Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Madhva's Pramanas and Jiva Goswami

I have stated before that I do not think that there is a direct connection of the Gaudiya Sampradaya to Madhvacharya and the Tattvavadi Sampradaya of Vaishnavism.

Srila Jiva Goswami directly mentions Madhva in Section 28 of Tattva-sandarbha as his final paragraphs in discussing the sources he will use in composing his Sandarbhas. This section is often used by defenders, beginning with Baladeva, of the Madhva connection to the Gaudiya line.

Madhva's commentaries are stylistically unusual in that they consist mostly of verse citations and have little in the way of original prose statements, in the way that most other commentaries are written. And of course Madhva's citations have been a source of controversy since the very beginning. This is documented interestingly by Roque Mesquita's excellent study, Madhva's Unknown Literary Sources: Some Observations (Delhi: Aditi Prakashan, 2000).

Jiva says the following in Tattva-sandarbha 28 with regards to Madhva's pramans:
...Some of the verses quoted here I have not seen in their original texts, but have gleaned from citations in the Bhāgavata-tātparya, Bhārata-tātparya and Brahma-sūtra-bhāṣya and other works by the venerable Madhvacharya, the prolific preacher of the distinct Vaishnava philosophy of Tattva-vāda. In his line such disciples and grand-disciples such as Vijayadhvaja Tirtha and Vyasa Tirtha have appeared. Very famous in the South, they are most eminent scholars of the Vedic literature and its interpretation.
Just as an aside here, it is evident to me that Sri Jiva had read at least Madhva's commentary on the Brahma-sūtra as well as Mahābhārata-tātparya-nirṇaya, but I am less certain that he ever read the Bhāgavata-tātparya or the Gita commentary, since he does not seem to cite them at any instance in his discussion of the relevant verses. The same may be said for the Upanishad commentaries. I am looking forward to the day when all these texts are available on the Grantha Mandira and a more effective analysis can be made. To continue...
In Bharata-tatparya, Sri Madhvacharya states,

śāstrāntarāṇi saṁjānan vedāntasya prasādataḥ |
deśe deśe tathā granthān dṛṣṭvā caiva pṛthag-vidhān ||
yathā sa bhagavān vyāsaḥ sākṣān nārāyaṇaḥ prabhuḥ |
jagāda bhāratādyeṣu tathā vakṣye tad-īkṣayā ||
"Having understood other scriptures with the help of the Vedānta-sūtra and having looked at various kinds of scripture in different parts of the country, I shall give my explanation in accordance with what Sri Vyasadeva, who is none other than the Supreme Lord Narayana, has spoken in Mahābhārata and other works. In this description, I will be careful to adhere to his viewpoint. (Trans. Satya Narayan Das)
Jiva is clearly preparing a defense here for the use of these passages, controversies surrounding which were no doubt known to him. The impeccable ethical credentials of those who made use of these passages make the possibility of their falsification inconceivable. An argumentum ad hominem in reverse, as it were. The quotation from Madhva also indicates that he himself was promoting the belief that these were not his own compositions, but taken from existing texts that he had seen.

Satya Narayan himself supports this view in his commentary ("...[Madhva's] library had no equal... Unfortunately, it was destroyed by fire...", p. 147), even though he highlights the distinctiveness of the Gaudiya sampradaya.

Madhva's opponents were neither so ready to accept his pramāṇas on faith, nor bow to his unquestionable rectitude. He was criticized by an Advaita contemporary, Venkatanath, for inventing these texts in the following, withering passage:
There are other passages which are not found in acknowledged Vedas and smritis. Sinful people, because of their devotion to opinions that accord with their conduct, first interpolate them and then claim to find them in some Puranas that are not well known, or whose collections are lost, or whose beginnings and ends are not determined. These passages are not admitted in venerable assemblies distinguished for their meticulous study of express Vedic and other authoritative texts. (Śata-dūṣaṇī, 65, trans. Olivelle)
An even more direct criticism is found in the 16th century Appaya Dikshit's strongly titled Madhva-tantra-mukha-mardana ("A slap in the face of Madhva's system"):
Nevertheless, we reject the teaching of Madhva since in that system the clearcut boundaries of the Vedic teaching have been confused in a greater degree. For this reason he adduces everywhere spurious text passages in support of his teaching to the sheer commotion of the learned people, pointing out to the fivefold division of the Veda. (Shlokas 2-3)
Appaya Dikshit comments on these verses extensively, listing a large number of titles of unknown shrutis and smritis that are cited in Madhva's works. He there says, "In order to eliminate doubt of untrustworthiness implied in such quotations, [Madhva] proclaims aloud that he himself is the third avatar of Vayu after Hanuman and Bhima. As evidence, he cites a passage from an unknown smṛti work [namely Bhaviṣya-parvan]:

prathamo hanumān nāma dvitīyo bhīmasenakaḥ
pūrṇaprajñas tritīyas tu bhagavat-kārya-sādhakaḥ

The first avatar is Hanuman, the second is Bhimasena, and the third one is Purnaprajna, who accomplishes the work of the Lord.
Appaya Dikshit concludes that Madhva's claims "transgress in a high degree the boundaries of credibility" (p. 32 of Mesquita).

Mesquita is, however, not simply out to accuse Madhvacharya of interpolation. He says, "...in [Madhva's] self-understanding this very claim excludes once and for all that a forger is behind the unknown sources and that Vishnu himself is ultimately the author and proclaimer of them."

The question is certainly interesting, and brings back memories of the controversy surrounding Bhaktivinoda Thakur. In that discussion, besides pointing to the indisputable ethical probity of the Thakur, the point was raised that, in view of his special status as an inspired acharya, he could well have been made an instrument of Mahaprabhu's associates or the ancient rishis to write works in their name.

Mesquita uses the controversy and Madhva's own statements about his sources to inquire into the nature of revelation itself. And this is, of course, intimately connected to the concept of avatar.

In order to cut this discussion short, I would just like to observe that as I am going through the Bhagavat-sandarbha, it seems that it would be a worthwhile study to examine Jiva Goswami's use of Madhva's pramanas and to what extent they hold a significant place in the final shape of his philosophy. I was prompted to think about it when looking up an anodyne citation of an unnamed Shruti, avacanenaiva provaca, which is found in the purva-paksha to Sutra 1.1.5. (No one else, not even Baladeva, cites it!). Sri Jiva plucks the pramanas quoted there directly and uses them in his own introduction to SB 10.87.41, which deals with the same questions of the accessibility of the Supreme Truth to words.

But there are many other verses or prose texts that play an even more significant role. I cannot help mention one that is a personal favorite, from the unknown Māṭhara-śruti, quoted at the very end of Bhagavat-sandarbha as well as in Prīti-sandarbha 1:

bhaktir evainaṁ nayati
bhaktir evainaṁ darśayati
bhakti-vaśaḥ puruṣaḥ
bhaktir eva bhūyasī

Devotion leads the Supreme Lord. Devotion reveals Him. The Lord is under the thrall of bhakti. Therefore Bhakti is even greater than the Lord. (Discussed here)
This verse is unmatched in its glorification of the power of bhakti and leads us in a direct line to Srimati Radharani. It would be no doubt be instructive to see which other quotations can be found and to weigh the strength of their influence on the overall vision of Sri Jiva.

It is, of course, an interesting thing to observe, that at some point historically, a teacher like Rupa Goswami can make bold statements and appropriate the right to mediate revelation in his own name, more or less silently. Certainly where insights to the lila are concerned, no one quibbles about whether Rupa Goswami had a direct vision or not.

I think, however, that even with someone like Jiva Goswami, what to speak of Madhva, even the depth of engagement with the shastras ultimately leads to a point where one loosens the bonds to previous revelation and uses it as a trampoline to a realm that is guided by one's own insights.


Hesitant Iconoclast said...

Jagat, you mentioned that you might like to see some Madhva texts available at GGM.

Madhva texts are indeed available for download at Dvaita.Net. You can also check out the Stotras page.

Perhaps you may be interested in some pre-releases also. All or most of these files are available in Devanagari or Roman script.

Jagat said...

Thank you, Sanjay. I also notice that they have a response to the book by Mesquita mentioned above. I have to confess that I am somewhat skeptical, though Dr. Rao has done a lot of homework here. But as I am unqualified to comment, I will leave it to those who know more than myself.

I do not see the Brahma-sutra-bhashya, though. I hope that Shrisha Rao will do it in his dedicated service to the Dvaita Sampradaya.

I actually started typing some of the Madhva-bhashya out of curiosity to see what would happen and already came across several verses that are quoted in places like the Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu commentary of Sri Jiva, etc., without reference to Madhva and with different tags than the ones given by Madhva. This basically confirms the need for the kind of study mentioned in my article.

Jagat said...

The point being that though there may be some evidence that somewhere at some time a text with a similar name may have existed, or that some of the verses suggested by Mesquita or Venkatanath may be genuine, one cannot point to these instances and draw a general rule from them. Rather it is the exception that makes the rule.

Mesquita's suggestion that Madhva felt entitled to make verses up since he (1) considered himself to be an avatar of Vayu and therefore in a special category, and (2) that he had some special access to Vyasa, whom he saw as "revelation incarnate" (my words), etc., is noteworthy and should be considered.

This does, of course, change the whole ballgame, in a way, since the malleability of revelation is denied by anyone who accepts a static shabda-pramana. That is why I find Sudipta Kaviraja's discussion of the Indian attitude to text in his book on Bankim Chandra quite interesting.

Lame Then, Lamer Now said...

What I find ironic about sticklers for "shastric praman" like this Venkatanath person qouted above, to people of today with the same mindset, is that abstract spiritual concepts are not verifiable through objective science. That is because spiritual concepts themselves are highly subjective. Whatever the shastric source of praman, whether "vedic", "puranic" or "koranic", is any of that objectively verifiable? Shastric pramans are based on the subjective experiences and views of various rishis, seers, mystics, prophets and god-men.

We just pick a subjective view which inspires us and follow that.

I don't really see the purpose of debating this type of stuff, whether it's learned saintly people of yore debating it or post-modern religionists of today.

What's the point when none of it is objective anyway?

Hesitant Iconoclast said...

I just found Dvaita Resources in my searches. There seems to be a good collection of Dvaita texts there along with English translations.

In the 'Ongoing Works' section one of the most important Madhva texts (Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya, or MBTN) is being transcribed with translation.

Still no Brahmasutra-bhashya as yet, but I remember seeing it available for sale at Abebooks a while ago.