraghavacharya and others and subsequently vigorously answered by contemporary Advaitins like Ramaraya Kavi, Anantakrishna Sastri, to name a few.


This book contains substantially revised versions of the papers presented at the seminar held on Saptavidha-anupapatti. The seminar was structured around a number of topics, and some of those structures have survived the transition to book form. The book has been divided into four sections; first, "Background: Historical and Philosophical" has five papers. The first paper by R. Balasubramanian is a critical survey of the seven objections and answers to those objections as worked out in both the schools. The second paper by Kalyanasundara Sastri introduces the concept and explores the contribution made by Vidyaranya and Gangadharendra Sarasvati. Instead of getting into the debate proper, Kunjunni Raja takes a very neutral view and looks at the concept from pre-Sankara period, mainly from the perspectives of Bhartrhari and Buddhists. The next paper by Lakshmithathachar explores the views of Ramanuja and tries to portray how the Ramanuja's objections are still valid and cannot be so easily done away with as attempted by later Advaitins. The last paper of this section by M. Narasimhachary contends that the refutation of maya-avidya is not something that was started with Ramanuja, but it was already there in pre-Ramanuja period, in the writings of Nathamuni and Yamuna.


Titled as "Maya-avidya: The Concept and the Critique" the second section contains twelve essays by celebrated scholars debating on seven objections, since the last two objections are combined together. N.S. Ramanuja Tatacharya has introduced the first objection, i.e. Asraya-anupapatti, exactly the way Ramanuja did in his Sribhasya and this was contested by Vempati Kutumba Sastri from the view point of Advaita. Sastri adds many new ideas in his analysis to aid the already existing arguments found in the Advaita tradition. The next, i.e., Tirodhana-anupapatti has been debated by two participants, V. Srivat-sankacharya and R. Krishnamurthi Sastri, both defending their own traditions and analyzing each point with new examples to establish their standpoints. The third objection, viz. Svarupa- anupapatti was presented by S.M. Srinivasachari from Visista-dvaita standpoint and Muddulapalli Dattatreya Sastri made a case for Advaita view. Anirvacantya-anupapatti, the fourth objection against maya-avidya was taken up by S.V. Rangaramanujacharyulu and was answered by Goda Venkateswara Sastri from Advaita perspective. V.S. Karunakaran and Sripada Subramanian examined the contentions of Pramananupapatti raised by Ramanuja from Visistadvaita and Advaita angles respectively. The last two objections, Nivartaka and Nivrttyanupapatti were combined and the participants were K.E. Devanathan and J. Venkatararna Sastri. The contents of the debates were so intense and the participation was & passionate that the participants could not find the time given during the sessions to be adequate to express their views. But one thing that was clearly felt was that everybody has something new to convey in addition to what has been already given in the earlier texts.


One of the glaring highlights of the seminar was the live- debate between two well-known scholars S.N.C. Raghunatha- charyulu and V. Swaminathan on the topic of maya-avidya and it was an involving debate ended in generating more heat than light between the protagonists of two schools; but still it was philosophically not only interesting, but quite rewarding. The debate was initiated by pointing out a text of a 20th century Advaita author, Ramaraya Kavi, who in his Sankarasankara-bhasya- vimarsa has threadbare criticized Ramanuja for refuting the maya- avidya by his seven objections. The discussion on this debate was initiated by S.N.C. Raghunathacharyulu, who with .his profound style and diction, and with very original arguments, refuted the views of Ramaraya Kavi. The main thrust of this paper was that the tradition of Advaita can in no way defend the maya-avidya, unsuccessfully attempted by Ramaraya. The answers to the objections came from V. Swaminathan who point by point answered the objections raised and vindicated the views of Advaitin with his impeccable arguments. This debate was quite interesting though fierce, but what is worth pointing out here is that the tradition' of doing philosophy is not dead in India, as has been the pervasive view, but there are scholars, some known and quite many less-known, who are still busy doing philosophy as has been carried out since a millennia or more. This book briefly gives us an idea that the tradition of establishing a philosophical view and refuting it, what is said in Sanskrit as "khandana-mandana-parampara" has survived till date and I feel immensely grateful to these two living legends of both the Vedantic traditions who have not only participated in the dialoge, but also contributed their papers to this volume.


"Maya-Avidya: Some Reflections" have been taken up in the fourth section. One of the major contributors to this debate in 19th century is Anantakrishna Sastri and it was he who wrote a text called Satabhasan; answering all the (so-called) hundred objections raised in Satadasant of Vedantadesika. Mani Dravid gives a summary of the objections and the answers as presented in the writings of Anantakrishna Sastri. Sankara's view on maya- avidya is taken up in the next essay by G.C. Nayak and he contends that Sankara himself has placed the concept on such strong grounds that it hardly has any space for further dialogue or refutation.

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