Friday, August 30, 2013

Emperor Ashoka and the Bhagavad Gita

Emperor Ashoka's Edict
Many scholars have hailed Ashoka as the earliest monarch in the world to emphasise the importance of satya (truth) and non-violence (ahimsa) and eschew war as a means to settling national and international disputes. The greatness of Ashoka has been attributed to his exclusively Buddhist leanings, but this theory has been challenged. The advocates of the Jaina theory have attempted to show that the entire Maurya dynasty followed Jainism and that Ashoka followed the religion of his predecessors as he himself asserts in his inscriptions. Non-violence is no doubt more important in Jainism than in Buddhism. But truth and non-violence are ethical principles of remote antiquity in Bharata Dharma. Therefore some scholars have argued that Ashoka was neither a Buddhist nor a Jaina but a follower of Sanatana Dharma or "Porana Pakiti' as he himself says. His regard for all sects is more in conformity with the tenets of the Brahmanical religion than Buddhism or Jainism, which at this period were small monastic sects, intolerant towards tirthikas pasandas and heretics. 

Ashoka Pillar

The Buddhist accounts of the conversion of Ashoka by Upagupta or Tissa or Nigrodha etc., are flatly contradicted by Ashoka’s own statement that it was the Kalinga war that produced a moral revolution in him. Nowhere in the Jaina or Buddhist texts do we find mention of the Kalinga war, nor does Ashoka acknowledge anywhere that his missionary effort was inspired by Moggaliputta Tissa. Ashoka claimed great success throughout Jambu Dvipa but there is little evidence that Greece, Macedon, Cyrene, Corinth, Epirus, Syria, etc. were all converted to the particular dogmas of Thera vada Buddhism, which Ashoka is said to have endorsed after the refutation of the eighteen heretical sects in the Pataliputra council. The Mahabharata (and with it the Gita) forms the main source of Dharma and apart from the interpolations, it must substantially have been compiled at least before c. 500 B.C. Holtzmann, Lassen, Schroeder, Hopkins, Wintemitz, Meyer and others who have tried to analyse the Mahabharata saw only successive reactions and failed to account for the fundamental plan underlying the whole work, Prof. Pisani remarks : "'Who has told these Western critics that the didactic parts have been added to the epic ones?”

Sylvian Levi
The Gita in its place is an indissoluble part of the poem according to Sylvain Levi. According to Levi, the Gita is the ideal centre - the poet of the Gita is that of the Mahabharata, with religious and practical aims." Even when the Bhrguization of the original text took place in the first and second centuries A.D. as evident from the mention of Roma in the Sabha Parva, Kaserumant (Caesars, according to Weber and Levi), Dinara etc. the spirit of the ancient text was preserved in its entirety as sacrosanct and the Mahabharata verses in Baudhayana, Vasistha, Manu, Vishnu, Yajnavalkya, Narada and other smrtis, the Maha Bhashya, Apastamba and other Dharma Sutras show that the epic formed the primary source for Dharma.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Date of Adi Shankaracharya - an article by Dr S. Srikanta Sastri

An attempt is made here to solve the problem of the date of Sri Samkara (Adi
Adi Shankaracharya

Shankaracharya) taking for granted a certain number of more or less definitely ascertainable facts. It is well known that he refers to certain kings of his time. The relevant passages are: -

I. Sutra Bhasya

(a)II. 1. 17

"न हि देवदत्त्: सुव्ने सन्निधीयमान: तदहरेव पाटलीपुत्रे सन्निधीयते. युगपद-नेकत्र व्रत्तावनेकत्र प्रसंगात् देवदत्त् यज्ञदत्तयोरिव स्रुध्न पाटलीपुत्र निवासनो:" ||
"न हि, वन्ध्यापुत्री राजा बभूवं प्राक् पूर्ण्वर्मणोभिशेकात्त्, इत्येवं जातीयकेनमर्यादा करणेन निरुपास्व्यो वनध्यापुत्रोपजा बभूव भवति भवति भविष्यति इति वा विशेष्यते" ||

(b)IV. 3. 5.

"तथाच लोके प्रसिद्धेष्वपि आतिवाहिकेषु एवं जातीयक उपदेशो द्र्श्य्ते –
गच्छ ! त्वं इतो बलवर्माणं ततो जयसिंहम् तत: कृष्णगुप्तमिति" ॥ 

(c)II. 4. 1.

"सादॄश्ये हि सति उपमानं स्यात् - यथा सिंह: तथा बलवर्मेति" ॥

(d)I. 2. 7.

“यथा समस्त वसुधाधिपतिरपि हि सन् अयोध्याधिपतिरिति वपदिश्यते" ॥

II. Upanishadbhasya

(a)Chandogya, II. 23. 1,

"यथा पूर्णवर्मण: सेवा भक्त परिधानमात्रफला राजवर्मणस्तु राजतुल्यफला इति तद्वत्" 

(b)Chandogya, II. 19. 1,

"यथा असदेवेदं राज्ञ: कुलं सर्वगुणसंपन्ने पुर्णवर्मणि राजन्य सतीति तद्धत्" ॥

The position of planets at the time of Samkara’s birth as given by Madhava was the basis on which Dr.Swamikannu Pillai opined that the year 805 A.D. might have been the year of Samkara’s birth. But it should be noted that the year 568 A.D. will also be a suitable date (Indian Ephemeris, Vol I, Part I, p. 122). If we take the “Devyaparadha Stotra” as a genuine work of Samkara, he must have lived for more than 85 years, for therein he says: -

मया पंचाशीतेरधिकमपनीतेतु वयसि ॥

i.e. his demise must have taken place after 653 A.D. It remains to be seen whether the above mentioned kings can be located in this period. Of Purnavarman, Samkara tells us that he was of a good family and possessed fine qualities but his power was little as compared with that of Rajavarman. Purnavarman of Magadha who had died some time before 640 A.D. was, as Yuvan-Chwang tells us, the last of the line of Maurya kings and hence of a good family. He restored the Bodhi tree, probably destroyed by Sasamka. Dandi in his illustration of Preyolamkara mentions a Rajavarman, most probably the same king mentioned by Samkara. We know that the Vamana mentions Dandin’s Chandovicchiti (शब्दस्मृत्यभिधानकोश छंदोविच्छितिकला कामशास्त्र दण्डनीति पूर्वाविध्या: etc. etc). Thus there can be no flagrant mistake if we place Dandin in C. 600 A.D. Perhaps the tradition by which Madhava makes Samkara a contemporary of Bana-Mayura and Dandin might be genuine. It is probable, therefore, that the Rajavarman mentioned by Samkara and Dandin is a king perhaps of the Pallava line. Krsnagupta is probably the first of the line of the Guptas of Magadha and must be place about the year 570 A.D. Since the territories of Balavarman and Jayasimha should be in a line with the Magadha province. Jayasimha is probably the second son of the western Chalukya Kirtivarman I, who ruled later on in the time of Pulakesin II of Gujerat.

Samkara can be placed in the eight century only if we are determined to ignore a number of facts. First, Gaudapada’s Bhasya (along with Matharavritti on the Samkhya Karikas of Isvara-Krsna) was translated into Chinese during the Ch’en dynasty (557 – 83 A.D.). Therefore Gaudapada must be placed at the latest about the year 550 A.D. He was probably the same as Samkara’s paramaguru. Secondly, Vidyananda quotes from Suresvara’s Brhadaranya Vartika. This Vidyananda was the immediate disciple of Akalamka and two generations earlier than Jinasena I, the author of Harivamsa and the contemporary of Govinda
III and four generations earlier than Jinasena II, the author of Mahapurana and the contemporary of Amoghavarsha Nrpatunga, as pointed out by me in my
Sources of Karnataka History, Vol I. Therefore Vidyananda must be placed about the year 700 A.D. For Suresvara’s work to obtain recognition even by alien dialecticians at least half a century must have elapsed. Therefore he must be placed about the year 650 A.D. and cannot possibly be the same as Umveka Mandana who almost certainly is Bhavabhuti Srikantha. Bhavabhuti must be placed in 730 A.D. or thereabouts and thus there is a difference of at least a hundred years between Suresvara and Mandana. Mandana is the immediate disciple of Kumarila and under his alias as Umbveka he wrote a commentary on Kumarila’s Slokavartika, quoted by Pratyagasvarupa, Chitsukha, Bodhaghana, etc. Umbveka seems to have also been known to Prabhachandra, the author of Prameya Kamala Martanda. Now several generations later than Mandana Umveka, his descendants Paramesvara, author of Sphotasiddhivyakhya, Vasudeva, the author of Sivodaya, and Narayana, the commentator on Mandana’s Bhavanaviveka, call themselves the nephews and the disciples of a Samkaracharya. This Samkara is probably the commentator on Samkhya Saptati and in my opinion also the author of Sanatsujatiya Bhasya; and thus is different from Samkaracharya, the disciple of Govindabhagavatpada I.

Shankaracharya seeking blessings
If the above reasoning is correct, it follows that Kumarila, who knows the Kasika, should probably be the younger contemporary of Samkara and not the elder as tradition makes him out to be. It is probable that Samkara indicates in commenting upon "अथात" that in a way he is following Bhavadasa’s Vritti and is also making remarks on Sabara’s criticism of Bhavadasa (regarding anantaryartha), and in the Devatadhikarana while refuting Sphotavada he criticises Sabara and Bhagavan Upavarsha but does not seem to be aware of Mandana’s Sphotasiddhi.

Thus it is not possible to identify the Balavarman mentioned by Samkara with the one mentioned in an inscription dated saka 842 (Vikrama) of the time of the Rashtrakuta Indra III (Mad. Epi. Rep. 47 of 1904). By the courtesy of the Madras Epigraphic Department, I have been able to obtain the text of the inscription which is as follows : -

श्रीमान् श्र्चाळुक्य वंशे समजनि निहिताशेष श [बु] क्षितीशो ।
न्यायोपेत: स्सपृथ्वीं चतुरुदधि लतावेष्टितां य: प्रभूताम् । 
अकृष्यादातुकामो नॄपसदसि तदां धोर नाम्ने महिम्ना ।
हॄष्योध्यदृणिडकायां समकॄत (?) वलवर्माधिप: पट्टवन्धम् ॥
संग्रामौकरस: परात्रम धन: कांचीपमुग्राहवे ।
जित्वा [वी] र गजेद्रं दंतयुगलं (?) संस्थाप्य नामांकितम् ।
[स्व्या] ता लम्पुर नामधेय नगर व्रह्मेश्र्वर स्याग्रत: ।
सोयं तस्य सुतीं ह्यधायि दशवमस्व्यि: प्रचण्डोदय: ॥

Dhora mentioned above must have been a Rashtrakuta prince. We have a Dhruva, son
of Krsna I about the year 783 A.D. Another was the son of Kakka of Gujerat (C. 834-5); and a third the son of Akalavarsha Subhatumga (c. 866 A.D.). The Dhora or Dhruva, helped by this Balavarman, must have been one of the latter. Another Balavarman, grandfather of a Vimaladitya, mentioned in the Kadaba grant of Prabhutavarsha (supposed to be spurious) probably lived about the year 775 A.D. In any case these cannot be placed in the latter half of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century contemporaneous with Krsnagupta and Purnavarman.

Pulakesin II
Then there is the question of the identification of Manukuladitya referred to by Sarvagnatman, the disciple of Suresvara. Probably he must be identified with Adityavarman, the second son of Pulakesin II or Vinayaditya or Vijayaditya of the Chalukyas of Badami who belonged to the Manavyasa gotra. Adityavarman ruled near the confluence of the Krshna and the Tungabhadra probably from Alampur which was a renowned centre of the Pasupata cult. Taking all this into consideration, we can arrive at the more or less certain conclusion that Samkara must have lived in the latter half of the sixth and the former half of the seventh century long before the destruction of Pataliputra and Srughna. 

(published in the Quarterly Journal of Mythic Society, 1930)