Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati - 1

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Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati
[Commentary on Dasasloki of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada]
English Translation by S. N. Sastri

[This translation, along with the original Sanskrit text in Devanagari script has been published as a book by Adi Sankara Advaita Research Centre, Chennai-600004. Copies can be had from Jayalakshmi Indological Book House, 6, Appar Swami Koil Street, Mylapore, Chennai- 600 004. Phone: 24990539 - Price Rs.100.]

Introduction

Siddhantabindu is a commentary on the Dasasloki of Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada. It is said that the Dasasloki was composed by Sri Sankara spontaneously when Sri Govindapada, whom he approached with a request to be accepted as a disciple, asked him who he was. The ten slokas which have become famous as ’Dasasloki’ were Sri Sankara’s answer to this question. Madhusudana Sarasvati has, in his commentary on these ten slokas, refuted the views of other schools and established Advaita.

In the present translation the Sanskrit text has been demarcated into paragraphs for easier understanding (there is no such demarcation in the original text). Each paragraph is followed by its translation and explanatory notes. In addition to the translation of the Sanskrit text, elaborate explanatory notes have been added under each paragraph so as to make the translation easily understandable by even those who have not yet acquired sufficient knowledge of the abstruse aspects of Vedanta.

The commentary on the first three verses deals with the import of the term ‘thou’ in the Mahavakya, ‘That thou art’. The views of various schools starting from Charvaka on the nature of the self are examined and found to be untenable. The view of Advaita Vedanta is established after refuting all possible objections. It is pointed out that the universe is a mere superimposition on Brahman or pure consciousness by nescience. Nescience is not mere absence of knowledge. It is positive in nature, though it cannot be categorized as either real or unreal. Nescience is first superimposed on pure consciousness. On that the ego is superimposed. On that again are superimposed the qualities of the ego such as desire, resolve, etc., and the qualities of the sense organs such as blindness, deafness, etc. On that the qualities of the gross body, such as stoutness, are superimposed. Similarly, there is also superimposition of the consciousness on the ego and up to the gross body. This mutual superimposition is the cause of the notions of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.

The various views on the method of interpretation of the Mahavakya are then expounded, such as jahallakshana, ajahal - lakshana, etc. The comm-entary goes on to discuss the various theories regarding the nature of the jiva, namely, the reflection theory, the semblance theory and the limitation theory.

Distinctions such as caste, stage of life, etc., do not apply to the pure self, nor do relationships such as father, son etc. All these relate only to the body-mind complex. The self is beyond hunger and thirst, grief and delusion, and old age and death.

From sloka 4 onwards the import of the term ‘that’ is expounded. The theories of various schools regarding the cause of the universe are examined and refuted. The upanishadic view that Brahman associated with Maya is the efficient as well as the material cause of the world is established.

The upanishads are not subservient to the karma kanda of the Vedas. The difference between the Arthavadas in the karma kanda and the statements in the upanishads has been brought out clearly. The upanishadic statements are the means to the ultimate goal of liberation which is supreme bliss and total cessation of sorrow. They do not depend on anything else, unlike the Arthavadas in the karma kanda which have to be connected with an injunction for becoming purposeful.

The contention that since Brahman is the material cause of the universe which is full of misery, Brahman also must have misery is rejected by pointing out that the substratum is not affected in the least by the qualities of what is superimposed by delusion.

Brahman is devoid of all qualities such as colour, size, etc. It is never an object of knowledge.

The Vedas as well relationships such as teacher and disciple are valid only in the empirical state and not after the dawn of knowledge of the self.

There are no distinctions such as waking, dream and deep sleep for the self.

In Advaita there are only two categories, the seer and the seen. The seer is threefold, as Isvara, jiva and witness, but these are only due to the limiting adjuncts. The three states of waking, dream and deep sleep of the jiva are described in detail.

The order of creation is then described. The theory of quintuplication of the subtle elements is explained. The theory of triplication upheld by certain Advaitic teachers is referred to and it is concluded that the theory of quintuplication is preferable. The different kinds of pralaya are explained.

Thus almost all the important aspects of Advaita Vedanta are dealt with in this work.

Madhusudana Sarasvati was one of the most brilliant luminaries in the firmament of Advaita Vedanta. His devotion to Sri Sankara was exemplary. While being a staunch Advaitin, he was also an ardent devotee of Sri Krishna. He wrote a number of books on the path of devotion, the most notable among them being Bhaktirasayana. His most famous work is Advaitasiddhi, in which he refutes all the objections raised against Advaita by Vyasatirtha. In his commentary on the Sivamahimnastotra of Pushpadanta he has displayed great skill by interpreting each sloka in two different ways, as praising Lord Siva and also as praising Lord Krishna.