Thursday, December 5, 2013

Siddhanta-darpana Release

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           I am glad to announce the release of the second publication of the Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa Project: an English translation of the Siddhänta-darpaëa based in more than ten manuscripts from all over India. This critical edition includes the original Sanskrit text and the commentary of Nanda Miçra, who was the author’s direct disciple.  The main topic of the book is the authenticity of the Srémad-Bhägavatam.
            Just as the supremacy of Lord Kåñëa is an object of timeless controversy, so is the authority of the scripture that depicts Him: the Çrémad-Bhägavatam. No other Vedic personality and no other Puräëa has been so much attacked by opposing groups – a fact which itself evinces the superiority of both, for the scriptures often describe the particular envy the demons feel towards Lord Kåñëa. Such envy would be baseless if He were a common being and the Çrémad-Bhägavatam a common book. Therefore çästra, history, logic, and Lord Kåñëa’s exalted devotees stand by Him to dismantle all bogus texts, false evidences, fallacies, and atheistic arguments. With this in mind, Çréla Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa, known as the Gauòéya Vedänta Äcärya, compiled the Siddhänta-darpaëa, an original treatise that presents the Çrémad-Bhägavatam as the sound incarnation of the Lord and defeats several objections against its authenticity. 
          By its very characteristics, Çrémad-Bhägavatam far surpasses all other Puräëas.  There are five basic topics that must be included in a Puräëa according to the following definition: [1

sargaç ca pratisargaç ca vaàço manvantaräëi ca 
vaàçänucaritaà ceti puräëaà païca-lakñaëam

           “Primary creation, secondary creation, the dynasties, the ages of the several Manus, and the activities of the various dynasties – these are the five characteristics of a Puräëa.”
           Another definition states that a Puräëa, or more specifically, a Mahä-puräëa, must have an additional five topics:

sargo 'syätha visargaç ca våtti-rakñäntaräëi ca  
vaàço vaàçänucaritaà saàsthä hetur apäçrayaù

                   “O brähmaëa, a Puräëa is said to contain ten characteristic topics: the primary creation, the subsequent creation, the universal maintenance, the protection of all beings, the ages of the various Manus, the dynasties of kings and their activities, annihilation, motivation, and the supreme shelter. Some state that the Mahä-puräëas have these ten topics, while lesser Puräëas have only five.” (Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 12.7.9-10)
           All the subject matters can be distinctly found in one or more books of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam. As it contains these ten main characteristics, it is therefore correctly defined as being a Mahä-puräëa:

 çré-çuka uväca                             
 atra sargo visargaç ca sthänaà poñaëam ütayaù  
 manvantareçänukathä nirodho muktir äçrayaù

          “Çré Çukadeva Gosvämé said: In the Çrémad-Bhägavatam there are ten divisions of statements regarding the following: the creation of the universe, sub-creation, planetary systems, protection by the Lord, the creative impetus, the change of Manus, the science of God, annihilation, liberation, and the supreme shelter.” (Çrémad-Bhägavatam, 2.10.2)
           The Puräëas are also classified as belonging to the mode of goodness (sättvika), passion (räjasika) or ignorance (tämasika). The Kürma Puräëa (2.43.49) and the Matsya Puräëa (53.68-69) state:

 sättvikeñu puräëeñu mähätmyam adhikaà hareù                      
 räjaseñu ca mähätmyam adhikaà brahmaëo viduù                   
 tadvad agneś ca mähätmyaà tämaseñu çivasya ca

           “In the Puräëas in the mode of goodness, the focus is the glories of Lord Hari; in those in the mode of passion, the focus is the glories of Lord Brahmä; similarly, in those in the mode of ignorance, the focus is the glories of Lord Çiva and Agni.”
           The Garuòa Puräëa (3.1.52) confirms:

viñëoù puräëaà bhägavataà puräëaà sattvottamaà gäruòaà cähur äryäù

           “The Aryans declare that Viñëu Puräëa, Bhägavata Puräëa and Garuòa Puräëa are the best of the Puräëas in the mode of goodness.”
Wherever this topic is dealt with, the Çrémad-Bhägavatam is described as a sättvika Puräëa.[2] This is quite obvious, as Lord Viñëu, the subject of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, is also described as the controller of the mode of goodness. The superiority of sattva-guëa (goodness) over rajo-guëa (passion) and tamo-guëa (ignorance) is self-evident and it is superfluous to mention how it is praised by so many scriptures. Once this is understood, it is untenable to think that the Çrémad-Bhägavatam counted among the Mahä-puräëas could be any other text than the one in goodness and praising Lord Viñëu. No Puräëa named ‘Bhägavatam’ could possibly belong to the mode of goodness if it emphasizes the worship of any other deity than Viñëu, for this would contradict His direct instruction:

 ye 'py anya-devatä-bhaktä yajante çraddhayänvitäù    
  te 'pi mäm eva kaunteya yajanty avidhi-pürvakam
  (Bhagavad-gétä 9.23)
           “Those who are devotees of other gods and who worship them with faith actually worship only Me, O son of Kunté, but they do so in a wrong way.”
Yet there is a very old controversy in which the Çäktas claim that the Devé-Bhägavata Puräëa[3] is the bona fide Bhägavatam among the eighteen Mahä-puräëas. This issue has led to innumerable arguments between the disputants. Perhaps the earliest known reference to this controversy is that of Çrédhara Svämé (14th century), who in the very beginning of his commentary on the Çrémad-Bhägavatam[4] states that one should not doubt it as the authentic Bhägavatam, hinting that this controversy was quite widespread even in his time. Narasiàha Väjapeyé (15th century) in his Nityäcära-pradépa quotes the list of eighteen Mahä-puräëas and declares that one should not think that the name bhägavata comes from bhagavaté,[5] another name of Devé. In addition, Väjapeyé mentions the view of Lakñmédhara[6] that Puräëas such as the Kälikä Puräëa, which are not in the list, are later productions. He further remarks that if one doubts the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, which is so famous, then one may well doubt the other Puräëas too. In the 15th century, Puruñottama Tértha, a sannyäsé in the line of Madhväcärya, wrote the Bhägavata-viñaya-svarüpa-çaìkä-niräsa-trayodaça, in which he presents thirteen arguments to prove the Vaiñëava Bhägavatam as the legitimate Mahä-puräëa. In the 16th century, Jéva Gosvämé composed the Tattva-sandarbha, a pioneer work that presents the Çrémad-Bhägavatam not only as a bona fide Mahä-puräëa, but also the topmost scripture. Therein he refutes several objections against its authenticity. In the 17th century some peculiar papers were composed: defending the Vaiñëava’s view, Rämäçrama, son of the famous Bhaööoji Dékñita, wrote the Durjana-mukha-capeöikä (A Slap on the Face of the Wicked); to refute it, Käçénätha Bhaööa compiled the Durjana-mukha-mahä-capeöikä (A Big Slap on the Face of the Wicked); and another response written by an anonymous author is called Durjana-mukha-padma-pädukä (A Lotus like Shoe on the Face of the Wicked). The discussion continues till the present day, and unfortunately for the Çäktas, on the basis of the large amount of evidence available, the great majority of scholars agree that the Vaiñëava Çrémad-Bhägavatam is the legitimate Mahä-puräëa. A few of these evidences are as follows.
           The famous Bhägavata-mähätmya in the Padma Puräëa (Uttara-khaëòa, 195.29) describes:
 grantho'ñöädaça-sähasro dvädaça-skandha-saàyutaù   
 parékñic-chuka-saàvädaù çrémad-bhägavatäbhidhaù

           “The scripture named Çrémad-Bhägavatam has 18,000 verses in twelve books and is a conversation between Çukadeva and King Parékñit.”
As the Devé-Bhägavata has no conversation between Çukadeva and Parékñit, it is obvious that the Puräëa referred to here is the Vaiñëava Bhägavatam. The same is also true in the case of the Bhägavata-mähätmya in the Skanda Puräëa, which is part of the Vaiñëava-khaëòa and deals with Lord Kåñëa. The Agni Puräëa has a whole chapter (1.93) describing each book of the Bhägavatam which starts with the conversation between Çukadeva and Parékñit, and the main topics are accurately mentioned. The Padma Puräëa (Uttara-khaëòa, 193.3) corroborates:

puräëeñu tu sarveñu çrémad-bhägavataà param                        
yatra pratipadaà kåñëo géyate bahudharñibhiù

           “The Çrémad-Bhägavatam, in whose every word Lord Kåñëa is praised in many ways by the sages, is the topmost among all Puräëas.”
          As for the authorship of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, it is clear from the narration in its first book that it was composed by Vyäsadeva through the instigation of Närada Muni. Its authorship was formerly falsely attributed to Vopadeva by unscrupulous persons in an attempt to taint its authority. Such imposition could impress only those who are indifferent to the tradition handed down through the disciplic succession and who lack a minimum knowledge of history. In his own books, Vopadeva gives sufficient information to let us understand that he lived in the 13th century. Vopadeva states that his father was a physician named Keçava,[7] the author of a book on medicine called Siddha-mantra on which Vopadeva himself wrote a commentary called Siddha-mantra-prakäça. In this book, Keçava mentions that he was honored by King Siàharäja, also known as Singhana, who ruled from 1210 to 1247. Moreover, some of Vopadeva’s works were composed at the request of and to satisfy Hemädri,[8] a reputed scholar and author of Catur-varga-cintämaëi, who served as the prime minister of two kings in South India: King Mahädeva,[9]  who ruled from 1259 to 1271, and King Rämacandra Yädava of Devagiri,[10] who ruled from 1271 to 1309. Hemädri seems to have been a close friend of Vopadeva, and the existing commentary on Muktä-phalam entitled Kaivalya-dépikä is signed by him. This being so, he is quite competent to state how many books Vopadeva wrote: “Vopadeva has many excellent compositions, such as ten treatises on grammar, nine on medicine, one wonderful book on astronomy, three on literature, and three expressing the essence of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam.”[11] Had Vopadeva in fact authored the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Hemädri would have certainly stated so.
           Further evidence of the existence of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam prior to Vopadeva appears from Al-Biruni (973-1048), a Muslim scholar who spent years doing research in India and wrote an elaborate book on Indology[12] in which he clearly mentions Väsudeva’s Bhägavata Puräëa among a list of eighteen Mahä-puräëas.
          Similarly, King Valläla Sena, who ruled from 1160 to 1178, wrote the Däna-sägara in 1169,[13] wherein he states that he will not quote the Bhägavata Puräëa because it does not contain any chapter dealing particularly with charity, the main topic of his book.[14] By saying so, he obviously was not referring to the Devé-Bhägavata Puräëa, which has a whole chapter about charity in the ninth book (chapter 30).
           We also know from Vopadeva’s writings and from history that he was a very learned brähmaëa and a great devotee of Lord Kåñëa, therefore it is illogical to assume that he would do such a dishonest act as faking a Puräëa. His veneration for the Çrémad-Bhägavatam is expressed in the following words:

 vedaù puräëaà kävyaà ca prabhur mitraà priyeva ca            
 bodhayantéti hi prähus trivad bhägavataà punaù
           “The learned say that a Veda instructs like a master, a Puräëa instructs like a friend, and poetry instructs like a lover, but the Çrémad-Bhägavatam instructs like all three of them.”
         Even greater evidence showing the anachronism pointed above is Madhväcärya’s (1238-1317) commentary on the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, named Bhägavata-tätparya-nirëaya. Even if somehow someone could prove that Vopadeva lived a century before Madhva, it would still not substantiate the claimed authorship. The Çrémad-Bhägavatam was the only Puräëa commented by Madhva, who commented only on standard scriptures such as the Vedänta-sütras, Upaniñads and Bhagavad-gétä. In those days, even in a hundred years a newly composed text would not possibly be so widely accepted that Madhva would prefer to comment on it instead of the Viñëu and Padma Puräëas, which were largely quoted by Çaìkara and Rämänuja. In other words, the very fact that Madhva wrote a commentary proves that at his time Çrémad-Bhägavatam was a well-known scripture accepted by most scholars.
           As for the speculations regarding Rämänujäcärya’s (1017-1137) silence about the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, they are baseless. There are innumerable scriptures which were not quoted by him, and this does not even slightly affect their credibility. Rämänuja’s exegetics aimed at defeating Çaìkara’s arguments and relied on the same passages of the çruti and småti quoted by him. Since Çaìkara did not refer to the Bhägavatam to support his philosophy, Rämänuja also did not. It was the custom in orthodox philosophical circles to refer to the çruti as primary evidence and to the småti secondarily. In the case of the småti, the texts most quoted were those more widely accepted in the society. The fact that the Bhägavatam might not have been a popular scripture at Çaìkara’s time (8th century) does not undermine its authority. In his Tattva-sandarbha, Jéva Gosvämé mentions that many portions of the Vedas are lost. If eventually some of those original texts could be recovered, their credibility would be naturally contested for some time by scholars who never heard of them. Although it was previously known and commented on, it was between Madhväcärya (1238-1317) and Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu (1486-1534) that the Çrémad-Bhägavatam became largely popular all over India, being commented on by scholars from all corners. It then became a standard scripture quoted as authority on innumerable topics. It is remarkable that some scholars like B.N.K.Sharma[15] believe that Rämänuja, Abhinava Gupta (10th century) and Gauòapäda (7th century) actually quoted the Bhägavatam in their works, but their authenticity has been questioned by other scholars.
          Apart from a good number of commentaries, Çréla Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa wrote only a few philosophical books: Siddhänta-ratna and Prameya-ratnävalé (both introductions to Govinda-bhäñya), Siddhänta-darpaëa, Vedänta-syamantaka (also attributed to Rädhä-Dämodara Gosvämé) and Tattva-dépikä. Siddhänta-darpaëa is a prakaraëa-grantha, a treatise briefly dealing with a specific philosophical topic. Comprising a total of 56 verses, the work aims at proving that the Çrémad-Bhägavatam is a bona fide Mahä-puräëa, and that being non-different from the Supreme Lord, it is eternal and faultless. The only commentary available was written by Nanda Miçra, who, according to the Gauòéya Vaiñëava Abhidhäna, was Baladeva Vidyäbhüñaëa’s disciple. There is hardly any available information about him, but from his commentary on verse 5.4 we may assume that he was either originally from Väräëasé or lived there for several years. In any case, it is evident that he was formally trained in the different branches of orthodox philosophical schools and was directly appointed to write this commentary.

The book is divided in seven prabhäs or rays, as follows:

The First Ray refutes various Nästika arguments, as well as arguments put forward by the Mémäàsakas and Vaiñeçikas, and proves that the Supreme Lord is the creator of the universe and that the çruti and småti are his sound incarnation.

The Second Ray refutes the idea that the çästras are human compositions and that if the çruti and the småti are non-different, then the çüdras should be prohibited to read the småti.
The Third Ray proves that the Çrémad-Bhägavatam is one of the eighteen Mahä-puräëas by its characteristics and number of verses.

The Fourth Ray proves that the Çrémad-Bhägavatam is different from the Devé Puräëa and the Kälikä Puräëa.

The Fifth Ray refutes the doubts raised about the authenticity of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam.

The Sixth Ray refutes the idea that Vopadeva is the author of the Çrémad-Bhägavatam.

The Seventh Ray refutes the idea that the Çrémad-Bhägavatam has only 332 chapters.

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[1] This same verse appears in the Brahmäëòa Puräëa 1.1.37, Çiva Puräëa, Väyu Puräëa 1.31, Matsya Puräëa 53.65, Kürma Puräëa 1.1.12, and Garuòa Puräëa 1.2.28. A similar verse appears in other scriptures.
[2]  For example, in the Padma Puräëa, Uttara-khaëòa, 236.19, and Garuòa Puräëa 3.1.52.
[3] Chapter four deals with another book, called Devé Puräëa, which is also considered the original Bhägavatam by some Çäktas.
[4]  ata eva bhägavataà nämänyad ity api na çaìkanéyam. (Bhävärtha-dépikä, 1.1.1)
[5] vinirgataà samudbhütam | yathä kälikä-puräëädénéti lakñmédharaù | evaà ca sati bhagavatyä idaà bhägavataà kälikä-puräëaà bhägavata-padenoktam iti ye vadanti te nirastäù. (Nityäcära-pradépa, pramäëa-nirüpaëam)
[6]  The author of Bhagavan-näma-kaumudé.
[7]  vidvad-dhaneça-çiñyeëa bhiñak-keçava-sünunä. (Muktä-phalam, 19.54)
[8] çrémad-bhägavata-skandhädhyäyärthädi nirüpyate | viduñä vopadevena mantri-hemädri-tuñtaye (Hari-lélämåta, verse 1); hemädrir vopadevena muktäpham acékarat (Muktäphalam, 19.54).
[9] asti çasta-guëa-stomaù soma-vaàça-vibhüñaëam | mahädeva iti khyäto räja-räjeva bhütale (Catur-varga-cintämaëi, introduction). iti çré-mahäräjädhiräja-çré-mahädeva- samasta-karaëädhéçvara-sakala-vidyä-viçärada-çré-hemädri-viracitaç caturvargacintämaëiù (Ibid., end of the text).
[10] iha ca svakartåkatve’pi yadu-räja-mantriëä hemädriëäbhyarthitas tat-kartåkatvaà khyäpitavän (Muktäphalam, commentary on verse 1). iti çrémat-prauòha-pratäpa-cakravarti-mahäräjädhiräja-soma-yadu-vaàçodbhava-räma-räja-mantri-varya-hemädri-viracitä muktäphala-öékä samäptä  (Ibid., end of the commentary).
[11] yasya vyäkaraëe vareëya-ghaöanä-sphétäù prabandhä daça, prakhyätä nava vaidyake’tha tithi-nirdhärärtham eko’dbhutaù sähitye traya eva bhägavata-tattvoktau trayas tathä. This is found at the end of both Hari-lélämåtam and Muktäphalam, the third work being a commentary called Paramahaàsa-priyä.
[12] Alberuni’s India, chapter 12.
[13] nikhila-bhüpa-cakra-tilaka-çrémad-vallälasena-devena pürëe çaçi-nava-daça-mita-çaka-varñe däna-sägaro racitaù. (Däna-sägara, section 70) [1091 çaka = 1169 A.D.]
[14] bhägavataà ca puräëaà brahmäëòam caiva näradéyaà ca | däna-vidhi-çünyam eta trayam iha na nibaddham avadhärya.(Däna-sägara, 1.57)
[15]The Date of the Bhägavata Puräëa,” B.N.K. Sharma, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, 1932-33, Vol. XIV, Part III, pgs. 182-218.