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Book Review

Vedanta dialectics

SATADUSHANI by Vedanta Desika — with commentary Nrsimharajiya by Nrsimha Raja (Part I) (Vaadas 1 to 30): T.K. Srinivasa Tathacharya — Editor; Sri Andal Printers, Chennai-600004. Rs. 150.

SRI VENKATA Natha (1268-1369 A.D.), popularly known as Vedanta Desika, was a post-Ramanuja polymath who has about 130 works to his credit. He strode like a colossus among his contemporaries, silencing advocates of rival schools of thought and reinforcing the teaching of Azhwars and Acharyas like Nathamuni, Yamuna and Ramanuja. He was an unexcelled debater, adept in all branches of learning including the non-orthodox schools of thought like Buddhism and Jainism. He bore with rare distinction and ease, several significant titles like Vedanta Desika, Sarvatantra Svatantra and Kavitarikika Simha. That he was revered even by scholars belonging to other traditions is vouchsafed by the fact that Appaya Dikshita, the great Advaitin, wrote an admirable commentary on his Yadavabhyudaya.

According to tradition, Satadushani was Desika's first dialectical work on Vedanta. This is a model classic on dialectics (Vada-grantha), composed by him in reply to the arguments levelled by an Advaitin, Krishna Misra (probably the author of the allegorical drama Prabodhachandrodaya), or his grandson of the same name. It is said that once during the Adhyayanotsava celebrations being conducted at Srirangam, Krishna Misra objected to the Srivaishnava (Agama) practice of installing and worshipping the images of the devotees of God (Azhvars and Acharyas) in Srivaishnava temples. He also attacked the Visishtadvaita philosophy propounded by Ramanuja in his Sribhashya. It is in reply to these and similar objections that Vedanta Desika composed this work.

Tradition avers that in appreciation of his all-round scholarship and successful refutation of the rival critics, Lord Ranganatha, through his Archakas, conferred the title, ``Vedanta Desika'' on him. It is also said that Desika's direct disciple, Sri Brahmatantra Swatantra Jeeyar I (who founded the Parakala Math in 1360 A.D.) recorded these Vaadas. Based on internal evidence, it is clear that there were 100 Vaadas originally in the Satadushani, although only 66 Vaadas are extant now. Desika himself refers to the work in his other books like Paramata Bhanga, Tattuvatika, Tatparya Chandrika and Nikshepa Raksha.

The available text of the work criticises the views of the Nirvisesha Advaitins. The views of Sriharsha who wrote the Khandanakhanda Khadya refuting portions of the Sribhashya of Ramanuja are rejected here. The views of two pre-Ramanuja Bhedabheda philosophers, Bhaskara and Yadavaprakasa, are also refuted. Vaadas one to eight of this work justify the topics dealt with in the Laghusiddhanta portion, while Vaadas nine to 66 substantiate the topics found in the Mahasiddhanta portion of the Sribhashya.

The work is a mine of information on a number of earlier writers whose works are mere names to us. For instance in Vaada three, Desika informs us that the Sankarsha Kanda (Devata Kanda) of Kasakritsna was the final portion of Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa. It is interesting to note that he quotes the last four aphorisms of this work which speak of Hari or Vishnu as the Brahman. The last aphorism is ``tam brahmetyacakshate''.

Now, according to Ramanuja, Badarayana's Brahmasutra forms a unitary text with the Purva Mimamsa. Desika corroborates this view by saying that the last aphorism of Kasakritsna speaks of Hari or Vishnu as Brahman and Brahmasutra opens with the aphorism ``Athato Brahmajijnasa''. There is thus unity of thought in these two works. Desika also refers to the views of other little known teachers of Visishtadvaita like Pundarikaksha (his own grandfather), Varadaraja (author of Sanmargadipika), Varada Narayana Bhattaraka (author of Nyayasudarsana), and or his own maternal uncle, Atreya Ramanuja, who refuted the Sphota theory of Bhartuhari in his Nyaya Kulisa.

There are three important commentaries on the Satadushani: Chandamaruta by Doddayacharya (16th century); Nrsimharajiya (or Prakasa) by Nrsimha Raja alias Simha Raja, who was Doddayacharya's direct disciple; and Sahasra Kirani by Karur Srinivasacharya of the 17th century. There is also a recent gloss, Kinchitkaara by Uttamur Viraraghavacharya.

The commentary by Nrsimharaja is simple and unambiguous, explaining the original without straying into other discussions. This commentary was published earlier in Grantha characters and with a Tamil translation for the first 55 Vaadas by Chetlur Narasimhacharya. Its publication in the more widely- read Devanagari characters has been a long-felt desideratum.

The editor of the present book has done a commendable job in bringing out the first Devanagari edition of this rare commentary for the first 30 Vaadas as Part I.

It is hoped that the second part containing the remaining portion of the text will also be brought out by him for the benefit of the scholars. He deserves our sincere compliments for this valuable work.


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