BHASKARA—Indian philosopher, representative of so-called bhedabheda-vedanta, that is “difference is non-difference”, the author of Bhaskara-bhasya—a commentary of the sutras of Badarayana. Bhaskara lived in between the latter half of the eighth century and the first half of the ninth century (according to K. Potter, around 750), and in any case before Ramauja, whom he did not know, and after Shankara. Although Bhaskara did not mention Shankara by name, he was critical of his theory from the Brahma-sutra-bhasya.

He wrote against commentators who held the doctrine of maya and called them Buddhists without differentiation. Both Bhaskara and Shankara agreed that Brahman is both the material cause (upadana) and instrumental cause of the world (nimitta). For Shankara it could not be otherwise, since Brahman was for him the only real category of being. However, Shankara also taught that maya, the category of indefiniteness and non-reality, is connected with Brahman, and the world is only a transformation of maya, the deepest truth of which is unchanging Brahman. Bhaskara rejected the theory of maya and in his views he was close to the pañca-ratris. Like Vasudeva, Brahman was subject to modification by his own power, and like Vaudeva is the real material cause (upadana) and instrumental cause (nimitta) of the world. He compares the relation of Brahman and the world to the relation of the sea and waves. A wave, while not different from the sea, still retains its distinct character. The experience of plurality therefore cannot be reduced solely to an effect of ignorance (avidya), because it is the original experience, present also in knowing the words of shruta that speak of unity. Every cognitive act presupposes plurality, and so if we accept that when we experience plurality we experience ignorance, then the experience of ultimate unity is accompanied necessarily by ignorance. Such knowledge can be regarded as false as the knowledge of plurality. Consequently all knowledge about Brahman must be false precisely because it is knowledge, just as knowledge about the world of plurality is false. We would have to regard as false at the very beginning the knowledge that is expressed in language that is characterized by a plurality of words, letters, sounds, etc.. In this situation the verbal teaching of shruta about the falsehood of the world’s existence would be meaningless. The position of advaita that ignorance cannot be predicated (nirvaktum sa na shakye) would also be unintelligible. That which appears as the visible and tangible world of daily experience (vyavahara) cannot be called non-predicable. If the world, which is avidya, has no beginning nor can it have an end, and so liberation is impossible. It cannot both exist and not exist, for that would be a contradiction. Nor may we suppose that the world completely does not exist, for then it would not create bonds and there would be nothing from which to be liberated. Since we experience bonds, we must recognize that the world that produces them is something that exists, but then we suppose that there is some other existence besides Brahman. In this way Bhaskara demonstrated that the theory of maya was false. The world is neither an illusion nor ignorance but really changed (parinama) Brahman. Brahman is transformed into the world by his own will and by his own omnipotence. He used two powers for this: bhogya-shakti, which is changed into objects of experience, and bhoktr-shakti, which is transformed into souls that experience. Despite the changes, Brahman remains unchanged and pure, just as the sun remains unchanged although it emits radiation and shines. Brahman is not exhausted at all in this creative change. When Bhaskara spoke of change, he was thinking rather about showing the spiritual character of the world, including that of the material world. Apart from Brahman who is manifested as the world and transformed into plurality, he also spoke of Brahman as not manifested, formless, and undifferentiated (nisprapañca-brahman). This Brahman is an object of reverence and meditation (bhakti) for the soul. The unmanifested Brahman has the nature of pure being (sal-laksaana) and pure intelligence (bodha-laksana). Although we describe Brahman in many ways, we are not thereby contradicting his unity, for qualities cannot be different from a self=described or self-determined object. The concept of difference (bheda) already contains the feature of the absence of difference (abheda-dharmash ca bhedah), as took place in the previously mentioned example of the sea and waves, or in the example of fire and sparks.

Individual souls in reality are not different from Brahman. Bhaskara resorts to so-called avaccheda-vada: space contained in a pot is not different from space in general, although it is distinguished from it. The individual soul, although the size of an atom, animates the entire body, just like a drop of sandal oil fills an entire dwelling with its scent. The soul is located in the heart by which it maintains contact with the whole body. Because of buddha, ahamkara, the five senses and five “breaths”,the soul is entangled in wandering (samsara) but does not cease to be identical with Brahman. The soul does not become liberated during life—for Bhaskara therefore there is no concept of “jivan-mukta”. Liberation is a consequence not only of knowledge, but also of action (dharma—karma-samuccaya or jnana-samuccita-karma) that is motivated by the desire to join (raga) with Brahman. Bhaskara introduced a distinction between cognition (jnana) and consciousness (caitanya), especially consciousness of self (atma-caitanya). Cognition (jnana) is the acquisition of objective knowledge by direct experience (anubhava) that comes from the contact of the sense organs with external reality. All cognitive acts are accompanied by the unchanging consciousness of self—atma-caitanya.

Bhaskara Brahmasutrabhasyam, Shribhaskararya-viracitam, Benares 1915; S. N. Dasgupta, History of Indian Philosophy, I–V, C 1922–1955; D. H. H. Ingalls, Bhaskara the Vedantin, Philosophy East and West 17 (1967) n. 1–4; V. Raghavan, Bhaskara’s Gitabhasya, WZKSOA 12–13 (1969).

Paweł Sajdek

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