Siddhantabindu of Madhusudana Sarasvati---2

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There are different views about the date of Madhusudana Sarasvati. After considering the different views some scholars have come to the conclusion that he lived at the beginning of the 16th century. His ancestor, Rama Misra Agnihotri, is believed to have migrated from Kannauj (in the present Uttar Pradesh) and settled down in Bengal where Kamalanayana, who was to become Madhusudana Sarasvati, was born. He was initiated into sannyasa by a revered sannyasi by name Visvesvarananda Sarasvati, to whom he pays obeisance at the beginning of Siddhantabindu.

This translation is based on the scintillating discourses of Dr. R. Krishnamurthi Sastrigal, former Principal of Madras Sanskrit College, on the Siddhantabindu to a small group of students. It is his erudite and lucid exposition that has enabled me to translate this text into English. I am deeply indebted to him for this. I am extremely grateful to Smt. Aruna Sankaran for very kindly providing me with the CD recordings of these discourses.

The commentary in Sanskrit of Mahamahopadhyaya Vasudev Shastri Abhyankar has been of great help to me for preparing the explanatory notes.

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Siddhantabindu

With prostrations to Sri Visvesvara who is a re-incarnation of Sri Sankaracharya, and who is the preceptor for the whole world, I am composing some kind of a treatise for the instruction of those who do not have the inclination to undertakea detailed study of the scriptures that expound Vedanta.

1. The revered Acharya Bhagavan Sri Sankara, being desirous of lifting all living beings (out of this transmigratory existence) either immediately or mediately, composed the ‘Dasasloki’ for the purpose of expounding briefly the means of discriminating the not-self from the self which is eternal (nitya), free from the stain of ignorance (shuddha), self-luminous (buddha) and free from the bondage of agency, etc., (mukta).

Note: Liberation will result immediately from hearing the Dasasloki for those who have attained complete purity of mind and thereby become most competent spiritual aspirants (Uttama-adhikaari). For others, hearing should be followed by reflection and meditation.

2. Objection: Every one discriminates the not-self which is referred to as ‘this’ from the self which is denoted by the word ‘I’ when he says ‘I am’, but, in spite of that, he experiences sorrow; therefore since only what is already known is being taught, and since it does not produce any benefit, the exposition of the nature of the self is futile.

3. Answer: It is not so. Even the body and the senses which should in fact be referred to as ‘this’ because they are all illumined by the pure Consciousness (and are therefore insentient), are denoted by the word ‘I’ due to non-discrimination caused by illusion (resulting from ignorance). Because of this (non-discrimination), suffering, etc., are attributed (wrongly) to the pure self. This is removed along with its cause (ignorance) by the knowledge of the identity of the individual self and Brahman declared in the scriptures. Therefore, since what is taught is something that is not known previously and since it does produce a benefit (removal of sorrow, etc.,) the exposition of the nature of the self is not futile.

Note: When a person says ‘I am so and so’, ‘I live in such and such a place’, etc., he is referring to the aggregate of the body, mind and senses as ‘I’. Actually, the body, senses and mind are insentient and, like any object outside the body, they deserve to be referred to only as ‘this’. The self, which is pure consciousness, can alone be rightly denoted by the word ‘I’. This failure to discriminate between the self on the one hand, and the body, mind and senses on the other, is the reason for every one attributing to himself the sorrows, etc., which pertain only to the body, mind and sense organs. The scriptures point out that the individual self is different from the aggregate of body, mind and senses and is identical with the supreme Self or Brahman, which is the indwelling self of all beings. A person who, as a result of this knowledge, dissociates himself from the body, etc., is free from all sorrow.

4. The knowledge of the self can be acquired only from the Mahavakyas in Vedanta (the Upanishads) such as ‘That thou art’ (Ch.Up. 6.8.7), ‘I am Brahman’ (Br. Up. 1.4.10). A sentence conveys its meaning only through the meanings of the words in it. The meanings of the words in the above sentences which would be in consonance with the sense of the sentence as a whole can be known only from the scriptures and not from any other source. This is like the meanings of the words ‘yupa’ and ‘ahavaniya’ which can be known only from the Vedas.

Note: The words ‘that’, ‘thou’, ‘I’, have certain meanings in ordinary parlance, but that is not the sense in which they are used in the above sentences. The senses in which they are used here can be known only from the Upanishads. This is also the case with other words used in the Vedas, such as ‘yupa’ and ahavaniya’. ‘Yupa’ is the name of the pole to which the sacrificial animal is tied in a sacrifice. This is known from the statements in the Vedas—“He fashions the yupa”, “He makes the yupa octagonal”. Ahavaniya is one of the three fires in which the sacrifice is offered. This is known from the Vedic statement “One pours the oblation in the ahavaniya”.

5. Thus, the sentences such as the one starting with “That from which all these beings are born”, (Tai.Up. 3.1.1) which deal with creation, etc., give the primary meaning of the word ‘That’. Sentences such as “Brahman is Reality, Consciousness and Infinite” (Tai.Up.2.1.1) give the implied meaning of the same word.