[Advaita-l] Pancikarana vs. Trvrtkarana (Analysis)

Antharyami sathvatha at gmail.com
Mon Jul 20 12:19:04 CDT 2009

Hari OM~

Shri Vidyasankar Sundaresan ji, Pranams,

I received the copy of your article by post. I have few points to make,
particularly on the cosmological theory of Trvrtkarana and Pancikarana. Let
me first highlight few of ‘your’ statements, which seems to form the premise
of your thesis, upon which I shall advance further arguments over the issue.
I quote.,

   1. Brahma Sutra 2.4.20 uses only the word Trvrtkarana. Accordingly
   Sankara’s BSBh is silent about a theory of fivefold combination of evolved
   elements. In US II.i.19-20 Sankara … does not explicitly describe a process
   of mixing that would involve pancikarana. [cf. p3 / para3]
   2. Sankara’s purpose in mentioning Pancikarana along with Trvrtkarana is
   not to uphold one or the other theory … [cf. p4 / para1]
   3. The absence of pancikarana in the BSBh may be said to contrast
   strongly with the CUBh, which recognizes the theory of Pancikarana and
   significantly enough in the context of Trvrtkarana. [cf. p4 / para2]
   4. Amalananda, who lived in the thirteenth century and who attributes
   such texts as the Prapancasara to Sankara would surely have viewed the CUBh
   as Sankara’s own composition… [cf. p4 / para3]
   5. If we take it as not requiring proof that the CUBh is Sankara’s own
   composition, it may be that Vacaspati was simply unaware of this text… [cf.
   p5 / para2]
   6. Within the Advaita tradition, Vacaspati’s contention about Trvrtkarana
   did not receive much support. [cf. p5 / para2]
   7. While it is true that Vacaspati and Amalananda argue in favor of
   trvrtkarana and against Pancikarana… [cf. p5 / para3]
   8. One cannot reject such texts as the BUBh, TUBh and CUBh either because
   they differ from the BSBh on some issues or because an early post-Sankaran
   author Vacaspati Misra seems to be unaware of them. [cf. p6 / para3]

On point a – Not only Samjnaklrptyadhikaranam of Avirodadhyaya is completely
silent about the Pancikarana but also the Chandogya counterpart. And not
only this; following Sankara Bhasya, other commentaries (except Kalpataru
and Nyaya Nirnaya) vide Bhamati, Kalpatataru parimala, Bhasya ratna-prabha,
Abhoga are all silent about Pancikarana view and they unanimously speak only
about Trvrtkarana. Anandagiri in his Nyaya Nirnaya says that Pancikarana is
mentioned in Chandogya Bhasya merely as an auxillary citation just to
reconcile the creation theory sponsored by the Taitiriya. In Nyayanirnaya we
find the following statement ‘tatha chandogye bhutatraya srtistaitiriya
srtyanurodhad bhutapancakavisayokta tathatrapi trvrtkaranam,
pancikaranama’bhiprayam drastavyam srtyantare pancanam bhutanam
srsteruktatvat’ [cf. Nyayanirnaya / B.S.II.ix.20]. This justification that
Anandagiri (in his Nyayanirnaya) gives for the place of Pancikarana in
Chandogya bhasya is one clear evidence for Sankara’s authorship on
commentaries both to Brahmasutra and Chandogya. Further Kalpataru’s
treatment of Pancikarana is only to respond Anubhutisvarupacarya’s
contention while Amalananda cannot be held responsible for interpolating
views that is not seen in Bhamati since he is fairly true to Vacaspati’s
non-mention of Pancikarana following Sankara. It is also important to note
that Advaitavidyacarya in his Brahma-vidya-bharanam does not make any
mention on the Pancikarana theory but for Trvrtkarana in this adhikarana of
Brahma-sutra. We must now be open to accept the fact that not only Sankara
is silent about the Pancikarana in Brahmasutra but the entire post-Sankaran
polemics is silent about Pancikarana.

Secondly, I would like to be critical over the way you hunt for ‘explicit
mention’ on Pancikarana and that you treat this as a factor to determine the
authorship of Sankara on Brahma Sutra and Chandogya. Let me draw and point
out a parallel instance – take the term ‘Jivan mukti’ for instance; when you
make a survey on Upanisad bhasya-s and the Sutra bhasya of Sankara we will
find no explicit mention on the term ‘Jivan mukti’ except for one single
place in the gita bhasya which clearly mentions ‘jivan mukti’ by name. Now
if explicit mention of ‘Jivanmukti’ becomes the criteria of authorship, then
one will have to either say Sankara did not comment on the Upanisad-s and
the Brahma Sutra which pays no mention on ‘jivanmukti’ by name or come to a
conclusion that Gita bhasya was not written by Sankara; for it makes a
spurious mention on the term ‘Jivanmukti’ which is nowhere found in any of
the Upanisad and the Sutra Bhasya-s. Or come to conclusion that the Sankara
who commented on Upanisads and Brahma sutra was unaware of the Gita bhasya
which must have been authored by some other Sankara. All these conclusions
are apparently absurd. Likewise Vidyasankar ji is over insisting on the
mention of Pancikarana and he treats this to be a criteria for determining
Sankara’s authorship on Chandogya and Brahma-sutra, which on the above
grounds has no relevance at all whatsoever neither to the concept nor to the

On point b – Sankara’s purpose in mentioning Pancikarana along with
Trvrtkarana certainly proves the point that Sampradaya is open to the former
theory but the latter holds seminal significance with regard to Sruti.
Sankara with all conformity is emphatic about Trvrtkarana as it is very
clearly seen both in Brahma Sutra and Chandogya bhasya while the mention of
Pancikarana is merely to reconcile Taitiriya version of creation theory
which is pointed out by Anandagiri as I have cited above. Sankara clearly
upholds Trvrtkarana while is he is not against Pancikarana as he says the
latter is ‘equivalent ‘extension’’ to the former. What is extended is
certainly a mere extension and not the centrifugal theme (Trvrtkarana) that
alone gets endorsed by the very ‘Samana nyaya’.

On point c – Vidyashankar ji’s seems too confused here on what he is for and
against. On point b he says Sankara’s mention on Pancikarana along with
Trvrtkarana is not to uphold one or the other theory and now in the very
next point he says Brahma sutra bhasya which is silent about Pancikarana
contradicts directly with Chandogya bhasya which carries the same along with
Trvrtkarana. If Vidyasankar ji feels Sankara is not upholding any theory in
Chandogya bhasya, why is it that you feel Brahma sutra bhasya is
contradicting Chandogya ? And if at all we assume to perceive any
contradiction, then you must first reconcile the contradiction within
Chandogya bhasya which equates two contradictory theories together. If you
would want to break Sankara’s Samana nyaya then you contradict your own
statement as shown in point b. On the other hand if you want to maintain the
‘samana nyaya’ equation of Chandogya then you are now pushed to relinquish
your statement shown on point – c. Please decide on what your position here
is !

On point d – I simply don’t understand what Vidyasankar ji is trying to
convey here. I could sense Vidyasankar ji’s indifference in his attitude
towards Amalananda from the beginning, which I strongly condemn. This
attitude, as I see it is just a result of non-reading of Kalpataru or wrong
reading of it. Late last year I had a brief discussion with Sringeri Maha
sannidhanam Sri Bharathi Tirtha on the authorship of Prapancasara Tantra.
Maha Sannidhanam instantly quoted Amalananda’s citation of Prapancasara in
Kalpataru as an evidence for Sankara’s authorship on the text. Maha
Sannidhanam also mentioned that Prapancasara is traditionally considered as
Sankara’s first literary composition. Further we have Padmapadacarya’s
commentary on the text which is yet another added proof for Sankara’s
authorship. Also, the colophonic study (in some manuscripts which I had
checked) are not alien to Hacker’s criterion by which I would not hesitate
to call Prapancasara non-apocryphal and most importantly with Amalananda’s
attestation, the work with all certainty is Sankara’s own. Keeping in mind
the central theme of Prapancasara which is Nrsimha-anustup upasana, I have
my own doubts on the current version of the text available to us, which I
feel is not free from interpolations. Further recently when I was reading
few Upanisad Dipika-s under my preceptor Brahma Sri Mani Dravid Sastrigal
(who is well informed about the ongoing discussion) we were pleasantly
surprised to see Vidyaranya’s quotions from Prapanca-sara Tantra (I still
relish when Sastrigal blessed a blissful brilliant smile when he read
Prapancasara citation). Samkarananda, Vidyaranya’s preceptor too is
supposedly said to have quoted Prapancasara Tantra in some of his Dipika-s
and all these confirms Sankara Bagavad pada as the author of Prapancasara.
And for the readers kind information Prapancasara Tantra is included in
Sankara’s complete works published by Vani Vilas Press under the inspiration
of Sringeri Sarada Pitha. Vidyasankar ji, I am referring my personal
conversation with Maha-Sannidhanam on this issue just because you have
dedicated your article to the Mahacarya.

On point e – “Vacaspati not aware of Sankara’s Chandogya Bhasya” ?? what a
misleading attempt !! First of all, Vidyasankar ji, the statement is
unwarranted when you have confessed yourself for not reading Bhamati fully
(atleast the relevant portions) when you wrote this article. Secondly I have
solid evidences where Vacaspati repeats Sankara’s Chandogya Bhasya verbatim
in Bhamati, which goes to prove that Vacaspati, the Sarva-Tantra-Svatantra
was completely aware of Sankara’s commentary on Chandogya. Following are
some of the instances I have collected to prove my point here.

Instance 1 -  Sankara’s Bhasya to B.S.I.ii.13  cites Chandogya IV.15.2,3,4,
‘esa u eva vamanirevsa hi sarvani vamani … esa u bhamaniresa hi sarvesu
lokesu bhati’. In chandogya bhasya portion to the above cited reference
Sankara comments on the terms ‘vamani’ and ‘bhamani’ to say ‘Vamani Punya
phalam … nayati … vidusaH phalam sarvani vamani nayati ya evam’ iti.
Vacaspati exactly reproduces the bhasya vakya in his Bhamati as we find “sa
eva punya phalam vamani nayati lokamiti vamani” iti.  Further commenting on
the term ‘Bhamani’ Vacaspati again uses Sankara’s Ch.Bhasya as he says ‘Esa
eva bhamani bhanani nayati iti bhamani’. Moreover while commenting on
Chandogya Mantra Sankara quotes Katha Valli Mantra ‘tasya bhasa sarvimidam
vibhati’ [5.16], which is exactly reproduced in Bhamati.

Instance 2 – Sankara Bhasya to B.S.1.i.25 cites Chandogya Mantra III.12.9.
‘ayam sa yo’yamantarhrdaya akasastadetatpurnamapravarti …’. In Bhasya
portion to the cited Chandogya reference Sankara remarks ‘Bahyendriya visaye
JagarithasthanaH … antahsarire svapnasthanaH … hrdayaste susupti sthanam …’
iti. As the mantra merely states antah – hrdaya etc Sankara in his
commentary equates them to Jagrat, svapna and Susupti. In Bhamati, Vacaspati
exactly makes use of Sankara’s statement from Ch.Bhasya as he says ‘
jagratkalvayam bahyanpadarthat … sarira madhya – tasya svapnasthanam tatha…
hrdayapundarika – tasya susuptisthanam’ iti.

The above two solid evidences with all certainty proves that Vacaspati was
completely aware of Sankara’s Chandogya Bhasya and the same was very much
available when Bhamati was written. It makes least sense to advocate the
theory that Vacaspati was not aware of Chandogya bhasya just for the mere
reason that Bhamati does not carry explicit mention of Pancikarana as
Chandogya bhasya does. Had Vacaspati commented on Sankara’s Chandogya, am
sure he would not have missed to makes the ‘explicit mention’ that
Vidyasankar ji is hunting for. Unfortunately this didn’t happen as Vacaspati
devoted his most of his life writing only Bhamati, a commentary on Sankara’s
Sutra bhasya alone.

On point f – Again a misrepresentation of facts. Vacaspati’s views were held
in high esteem within the Advaita tradition and the sampradaya itself is
known by the honorary title ‘Bhamati Prasthana’. Further followers of
Bhamati competes fittingly well with Vivarana prasthana with regard to
Sankara’s Sutra Bhasya. Upon Bhamati we have the following texts which
pledges ardent support to Vacaspati’s views. They are

1. Kalpataru of Amalananda

2. Sastradarpana of Amalananda

3. Parimala of Appayya Diksita

4. Bhamati Tilaka by Allalasuri (published - outofprint)

5. Rjuprakasikha by Akhandananda

6. Bhamati Bhavadipika by Acyutakrsnanda Tirtha (most revered sampradayin
within Adavaita Parampara)

7. Abhoga by Lakshmi Nrsimha

On point g – Vacaspati mentions only about Trvrtkarana and that we know he
is not against Pancikarana. Further keeping in mind that Vacaspati was aware
of Chandogya bhasya, wherein Sankara refers to Pancikarana, is one reason
that Vacaspati speaks nothing against the same in his Bhamati. Moreover,
non-mention of Pancikarana in Sutra bhasya leaves no scope for Bhamati to
speculate on the same but just to elaborate on Trvrtkarana alone.
Amalananda’s verse ‘sampradayadhvana pancikaranam yadyapi sthitam’ clearly
conveys  two very important points here that Vacaspati and Amalananda are
not against Pancikarana and they are not unaware of the theory which find
its place only in Chandogya bhasya of Sankara. Secondly Bhamati prasthana
actually is open to both Pancikarana and Trvrtkarana while it was Vivarana
followers (starting from Pratartha vivaranakara) who imposed
‘Pancikarana-only-camp which eventually compelled followers of Bhamati to
opt and incline towards Trvrtkarana-only stand, which enjoys direct support
from Sruti. Thus Vacaspati camp deserves the status of “Subham” as
Amalananda rightly conferred.

On point h – This position does not arise at all in the view of the above
advanced arguments which exposes several flaws in your thesis. First of all
I have maintained that Brahma Sutra bhasya and Chandogya bhasya are written
by one and the same author, which is undoubtedly Sankara. Secondly I have
illustrated few instances which goes to prove that Vacaspati was aware of
Chandogya bhasya and used the same extensively in Bhamati. Thirdly there is
no conceptual difference at all between Trvrtkarana and Pancikarana theories
as viewed by Bhamati school; for the latter is just a ‘mere’ logical
extension of the former, while the former alone is referred by name both in
Brahma Sutra and in Chandogya.

I have now from all quarters see that the above highlighted points which
forms the premise of author’s thesis titled “What determines Sankara’s
authorship? The case of Pancikarana” is infected with the following
drawbacks which is apparently too complex to be rectified and hence deserves
to be deconstructed on the whole. Drawbacks vide,

   1. Lack of proper conceptual and historiographical research on the topic
   2. Lack of reading the relevant texts which the author himself admits.
   3. Desperate indifference to a particular school (Bhamati), its founder
   and its followers – to suit one’s own position (?)
   4. Undue presuppositions, presumptions and speculations which hinders
   proper topical assessment.

 With Narayana Smrti,


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