Waseda Institute for Advanced Study (WIAS)早稲田大学 高等研究所


Development of Bhakti Thought in the Advaita school of Indian Philosophy
MANABE Tomohiro, Adjunct Researcher (Assistant Professor until March 2021)

MANABE Tomohiro, Adjunct Researcher

A mook about religions opened the path of Indian philosophy research

I am studying Indian philosophy, which is also seen as religious thought. In India, since ancient times, philosophy and religion have been closely related and have developed largely through the interaction between them. For example, religious scriptures have been the basis of philosophy, and philosophical discussions have been conducted to deepen religiosity. There are various schools of Indian philosophy, and I am studying one of them, the Advaita school, in my research on the development of Bhakti (devotion) thought.

I became interested in this field when I was in junior high school, when I read a mook (magazine book) about world religions. Among those religions, I became particularly interested in the Advaita School, which has thinking similar to that of Buddhism, and I set out on the path of Indian philosophy research.

From meditation to love: Changes in Bhakti Thought of the Advaita School

The Advaita School (also called the Advaita Vedānta School), initiated by Śaṅkara in the 8th century AD, is based on the idea that self (Ātman) and the universe (Brahman) are essentially the same. On the other hand, Bhakti is centered on the idea that individuals are devoted to the supreme deity,* so the Advaita doctrine and Bhakti thought are incompatible notions from the outset.

*The supreme deity is a meta-god who is said to have created the world and the other gods. For example, the supreme deity of Hindu Vaishnavism is Viṣṇu, and the supreme deity of Shaivism is Śiva.

However, as the teaching of Bhakti spread throughout India, the Advaita School had no choice but to adopt Bhakti thought. In order to incorporate Bhakti into his theory, Śaṅkara relied on the Bhagavadgītā, considering the supreme deity as one aspect of Brahman and positioning Bhakti as meditation on Brahman.

Śaṅkara’s Bhakti thought has been passed down for a long time within the Advaita School, but it was changed significantly by Madhusūdana Sarasvatī, an Advaita scholar who was active around the 16th century. Madhusūdana interpreted Bhakti as love for Brahman, in accordance with the Bhāgavatapurāṇa, which changed the perception of Bhakti dramatically from the intellectual interpretation of meditation to the emotional interpretation of love. That change is believed to be largely due to the influence of two scholars, Vopadeva and Hemādri, from other schools, who were active in the 12th and 13th centuries, but the details remain unclear. Therefore, I decided to decipher Bhakti theory as found in the Muktāphala (hereinafter MPh) by Vopadeva, and in the Kaivalyadīpikā (hereinafter KD) by Hemādri, and explored the influence of that theory.

Editing and deciphering of manuscripts and published editions

Of course, the originals of MPh and KD no longer exist, so I collected manuscripts and editions of manuscripts from countries including India and Nepal, and I am editing and deciphering them (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Locations of MPh and KD manuscripts and the published editions obtained by the author. The places with names in large font are planned sites for future manuscript surveys.

The specific flow of my current editing and deciphering work is shown below (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. I extracted similar sections of MPh and KD. P and G are published editions, and D1, D2, E, and T are manuscripts. ∅ indicates that there is no corresponding section. LV is a text written by Nārāyaṇa Tīrtha of the Advaita School, who was active after Madhusūdana’s time, in the 17th century. Nārāyaṇa is also believed to have been influenced by MPh and KD. All the material is in Sanskrit.

Comparing edition P and edition G of MPh in Figure 2, we can see that G does not have the sentence that begins with tāmasī. Since the sentences in manuscripts D1, E and edition P match, it can be assumed that edition G is a variant. Also, looking at KD, there is a section found only in edition G, so it is possible that the text that was originally in MPh was mixed in with KD. From this evidence we can also assume that edition G is erroneous.

Next, comparing the words in red, the order of the parts is different in editions P and G and manuscripts D1 and E. Therefore, comparison of the relevant sections of the text by Nārāyaṇa Tīrtha, a scholar of the Advaita School, who was thought to have been influenced by MPh and KD after Madhusūdana, finds that the manuscripts D1 and E are in agreement. From this, it can be said that the correct reading of this section is that in manuscripts D1 and E.

Influence of Vopadeva and Hemādri on Madhusūdana: Unknown

In parallel with my work on MPh and KD, I am also editing and deciphering manuscripts and texts of Madhusūdana’s writings. In my reading and comparison of them, I find that MPh and KD introduce the Rasa theory that captured the story of Gods in the form of a play and the emotions that occur there as Bhakti; Madhusūdana’s writing also incorporates Rasa theory.

From the above observations, it can be considered again that Madhusūdana was influenced by MPh and KD. However, there are some differences in the interpretation of Rasa theory, i.e. no corresponding interpretations have been found yet, so further verification is required.

As of March 2021, due to the influence of the novel coronavirus, it is still difficult to visit the planned research sites to search for manuscripts and other materials locally. However, if I can go to that area in the future, I would like to go to the places of which names are shown in large font in Fig. 1 to collect more materials. Finally, I aim to complete critical edition textbook versions of MPh and KD.

Interview and composition: Keiko Aimono
In cooperation with: Waseda University Graduate School of Political Science J-School

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