Saturday, June 8, 2019

Siddhanta-ratnam Release

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                Gauḍīya writers’ extensive production in the field of Sanskrit poetry has earned them a distinct place in the history of literature, particularly for consolidating bhakti as one of the prominent rasas. From Lord Caitanya’s days, their deepest philosophical conclusions were in-built in their poetical expression, either in vernacular or Sanskrit compositions. At that early point, no need was felt to translate the subtleties of the Gauḍīya ideology into the conventional technical language adopted by ancient schools of thought, both Vaiṣṇava and non-Vaiṣṇava. Their intricate concepts would naturally spring forth during eloquent discourses on the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Taking this lead, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī was the first Gauḍīya to make a substantial effort to vindicate and define the Bhāgavata philosophy in terms of the dialectic approach that had been in vigour for many centuries amongst learned circles in India. He thus brought out the Bhāgavata-sandarbhas, the six treatises in which he reads the Gauḍīya philosophy through the verses from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in a thematic and methodical manner. His auto-commentary, entitled Sarva-saṁvādinī, gave even a further dimension to his work by directly engaging with, and debating on various ancient systems of thought in the light of the Bhāgavata view.
                The decades that followed were marked by an acute decline in the literary activity that had blossomed in the 16th century and met its acme in the works of Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Jīva. It was not until late 17th century that another prolific author of a similar stature emerged in the form of Śrī Viśvanātha Cakravartī, who made up for a long felt dearth in the scholarly tradition started by Mahāprabhu’s followers. While his compositions were much alike those of Rūpa in his elaborations on bhakti-rasa and the path of devotion, he did not take the same interest as Jīva did in going to great lengths in comparative philosophy. That task was awaiting another eminent personality that would appear about a couple of generations later.
By divine providence, it was through the hand of Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa that the Gauḍīya-sampradāya came to be widely accepted as a bona fide school of Vedānta. Under the patronage of Sawai Jai Singh II (1688-1743 AD), King of Amber, Vidyābhūṣaṇa composed important works and became an exalted saint and scholar both in Vṛndāvana and Jaipur. The King not only commissioned him to write important treatises but also made him a member of his court, as confirmed at the end of this book. Several documents preserved at the Rajasthan State Archives corroborate Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s lifelong relationship with the royal family. It was King Jai Singh who first requested him to present a commentary on the Brahma-sūtras, both for his personal studies as well as to appease the claims raised against the authenticity of the Gauḍīya lineage. In response, Vidyābhūṣaṇa shortly produced the Brahma-sūtra-kārikā-bhāṣya, which starts by declaring that he is thereby fulfilling the King’s order to have such a commentary. Although the manuscript is undated, related documentation seems to indicate the text may have been written in the late 1730s. It is not clear when Vidyābhūṣaṇa started to work on a more comprehensive commentary that he named ‘Govindā-bhāṣya,’ but many years may have elapsed after the Kārikā-bhāṣya. Jai Singh suddenly passed away in 1743, probably many years before the completion of the Govinda-bhāṣya, a text that has never been added to his large collection of commentaries on Vedānta. Since the copy Vidyābhūṣaṇa sent to Gopiballabhpur is dated 1758 AD, this is possibly the year in which the Govinda-bhāṣya was concluded. Aware of the scarcity of philosophical treatises from the Gauḍīya perspective, he later envisioned the composition of yet another text that would further elaborate on many of the topics discussed in that commentary but without the structural restrictions imposed by a particular sequence of aphorisms. He also felt appropriate to provide the readers a basis to enable them to derive more benefit from the complex arguments that abound therein. Hence, this treatise came into existence and was named Govinda-bhāṣya-pīṭhakam, a throne (pīṭhaka) or support for the Govinda-bhāṣya. Because it presents multiple jewel-like (ratna) philosophical conclusions (siddhānta), it is also named Siddhānta-ratnam.
The earliest dated manuscript available was written down in 1780 AD, when Vidyābhūṣaṇa was probably in his seventies or early eighties.[1] The commentary refers to the Vedānta-syamantaka, Sūkṣmā-ṭīkā, Gītā-bhūṣaṇam, and Sāhitya-kaumudī. All these indications suggest that the Siddhānta-ratnam may have been one of his latest works, possibly written in the 1760s or 1770s.
At the end, Vidyābhūṣaṇa acknowledges Śrī Govindadeva for giving him knowledge and making him renowned as a scholar. Although for many years he was silent about the matter, here he also reveals that Lord Govinda Himself appeared in his dream and ordered him to write a commentary on the Brahma-sūtra. The commentary here hints that this is actually a personal secret that should not be openly revealed, but perhaps now at old age, Vidyābhūṣaṇa decided to share this fact with others to glorify the Lord’s magnanimity. The commentator narrates, “Upon being questioned regarding the conclusive meaning of the Brahma-sūtra that the son of Nanda Mahārāja is the Supreme Lord Himself, the author became very dejected because the conclusion was not taken as such. Unable to tolerate his dejection, the Supreme Lord, Śyāmasundara, wearing yellow garments, a sacred thread, an ūrdhva-puṇḍra tilaka, and braided hair, appeared in his dream and ordered him three times.” Contrary to the flowery versions we hear of the incidents that ensued, this seems to indicate that Vidyābhūṣaṇa may have been able to prove the legitimacy of the Gauḍīya-sampradāya, yet his presentation of Śrī Govinda as the avatārī, the source of even Lord Nārāyaṇa, did not meet the approval of the local Vaiṣṇavas and others. Up to the present day, they may not have changed their minds, but at least Vidyābhūṣaṇa submitted his final answer on the matter by composing the Govinda-bhāṣya, wherein he unequivocally defends Lord Govinda’s supremacy to his best capacity from whomever may question His status.
In composing the Siddhānta-ratnam, Vidyābhūṣaṇa based his arguments and conclusions on what he studied in the works of the previous ācāryas. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī’s Sandarbhas, and particularly the Sarva-saṁvādinī, were a major source of references. The theological views in Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī’s Laghu-bhāgavatāmṛta were also extensively adopted here. From beginning to end, Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s allegiance to Madhvācārya is also visible, especially by defining simultaneous difference and non-difference in terms of ‘viśeṣa.’ He also borrowed several arguments from Jayatīrtha’s Nyāya-sudhā, a sub-commentary on Madhvācārya’s Anuvyākhyāna on the Brahma-sūtra. These were great sources of inspiration in the three chapters wholly devoted to the refutation of various brands of Advaitavāda. Such extensive elaboration on the topic remains a unique and unsurpassed accomplishment amongst the Gauḍīya works ever written.
In his concluding words, Vidyābhūṣaṇa also acknowledges Pītāmbara dāsa, by whose mercy he was able to compose this treatise. The commentator clarifies that this was Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s ‘vidyā-guru’ (a preceptor who imparts knowledge) and ‘pūrṇaprajña-guru.’ Now, this last term seems to hint that Pītāmbara belonged to the line of Madhvācārya, who is also known as Pūrṇaprajña. The title ‘dāsa’ is particular to the Dāsakūṭa, a bhakti movement that flourished in Karnataka and had renowned personalities like Purandara dāsa and Kanaka dāsa (both 16th century). If it is true that Vidyābhūṣaṇa studied in Mysore, as we hear from certain sources, then he may have accepted the tutelage of Pītāmbara dāsa there. This is quite plausible and corroborates Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s initial background as a Mādhva-vaiṣṇava.
The Commentary
It is somewhat startling that several publishers have attributed the Sanskrit commentary here to Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa. This may either mean that they did not actually read the commentary, or may not have been sufficiently acquainted with his writings, scholarship, vocabulary, consistency, and style. As far as I have seen, Vidyābhūṣaṇa has not written any self-commentary to any of his works. He rather commissioned scholars like Vedāntavāgīśa and Nanda Miśra to comment on his texts. Without any reservations, when he needed to refer to himself, he used ‘we.’ [2] At the end of almost every one of his writings, he also clearly mentions his name as the author. On the other hand, we see that here the commentator refers to the author as ‘the saint’ [3] and ‘the ācārya.’ [4] There have been no instances of Vidyābhūṣaṇa ever using these words to refer to himself, nor would such usage be appropriate for oneself. At the end, the commentator just declares that ‘this commentary was composed by a certain ‘sādhu.[5] It is obvious that he refrained from signing the text out of humbleness, as did Vidyābhūṣaṇa in the Govinda-bhāṣya, since the credit of the authorship is given to Lord Govinda.[6] Moreover, there is no similarity in the writing style of both. Rather, the commentator falls short of the way of expression and scholarship found in the writings of Vidyābhūṣaṇa. A number of lapses could never have been found in the hands of the latter. In various places, the commentator skipped technical and difficult passages but did not refrain from redundant explanations on others, whose meaning is simple and obvious. His frequent and superfluous reference to lexicons to gloss random terms is also noticeable. It suffices to mention that not less than nine times throughout the book, the commentator has given wrong references for scriptural texts quoted by Vidyābhūṣaṇa.[7] This is something unheard of in the latter’s works. In several instances, the factual source was one of the major Upaniṣads that could have been very easily crosschecked. Yet there is no doubt that the commentary was written with the consent of the author, or perhaps even at his request. This may be corroborated by the fact that there are only three drafts of the text without the commentary, all kept at the same place, while the latter is found in all the other copies available around India, with no exception, many of which were written down during Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s lifetime.
Although no manuscript copy gives any hint of his name, it is evident that the commentator was thoroughly familiar with Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s works and could be none other than a close associate. Indeed, the very fact that the commentary refers to the Sūkṣmā-ṭīkā, which had been just recently written and would be known only to a few individuals, indicates that both were penned by the same person —Vedāntavāgīśa.[8] Moreover, the Sūkṣmā-ṭīkā also refers to the Siddhānta-ratnam several times, which also had been just recently written and no manuscript copies had been yet circulated by the author. This means that Vedāntavāgīśa had already studied the Siddhānta-ratnam and was either inspired to comment on it later, or was requested by Vidyābhūṣaṇa to do so. His authorship is further corroborated by his commentary on the Prameya-ratnāvalī.[9] By a comparative study of the commentaries of both texts, it becomes apparent that they share the same explanations, illustrations, vocabulary, and quotations in multiple instances.[10] This could have been possible only if both were composed by the same person or if one of the commentators were a plagiarist. Since these works were not yet available to others, the latter option is totally ruled out. In fact, Govinda-bhāṣya, Siddhānta-ratnam, and Prameya-ratnāvalī are a trilogy, the last two being supplementary works on the first. Thus, it is quite expected that Vedāntavāgīśa would have commented not only on one or two, but on all three of them.
How this confusion started is unclear, but for a long time Vedāntavāgīśa has been mistaken for Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya, a prominent disciple of Viśvanātha Cakravartī who also played an important role in the Jaipur debates. Bhaṭṭācārya’s name is mentioned among five of Cakravartī’s disciples in a document dated Saṁvat 1769 (1712 AD) in connection with the Gokulānanda jī Kuñja at Rādhākuṇḍa.[11] Soon after, he settled in Amber and became the Mahanta of the Vinodī Lāl Temple. A document dated Saṁvat 1773 (1716 AD) records a grant he received from King Sawai Jai Singh II to be used in the service of the deity.[12] Ample documentation corroborates his relationship with the King, who commissioned him to compose several treatises, such as Bhakti-vivṛti, Karma-vivṛti, Jñāna-vivaraṇa, Bhakti-phala-viveka, and Siddhāntaikya-prakāśikā, all of which are part of the Khasmohor Collection, preserved at the Mahārāja Sawai Mān Singh II Museum in the City Palace in Jaipur. These works seem to have been written between 1715 and 1735 AD. His best known book is the Padāṅka-dūtam, whose earliest known manuscript is dated Śakābda 1645 (1723 AD).[13] Commentaries on various works of Viśvanātha Cakravartī, such as Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, and Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma also have the name ‘Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma’ at the end. Bhaṭṭācārya was a householder, and by 1735 AD, his son Rāmanātha Deva Śarmā was already sharing some of his duties. Kṛṣṇadeva Bhaṭṭācārya passed away either in the mid or late 1740s, as a document dated Saṁvat 1802 (1749 AD) describes that after his demise, his grandson, Vṛndāvana Bhaṭṭācārya, claimed the same grant that had been previously given to his grandfather.
The obvious conclusion from all this is that Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Bhaṭṭācārya can by no means be the author of the commentaries on the Vedānta works of Vidyābhūṣaṇa, which were likely composed between 1745 and 1770 AD. On the one hand, Vidyābhūṣaṇa would have been about half the age of Bhaṭṭācārya and an absolutely unknown personality when he first arrived in Jaipur. On the other hand, Bhaṭṭācārya was already reputed as a Mahanta and scholar as early as 1715 AD, while Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s name is not seen in any document related to Jaipur before 1741 AD. Moreover, in none of his works has Bhaṭṭācārya signed ‘Vedāntavāgīśa,’ ‘Vāgīśvara,’ or any similar name. We also know from the commentary on the Siddhānta-ratnam that its author was a sādhu or ascetic rather than a householder.
Some believe that Cakravartī had another disciple called Kṛṣṇadeva Sārvabhauma Vedāntavāgīśa, who is the actual author of the commentaries on the Alaṅkāra-kaustubha, Kṛṣṇa-bhāvanāmṛta, and Saṅkalpa-kalpa-druma. Such a claim could be definitely proved if we could actually find manuscripts of these commentaries where the name Vedāntavāgīśa is mentioned, but up to the present day, I have not come across any. Until then, this proposition is haunted with too many coincidences to be easily taken for granted. In view of the above dates and facts, both of these theories may well be yet another distortion of the incidents, so common when hearsay prevails over recorded history. Furthermore, oral tradition says that one Kṛṣṇadeva accompanied Vidyābhūṣaṇa in Jaipur at Cakravartī’s command. If there were two individuals named Kṛṣṇadeva, which one is meant in this case?
However, it is possible that Vedāntavāgīśa was also called Sārvabhauma. This view may be corroborated by Vidyābhūṣaṇa’s words at the end of the Aiśvarya-kādambinī, where he, in a wordplay, declares that “this text has been composed by the kindness of Sārvabhauma Prabhu.” Since this work is dated Śakābda 1701 (1779 AD), we know that Bhaṭṭācārya could not have taken any participation at that point, more than three decades after his demise. Yet, without any evidence, to equate the name Vedāntavāgīśa seen at the end of the Prameya-ratnāvalī to the name Sārvabhauma seen at the end of the Aiśvarya-kādambinī may be a hasty assumption. Whether Vedāntavāgīśa was also named Kṛṣṇadeva is doubtful, and only further research will confirm or deny this hypothesis.
Each chapter has a different title, about which the commentator writes at the end of the book: “In this treatise there are eight chapters, whose titles and order are as follows: Pāñcajanya, Kaumodakī, Sudarśana, Tārkṣya, Vāmana, Trivikrama, Nandaka, and Padma. The chapters should be understood to be named as such due to their being similar to each of these.” Only in a few instances does he clarify the association between the title and the contents, and leaves to the reader to figure out the rest. Pāñcajanya, the Lord’s conch, marks an auspicious beginning, and its sound terrifies those who inimical towards Him. Kaumodakī, the Lord’s club, smashes into pieces many stone-like doubts. Sudarśana, His disc, dispels the darkness of ignorance by its effulgence and annihilates those who oppose the Lord. Tārkṣya, another name of Garuḍa, swallows all snake-like objections against the Vaiṣṇava siddhānta. In short form, Vāmana defeats the opponents by His mere astuteness. By extending His form, Trivikrama further humiliates the opponents by quoting and glossing various scriptures. Nandaka, the Lord’s sword, uses sharp reasoning to make short of the opponents’ crooked arguments. Padma, the lotus flower, presents the beautiful conclusion: Lord Kṛṣṇa is the sole Supreme Lord and the individual souls are eternally different from Him. The ultimate goal of life is to render pure devotional service unto Him, by which one attains transcendental happiness and the end of all distress.

[1] Document #117, bundle 34, Toji Dastu Kaumvar, Rajasthan State Archives, dated the fourteenth day of the Bhadra month of Saṁvat 1850 (nineteenth of September, 1793 AD) describes his ceremony of condolence presided by King Pratap Singh (ruled 1778-1803 AD).
[2] For example, vide Govinda-bhāṣya 1.3.43 (hariṣyāmaḥ), 1.4.14 (vakṣyāmaḥ), 2.1.10 (vakṣyāmaḥ), etc.
[3] sadbhiḥ (2.1).
[4] ācāryeṇa (5.1).
[5] By the word ‘sādhu,’ he means to identify himself as a renunciant, so there is no fault in such usage.
[6] Vidyābhūṣaṇa did not directly sign the Siddhānta-ratnam either but merely alluded to his name by a wordplay in 8.31. Thus, the ommission of the commentator’s name is quite justified.
[7] Vide 1.56, 1.64, 2.46, 3.8, 3.11, 4.1, 4.27, 4.34, and 6.19.
[8] Like Vidyābhūṣaṇa, he also did not directly sign the text but just alluded to his name by a wordplay (vāgīśvara) in the last verse of the commentary.
[9] At the end of which he unambiguously identifies himself: vedāntavāgīśa-kṛta-prakāśā prameya-ratnāvali-kānti-mālā, “This commentary on the Prameya-ratnāvalī, entitled Kānti-mālā, has been composed by Vedāntavāgīśa.
[10] Vide his gloss on the texts ‘jñātvā devam’ (SR 1.11, PR 1.11); ‘tam ekaṁ govindam’ (SR 1.35, PR 1.12); the explanations on SR 1.18 and PR 1.17, SR 1.20 and PR 2.5, etc.
[11] Vrindavan Research Institute, microfilm T1:25.
[12] Nusukha Puṇya, vol. 17, pg. 811, Rajasthan State Archives.
[13] Dhaka University, call number 200(A).

Index of Contents                                                                       
Summary by Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura                                                         
Chapter One — Pāñcajanya
Ascertaining the Means to the Ultimate Goal of Life
Auspicious Invocations                                                                                             
Kapila’s Sāṁkhya                                                                                                         
Patañjali’s Yoga                                                                                                           
Gautama’s Nyāya                                                                                                        
Jaimini’s Mīmāṁsā                                                                                                     
Vyāsadeva’s Vedānta                                                                                                  
Knowledge of God is the Only Means to Liberation                                           
The Supreme Lord’s Nature                                                                                       
The Concept of Viśeṣa                                                                                                
The Supreme Lord and His Form are One                                                            
Vedic Sacrifices are not a Direct Means for Liberation                                      
Definition of Bhakti                                                                                                    
Two Kinds of Knowledge                                                                                          
The Lord is Under the Control of Bhakti                                                               
Pure Devotion is Selfless                                                                                           
The Nature of Bhakti                                                                                                    
The Lord is a Devotee of His Devotees                                                                    
Bhakti is the Ultimate Goal                                                                                         
Pure Devotees are Distinct                                                                                          
The Lord is the Fruit of Bhakti                                                                                   
Bhakti Appears Just as the Gaṅgā                                                                              
Real Happiness is Beyond the Senses                                                                       
The Lord Accepts Service from His Devotees                                                      
The Supreme Lord is the Enjoyer                                                                            
Spiritual Eatables Leave no Discardable Portion                                                 
Reconciliation of Ṛṣabhadeva’s Activities                                                            

Chapter Two — Kaumodakī
Ascertaining the Supreme Lord’s Qualities
Aiśvarya-bhakti and Mādhurya-bhakti                                                                 
The Lord’s Body is Free from All Defects                                                              
Kṛṣṇa is Yaśodā’s Son                                                                                                 
Kṛṣṇa is the Source of All Avatāras                                                                         
Only Kṛṣṇa has All Divine Qualities                                                                      
Rādhā is the Original Lakṣmī                                                                                   
The Incomparable Love of the Inhabitants of Vraja                                           
The Nature of the Lord’s Abode                                                                               
The Lord’s Pastimes are Eternal                                                                              
Spiritual Time is a Form of the Lord                                                                       

Chapter Three — Sudarśana
Ascertaining Lord Viṣṇu’s Supremacy
Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Person                                                                                    
Refutation of the Theory that All Divine Beings are One                                  
Refutation of the Theory that Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are One                      
Refutation of the Theory that Śiva and Viṣṇu are One                                       
Refutation of the Theory that Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva are Similar                
Kṛṣṇa Worships Himself in the Form of Rudra                                                    
Refutation of the Mahāśaiva Doctrine                                                                    
Śiva’s Names Denote Viṣṇu                                                                                      
Lord Viṣṇu is Unborn                                                                                                

Chapter Four — Tārkṣya
Ascertaining Lord Viṣṇu’s Knowability
Refutation of Monism                                                                                                
The Supreme has Transcendental Qualities                                                          
The Supreme is not Mere Consciousness                                                              
Difference Between Karma-kāṇḍa and Jñāna-kāṇḍa                                        
The Supreme is Expressed by the Vedas                                                                 
The Supreme’s Names and Qualities are Eternal                                                 
The Vedas are an Eternal Form of the Lord                                                          
On Why Names are Denied in the Scriptures                                                       

Chapter Five — Vāmana — Refutation of Monism
Non-duality is Unproved                                                                                           
Ignorance cannot Cover the Supreme                                                                    
Ignorance and Liberation are Unproved in Monism                                         

Chapter Six — Trivikrama — Further Refutation of Monism
Objections by the Monists                                                                                         
Refutation of the Monists’ Objections                                                                    
The Lord is Non-different from His Body and Qualities                                   
The Scriptures do not Deny Difference                                                                  
The Universe is a Form of the Supreme                                                                 
The Universe is Real                                                                                                   
Lord Kṛṣṇa Refutes Mīmāṁsā, Sāṁkhya, and Advaitavāda                              
The Universe is Dependent on the Lord                                                                
No Instruction is Possible Without Duality                                                          
Refutation of Bādhitānuvṛtti                                                                                     
Refutation of the Avidyā Theory                                                                              
No Evidence can Corroborate Non-dualism                                                        
The Śruti does not Deny the Lord’s Form                                                              
Six Indications to Understand the Scriptures                                                       
Monism Decries the Vedas                                                                                        
Māyāvāda is Similar to Buddhism                                                                            
Māyāvāda is Similar to Jainism                                                                                
Everything is an Expansion of the Supreme                                                         
Īśvara, Jīva, Prakṛti, and Kāla are Eternal                                                             
Conversation Between Bharata and Rahūgaṇa                                                    
Conversation Between Ṛbhu and Nidāgha                                                           
Conversation Between Keśidhvaja and Khāṇḍikya                                             
Difference Exists Even After Liberation                                                                

Chapter Seven — Nandaka — Rebuttal of Impersonalism
Refutation of Monistic Fallacies                                                                              
The Soul is the ‘I’                                                                                                         
The ‘I’ Remains After Liberation                                                                            
Refutation of the Theory of Mere Consciousness                                                

Chapter Eight — Padma — The Ultimate Goal of Life
The Two Kinds of Ātmā                                                                                            
The Supreme is the Efficient and Material Cause                                                
God does not Undergo Transformation                                                                
The Jīva is Atomic and a Doer                                                                                  
The Supreme is not the Jīva Covered by Upādhi                                                  
The Jīva is not the Upādhi                                                                                         
The Jīva is not a Reflection                                                                                       
The Jīva is an Energy of the Supreme                                                                     
Saintly Association Leads to Liberation                                                                
The Nature of Liberation                                                                                           
Knowledge and Devotion are the Means of Liberation                                     
Reconciliation of Statements about Non-duality                                                 
Corroboration of Viśiṣṭādvaita                                                                                 
Refutation of Bhāskara and Others                                                                          
Auspicious Invocations