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Advaita Siddhi – A Text On Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Siddhi is a text on Advaita Vedanta. Advaitasiddhi is the work of Madhusudana Sarasvati (1540 – 1647 CE). The text was written as a rejoinder to Nyayamrita (the philosophical treatise to the Dvaita (dualist) school), by Vyasatirtha. Advaita Siddhi provides a comprehensive restatement of the metaphysical and epistemological position of the Advaita by explaining and clarifying the linguistic nuances of the earlier definitions and by offering parishkaras (more refined technical phrases). Advaitasiddhi, in conjunction with Nyayamrita, triggered a whole series of further commentaries. While Vyasaraya wrote Tarangini as a rejoinder to Advaita Siddhi, Gauda Brahmananda responded with two commentaries, namely, Guru Chandrika and Laghu Candrika, clarifying the Advaita standpoint. As further objections arose through the commentary Nyayamritasaugandha, Advaita’s answer came in the form of Vitthalesopadhyaya. This process of vibrant dialogue between Dvaita and Advaita traditions continues to this day, providing greater insight into the philosophical underpinnings of the two schools.

Madhusudana commences Advaitasiddhi with the traditional invocatory verse followed by the statement of purpose. He declares that the world, whereby he means that which is different from chit and which is sublated only by the knowledge of Brahman and which appears as real, is illusory, because of its appearance as real, like silver in the shell. In this paksha (minor term) is the world; Sadhya (major term) is mithyatva (falsity); and hetu (reason) is drishyatva (appearing as real).

Based on the statements of the earlier Advaita Acharyas, Madhusudana evolves five ingenious definitions of falsity which are as follows –

  • Sat (being different from being) as well as asat (non-being)
  • Being negated in all three periods of time (past, present, future) in the locus in which one is negated.
  • Being concealable by knowledge
  • Appearing in the very locus in which one is negated
  • Sat (being different from the real).

It is interesting to note that he also attempts to achieve the falsity of falsity itself. Later, he provides an extensive treatment of four alternative reasons, namely,

  • Drishyatva (cognizability)
  • Jadatva (non-sentience)
  • Paricchinnatva (limitedness)
  • Amsitva (the characteristic of having parts).

Subsequently, he addresses the various objections raised by the opponents of this inference and provides detailed rebuttals. Besides this, he also establishes the validity of important concepts such as ajnana (non-knowledge) and its anirvacaniyatva (in-definability). Having established the illusoriness of duality, he proceeds to discuss the nature of the non-dual state and the means to attain it.

Advaitasiddhi consists of four chapters. The first chapter is devoted to exhaustive treatment of falsity and connected issues. The second chapter discusses akhandartha (the notion of identity), the refutation of the concept of bheda (difference) and the central purport of Mahavakya, tat-tvam-asi (that Thou art). The third chapter deals with the means of liberation, viz., sravana (hearing), manana (contemplation), and nididhyasana (meditation), while the fourth chapter discusses the issues of avidya-nivritti (the sublation of ignorance) and jivanmukti.

In order to promote the study of this important text, an organization in India known as Sudharma Rakshana Parishad, Tenali, Andhra Pradesh has instituted an award called Madhusudana Saraswati Puraskar together with the commentary Laghucandrika of Brahmananda Sarasvati, which is conferred on scholars of master Advaita Siddhi.