Advaita Vedānta in Early Modern History

by Christopher Minkowski
Advaita Vedānta in Early Modern History
Christopher Minkowski
South Asian History and Culture
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South Asian History and Culture

Vol. 2, No. 2, April 2011, 205–231

Advaita Vedanta in early modern history

Christopher Minkowski*

Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

This essay considers the possibility of a social history of Advaita Ved¯anta in early

modern India by doing five things: surveying the principal literary works, authors, and

trends in Advaita in the fifteenth through early eighteenth centuries; mapping the networks

connecting the authors of those works through pedagogical and familial ties;

locating Advaita in the human geography of early modern India; tracing the linkages of

Advaitins with the social institutions that supported them and their rivals; and considering

what sort of theory of social history might be useful in studying the history of a

long-lived school of thought.

Keywords: Advaita; Vedanta; Banaras; early modern; Indian philosophy; sannyasin;



The question posed by the editors of this volume has to do with religious movements in

early modern India and their embeddedness in social and political realities of the period.

The further question posed here is whether that problem can be applied to a school of

thought, Advaita Ved¯anta. To put it another way, can there be a social history of Advaita

Ved¯anta, or at least, of its proponents? Can this unworldly philosophy, which propounded

the doctrine of undivided Being, have been changed through its involvement with the world

of ordinary life, in which it found such little conceptual interest, and can it in turn have

affected change in that world?

There are reasons to think so. To begin with, there is the later history. Advaita Ved¯anta

certainly enjoyed a prominence in the cultural and political life of India in the nineteenth

and twentieth centuries. Regarded as the source for a kind of indigenous secularism or

pluralism, in which many points of view are allowed to coexist because they are found

ultimately to be one in their goals and aspirations, a modernized Advaita became something

like the establishment position for the generation that achieved national independence.1

How did this state of affairs come about? Had Advaita always been the superordinate

Indian philosophy, as perennialists would have it, or was Advaita just one view among

many, before its transformation and elevation by modern reformers of Hinduism in the

early nineteenth century? Of course, the answer requires knowing what the situation had

been in the preceding centuries. The sources make it clear that this was a period of expansive

literary activity in Ved¯anta. A lot was written about non-dualism, often at great length

and sometimes with great intellectual and polemical force. Some Advaitin works from this

period are still remembered for their vehemence. Authors more famous for their work in


ISSN 1947-2498 print/ISSN 1947-2501 online

© 2011 Taylor & Francis

DOI: 10.1080/19472498.2011.553493

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206 C. Minkowski

other subjects got involved. In short, this was a period of engagement for the Advaitin

movement; but engagement with what, and why?

Although there is currently no accurate or comprehensive survey of the life of Advaita

during these centuries, as a discipline of thought, as a domain of literary production or

as a cultural movement, nevertheless, in their comments on this subject, made usually in

passing, historians of Indian philosophy have tended to notice the same features, even if

they have interpreted them differently. In his History of Indian Philosophy, Surendranath

Dasgupta recognized that from the fourteenth century onwards there had been an increase

in literary activity in Advaita, but he found the work produced lacking in originality

and philosophically uninteresting.2 The authors of the period were ‘good compilers, who

revered all sorts of past Ved¯antic ideas and collected them in well-arranged forms in their

works’.3 Karl Potter, on the other hand, wrote that, when it came to the later history of the

school, it was the movement in the direction of producing compendia and syntheses that

was ‘perhaps the most impressive development of Advaitic thought’.4

Dasgupta also attempted to delineate some of what he saw as the active schools of

thought within the camp of Advaita and attributed their internal differences to the networks

of teachers, pupils and colleagues in which they were developed.5 He thus recognized that

for the destiny of the non-dualist position in this period, there was something significant

about the social dimensions of its intellectual activity. This intuition has been shared by

other historians.

In what follows I would like to develop this intuition of Dasgupta in exploring the

theme of Advaita’s ‘sociality’. To explore that theme, however, we require a review of

Advaitin intellectual and literary activity. Although a great deal remains unknown, more

Sanskrit texts of the period have been published since 1922, when the History came out;

more individual Advaitin authors have been studied; and several helpful reference works

have appeared.6 Thus, we should attempt a provisional summary of the current state of our


The essay therefore has five parts: an account of the principal literary works, authors

and trends in Advaita in the fifteenth to early eighteenth centuries; a rough map of the networks

connecting the authors of those works through pedagogical and familial connections

and, where relevant, through the principal social institution that supported the Advaita position,

the monastic order of the dasn¯am¯ı sanny¯asis; the juxtaposition of those two mappings

onto Banaras, a centre for intellectual activity in Ved¯anta during this period; a consideration

of what is known about the institutions, political and monastic, that favoured Advaita

or disfavoured it; and lastly, some thoughts about what was at stake in all this passionate

activity in support of a dispassionate philosophical view.7

A survey of works, authors and trends

Most of the information discussed here is summarized in the form of a chronological list

in Table 1.8 My criterion for determining whether a work or author was ‘principal’ is at

least initially an external one; that is, it is judged by a work’s impact rather than by the

excellence or novelty of its ideas. In turn, impact is here determined by the degree to which

a work attracted commentaries, was cited in other works, provoked replies from philosophers

of other schools and continued to be circulated through the networks of manuscript


We should begin by considering the periodization assumed here: what, if anything,

sets the philosophical activity of the early modern Advaitins off from the activity of previous

centuries? In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the intellectual excitement had

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South Asian History and Culture 207

Table 1. Principal texts and authors of Advaita, fifteenth to seventeenth centuries.

1. Sarvajñ¯atman (tenth century): Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka

Vi´svaveda (21) (fl. 1500, Banaras?) Siddh¯antad¯ıpa

Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (5): Tattvabodhin¯ı

Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı (6): S¯arasam. graha


ottama Sarasvat¯ı (22) (fl. 1600, Banaras): Subodhin¯ı

R¯amat¯ırtha Yati (9): Anvay¯arthaprak¯a´sik¯a

Mah¯adeva Ved¯antin (14): Vivr.


2. Laks.m¯ıdhara Kavi (fl. 1440, Vijayanagara): Advaitamakaranda

V¯asudeva S¯arvabhauma (23) (fl. 1490, ?) Vy¯akhy¯a

Svayam. prak¯a´sa Yati (13): Ras¯abhivyañjik¯a

Sad¯a´siva Brahmendra (24) (fl. 1720, Tanjore): Advaitat¯ar¯avali

3. Sad¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı ‘Yog¯ındra’ (fl. 1500): Ved¯antas¯ara

Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (5) (fl. 1555): Subodhin¯ı

R¯amat¯ırtha Yati (9) (fl. 1610): Vidvanmanorañjin¯ı

A¯ padeva II (25) (fl. 1610, Banaras): Ba¯labodhin¯ı

Svayam. prak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvati (11) (fl. 1610): Sam. graha

subcommentary by Mah¯adeva Ved¯antin (14) (fl. 1645)



¯adhvarin (26) (fl. 1650, Dr¯avid. a):T.


T¯atparyaprak¯a´sa on Brahmas¯utra

4. Prak¯a´s¯ananda (fl. 1505, Banaras?): Ved¯antasiddh¯antamukt¯avali

N¯an¯a D¯ıks.¯ıta (27) (fl. 1590, Banaras) Siddh¯antad¯ıpa

5. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (fl. 1555, Dr¯avid. a)

Tattvabodhin¯ı (commentary on Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka)

Subodhin¯ı (commentary on Ved¯antas¯ara)


N¯ar¯ayan. a ¯A ´srama (28) (fl. 1595, Dr¯avid. a): Vivaran.



K¯alahast¯ı´sa Yajvan (29) (fl. 1590, Andhra):Vivr.


Na¯ra¯yan. a A¯ srama (28): Satkriya¯

Appayya D¯ıks.ita (7): Upakramapar¯akrama

Tattvaviveka with D¯ıpana or Advaitaratnako´sa

Subcommentaries: K¯alahast¯ı´sa Yajvan (29) Annam. bhat.t.a (30) (fl. 1560, Banaras),

N¯ar¯ayan.a A´srama (28), Agnihotra Bhat.ta (31) (fl. 1605, Deccan), Akhan.d.

¯ananda (32)

(fl. 1670, South), R¯amakr.s.


¯adhvarin (26), Anubhav¯ananda (33) (fl. 1695, South),


¯a´svat¯ananda T¯ırtha (34) (fl. 1740, Banaras)

6. Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı (fl. 1570, Banaras) many works, including

Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ırakas¯arasam. graha



ottama Sarasvat¯ı (22): Advaitasiddhis¯adhaka

Balabhadra (35) (fl. 1610, Banaras): Advaitacandrik¯a or


(Gaud. a-)Brahm¯ananda (19): Gurucandrik¯a and Laghucandrik¯a

Siddh¯antabindu (commentary on ´Sa˙nkara’s Da´sa´slok¯ı)


ottama Sarasvat¯ı (22): Sand¯ıpana

N¯ar¯ayan.a T¯ırtha (36) (fl. 1700, Banaras): Laghuvy¯akhy¯a

(Gaud. a-)Brahm¯ananda (19): Ny¯ayaratn¯aval¯ı


7. Appayya D¯ıks.ita (fl. 1585, Dr¯avid. a)

Upakramapar¯akrama commentary on Bhedadhikk¯ara

Siddh¯antale´sasam. graha


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208 C. Minkowski

Table 1. (Continued).

Acyuta Kr.



¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (18) Kr.s.


¯alam. k¯ara

Dharmayya D¯ıks.ita (37) (fl. 1640, Banaras) Vy¯akhy¯a

Parimala, commentary on Kalpataru commentary of Amal¯ananda (thirteenth century) on

Bh¯amat¯ı of V¯acaspati Mi´sra


Madhvamatavidhvam. sana

Nayamañjar¯ı on Brahmas¯utra

Ny¯ayaraks. ¯aman. i on Brahmas¯utra

8. Bhat.t.

oj¯ı D¯ıks.ita (fl. 1590, Banaras)

V¯akyam¯al¯a commentary on Tattvaviveka of Nr.sim. ha


9. R¯amat¯ırtha Yati (fl. 1610, Banaras)

Anvay¯arthaprak¯a´sik¯a on Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka

Vidvanmanorañjin¯ı on Ved¯antas¯ara

Vastutattvaprak¯a´sik¯a on Brahmas¯utra

10 Ra˙ngoj¯ı Bhat.


a (fl. 1610, Banaras)

Advaitacint¯aman. i



11. Svayam. prak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (II) (fl. 1610, South)

Ved¯antas¯arasam. graha

Mah¯adeva Ved¯antin (14) Vy¯akhy¯a

Ved¯antanayabh¯us. an. a commentary on Brahmas¯utra

Mit¯aks. ar¯a on Gaud. ap¯ada’s M¯an.d.


12. Dharmar¯aj¯adhvar¯ındra (fl. 1615, Dr¯avid. a)

Ved¯antaparibh¯as. ¯a

Pedda D¯ıks.¯ıta (38) (fl. 1645, South) Prak¯a´sik¯a



¯adhvarin (26): Ved¯anta´sikh¯aman. i

Padayojan¯a commentary on Padmap¯ada’s Pañcap¯adik¯a

13. Svayam. prak¯a´sa Yat¯ındra (fl. 1640) many works, including: Ras¯abhivyañjik¯a on





14. Mah¯adev¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı or Mah¯adeva Ved¯antin (fl. 1645, K¯añc¯ı)

Tattv¯anusandh¯ana with Advaitacint¯akaustubha

Param¯amr. t¯a

15. Sad¯ananda K¯a´sm¯ıraka (fl. 1650, Banaras)


16. Kr.s.


¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı I (fl. 1665, South)


Bh¯askarar¯aya D¯ıks.ita (20): Ratnatulik¯a

Kut¯uhala commentary on Brahmas¯utra

17. B¯alakr.s.


¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (fl. 1670, Dr¯avid. a)

Commentaries on ´Sa˙nkara’s Upanis. adbh¯as. yas

V¯arttika and vivaran.

a on ´Sa˙nkara’s Brahmas¯utrabh¯as. ya


18. Acyuta Kr.



¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı ‘Yati’ (fl. 1670, South)



¯ala˙nk¯ara on Siddh¯antale´sasam. graha

Commentaries on ´Sa˙nkara Upanis. adbh¯as. yas


¯anukraman. ik¯a on Brahmas¯utra


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South Asian History and Culture 209

Table 1. (Continued).

19. ‘Gaud. a’ Brahm¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (fl. 1700, Banaras)

Gurucandrik¯a on Advaitasiddhi

Ny¯ayaratn¯aval¯ı on Siddh¯antabindu


Mukt¯aval¯ı on Brahmas¯utra

20. Bh¯askarar¯aya D¯ıks.ita (fl. 1710, South) many works, including Ratnatulik¯a on


Commentaries on

Notes: The principal authors are numbered from 1 to 20, with the earlier author Sarvajñ¯atman heading the list

honoris causa, for the attention he received during the period in question. The principal works of each author

are listed together with the commentaries and subcommentaries that were produced by authors of the period.

The 18 additional authors, of commentaries and subcommentaries, and numbered 21–38 in Table 1, have been

assigned a number, a date and a location at their first mention. An asterisk indicates a commentary that has been

mentioned above. A question mark indicates uncertainty about location or date.

This list has been compiled based primarily on the most recent version (15 April 2010) of the online edition of

Potter’s Bibliography and on Thangaswami’s Ko´sa. I have supplemented their findings by referring toMahadevan,

Preceptors of Advaita, some of the secondary sources that Potter lists, the texts themselves and the information

available in Aufrecht’s Catalogus Catalogorum and Raghavan’s New Catalogus Catalogorum.

The sources do not always agree. A number of the authors, especially the sanny¯asins, share names. I have

consistently used Potter’s most recent dating (Not all of the dates are correct. I doubt that Gaud.a-Brahm¯ananda

Sarasvat¯ı and N¯ar¯ayan.a T¯ırtha are as late as Potter has placed them, and suspect that there are two N¯ar¯ayan. a

T¯ırthas involved here, an Advaitin and a M¯ım¯am. saka, the Advaitin being earlier. The M¯ım¯am. saka was one

of N¯ılakan.t.

ha Caturdhara’s gurus. More on this in a future article). I have also generally followed Potter in

attributing texts, but Thangaswami in attributing locations.

In his Bibliography, Potter lists about 85 Advaitin authors in the period between Laks.m¯ıdhara and Bh¯askara

D¯ıks.ita. The principles identified in the main text for determining which authors and works are the principal

ones have been followed to the extent it has been possible, based on the current information. Which are the

most important authors in the sixteenth century was easier to determine than in the later seventeenth century.

Thangaswami has given his own list of principal figures, as has Mahadevan. Both of these favour southern

authors, especially those affiliated with the ´S ¯a˙nkara mat.ha in K¯añc¯ı. Thangaswami also tends to enhance the

Southern connections of his authors. The activity of modern study and publication has no doubt influenced my

selection as well. I have also included the titles of works under some of the main authors which were probably

not as widely read, but which are illustrative of the predominant genres in which authors wrote.

It remains here to explain a little about the nature of the sources for reconstructing the social networks of

Sanskrit intellectuals in the early modern period. The lineages of teachers and pupils can often be reconstructed

from the Sanskrit works themselves, in which authors mentioned their teachers, and occasionally their pupils

(Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı, for example, mentions at the end of the Siddh¯antabindu that he composed the work

because his pupil Balabhadra kept nagging him about it (bahuy¯acanay¯a may¯a’yam alpo balabhadrasya kr.te

nibandhah. ). Modi, Siddhanta Bindu, 33, Note 7). They also cited works, including recent or contemporary ones,

and referred directly or by allusion to those with whom they were arguing. In addition, there are accounts of

debates and other face-to-face encounters. These have been preserved in various ways, ranging from the family

histories composed at the time, to transmission in living memory (See, for example, Deshpande, ‘Conflicting

Narratives’, on Rangoji; and Y. Bronner, ‘Anecdotes of Encounters’). There is also the evidence that is preserved

in the manuscripts that have survived from those centuries. The manuscripts can provide information about the

circulation networks for texts, as they often record the date when they were copied, the location of copying,

the copyist, the owner and later owners. In this way, even though personal libraries as such do not survive, the

libraries of some noted figures or of families of the period can be reconstructed (see Minkowski, ‘Scientific

Libraries’). There is also some inscriptional evidence about monastic institutions and temples associated with

the rival Ved¯antic movements (For the Advaitins, much of this is now collected in Clark, Da´san¯am¯ı-Sam. ny¯as¯ıs).

revolved around a confrontation with the philosophers of the Ny¯aya system of thought.

The principal figures on the Advaitin side were ´ Sr¯ıhars.a (twelfth century) and Citsukha

(thirteenth century). Through dialectical argumentation, they sought to bring into question

the very possibility of the Naiy¯ayikas’ method of argument and their position, which

at that time was, roughly speaking, that things exist separately from the self and that all

existing things can be known and described. Because of the sophistication and intellectual

autonomy of their argumentative technique, these two authors are often considered to have

brought Advaita to its philosophical high point.

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210 C. Minkowski

It appears that in the middle of the fourteenth century, with the works of S¯ayan. a,

M¯adhava and Bh¯arat¯ıt¯ırtha, the attention of the non-dualists began to shift towards metaphysical

or cosmological issues, based on the interpretation of passages of the

Meanwhile, the argument with the Naiy¯ayikas began about this time to turn into an

argument with theologians.

For much of the fifteenth century, there was a lull in activity on the Advaitin side.

The only work that attracted the later attention of commentators was the short independent

work by Laks.m¯ıdhara Kavi, the Advaitamakaranda. From the end of that century and the

beginning of the sixteenth century, however, there was a marked increase in the production

of influential works, and this active literary production continued up to the end of the

eighteenth century. The three authors who were the most influential for the entire period

were all active in the sixteenth century: Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Appayya D¯ıks.ita and Madhus¯udana


Literary trends

What topics attracted the attention of the Advaitins during this period and what literary

genres did they prefer to use to discuss them? To take the latter question first, we should

note, first of all, the appearance in this period of polemical works of a new sort. Polemical

texts as such were nothing new for Advaitins. These were works, however, aggressively

directed not against the proponents of philosophical positions, but rather at critics speaking

from within theological movements, especially the movement begun by Madhva. The

aggression can be judged even by the titles of many of these works. It was Nr.sim. h¯a´srama’s

works, especially the Bhedadhikk¯ara, ‘Laying a Curse on the Idea of Difference’, that

affected the shift from argument with Naiy¯ayikas to argument with dualist Ved¯antins.

Under Nr.sim. ha’s influence, Appayya’s Madhvatantramukhamardana, ‘Grinding the Face

of the System of Madhva’, and Madhvatantravidhvam. san. a, ‘Devastating the System

of Madhva’, followed suit. Under the influence of Appayya’s works, the two brothers,


oji D¯ıks.ita and Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a produced the Tattvakaustubha, ‘Gem of Truth’

and M¯adhvasiddh¯antabhañjan¯ı, ‘Smashing the Conclusions of the M¯adhvas’. Meanwhile,

Madhus¯udana’s compendious Advaitasiddhi, ‘Proof of Non-dualism’, was a riposte to the

Ny¯ay¯amr. ta, ‘Distillate of Logic’, a polemical work against non-dualism by the M¯adhva

author, Vy¯asat¯ırtha. The Advaitasiddhi was a governing text for Advaita for the next two

centuries, attracting many commentaries as well as replies from the dualists, which were in

turn answered by Madhus¯udana’s pupils and later defenders.10

Another new genre was the analytical survey, a work that assembled and evaluated the

views deemed to lie within the ambit of non-dualist philosophy. Creating doxographies of

all philosophical schools, arranged into a hierarchy with Advaita at the top, had been an

interest of the Advaitins for some time.11 What was new here was the aim comprehensively

to survey the variety within the school, either by itself or in addition to a survey of other

schools of thought. Appayya’s Siddh¯antale´sasam. graha was the most widely known example

of the former sort; Madhus¯udana’s three works, the Advaitasiddhi, Siddh¯antabindu and

Ved¯antakalpalatik¯a, all incorporated features of the latter.12

The period also saw the appearance of the brief prose pedagogical work, intended

to explain the principles of the Advaitin position in a systematic way at an introductory

level. The two principal texts were Sad¯ananda’s Ved¯antas¯ara and Dharmar¯aj¯adhvar¯ındra’s

Ved¯antaparibh¯as. ¯a, both of which attracted commentaries throughout the period.13

Introductory works had been produced before, of course. There were a half dozen or so

attributed to ´Sa˙nkara himself. The two works mentioned are noteworthy for their schematic

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South Asian History and Culture 211

style of presentation, entirely without the use of dialectical argumentation in the case of

the Ved¯antas¯ara, which reads almost as if it were the outline for a series of introductory

classes.14 These works, too, assembled views that were drawn from a variety of Advaitin

schools of thought.

Mention should be made here of the Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka of Sarvajñ¯atma. Composed in

the ninth century, this work summarized in about 1250 accessible verses the content of the

Brahmas¯utrabh¯as. ya of ´Sa˙nkara. The Samks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka followed the line of interpretation

of ´Sa˙nkara’s disciple Sure´svara, who was Sarvajñ¯atma’s guru, but developed that line in

innovative ways. We know of no commentaries on this work until the early modern period,

when it attracted the attention of many authors, including Nr.sim. ha and Madhus¯udana.

There was also renewed interest in the basic text of systematic Ved¯anta, the

Brahmas¯utra. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Advaitin authors in unprecedented

numbers produced direct commentaries.15 ´Sa˙nkara’s own direct commentary, the

Bh¯as. ya, whose arguments had by then become constitutive of the Advaitin position, also

received renewed attention (though not always full agreement). Many commentaries also

appeared on the two other canonical texts of Ved¯anta, the Bhagavadg¯ıt¯a, and the older, that is the that belonged to the ancient recensions of the Veda. These

commentaries addressed the texts either directly or else indirectly, namely, through the

commentaries of ´Sa˙nkara and his disciple Sure´svara. There was, finally, an expansion of

the canon of Upanis.adic texts beyond those on which ´Sa˙nkara had commented, to include composed later. This expansion reached its height towards the end of the period

in the work of Brahmayogin (mid- to late-eighteenth century), who produced

commentaries on a collection of 108

Currents of thought

As for the topics of interest to the Advaitins in the period, the survey of the literary trends

should make it clear that by this time they revolved around the disagreement with the

dualist (and to a lesser extent, qualified non-dualist) theologians. In part, this disagreement

was a transmuted form of the dialectical dispute with the Naiy¯ayikas; but there

were also fresh arguments over Advaitin metaphysics, by way of the philology of the core

Ved¯antic texts. The return by so many authors to commenting directly on the Brahmas¯utra

was probably the result of the oppositional commentaries on that text that had been

composed by the Vais.n.

ava theologians, R¯am¯anuja (twelfth century), Madhva (thirteenth

century), Nimb¯arka (twelfth century) and Vallabha (sixteenth century), as well by such

other sectarian theologians as ´ Sr¯ıpati (1350–V¯ıra´saiva) and ´ Sr¯ıkan.t.

ha (1400–´ Siv¯advaita).

The main problem for the Advaitins in this dispute had become the implication, when

it came to the ontological status of God, of their claim that Being was undivided. Was

the Ultimate different from the individual soul? The Advaitins thought ultimately not; the

Dvaitins thought ultimately so, as the Ultimate was just God; the qualified non-dualists, that

is, the ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.

avas and the ´ Saivas, thought that the Ultimate was different from the soul

in one sense and not different in another. Other topics of regular discussion were closely

related to this basic problem. Here I mention only the cluster of questions about salvation

or liberation (moks. a): what brought it about, knowledge or action, or some combination,

and how; and was it possible to be liberated while yet alive as a human?

Earlier, a strong version of the Advaitin claim had been that God was a lesser, only

apparent form of ultimate Being, conditioned in some way by beginningless ignorance.

Some of the most well-known Advaitins of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however,

appear to have felt that this old distinction, between Being free from any possible

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212 C. Minkowski

characterization (nirgun. a) and God as characterized (sagun. a) Being, was no longer satisfactory.

As a result, there were various forms of experimentation with the system’s

metaphysical theory, in the attempt to alter the theological implications. In addition to his

non-dualist writings, Appayya wrote works from a ´ Siv¯advaita point of view, which verged

on qualified non-dualism. He also wrote a fourfold commentary on the Brahmas¯utra,

assembling the four points of view: dualist, qualified dualist, ´ Saiva and non-dualist.

Madhus¯udana also lived something of a double life intellectually. He attempted to produce

a non-dualist theology of Kr.



a. Kr.s.


a in all of his specific qualities was somehow

just as ultimate as the abstract (nirgun. a) Brahman, certainly not less, and possibly something

more; the bhakti path to Him was not a preliminary to Advaitin realization, but a

genuinely alternate path, neither better nor worse than the Upanis.adic one.

It was probably in conjunction with this experimental or adaptive tendency that

Advaitins of the period, concerned as they were to clarify the boundaries of the Advaitin

view, wrote survey works that catalogued the variations within the movement’s position.16

It was also probably why authors devoted efforts to evaluating the various Advaitin views

on offer to establish the correct view, the siddh¯anta.17 Then too there was the introductory

statement of the position of Advaita in the Ved¯antas¯ara and Ved¯antaparibh¯as. a, which made

use of doctrines from a variety of earlier Advaitin lines of thought.

The reason for the growth of interest in the Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka might be found in a

number of that work’s features: its text kept track of seven different Advaitin points of view

against which it argued; it carried on Sure´svara’s preoccupation with Upanis.adic philology;

and it elaborated the number of core metaphysical categories.

The commentarial activity of Advaitins expanded to include works that had not earlier

been canonical, to maintain their claim that their non-dualism was authoritatively the

teaching of the Vedas. They wished not to be outflanked, as it were, by the theologians who

had relied on these later texts, and to show that the sectarian did not constitute

an alternative authority that superseded them, as the texts confirmed their own non-dualist


It was the development of literary and conceptual activity of the sort described that led

Dasgupta, as we have seen, to characterize most of the authors of this period as nothing

more than good collectors and arrangers ‘who revered all sorts of past Ved¯antic ideas’.

What appears to have bothered Dasgupta was that the intellectual activity of these authors

consisted in a syncretism that led them to depart from the demarcated lines of thought that

had developed in the wake of ´Sa˙nkara, these being associated with the Bh¯amat¯ı commentary

of V¯acaspati Mi´sra (tenth century), with the Vivaran. a commentary of Prak¯a´s¯atman

(thirteenth century) and with the V¯arttika of Sure´svara (ninth century).18 The histories of

Advaita use the differences between the first two of these lines especially as the narrative

structure for their story of Advaita. The Bh¯amat¯ı and Vivaran. a lines were in dispute with

each other, each with a cluster of solutions proposed to the problems raised by ´Sa˙nkara’s

work, the problematic implications of these solutions then pursued through later works in

the line.

The Advaitin authors in the early modern period caused difficulties for this narrative

by blurring the demarcations between these lines of thought. They drew on the literature

produced by earlier authors assigned to all three lines, and did not necessarily insist on

maintaining the constellation of views of any one. This is what won them their faint praise

from Dasgupta, for revering past ideas ‘of all sorts’.

On the other hand, Suryanarayana Sastri found creativity in this same tendency to

synthesize or to reassemble.19 It might indeed be closer to the mark to consider that the

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South Asian History and Culture 213

Advaitins recognized new vulnerabilities in their position, when confronted with a critique

that came from a new, more theologically grounded source, and to see the Advaitins

as responding to the changed situation by concerning themselves with two tasks: judging

what was allowed them philosophically as Advaitins, given their core textual and doctrinal

commitments; and assembling the arguments allowed them in a way that was maximally

coherent and defensible, regardless of the particular provenance of any given argument

within the world of Advaitin thought.

That the synthetic or compilatory tendencies of the works of this period were the

outcome of a willingness to experiment even radically with the system is supported

by the appearance of outlier views, most notably in the work of Prak¯a´s¯ananda. His

Ved¯antasiddh¯antamukt¯avali followed one possible approach to its logical conclusion, in

the formulation of a sort of private creationism (dr.s.


t.iv¯ada). This radical solution

to the Advaitin’s problem of explaining the existence of the shared world is sometimes

described as metaphysical solipsism. It had been avoided by most Advaitins in the past and

is correctly seen by historians as an original and radical step.

From the point of view of general historians of Indian philosophy, however, the

encounter embodied in the chain of Ved¯antic texts and countertexts that went from

Vy¯asat¯ırtha’s Ny¯ay¯amr. ta to Madhus¯udana’s Advaitasiddhi and on through later replies

was the main event in Indian philosophy during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. The

arguments begun and sustained in this chain of treatises were conducted at a level of philosophical

rigour not found in other works of the period, being comparable in their detailed

specification only with the works of Citsukha and ´ Sr¯ıhars.a from several centuries earlier.

This is the other reason for the disappointed tone in the descriptions by scholars like

Dasgupta and Potter of the other Advaitin works of the era, namely, that they lacked the

same sort of philosophical intensity.

Nevertheless, these other works, including the many compendia and the syntheses, even

if simpler and less rigorous in philosophical terms, were produced in great quantity during

this period. They made up the base of the Advaitin pyramid, as it were. After all, the texts in

the Ny¯ay¯amr. ta-Advaitsiddhi series were probably read by only a limited number of scholars

in each generation, the preserve of the most technically proficient.20 The other writings,

meanwhile, stabilized and systematized the revised Advaitin position in a way that could

be used and disseminated. Their presence reveals the relationship between non-dualism as

a school of thought and non-dualism as a social movement.


We turn now to the social settings in which the intellectual activities and concerns of the

Advaitin authors of the period took place, the networks through which they learned and

taught, circulated their writings, and professed and debated.21

Table 2 gives a linear summary of some of the networks through which our principal

authors were connected with other Advaitins. Three types of affiliation are shown: that

between teacher and pupil, often as part of a longer chain of pedagogy; that of members

of the same family, usually by descent through the male relatives; and that of guru and

disciple. The three affiliations can overlap. The networks indicated in Table 2 are primarily

intellectual, but social institutions – families and monastic orders – also form part of the


Like many other works by Sanskrit authors, Ved¯antic texts often included rather florid

‘ma˙ngala’ or inaugural verses, in which praise was lavished on the author’s teachers and

gurus. From these verses, one gets a sense of the variety of settings in which Advaitins were

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214 C. Minkowski

taught: by their father or some other senior member of their own family, by a recognized

teacher, either alone or as one pupil among many, or by a guru, possibly in a monastic

centre. Thangaswami makes a useful distinction between the vidy¯a or ´siks. ¯aguru, that is,

the instructor in the texts and doctrines of Advaita Ved¯anta, and the d¯ıks. ¯aguru, the guru

who formally initiated a disciple into a monastic order. These were sometimes the same

man, but need not have been so necessarily. In the verses, one sees literary tribute paid to


The pedagogical lineages of the authors often match up with the texts that the authors

wrote. It was not uncommon for a pupil to write a commentary on his teacher’s work, as

N¯ar¯ayan. a ¯A´srama did for three works of his guru, Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, or for a pupil to write

Table 2. Lines of personal connection between Advaitins.

Three sorts of personal connection are represented in the lines given below: pedagogical

(vidy¯a- or ´siks. ¯aguru), initiatory (d¯ıks. ¯aguru) and familial, usually through the father or uncle. These

are represented by the marks (v), (d) and (f), respectively, but the pedagogical (v) is taken as the

unmarked category. If there is some combination, then both sorts of relationship are marked.

I ´Sa˙nkar¯anandaa > Sad¯ananda I > Advay¯anandab > Sad¯ananda ‘Yog¯ındra’ (3)

II Advait¯ananda and Jñ¯an¯ananda > Prak¯a´s¯ananda (4) > N¯an¯a D¯ıks.ita (27)

III Jagann¯ath¯a´sramac (v) and G¯ır.v¯an. endra Sarasvat¯ıd (d) > Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (5) > N¯ar¯ayan. a


´srama (28)

A. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (5) > Ve˙¯atha (f, v) > Dharmar¯aj¯adhvarin (12) (f, v) >



¯adhvarin (26)e

B. Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama (5) > (?) Appayya D¯ıks.¯ıta (7)

C. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (5) > (?) Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita (8)

D. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama (5) > (?) Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a (10)

IV R¯ame´svara Bhat.t.

af > M¯adhava Sarasvat¯ıg > Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı (6) > Purus.


Sarasvat¯ı (22)

A. Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı (6) > Balabhadra Bhat.t.

a (35)

B. Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı (6) > Govinda ´Ses.ah

V Ra˙ngar¯aj¯adhvarini (f, v) and Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama (5) (?) > Appayya D¯ıks.ita (7) > N¯ılakan.t.



A. Appayya D¯ıks.ita (7) (?) > Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita (8)

B. Appayya D¯ıks.ita (7) (?) > Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.a (10)

C. Appayya D¯ıks.ita (7) (d) (?) > K¯alahast¯ı´sa Yajvan (28) (f) > Akhan.d.

¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı


VI Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita (8) see also above IIIC and VA

A. Laks.m¯ıdhara (f) > Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita (8) (f, v) and Brahmendra Sarasvat¯ıl (v, d) >

Bh¯anuji D¯ıks.ita/R¯am¯a´sramam

B. Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita (8) (f, v) > V¯ıre´svara (f, v) > Hari D¯ıks.itan

VII Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a (10), see also above IIID and VB

A. Laks.m¯ıdhara (f) > Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a (10) (f, v)> Kon.


a Bhat.



VII Jagann¯ath¯a´sramap and Kr.



a T¯ırtha (texts?) > R¯amat¯ırtha Yati (9) (v, d) and N¯ar¯ayan. a


aq (v) > Ananta DevaIr

A. R¯amat¯ırtha Yati (9) > Purus.

ottama Mi´sras

VIII R¯am¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı It > Advait¯ananda Sarasvat¯ıu > Svayamprak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı II

(11) > Acyutakr.s.


¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (18)

A. Svayamprak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı II (11) > Mah¯adeva Ved¯antin (14)

B. Svayamprak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı II (11) > R¯am¯ananda IIv

C. Svayamprak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı II (11) > Akhan.d.

¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (32)w

IX Kaivaly¯ananda T¯ırthax and ´Suddh¯ananda Sarasvat¯ıy > Svayam. prak¯a´sa Yat¯ındra (13)

X Svayam. prak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı Iz > V¯asudevendra Sarasvat¯ı > Kr.s.


¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı I (16)

> Bh¯askarar¯aya D¯ıks.ita (20)


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South Asian History and Culture 215

Table 2. (Continued).

XI N¯ar¯ayan.a T¯ırthaaa (36) (v) and Param¯ananda (d) > Gaud.a Brahm¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (19) >

Sad¯ananda K¯a´sm¯ıraka (15)

A. Gaud.a Brahm¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (19) > Annam. Bhat.t.

a (30)ab

Notes: The numbers in parentheses are the same as those assigned to Advaitins who were mentioned in Table 1.

The works of other Advaitins, when known, are listed in the notes.

The bibliographical sources used have been discussed in the notes to Table 1. The notes of caution sounded there

are applicable here as well.

a(fl. 1290, ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı) Comments on many, early and later. Also guru of Vidy¯aran. ya; b(Early sixteenth

century, South?) Ved¯antasam. graha; c(Early sixteenth century, South) T.

¯ık¯ayojan¯a on Brahmas¯utra.

Subrahman. ya ´S¯astr¯ı, ed., Advaitad¯ıpik¯a, however, deems him to be from Banaras. See also VII; d(1530,

South) Prapañcas¯arasam. graha; e= R¯am¯adhvarin = R¯amakr.s.


a D¯ıks.¯ıta; f(Early sixteenth century, Banaras);

g(1515, Banaras) Sarvadar´sanakaumud¯ı, Ved¯antasarvasva; h(1530, Banaras) Commentary on ´Sa˙nkara’s

Sarvasiddh¯antasam. graha; i(Early sixteenth century, South) Advaitamukura, Vivaran.

adarpan. a; j(fl. 1660, South)

Ny¯aya texts; k(fl. 1670, South) D¯ıpik¯a on Nr.sim. h¯a´srama’s Advaitaratnako´sa, R.

juprak¯a´sik¯a on Bh¯amat¯ı;

l(fl. 1590, Banaras) Advait¯amr. ta, Ved¯antaparibh¯as. ¯a; m(Mid-seventeenth century, Banaras) Vy¯akhy¯asudh¯a

on Amarakos. a. Durjanamukhacapet.ik¯a (see Minkowski, ‘Guide to Argument’), Tattvacandrik¯a; n(fl. midseventeenth

century, Banaras), Works on Vy¯akaran. a and Philosophy of Language, Vr. tti on Brahmas¯utra;

o(fl. 1640, Banaras) Works in M¯ım¯am. s¯a, Ny¯aya, and Philosophy of Language; pHe is probably the

same as the guru of Nr.

sim. ha mentioned above in III; q(fl. 1640, Banaras) Sarvamatasa˙ngraha. Works

on M¯ım¯am. s¯a and Dharma´s¯astra. Potter’s date for him seems too late; r(fl. 1600, Banaras) Siddh¯antattva,

with Samprad¯ayanir¯upan. a; sPotter identifies him with Purus.

ottama Sarasvat¯ı (22), and attributes to him

the Subodhin¯ı commentary on the Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka. Thangaswami attributes only that work to him, and

distinguishes him from Purus.ottama Sarasvat¯ı; ta.k.a. Dharmabhat.t.

a. (fl. 1670, South) Brahm¯amr. tavars. in. ¯ı,

Ved¯antasiddh¯antacandrik¯a, Vivaran.

opany¯asa; ua.k.a. Advait¯ananda V¯an. ¯ı, and as Advait¯ananda Bodhendra

(ca. 1700, South) Brahmavidy¯abharan. a. Potter attributes this work to Advait¯ananda T¯ırtha, fl. 1762;

v(Early eighteenth century, South) ¯ Atmatattvavivekas¯ara; wD¯ıpik¯a on Nr.sim. h¯a´srama’s Advaitaratnako´sa,


juprak´sik¯a on Bh¯amat¯ı, etc; xa.k.a. Kaivalyendra Sarasvat¯ı (fl. 1680, Banaras) Pran. av¯arthaprak¯a´sik¯a,

Ved¯antabh¯us. an. a; y(?, Banaras) Probably author of Ved¯antacint¯aman. i with Prak¯a´sa; z(Mid-seventeenth century,

South) Pañc¯ıkaran.


a, Paramasiddh¯antas¯ara, Ved¯antasam. graha.; aaThere are probably several

N¯ar¯ayan.a T¯ırtha’s. Laghuvy¯akhy¯a on Siddh¯antabindu, Vivaran.

ad¯ıpik¯a on Pañc¯ıkaran.

a and Sure´svara’s V¯arttika;

abBanaras, Vy¯akhy¯a on Nr.sim. ha’s Tattvaviveka, Mit¯aks. ar¯a on Brahmas¯utra. Date given by Potter (1560) seems

too early.

a commentary on the work of his teacher’s teacher, as R¯amakr.s.


¯adhvarin did, also for

Nr.sim. h¯a´srama. Table 2 also shows longer chains of authors, even if not all of the authors

are listed among our principals in Table 1. Some in these chains piled up more layers of

commentary on the text that had interested their teachers, whereas others started afresh.

Many of our authors acknowledged more than one guru or teacher, and many of the

major figures had more than one pupil. Thus, it is possible from the lineal descents shown in

Table 2 to piece together parts of an overlapping network, in which there were generations

of contemporaries who were likely to have known each other, and to have shared loyalties

or possibly to have inherited disputes.22 Dasgupta enumerated some of these networks of

personally connected Advaitins.23 Although he would have liked to do it for the entire

Ved¯antic tradition, he found that his evidence was specific enough to establish lineages and

milieux only for the early modern period.24

Dasgupta sensed that in addition to lines of pedagogical descent, there were also collegial

relations among contemporaries, through which intellectual influence was exerted.25

This collegial interaction is more difficult to demonstrate from the primary sources, except

among those who shared a guru. The stories of encounters come in here, as do the few

surviving documents that record meetings among pandits, and the institutional records of

the monastic orders. More about these is mentioned below.

Dasgupta also thought that the groupings he identified coincided with intellectual

groupings. Thus, he supposed that from Nr.sim. ha came a strong influence towards the views

of the Vivaran. a line and that Nr.sim. ha’s ‘sphere of influence’ included Appayya D¯ıks.ita

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216 C. Minkowski

and his pupils, Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita and his family, Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı and his pupils, and

Sad¯ananda. Meanwhile, he thought that there were other, separate milieux, which were

‘free from the influence of the Vivaran. a’, including the strand numbered X in Table 2,

which ends with Bh¯askarar¯aya D¯ıks.ita.26

There is certainly merit in supposing that there was some degree of match between

lineages and views, but there are also difficulties in doing so. As shown earlier, this

period has been characterized as one of ‘syncretism’ as well as of reviewing the range

of positions within the school. The older, stronger division between Vivaran. a line and

the Bh¯amat¯ı line is difficult to draw for this era. Although Appayya is said to have been

under Nr.sim. h¯a´srama’s influence, he famously wrote a commentary, the Parimala, on the

Ved¯antakalpataru, which itself was a commentary on the Bh¯amat¯ı. Even Dasgupta noticed

that Nr.sim. h¯a´srama wrote a commentary on the Vivaran. a but also on the Sam. ks. epa´s¯ar¯ıraka,

a text in the Sure´svara line. That Nr.sim. ha did so was explained by Dasgupta as due to ‘the

syncretistic tendencies of the age’.27

The crucial links for our purposes here, those between Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Appayya D¯ıks.ita

and the brothers Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita and Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a are most difficult to verify with

certainty. Although the received opinion in India has been that there were meaningful

personal contacts between these figures, the contacts are hard to demonstrate.28 There

was certainly intellectual influence. Appayya cited Nr.

sim. ha’s work and took it seriously.


oji commented on one of Nr.sim. ha’s most well-known Ved¯antic texts. Ra˙ngoji referred

frequently to Nr.sim. ha with great respect, as a guru, in one of his works. Furthermore,


oji appears to have taken Appayya’s attack on the position of the M¯adhvas as the

model for his own, whereas Ra˙ngoji explicitly mentioned his elder brother as one of his

gurus. Bhat.t.

oji, Ra˙ngoji and other members of his family received commissions and support

from Nayaka rulers in Karnataka, and Ra˙ngoji certainly travelled there at least once.

Appayya seems to have received support from one of these rulers as well. Meanwhile, it is

entirely possible that Appayya and Nr.sim. ha, though figures of the Tamil-speaking country,

made the pilgrimage to Banaras, a centre that drew pilgrims and scholars from the whole


Banaras and the south

The accounts of trips from Banaras to the south by Bhat.t.

oji and Ra˙ngoji, or from the south

to Banaras by Appayya and Nr.sim. ha, bring into focus the geographical dimension of this

story. The history of Advaita Ved¯anta, from the time of Bh¯arat¯ıt¯ırtha, Vidy¯aran. ya, S¯ayan. a

and M¯adhava at least, is centred in south India. This can be seen even from the information

provided in Table 1, as supplemented by Table 2. The majority of our authors belonged

to families or institutions located in south of the Mar¯at.h¯ı-speaking region of the Deccan,

especially in what is now Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.29

Thus, the lineage described in Table 2 as line I, from ´Sa˙nkar¯ananda to Sad¯ananda, is

entirely south Indian, as are the lines under VIII, from R¯am¯ananda I to Acyutakr.s.



and to R¯am¯ananda II, and to Mah¯adeva Ved¯antin, who was in fact the ´Sa˙nkar¯ac¯arya of

K¯añc¯ı. The lines under X, from Svayam. prak¯a´s¯ananda I to Bh¯askarar¯aya D¯ıks.ita and to

Anubhav¯ananda, are also southern. The lines passing through Nr.sim. h¯a´srama and Appayya

(the lines under III and V, respectively) are entirely southern, with the exception of those

that have the uncertain connections with Bhat.t.

oji and Ra˙ngoji discussed in the excursus.

On the other hand, there were also networks of Advaitins in Banaras, as captured by the

lines under IV, those passing through Madhus¯udana, and those passing through Bhat.t.

oji and

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South Asian History and Culture 217

Ra˙ngoji (VI and VII). The lines under XI, from N¯ar¯ayan.a T¯ırtha to Sad¯ananda K¯a´sm¯ıraka

and Annam. Bhat.t.

a, also show clusters of scholars based in Banaras.

There are several lines in the table which might indicate ways in which southern

Advaitin knowledge and argument were brought to Banaras, though the information is not

entirely reliable. In the simplest case, there is Svayam. prak¯a´sa Yati who had as his teachers

both Kaivaly¯ananda, who was probably a south Indian, and ´Suddh¯ananda, who was probably

of Banaras.30 In line II, we similarly have N¯an¯a D¯ıks.ita, a Banaras¯ı, whose lineage of

teachers goes back to Advait¯ananda, who might be the same as Advay¯ananda, the guru of

Sad¯ananda, and a figure of the south. Then again, in line VII, there is Ananta Deva, another

Maharashtrian Brahmin based in Banaras, who through R¯amat¯ırtha Yati was intellectually

descended from Jagann¯ath¯a´srama. This appears to be the same Jagann¯ath¯a´srama who had

earlier been Nr.sim. h¯a´srama’s guru, in the south. Not all of this information is certain, but

it does indicate how particular Advaitins might have moved to Banaras after contact with

teaching in the south.

R¯ame´svara Bhat.t.

a was an Advaitin and, according to the chronicle of his family composed

by his grandson, taught Advaitin texts among others to M¯adhava Sarasvat¯ı, the guru

of Madhus¯udana, and to another Sanny¯asin, D¯amodara Sarasvat¯ı.31 R¯ame´svara established

the prolific Bhat.t.

a family in Banaras, and their writings on Dharma´s¯astra and M¯ım¯am. s¯a

came to be authoritative throughout the subcontinent. The chronicle goes on to mention

that R¯ame´svara’s son, N¯ar¯ayan. a Bhat.t.

a, was a teacher of similar achievement, instructing

notable sanny¯asins in the city, especially Brahmendra Sarasvat¯ı and N¯ar¯ayan. a Sarasvat¯ı.32

During this era, the intellectual scene in Banaras was dominated by families of

Brahmins from the Deccan.33 Most of these families held Advaitin views, so much so

that Advaita can be said to have been in the establishment position in the city. Aside from

the influential Bhat.t.

a family, there was also the family of Bhat.t.

oji and Ra˙ngoji, and through

them the families of their protegés, especially N¯age´sa or N¯agoji Bhat.t.

a, who occupied a

prominent position in Banaras at the close of the seventeenth century and the beginning

of the eighteenth. The members of the family of Devas were also Advaitins. Anantadeva,

a pupil of R¯amat¯ırtha Yati and author of the Siddh¯antatattva, has already been mentioned.

A¯ padeva, meanwhile, wrote a commentary on the Veda¯ntasa¯ra. In fact, of the seven prominent

families that H.P. Shastri mentions in his article on the influence of Deccan¯ı Brahmins

in Banaras, it was only members of the ´Ses.a family who were followers of the doctrines of


At this time there were many sanny¯asins in the city, and the most influential ones

were followers of ´S¯a˙nkara Advaita. The position occupied by N¯ar¯ayan. a Bhat.t.

a at the

end of the sixteenth century, as the unofficial but acknowledged leader of the community

of pandits, and by his son ´Sa˙nkara Bhat.t.

a after him, was subsequently occupied by

Kav¯ındr¯ac¯arya Sarasvat¯ı.35 Kav¯ındra, himself an Advaitin, received a felicitation volume,

the Kav¯ındracandrodaya, to celebrate his success as the public representative of the city’s

pandits in persuading the Mughal ruler of the day, Shah Jahan, to abolish the tax on pilgrims

to the city.36 This volume consisted of an anthology of addresses in prose and verse

contributed by many learned notables of the day. In this volume, copies of which survive,

there are addresses gathered from a number of Advaitin sanny¯asins, including Brahmendra


Brahmendra was the pupil of N¯ar¯ayan. a Bhat.t.

a, as mentioned earlier.37 He was

the author of three Advaitin texts.38 Brahmendra and another sanny¯asin, P¯urn. endra

Sarasvat¯ı, are mentioned both individually and as a pair by the other contributors to the

Kav¯ındracandrodaya.39 It is clear from these references that the two were looked upon

as leaders in the city.40 In 1657, both sanny¯asins appeared at a meeting of about 70 pandits

and sanny¯asins in the Muktiman.d.

apa of the Vi´svan¯ath temple, the principal venue for

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218 C. Minkowski


itasabh¯as in the city, where they jointly signed a judgement (nirn. ayapattra) concerning

the caste status of Devrukh Brahmins.41 As in that document Brahmendra is given the

alternative name of Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama, P.K. Gode has suggested that this was the sanny¯asin

who received letters from the Mughal prince D¯ar¯a Shukoh, the son of Shah Jahan, the

prince who famously commissioned the translation of 50 and of other Sanskrit


Some of the polemical writing of the day brings out more clearly the position of

Advaitin thinkers in the city. Elsewhere, I have described how Bhat.t.

oji’s son Bh¯anuji,

who became the sanny¯asin R¯am¯a´srama, argued for the authority of the Bh¯agavata Pur¯an. a

among other ways simply by appeal to the personal authority of recent and contemporary

authoritative figures. The figures he invoked were Appayya, M¯adhava Sarasvat¯ı,

Madhus¯udana, P¯urn. endra and Brahmendra.43

Thus, throughout this period, both Advaitin sanny¯asins and householders occupied

positions of prominence in the literate institutions and public spaces of Banaras, and

Advaitin views held sway.44 Their position was not unchallenged, however. There were followers

of the Vais.n.

ava samprad¯ayas present in the city as well.45 The most notableM¯adhva

in the city was Kr.



a ´Ses.a, who, in some rival accounts, was the one who occupied the

position of chief pandit.46

Advaita Ved¯anta and social institutions

The greater part of Advaitin intellectual activity during these centuries, therefore, took

place in the south, with the Advaitins in Banaras drawing from, and being drawn into,

conversations that began there. It was, furthermore, the pressure of the other Ved¯antic

movements in the south that drove Advaitins to select certain genres, topics and lines of

argument. We can specify the nature of this pressure more by examining the history of the

institutions – monastic, religious and political – which supported the southern Ved¯antic


The resurgence of Advaitin literary activity and fresh statements of arguments and

positions, first of all, coincide with the emergence of the two principal Advaitin monastic

centres (mat.ha) in the south, one in ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı in what is now southern Karnataka, and the

other in K¯añc¯ıpuram in what is now northern Tamil Nadu.47 All the Advaitin authors based

in the south whom we have considered, with the probable exception of Appayya and his

family, had close connections with one or the other of these two mat.has.

A recent study by Clark has shown that the ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı and K¯añc¯ıpuram mat.has arose

as centres for Advaita Ved¯anta only in the late medieval and early modern periods, and

not earlier.48 Inscriptional evidence suggests that both mat.has had earlier been sectarian,

´ Saiva centres, associated with tantric ´ Saiva movements. There were also Vais.n.

ava mat.has

in the south, linked with the great Vais.n.

ava temples. Monastic institutions specifically

for the ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.


¯advaitins and for the M¯adhvas grew in importance and popularity

through their contact with those centres. Probably in response to the growth of

the ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.

ava institutions, ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı and K¯añc¯ıpuram emerged as Advaitin centres with

a sm¯arta ´ Saiva focus; that is, as centres where the Vedas were accepted uniquely as the

highest authority, not second to or in combination with, the sectarian A¯ gama literature, as

the tantric movements would have it. The da´san¯am¯ı orders of sanny¯asins, to which many

of our early modern Advaitin authors belonged, were formulated only in the early modern

period, according to Clark’s account. Their linkage to the social organizations of the

monastic ‘families’ or akh¯ad. ¯as was a contemporary development as well.

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South Asian History and Culture 219

The emergence of the ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı and K¯añc¯ıpuram mat.has as prominent and influential

centres for Advaitin authors in south India was largely due to the favour and patronage

of rulers, especially those of the Vijayanagara state. The first dynasty of Vijayanagara,

the Sa˙ngamas, came to power in the fourteenth century. Although this dynasty, who were

´ Saivas, made donations to temples and sects of many denominations within their domains,

they especially supported ´ Saiva institutions for their royal rituals, and oversaw the transformation

of the ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı mat.ha, which lay within their domain. The Advaitin authors

connected to the ´ Sr. ˙nger¯ı mat.ha and to Vijayanagara at that time – Bh¯arat¯ıt¯ırtha, M¯adhava

and S¯ayan. a – received patronage for their literary activities. The kings of Vijayanagara

gave special emphasis to the ´ Saiva temples and Advaitin mat.has in their capital city as well.

Inscriptional evidence shows a similar history for the K¯añc¯ıpuram mat.ha, whose leaders

received patronage from the Vijayanagara kingdom and other rulers.49

Thus, the mat.has and the monastic organizations that supported Ved¯antic intellectual

and literary activity of all varieties were part of a developing cultural and political

scene in post-Chola south India. The structure and functioning of that scene was ‘ethnosociologically’

described by Arjun Appadurai as participating in a ‘single system of

authoritative relations’.50 In Appadurai’s description, this single system consisted in a triangular

relationship between kings, temples and the leaders of sects, with honours and

material resources exchanged between them through transactions that were mediated by all

three. All three groups benefitted from the system: the rulers through the durability and

legitimacy of their kingdoms, the temples and religious sects through the increase in their

followers, gifts and prestige. As part of their activities the leaders of sects were sometimes

intellectual figures, the developers of doctrines and arguments. For his examples Appadurai

drew on the ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.

avas, but he suggested that the description applied to the movements,

temples and rulers in Vijayanagara and other kingdoms of south India more generally.

For the history of Advaita that we are attempting to sketch, the crucial figure here is

neither a ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.


¯advaitin, nor an Advaitin, but a follower ofMadhva, the Dvaitin

Vy¯asat¯ırtha (1460–1539).51 Vy¯asat¯ırtha, whom we have mentioned earlier, was the head

of a mat.ha in the capital city of the Vijayanagara kingdom and represented the M¯adhva

movement in its dialogue with the Vijayanagara court. Vy¯asat¯ırtha was active in the city

at a time when the rulers, members of the new T.

uluva dynasty, shifted the focus of state

religion to Vais.n.

ava temple ritual. A recent study by Valerie Stoker follows Vy¯asat¯ırtha’s

career in the city and delineates the ways in which he attempted to reposition the M¯adhva

movement, which hitherto had been of minor importance in Vijayanagara.52 These ways

included the founding of monasteries, the installation of icons and construction of additions

to politically important temples and supporting public works such as irrigation projects

that would benefit temple worship.53 In turn, he received donations from the Vijayanagara

rulers for himself and for his mat.has, especially from the most celebrated of all rulers

of Vijayanagara, Kr.s.


adevar¯aya. Vy¯asat¯ırtha also secured the award of temple rights to

M¯adhva priests in some of the great temples of the south, including Tirupati.

Vy¯asat¯ırtha also involved himself through his writings. These comprised critiques

of the views of Naiy¯ayikas and ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.

avas, but especially of Advaitins. Vy¯asat¯ırtha’s

Ny¯ay¯amr. ta was an encyclopaedic demonstration of what he argued were the philosophical

failings of Advaita Ved¯anta. He argued using not only the dialectical methods of

Navyany¯aya but also of M¯ım¯am. s¯a and Vy¯akaran. a.54

The Ny¯ay¯amr. ta came as a watershed in philosophical terms not only for the Dvaitins

but also for the Advaitins. Although the Dvaitin Vis.


ud¯asa (1390–1440) had made many

of the same arguments in his V¯adaratn¯aval¯ı a century earlier, because of Vy¯asat¯ırtha’s

prominent placement in the capital city, the Ny¯ay¯amr. ta was the text that was noticed, and

appears finally to have shattered the complacency of the Advaitins. Until then they seem

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220 C. Minkowski

to have been happy to rely on the corrosive critique of realist (and therefore by implication

also of dualist) positions that had been mounted by ´ Sr¯ıhars.a and Citsukha some centuries

earlier. Certainly the Advaitins became more philosophically contentious in the sixteenth

century by comparison with the fifteenth. B.N.K. Sharma asserts that Nr.sim. ha’s works, the

Ved¯antatattvaviveka and the Bhedadhikk¯ara, were composed in response to Vy¯asat¯ırtha,

as were the anti-M¯adhva works of Appayya.55 It was really Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı, however,

who explicitly responded to the Ny¯ay¯amr. ta point by point, in his Advaitasiddhi. The

Advaitasiddhi quickly provoked a rejoinder by the Dvaitin R¯am¯ac¯arya (ca. 1550–1620),

and the argument continued right through the seventeenth century.56

The challenge to the philosophical position of the Advaitins by the followers of

M¯adhva, therefore, was given strength and urgency by its relationship to cultural and political

developments in the Vijayanagara kingdom in the sixteenth century, in a context of

competition for royal favour and support, prestige, temple rights and popular acceptance.

Vy¯asat¯ırtha’s Ny¯ay¯amr. ta drew responses not just from Advaitins living in the

Vijayanagara kingdom, but from those based in Banaras as well. Madhus¯udana and

Brahm¯ananda were drawn into the argument with the M¯adhvas, and Bhat.t.

oji and Ra˙ngoji

got involved as well. What should we make of the involvement of ´s¯astrins of Banaras in a

dispute with Dvaitins based in the South? After all, Banaras did not lie within the domain

of the Vijayanagara rulers or their successor states.

There are several things to consider, first of all the status of Banaras in the subcontinent

at this time. Banaras would have been a natural place to look for an Advaitin champion who

was capable of a rejoinder to such a sophisticated critique as Vy¯asat¯ırtha’s, requiring as it

did an expertise in Ny¯aya, Vy¯akaran. a, M¯ım¯am. s¯a as well as Vedic philology.

Banaras, furthermore, occupied an anomalous position in India during this period.

There was no local ruler of Banaras whose favour and support the ´s¯astrins uniquely sought.

Instead, the various ´s¯astrins had connections to many courts across the subcontinent.


oji and Ra˙ngoji got involved with the Dvaitins because a south Indian ruler commissioned

them to do so.57 In a similar way, the temples in Banaras were of transregional

importance for pilgrims and were connected to sectarian networks spanning India.

Elsewhere in this volume, O’Hanlon has described the collective ambition of Banaras’

´s¯astrins to a status of continent-wide leadership when it came to matters of dharma´s¯astra:

representing Hindu India to the Mughal court in Delhi, while also adjudicating local

disputes in various places, especially in the Deccan.58 Banaras lay within the domain, ultimately,

of the Mughal emperor in Delhi, and Hindu courtiers in the Mughal court did play

some role in administering relationships between movements and temples in Banaras. Yet

Banaras was also, in its own sphere, free from the control of Delhi and was the closest

thing to an independent centre for scholars, sects and temples, by virtue of its connections

throughout the continent.

Social history of Advaita Ved¯anta?

Let us return to our initial question about Advaita Ved¯anta and its social history. The material

that we have assembled does suggest that one can usefully describe the proponents of

Advaita Ved¯anta in the early modern period, and the doctrines they propounded, as embedded

in a larger system of social relations. At the very least we can rule out a history of

Advaita Ved¯anta in the early modern period that is wholly internalist, in which philosophical

necessities alone are sufficient to explain the timing and shape of its trajectory. We

can also rule out a perennialist non-history of Advaita, as the unchanging philosophy of

India above the vicissitudes of time, or at least we can rule it out when it comes to the form

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South Asian History and Culture 221

and content of Advaitin arguments and literary genres during this period, and the life of its

schools of thought, links to monastic orders and settings for teaching and professing.

Most authors of general histories of Indian philosophy who have bothered with this

late period have had a sense that there is a larger social or political history involved.

Potter comes the closest to a purely internalist history of Advaita, in that he sees its

‘Sure´svarization’ and progress towards becoming a ‘leap philosophy’, and therefore eventual

retreat from philosophy altogether, as inevitable given Advaitin presuppositions and

commitments. Even he must assume the social setting of debate and confrontation with

other philosophers, especially with the M¯adhvas, as the driving force in this progress.59

As for the theory involved, the current essay will remain unambitious. It is not necessary

to maintain that social or political settings drove the content of particular ideas in any

sort of instrumentalist or functionalist way; nor would it be correct to do so. On the other

hand, it should not be problematic to suggest that the history of those settings can provide

the context in which to understand the meaning of the Advaitins’ arguments and at least

one reason why they were argued.

Beyond that, we might note with interest how some distinctively Advaitin doctrines,

or doctrines that distinguished the views of opponents from those of Advaitins, had realworld

implications. A cluster of these doctrines was concerned with the condition of the

individual soul when it reached liberation. As Valerie Stoker has suggested, for example the

Advaitin insistence that it was possible to become liberated while still alive and embodied,

is plausibly linked to their claim that the leaders of Advaitin mat.has had achieved this

state. The M¯adhvas did not accept the possibility of this state (j¯ıvanmukti), arguing instead

that liberation was achieved only after death of the body. Nor did they maintain that their

leaders were liberated. Given the context of the competition between Ved¯antins, especially

in the South, it is therefore not surprising that Vy¯asat¯ırtha should have devoted so much

attention to criticizing the Advaitins’ various defences of the possibility of j¯ıvanmukti.60

In a similar way, Appadurai has proposed that an internal fission in doctrine in the

movement of ´ Sr¯ıvais.n.

avas over how active the devotee of God needed to be in seeking salvation,

was linked to a doctrinal difference over how much the devotee needed to rely on a

human leader. In turn, Appadurai went on to argue, those differences, between the Sanskrit

school and the Tamil school, were also tied to the relative popular success of the two, with

the school emphasizing the need for greater authority vested in the leader attracting the

larger following.61 Although in themselves these examples do not yet constitute a satisfactory

theory or method for a social history of Advaitin philosophy, they do suggest the sorts

of materials one should assemble to proceed to create one. For that purpose, it would be

necessary to enter into the internal workings of the philosophy, in a way that we have not

done here, and to specify exactly how the Advaitins differentiated themselves from their


The only attempt at a fully social theory of the history of Advaita is that of Randall

Collins in his book, The Sociology of Philosophies.62 In this work, Collins proposed a

non-reductionist model for the global history of philosophy, with a general theory of the

‘sociology of thinking’, in which ‘interaction rituals’, ‘networks across generations’ and the

principle of the ‘partition of attention space’ ensured intellectual autonomy for the activity

of philosophers, while at the same time embedding that activity in a social context.63

Collins relied on Dasgupta and Potter for his data about Indian philosophies, and for

his version of their collective historical arc. He therefore saw India’s later medieval period

as the time of ‘the highest level of sophistication in metaphysical and epistemological argument

in Indian history’.64 This high point was over, however, by 1500; after that came a

period of scholasticism and syncretism, the ‘clouding of philosophical attention space’ and

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222 C. Minkowski

a ‘collapse from within’. Indian philosophy died ‘from its own success’.65 He credits the

(crypto-solipsist) Prak¯a´s¯ananda with the last original philosophical contribution. Collins

attributes the cause of this collapse of Indian philosophy from 1500 to the presence of Islam

in India. In this account, Sanskritic philosophy was inevitably weakened after the demise of

Vijayanagara (in 1565), where the ‘great syncretizers Vijñ¯anabhiks.u and Appayya D¯ıks.ita

lived’.66 The syncretism that was characteristic of the period was created in a search for

strength in unity against a Muslim threat.

Unfortunately, no compelling historical explanation of the deleterious effect of Islam is

given, nor why 1500 should be the cut-off date for Indian philosophical originality. It has

been shown in recent studies that, if anything, the period of Mughal ascendancy that began

in the early sixteenth century coincided with an efflorescence of intellectual activity on the

part of the Sanskrit ´s¯astrins. Given the dispersed nature of power in the Mughal imperium

and their employment of Hindus as courtiers and administrators even in the heart of their

kingdom, it was far from necessary for a ´s¯astrin to live in the Vijayanagara kingdom during

this period to receive patronage or honours.67 The article by O’Hanlon elsewhere in this

volume describes some of the interactions that the ´s¯astrins of Banaras had with the Mughal

court, some proud to have received honours from the Padshah.

Collins does identify an important theme, however, and the one with which we will

conclude. The ascendancy in many parts of India of Mughal and other Muslim rulers and

states during the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries had an influence on the fortunes

of Sanskrit philosophers, in Banaras and elsewhere. It is instructive in this regard to return

to the career of Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı. The involvement of Madhus¯udana in the controversy

with the Dvaitins hints at what seems to be a transformation taking place in India

during these centuries, towards the generalization of regional arguments and arrangements

in religious matters.

Madhus¯udana was a worshipper of Kr.s.


a and wrote several works on bhakti topics,

in which achieving union with Kr.s.


a was the central theme.68 His religious commitments

indicate that the philosophical confrontation between Advaitins and Dvaitins, as it came

north, was no longer the same thing as a sectarian argument between ´ Saivas and Vais.n.


a form of argument that Madhus¯udana, who believed the Deity was ultimately one and

variously approachable, deplored.69

In the Advaitasiddhi and his other writings, Madhus¯udana also transformed Advaita

itself. He allowed a scope for bhakti as a path independent of Vedic and Ved¯antic prescription,

in a way whose philosophical implications for Advaita have still not been

fully assessed. In several places in his writing he openly, if respectfully, disagreed with

´Sa˙nkar¯ac¯arya himself. In the Advaitasiddhi, he accepted the terms of debate established

by Vy¯asat¯ırtha and, in putting Advaitin arguments into the form necessary for that confrontation,

altered their structure and meaning. Madhus¯udana was the last Advaitin to

whom Dasgupta devoted a separate discussion in his survey of Advaitin authors, but

Madhus¯udana’s writings exerted a great deal of influence on later authors. He was anything

but the end of the story for Advaita.

Now, we might have expected Madhus¯udana to be more concerned with the issue confronting

Ved¯antins in north India in a more immediate way, the pressure of Islamic religious

authority on Hindu religious forms. The collective memory of Madhus¯udana certainly

emphasizes his interactions with Akbar and his participation in the ‘ecumenical’ project

at Akbar’s court.70

There were, in fact, genuine possibilities for dialogue and comparison in Akbar’s court.

The problems of, and approach to, theology and philosophy that underlay the arguments

between the non-dualists and dualists in Ved¯anta had counterparts in the Islamic theology

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South Asian History and Culture 223

that developed in India in this period: over the ultimate unity or disunity between God and

human souls, the condition of the soul in salvation and so on.71 And yet, in his own writing,

Madhus¯udana ruled out any serious consideration of Islamic theology, even in works where

he surveyed the other philosophical positions on offer in his world. The ‘yavanas’ were too

far outside the Vedic fold.72 Instead,Madhus¯udana devoted his efforts to the argument with

the Dvaitins.

An explanation of Madhus¯udana’s choice of opponent that might be in keeping with

the contextual suggestions above would be that, in doing so, Madhs¯udana sought to take

up an argument about the conceptual organization of Hinduism as a whole. Through engaging

with the Dvaitins, he was attempting to accomplish two things at once, to (re)describe

Advaita as the position most amenable to providing a ‘large-tent’ theology for the many

doctrines and traditions of Hindus, while at the same time to reject the Dvaitin’s doctrinal

position, as committing Hindus to a world of religious practices and beliefs that were

explicitly sectarian and irreducibly divided.

At the same time, it must also have been the vitality of the philosophy itself that interested

Madhus¯udana. Dialogue or confrontation with comparable Islamic doctrines, after

all, would have to have been conducted without the shared ground rules, textual presuppositions

and philosophical commitments of the universe of Sanskritic discourse, unless

Madhus¯udana made the effort to create them anew for this ecumenical purpose. It would

have been very difficult to bring such a dialogue up to the level of philosophical seriousness

that Madhus¯udana could expect from the start in engaging with the Dvaitins.

If this account is correct, then Madhus¯udana can be seen to have been participating in a

reformulation of Advaita in relation to the variety of lively religious movements of his own

day, in terms that had consequences for the development of Advaita in the modern period.

Advaita was rearticulated to become once again the meta-discourse of Indian philosophy,

and at the same time to represent the mainstream or properly Vedic view.

Although there were many social, political and economic upheavals from the later eighteenth

century through the twentieth, the fortunes of the positions articulated within the

Ved¯antic movements and samprad¯ayas were less endangered than was the early modern

Sanskrit intellectual ecumene as a whole. The social organizations that supported these

movements would have been relatively durable through the transformation to Indian modernity.

During the early modern period many samprad¯ayas, mat.has and families had been

accorded income through land grants. These would often have been confirmed by later

rulers well into the modern period. Those movements with popular followings and far-flung

networks would also have been able to weather the disruptions in further state patronage

in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In any case, the doctrine of undivided Being,

linked to a comprehensive taxonomy of what constituted the Vedic literature and the religious

practices that belonged to them, in which Advaita was positioned at the top, was alive

and well and living in Banaras when Rammohan Roy and other modern Hindu reformers

came there.

Excursus – four Advaitin authors and the personal contact between them:

Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Appayya D¯ıks.ita, Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita and Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.


For convenience let us label these four authors as N, A, B and R, respectively. The personal

contacts between them have been represented in Table 2 above as N(?)A, A(?)B, N(?)R

and B(?)R, where the question mark indicates that personal contact between them has been

claimed, but is difficult to prove decisively. In this excursus, I review those links.

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224 C. Minkowski

N(?)A: Nr. sim. ha and Appayya

Appayya wrote no commentary on the work of Nr.sim. ha. He cited Nr.

sim. ha’s Tattvaviveka

in his Siddh¯antale´sasam. graha and did not reject Nr.sim. ha’s views. In all his works,

Appayya listed his own father, Ra˙ngar¯aj¯adhvarin, as his guru.73 He did not specify Nr.sim. ha

as a guru or teacher in any of his writings.

Suryanarayana Sukla supposed that Appayya and his father went to Banaras to perform

some religious observances, and while they were there they had Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, also visiting

the city, stay with them. The instruction by Nr.

sim. ha of Appayya then took place at that

time.74 Although this account is certainly possible, no contemporary evidence is offered to

support it.

S. Narayana Swamy Sastry, in the introduction to his edition of Nr.

sim. ha’s

Tattvavivekad¯ıpana attempted to show that Nr.sim. ha was Appayya’s guru in the following

way. He cited a work attributed to Appayya, a grammar of Prakrit, the Pr¯akr. taman. id¯ıpa,

in which a guru other than Appayya’s father was named. This guru was not Nr.sim. ha,

but someone else, called Saccid¯ananda. Nevertheless, it shows that Appayya did receive

instruction from other sources, and so it is possible that he learned from Nr.

sim. ha. Aside

from the obvious difficulty with this argument, it has the further one that it is not universally

accepted that Appayya was the author of the Pr¯akr. taman. id¯ıpa.75

Evidence that Nr.sim. ha and Appayya were in Banaras at the same time is offered

by Subrahman. ya ´S¯astr¯ı in his edition of Nr.

sim. ha’s Advaitad¯ıpik¯a. He cites a contemporary

document from 1657 recording a collective decision (nirn. ayapattra) on a matter of

dharma drawn up by an assembly of pandits in Banaras, which Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Appayya

D¯ıks.ita, G¯ag¯a Bhat.t.

a, Khan.d.

a Deva and Ananta Bhat.t.

a signed.76 However, as pointed out

by O’Hanlon, citing the relevant scholarship by Gode and others, this Nr.sim. h¯a´srama was

someone else, the local figure, Brahmendra Sarasvat¯ı, as discussed above, and the Appayya

mentioned was probably the grandson, or Appayya III.77

N(?)B: Nr. sim. ha and Bhat.t.oji


oji wrote a commentary on Nr.

sim. ha’s Tattvavivekad¯ıpana, called the V¯akyam¯ala

or the Vy¯akhy¯a or the Vivaran. a.78 Thangaswami asserts that Bhat.t.

oji learned from both

Nr.sim. ha and Appayya, but does not provide the evidence.79 Bronkhorst lists, rather sceptically,

three sources which make the claim that Bhat.t.

oji was a direct pupil of Nr.

sim. ha, but

none of the three provides contemporary evidence.80

A(?)B: Appayya and Bhat.t.oji

It has also been claimed that Bhat.t.

oji was a pupil of Appayya’s.81 Bhat.t.

oji certainly knew

Appayya’s work, and appears almost certain to have taken some inspiration for his own

polemical tracts against the doctrines of the M¯adhvas from Appayya’s tracts. The main

contemporary evidence that Appayya was Bhat.t.

oji’s guru, that is that they knew each other

personally, comes from a text attributed to Bhat.t.

oji called the Tantrasiddh¯antad¯ıpik¯a, in

which the author praises Appayya as his guru.82 Unfortunately, there is good reason to

suppose that this text was not by Bhat.t.

oji, but was in fact the work of Appayya’s grandson,

Appayya D¯ıks.ita III.83 The problematic evidence discussed above, which puts an

‘Appayya’ in Banaras in the mid-seventeenth century is also invoked.

There are several versions of the story of a face-to-face encounter between the two.84

R¯amacandra ´S¯astr¯ı S¯uri observes that the preference for a version has a geographical determinant.

Scholars from the north of India, he says, have claimed that Appayya made a

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South Asian History and Culture 225

pilgrimage to Banaras to perform an elaborate arcana of the principal form of ´ Siva there,

Vi´sve´svara, and met Bhat.t.

oji at that time. On the other hand, the southerners have claimed

that Bhat.t.

oji went south to make a pilgrimage to R¯ame´svaram, and met Appayya during

that trip. Although, he says, there is no way to decide between these claims, S¯uri concludes

that it is more reasonable to suppose that Appayya went north.85 We might, however, consider

it just as reasonable to suppose that Bhat.t.

oji met Appayya on a trip to the south. It

is certain that Bhat.t.

oji was commissioned to write his attack on the M¯adhvas by a Nayaka

ruler in Ikkedi, in the region of modern-day Karnataka, and it appears nearly as certain that

Ra˙ngoji travelled to Ikkedi at the request of that same ruler, Ve˙nkatappa, to engage in a

debate with a representative of the M¯adhvas.86 Appayya seems to have been supported by

the same Ve˙nkatappa.87

N(?)R and BR: Nr. sim. ha, Bhat.t.oji and Ra˙ngoji

In his Advaitacint¯aman. i, Ra˙ngoji identifies (his brother) Bhat.t.

oji as his guru.88 In the body

of the text, however, he also frequently refers to Nr.sim. h¯a´srama as a guru.89 It is possible

that this simply means he views Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama as a figure worthy of great deference, but

the passages are usually taken to mean that Nr.sim. ha was in fact his guru.


I thank the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton,

and the Mellon Foundation for their support. I also thank the anonymous reviewers, and Madhav

Deshpande, Valerie Stoker, Mike Collins, Yigal Bronner and Polly O’Hanlon for their help.


1. See, for example, Potter, Presuppositions of Indian Philosophies, 252–4.

2. With some exceptions. ‘From the fourteenth century, however, we have a large number of

Ved¯anta writers in all the succeeding centuries; but with the notable exception of Prak¯a´s¯ananda,

Madhus¯udana Sarasvat¯ı . . . and probably Vidy¯aran. ya . . . and Dharmar¯aj¯adhvar¯ındra. . . there

are few writers who can be said to reveal any great originality in Ved¯antic interpretations’.

Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, 53.

3. Ibid.

4. Potter, Presuppositions of Indian Philosophies, 181.

5. Ibid., 53–7. Some of the lineages and attributions of texts he made have been corrected by later


6. The two most referred to were Potter, Bibliography (online version) and Thangaswami, Ko´sa.

7. I cannot claim to be an expert in Advaita Ved¯anta, but I have undertaken this survey, based

largely on the current secondary scholarship, because of my own research on N¯ılakan.t.


Caturdhara, best remembered for his commentary on the Mah¯abh¯arata. N¯ılakan.t.

ha was active

as an Advaitin author in the mid- to late-seventeenth century, though this feature of his career

has been forgotten. The sooner this first approximation of a history is replaced by a more

authoritative one, the better.

8. Information about the sources used and the problems inherent in using them has been provided

in the table.

9. See the notes on the table for further discussion.

10. More about the Advaitasiddhi below. There are also the Madhvamatakhan.d.

ana, ‘Reducing the

Views of Madhva to Rubble’, of ¯ Anand¯a´srama (fl. 1585), and the Dvaitakhan.d.

ana, ‘Reducing

Dualism to Rubble’, of Svayamprak¯a´sa Muni.

11. See Halbfass, India and Europe, 349–68.

12. The second verse of Appayya’s opening statement emphasized the variety of views: pr¯ac¯ınair


v ¯atmaikyasiddhau param. sannahyadbhir an¯adar¯at saran. ayo n¯an¯avidh¯a

dar´s¯ıt¯ah. | tanm¯ul¯an iha sam. grahen.a kati cit sidd¯antabhed¯an dhiyah. ´suddhyai sa˙nkalay¯ami

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226 C. Minkowski

t¯atacaran. avy¯akhy¯avacah. khy¯apit¯an || N¯ılakan.t.

ha Caturdhara’sS.

at.tantr¯ıs¯ara and Ved¯antakataka

followed the pattern of Madhus¯udana’s works.

13. See Table 1. There was another Ved¯antaparibh¯as. ¯a, by Brahmendra Sarasvat¯ı (fl. 1590).

14. Indeed the commentaries on the Ved¯antas¯ara read as if they are the texts of the lectures their

authors would have given based on that outline. The Ved¯antaparibh¯as. ¯a was comparatively more

specialized, focusing largely on epistemology.

15. No doubt the list is not absolutely complete, but Potter’s Bibliography records direct

commentaries by the following Advaitins after ´Sa˙nkara up to 1750 (dates are Potter’s):

Praka¯s´a¯tman (975), S´an˙kara¯nanda (1290), Citsukha (1220), A¯ nandapu¯rn. a Vidya¯sa¯gara (1350),

Sad¯ananda Yog¯ındra (1500), R¯ame´svara Bh¯arat¯ı (1550), Annam. bhat.t.

a (1560), Appayya

D¯ıks.ita (1585), R¯am¯a´srama (1590), R¯amat¯ırtha (1610), Svayamprak¯a´s¯ananda Sarasvati (1610),

Mukunda Muni (1640), R¯am¯ananda T¯ırtha (1650), Kr.



¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı I (1665), R¯am¯ananda

Sarasvat¯ı (1670), ‘Acyuta’ Kr.s.


¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı (1670), Gaud.a Brahm¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı

(1700), Sad¯a´siva Brahmendra (1720), and Jñ¯anendra Muni (1740).

16. In N¯ılakan.t.

ha’s Ved¯antakataka, a work of this genre, one finds an awareness of the current

state of diversity of views in the field, expressed in his references to the older Advaitin authors

(pr¯ac¯ına), to contemporary authors (¯adh¯unika) over against them, and then to those of the

present who know the boundaries of the movement’s doctrines properly (samprad¯ayavid).

There are also those who are generally all right but who have said insupportable things

(as¯amprad¯ayika), probably not realizing that they have strayed outside the bounds.

17. The term ‘siddh¯anta’ became a regular choice for inclusion in the title of a

text in this period. See Deshpande ‘Bhattoji Diksita’s Perceptions’. This preference

is especially noticeable in Advaita, where the term looms into prominence:

Consider, for example, Sad¯ananda’s Ved¯antasiddh¯antas¯arasam. graha, Prak¯a´s¯ananda’s

Ved¯antasiddh¯antamukt¯avali, Kr.



¯ananda Sarasvati(I)’s Siddh¯antasiddh¯añjan¯a, Vi´svaveda’s

Siddh¯antad¯ıpa, Madhus¯udana’s Siddh¯antabindu, Anantadeva’s Siddh¯ant¯amr. ta,

N¯ar¯ayan. ¯a´srama’s Advaitasiddh¯antas¯arasam. graha, and Gaud.a Brahm¯ananda Sarasvat¯ı’s


18. The Bh¯amat¯ı was a commentary on ´Sa˙nkara’s Brahmas¯utrabh¯as. ya; the Vivaran.

a was a commentary

on the Pañcap¯adik¯a of Padmap¯ada (ninth century), which was in turn a commentary

on the first five sections (p¯ada) of ´Sa˙nkara’s Brahmas¯utrabh¯as. ya; the V¯arttika was a versified

digest of ´Sa˙nkara’s commentaries on the Br. had¯aran. yaka Upanis. ad and on the Taittir¯ıya

Upanis. ad.

19. He did not emphasize them as characteristics of any period. Suryanarayana Sastri,

Siddh¯antale´sasam. graha, 5–6. See also Potter, Presuppositions of Indian Philosophies, 181.

20. Thanks to Mike Williams for a discussion of the issues involved here.

21. On the sources available, see the notes at the end of the table.

22. On the dispute between ´Ses.a Kr.



a and Bhat. t.

oji dispute, which was carried on through generations,

for example, see Deshpande, ‘Lineage of Bhat.t.

oji’, and Bronkhorst, ‘Bhat.t.

oji D¯ıks.ita’,


23. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, 46–58.

24. Thangaswami, however, includes a table at the end of his Ko´sa that purports to trace the networks

of affiliation of all prominent Advaitin authors, from the modern period back to ´Sa˙nkara,

and beyond him to the ancient teachers.

25. Thangaswami also identifies authors whom he thinks were contemporaries passim.

26. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, 55–7. In his reconstruction, Dasgupta conflated

several authors called Kr.



¯ananda and Svayamprak¯a´s¯ananda, but more is now known about

these authors and their relationships.

27. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, vol. 2, 54.

28. Some of the information is summarized in an excursus at the end of this article.

29. My source here is almost entirely Thangaswami, and the scholars whose work he compiles.

Thangaswami appears to have been the only one interested in the geographical question.

Thangaswami has a tendency to connect everyone to K¯añc¯ı. The cautions voiced earlier in

this article are even more pertinent here. In particular, we may not know the movements of our

authors, even if we do know the area where they were born. Sanny¯asins especially, unless they

were attached to administrative duties in a mat.ha, were likely to move around. Furthermore,

there is the danger of confusion of two sanny¯asins with the same name.

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South Asian History and Culture 227

30. Table 2, line IX. See Thangaswami, Ko´sa, 333 and 399, on Kaivalyendra and Vidyendra.

31. Shastri, ‘Dakshini Pandits’, 9. According to this chronicle, he was also the teacher of several

south Indian Ved¯antins, and before coming to Banaras had taught the V¯arttika of Sure´svara in


32. Shastri, ‘Dakshini Pandits’, 10. Some caution is of course necessary in evaluating the pedagogical

claims of this chronicle, which was created by a member of the family to describe their

own preeminence.

33. Shastri, ‘Dakshini Pandits’, 7.

34. The seven families listed by Shastri (‘Dakshini Pandits’, 13) are the ´, the Dharm¯adhik¯ar¯ıs,

the Bhat.t.

as, the Bh¯aradv¯ajas, the P¯ayagun.d.

es, the Caturdharas, and the Puntamkars. The religious

affiliations of the Puntamkars are unknown to me. The most prominent author in the

family,Mah¯adeva, was a Naiy¯ayika. For more on these families see O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’,


35. Gode (Bernier and Kav¯ındr¯ac¯arya) proposed that it was Kav¯ındra who met Bernier and was

called the chief pundit by Bernier, whereas Bronkhorst (‘Bhat.t.

oji’) considered whether it might

have been Bhat.t.

oji, before arguing for another figure, Jagann¯atha.

36. See Sharma and Patkar, Kav¯ındracandrodaya. v–ix for a list of contributors.

37. The information in this paragraph together with some of the wording is taken fromMinkowski,

‘Guide to Argument’, 125.

38. The Advait¯amr. ta, the Prabodhacandrik¯a commentary on the Bhagavad G¯ıt¯a, and a

Ved¯antaparibh¯as. ¯a. The last title is not to be confused with the Ved¯an. taparibh¯as. ¯a of


39. For example, in the fifth verse of the Kav¯ındr¯as. t.aka that was produced by a collective of residents

of Banaras, or again in the seventh verse of that same contribution. Sharma and Patkar,

Kav¯ındracandrodaya, 24–5. See also Raghavan, ‘Kav¯ındr¯ac¯arya’, 163. To P¯urn. endra Sarasvat¯ı

two Advaitin works are attributed, the Pran. av¯arthaprak¯a´sik¯a and the Brahmabh¯avan¯anirn. aya.

40. No other figure receives the same sort of treatment in this anthology, except, of course,


41. O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’, 31–2. See the remainder of this article for other sanny¯asins involved

in collective decisions about matters of dharma.

42. Gode, ‘Identification of Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama’. This Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama is not to be confused with the

Advaitin author of the previous century, however.

43. Minkowski, ‘Guide to Argument’, 124–6.

44. For more about the Muktiman.d.

apa and other institutions and public spaces of the pandits in

Banaras in this period, see O’Hanlon, ‘Speaking from Siva’s Temple’, in this volume.

45. See Hawley, ‘Four Samprad¯ays’, in this volume, for some discussion of the internal histories of


ava movements, which recall the shift northward, but which nevertheless remember K¯a´s¯ı

as the stronghold of ´ Saivism and of Advaita.

46. O’Hanlon, ‘Speaking from Siva’s Temple’.

47. Other rival or satellite mat.has of ´Sa˙nkar¯ac¯aryas were scattered through much of western India

in the erstwhile Vijayanagara domains. Clark, Da´san¯am¯ı-Sam. ny¯as¯ıs, 133–8.

48. Clark, Da´san¯am¯ı-Sam. ny¯as¯ıs, 177–226.

49. Ibid., 128–38.

50. Appadurai, ‘Kings, Sects and Temples’.

51. See Hawley, ‘Four Samprad¯ays’, in this volume for an account of early modern texts in the

Vallabha tradition that accord a similarly prominent role to Vy¯asat¯ırtha, in which his position

in Kr.s.


adevar¯aya’s Vijayanagara is central.

52. Stoker, ‘Polemics and Patronage’.

53. Ibid., 2–3 (in the unpublished manuscript). I follow her wording very closely here.

54. Sharma, History of Dvaita School, 345.

55. However, Subrahman. ya ´S¯astri in the introduction to his edition of Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama’s

Advaitad¯ıpik¯a, states that this polemical work was aimed at the works of the earlier M¯adhva

author Jayat¯ırtha (ca. 1365–1388) ‘and others’ (jayat¯ırth¯adigranth¯an). Subrahman. ya ´S ¯astri,

‘Upodgh¯atah. ’, 1.

56. Among other works on the Advaitin side, Gaud. a-Brahm¯ananda’s Candrik¯a commentary on the

Advaitasiddhi was a response to the M¯adhva critiques.

57. Gode, ‘Contact of Bhat.t.

oji’. See the Excursus. The ruler in question, Ve˙nkatappa of Ikkeri (r.

1586–1629), was the king of the Kel.

adi Nayaka successor state to the Vijayanagara kingdom,

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228 C. Minkowski

which had been fragmented after a military defeat and sack of its capital city in 1565. He was

also a patron of Appayya D¯ıks.ita.

58. O’Hanlon, ‘Speaking from Siva’s Temple’.

59. Potter, Presuppositions of Indian Philosophies, 242–54.

60. Stoker, ‘Polemics and Patronage’, 7–18 (in the preprint).

61. Appadurai, ‘Kings, Sects and Temples’, 55–7.

62. Collins, Sociology of Philosophies.

63. Ibid., 19–133. The first two features of this theoretical framework have had an influence on the

organization of this essay, if not a constitutive one.

64. Collins, Sociology of Philosophies, 262.

65. Ibid., 269.

66. Ibid., 270.

67. Pollock, ‘New Intellectuals’.

68. Modi, Translation of Siddhanta Bindu, 156–75.

69. Similarly, Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a in his Advaitacint¯aman. i repeatedly identified Kr.s.


a as the supreme

being and his is. t.adevat¯a. For an example of inter-sectarian rivalry, see Minkowski, ‘Guide

to Argument’. For a later author who followed Madhus¯udana’s view, see Minkowski,


ha’s Mah¯abh¯arata’.

70. Modi, Translation of Siddhanta Bindu, 21–7; Gupta, Advaita Ved¯anta and Vais.n.

avism, 5–7.

There are also legends that associate Madhus¯udana with the militarization of some of the

orders of da´san¯am¯ı sanny¯asins, with the agreement of Akbar and his minister Birbal. Clark,

Da´san¯am¯ı-Sam. ny¯as¯ıs, 228–32.

71. My thanks to Muzaffar Alam for pointing this out to me after a presentation of parts of this

article in Chicago.

72. In his Prastha¯nabheda, a survey of the views and literature of the A¯ ryan world, he

dismissed the ‘mlecchas’ on the way to ruling out close description of Buddhist and

Jaina (n¯astika) positions: vedab¯ahyatv¯at tu tes. ¯am. mlecch¯adiprasth¯anavat paramparay¯api

purus. ¯arth¯anupayogitv¯ad ¯ıyatvam eva. Madhus¯udan¯ı commentary on verse 7 of the

´ Sivamahimastotra. Pus. padanta, ´ Sivamahimastotra, 9. This judgement stood. Consider the

review of philosophical positions in the S.

at.tantr¯ıs¯ara by a later, anonymous author, which

recognized that some recent Sanskrit philosophers had taken Islamic theology seriously. It

mentions a theologian called Bar¯ak, who argued against undivided being in salvation. A verse

attributed to Madhus¯udana is cited, to the effect that such views need not be responded to

any more than a lion need roar back at the meowing of the village cat: yavanop¯adhy¯ayas

tu mukt¯av api dvaitadar´sanam asty eva. tadanus¯arin. a´s ca ke cid arv¯ac¯ın¯a api dr.´syante. tes. ¯am ¯ıyatvam ¯ahuh. ´sr¯ımanmadhus¯udanasarasvat¯ıcaran. ¯ah. . iha kumatir atattve tattvav¯ad¯ı

var¯akah. , pralapati yad ak¯an.d.

e khan.d.

an¯abh¯asam uccaih. | prativacanam. amus.mai tasya ko

vaktu vidv¯an, na hi rutam anurauti gr¯amasim. hasya sim. ha iti || 1 Anonymous, S.


folio 3r, lines 1ff.

73. Appayya, Madhvatantramukhamardanam, 4.

74. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Nr. sim. havijñ¯apana. Unfortunately, this work is not available in the United

Kingdom. It is referred to by both Thangaswami, Ko´sa, 272, and by Nr.

sim. h¯a´srama,

Ved¯antatattvaviveka, 6. For the evidence Suryanarayana Sukla has probably used, and the

problem with it, see the note after next, on the introduction to the Bh¯at.t.acint¯aman. i.

75. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Ved¯antatattvaviveka, 6–7.

76. Nr.sim. h¯a´srama, Advaitad¯ıpik¯a, 1–2. His source is Vi´sve´svara Bhat.t.

a, Bh¯at.t.acint¯aman. i, 1–2.

The question at issue in the nirn. ayapattra is the status of the Devrukh Brahmins.

77. O’Hanlon, ‘Letters Home’, 229–34. The collective agreements described by Sukla in the

Bh¯at.t.acint¯aman. i are all covered in O’Hanlon’s article.

78. Raghavan, New Catalogus Catalogorum, vol. 8, 64.

79. Thangaswami, Ko´sa, 279–80.

80. Bronkhorst, ‘Bhat.t.

oji’, 12 and note 42. The three sources are Gode, ‘A New Approach’;

Kaun.d.a Bhat.


a, Br. hadvaiy¯akaran. abh¯us. an. am, 5 and Up¯adhy¯ay, K¯a´s¯ı k¯ı p¯an.d.

itya, 61. The latter

two offer no evidence for the claim. Gode bases himself on Bambardekar, Bhat.t.ojid¯ıks. ita,

353, but Bambardekar also provides no contemporary evidence for the claim. Bambardekar,

Bhat.t.ojid¯ıks. ita, 304–7, records a version of the legend of the meeting of Nr.

sim. ha with

Appayya, in which Appayya was inspired to turn from ´ Siv¯advaita to Advaita, and to enter

into anti-M¯adhva polemics.

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South Asian History and Culture 229

81. Bronkhorst, ‘Bhat.t.

oji’, 12 and note 40, lists two sources, Coward, Philosophy of the

Grammarians, 240, where a version of the story of their meeting is told, but providing

no sources, and M¯ım¯am. saka, Vy¯akaran. ´S¯astra k¯a Itih¯as, 487, which states that in his

Tattvakaustubha Bhat.t.

oji salutes Appayya. The wording of this salute is not provided, and

I cannot locate it in the (fragmentary) manuscript of the Tattvakaustubha to which I have

access, nor is it found in the available descriptions of the Tattvakaustubha in descriptive

catalogues of manuscripts. Instead, Bhat.toji devotes the beginning and ending statements of

the Tattvakaustubha to saluting his patron, Kel.

adi Ve˙nkata N¯ayaka. See Gode, ‘Contact of


oji’, 33–6. It is likely that there has been a confusion of works, and that what M¯ım¯am. saka

was thinking of was the Tantrasiddh¯antad¯ıpa, on which see below.

82. Aiyaswami Sastri, ‘Tantrasiddh¯antad¯ıpik¯a’, 247, for the text of the verse, together

with the information about manuscripts: appayad¯ıks.itendr¯an a´ses.avidy¯agur¯un vande

‘ham. /yatkr.tibodh¯abodhau vidvadavidvadbh¯ajakop¯adh¯ı.

83. Aiyaswami Sastri, ‘Tantrasiddh¯antad¯ıpik¯a’.

84. For a discussion of the legends of the encounters between Bhat.t.

oji and Appayya, see Bronner,

‘Appayya, Bhat.t.

oji, Jagann¯atha’.

85. Appayya D¯ıks.ita, Madhvatantramukhamardanam, 5–6: tatra nirn.etum anyatarad yady api

nop¯ayas tath¯api appayyad¯ıks.¯ıt¯an¯am. bhat.t.

ojin¯a sah¯asik¯av¯ar¯an. asy¯am abhavad iti spas.t.


sapram¯ br¯umah. .

86. See Gode, ‘Contact of Bhat.t.

oji’, Deshpande, ‘Will the Winner Please Stand Up’.

87. See Appayya D¯ıks.ita, Madhvatantramukhamardanam, 4–5.

88. Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a. Advaitacint¯aman. i, 76: v¯agdev¯ı yasya jihv¯agre nar¯ınarti sad¯a mud¯a |



asam. jñam. tam. gurum. naumi nirantaram.

89. See, for example, Ra˙ngoji Bhat.t.

a. Advaitacint¯aman. i, 3: ata evoktam.

nr.sim. h¯a´sramagurucaran. aih. .


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