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Four Stories on Madhusudana Saraswati & Their contradictions

Recently there came a write-up which has been introduced to the public as ‘official statement from UM.’ 

Following are my observations on the said official statement & these observations are limited to the historical antecedents mentioned therein.

ANTIQUITY OF ‘DISPUTED’ STORY & ITS REFERENCES:

As there were few allegations that the present subject-matter i.e. the ‘disputed’ story that went viral has been woven by a present pontiff of a particular Matha. In order to reject such allegations, the official statement of the said Matha tried to prove that the story is quite old and dates back to 1970s or even before that. Following references have been cited in the write-up:

  1. ‘Madhusudana Saraswati Charitam’ by an Advaita scholar Damodaraashrama. Published in 1994 by Delhi Sahitya Academy.
  2. ‘Vyasacharitre mattu Vimarshe’ (History of Vyasa & Its Criticism/Review) by V.N. Deshikacharya. Published in 1971.
  3. Mahamahopadhyaya Abhyankara Vasudeva Sastry who mentioned the story in one of his writings.
  4. ‘Kaashi kaa Panditya Paramparaa’ (Literary Lineage of Kashi) a Hindi book by Acharya Baladeva Upadhyaya. Published in 1983 by Varanasi University.

According to the author of the ‘official statement’ all the above works carry the ‘disputed’ story albeit with some alterations here & there. 

For the benefit of non-Kannada readers, let me present the gist of each reference in English.

1. Madhusudana Saraswati Charitam:

This book narrates that “Ramatirtha, guru of Madhusudana Saraswati, order his disciple (MS) to undertake a word-by-word criticism of Vyasacharya’s (Vyasarajaru/Vyasatirtha) Nyayamruta. Thus came ‘Advaithasiddhi’ which spread like a wild fire throughout the length & breadth of the country.  Vyasacharya (Vyasatirtha) living down South too has seen the book. He lamented that his old age has become a hurdle to write a rebuttal and thus called his disciple named Vyasa Rama and ordered him to write a befitting reply to Advaithasiddhi. Vyasacharya (Vyasatirtha) advises Vyasa Rama to become MS’s disciple such that he can better understand the nuances of Advaitasiddhi. MS, though aware of Vyasarama’s plot, happily taught Advaitasiddhi to Vyasa Rama. When Vyasarama submitted the rebuttal to MS, he smiled and said “Dear Child! I know that you are a disguised Advaitin yet I have taught you without taking pains. I will not condemn your ‘Tarangini’ but one of my disciples might do it.’ 

2. Story by V.N. Deshikacharya:

MS wrote Advaitasiddhi as a rebuttal to Vyasatirtha’s Nyayamruta which has devastated the very basis of Monism. But suspecting a refutation to his work, MS didn’t make public of Advaithasiddhi but started teaching the same to his disciples. Vyasatirtha somehow came to know about the rebuttal and ordered his two disciples i.e. Ramacharya and Ananda Bhattaraka to go to Kashi and obtain Advaitasiddhi book from MS. Vyasatirtha states that this is the ‘Guru Dakshina’ that he is expecting from the two. The reason for Vyasatirtha bestowing the task of getting Advaitasiddhi is due to his old age. He was too old to undertake travel & his eyelids were almost closed due to the ripen age. Up on receiving the directive from Vyasatirtha, both Ramacharya and Ananda Bhattaraka went in disguise to Kashi and became disciples of MS. They not only studied Advaitasiddhi but wrote rebuttals as well. They came back and offered their books to Vyasatirtha who was so happy to read. Vyasatirtha embraced his sishyas with joy.

Kannada Version:

3. Story as told by Mahamahopadhyaya Abhyankara Sastry:

Sastryji said – “though it can’t be cited as the most authentic version, I will tell the story that came from guru to sishya” and then he narrates the above story.

4. Acharya Baladeva Upadhyaya’s Version:

This famous writer & researcher wrote a book titled “Kaashi Kaa Panditya Parampara” which got published in 1983 & saw a reprint in 1994.  In this book he writes – “Nrisimha Ashrama did write a rebuttal to Nyayamruta but it was not as effective as that of Madhusudana Saraswati’s Advaitasiddhi. Ramacharya gave a reply to this Advaitasiddhi through his ‘Nyayamruta Tarangini.’ He was a resident of Ambapuri which is on the banks or River Godavari. Ramacharya was a disciple of famous Uttaradi Matha Swamiji, Sri Raghuttama Tirtha. It is said that Ramacharya went to Madhusudana in disguise and learnt Advaitasiddhi, word by word. Later he wrote the rebuttal and offered the same to his Guru. We can get a clue about this incident in the last shloka of Advaitasiddhi. The meaning of this last shloka is – I have completed Advaitasiddhi. If an ignorant who misunderstands Tattva as Atattva shouts loudly no wise-man responds to such outcry. Does lion roar back when a dog barks?

Now, does these references support or endorse the ‘disputed story’ narrated by the present Swamiji? Let us see: 

  1. First story tells that Vyasarama is the disciple of Vyasatirtha.
  2. Second story says that both Vyasarama & Ananda Bhattaraka were the disciples of Vyasatirtha.
  3. They describe Vyasaramacharya & Ananda Bhattaraka as the direct disciples of Vyasatirtha.
  4. These two stories say that Vyasarama & Ananda Bhattaraka offered their rebuttals to Vyasatirtha.
  5. First three stories do not mention the name of Raghuttama Tirtha.
  6. The last story i.e. of Acharya Baladeva Upadhyaya mentions Vyasaramacharya as disciple of Raghuttama Tirtha & says that he offered the work to his Guru. Interestingly, this story does not mention the name of Vyasatirtha.

On the other hand, the reality is that both Vyasa Ramacharya & Ananda Bhattaraka were the disciples of Raghuttama Tirtha and were younger contemporaries of Madhusudana Saraswati. Even the said Matha don't agree to transfer the discipleship of these two to Vyasatirtha. But the same Matha has quoted the stories that put VR & AB under Vyasatirtha's tutelage as the authentic sources of their 'disputed story.' This stance throws up the following questions:

  1. 1. Why no one from the said Matha tried to verify the glaring lacuna of the stories that inform VR & AB as direct disciples of Vyasatirtha?
  2. 2. Why have they brought in the name of Raghuttama Tirtha when the first two stories do not show up his name?
  3. 3. Why have not they consider the ommission of Vyasatirtha's name from Acharya Baladeva Upadhyaya's version which is actually very close to the reality?

So, on the whole the ‘disputed story’ has been concocted by taking portions from each version and then woven into one story that is neither factual nor accurate. It actually jumbles all the characters, erases the time-gaps between them & intends to create an illusionary situation that doesn't stand a close scrutiny.

This being the scenario, I really do not understand why the think-tanks who prepared this ‘official statement’ have not put that little effort of reviewing their inferences before going to the public?

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