Book excerpts Acarya Kesari Part 7: Śrīla Gurudeva & Vaiṣṇava Literature. ‘The Life History of Māyāvāda,...

Part 7: Śrīla Gurudeva & Vaiṣṇava Literature. ‘The Life History of Māyāvāda, or the Victory of Vaiṣṇavism’

Paramārādhyatama Śrīla Gurudeva was endowed with the opulence of being exceptionally brilliant in all spheres. No one could equal him in organizing an ideal society, and at the same time he was also uniquely attached to transcendental knowledge. He was a mature and profound scholar of philosophy, rasika and also a poet. It is very rare to find a person who is so extremely talented in such diverse fields. He had the gift of astonishing everyone with his ever-fresh thoughts and feelings, and it was a natural part of his life to compose Vaiṣṇava texts presenting fresh philosophical conclusions and realizations. He enriched the treasure house of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava literature, not only by publishing the authentic compositions of previous ācāryas, but also by personally composing new books, articles, essays, prayers and poems which were full of siddhānta. We will herein present an appreciation of a few of his prayers, essays and sweet poems.

‘The Life History of Māyāvāda, or the Victory of Vaiṣṇavism’

Paramārādhya Śrīla Ācārya Kesarī considered that pure bhakti cannot be propagated completely as long as the conception of māyāvāda exists in the world. It is therefore most essential to uproot māyāvāda. For this reason he composed a book entitled The Life History of Māyāvāda, or the Victory of Vaiṣṇavism. Here is a brief account of the essence of this book.

(1) What is māyāvāda?

The word māyā – generally indicating the potency of inert matter (jaḍa-śakti) or the potency of nescience (avidyā-śakti) – is the shadow of the internal potency (svarūpa-śakti) of the Supreme Truth. She [māyā] is the authority who presides over the material world. It is this very potency that leads a materially bound living entity to identify himself with the physical body, to consider the objects connected with the body to be his own, and to accept the shelter of māyāvāda.

Māyāvāda states that brahma is an undifferentiated, or homogeneous, spirit that is devoid of any potency or attributes. From this point of view, then, a distinct māyā potency with the characteristic function of creating illusion cannot exist. However, māyāvādīs also assert that the jīva is actually brahma, and that the apparent existence of the living entity separate from brahma is simply an illusion that is created by the influence of māyā, or avidyā. As long as māyā exists, the jīva will exist. In this respect, māyāvādīs consider that the māyā potency does exist. According to the māyāvāda doctrine, then, māyā (ignorance or illusion) has the specific, distinguishing characteristic of being neither existing (sat) nor non-existing (asat), and is therefore inexpressible (sat-asat-vilakṣaṇa anirvacanīya). People who hold this deceptive opinion are māyāvādīs, or impersonalists. According to the māyāvāda conception, Īśvara, like the jīva, is also in the clutches of māyā. However, the difference between Īśvara and the living entity is that the jīvas are forced to accept the fruits of their actions, whereas Īśvara covered by māyā does not. Vaiṣṇava ācāryas have pointed out that this idea is contrary both to śāstra and to logic.

The author of Vedānta-sūtra, the omniscient Śrī Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vedavyāsa, who divided the Vedas, has declared in his Padma Purāṇa that māyāvāda is false and against the Vedas:

māyāvādam asat-śāstraṁ
pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate

Māyāvāda is a concocted doctrine and is known as Buddhism in disguise.

 

vedārthavan mahā-śāstraṁ
māyāvādam avaidikam
mayaiva vihitaṁ devi!
jagatāṁ nāśa-kāraṇāt
Māyāvāda, though given a facade of great importance and claiming itself to be derived from the Vedas, is in truth a non-Vedic theory. O goddess, it is I who has propagated this concocted theory, which will become the cause of the world’s destruction.

svāgamaiḥ kalpitais tvaṁ ca
janān mad-vimukhān kuru
māṁ ca gopaya yena
syāt sṛṣṭir eṣottarottarā
Padma Purāṇa (Uttara-khaṇḍa 71.107)
[Lord Viṣṇu said to Śiva,] O Śiva, make people in general averse to Me by concocting your own version of scripture and thus hiding My glories. In this way, the world’s population bereft of spiritual knowledge will increase.

Vaiṣṇava ācāryas such as Śrī Rāmānuja Ācārya, Śrī Madhva Ācārya, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī, Śrī Vallabha Ācārya, Śrī Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī and Śrī Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa have pointed out that Śaṅkara Ācārya is a hidden Buddhist and that his doctrine is covered Buddhism. Some scholars of the Śaṅkara sampradāya think that Vaiṣṇavas only say this out of envy, but in this they are mistaken. Many scholars who are not Vaiṣṇavas have also accepted that Śaṅkara nurtured the flow of the Buddhist conception. These scholars include Vijñāna Bhikṣu, who was a prominent scholar of Sāṅkhya philosophy; learned yogīs of the Patañjalī doctrine; and even Buddhist scholars. Now we will show the similarities between the views of Ācārya Śaṅkara and Buddha.

(2) Is this world false?

Buddha stated that the world is śūnya-tattva, void or non-existent, in all the three phases of time – the beginning, middle and end. By this, the world’s falsehood in the three phases of time is ascertained.

Ācārya Śaṅkara also taught that the cause of the world is a principle called avidyā, or ignorance, which is devoid of past, present and future. This principle of ignorance is inexpressible due to its special characteristic of being neither existent nor non-existent.

“Brahma satyaṁ jagan mithyā – brahma is real and the world is false.”

“Nidrā mohāt svapnavat tan na satyaṁ śuddhaḥ pūrṇo nitya ekaḥ śivo ’ham – The universe is not true, it is non-existent and false like a dream. The universe only seems real while we are asleep in a dream state; in reality it does not exist” (Ātma-pañcaka 3).

It is clear that Buddha’s śūnya and Ācārya Śaṅkara’s dream-like mithyā (falsehood) are both one and the same. Only the terminology is different. There is no difference between Buddha’s trikāla-śūnyatva, voidism in the three phases of time, and Ācārya Śaṅkara’s inexpressible principle of existence and non-existence.

(3) The means of liberation

Many scriptures of the Mahāyāna branch of Buddhism have said that the only means of achieving liberation is prajñā-pāramitā, or ‘the perfection of wisdom’. Buddhism teaches that one should understand that this whole world is a source of grief and is full of sorrows, and to attain complete relief from this suffering, one should try to obtain tattva-jñāna. The name of this tattva-jñāna is prajñā-pāramitā.

Ācārya Śaṅkara also says that, although the world is false, it is still the source of suffering, and is filled with intense misery. The condition of complete freedom from the grief of this distressful world is called mokṣa, or liberation. The cause of this liberation from material existence is knowledge of the oneness of brahma and jīva, and of brahma and this illusory existence. This knowledge is tattva-jñāna, and without it one cannot attain the perfection of oneness. Tattva-jñāna, or brahma-jñāna (knowledge of brahma), is the only cause of the complete annihilation of avidyā.

When we examine both opinions, we see that Buddha’s prajñā (wisdom) and Ācārya Śaṅkara’s brahma-jñāna are identical; there is no real difference between them at all. We can verify this with the observation that Ācārya Śaṅkara, having quoted the mantra ‘prajñānaṁ brahma’ from Aitareya Upaniṣad (3.3), has consistently supported the opinion of the Mahāyāna branch of Buddhism with regard to prajñā-pāramitā. In this way, Ācārya Śaṅkara has propagated tattva-jñāna (brahma-jīva aikyavāda, or the theory that brahma and the jīva are one), by following in the footsteps of Buddha’s doctrine, prajñā, or prajñā-pāramitā.

There is no difference between Buddha’s śūnya and Śaṅkara’s brahma. In the nineteenth verse of the Buddhists’ Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra, in relation to supreme liberation in the form of śūnya-tattva, it has been written: śaktaḥ kastvām iha stotuṁ nirṇimittāṁ nirañjanām / sarva-vāg viṣayātītāṁ yā tvaṁ kvacidaniśritā. It is clear from this verse that śūnya-tattva is untainted, causeless, unborn, non-existent, without any support and inexpressible through speech. It is unimpeded, imperishable and also immeasurable. These are the specific symptoms of śūnya-tattva. Śaṅkara, for his part, states that brahma is spotless and formless and without variety, potency and distinct qualities. It is clear, then, that there is no difference between Śaṅkara’s brahma-tattva and Buddha’s śūnya-tattva. Śaṅkara Ācārya himself has actually referred to brahma as śūnya.

draṣṭṛ-darśana-dṛśyādi bhāva-śūnyaika vastuni
nirvikāre nirākāre nirviśeṣe bhidā kutaḥ
Viveka-cūḍāmaṇi (402)
Is there a distinction between the viewer, vision and the object of vision in relation to the immutable, formless substance devoid of attributes? (In other words, there is no distinction.)

nityo ’haṁ nirvadyo ’haṁ
nirākāro ’ham akṣaraḥ
paramānanda rūpo ’ha
aham evāham avyayaḥ
Brahma-nāmāvalī-mālā (4)
I am eternal, flawless, formless, imperishable, supremely blissful and inexhaustible.

In the book Amara-koṣa, Buddha has been called an advaya-vādī, non-dualist. The followers of Śaṅkara Ācārya also introduce themselves as kevalādvaita-vādīs, pure non-dualists, so there is agreement between the two on this point as well. Readers can judge for themselves whether or not there is any difference of opinion between Śaṅkara and Buddha.

Although there is no specific difference between advaya-vāda and advaita-vāda, Ācārya Śaṅkara still named his doctrine advaita-vāda and not advaya-vāda (Buddhism). Why did he conceal this truth when he was fully aware in the core of his heart that he was a Buddhist? The reason for this was not a philosophical difference. The real cause was the order of his worshipful Lord, Śrī Bhagavān. Śaṅkaraḥ śaṅkaraḥ sākśāt. Ācārya Śaṅkara is the direct incarnation of Śaṅkara, who is the most exalted Vaiṣṇava and dear devotee of the Lord. Indeed, Śaṅkara is regarded as the guru of the Vaiṣṇavas.

At the time when Ācārya Śaṅkara made his appearance in India, the general mass of people were deviating from the principles of varṇāśrama because of the influence of the Buddhist śūnya-vāda. Even the brahminical class of men were rejecting Vedic dharma in favour of Buddhism. At that time, Lord Śaṅkara incarnated as Śaṅkara Ācārya, who was endowed with extraordinary powers. He transformed śūnya-vāda into brahma-vāda and re-established the honour and authority of the Vedas. India will remain eternally indebted to Śrī Śaṅkara Ācārya for accomplishing this extraordinary task. Establishing the false doctrine of brahma-vāda on the foundation of Vedic authority was only a temporary achievement.

Later, Śrī Rāmānuja Ācārya, Śrī Madhva and other Vaiṣṇava ācāryas erected the palace of Vaiṣṇavism on the foundation of Śaṅkara Ācārya’s brahma-vāda. We have already mentioned Bhagavān’s orders to Śrī Śaṅkara. Bhagavān Viṣṇu said to Śrī Rudra (Padma Purāṇa): “māṁ ca gopaya yena syāt sṛṣṭir eṣottarottarā – cover Me in such a way that people will take more interest in advancing material civilization just to propagate a population bereft of spiritual knowledge.”

(4) The history of māyāvāda

Śrīla Ācārya Kesarī researched the history of impersonalism from Satya-yuga to the present age of Kali, and has given us a bird’s-eye view of māyāvāda. Scholars of philosophy have concluded that Ācārya Śaṅkara’s nirviśeṣa kevalādvaita-vāda, non-variegated exclusive monism, is not the same as the advaita-vāda which was current prior to his time. On the contrary, the advaita-vāda prior to Ācārya Śaṅkara is Vedic, for we find it described in the Vedas and Upaniṣads. The Vedic literature states that the Supreme Truth as defined by the Upaniṣads (aupaniṣadika brahma) is neither without potency nor devoid of transcendental attributes. They also state that the world is perishable but not false. Śukadeva Gosvāmī and the four Kumāras, led by Sanaka and Sanātana, were fixed in meditation on this nirguṇa-brahma (the Supreme Truth devoid of qualities). However, this brahma was not an inexpressible principle with the special characteristic of being both existent and non-existent. Later, by the mercy of pure Vaiṣṇavas, they were established in pure bhakti.

The jñāna-yoga of the four Kumāras was somewhat unfavourable to pure bhakti, so their father Brahmā pleaded with Śrī Bhagavān, who advented in the form of a swan and instructed them in the process of bhakti-yoga. This narration is found in the Seventh Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī, an adherent of the unqualified Supreme Truth, entered into the realm of pure bhakti by the mercy of Śrī Vedavyāsa, an empowered incarnation of Bhagavān (a śaktyāveśa-avatāra). Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī has himself admitted this fact in the First Canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.

(5) Advaita-vāda in Satya-yuga

In his commentary on Brahma-sūtra 3.2.17, Śrī Śaṅkara Ācārya has accepted as evidence the dialogue between Bādhva and Vāskali. Bādhva was the guru of Vāskali, who was a famous advaita-vādī during Satya-yuga. Vāskali was the son of Anuhlāda, who was a son of Hiraṇyakaśipu; Vāskali, like Hiraṇyakaśipu, was by nature a ferocious demon. There are many such examples in the history of impersonalism in different yugas. All the great demons were either advaita-vādīs or māyāvādīs. This proves that the impersonal conception is especially honoured in the dynasty of demons. Impartial and soft-hearted sages who took to advaita-vāda were saved from the devouring mouth of māyāvāda, and their hearts were purified by the mercy received from the incarnations of Bhagavān. But stone-hearted demons, whose fanatical, blind faith in conceptions opposed to the śāstras, could not receive bhakti-tattva. Therefore, incarnations of Bhagavān destroyed these demons to safeguard the dignity of bhakti. Śrī Vāmanadeva appeared in the evil sacrifice of Vāskali, or Vāskala, and delivered him.

(6) The evolution of nirviśeṣa advaita-vāda in Treta-yuga

Vaśiṣṭha

Śrī Vaśiṣṭha Muni was the main ācārya of advaita-vāda in Treta-yuga. He was the family priest of the kings belonging to the sun-dynasty (sūrya-vaṁśa), and he was also a brahma-jñānī. No one disputes this fact, and his Yogavāśiṣṭha Rāmāyaṇa is irrefutable evidence. As a brahma-vādī, he used to impart knowledge of the undivided brahma to his disciples. Bhagavān Śrī Rāmacandra felt great pain on seeing His family priest wandering in the desolate forest of brahma-vāda, so He mercifully rescued him. Vaśiṣṭha Muni then offered himself in the service of Śrī Rāmacandra.

Rāvaṇa

Daśānana Rāvaṇa was the chief of the rākṣasa dynasty, and was the son of Viśravā Ṛṣi, who was the son of Pulastya Ṛṣi. Viśravā Ṛṣi left his place of residence in Brahma-varta and stayed for some time in Laṅkā, where he married the daughter of a rākṣasa. Rāvaṇa took birth from the womb of this demon’s daughter, and was thus half ṛṣi and half rākṣasa. He can be called an advaita-vādī, for prominent philosophers in Ācārya Śaṅkara’s line accept him as the first commentator on monistic advaita-siddhānta. The Buddhist sampradāya’s Laṅkāvatāra-sūtra also states that Rāvaṇa was a well-known advaita-vādī and śūnya-vādī ṛṣi.

The māyāvādīs want to rob brahma of His potency in order to establish that the Supreme Truth is powerless. Rāvaṇa tried to steal away Sītā-devī, the eternal potency of para-brahma Śrī Rāmacandra. For this offence, the great devotee Hanumān delivered the powerful punch of bhakti-siddhānta to Rāvaṇa’s heart. This vanquished his advaita-jñāna; consequently he fainted and fell to the ground. Śrī Rāmacandra then used the unerring arrow of veda-dhvani, the sound of the Vedas, to cut off Rāvaṇa’s ten heads, which signify the ten principles of nirvāṇa. This is the significance of the deliverance of Rāvaṇa.

(7) Advaita-vāda and its transformations in Dvāpara-yuga

Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī

Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī was the son of Śrī Kṛṣṇa Dvaipāyana Vedavyāsa and Vīṭikā-devī, the daughter of Javāli Ṛṣi. Śukadeva stayed in his mother’s womb for twelve years until, on the request of his father, he relieved his mother’s pain and came out as a liberated soul.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa have narrated the story of Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī’s birth in detail. From birth he was fixed in nirguṇa-brahma. However, by the mercy of the śaktyāveśa-avatāra Śrīla Vedavyāsa, he became a great rasika and bhāvuka devotee. He narrated Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to Mahārāja Parīkṣit, who had been cursed to die after seven days. Although Śukadeva Gosvāmī was a nirguṇa-brahma-jñānī, by the mercy of Śrīla Vyāsadeva he realized the superiority of the sweet pastimes of Śrī Bhagavān, who is extolled in choice poetry, and he became attracted to following the path of pure bhakti. He imparted the teachings of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam to the faithful King Parīkṣit, because he understood that the ultimate benefit of the jīvas lies only in hearing and chanting the topics of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, which are saturated with the sweet and rasika pastimes of Svayam Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa. He did not instruct brahma-jñāna to Mahārāja Parīkṣit, because it is impossible for the jīvas to achieve complete auspiciousness through brahma-jñāna. Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī himself states this in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.1.9:

pariniṣṭhito ’pi nairguṇye
uttamaḥ-śloka-līlayā
gṛhīta-cetā rājarṣe
ākhyānaṁ yad adhītavān
O saintly king, my heart was absorbed in nirguṇa-brahma, yet I became attracted by the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, who is glorified by transcendental verses, and I studied these narrations.

Kaṁsa

Kaṁsa was born from the womb of Mahārāja Ugrasena’s wife Padmā by the semen of the demon King Drumila. Like his father, Kaṁsa had a demonic nature, unlike Mahārāja Ugrasena, who was endowed with godly qualities. Kaṁsa imprisoned Mahārāja Ugrasena and declared himself king. His paternal cousin Devakī married Vasudeva, and at the time of the wedding, a divine voice from the sky declared that the eighth child born from Devakī’s womb would kill Kaṁsa. The atheist Kaṁsa wanted to kill Devakī in order to counter the prophecy and prove it false. However, after deliberating carefully, he imprisoned Devakī and Vasudeva, thinking, “As soon as Bhagavān accepts a form and takes birth from the eighth pregnancy of Devakī, I will destroy Him.”

Māyāvādīs are opposed to the vigraha of Bhagavān, for they do not accept that Bhagavān has a form. Their doctrine is that to accept a body is the action of māyā and to destroy nescience is mokṣa. Kaṁsa was also of this same opinion: “Bhagavān Śrī Viṣṇu (Kṛṣṇacandra) is going to take birth by accepting a material body, so it will be very easy for me to kill Him.” He did not know that the transcendental substance is beyond the jurisdiction of material substances, such as the material senses. Bhagavān Śrī Kṛṣṇa killed him and also his followers such as Pūtanā, Agha, Baka, Tṛnāvarta and Pralamba, and in this way established the special characteristics of His personal, transcendental form.

The fourth chapter of Ṭhākura Bhaktivinoda’s Śrī Kṛṣṇa-saṁhitā (verses 3 and 30) refers to Kaṁsa and Pralambāsura as covered Buddhists and māyāvādīs. Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva destroyed them and thus saved the jīvas from the devouring mouth of atheistic māyāvāda.

devakīm agrahīt kaṁsa-
nāstikya-bhaginīṁ satīm
pralambho jīva-cauras tu
śuddhena śauriṇā hataḥ
kaṁsena prerito duṣṭaḥ
pracchanno bauddha-rūpa-dhṛk
Vasudeva married the sister of the embodiment of atheism, Kaṁsa. Śrī Baladeva killed jīva-caura, the vicious Pralambāsura, who was sent by Kaṁsa and who signifies māyāvāda, or covered Buddhism.

In this verse, the word jīva-caura (those who steal living entities) is especially significant. Buddhists, like the māyāvādīs, also believe that brahma becomes a jīva through the effect of ignorance; in other words, brahma is perceived as a jīva when covered with ignorance. This attempt to abduct form itself is stealing (corī). It is the nature of demons to destroy the individual form and to rob the jīva of his very existence. That is why these people are māyāvādīs, atheists and jīva-caura. Kṛṣṇa and Baladeva re-established vaiṣṇava-dharma by destroying advaita-vāda in Dvāpara-yuga.

(8) Advaita-vāda or māyāvāda in Kali-yuga

Śākya-siṁha Gautama Buddha was born in approximately 500 BC. Indian philosophers have acknowledged this Buddha as an atheist, because he rejected the Vedas and Īśvara and instead propagated the philosophy of śūnya-vāda. His doctrines are known as bauddha-vāda, or Buddhism. It is important to know that Viṣṇu Buddha, who was born in the province of Kīkaṭa, or Gayā, as the son of Añjana, or Ajina, and Gautama Buddha, who took birth as the son of Śuddhodhana and Māyā-devī in Kapilavastu, are two different people. Gautama Buddha was enlightened with tattva-jñāna in Bodhisattva (Gayā), Viṣṇu Buddha’s birthplace. They are both described in famous, authentic Buddhist scriptures such as Amara-koṣa, Prajñā-pāramitā-sūtra and Lalitavistāra. For more detailed information please refer to Māyāvāda kī Jīvanī (The History of Impersonalism).

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Liṅga Purāṇa, Bhaviṣya Purāṇa and Varāha Purāṇa describe Buddha as the ninth of the Supreme Lord’s ten incarnations (daśāvatāra). It is verified there that this Buddha (the ninth incarnation) is not Gautama Buddha, the son of Śuddhodhana. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.40.22, obeisances have been offered to Viṣṇu Buddha: namo buddhāya śuddhāya daitya-dānava-mohine. This Viṣṇu Buddha was born towards the beginning of Kali-yuga: kalau prāpte yathā buddhau bhagavān nārāyaṇaḥ prabhuḥ (Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa 36.9). He was born about 3,500 (1,500 BC) years ago in Gayā. But the atheistic Gautama Buddha was born 500 BC. Consequently, they are two different people. Viṣṇu Buddha, who opposed the violence mentioned in the Vedas, was not an atheist, but Gautama Buddha denied both the Vedas and Īśvara and was thus a complete atheist. As we have already seen, Buddhists say that this world is śūnya, or void. Śaṅkara Ācārya very cleverly used word jugglery to propagate Gautama Buddha’s conception under the name of māyāvāda.

Ācārya Śaṅkara

Ācārya Śaṅkara’s guru is Govindapāda, and Govindapāda’s guru is Gauḍapāda. We do not find any scripture written by Govindapāda, and it may be said that it is Gauḍapāda who is actually Śaṅkara Ācārya’s guru. Gauḍapāda was a famous śūnya-vādī and his name is of great importance in the history of māyāvāda. His two texts, Māṇḍukya-kārikā, on which Ācārya Śaṅkara has written a commentary, and Sāṅkhya-kārikā, are the life and soul of māyāvāda. Thus, Śaṅkara Ācārya actually followed Gauḍapāda and propagated his śūnya-vāda doctrine. Śaṅkara Ācārya defeated many smārta, śaiva, śākta and kāpālika scholars in scriptural debate and made them his disciples. However, he never defeated any Vaiṣṇava ācārya or scholar. There is no historical record anywhere of any Vaiṣṇava being defeated by Śaṅkara Ācārya, or giving up Vaiṣṇavism to accept advaita-vāda.

Śrī Śivanātha-śiromaṇi’s Śabdārtha-mañjarī sheds light on Śaṅkara Ācārya’s life history. There we read that Śaṅkara Ācārya was eventually defeated in scriptural debate by a Tibetan Buddhist lāmā, who was at that time famous as a jagad-guru among the Buddhists. Before commencing the debate, they vowed that the loser would give up his life by falling into a vessel filled with boiling oil. Ācārya Śaṅkara finally admitted defeat, and actually gave up his life as they had agreed. In this way, Śrī Śaṅkara Ācārya, an effulgent flame in this world, departed around AD 812.

After Śaṅkara Ācārya’s time, many prominent ācāryas of kevalādvaita-vāda, or māyāvāda, were defeated by Vaiṣṇava ācāryas in scriptural debates. Others were influenced so much that they accepted Viṣṇu as the Supreme Absolute Truth, acknowledged the superiority of bhakti over jñāna, gave up kevalādvaita-vāda and accepted initiation into bhakti-dharma. We may cite as examples Yādavaprakāśa, Śrīdhara Svāmī, Śrī Bilvamaṅgala, Trivikrama Ācārya, Prakāśānanda Sarasvatī, Vāsudeva Sārvabhauma and Śrī Madhusūdana Sarasvatī.

(9) Nirvāṇa is a false concept

We have briefly described the history of māyāvāda and critically analyzed its doctrines in the light of historical evidence. We have seen that māyāvāda philosophy is based on extremely feeble logic. Consequently, from Satya-yuga until the present time, māyāvādīs have constantly accepted defeat at the hands of their opponents on the battlefield of debate. People may still aspire to follow the path of māyāvāda to attain nirvāṇa, just because this doctrine existed in ancient times. To these people we want to say that the nirvāṇa-mukti of māyāvāda is completely and totally false. In reality, the jīva can never attain any such state as nirvāṇa, because the supposed condition of nirvāṇa-mukti is simply imaginary. We can use historical evidence to prove without any doubt that there is not even a single instance of any advaita-vādī attaining this condition. When we analyze the life histories of great māyāvādīs like Gauḍapāda, Govindapāda, Ācārya Śaṅkara and Mādhava, we see clearly that none of them achieved the nirvāṇa-mukti which they themselves propagated.

According to Śaṅkara Ācārya’s biography, after his grand-guru Gauḍapāda left his material body, he appeared in Śaṅkara Ācārya’s trance when Śaṅkara Ācārya was absorbed in meditation one day, and said, “Śaṅkara, I have heard your praises from your gurudeva, Ācārya Govindapāda. I have also heard that you have composed a beautiful commentary on my Māṇḍukya-kārikā. I want to see it.” Ācārya Śaṅkara immediately showed Gauḍapāda the commentary. Gauḍapāda felt very happy to see it and, after giving his approval, he left.

From this incident it is evident that Gauḍapāda and Govindapāda did not become liberated from their subtle material bodies and achieve nirvāṇa-mukti. In the first place, how could Gauḍapāda hear about Śaṅkara from the mouth of Govindapāda, if both Gauḍapāda and Govindapāda had achieved nirvāṇa-mukti? Secondly, how could Ācārya Śaṅkara show his commentary on Māṇḍukya-kārikā to Gauḍapāda, if Gauḍapāda had attained nirvāṇa? If they had actually attained nirvāṇa-mukti, neither incident could possibly have taken place. If we accept these incidents as real, then the nirvāṇa-mukti, or nirviśeṣa-mukti, of the māyāvādīs must be false. Conversely, if we accept nirvāṇa-mukti, or nirviśeṣa-mukti, as real, then the aforementioned incidents are either false or imaginary. Even if we accept that the incident is partly true, still‚ the liberation of both the māyāvādī ācāryas is false, according to the māyāvādīs’ description of the symptoms of nirvāṇa-mukti.

Putting this incident aside, the biography of Śaṅkara states that he personally reincarnated as Mādhava Ācārya; that is, he appeared in the form of Vidyāraṇya. Now, how is this consistent with the conception of nirvāṇa-mukti? Māyāvāda doctrine says that after nirvāṇa-mukti, the jīvas have no existence separate from brahma, which is formless, changeless, inactive and without any attributes. However, we see that Gauḍapāda, Govindapāda and Śaṅkara Ācārya all had their respective separate existence. How can we logically accept, then, that they had actually attained nirvāṇa-mukti ? The nirvāṇa-mukti which the māyāvāda ācāryas propagate has no aspect or principle which allows any reciprocal dialogue, and what to speak of reincarnation, after the attainment of nirvāṇa. This consideration very clearly shows that nirvāṇa-mukti is simply a false and deceptive expression, or a trap to collect followers. If the chief propagators of nirvāṇa-mukti – those whom we can regard as the founders of the doctrine – could not attain such mukti themselves, then how can anyone else expect to?

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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