Y. Subba Rao

Subhanu Saxena Subhanu.Saxena at INTL.PEPSI.COM
Tue Sep 15 06:02:39 CDT 1998

On 13th September, Guy Werlings wrote:

> Has any member of the list read the book "Mulavidyanirasa" of Mr Y.
> Subba Rao and could provide a résumé or at least the argumentation.
> Thanks and regards
> Guy
This Sanksrit text was written in 1930 by Yellambalase Subramanya
Sharma, who was none other than Sri Sri Swami Satchidanandendra
Saraswati before his initiation into Sannyasa.  It was the product of
his years of concerted study into the true import of Shankara's
bhashya's, under the support and guidance of Krishnaswamy Iyer.  In
fact, its publication was delayed, as his own Guru refused to endorse
the work charging it to be "against the genuine sampradaya tradition".
When the book was finally published as "mulAvidyAnirAsaha", or
"Shankarahridayam" it caused quite a stir.  It received some positive
feedback but also some vitriolic criticism. He was charged with breaking
faith with the traditional interpretation of Shankara and doing untold
damage to the Advaita tradition. It is only after the passage of time,
and the more dispassionate assessment of later Sanskrit scholars that
the value of his contribution in restoring the original intent of
Shankara's Bhashyas has become known.

The main thrust of the book is a refutation of the mulAvidyA theory of a
material , indescribable, mysterious cause for adhyAsa.  This
interpretation of Shankara comes primarily from the PanchapAdikA
commentary on Shankara's Brahma Sutra BhAshyam (only the commentary on
the Bhashya for the 1st 4 sutras survive) , which , as I had mentioned
in my article, takes there to be a mithyA ajnAna, or unreal nescience
(or avidyA shakti as it is sometimes referred to), as the material cause
for adhyAsa, as opposed to interpreting the word mithyAjnAna as simply a
false conception that is entirely innate and natural to human behaviour.
There is a sub-commentary on the panchapAdikA, called vivarana, written
by a prakAshAtman.  It is this sub-commentary that the theory of avidyA
shakti is out on a more rigorous footing, and is given the name
mulAvidyA.  Such was the force of argument in the vivarana that the
whole school is referred to as the vivarana school, rather than the
panchapAdikA school.

Unfortunately, the original Sanskrit work mulAvidyAnirAsaha has long
been unavailable and out of print.  Fortunately, we have a more
accessible book:  in 1940 Subramanya Sharma wrote a Kannada booklet
called "Shankara Siddhanta". The main purpose of this booklet was to
summarise the key points of mulAvidyAnirAsaha in an accessible scope for
a wider audience.  This booklet has been translated into English in1996
by DB Gangolli (with all the source bhashya sections etc still in
devanagari with English translation), with the title "The Pristine Pure
Advaita Philosophy of Adi Shankara (Shankara Siddhanta)". It is
available through the Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalya. Its main contents are
as follows:

1) Introduction
-The confusion surrounding current interpretation of Shankara's
Bhashyas, particularly with a difference of opinion amongst different
- A summary of the 2 main schools in vogue today, namely the vivarana
and bhAmati schools, together with a description of the main beliefs of
- A summary of Sureshwara's approach, and how it differs from vivarana
and bhAmati schools, but is totally aligned to Shankara
- A list of the key criteria that should be followed to determine the
correct import of Shankara's Bhashya's:
        - When vyAkhyAnakAra's of different schools differ in opinion,
        arbiter should be Shankara's original Bhashya, supported by
        statements from within the Bhashya.
        - in any dispute, Shankara's Bhashya original will be assigned
        utmost value in ascertaining the true meaning
        - Should there be any contradictions amongst the prakarana
        ascribed to Shankara (such as vivekachudamani, aparokshanubhuti,

        upadesha sahasri etc etc), then the original text of the
Bhashya's and
        the meaning therin should be accepted as the prime source for an
        authoritative view
        - All reasoning and logic used should not contradict universal
        experience (in line with Shankara's own maxim)

2) Deliberation on avidya

- The nature of avidya as being a natural beginningless, endless
superimposition of the real and not real, a mixing of the subject and
object giving rise to the notion of agency, knowership, and duality,
with quotes from adhyAsa bhAshyam
- The cause of avidya, and the locus of avidyA as being red herrings in
Shankara's syste, as the concepts of space and time are themselves
within the clutches of adhyAsa. A refutation of mulAvidyA as an
incorrect interpretation of the original Sanksrit words, based on the
texts themselves
- A description of the correct relationship between avidyA and mAyA in
Shankara's system as mAyA being fashioned by avidyA (avidyAkalpita) with
numerous sutrabhashya /gita bhashya quotes to back this up. A refutation
of the vivarana view the avidyA is caused by mulAvidyA, and that it is
identical with mAyA
- A description of Shankara's point of view on avidyA from the
paramArtha standpoint

3) Deliberation on vidyA
- Its nature as defined in adhyAsa bhAshyam as acertaining the true
nature of things through viveka
- means to attain by removing avidyA
- Confirmation that avidyA accrues here and now, not after death

4) Conclusions on the nature of vidyA and avidyA
- Reiteration, with quotes, that mulAvidyA is not the purport of
- Refutation of views that avidyA (or avidyA lesha) persists in deep
sleep and in a true brahma jnAni.
- Affirmation that the ultimate teaching according to Shankara's
tradition is that from the paramArtha view there is no time at which
Jiva is not one with brahman in ALL states, and that the description of
merging in sushupti is adhyAropa.

Finally, Subramanya Sharma ends his booklet by stating 25 questions to
be put to mulAvidyA vAdins, believing as he does that they will be
unable to find support for the arguments in Shankara's original bhAshya

As you can see, although the above is meant to encapsulate the main
points of the original mulAvidyAnirAsaha, it is still a pretty turgid
set of subjects dealt with. I tend not to read this book to my children
as a bed time story. It also assumes some acquaintance with Shankara's
adhyAsa bhAshyam. Nevertheless it is a rigorous, data based book, where
every statement is backed up by a relevant quote from an original
bhashya source.

I hope the above answers your question



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