[Advaita-l] Was Madhusudana Sarswati influenced by Gaudiya Vaishnavas and position of bhakti in advaita

Anand Hudli anandhudli at hotmail.com
Wed Jun 15 23:14:24 CDT 2011

No doubt, Bhakti is found in the Vedas themselves, and yes, in Shankara's
Gita Bhashya and other works attributed to him such as the shivAnanda
laharI, SaundaryalaharI, and the prabodha sudhAkara. However, it is also
common knowledge that from the late 13th century to the 17th century, there
was a strong bhakti movement in the country. This period witnessed the
emergence of great saints such as Sant Jnaneshvar, Sant Namdev, Shri
Chaitanya, Gosvami Tulsidas, Sant Surdas, Meera Bai, Vallabhacharya, Sant
Tukaram, and many others. Madhusudana Sarasvati belonged to the same era and
given the strong inclination towards Bhakti found in his works, and it is
likely that he was influenced by the Bhakti movement in general. Note that
some of the Bhakti movement saints, such as Sant Jnaneshvar, actually
embraced advaita. Sant Jnaneshvar's work Amrutanubhav is an advaitic work.

Some sources mention a different view. Madhusudana, early in his life in
Navadvipa,  was influenced by Vaishnavism to such an extent that he sought
to refute advaita. But he had to learn advaita first in order to refute it.
He came to Kashi and studied under Rama Tirtha. Having studied advaita
deeply, he became convinced it was the flawless philosophy of the
upanishads. He now sought to perform a "prAyashchitta" for the "aparAdha" of
resolving to refute it earlier! His Guru told him, "The PrAyashchitta for
this is that you must accept sannyAsa." Accordingly, he decided to seek
sannyAsa dIkShA from Vishveshvara Sarasvati. But the latter asked
Madhusudana to write an advaitic grantha first to prove himself worthy of
sannyAsa, and even suggested that he write a commentary on the gItA. This is
how Madhusudana came to write the gUDhArtha dIpikA. In the advaita siddhi,
we find that Madhusudana has described himself as "shraddhAdhanena muninA
madhusUdanena", where the word "muni" indicates that he was a sannyAsin when
he wrote the work. But we do not find a similar description in the gUDhArtha
dIpikA which makes it plausible that he was not yet a sannyAsin when wrote


>* What is quite likely is that Madhusudana was influenced by the Bhakti*>* movement in a general sense, but his philosophical views were clearly in*>* line with the other AchAryas of the advaita school.*>**>***RV: madhusudana does not talk about any influence by vaishnava acharyas.
without positive evidence, there is no basis to such statements. in fact, I
increasingly tend to think that he was a south Indian and hence spent a lot
of time in polemics with Madhwas. *

Also, Bhaskar wrote:

> prabhuji, IMHO, to advocate 'bhakti mArga' in his upadesha, madhusUdana
>might have found abundant 'bhakti rasa' in his mUlAchArya bhAshya itself.
>I think there is no need for him to get influenced by bhakti movement as
>propagated by vaishnavaites,  who are hard core dualists.  IMO, in
>Shankara's geeta bhAshya, 'bhakti rasa' is Ota prOta.  This one work
>itself  is more than enough for Acharya-s in advaita saMpradAya  to
>advocate bhakti in their svatantra grantha-s.

>PS :  Kindly let us know whether Sri Madhusudana agrees with 'dvaita vidha
>bedha bhakti' anywhere in his works??  Is there any reference with regard
>to this in his works such as 'bhakti rasAyana' or 'advaita siddhi'??

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