Posted by: adbhutam | May 14, 2011


Srigurubhyo namaH

In his really very nicely produced book ‘The History of the Dvaita school of Vedanta and its literature’ (The Book)

Tiny URL:

Dr.BNK Sharma (BNK) has made several points as a commentary on the Dvaita system and also on its perception of Advaita.

On page 146 of the Book in the footnote are given by BNK the eight verses quoted by Sri Madhvacharya in the work ‘Tattvodyota’:

सत्यं तु द्विविधं प्रोक्तं सांवृतं पारमार्थिकम् ।
सांवृतं व्यवहार्यं स्यान्निवृत्तौ पारमार्थिकम् ॥१
विचार्यमाणे नोऽसत्त्वं सत्त्वं चापि प्रतीयते ।
यस्य तत्सांवृतं तत्स्यात् व्यवहारपदं च यत् ॥ २
निर्विशेषं स्वयंभातं निर्लेपमजरामरम् ।
शून्यं तत्त्वमविज्ञेयं मनोवाचामगोचरम् ॥ ३
जाड्यसंवृतिदुःखान्तपूर्वदोषविरोधि यत् ।

नित्यभावनया भातं तद्भावं योगिनं नयेत् ॥ ४

भावार्थप्रतियोगित्वं भावत्वं वा न तत्त्वतः ।
विश्वाकारं च संवृत्या यस्य तत्पदमक्षयम् ॥ ५
नास्य सत्वं न वा सत्वं न दोषो गुण एव वा ।
हेयोपादेयरहितं तच्छून्यं पदमक्षयम् ॥ ६
अवाच्यं सर्वशब्दैस्तल्लक्ष्यतेऽखिलैः पदैः ।
अज्ञेयं ज्ञानलक्ष्यं च तच्छून्यं पदमक्षयम् ॥ ७
यदखण्डं पदं लक्ष्यं सर्वैरपि विशेषणैः ।
सर्वैर्विशेषणैर्मुक्तं तच्छून्यं पदमक्षयम् ॥ ८BNK says that Madhva has not given the source of these verses and that it is confirmed from other researchers’ works that these are genuinely buddhistic ones.  These verses are quoted by Madhva to demonstrate the point that Advaita is no different from Bauddha darshana.In the sequel a few of such points have been taken up for analysis. This is a study to show that the verses under reference have directly or indirectly a basis/origin in the Vedanta Scripture which includes the Shruti, the BhagavadgIta and other PuraNa-s.In a private conversation Vidwan Sri Mani Dravid Sastrigal mentioned this verse of महेन्द्रवर्मा in the ’मत्तविलासप्रहसनम्’ –
वेदान्तेभ्यो गृहीत्वार्थान् यो महाभारतादपि ।
विप्राणां मिषतामेव कृतवान् कोशसञ्चयम् ॥

Mahendravarman in his work ‘mattavilAsaprahasanam’ says this about the coming into being of the Buddhistic system:

//Taking material from the UpaniShads and also from the MahAbhArata (which includes the BhagavadgItA), Buddha, even as the brAhmaNa-s (vaidika-s) were wide awake, accomplished a great fortune – literally filled up his treasury – (of establishing a vibrant system).//

Such is the piracy that Buddhism has indulged in that its source material is none other than the scriptures of the SanAtana Dharma, the Vaidika sampradAya.

The verse first quoted by Sri Madhva is now taken up for a detailed study:

सत्यं तु द्विविधं प्रोक्तं सांवृतं पारमार्थिकम् ।
सांवृतं  व्यवहार्यं स्यान्निवृत्तौ पारमार्थिकम् ॥१

//Satyam is spoken of in two modes – sAmvRtam and paaramArthikam.  The former is ‘vyavahAryam’ and upon its removal/destruction/dispelling/negation/sublation (one attains to) the pAramArthikam.//

In the BhagavadgIta 7th Chapter in verses 4 and 5 the Lord has specified His nature, prakRti, as two-fold: aparA and parA.  The aparA constitutes the entire created universe which is inert and is the viShaya, kShetram, bhogya.  And the parA is the Consciousness Principle that is the viShayI, kShetrajna, the (apparent) bhoktA. We get the confirmation that the above understanding is correct in the opening verses of the 13th Chapter where the kShetram and the kShetrajna have been elaborately dealt with where the very 2nd verse says that the knowledge about the two, the kShetram and the kShetrajna, constitutes ‘The Knowledge’ meaning that that is the liberating knowledge.  So, we have in the Gita firm evidence for presenting ‘Satyam’ / ‘tattva’ into two, as two-fold.  Of course we have in the Mandukya Upanishad the clear distinction, the statement, of the tattva as ‘relative’ in the pAdatraya and ‘absolute’ in the Turiya pAda.

That the two are vyavahAryam and pAramArthikam respectively is also established in the Shruti.  For example the Mandukya Upanishad specifies Brahman as four-quartered, chatuShpAt.  The first three pAda-s are the break-up of the kShetram and the fourth, the TurIya, is the true nature of the kShetrajna.  In the seventh mantra delineating the turIya there is a word ‘avyavahAryam’ – that which never enters into the category of the vyAvahArika, or the realm that is subject to the transactions involving the knower-knowing-know(n)able in the three states of waking, dream and sleep.  By explicitly calling the Turiya, brahman, अव्यवहार्यम् the Shruti is implying that the other-than-turIya is व्यवहार्यम्.  The Mandukya kArikA 1.17 has the line: मायामात्रमिदं द्वैतं, अद्वैतं परमार्थतः ।  It is interesting to note that the Mandukya up. 7th mantra has another word: advaitam.  Thus Advaitam is pAramArthikam and dvaitam is vyAvahArikam.  The sole objective of the Vedanta is to free the jIva-chaitanya from the erroneous idea of samsAritva.  This idea is conveyed by the word ‘निवृत्तौ’ in the above verse.

In the Srimadbhagavatam is a verse on the mAyA-nature of the universe explained with the rope-snake analogy:

आत्मानमेव आत्मतया अविजानतां
तेनैव जातं निखिलं प्रपञ्चितम् ।
रज्ज्वां अहेर्भोगभवाभवौ यथा ।। 10.14.25

//A person who mistakes a rope for a snake becomes fearful, but he then gives up his fear upon realizing that the so-called snake does not exist. Similarly, for those who fail to recognize You as the Supreme Soul of all souls, the expansive illusory material existence arises, but knowledge of You at once causes it to subside. //

The third line  ‘ज्ञानेन भूयोऽपि तत्प्रलीयते’ specifically teaches that ‘through Knowledge the falsely projected duality ceases’ which is nothing but ज्ञाननिवर्त्यत्वम्.  The rope-snake analogy too is significant in the above bhAgavatam verse. The word ‘tat-praleeyate’ is the one that is corresponding to the word ‘ स्यान्निवृत्तौ’ of the Bhuddhistic verse quoted by Sri Madhva.

In the following verse too of the BhAgavatam (UddhavagItaa 17.55) we have the illusory nature of the world-objects described:
अर्थे हि अविद्यमाने अपि संसृतिः न निवर्तते
ध्यायतः विषयान् अस्य स्वप्ने अनर्थ आगमः यथा॥५५॥

//Even though the sense-world (of objects/subject and perceiving) is unreal, अविद्यमाने अपि, the relative existence of a man who dwells on sense-objects is never at an end, as troubles come in dreams. (Since dreams are admitted to be effects of the impressions of the waking state.)//

Here we have the word ‘(न) निवर्तते’. This is the word that is found in the Buddhistic verse quoted above which talks about the ‘nivRtti’ of the samsara, the ‘vyavahAryam’, that will result in the ‘pAramArthika’.

Interestingly there is a verse composed by Sri Madhvacharya in his विष्णुतत्त्वनिर्णयः –

अनित्यत्व-विकारित्व-पारतन्त्र्यादिरूपतः ।

स्वप्नादिसाम्यं जगतः न तु बोधनिवर्त्यता

//PurANas describe the universe with the analogy of a dream, etc. This is with a view to bring out the ephemerality, mutability, dependence, etc. of the world.  However, the analogy of dream etc. is not to teach that the universe is negatable/dispellable/falsifiable due to knowledge.//

One can easily see that the purANa, the Bhagavatam, by the words ज्ञानेन भूयोऽपि तत्प्रलीयते quoted above is directly contradicting the contention न तु बोधनिवर्त्यता in the above verse of Sri Madhva.  The other verse of the same Bhaagavatam (UddhavagItA) quoted above too can be seen to be contradicting Sri Madhva’s thinking.  The word ‘na nivartate’ (of the state of samsara/ignorance) with respect to the samsara is seen to correspond with the words ‘ ज्ञानेनभूयोऽपितत्प्रलीयते’.(which is the state of knowledge). The purANa emphatically teaches that the ‘non-existent’ world of objects that does not seem to cease during the pendency of ignorance, is seen in experience to cease/subside/be sublated due to Knowledge. This is what is meant by ज्ञान/बोध-निवर्त्यता.

The BhAgavatam, again, in the uddhavagItA chapter 23 verse 32 teaches:

यदि स्म पश्यत्यसदिन्द्रियार्थं , नानानुमानेन विरुद्धमन्यत् ।

न मन्यते वस्तुतया मनीषी, स्वाप्नं यथोत्थाय तिरोदधानम् ॥३२॥

//Even if the illumined man sees the objects of the outgoing senses, he does not consider them as something real and other than the Self, because they are rejected by inference on account of their multiplicity as a man, on waking from sleep, dismisses the vanishing dream perceptions. //

Here one can appreciate the word ‘नाना’ which is reminiscent of the Shruti ’नेह नाना अस्ति किञ्चन’ which is interpreted in Advaita as ‘there is no multiplicity at all in the Truth, Brahman’.  The Bhagavatam validates only the Advaitic interpretation of this shruti in the above verse.

In this verse too the bhAgavtapurANa contradicts the ‘न तु बोधनिवर्त्यता’  idea of Sri Madhva.  For, here in the bhAgavatam the very dream analogy is used to show how the illumined/enlightened man perceives the world the way the man awakened from dream (प्रबोधितः/प्रबुद्धः) considers the dream-vision.  In other words, the बोधनिवर्त्यता of the world is specifically taught by the bhAgavatam through the dream analogy. The analogy fits the dArShTaantika in both aspects: dream – awakening – sublation of dream objects/events.  samsAra/prapancha – illumination/enlightenment – sublation of the world (mithyAtvanishchaya).

We said all the above to show how the Buddhist verse quoted by Sri Madhva says something (सांवृतं  व्यवहार्यं स्यान्निवृत्तौ पारमार्थिकम्) that is already found in the purANa, smRti.

Let us revert to the first quarter of the first Buddhistic verse Sri Madhva has quoted:  ‘Satyam is spoken of as two types/kinds.’  On page 143 of The Book BNK has presented a chart-diagram that depicts the layout of the Tattva as per the Dvaita school where Tattva is shown as broadly two: Swatantra and Paratantra. Under the former is placed ‘ViShNu’ and the latter has under it all that is other than ‘ViShNu’.  One can quickly see that the Madhva school specifies ‘two types’ of Satyam as shown here in this book by BNK from which extensive quotes are provided.

On page 142 of the Book BNK says:

// The TattvasankhyAna (11 granthas) enumerates the categories recognized by Madhva.  Here reality is dichotomized into ‘Swatantra’ (Independent) and ‘paratantra’ (dependent).  This is the highest metaphysical and ontological classification in Madhva’s system, whence his system derives its name ‘Dvaita’.  God Vishnu is the One Highest Independent Real.  All else is dependent on Him, including the Goddess Lakshmi, the presiding deity of a-cit prakRti.  // (emphasis mine)

BNK hastens to add: ‘Dependence does not mean unreality.The finite creation is always dependent on Him and is nonetheless real even as He is’.

Logic tells us that anything that is dependently real, paratantra satya, is actually unreal.  No analogy is more apt to depict this category than the rope-snake.  The ‘reality’ the rope-snake derives is undoubtedly from the rope which is the only ‘real’ in the analogy.  Even with explanations such as ‘the paratantra is not a’ dependently real’ but only a ‘dependent reality’, it does not save the situation since reality, if it is absolute, does not / need not have to depend on anything else for its reality.

It is easy for anyone to see that the ‘Swatantra’ is just the sole Entity, akin to the ‘PAramArthika’ of Advaita, the ‘para-tantra’ consists of all that the Advaitin holds as ‘vyAvahArika’.

The status of this paratantra is explained clearly by BNK:

// Though existence is thus ‘reality’, Madhva recognizes that its highest expression must be metaphysical independence of every other form of existence in finite reality, in respect of its being, powers and activity. Everything in finite reality is therefore grounded in the Independent Reality, known as Brahman and needs it for its being and becoming. // (emphasis mine)

My comment: On the basis of BNK’s words above, it is pertinent to note that just as in Advaita, ‘existence’ ‘sat/sattaa’ is the same as ‘reality’, ‘satyam’ in the Madhva system.  In the famous definition of ‘Satyam’ provided by Shankara in the Taittiriya Up.bhashyam for the word ‘satyam’ occurring there it is said: ‘sadeva satyam’.  It is now confirmed that in the Madhva system too, this equation is valid: sat (Existence) = satyam (Reality).   Also, in the above BNK quote, the ‘…highest expression of it must be metaphysical independence…’ we can easily recognize how just as in Advaita where the PaaramArthika satyam is held to be on similar lines, the Madhva system too defines the ‘Swatantra Satya’ as the ‘highest expression of reality’. This statement of BNK certainly contradicts what he has said earlier about the paratantra which is ‘as real as He’.  If the paratantra is ‘as real as He/Hari/ViShNu/Swatantra’, why would they take pains to say that the Swatnatra’s is ‘highest expression of reality’? If there is absolutely no difference in the reality between Swatantra and paratantra, why should they make a comparison between their realities?  This is a very fine example of the Dvaita school straining itself to somehow show their system as not falling in the category of Buddhism or Advaita where two types of reality are openly admitted.  Only the name changes from Paaramarthika – vyAvahArika to Swatantra – paratantra.  Thus according to the Madhva system reality has at least two expressions: one ‘highest’ and the other ‘dependent on that highest’.  One can decidedly appreciate that in the Madhva system the paratantra DOES NOT ENJOY the same reality status which the swatantra Hari enjoys even though BNK takes pain to emphasise that the paratantra is ‘as real as He’, for obvious reasons.  This is ample evidence to show that ‘the specifying of Reality in two ways’ is not unique to Buddhism or Advaita but an implicitly admitted, well laid-out, method in Dvaita too.

The ‘paratantra’ (dependent reality) of the Dvaita school has no ‘sattaa’, existence, of its own; it exists solely on the ‘sattaa’ of the Swatantra.  Recently someone drew my attention to a statement from Sri Raghavendra Tirtha’s (a highly respected Acharya of the Madhva sampradaya) commentary on the PuruSha sUktam.  The Swami, while commenting on the words ‘पुरुष एवेदं सर्वम्’ [All this is that PuruSha alone] has cited a verse from a smRti:

yadadHInA yasya sattA tat tadityEva bHanyatE

यदधीना यस्य सत्ता तत् तदित्येव भण्यते ।

[That whose sattA, existence, is dependent on Him (something other than itself) is spoken of as ‘He Himself’.]

To explain, the ‘idam’, the created world, the paratantra, depends on That (Him) for its very existence.  That way it (the created world) is spoken of as ‘The PuruSha, the Creator, Himself’.  Of course the Madhvas carefully avoid giving it an advaitic meaning.

So here there is a confirmation from the Madhva school itself for the fact that the paratantra (the dependent reality, the vyAvahArika of Advaita) has no existence, sattA, of its own; it exists on the borrowed existence of the Swatantra (the independent Reality, the paaramArthika of Advaita).

As I had stated earlier, such a situation is best explained by the rope-snake analogy.  The illusory/superimposed snake has no existence, sattA, of itself.  As long as one sees a snake there, its ‘existence’ is no different from the existence of the underlying rope there.  The rope’s existence itself is transferred, as it were, to the snake and the vyavahara goes on: there exists a snake.  While in truth there is the rope alone and no snake at all, the sattA being One Only and not two, it is concluded that the rope alone appears as the snake.  When the rope-knowledge is had, what gets sublated is the ‘snake’ alone and NOT the ‘existence’, sattA.  In fact, sattA, which is truly Brahman, Sat, Itself, can never go out of existence: न अभावो विद्यते सतः. Now he will start saying ‘there IS a rope’ or ‘a rope exists’.  But this will be too much for the Dvaitins to admit although they mean this alone without saying it in so many words.

This sentence of the BNK Book:

‘metaphysical independence of every other form of existence in finite reality, in respect of its being,’

is a fine summary of the Shankara commentary to the Bh.Gita ch.13 verse 12: ‘na sat na asat uchyate’ while defining Brahman.  Shankara holds Brahman’s existence to be different from the existence / non-existence that objects enjoy, only upon coming into existence and going out of existence. We say ‘a pot is’ only after the pot has been produced.  When the pot is destroyed, we say ‘the pot is not’.  Brahman, on the other hand, is ever existent, not having to exist only upon coming into existence like a pot. We easily see that the Madhva system too holds the same idea about Brahman viz-a-viz other objects. Otherwise, their differentiating between ‘finite reality’ of paratantra and ‘infinite reality’ of Swatantra is not warranted.

Another quote from BNK’s Book:


//While existence in space and time is thus reality and is possessed by the world of matter and souls, there must be something more than mere existence, having metaphysical independence or substantiality in its own right which may be designated as the highest real or the philisophical Absolute which would be the ultimate expression of all else. Such independent reality should be immanent in the universe, whence the latter could derive and draw its sustenance. Without presupposing such a basic and transcendental reality that would have to be immanent in the world, there would be chaos and disorder in the universe.

However, Madhva’s chief ontological classification of ‘being’ is into principles viz. ‘svatantra’ (Independent Reality) and ‘paratantra’ (Dependent Reality). The term ‘Reality’ represents three primary data: the thinking self, a world of external realities and indications of an Infinite Power rising above them.

In Madhva’s conclusions of Dvaita metaphysics reached by the evidence of ‘pratyaksa’ ‘anumana’ and ‘sabda pramana’ this infinite power is that Supreme and Independent Principle which does not depend on any other for its own nature and existence,  self-awareness or for becoming an object of knowledge to the thinking selves for the free and unfettered exercise of its own powers. This ‘svatantra-tattva’ (independent principle) is called God or ‘Brahman’ or ‘Isvara’. Though Brahman can do very well without prakrti or purusa (Dependent Realities), it prefers, in its infinite glory and inexorable will, ‘to do with them’. Such dependence (apeksa) of Brahman on things which are in themselves dependent on It, is no mark of inferiority or limitation. //


My comments:  One can see that the Madhva system accepts that ‘Brahman can do very well without prakrti or purusa (Dependent Realities)’.  This shows that they admit, at least theoretically, that Brahman is a secondless Entity, not in the sense of a negation of a second Brahman but in the sense of a second of any kind, in this case, the ‘dependent realities’.  We come to such a conclusion since they have already said before that the Swatantra (Brahman) is not dependent on anything for Its being, existence.  And, most importantly, the paratantra, dependents, depend for their very existence, ‘being and becoming’, not mere sustenance, on the Swatantra.  This has been explicitly stated by BNK as under:

//Everything in finite reality is grounded in the Infinite reality and needs it for its being and becoming.//  p.62

The dependence of the world of matter and the souls on Brahman is in the sense that both are functioning at His will, which is the essential condition and sustaining principle that invests them with their reality and without which they would be but void names and bare possibilities. // (emphasis mine) (page 67)

My comments:  The above statements show very clearly that for Dvaita, the paratantra cannot even ‘be’, ‘exist’, in the absence of the ‘sattaa’ provided by / drawn from the Swatantra.  There is no ‘svatantra-sattaa’ for the paratantra, it is ‘parataH sattaa’ alone it enjoys. The characterization of the true status of the paratantra as ‘mere void names and bare possibilities’ by none other than an acclaimed authority on Dvaita Vedanta, Dr.BNK  clearly depicts the Advaitic position with regard to the naama-rUpa prapancha.  Of special significance is the Advaitic interpretation of the Chandogya mantra: , वाचारम्भणं विकारो नामधेयम् मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम् which clearly applies to the above characterization of the paratantra by the Dvaita school. In advaita too, just as the Dvaitins have specified, the created world has no substance of its own other than Brahman.  It is nothing but ‘void names and bare possibilities’ without Brahman. A pot is but a ‘void name and a bare possibility’ without the clay, the material cause. A wave or an ocean are but ‘void names and bare possibilities’ without their material water. Thus according to BNK, Dvaita considers that the ‘natural’ nature of the world of names and forms to be ‘mere voids and bare possibilities’.  However, ONLY when they are endowed with Hari’s ‘apekShA’, consideration, they acquire a paratantra reality.  And Hari too can exist without them and that is His True nature and His ‘apekShA’ of them is only out of His Will, otherwise termed mAyA.

All that Advaita categorises under ‘vyavahaarika’ is shown under ‘paratantra’ in  Dvaita. While Advaita holds Brahman alone as the PaaramArthika, Dvaita has ‘ViShNu’ alone to show under Swatantra.  Thus, the two-fold categorisation of the Tattva/Satya is not avoidable even for Dvaita.
Thus, we have in the analysis of the first Buddhist verse seen that:

  • The specifying of the Tattva/Satyam as two-fold by the Buddhists is not antagonistic with the Vedanta scripture.
  • It is not unique to Bauddha darshana to specify the Tattva as two even as Vedanta has done it.
  • Most importantly, Dvaita is no exception to this method as we have seen from the various quotes from the BNK Book.
  • In His Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya Shankaracharya has made a trendsetting statement: //सर्ववादिनामपि अपरिहार्य: परमार्थ-संव्यवहारकृतो व्यवहारः ।// (Brihadaranyaka bhashya: 3.v.i). // In fact, all schools must admit the existence or non-existence of the phenomenal world according as it is viewed from the relative or the absolute standpoint.//
  • This statement, made on the authority of the Shruti, sets the standard for the formulation of any system of philosophy.  After all, the aim of philosophy is to show a way out of the present state of bondage to a state of liberation. The system should be able to describe the present state of bondage in understandable terms and set forth the path to liberation too in equally comprehensible terms.
  • We have seen in the foregoing that the Dvaita school too is subject to this rule set by Shankara.
  • Dr.BNK says that ‘Here reality is dichotomized into ‘Swatantra’ (Independent) and ‘paratantra’ (dependent).’  This is the exact translation of the portion सत्यं तु द्विविधं प्रोक्तम् of the Buddhistic verse quoted by Sri Madhva to show that Advaita is no different from Bauddha darshana.  Dr.BNK’s words regarding the ‘TattvasankhyAna’ of Madhva confirms that Dvaita is no exception to the rule:  सत्यं तु द्विविधं प्रोक्तम्.
  • In BNK’s words, Swatantra has ‘substantiality in its own right’. Obviously, the paratantra has no such substantiality in its own right.  That is brought out by his own words: ‘without the Swatantra, the paratantra will be ‘mere void names and bare possbilities’.  This is what is portrayed by Shankara in the Chandogya Up.bhashya 4.3.2 as: सर्वं च नामरूपादि सदात्मना एव सत्यं, विकारजातं स्वतस्तु अनृतमेव । // The entire world of name-form is real ONLY as Sat.  The transformed world (of names and forms) however is unreal BY themselves. // In other words, the world of names and forms have no substantiality of themselves; they are ‘substances’ ONLY because of Brahman/Atman/Self which is the only Substance.
  • Only the names ‘saamvRtam’ ‘pAramArthika’ of Bauddha darshana have been replaced by ‘paratantra’ and ‘Swatantra’ by the Dvaita school.
  • The nature of the paratantra of the Dvaita is no different from the ‘samvrti’ of the Bauddha or ‘vyAvahArika’  of Advaita (‘void names and bare possibilities’ in the words of BNK).  The only difference is that while the Advaitins and Bauddhas talk about the unreal nature of the vyAvahArika openly, the Dvaita school does not explicitly say that, for obvious reasons.  They have stopped short of saying that by their words ‘mere voids and bare possibilities.’

The other Buddhist verses quoted by Sri Madhva are taken up  in later blogs with the same title as this one, with Part nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.  Pl. look up in the archives here.




  1. Nicely pointed out similarities of two fold caterogisation

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