The philosophy of Advaita as advocated by Adi Sankara has been well articulated by his disciples and followers in their treatises. Its essentials are effectively presented for a learner in the manuals known as prakarana granthas (basic treatises). Some of the better known among them are: the ‘Pancadasi’ of Vidyaranya, the ‘Vedantaparibhasha’ of Dharmarajadhvarindra, and the ‘Vedantasara’ of Sadananda. ‘Tattvanusandhanam’ could well be included in that category.
Written by Mahadevananda Saraswathi, a versatile scholar of the 17th century who has to his credit a number of independent works and commentaries on Advaita classics, ‘Tattvanusandhanam’ is a small text with four chapters called paricchedas. The concept of Maya or Avidya is very important in the metaphysics of Advaita. The two-fold nature of Ajnana — namely jnana and kriya — with its sub-divisions is dealt with elaborately. God, the individual soul (jiva), and the world are nothing but the apparent diversifications of the only entity, through the indeterminable principle of Maya or Avidya. The jivatman is the reflected image of the Supreme Consciousness (Brahman). Because of Avidya, the jiva falsely identifies himself with psycho-organism and experiences pain and pleasure, as if, by undergoing the cycle of births and deaths. By the process of self-realisation — that is realisation of one’s true nature as Brahman — Avidya becomes extinct. To be able to accomplish this, the aspirant is called upon to adhere to the moral disciplines as enjoined in the sacred lore. By taking to asceticism and studying vedantic statements (sravana), he will be able to contemplate upon the import (manana), and then by assiduity (nidhidyasana) he could attain self-realisation. Thereafter he will become a jivanmukta. When the physical body falls off, he will remain as videhamukta. All these concepts are well explained and the author has profusely quoted great Advaita preceptors, like Suresvaracharya, in support. Although there is no specific name of the paricchedas, the text is simple and easily understandable.
The fact ‘Tattvanusandhanam’ has gone into several editions is in itself a testimony to its value as a philosophical text. What distinguishes this book is that it carries, for the first time, an English translation along with the text. Sankari, who embarked upon this venture, did not live to complete it. While she provided the critical edition of the text and the translation of the first two sections, the rest of the work was done by K. Srinivasan and T.V. Vasudeva. The translation has been done with great care and it closely follows the original text. The variants and the notes at the appropriate places add value to the work. The present publication will be cherished by the lovers of Advaita philosophy.
TATTVANUSANDHANAM: Edited by R. Sankari, with an English translation; Revised by T.V. Vasudeva and K. Srinivasan; Pub. by the Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute, 84, Thiru.Vi.Ka Road, Mylapore, Chennai-600004. Rs. 300.