[Advaita-l] Madhusudana Saraswati's bhagavadbhaktirasAyana

Murali Karamchedu murali_m_k at msn.com
Mon Sep 3 18:17:49 CDT 2007

Dear List Members,

Over the next several weeks I intend to post a series on shrI 
madhusUdanasarasvatI svAmI’s  bhagavadbhaktirasAyana ( or 
bhaktisAmAnyanirUpana ) – The way and essence of bhaktI, or the way of 
bhaktirasA.  In this work, he presents a traditional and comprehensive view 
of bhaktI and studies its relation to many other topics that come up during 
sAdhanA - such as its distinction from mokshA, its role in vairagyA, whether 
or not it is a purushArthA etc.

My intentions are twofold - to elicit discussion on the topics covered by MS 
so that we may better understand his work, and to seek echoes of those 
topics in the works of other bhaktAs from the different parts of India; 
examples that I am familiar with from South India are that of tyAgarAja, 
nAryaNa tIrthA, the AlzvArs etc.

Brief Overview of The Author and His Works:

MS is the author of several advaitic works such as the gUdArthadIpikA, 
advaitasiddhI,  vedantakalpalatika etc. He is believed to have lived between 
1540 and 1647 AD. He was born to pramada purandarAcArya ( purodana 
bhattAcArya) in Bengal. His forefather, shrI rAma mishrA had migrated from 
Kannauj to Navadvip in Bengal, during the times of Raja jayacandrA of 
Kannouj and shahAbuddIn gorI.

He was the third of four sons:

1.	shrIrAma or shrInAtha cUdAmaNI
2.	yAdavAnanda nyAyAcAryA
3.	kamalanayana or kamalajanayana ( MS)
4.	vAgIsha gosvamI

He began his studies under the tutelage of his father, learning kAvyA and 
vyAkharaNA from him. He studied nyAya from shrIrAma tarkavAgIsha or 
mathurAnAtha tarkavagIsha. shrI anantashAstri padke says in his introduction 
to the bhagavadbhaktirasAyana that he learnt mImamsA and Vedanta in Varanasi 
from shrI mAdhava sarasvatI and shrI rAmatIrtha respectively [1] . He then 
took up sanyAsa with shrI vishveshvara sarasvatI as his gurU. After sanyAsa, 
he lived at causaTTIghAT in gopAlmaT along with his guru for several 
decades.  As a precondition to his sanyAsa dIksha, his guru is said to have 
has asked MS to write a work in accordance with shrI shankarAcArya bhAshyA 
on the gItA. He is said to have written such a work on the gItA called 
gItAnibandha, in a short amount of time. There is disagreement whether this 
is indeed the same as gUdArthadIpikA, because gUdArthadIpikA refers to his 
other advaitic works.

He was a Krishna bhaktA. It is said that his journey into advaita began with 
his desire to refute advaita. His natural inclination to Krishna bhaktI 
found resonance in the bhaktI movement that was flourishing at that time, 
popularized by caitanya mahAprabhu. It is said that towards the end of his 
life, he was graced by Krishna’s darshan and composed the beautiful 

He was also a friend of Tulasidas; when the panDitAs of Kashi were 
deliberating on the rAmacaritmAnas, MS conveyed his appreciation of this 
work in the following verse:

AnandakAnane hyasmin tulasI jangamastaru |
kavitAmanjarI yasya rAmabhramaracumbitA ||

( There is a moving tree in Kashi called Tulasi, and shrI rAmA, as a bee, 
enjoys the essence of its flower, his poetry.)

The following is a list of the works he authored [2]:

advaitaratnarakshaNA – A criticism of bhedaratnA of shankaramishrA,
advaitasiddhI – A refutation of vyAsaraja svAmi’s nyAyAmrtA,
gUdArthadIpikA – A commentary on the gItA,
harilIlAmrtaTIkA – A commentary on the harilIlAmrtA of vopadeva
paramahamsapriyA – A commentary on the first verse of the bhAgavatA,
sankshepashArIrakaTIkA – A commentary on sarvajnAtman’s work,
siddhAntabindu – A commentary on shankara’s dashashlokI,

In addition to these, he is also said to have written the following:
Commentaries on AtmabhodhA, vedastutI, shAndilyasUtrAs; AnandamandAkinI, 
krshnakutUhalanATakA and rAjnAm pratibodhah

The bhagavadbhaktirasAyana has three parts to it (three ullAsAs), and MS has 
himself written a TIkA to the first part. One requires a little familiarity 
with the concept of rasa – aesthetic emotion in Sanskrit poetry and drama – 
to appreciate the nuances of his arguments in the work.

There is a whole literature devoted to rasA; briefly there are nine 
principle aesthetic emotions - shrngAra, hAsya, karuNA, raudrA, bhayAnaka, 
vibhatsa, adbhuta and shAnta. ( vIryA and vAtsalyA are also counted by 
some). rasA is said to create in the experiencer, through the operation of 
determinants (vibhAva) and consequents (anubhAva), moods (bhAva) and 
involuntary emotions (sattvabhAva).  vibhAva is the aesthetic problem, plot, 
theme etc, viz: the hero and other characters and the circumstances of time 
and place. These are things that effect a particular mood to be 
experienceable. anubhAva – These are deliberate manifestations of feelings, 
as gestures etc. bhAva are transient moods induced by pleasure and pain, e.g 
joy, agitation etc. sattvabhAva are emotional states originating in the 
inner nature; involuntary expressions of emotion such as horripilation, 
trembling etc. [3]

In the next post, along with the first verse of this work, I will also post 
excerpts from his own TIkA where he considers a whole host of questions, 
beginning with whether bhaktI is a purushArthA at all.

To state the obvious, there are bound to be errors in my attempt, I ask your 
help in correcting them so I may learn better.

Murali Manohar


[1] The source I am using for this is ‘shrIbhagavadbhaktirasAyan’ published 
by Chaukamba Vidhyabhavan, Varanasi, with Hindi translation and comments by 
Sri Janardhan Pandey

[2] Introduction to vedAntakalpalatikA by R. D. Karmarkar of BORI.
[3] Paraphrased from A. Coomaraswamy’s essay ‘Hindu View of Art: Theory of 

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