|| shrIviTThalaM namAmi ||
The advaita-siddhi is regarded as one of the most important polemical works of advaita. It is MadhusUdana sarasvatI's brilliant and successful defense of advaita in response to the objections of the MAdhvas, the dualists. Shankara states that his doctrine of brahmajnAna (brahmajnAnamapi vastutantrameva - brahma-sUtra- bhAshhya 1.1.2) is a "vastu-tantra", a doctrine based on facts, as opposed to a "purushha-tantra", a doctrine based on the knowledge of an individual. One can raise objections against individual opinions but facts cannot be objected to; they can possibly be misunderstood.
One can possibly express ignorance of facts but not argue against them. So one may ask: how is it possible for the mAdhvas to raise objections against advaita that is based on facts? It is not possible. What the MAdhvas, the dvaitins, have done is to express misunderstandings, not objections.
It is, therefore, proper to answer the so-called objections of the mAdhvas by clearing their misunderstandings of advaita. But it must also be mentioned that, in some cases at least, it appears that the misunderstandings are not genuine misunderstandings but misunderstandings introduced on purpose to A) misrepresent advaita first and then, B) to try to refute the resulting misrepresentation. Nevertheless, advaitins should remove all misunderstandings, whether they be genuine or otherwise, and no advaitin has done this better than MadhusUdana SarasvatI, the great logician from Bengal.
I endeavor here to present some glimpses of the advaita-siddhi's great treasures, treasures that are to be cherished for all time. In a forum like this one, it is hard, if not impossible, to do justice to such a monumental work as the advaita-siddhi. So I will endeavor to present only a few discussions with translation, consulting the explanations of Balabhadra BhaTTAchArya in his advaita-siddhi-vyAkhyA, of BrahmAnanda in his GauDa-brahmAnandI (laghuchandrikA) commentary on the advaita-siddhi, and of ViTThala upAdhyAya in his commentary on the laghu-chandrikA. All these works, namely the advaita-siddhi, siddhi-vyAkhyA, GauDa-brahmAnandI, and also the viTThaleshopAdhyAyI commentary on the GauDa-brahmA- nandI, all in the original Sanskrit, have been edited by Pandit Anantakrishna Sastri and published by Parimal Publications, Delhi, in 1988.
A few words about the authors. MadhusUdana sarasvatI is a towering giant among advaitins. An oft quoted verse regarding him is:
madhusUdanasarasvatyAH pAraM vetti sarasvatI |
pAraM vetti sarasvatyAH madhusUdanasarasvatI ||
(Only) the Goddess of Learning, sarasvatI knows the limits of (knowledge of) MadhusUdana sarasvatI. And MadhusUdana sarasvatI knows the limits of (knowledge of) Goddess sarasvatI!
He is said to have had three illustrious gurus. He learned mImAMsA from mAdhava sarasvatI, vedAnta from rAmatIrtha, and took sannyAsa dIxA from vishveshvara sarasvatI. Apart from the advaita-siddhi which is MadhusUdana's "crest-jewel", he is said to have written numerous other works, including a lucid commentary on the gItA called gUDhArtha-dIpikA, and a work called "advaita-ratna-laxana", a refutation of the work "bheda-ratna" by the logician shankara mishra.
MadhusUdana demonstrates his ability as a master logician in the advaita- siddhi, which he wrote as a response to the nyAyAmR^ita of the mAdhva exponent, vyAsatIrtha. MadhusUdana was so accomplished in navya-nyAya (logic) techniques that the following verse is quoted about him when he visited navadvIpa, the center for learning in nyAya-shAstra.
navadvIpe samAyAte madhusUdanavAkpatau | chakampe tarkavAgIshaH kAtaro .abhUd.h gadAdharaH ||
When MadhusUdana, the master of speech, came to navadvIpa, MathurAnAtha tarkavAgIsha (who was the foremost navya naiyAyika during those times) trembled (with fear) and GadAdhara (another logician of great repute) became afraid.
Balabhadra BhaTTAchArya, the author of siddhi-vyAkhyA, is said to have a been a favorite student of MadhusUdana. BrahmAnanda, the author of gauDabrahmAnandI (laghu-chandrikA), wrote the work as a response to the nyAyAmR^ita-taraN^giNI of the dvaitin (dualist) rAmAchArya. BrahmAnanda was the student of nArAyaNa tIrtha, a student of MadhusUdana.
Finally, ViTThalesha upAdhyAya, a brAhmaNa of the Konkan region, has also placed the followers of advaita under his debt for writing a lucid commentary on the gaUDa-brahmAnandI.