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Brahma Siddhi Of Mandana Mishra

Brahma Siddhi is a literary work of Mandana Mishra, who is a contemporary of Adi Shankaracharya. It is the earliest of the five siddhi works in Advaita. According to Sankapani, a commentator of Brahma Siddhi, Mandana criticizes the views of Adi Shankaracharya about karma (action) and jnana (knowledge).

Brahma Siddhi is composed in verse interspersed with the author’s own commentary in prose. The work consists of 231 verse and is divided into four chapters: Brahma kanda, Tarka kanda, Niyoga kanda and Siddhi kanda.

The first chapter deals with the nature of Brahman on the basis of the scriptural authority and discusses the means to realize it.

The second chapter establishes the authorities of Shrutis and shows that perception and inference are singularly inadequate for the true knowledge of Brahman. There is also a critique of the notion of bheda (difference), entertained in various forms by the logicians, the mimamsakas, the Jainas and the Buddhists.

The third chapter argues at length how the established fact of Brahman can never be the object of injunction or, for that matter, something to be accomplished.

The fourth and final chapter explains how the world is illusory even as reality is all that there is.

Brahma Siddhi has come to be associated with certain theories in Advaita which are sometimes at variance with those of Adi Shankaracharya. The most important among them are:

  • Knowledge (jnana) and action (karma), that can together be the means to liberation, as they are related to each other as means and end.
  • Understanding of scriptural texts can only mediate and by itself not lead to realization. One’s understanding must be further strengthened and ripened by steady contemplation to result in immediate realization.
  • The individual self is the locus of avidya (nescience) and not Brahman.

The work incidentally discusses and refutes the theories of error held by various philosophical schools in India, and demonstrates the truth of the Advaita theory of anivacaniya-khyati or the in-determinability of the object presented in illusion is either real or unreal.

The popular commentaries on Brahma Siddhi include Tattva Sameeksha of Vachaspati, Abhipraya Prakasika of Chitsukha and Bhava Shuddhi of Anandapurna. There is also a commentary by Shankhapani.