ADVAITAVEDANTA — one of the schools of vedanta.
Of all the schools of vedanta, advaita is regarded as the most representative to such a degree that the terms "vedanta" and "advaitavedanta" are often used as synonyms. Advaita is undeniably the most philosophical of all the schools of vedanta and the least connected with religion. A dvaitist writer often begins his works with an invocation to Visnu or Shiva, but the religious import of the work ends there. For the advaitist, the ultimate truth is not one or another god, but the ultimate Being, Brahman, or Unity.
Advaitavedanta is the result of any one man's work. Shankaracarya cannot in any measure be regarded as the creator of this system. He is well-known today, although he is not necessarily the most important philosopher of this school. Shankara himself calls upon an existing tradition (sampradaya) and cites authors whose works have not survived to this day. Nor can the author of the Brahma-sutras, Badarayana, be regarded as the creator of this system. Disciples of all the schools of vedanta have equal reason to look to Badarayana. We should look instead in the Upanishads for the beginnings of the system, and later thinkers organized and developed them.
The aim of the philosophy of advaitavedanta, like that of most philosophical schools in India, is liberation (moksa, mukti). It is accepted without proof as obvious that man as he lives in this world is enslaved and needs to be rescued. Man is on a journey (samsara) consisting in birth, growing old, and death (janma-marana-laksana). When a man is weary of wandering (samsara-nirvinna), he becomes "one who desires release" (mumuksu). The state of captivity is caused by ignorance (avidya). The deepest reality of the soul (atman) is not enslaved and does not have to wander, as it is ultimately identical with the One Being, namely with Brahman. Thus the desire for release is the desire to know the ultimate reality which at the same time is the deepest reality of the one who is enslaved. This is how we should read the first sutra of Badarayana (BS 1, 1, 1): "And for this reason [exists] the desire to know Brahman (athato brahma-jijnasa). The one who desires release thus desires to remove the bonds of ignorance (avidya-nivrtti). Ignorance has no beginning and no clear cause. In itself, ignorance is a mistake in knowing, comparable to mistaking mother-of-pearl for silver, or a piece of rope in the desert for a serpent. We look at the rope and we see a snake. Likewise, we look at what is One and we see a world of plurality (prapanca) and difference (bheda). When knowledge (vidya) comes, to return to the example, when we finally realize that it is only a rope, our knowledge of the serpent is refuted (bhadita). The question then arises: where has the serpent disappeared now? When we look at the rope, we know that there is no serpent and there never was one, although it was certainly an object of experience for the sense of sight and caused us a real fear of being bitten. It is the same with the mistake in knowing that causes us to see plurality when we look at the Unity. Our experience of plurality is completely real, but the whole time there truly is only the Unity. We impose one reality upon the other. It is this mistake of superimposition (adhyasa) that is also responsible for the illusory existence of the individual soul (jiva and the world of plurality (prapanca). When knowledge (vidya) comes, then our knowledge of plurality and difference is refuted (badhita), as was our knowledge of the serpent in the example. This knowledge is in degrees, simple and liberating, and the advaitists call it "anubhava". It is not simply the reverse of ignorance. There is no proportion between ignorance (avidya) and knowledge (vidya). Knowledge comes suddenly, and they frequently speak of the coming of knowledge or "vidyodaya", the rise of knowledge, as one speaks of the sunrise. The rise of knowledge disperses the mists of ignorance. It cannot be earned or obtained by our effort etc.. In the world of experience, knowledge (vidya) is something external (agantuki) that does not belong to this world. It is not what we understand by knowledge in ordinary speech. In the world of plurality we cannot speak of real knowledge (vidya), but there are only different degrees of proximity to the Truth. An advaita philosopher will always support a truer view in order to refute a less true view. And thus the opinion that the cause differs from its effect (asat-karya-vada) is less true than the view that the cause and the effect are essentially the same (sat-karya-vada), since the second view is closer to the truth of the ultimate unity of everything. The doctrine that the effect is really the cause transformed (parinama-vada) is worse than the doctrine that the effect is a manifestation of the cause, which during its appearance remains unchanged (vivarta-vada). This view in turn is less true than the doctrine that there is no coming-into-being (ajati-vada), because every link of cause and effect introduces the concept of difference, but the ultimate unity is the truth. The advaitist resorts to the theory of real change (parinama) to dispute the doctrine that there is a difference between cause and effect (asat-karya-vada). It does not bother him that shortly thereafter he may dispute the doctrine of real change with arguments that the cause appears in the form of the effect (vivarta-vada), and then dispute this with the theory that there is no coming-into-being (ajati-vada). There is but one aim, to lead the adept of advaita to the truth of the ultimate Unity of everything. The reader of the texts of advaita often finds difficulty is separating views presented ad hoc in a polemic with the opposite views (uttara-paksa) from the real views of the authors (siddhantin).
The one moment when the atman is released from the bonds of the world of plurality is deep sleep without dreams (susupti). In this state the individual soul ceases to exist. It is detached from all knowledge of plurality. It remains the atman itself in unity with Brahman. After this sleep, the man wakes up joyful and rested, which is explained by the fact that Brahman is Being, Consciousness and Happiness (sac-cid-ananda). The man brings an echo of this happiness to the waking state (Ramanuja afterwards makes the following objection: if a reflection of happiness is carried over to the waking state, this means that not for a moment has the continuity of the identity of the individual soul been interrupted).
The views presented above are common to all philosophers of advaita, but the school of advaita has many eminent representatives who differ in many, occasionally very essential, points.
THE REPRESENTATIVES AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE SCHOOL. Kashakrtsna is regarded as the first advaitist known by name. He is mentioned in one of the sutras of Badarayana along with two other names, Ashmarathya and Audulomi, in the context of a dispute over the relation of the individual soul to the atman. Shankara is identified with Kashakrtsna's views in the commentary, but Ramanuja also ascribed to this view. Shankara mentions the names of three advaitists who works have not survived to this day: Dravidacarya, Brahmanandin and Sundarapandya. The first complete work of advaita is the Mandukya-karika of Gaudapada. The author comments on the upanishad Mandukya and presents his own theory of "non-coming-to-be" (ajati-vada). Shankara calls Gaudapada "parama-guru", or "teacher of the teacher". His immediate teacher supposedly was Govinda, but Govinda did not leave any writings. According to tradition, Shankara lived in the years 788–820 AD, although both dates are often called into question. Many works ascribed to Shankara remain. Only in the case of the commentary to the sutras of Badarayana's Brahma-sutra-bhasya, the commentary to the two largest Upanishads Chandogyopanisad-bhasyi and Brhad-aranyakopanisad-bhasyi, the commentary to the Bhagavadgita and the separate work Upadesha-sahasri is there no doubt to his authorship. Mandana Mishra was a contemporary of Shankara and has long been regarded as a more important advaita philosopher. He was the author of one work devoted to vedanta — Brahmasiddhi. Mandana had previously been a mimamsaka and had composed many works on mimamsa.
Gaudapada, Mandana and Shankara started the explosive development of the advaita school. Advaita is still a living school and is cultivated today by many philosophers. The twelve centuries of the development of advaita after Shankara include the names of sannyasis (wandering mendicants) and girhasthas (fathers of families). The names of the sannyasis are often associated with the rule of Shankara 's"ten names" (dashanami), and commonly end with one of the following: Giri, Puri, Bharati, Sarasvati, Tirtha, Ashrama, Vana, Aranyra, Parvata, Sagara. The names of the girhastas often end with Mishra, Upadhyaya or Diksita.
Sureshvara was an immediate and known disciple of Shankara. He was the author of the Naiskarmya-siddhi and a commentary on the Upanishad Taittiriya. Vacaspati Mishra lived in the 9th century AD. His talents were employed in many directions. He wrote treatises on nyaya, vaisheshika, yoga, samkhya and mimamsa, as well making a contribution to advaita philosophy. He is known to have written a commentary, now vanished, on Mandana Mishra's Brahmasiddhi, and a commentary on Shankara's Brahma-sutra-bhasya. That latter work, which is called Bhamati, began a new minor school of advaita called the school of bhamati (bhamati-prasthana). This school like Mandana located ignorance in the individual soul. In the 10th century AD Prakashatman wrote a commentary on Padmapada's Pancapadika which was called Pancapadika vivarana. With this commentary he started the second minor school of advaita called the school of vivarana (vivarana-prasthana), which located ignorance in the Brahman itself. Sarvajnatman also lived in this same century. According to tradition he was the immediate disciple of Sureshvara, the author of the works Samksepa-shariraka, Panca-prakriya and Pramana-laksana. The eminent thinker Vimuktatman, the author of Istasiddhi, was a contemporary of Sarvajnatman. In this work, Vimuktatman defined Brahman with the term anubhuti ("experience"). Vimuktatman also carried on Mandana's thought on happiness (ananda). The first period of avdaita-vedanta closes with Jnanottama who lived in the twelfth century and was the author of a commentary on Sureshvara's Naiskarmya-siddhi called Candrika, and a commentary called Vivarana on the works of Vimuktatman. This philosopher probably later became a sannyasin and took the name of Sarvajnashrama.
The 11th and 12th centuries were a time of great disputes with other authors of vedanta such as Bhaskara, Ramanuja, Nimbarka and Madhva. Unfortunately these disputes were often only oral. These authors were also the objects of later polemics, unlike the previous period in which the thinkers of samkhya, mahayana and purva-mimamsa constituted the purva-paksa. From the 12th century onward, advaita directed more attention to the problems of logic. Shri Harsa was an important author of this period. In his work Khandana-khanda-khadya he showed how the nyaya school failed in their definitions of various concepts. Shri Harsa's works were commented on not only by the advaitists, but also by the naiyayists. One of the advaitists who commented on Shri Harsa was Citsukha, a disciple of Jnanottama. Like the author upon who he commented, Citsukha used a dialectic method somewhat similar to that of Nagarjuna. Sukhaprakasha, a disciple of Citsukha, was active in the 13th century. In turn, Sukhaprakasha's disciple, Amalananda, composed two important works, the Vedanta-kalpataru and the Panca-padika-darpana, in which he discussed the bhamati and vivarana schools. Anandagiri is known as the commentator of the comentaries on the Upanishads ascribed to Shankara. In the 14th century two authors, Bharati Tirtha and Vidyaranya, wrote several works together: Adhikarana-ratna-mala, Jivan-mukti-viveka, Pannca-dashi, Anubhuti-prakasha, Vivarana-prameya-samgraha. In this same period a work was written that described all the philosophical schools of the time in India, Sarva-darshana-samgraha, with advaita presented as the ultimate truth. In the 14th and 15th centuries, with the development of the Vijayanagaru empire, conditions were favorable to the cultivation of traditional schools of Hindu thought. There were many writers of advaita in that period. Sadananda in particular is noteworhty. His work Vedantasara still enjoys great popularity today and is used as an introductory textbook for advaita. The most important philosopher of advaita in the 16th century was Prakashananda Sarasvati. In his work Vedanta-siddhanta-muktavali, he deparated from both minor schools of bhamati and vivarana, but he did not have many imitators. At that time vivarana was clearly predominant. One of its representatives was Nrsimhashrama. In his writings he raised epistemological problems and carried on a polemic with dvaita-vedanta. In the 17th century there were philosophers who were not sannyasi and whose names ended in Diksita which could be carried only by those who had performed certain vedic sacrifices. Appayya Diksita was the most important and was the author of the Siddhanta-lesha-samgraha. Appayya returned to the bhamati school but tried to show that there are no real philosophical differences between the two minor schools in fundamental matters; they differ in their emphasis and in the use of somewhat different techniques in proving the same theses. One minor school places more emphasis on epistemology, while the other emphasizes ontology, but there is no contradiction between them. Appayya also polemicized with the views of dvaita-vedanta. Sadashiva-brahmendra and Upanisadbrahmendra should be mentioned as 18th century philosophers of advaita from southern India. There are many legends about Sadashiva-brahmendra as a saint and worker of miracles. Upanisadbrahmendra was the author of the first commentary on all the 108 Upanishads mentioned in the Muktikopanisad. In the 19th century, the thought of Appayya Diksita was continued by Tyagaraja-makhin.
Advaita is still a living school. It is hard to count the publications, publishers and periodicals dedicated to it. No other philosophical school has influenced the world-view and spirituality of Hindus as much as advaita.
N.B. Chakraborty, The Advaita Concept of Falsity — a Critical Study, Ca 1967; M. Biardeau, La philosophie de Mandana Miśra vue à partir de Brahmasiddhi, P 1969; E. Deutch Eliot, Advaita Vedanta — a Philosophical Reconstruction, Honolulu 1969; Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, I Delhi 1970, III Pri 1981; R. Balasubramanian, Advaita Vedanta, Ma 1976; P. Hacker, Eigentümlichkeiten der Lehre und Terminologie Śankaras: Avidya, Namarupa, Maya, Iśvara, in: Kleine Schriften, Wie 1978; idem, Die Lehre von den Realitätsgraden im Advaita Vedanta, Delhi 1980; A.O. Fort, The Concept of Susupta in Advaita Vedanta, Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Poona 61 (1981) 1-4; M. Bos, After the Rise of Knowledge, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens und für Indische Philosophie 27 (1983); E. A. Solomon, Avidya — its aśraya and visaya, Sambodhi 13 (1985); U.A. Vinay Kumar, Existence of Self and adhyasa in Advaita, Journal of Indian Philosophy 16 (1988); T.M.P. Mahadevan, Superimposition in Advaita Vedanta, ND 1985; G. Oberhammer, La délivrance, de cette vie (jivanmukti), P 1994.