The Upanishat darshana is known as `Vedanta'. Vedantins have been recognized in the scriptures as `Aupanishadas'. The Jiva, the world and Ishwara, an analysis of these three concepts is the basis of all Darshanas. Every Darshana, including Bauddha, Jaina, Charvaka and Sankhya, try to explain the relation between the three in their own ways. However, excluding Vedanta, every other Darshana is Dwaitavidi or dualistic. Even the Buddhists and Jains describe Advaitins as Vedantins in their works. The scholarly work `vyAsa tAtparya nirNaya' proves beyond doubt that it is Advaita that is taught by the Brahmasutras. The Upanishads and Brahmasutras were interpreted in various ways before the advent of Srimadacharya and continue to be interpreted in various ways. Hence, to choose amongst the various interpretations, it becomes very important to know the Sampradaya or lineage of the teachers of the various lineages. Hence Srimadacharya says in Gita Bhashya: "asampradAyavit sarvashAstravidapi mUrkhavadevopekShaNIyaH', one who does not know his Sampradaya or does not belong to a recognized lineage of teachers, has to be ignored like a fool. The Advaita lineage starts with Sri Narayana as the first guru, followed by Brahmajnas like Hiranyagarbha, Vasistha, Shakti, Parashara, Vyasa, Shuka and Gaudapadacharya. It may be noted that Sri Vedavyasa, who organized the Vedas and gifted the humanity with various scriptures, does not feature in the other Avaidika Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava lineages, which actually interpret one of the vyAsa praNIta shAstra as the basis for their school of thought.
Scriptures which have originated to teach the essence of the Sruti, like the Vishnu Purana, Bhagavata, SkAnda, Shiva Purana, Bhagavadgita, Smritis, Agamas like the Pancharatra and Vaikhanasa etc., advocate Kevaladvaita in essence and not any other path. This has been explained beyond doubt in the work, vyAsatAtparya nirNaya of Sri Dikshita. Various Darshanas like the Shaiva, Shakta and Vaishnava, iffering from the Vaidika Advaita darshana are actually steps gradually leading a person without Chittashuddhi, in course of time, towards the Vaidika Advaita darshana. This has been confirmed in the Yajna Vaibhava Khanda of Suta Samhita:
sopAnakramato devo vedamArgasyakAraNam
vedamArgasthito devaH sAkshAnmuktestu kAraNam |
tatrApi karmamArgastho jnAnashraddhAprado haraH
jnAnamArgasthitaH shambhurjnAnadwAreNa mokShadaH ||
The Sruti and Smrti declare in unison that the truth is one, `ekamevadwitIyaM', without a second. The world of names and forms in which we live is the "reality" that we, covered by illusion, understand. Living in such circumstances, understanding Advaita is not a very easy task. From a child to an elderly person, every Jiva believes that the world of names and forms s true and lives in duality. Everything grasped through the Indriyas appears steeped in duality. Because of the difficulty in understanding the scriptures which advocate the truth of Advaita, which cannot be grasped with the mind and the other Indriyas, incorrect interpretations of the Shastras took place at various points in time and space. Every such time, an incarnation like Sri Vyasa or Sri Shankara appeared to clarify and uphold the truth of Vedanta. The Advaita darshana taught by Srimadacharya is not his own interpretation of the Shastras. The light of Vedanta darshana taught by Srimadacharya was known to great sages before him but had become dim by the time of his advent. The works that Acharya quotes in his works include: the Vedas with Samhitas and Brahmanas, Upanishads, Vedangas, Shaddarshanas, Shrauta Sutras, Dharma sutras, Grhya Sutras, Smrtis, ancient works like Upavarsha, Itihasas like Ramayana and Mahabharata, Puranas like Vishnu Purana, Agamas like Pancharatragama etc. Every Tarka or analysis carried out to establish the truth of one's own philosophy should be based on Sruti pramANa (shrutyanukUla tarka). There can be no greater pramANa while discussing spiritual issues (AdhyAtmika viShaya) which are not visible within the realms of sensory perception i.e. which are apratyakSha.
The supreme truth cannot be known by the two means: pratyakSha or anumAna. Any darshana which bases itself against the Sruti pramANa is `heya' according to Vishnu Purana and Smrtis of Shankha and Likhita. Thus, even Sankhya and Vaisheshikas have been dismissed as `Shushka Tarkikas', as their vAda does not derive support from the Sruti. An Advaitin has no problems with any of the other darshanas like the Sankhya, Vaisheshika, PAncharAtra, pAshupata etc. But he never ceases to recognize that these darshanas do not advocate the truth completely. When the Shaivas declare Shiva as the parama purusha or the vaishnavas declare Vishnu as the Supreme Being, an Advaitin says `Astu' as both of them are partial truths (Amshita satyas). There are various kinds of spiritual aspirants most of who may be categorized as MandAdhikaris or MadhyamAdhikaris. Due to their state of existence and lack of qualification, they do not recognize or follow the truth of Advaita darshana instantly. This becomes evident from the saying in Avadhuta Gita: IshwarAnugrahAdeva puMsAmadvaitavAsanA. To bring a gradual elevation for these kinds of Sadhakas, Kapila, Kanada and others have devised philosophies like Sankhya, Vaisheshika, Pashupata, Shakta etc which gradually lead the Sadhaka towards acquiring the Chitta Shuddhi required to grasp the supreme truth. Though Srimadacharya completely accepts this fact, why has he disproved these darshanas? Various scriptures like the Shiva Purana etc teach paths like Shaiva and Shakta darshanas, which are meant for Mandadhikaris and Madhyamadhikaris. To clarify to an Uttamadhikari that these darshanas are no more relevant to him, Srimadacharya has disproved the various Avaidika darshanas which do not reflect the absolute truth. Thus, it is erroneous to claim that the path of Advaita cannot lead an aspirant towards the complete perception of the Brahma Vastu. On the contrary, as Advaita Darshana is Vedanta darshana, it is the only complete path to know the absolute truth. Every other path serves as a step to reach this darshana and only preaches Amshika Satya.
Let us examine the debate between Srimadacharya and Nilakantha, the foremost Shaiva scholar in those times.
Nilakantha: You accept the pramANa of the vAkya: tatvamasi, that (Brahman) is you, taught by the Upanishads. As the Jivatman and the Ishwara have different qualities (Guna Dharma), they cannot be accepted as one. The Jiva is characterized by qualities like Alpajnatva, Alpashaktitva etc., whereas the Ishwara shows qualities like Sarvajnatva, Sarvashaktitva etc. Can the night and the day ever become one? The sun and the reflection of the sun in a mirror, are both same, though both have the different attributes. But holding this, you cannot claim Abheda between Jivatman and Paramatman as the reflected image is not true. This has been confirmed by VyomashivAchArya. You also claim, "The qualities of MauDhya and Sarvajnatva respectively in the Jiva and Ishwara are due to Maya. If the veil of Maya is removed, the attributes are lost and the actual Chaitanya Swarupa becomes radiant". But this is completely false! The qualities of Maudhya and Sarvajnatva are actually present in Jiva and Ishwara. This can be proved by various instances. The horse has the quality of a horse (Ashwatva) and a cow, Gotva. If these two differing qualities are removed, both remain simply as a Pashu with the common qualities of an animal, and then, both can be called `one'. But one clearly sees with his own senses, i.e. through pratyakSha pramANa that this is not true. Cow and a horse are not one and the same! Similarly, when the Jiva knows by experience its limited existence, how is that you claim that the Jiva is Ishwara, neglecting the pratyakSha pramANa?
Srimadacharya: (The following illustration is not by the Acharya in this context, but I am writing it here to elaborate on Acharya's answer): I see a man called `Harsha' in Kashi in some Samvatsara. He is dressed as a Sannyasi. I again see Harsha in Rameshwaram in another Samvatsara, dressed as a prince. But the second time, I still recognize Harsha as the same person who I saw in Kashi with different attributes. This recognition is termed as `pratyabhijnA'. Thus, in the absence of this knowledge, I recognize the same Harsha as two different persons, because of differences in time, space and appearance. If these untrue attributes (upAdhis) are done away with, I recognize the truth that there is only one Harsha. Thus if Upadhis like Maudhya and Sarvajnatva are done away with, the true, non-dual chaitanya becomes evident. I see a rope and assume it to be a snake. This snake is neither existent (as the truth is the rope) nor non-existent (as I see the existence of the snake in my thought). Hence, it may be called Anirvachaniya and is only a false creation of the mind. Similarly, like the rope is the cause of existence for the untrue snake, the Brahman is the cause for the world or Jagat. Hence, we understand by Sruti pramANa that the Brahma, which appears as the Jiva and the Brahman, is untouched by either Maudhya or Sarvajnatva. Just because a crystal reflects the red color of a hibiscus placed next to it, its quality of colorlessness does not cease. The same crystal appears blue when placed next to an Indranila gem. The Sruti declares that a dualistic person, i.e. a person with Dwaita Drishti, has a great fear or Bhaya. Had Dwaita, preached by the Pashupata Darshana you follow, been true, the Sruti would not have predicted inauspiciousness for such a person. The incorrect notion that the moon is a small object is dispelled the astronomical sciences. Similarly, the wrong notion that `I am not Shiva' is dispelled by the analysis of Sruti Vakyas like Tatvamasi. What is the greater pramaNa that the Sruti, which can contradict this truth declared in the Sruti?
Nilakantha: Sages like Kanada and Kapila have described the nature of Jiva, who is different from the Brahman. Why should I accept your theory rejecting these great sages?
Srimadacharya: (We have already dealt with the reason as to why these darshanas came into existence and continue to exist despite of the Amshika Satya that they preach) The Smrti and Puranas cannot be accepted as pramANa when they contradict the Sruti. This has been accepted universally. The works of Kapila, Kanada etc have the status of Smrti. However, Sruti needs no further pramANa as Sruti is the only pramANa to know the real nature of Brahman. Even the Smrti places itself on the basis of the pramANa of the Sruti. Thus, Smrti vakya can never be quoted as a proof greater than the Sruti (virodhe tvanapekShaM syAdasati hyanumAnaM – Jaimini Sutra).
Nilakantha: If the words of these sages (Kapila etc.) is logical and makes sense, why shouldn't one accept them as pramANas like the Sruti? As every person experiences different states of grief and bliss, the Jiva who experiences these in them should be different. If the atman was one, a beggar should have also enjoyed the bliss enjoyed by a prince. Also, Moksha is to destroy grief completely in such a way that it never returns. You also claim that the AntaHkarana is the Kartr (Bhoktr) and not the Jiva. But how is that the Jada Vastu like the Antahkarana the Kartr? Can objects like a brick or a stone ever experience grief and bliss?
Srimadacharya: It is to be understood that the grief and bliss are enjoyed by the antahkarana and not by the atman. This can hence never lead to the conclusion that there are many jivas. On the other hand, this only proves that the Antahkaranas are many. The Sruti pramANa here is: kAmaH saMkalpo vichikitsA shraddhAshraddhA dhR^itiradhR^itirhr^IrdhIrbhIrityetat sarvaM mana eva, Brihadaranyaka Sruti. Though the body, consisting of the gross and the subtle bodies, is Jada, its association with Chaitanya, which is the Atman, makes it the Kartr. (When electricity flows in a machine, it begins to exhibit life-like qualities and moves). You claim Moksha to be complete freedom from grief. But this state also lacks the bliss. This state that you are referring to, is like that of a stony mountain. That is not Moksha as Moksha is to experience the Brahmananda, which lacks even the minutest trace of any kind of grief (Anando brahmaNo vidwAn na bibheti kutashchana – Taittariya Brahmana).
bhava shaMkara deshika me sharaNam