Advaita Vendanta centres round three fundamental hypothesis -- Brahman alone is the one and only Reality; the world is an illusory appearance and the relation between Brahman and Atman is non-dual. These pre-suppositions have been derived from the triple Vedantic texts Brahma Sutra, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita.
Adi Sankara, through his acumen and deep understanding of the basic Vedantic scripts, strengthened the arguments for the establishment of the Advaita school of thought.
Since this system did not give adequate scope to devotion, but insisted on gnana for liberation, several scholars such as Ramanuja and Madhva interpreted the scriptures from a theistic perspective by repudiating the basic premises of Advaita. In order to vanquish rival doctrines and establish Advaita, later scholars endeavoured to eliminate the ramifications in that system and infused new elucidations, illustrations, discussions, clarifications and explanations so that the rudimentary doctrines are well sustained and strengthened.
In this context, the yeoman service rendered by post-Sankara Advaita scholars becomes significant. One such scholar was Bellankonda Ramarayakavi (1875-1914) who lived in a village near Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. However, no authentic biography or autobiography is available to learn more about him.
The efforts of the translator and associate editors of the book under review are highly commendable for more than one reason. They have brought to the limelight the commentaries of Ramarayakavi and have provided a brief life history of the scholar who devoted his life in practising yoga and writing commentaries for the attainment of Brahman wisdom.
Besides a brief note on the literary composition of Ramarayakavi, the translators have summarised the antiquity and origin of the Vedanta systems, the lineage of the preceptors of the major schools of Vedanta, the Vedic authority and the triple fundamental texts as source material, focus metaphysical perspectives supported by the Upanishads, Advaita and other Vedanta systems, and the unique position occupied by Sankara.
The Sariraka Satussutri-vicara of Ramarayakavi dwells upon the first four aphorisms of the Brahma-Sutra also known as the Sariraka-Sutra. The method of the composition of this work is in the form of a catechism. First, the Kavi presents the objection by non-Advaitic thinkers who also quote the scriptures as authoritative sources to substantiate their clinching arguments and then offers his reply to such queries by strictly adhering to Sankara’s interpretation of the texts.
The rejection of Advaitic concepts includes the theory of Brahman devoid of qualities; false appearance of the world, but treated as real due to maya or avidya; the indeterminable nature of perceptual error which is neither real, nor non real nor both real and unreal, and the attainment of liberations while alive. But the commentator reveals his literary acumen by way of interpreting the indispensable terms to suit to the advaitic lore. For instance, to the 127 sutra, Ramarayakavi has given 102 meanings of the word ‘atah’ who proclaims himself as a scholar of mediocre intellect and his meanings based on the Sutra and the bhashya are neither invalid nor useless. These 102 meanings give a substantial essence of Advaita philosophy.
The translator and the associate editors deserve appreciation for their sincere effort, serious commitment and systematic presentation.
edited with Introduction and English Translation by R. Balasubramanian (The Adi Sankara Advaita Research Centre, Chennai. Price: Rs. 250)