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Beyond Nirvana

Beyond Nirvana

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Published by: Malini Dasi on Feb 11, 2012
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There is almost a thousand years between the appearance of Çré
Çaìkaräcärya, the incarnation of the Supreme Lord’s devotee and the
appearance of the Supreme Lord Himself as ÇréCaitanya Mahäprabhu.
The history of Mäyävädism in this intervening period will now be briefly
described.

The bitter taste of voidism and its categorisation as a non-Vedic religion
in Buddhism was expertly sugar-coated by Çaìkaräcärya by rubber-
stamping it as Vedic, so that it became palatable and popular among the
Indian masses. As a consequence Buddhism was rooted out and the masses,
instead of identifying themselves as Buddhists, began to call themselves
Hindus. The Hindu religion or ‘Hinduism’ generally refers to the religious
interpretations of Çaìkaräcärya. Other religious theologies, which spread
later, mistakenly believed they had refuted Hinduism but in truth they
only crossed swords with Çaìkaräcärya’s brand of Hinduism. What follower
of the Vedas could be so miserly as to fail to acknowledge Çaìkaräcärya’s
momentous contribution to Hinduism, made by his uprooting Buddhism
from the soil of India? His effort notwithstanding, real Hinduism bears a
different definition than the one given by ÇréÇaìkara. Real Hinduism is
based on the Vedic conclusion known as Sanätana-dharma or the eternal
‘religion’ of Man. In other words, Sanätana-dharma is founded on the
ontological principle of the living entities inconceivable and simultaneous
oneness and difference with God and His multifarious energies. The
practical application of this eternal esoteric principle (tattva) is manifested
in a loving relationship expressed as bhakti, pure devotional service to
the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The thousand years since
Çaìkaräcärya’s disappearance have witnessed the gradual decline of
Mäyävädism, in some places losing its face, in others being stripped of its
veneer of legitimacy and respectability with its proponents and adherents
wisely going ‘underground’ to avoid any further embarrassment.

The Changing Shapes of Mäyävädism

Beyond Nirväëa

104

Yädava Prakäça

After the demise of famous Mäyäväda preceptors like Padmapäda
Sureçvara and Väcañpati Miçra, the most prominent Mäyävada guru who
took over was one Yädava Prakäça. He made the city of Kaïchi in South
India his place of residence. His contemporary, ÇréYämunäcarya of the
ÇréVaiñëava sampradäya was endowed with profound wisdom and a
spiritual genius. Seeing his extraordinary expertise in argument and
spiritual debate, Yädava Prakäça failed to muster the strength and
intrepidity to face him in a deciding scriptural debate. Yämunäcärya’s
famous disciple was the great spiritual preceptor ÇréRämänujäcärya, who
had actually studied Vedänta from Yädava Prakäça as a young brähmacari.
Despite his status as his student, ÇréRämänuja would consistently point
out the philosophical fallacies in ÇréÇaìkara’s commentary on Vedänta.
Yädava Prakäça tried hard to influence young Rämänuja with Mäyäväda
philosophy but was rebutted each time by the young student’s watertight
logic and scriptural arguments. Rämänuja’s incredible intellect and
profound spiritual insight made his teacher jealous, and so burning with
envy Yädava Prakäça conspired to kill the young Rämänuja. But before
the heinous plot could be executed it reached Rämänujäcärya’s ears and
the plan was scuttled. Not only did Rämänuja forgive Yädava Prakäça, he
showered mercy to him and accepted him as his disciple. Yädava Prakäça
was extremely moved by this bountiful gesture and exalted Vaiñëava
humility. Yädava turned over a new leaf and became a different person
altogether, heartily embracing the life of a Vaiñëava bhakta (devotee).

ÇréÇaìkaräcärya faced a similar situation in regards to Abhinäva Gupta.
Unfortunately, instead of showing mercy to Abhinäva, ÇréÇaìkaräcärya
had him assassinated. From this, one can easily see that Rämänujäcärya’s
character was in comparison to ÇréÇaìkaräcärya’s role, far more noble,
exalted and compassionate. Yadava Prakäça was plotting his murder, yet
ÇréRämänujäcärya not only forgave him but by his benign grace redeemed
him as well. Each of the above incidents, one involving ÇréRämänujäcärya
and the other ÇréÇaìkaräcärya were similar and crucial to them and reflects
their individual characters. ÇréRämänujäcärya was indeed a more
compassionate, tolerant and elevated personality than the Mäyäväda role
ÇréÇaìkara was playing. Throughout the ages the Supreme Lord’s pure
devotees have always exhibited, under all circumstances, superior
character and greater wisdom than others have. Mäyävädism during this
time went through its leanest period, debilitated by the sharp, irrefutable
logic and arguments of ÇréRämänujäcärya who flew the victory flag of

105

Viçiñöädvaita-väda. (This is the ontological principle that the Supreme
brahman, is by nature different from the jéva [living entities] and the jagat
[material nature] – although both jéva and jagat are a part of the complete
brahman and therefore never separate from Him).

ÇréÇrédhara Svämé

ÇréÇrédhara Sväméwas born in the province of Gujaräta. Not much
can be said about the details of his appearance in the absence of an
accurate and authentic date. One important fact deserves mention, which
is that regardless of what monist scholars and historians speculate about
the date of birth, their conjectures are totally unfounded, and at best
based on hearsay. While ÇréMadhväcäryä does not mention Çrédhara Svämé
in any of his writings, therefore, to chronologically place Çrédhara Svämé
after Madhväcäryä simply on the basis of Çrédhara Sväméapparent absentia,
would be illogical and unreasonable. ÇréÇrédhara Çvämédid not write a
commentary on the Vedänta Sütra or on the Upaëiñadäs. This is the
probable reason why Madhväcäryä never mentioned Çrédhara Çväméin
any of his own writings, otherwise he surely would have. On the other
hand Çrédhara Çvämémentions only ÇréÇaìkaräcärya’s name in his
commentary to the Bhagavad-gétä, making no mention of ÇréMadhväcäryä.
These facts indicate that Çrédhara Çvämélived after ÇréÇaìkaräcärya but
before ÇréMadhväcäryä’s advent.

ÇréRämänuja wrote his famous ÇréBhäñya commentary to the Vedänta
based on the conclusions of the Viñëu Puräëa. ÇréÇrédhara Çväméalso
wrote a commentary on the Viñëu Puräëa. If Rämänujäcärya had known
about this commentary he would have certainly cited it selectively or
would have referred to it in his writings as evidence. The fact is that each
of them fails to mention the other. In the light of these factors one would
be hard-pressed to conclusively ascertain the chronological order of their
respective periods. To this day the Mäyäväda impersonalist cults still
endeavour to try and pull Çrédhara Sväméinto their monist camp. The
reason for this is that in the very early stages of his spiritual journey
Çrédhara Sväméclosely associated with a Mäyävädä scholar, was influenced
by his teachings and for a time accepted the path of monism. This part of
his life was sometimes indirectly alluded to in Çrédhara Svämé’s writings.
Later however, Çrédhara Sväméfamously rejected Mäyävädism and
embraced Vaiñëavism under the guidance and by the association of
Paramänanda Tértha.

Paramänanda Tértha, a Vaiñëava sannyäsé of the çuddhä-advaita
sampradäya was an itinerant preacher, and was a devotee of Lord

The Changing Shapes of Mäyävädism

Beyond Nirväëa

106

Nåsiàhadeva, ÇréViñëu’s lion incarnation. The most prominent preceptor
of this Vaiñëava line of çuddhä-advaita, (pure, transcendental non-dualism),
was ÇréViñëu Sväméand he appeared long before Çaìkaräcärya. (Viñëu
Sväméwas also known as Adiviñëu Svämé).

Paramänanda Tértha was a sannyäsé in this illustrious Vaiñëava
sampradäya and by his mercy Çrédhara Svämérealised the spiritual
bankruptcy in Mäyävädism. After severing his past association with
Mäyävädism he wholeheartedly entered the hallowed Vaiñëava fold and
received spiritual initiation from Paramänanda Tirtha. Çrédhara Svämé’s
transformation emerged due to his enlightenment to the truth, which is
that mokña (impersonal liberation) was not only extremely difficult to
attain by following the path of dry speculation, it was actually impossible.
He understood that only through devotional surrender to the Supreme
Personality of Godhead is liberation eternally ensured. In his commentary
to Bhagavad-gétä, Çrédhara Sväméwrites:

çruti-småti-puräëa-vacanänyevaà sati samaïjasäni bhavanti
tasmäd-bhagavad-bhaktir eva mukti hetur iti siddhaà
‘paramänanda çré-pädäbja-rajaù çré-dhärinädhuna
çrédhara svämé-yatinä kåta géta-subodhiné.

When properly understood, the meanings of the words of Çruti,
Småti, Puräëa, Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Bhagavad-géta – the entire
Vedic literatures become clear. They all agree on this point that
devotion to the Supreme Lord is the primary cause of attaining
mokña, liberation – The sannyäséSrédhara Sväméis writing the
Subodhinécommentary to the Bhagavad-gétä, taking the dust from
the lotus feet of ÇréParamänanda Tértha.

The Mäyävädés’ contention that Çréla Çrédhara Sväméwas one of them,
a monist, is easily refuted by the above truth in Bhagavad-gétä. Their denial
of his devotional status is useless and their arguments both incoherent
and unsubstantiated.

A remarkable, but true historical fact surrounds Çrédhara Svämé’s
commentary of Bhagavad-gita. Once Çrédhara Svämévisited all the holy
pilgrimages and arrived in Käçi. He stayed there for an extended period
writing his Subodhinécommentary to the Bhagavad-gita. He approached
the scholars and Paëòits of Käçi, giving them a manuscript of this work
for their response. Discovering that the ontological conclusions in his
commentary were contrary to their Mäyäväda precepts, the Mäyävädé
Paëòits became alarmed and began to fine toothcomb it for mistakes and
irregularities. However, Çrédhara Svämérebutted all their arguments with

107

an amazing display of ingenious debating skill. In spite of this, and
unfortunately for them, the proud Mäyäväda scholars refused to
acknowledge the excellence of his commentary. For a final arbitration
both parties approached the deity of Lord Viçvanätha (Siva) in the temple.
The best of the Vaiñëavas, Lord Siva let his decision be known in a dream
to the Mäyäväda Paëòitas in the form of a verse, given below:

ahaà vedmi çuk vetti vyaso vetti na vetti vä
çrédharaù sakalaà vetti çrénåsiàha prasädataù

I (Siva) know, Çukadeva Gosväméknows, Çréla Vyäsadeva may
or may not know. But ÇréÇrédhara (Svämé) knows everything by
the mercy of Lord Nåñémhadeva.

This verse unequivocally declares that Çrédhara Svämédefeated the
Mäyäväda Paëòitas by the grace of Lord Nåsiàhadeva, and so Çrédhara
Svämé, by his guru’s grace became successful. Once again we find yet
another account of monists, impersonalists and Mäyävädés all exposed
by the Supreme Lord via his empowered devotee.

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