[Advaita-l] Advaita Texts taught in tradition

jaldhar at braincells.com jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Sep 11 01:41:36 EDT 2023

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On Tue, 5 Sep 2023, Death Cruzer via Advaita-l wrote:

> To concisely put forward my question:
> 1. What are the list of texts taught to monks initiated in advaita vedanta
> tradition and in what order?
> Eg. In belur math training, monks are taught starting with Vedantasara.
> What are the other texts which they are taught there? Is there any fixed
> syllabus which they're taught? I know dozens of texts on advaita vedanta
> but which are the texts having learned which one could say they've learned
> advaita vedanta fully.

The truth of Advaita Vedanta cannot be known from words.  This is why 
Bhagavan Dakshinamurti is depicted teaching in silence.  Then what is the 
point of Vedantic texts?  I like to point out that this darshana is not 
aikya ("one") but a-dvaita ("not two")  Through shravana and manana on 
Vedanta we can remove the false notions with which maya obscures the true 
knowledge of our identity with Brahman.

The extent to which one if affected by maya is different from person to 
person according to their prarabdha karma; there may be one who upon 
hearing the mahavakya immediately becomes liberated while another may have 
read every book on Advaita ever published and still be none the wiser. 
Thus there cannot be a fixed curriculum by which you could guarantee 
someone has "learned Advaita Vedanta fully."

Furthermore there are valid modes of Advaitin practice, yoga, bhakti etc. 
which may not involve learning texts or a different set of texts.

> 2. If there is indeed such a list of essential texts. Then could you please
> give the order in which they are taught in Advaita Vedanta tradition.

Having said all that, I think we can identify a common set of texts which 
learned Advaitins tend to have known and referred to historically and up 
to the present day.

As Satyan mentioned in his reply to you, before even beginning the study 
of Vedanta one must have a grounding in grammar and logic.  The primary 
text of Vyakarana is of course Panini's sutras with their commentaries. 
If one just wants to know enough to get by, Bhattoji Dikshitas 
rearrangement of Panini, the Siddhanta Kaumudi or even more popularly, an 
abridged version of the SK called Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi by Varadaraja 
Bhatta is studied.

The need to study tarkashastra seems odd as it is a dualistic darshana 
which contradicts a lot of Vedantic tenets.  But it mainly concerned with 
pramanas or the means of correct knowledge and unless you know what is 
truth and falsehood you will not get far in Vedanta.  Annam Bhatta 
the author of the Tarka Sangraha a very popular introductory text in 
tarkashastra says the study of logic is the manana phase of the 
upanishadic dictum that Brahman is to be known through shravana, manana 
and nidhidhyasana.  There are many commentaries on TS including the 
authors own Dipika which is the most popular one.  Apart from TS another 
popular introductory prakarana is Karikavali and its commentary 
Siddhantamuktavali collectively known as Bhashapariccheda by Vishwanath 
Tarkapanchana Bhattacharya.

Moving on to Advaita Vedanta proper, there are introductory works like 
Vedantasara that you mentioned and Vedantaparibhasha by Dharmaraja is 
another popular one.  After that one might next read Siddhantaleshasa 
sangraha by Appaya Dikshita.  It compiles and harmonizes all the divergent 
opinions of the subschools of Advaita Vedanta.

It has been my observation that Pandits do not formally study the 
prakarana works of Shankaracharya and later acharyas that much though they 
are of course familiar with atleast some of them.  An exception may 
perhaps be made for the Panchadashi of Swami Vidyaranya which is quite 
influential.  After learning the introductory works, they go straight to 
the prasthana trayi with Shankarabhashyas.  The varttikas of 
Sureshwaracharya on Taittireyopanishad and Brhadaranyakopanishad as well 
as his independent work Naishkarmyasiddi as well as the tikas of Swami 
Anandagiri on all of the above works are also well-studied.

There are two major schools of interpretation of Shankaracharyas' 
Brahmasutrabhashya namely the Bhamati of Vachaspati Mishra which is a 
commentary on the entire BSB and has a chain of commentaries of its own 
and the Vivarana of Prakashatman on the Panchapadika of Padmapadacharya 
which only covers the first four sutras.  Vivarana Prameya Sangraha on 
Swami Vidyaranya gives a synopsis of the Vivarana.

Another important genre of Advaita literature is polemics that seek to 
defend our tenets against other rival darshanas and critique them in turn. 
By far the most widely-studied work of this type today is the 
Advaitasiddhi of Swami Madhusudana Saraswati and its commentary 
Laguchandrika by Swami Gaudabrahmananda Saraswati (the authors own 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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